Archive: October, 2007
|Shemekia Copland, closing the show|
Before we had Warmdaddy's, it was the Philadelphia Blues Machine who presented the best blues shows. Philadelphia Jerry Ricks' misfortune —being sick and without insurance, far from home — brought PBM's co-founders, Doug and Peggy Waltner, down from the Poconos to the place where they started, the Commodore Barry Club.
The CBC was wall to wall people, with non-stop music for over seven hours. Peggy estimated there were “well over 500 very generous people in attendance.” At $25 a pop just to walk through the door, thats concrete love, genuine encouragement to Ricks on his road to recovery. Peggy figures there was already $10K gathered prior to today and that with all the sales of donated CDs and T's, guitar raffles and 50/50s, etc, there could be another $10K added to the pile.
“We have another guitar coming that we'll be selling on eBay, plus [blues harp legend] Charlie Musselwhite has promised to send us a box of stuff once he gets off the road.” Seems like everybody knows Ricks and is eager to help. Peggy hopes people will continue to give, via the internet: www.mountainofblues.com the place to check for latest news and links to online fundraising sales/donations.
Late arrival keeps me silent on all the fine talent like the Dukes of Destiny and Ari Eisinger who played early on. Rolly Brown gave his usual tasty solo set, then joined harmonica player/singer Saul Broudy. If you know the latter and have seen him multiple times over the years you, too, might've found a certain comfort in knowing his set by heart -though, as Ann Mintz pointed out, the sound of the late, lamented Winnie Winston's steel guitar was sadly absent. David Bromberg made it a solo evening, also choosing comfortably familiar material.
After much pulling of tickets and awarding of raffle prizes, XPN'a Jonny Meister, guest hosted to warm up the crowd -as if that were necessary!- for Shemika Copeland. She set the tone from the jump, with “I'm a Wild, Wild Woman (and You're a Lucky Man).” Dancers crowded between tables, turning up the heat. What better way to honor Ricks and send concentrated good luck wishes for a speedy recovery?
Jerusalem means a lot of things to a lot of people. One thing we can all agree on is that the city can be oppressively hot in July. The summer I visited, I couldn't get any relief. Because while all everyone else in my youth group got to swim after long, hot, tense days, I wasn't allowed in the water lest I ruin the cast on my broken arm. See, a few weeks before I left, I awoke from a dream in which Sinead O'Connor told me to climb on top of a bookcase to tape her poster to my ceiling, and the late-night redecorating didn't go as smoothly as I'd dreamt.
Maybe I should hold a grudge against her because of that, or because as much as I'd listened to The Lion and the Cobra that year, her fierce love song "Jerusalem" didn't at all prepare me for how fiercely I'd fall in love with the place. But the truth is, I've always felt nearly as fierce — protective, possessive — about the singer as the holy city. I know she's got her faults, but God help you if you slag her in my presence. She doesn't make loving her easy, though. I always said I'd listen to her sing the alphabet, a math textbook, the back of a cereal box, whatever — her voice never ceases to move me. The way she can fill a huge auditorium with an unaccompanied whisper, well, it's something special. But when she started singing openly, frequently, unabashedly about Christ, I resisted. Christian rock is a line I do not cross. Or didn't. Damn, she's good.
At the Keswick on Mischief Night, she gave the people what they wanted. More than a third of her set came from I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, including "Nothing Compares 2 U" and "The Emperor's New Clothes," which still resonates all these years later. She did only three songs from her latest album, Theology, a couple apiece from Faith and Courage and Universal Mother, a pair of tracks she contributed to movie soundtracks and one from The Lion and the Cobra. "Never Get Old," which she introduced as something she wrote "a long time ago" when she was 15, may be the low point of her stunning debut, but here it induced lasting chills. Thrilling moments were plentiful. Like the a cappella "In This Heart," which gradually added vocal harmonies from funky bassist Caroline Dale, fiddle player Clare Kenny and guitarist Kevin Armstrong. And the part in the heartbreaking divorce song "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance" when drummer John Reynolds, O'Connor's ex-husband, broke through the rest of the band's reserve with a fit of fury. (It's impossible to overplay that card.) And "If You Had a Vineyard," O'Connor's adaptation of Isaiah's warning to Jerusalem and Judah, one of several numbers to elicit a scattered but spontaneous standing ovation.
I'd rather not break another arm to prove my devotion, but if the devil himself planted Sinead O'Connor in my dreams again, I'd probably do her bidding. For my sake, then, it's a good thing she's on the side of the angels.
This game is what my dreams are made of. I openly admit, here in a public forum for all to see, that I'm 29 and love golf. I haven't progressed to the point of plaid pants, but I'm sure that's not too far off. I happen to like knocking the heads off of zombies, all because I spent most of my summer as a 9-year-old watching Return of the Living Dead 2 with my best friend over and over again. Anyhow, some genius - and I don't mean that sarcastically - found a way to merge the two with Zombie Golf Riot.
As the "hero" of a post-apocalyptic world, you get to do what any normal person would: play a quick round of golf while all humanity as you know it ends. Perched on top of what looks like the lovechild of a VW Beetle and a Mini, you take aim and tee off on the head of a zombie, using not a driver but a chainsaw. Awesome. The game is simple: click to aim, and swing your mouse for the backswing and followthrough. It takes a few swings to get the hang of it, but once you do, you'll be launching that cabeza quite far. The goal is to get it 2,000 feet, and there are plenty of things to help the head on its way (namely exploding boxes). Try to get it to hit a stop sign or land on a pitchfork for bonus points.
Go play here. Happy Halloween!
I didn't expect John K. Sansom to seem so stage-averse. But there there he was, eyes closed, face downturned, a giddy smile, in photo after photo after photo as I scrolled across my memory card; isolating shots where his corneas were actually visable was a small chore. Sansom's body language carries this air of reluctant euphoria, perhaps that of a guy who absolutely loves to play his music for people, but holy crap, feels kinda weird playing in front of *this* many people. So he retreats into shyness, well befitting the bookish rock he creates with The Weakerthans. Lyrical references to parallelograms? Check. Song told from the point of view of a neglected housecat that embraces larger themes of squandered human potential? You bet, two of 'em. Odes to "the fine sport of curling?" Most definately. So I'm perched above the stage, bobbing my head, singing along and silently wondering how this reserved, geeked-out dude ever managed to squeeze aggressive political punk out of his wiry frame a decade back when he played in Propaghandi...it seems such a far cry to imagine the person onstage today mustering it, even given the passage of time. Then The Weakerthans kick into one of their super-speedy rockers, "Over Retired Explorer," or maybe "Aside." Whichever it was, the stage suddenly became in flux with the commotion of Sansom slamming into wily bassist Greg Smith, lead guitarist Stephen Carrol ripping this Pete Townshend windmill out of freaking nowhere, strutting between thumping drums and colored lights. The show was pretty alive to begin with, despite Sansom's aloof demeanor (he later blamed the alcohol), but this is like some kind of aristeia, culminating in all three bearers of stringed instruments hopping over the monitors and arranging themselves in assault formation above the front row of happy faces. Sansom's progression from aggressive punk to tentative troubador made a lot more sense now; there's no aversion to the spotlight, he just needs to ease into mugging for it. More photos under the jump.
There’s never anything subtle about Dracula. And that goes double for Dracula, the big three-act ballet Pennsylvania Ballet opened last Friday at the Academy of Music. The opus was created by Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson in 1997 to mark the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s novel.
Part of its appeal is simply it’s a handsome production with lavish sets designed in subtle, rich tones of burgundy, black, brown and gray. The jewel box colors offset the legion of Dracula’s brides, all in white fluttering gowns with blond wigs and pale faces. Everything else is dark and spooky in Dracula’s castle. Only the nearby village, where Dracula’s minions seek out new brides for the Count, glows with bright happy primary colors. The lush orchestral rendering of Franz Liszt romantic music contributes as well.
It’s also that the dancers enjoy performing this stagy ballet, and get a kick out of all the melodrama, the flying across the stage, dragging the stagecoach around and generally having fun. It’s no lack of serious dancing, it’s just that the lurking, stalking and over the top emotions far out-shadow the classical jetes and pirouettes.
Still there were fine performances opening night and virtuoso dancing. Very tall James Ihde was commanding as the evil Count. When he spread his cape, Ihde seemed to cover the entire stage. Arantxa Ochoa was excellent in the thankless role of Flora, who serves Dracula as head bride — part evil, part captive. Amy Aldridge and James Ady danced the village lovers who are parted when Amy/Svetlana is captured during a festival and carried off to the castle. They are well matched. Both have the crisp body line and steady center essential to ballet. In their village courtship, and later when Ady/Fredrick rescues his lady literally from Dracula’s bed, they exquisitely perform pas de deux of great difficulty and precision.
The fun is in the character parts. Jonathan Stiles had a romp as Renfrew the evil imp who races around in a carriage snatching beautiful new brides for the insatiable Count. Corps members Alyson Pray has a small star turn in the mimed role of Svetlana’s mother as she etches out in movement her hopes for her daughter’s marriage and future family. Since the ballet dancers have so much fun with all this, it’s no surprise the audience does as well.
See Also: PA Ballet
In the right hands, Subversive Seamster (The Taunton Press, $14.95) could be a cute weekend project. The crafty how-to book shows thrifty gals how to turn Salvation Army finds into “street couture.” Some pieces (oversized earrings from re-purposed leather jackets, Hawaiian shirt pillow covers) are convincingly easy and charming. Others (tube sock wine cozies, poncho skirts) cross the line between creative and “damn girl, put on some jeans and call it a day.” If you’re talented and stylish, you’ll emerge looking, well, talented and stylish. If not, you’ll be mistaken for Mary Kate and Ashley’s low-rent, chubby cousin.
Instead of their usual autumnal Agatha Christie murder mystery, Hedgerow Theatre has discovered a seldom-seen thriller, An Act of the Imagination by Bernard Slade, that neatly fits the bill. Zoran Kovcic — who as a set designer has become an expert at handsome drawing room sets, this one in warm umber tones — plays charmingly addled author Arthur. Wife Julia (Penelope Reed) has just read his latest manuscripts, not a mystery like his past successes; Signs of Life chronicles an affair between a young woman and an older rich man. “Why is your book so damnably believable?” Julia asks, wondering if Arthur’s exorcising his demons in print.
Just when the chitchat grows tedious — after meeting Arthur’s ne’er-do-well son Simon (Anthony Marsala), awestruck new editor (Erika Salomon) and neighborly local detective Burchitt (Tom McCarthy) — an hysterical stranger played by Alana Gerlach bursts in, and the story takes off. To where, a responsible critic dare not say, lest the play’s many twists and turns (perhaps one too many for its own good, by the play’s last of several endings) be spoiled.
Director Janet Kelsey’s production soars through capable acting. Kovcic and Reed are a rare pair of actors, real-life spouses playing an onstage couple convincingly (surprising, how often offstage chemistry deflates under lights). The script demands that Reed execute a jaw-dropping revelation in Act II, which she pulls off flawlessly. McCarthy’s folksy vibe hides an agile mind, and the cast’s younger actors support the play’s surprises effectively.
Kelsey missteps with some double casting that confuses the already complex plot needlessly — we spend a scene wondering why no one recognizes the character from earlier, before finally accepting that the new character is not the former disguised — but the play’s convolutions still succeed, shocking last Sunday’s audience into gasps and nervous giggles as the details unraveled.
I can’t reveal how or why, however, so if you’re pining for some good old-fashioned, dry-humored British mystery, trust me and check out An Act of the Imagination.
|Photo | Keys7901 via Flickr|
Kelly Clarkson asked the crowd at the Tower Theater to indulge her: she’d play some unfamiliar songs, and “then we’ll play some songs you all know.” Unfortunately, the songs Clarkson was introducing weren’t new or unreleased, but tracks from her months-old My December, the album her record label famously thought wasn’t good enough to release. The cookie-cutter angst of My D pales beside the unsettling vulnerability of Breakaway, but Clarkson needn’t have worried; when the band dropped out during the bridge of the new album’s “Never Again,” the audience was right there with her, shouting every note (and, apart from the iron-lunged Clarksonite behind me, actually hitting most of them). Clarkson likes to kick up a pseudo-grunge racket (even if her “musical director” lurks behind a bank of snyths), but it wasn’t the music you needed earplugs for. It was the fans.
See Also: More photos by Keys7901 (Flickr)
|Photo | Jessica Lee|
Yo La Tengo traditionally play ear drum-blasting shows. Which is fine. It’s just, while the loud parts mean amazing energy (Ira Kaplan humping his guitar, getting totally into the whole feedback thing), the quiet bits get lost in all that noisy rocking. So the idea behind the Freewheeling Yo La Tengo — the band’s Behind the Music-style, almost-acoustic incarnation — could not be more awesome. Everything goes right at their sold-out First Unitarian Church performance. They answer questions (albeit mostly silly ones — honestly, people, who cares about Georgia Hubley’s favorite mixed drink?), tell stories and give each other little sideways nods and smiles. Perhaps because of their willingness to take requests, Georgia winds up singing an unusually large portion of the set and, even weirder, you can hear every semi-mumbly word. Ditto on the normally raucous “Barnaby, Hardly Working” and “From a Motel 6”:
Tonight, they take it soft and slow. Ira looks kinda twitchy in his chair, like he wants to get up and shake his head back and forth, but it’s only after an audience member suggests they do I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass’ 11-minute freak-out jam, “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” — joking that it’d be funny since it’s far from acoustic-friendly — that the band goes completely wild. Launching into “Hatchet,” Ira (still sitting in chair) practically convulses while playing his guitar, James McNew pounds at his bass and Georgia replaces her drum brushes with drum sticks, which she thwacks with full force.
Also excellent: “Needle of Death,” a Bert Jansch-penned weepie that they rarely play (and that Jansch himself rarely plays); Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”; and their own, achingly beautiful “Nowhere Near.” Jazz multi-instrumentalist Danny Ray Thompson joins them on sax for “Love Train” and switches to the flute for a mellowed-out “Autumn Sweater” during the encore. Yeah, you could see this new development in the life of Yo La Tengo as a sign of their getting old and, quite literally, settling down. But nah. Come Hannukah time, when they play eight shows eight nights in a row at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, the threesome will be back to their sweatin’, deafenin’, candle-lightin’ selves. Amen to both Yo La Tengos.
|Stars big-up Hall and Oates, perform "Window Bird."|
I'm gonna come out and say it. I love Montreal's Stars, but Torquil Campbell, with Amy Milan one of the band's two singers, has a tendency to drive me up the wall. Milan, whose brusquely angelic voice lit up songs like "Elevator Love Letter," "Ageless Beauty" and new numbers "Midnight Coward" and "My Favourite Book" on this rainy Wednesday, performs with a quiet dignity, an icy stoicism even; Campbell, who — okay, is an important foil to Milan on most Stars cuts — struts around with an impish over-theatricality that seems to scream "Pay attention to me! Love me!" It drives him to say things like "This song, in the birthplace of freedom, is about fucking someone to death" and to exclaim how important it is to the band that the crowd had discovered their music and that he hoped that we'd all go home and forget about the band and just remember the songs and us and how they relate to our fucked up pornographic lives or something like that. Anyway, Stars put on a fittingly dramatic stage show for their charged, emotive orchestral synth pop. Colored lights and fog bathed the six-member outfit in fluctuating tapestries. Campbell, in the wardrobe highlight of the evening, emerged in a jacket completely bedecked in lights and roamed the stage like an extra terrestrial. The band members threw flowers into the audience throughout the performance, and although the songs from their new album, In Our Bedroom After The War, were generally well received, none got the fanfare the big songs from their breakout Set Yourself On Fire — "Ageless Beauty," "Your Ex-Lover is Dead," "What I'm Trying To Say" — did. It was hard to stay annoyed at Campbell, however, given his mid-set big-upping of Hall & Oates before launching into "Window Bird": "Give it up for fucking Hall and Oates, ladies and gentlemen, they built this city." Okay Cambpell, you're off the hook.
|Photos | Brian Howard|
|Stars @ The Trocadero, Oct. 24, 2007|
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