Archive: October, 2007
Let’s start with the band names: Angel Witch. Blitzkrieg. Tygers Of Pan Tang. Mercyful Fate. Helloween. Manowar. Now, a couple of song titles: “Attack of the Mad Axeman.” “Witching Hour.” “Black Funeral.” “Hall of the Mountain King.” “Hail and Kill.” “South of Heaven.” “Dead Embryonic Cells.”
Seriously, who comes up with this shit?
Only “666”-chanting, horn-fingered flicking old-school metal fans, of course. Not the ones who take after that pussbag friend of Beavis and Butthead’s in, what was it, a Winger shirt? No, the ones who can actually tell you the backstory of Saxon and still welcome Rob Halford with open arms. That’s who Rhino's four-disc, 71-track collection of metal starting in the 1960s and ending with Nirvana’s onslaught is made for.
It comes in a box designed to look like an old amp, complete with the “11” on the volume knob, but the packaging is not the best part. The accompanying 76-page book – page numbers are written in a spade; fitting, considering Motorhead’s track therein – breaks down the history of metal from Britain all the way through Pantera. With a paragraph dedicated to each track, the photos of the bands are absolutely priceless, almost worth the pricetag in and of itself.
I’ve always had a little headbanger in me; it’s my way of paying tribute to one of the few genre’s of music that elicts a physical response in its listeners. Thing is, I didn’t recognize – or burn – a good third of the songs on here. (Already had “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” which one might argue isn’t metal, like several other tracks in here, but still.) The ones I kept, though – “Ace of Spades,” “The Number of the Beast,” “F**k like a Beast,” “Peace Sells” and so on – are nice additions to any fan’s iPod. (On the downside, thanks to licensing issues, there are some omissions, most notably Axl and the boys.) Then again, any true ’banger probably has most of them already.
Not a lot has changed with Saves the Day since the last time I saw them. Its been five years, but Chris Conley is still endearingly heartbroken and avoiding puberty. Although they’re out promoting Under the Boards, they opened last night’s acoustic show with “This is Not an Exit” and played most of Through Being Cool and Can’t Slow Down. During an hour-long, requests-only encore, they did both “Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven” and “A Drag in D Flat.” Turns out, not a whole lot has changed with me, either. At the hint of “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic,” I’m back in a prom dress, drinking Banker's Club and passing out on Kristie Sullivan’s porch.
|Not so much.|
Chris is charming! This is fun! Why did I stop listening to them? Why don’t I go to shows anymore? Before I get carried away, girlfriend in the legwarmers and layered sweaters brings me back. So does the boy next to her screaming for “Holly Hox” and tearing up when they don’t play it. Emo isn’t dead. It just got old and chubby.
We all know those glasses aren’t prescription, and smelling like moth balls was never cute.
Madden 08 (EA Sports, various platforms), the latest installment of the most profitable football video game franchise in the history of the modern gaming era (post-Atari 2600), is a substantial upgrade from its predecessors with the addition of a few nuanced features (Player Weapons, enhanced "Hit Stick" tackling) and better player movement.
Critics who feared EA Game’s exclusivity deal with the NFL would deter creativity can relax. Madden 08 continues to add bells and whistles to what has always been a very complex and intricate game. With each subsequent edition, Madden beefs up the defense, and the computer’s artificial intelligence gets smarter and more adept at recognizing (and crushing) your offensive tendencies.
To counter the super D, Madden 08 introduces the Player Weapons feature, which elevates superstar players to the levels of gods among mortals. Elite QBs are gifted with telepathy and can know an opponent’s defense before the play, weapon receivers have Spider-man fingers that allow them to pull in passes 8 feet beyond their reach (a slight exaggeration).
Lead blocking control, a carry-over from 2007, permits players on offense to control the lead blocker during run plays. Being able to control lead blockers only helps if you're preternaturally gifted at working 8 controls at once (nearly impossible for someone who grew up in the uni-button era and never mastered the QB bat radar mode in Madden 2006, which is thankfully optional in 2008).
From the franchise mode with imaginary rookies and reasonably-priced stadium food to the possibility that the Kansas City Chiefs might win the Super Bowl, Madden’s all about fantasy. After seeing San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson throw a touchdown pass in the Chargers’ first game of the season against Chicago, I swapped him for the whole of KC’s quarterback corps (adios, Damon Huard). With LT behind center and Larry Johnson in the backfield, I am able to run the most devastating HB option ever! And LT’s passing accuracy will only improve with the training camp and drills options.
Beyond the slick and realistic gameplay, Madden’s visuals are dazzling. The game looks amazing on a traditional television set, but the blue-and-gold Eagles jerseys and customizable Jostens rings really gleam in HD.
Devotees may disagree, but this year’s Madden game seriously contends with Tecmo Bowl as the best football game ever (Tecmo's returned for Wii and there are plenty of non-Wii Tecmo hacks on the internet).
When Valve released Half-Life for the PC in 1998 and then followed up with Half-Life 2 a few years later, anyone into games was tickled pink with the series’ horn-rimmed hero, Gordon Freeman, and its incredible use of in-game physics (especially with the ridiculously fun gravity gun). Last week, Valve dropped The Orange Box, a collection of Half-Life 2 and a few expansions, for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. While Half-Life 2 is a blast, Valve included in the package a nifty little game called Portal that stands to make an even bigger impression on games. Taking the developer’s penchant for physics even further, Portal, a first-person shooter/puzzle game, equips you with a gun that doesn't shoot holes in people, but rather holes in walls. Opening the titular portals allows anyone playing the game to move through walls, redirect objects, and be flung about by gravity as they attempt to solve 100 levels of head-scratching environments.
During the build-up to the launch of The Orange Box, a fan-made, 2D version of the Portal quietly made its way onto the Internet. While it isn’t first-person, the game employs the same basic principals and mechanics of Portal. In Portal: The Flash Version, you, the test subject, are given the same portal-maker and asked to make your way through 40 levels designed to make you rethink game strategy while defying physics. Some levels are straightforward, some require strategy and foresight, and some will test your reflexes. So if you don’t have a next-gen console or a PC powerful enough to run The Orange Box (or you’re in the Mac crowd like me), Portal: The Flash Version is a fun way to experience a small part of the game without dropping a whole lot of money. Oh, and if it’s a slow day at work, you’ll thank me for the link.
Play it here.
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
What would you say is the first rule of stage-diving? Hint: It's one with some practical non-show application. Give up? It's look before you leap. The kid in the red shirt (it's always the red shirts) did not look. So when he leat off the two-foot-whatever stage at the Jay Reatard show, he hit the floor hard. To be fair, there should have been more people there to catch him. The Church was horribly underpopulated, considering Mr. Reatard was responsible for one of the most breathlessly rocking albums of 2006. Then again, the guy just played Philly a few months ago, so maybe people got their fill of his sweaty, catchy rock riot then. I mean, his songs are so short that he ran through them all in what felt like 20-25 minutes. But hell yes it was a sprint. Very little talking. Just hair flying and guitars doing jumping jacks.
More Reatarded pics after the break...
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
I just got in a few hours ago, but can't sleep, so why not post this up now at 4:07am? Tonight, I was one of many bodies that packed intimate Fluid to witness Large Professor, who is not just a DJ, but producer and responsible for discovering the lyrical genius known as Nas. Hard to believe he has been around for an estimated 18 years and this was his first time spinnin' in Philly. Large Pro took the shine playing old to new school, R&B to soul, and mainstream to underground cuts. Ones that I remember are Common's "The People" (that is currently my favorite album, so I was hype), 'White Lines" by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, some song by Remy Ma, and ATCQ's "Find My Way". There were many more obviously, but hell...it's 4am and that is what I can recall. The club was packed, free vodka was flowing and everyone was gettin' down with the get down on the dancefloor, while some dudes held up the wall nodding their head and rhyming word for word with the tracks. I left still wanting to dance and listen to more of Large Pro, but I'm not 21 like I used to be and my party meter expires at 130am. Large Pro showed us how he does it worldwide, which was returned by Philly showing him how we can rock a party and rock it right. Oh and, much respect to DJ Ultraviolet for hooking the event up for her Living Legends series. Spinderella is on the decks next month! More pictures from Large Professor Party Large Professor MySpace DJ Ultraviolet MySpace
|Oh Braithwaite, you devil.|
Through Oct. 27, Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA, 215-654-0200.
Act II Playhouse extended the run of Say Goodnight Gracie soon after it opened — a testament to the nostalgic draw of George Burns ("Who?" my college students would ask) as well as the growing local awareness of actor Tony Braithwaite's considerable comic talents.
Playwright Rupert Holmes crafts a cute excuse for Burns' autobiographical monologue: God's given him a chance to make his case for entry into heaven. Though as corny as the similar set-up in the musical Forever Plaid, it spurs his fascinating, hundred-year rags-to-riches life story.
The encyclopedic rendition deepens when Gracie Allen enters Burns' life. Braithwaite makes his affection for his on- and off-stage partner palpable, and the play becomes a valentine to Burns' beloved.
What's tricky, of course, is that she's not there. Scenic designer Bill Pollock provides photos, and even some video from TV's late-1950s golden age, but Braithwaite must conjure routines, romantic encounters and phone calls by creating his half of each conversation.
Also, as too often happens in one-person shows, he must concisely demonstrate emotional moments — here I am hearing Gracie say she'll marry me, now I'm learning that my friend Jack Benny has died — then rush on to the next narrative point. I'm not sure this is acting, and even less certain that it's good acting, but it's what the script demands. Say Goodnight Gracie succeeds best when Braithwaite recites the team's funniest bits — but how many times can we hear one voice recreating a two-person act?
Kevin Glaccum's production keeps Braithwaite busy and accentuates the visuals, but Say Goodnight Gracie ultimately feels like Braithwaite swimming upstream lugging Holmes' unwieldy script on his back. It's great to see George Burns again — and fascinating to glimpse Gracie Allen through him — but their efforts can't hide the event's contrivances.
Okay, yeah...he didn't perform and this wasn't a Roots concert, but effff that - this deserves some love. Philly MC Black Thought marched from the Constitution Center to City Hall on Sunday as part of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign's effort to bring attention, awareness and action to the issue of education, healthcare and housing for the economically challenged. He was joined by actress Rosario Dawson, actor Paul Dano (the silent brother in Little Miss Sunshine) and countless of other concerned organizations like GeoClan and KWRU (Kensington Welfare Rights Union). The march was straight up grassroots and focused on the issue at hand. Black Thought sporting an ice-grill while carrying a protest sign was merely a bonus. More Pictures from the march Poor People's Economic Rights Campaign
Despite not really having money to spare, I will see a performer I dig multiple times in a short span. I think it is my fear of getting older or something. Hence is the case with Mark Ronson, the DJ/musician who has won over elite artists, critics and fans with the release of Version (Allido Records/RCA), an album that has the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Robbie Williams giving their 'version' of previously released songs. Friday was my third time seeing live them since July 2006. To my credit, the first time it was a festival in London, and I didn't go to see Ronson. Both times (second being NYC - July 2007) the concert was on point, energy was high and everything came together. This time around - things were slightly different. Ronson and his band (which includes bass superstar Stuart Zender) rolled on stage around 9:15pm. My adrenaline was there for about 7 minutes and then it all kinda blurred from there. While the brass and rhythm section were pretty much stellar, the performers (with the exception of Tawiah - get to that later) and Ronson came across a bit tired which is justified considering their television, radio and international commitments. Rapper Wale and singer Tiggers did their rendition of "Toxic" (Britney Spears), which did nothing for me. Wale redeemed himself however when he kicked a nice rhyme in addition to doing his own track that gave the night a bit of needed electricity. Australian Daniel Merriweather sang hit "Stop Me" (The Smiths) and "Amy" (Ryan Adams). While Merriweather can sing his ass off, I think he has to understand that every song doesn't need to be R&B-inized. Alex Greenwald from Phantom Planet busted out "Just" (Radiohead) before going into his band's popular O.C. theme song, "California" ("Here we comeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"). It is also worth mentioning that Philly native SantoGold has made herself one of Ronson's favorite people and bopped her way through little diddy "Pretty Green". It was all just okay.
At this point, I'm thinking if I'll make the last train home to Philly.
And then London songstress Tawiah belts out "Valerie" (The Zutons). That is when I was grateful I made the hike. Tawiah's vibrant personality, memorable voice and contagious energy bring the upbeat song to life. This chic is going places - for serious.
Although from here on out, I rather listen to Version in the comfort of my home, I enjoyed singing along to the music with my friends that joined me in the front row on Friday night.
Everyone needs those moments, right?
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