Archive: February, 2009
Walking in Memphis.
|Photos by Mary Armstrong|
Hee hee hee. Laughing out loud to myself in my overpriced room at the Folk Alliance. Since the conference became fixed in Memphis I've been kinda busy in mid-Feb. Good to be back, see some old friends, check out the improvements and yes, mourn a few losses.
Crest the escalator and see artistic signage like this and you know you've made it out of corporate conference land.
Wednesday afternoon Andy Cohen, protegé and keeper of gospel bluesman extraordinaire Reverend Gary Davis' flame, led a four hour intensive Folk U. Gather from the title that it was led with Cohen's customary charm, ease and humor. One of the early seminars included Martin Fischer who still makes wax cylinders recordings. He spoke in detail on the theory and science and history of early recordings, followed by a live cutting of Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz. Glad for these two that they are already well-recorded exponents of mountain music, cause if they didn't know what they sounded like prior to play back of that wax cylinder, the experience might persuade them to take up something nice and quiet, like library science. Yep, those quavers on the earliest recordings are a natural part of the process, not the singer.
Later in the Folk U curriculum the Ebony Hillbillies played some wicked old time dance tunes. These guys are all from NYC, but they are proud to show you how deep roots run, back to the early days of frolics and country dances.
[snap to the present] Trying to work through some of the CDs that have been pressed upon me — and I'm wondering if iTunes Get CD Track Names function is broken? Surely the [name suppressed to protect the embarrassed] folks must've titled all the cuts on their 18 track sampler somewhere? Completely innocent of information — except on the CD itself, which can't been seen while spinning in the macbook. Three more CDs, same thing. People! Am I the only one using iTunes? /exit rant.
Our own Dianne Tankle has her name forever enshrined in whatever substance they use to make the award plaques. She was one of many founders of regional Folk Alliance gatherings to be recognized at the awards show. Present president of the Northeast Regional Terry Mutchler was scene grinning and circulating with the plaque securely under his arm for all to admire.
More recognition: Roger McGuinn gave the keynote speech the next morning. McGuinn is on a mission to bring folk music back to the schools. He stated it pretty squarely, if he hadn't had Bob Gibson visit his high school when he was 15 he might be working in Radio Shack today — and how many people would not have heard the Byrds' versions of "Turn Turn Turn" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" and never been inspired to follow them back to their source? For those not in school, McGuinn provides free downloads of folksongs under Creative Commons licensing. He's been at it since 1995, with 150 or so available on his site.
Much teaching of music business refinements goes on at Folk Alliance. Check the website for offerings. Here we'll just mention a couple more artists Philly should be happy to see when they finally make it here.
Tarantella rock is my take on Marco Calliari of Montreal, though he plays much more, rocking his Italian roots almost out of the ground. His electric guitar is accompanied by clarinet and accordion and a drummer who actually knows the traditional rhythms and has no trouble crossing them with rock. Calliari is a funny guy, grinning ear to ear, singing in Italian, joking in English, rocketing up and down while he plays guitar, putting on hyper-energetic, glad-to-be-alive set.
Jason and the Scorcher fans, be glad to know that both Farmer Jason and Jason Ringenberg packed their respective showcase rooms. He played energetically, but the snarky remarks about "oh yeah, no steel guitars at folk festivals" fooled nobody into thinking it was anything besides not in his budget to bring anybody else that left him doing the WGsquared (white guy with guitar).
Hoots and Hellmouth have built a nice following at the conference and at home. The band spoke of a recent double sellout at the Tin Angel, where they could actually trot out some softer material and have it appreciated. But do they still fire up a crowd? Well, if you insist!
Slack key guitar got about 25 minutes of focus last night. The handsome single-named Makana taught a good bit of Hawaiian history while changing from one slack key (open tuning) to the next.
The Rhythm Angels sound like they should be a country band, they leave implied stereotypes in the dust. Three-part harmony is important to their sound, as are original songs. Check the strength in storytelling that comes with "If I Had A Gun."
The best song off of Bruce's Working on a Dream — and it's technically only a bonus track. Guess Mickey will have to bring home Oscar gold for both of them.
The build on this song is breathtaking. I'm sure when Metric gussies it up with synthesizers and beats and what Emily Haines described to last night's World Cafe Live crowd as "fucking epic" production, it'll be even more intense. If you weren't aware going into it (many weren't), the set was just Haines and Jimmy Shaw trading off on acoustic guitar and organ, playing almost entirely music from their forthcoming album, Fantasies. Very promising stuff, and like the above-linked "Help, I'm Alive," I'm interested to hear how it translates in full-band mode. Elsewhere in the crowd, some woman named Mary took some pretty nice videos (and apparently credits us with finding out about the gig...you're welcome, Mary! Though WCL did have it advertised for about a month...) More of her clips after the jump.
And, to compare how these songs might flesh out on Fantasies, here is the standout number and obvious single from last night, "Gimmie Sympathy," performed in Toronto last December:
Illuminated brick walls with “Oedipus Rex” written in graffiti greet you at the door. The ancient Greek character is the last thing you expect to see tagged, but after experiencing The Seven, it only makes sense to commemorate him with spray paint.
Will Power’s award-winning hit places a hip-hop spin on the 2,500-year-old tragedy Seven against Thebes, and it’s sure not to leave any elements out. This highly energetic drama/comedy entertains the crowd through rapping, singing, spoken-word verses, choreography, preaching, beat boxing and even stepping. Through all this, Oedipus’ curse becomes clear — the sons will pay for their father’s sins.
A loud, foul-mouthed, hilarious pimp named Oedipus (Craig Bazan) busts in the show early, which begins the comedic rollercoaster. Decked out in a flashy outfit straight from the ’70s and followed by his equally cheeky female “companions,” he makes way for the introduction of the DJ (Dishona Tatuem) and Aeschylus (Kenneth J. Williams), who double as narrators. Throughout the play, the DJ chimes in to explain the scenario with hip-hop attributes, while Aeschylus stays true to the original rhetoric by telling the tale in more complex terms. The play continues to follow Oedipus, who was once the king of Thebes, but is banished by his two sons Eteocles (Aaron Moreland) and Polynices (Maurice Williams) for killing his own father and later accidentally marrying his mother. Oedipus decides to take revenge by cursing the two brothers to kill each other over the leadership of Thebes, which leads to a series of events that begin compassionately, but later turn ugly and ultimately end in tragedy.
While The Seven is closely adapted from the original play, Power manages to use hip-hop fundamentals to convey the message clearly for all to understand. Lovers of theater hip-hop and will enjoy the skillful acting of Temple’s young cast, as well as the way Power incorporates all four main elements of hip-hop: Eteocles and Polynices as emcees, music from a DJ, break dancers popping and locking to the beat — and, of course, the Oedipus graffiti on the walls.
Let’s see some heart out there, mercenaries.
Featuring: Good old drunk, guilt-ridden, Chloe-lovin’ Morris for about a minute.
First Gentleman is down! Pillowface of the United States is like “let my generals handle the Sangallan invasion, I’m going to the hospital to be with my dull skeleton of a husband.” Chief of Snakes is like “Be sssserioussss.” Then Bill Buchanan’s like, I’ll give you a lift. “You can trust me to keep the prez safe,” he explains. “I once ran the least secure, most rule-breaking anti-terrorist goof troop in the history of the world. Sure we had our bad days. Our office was bombed, gassed and routinely infiltrated by shifty looking double-agents, but my luck is going to change, I’m sure of it.”
Prez says okay. Snake says sssss. At the hospital, the doc tells her the surgery will be risky and take five episodes. She sees the FG off then asks Bill to track down her estranged daughter, who it turns out his a cutie. He sends Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce, by far the subtlest character in the history of 24.
Dubaku! takes a bus down to the greasy spoon to see his sucker waitress GF. He tells her his visa is expired, so let’s leave the country tonight. She says “that’s too soon. I’m making lasagna. Also, not without my sister in the wheelchair remember her.”
“Oh sure, we’ll send for her,” he says. “Everybody loves a third wheel. Fourth and fifth? Also good.”
GF says okay.
Meanwhile, Agent Walker has her hourly moment of self-doubt while on the phone with her liberal torture-is-wrong crybaby boyfriend. Oh Larry, it’s gonna be a long day for you.
Oh look, Chloe’s in a car with Morris (bald guy, british, once armed nuclear devices for some terrorists) and their kid. Where are they coming from? And what a strange little family they are. You should hear the way this kid says “bye mommy.” Sounds like he’s auditioning for Omen: The Early Years. Anyway, Morris drops Chloe off at the FBI where Larry gives her a desk and calls it “impressive” that she managed to work with Jack Bauer all these years and not get killed. He starts listing all the characters who’ve died since Day One. (Somebody got the DVDs for X-mas.) Chloe asks him how his little mole problem is doing. Burn.
Out in the cubes, Chloafalo says she suspects Chloe has been brought in to replace her. Which is ironic.
Dubaku! has a lame little conversation with some guy which he concludes with this little gem: “The one thing I have learned in the company of mercenaries, Mr. Burnett, is that ultimately they only care about their own survival.” Good point, Dub!. What I wouldn’t give for a mercenary who loves his work.
Dub! GF goes home and starts packing while her sister pleads with her not to go. Point: moot. Jack and Walker kick the door in, because knocking is for pussies. “Do you know who this guy is?” Jack asks, showing a cell phone pic of Dub!. He follows it up with a My Pics gallery of his genocidal handiwork. Jack tells her that when Dub! calls, GF has to play it cool and agree to meet him still. This is a classic 24 trick, and a good one. Remember when Elizabeth Nash stabbed her terrorist lover Alexis Drazen with a letter opener on Day One? Awesome.
GF is cool with it and she gets in Dub!’s car. Jack and Walker follow a mile behind. Chloe and Larry talk em through it. Chloe Garafalo monitors the whole thing from a server room. It’s all so tense. Then somebody walks in so she hits eject and goes back to her cube. Everything goes offline for a sec, then comes back on Chloe notices a security breach and Jack’s car gets surrounded by DC cops. Chloe says it’s because somebody in this office issued an e-warrant. Must be Chloafalo, right!?!!? Wrong! It’s that little twerp agent guy who always gives Chloafalo a hard time! He’s the bad guy. Beep … Beep … Also Dubaku! knows his GF knows he’s a terrorist … Beep!
1 Door kicked in for no reason
Your weekly daily rock plan-it.
|Fujiya & Miyagi|
Tuesday: Broken Social Scenester Emily Haines plays World Café Live, backed by her all boy band. Doors at 8 p.m., tickets are $23.
Wednesday: Brighton outfit Fujiya & Miyagi sing about vanilla, strawberry and knickerboker glory. With School of Seven Bells. At the Troc. Doors at 7 p.m., tickets are $15-$17.
Thursday: West Philly’s Whales and Cops (ex-Man Man men) stir up a polyphonic stew of bleepy-bloopy indie goodness, like a sloppy Black Moth Super Rainbow plus the Unicorns. With Gemini Wolf & Broadzilla DJs. At KungFu Necktie. Doors at 9 p.m., tickets are $10.
Friday: Let Philly psychedelics the Asteroid # 4 hypnotize you with their Summer of Love sound and trippy guitar riffs. With Like A Fox & the Sounds of Kaleidoscope. At Johnny Brenda’s. Doors at 9 p.m., tickets are $10.
Saturday: Country-folk hip-hopper Tim Fite spits out rhymes at the M Room. With Benjy Ferree & DeLeon. Doors at 9 p.m., tickets are $10.
Sunday: Holy Two-piece Fest, Batman! Check out the line-up of dynamic duos: Japanther, Ingrid, Slingshot Dakota, Shellshag, Reading Rainbow, Peter And Craig, 1994!, BEST FRIENDS!, Hulk Smash, Trophy Wife, northless, Deer Friends, Hoop Dreamz, the Book Slave, Color Change, Bubonic Bear, Moister, Gold Eyes, I.R.E., Joint Chiefs of Math, No Bodies No Graves & Deergear. At Pilam. Doors at 2 p.m., tickets are $8.
For a certain subset of TV fans (of which I am definitely one), fewer words bring more excitement than “created by Joss Whedon.” Even so, I’ll admit having some trepidation about Whedon’s newest show, Dollhouse. After watching the pilot I’d say my fears were somewhat well-founded. The concept is kind of interesting (hot people are “wiped” clean of their personalities so that rich clients can pay to have said hotties reprogrammed to do, well, whatever). There are definitely some Whedon-esque touches, like outbursts of quippy dialogue and lots of tough-but-fragile characters who probably have great tales to tell us about why they are so damaged. It seems like there’s an Abrams-y vibe to the proceedings, too, as if at any moment Sydney Bristow is going to burst through the doors and kick some ass (wow, now I’m just thinking about how awesome that would be). The “Dollhouse” even comes with its own nerdy tech genius (miss you, Marshall) and Amy Acker (to be fair, she was on Whedon’s Angel before Alias).
To be honest, I spent a good part of the hour playing “hey, I know that guy!” Aside from Acker and, of course, Eliza Dushku (still looking “five by five,” Faith), the show also features BSG’s Helo (Tahmoh Penikett, who proves he is kind of annoying on land as well as in space), and Olivia Williams (she runs the “Dollhouse” and seems kinda evil, though, in fairness, she might just still be really pissed about Bruce Willis haunting her). Dollhouse is also apparently where minor characters from 24 go to die — it took me a bit to figure out that Dushku’s “handler” is played by the guy who played Walid Al-Rezani, the poor sap in season six who is accidentally sent to faux-Guantanamo and tortured or something. Also, in a much more exciting cameo, the pilot’s one-off bad guy was none other than Hector Salazar (the less intelligent of the Salazar brothers, the one who mostly just gets tricked by Jack and yells “Clooooooowdia”).
After I stopped yelling “Cloooowdia” at the TV and focused on the actual show, I realized that it has potential. My problem, I think, is with Dushku (please don’t kill me, Faith!). So far, I just don’t buy her performance, and it didn’t really make any sense to me that when a rich client asked for a tough negotiator to deal with a kidnapper, he would be sent the chick from Tru Calling. Said rich client even says as much, when he asks why they didn’t send an older, “fatherly type, like Edward James Olmos.” The blatant grab at BSG fans worked for me, but it only made me want to replace Dushku with Katee Sackhoff that much more.
I will watch next week, if only in the hopes that Ryan Chapelle and Behrooz will show up. Seriously, though, Whedon has proven to us with Buffy and Firefly that giving him a chance to do his thing usually pays off. The first season of Buffy was very uneven, and the second and third seasons turned out to be the some of the greatest TV ever. So, I will try to wipe my doubts about Dushku and hope that Whedon’s magic starts working soon.
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