Archive: August, 2009
|Which one were you?|
There are very few people who understood the teenage condition better than John Hughes, the director of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. A spokesman announced Hughes died today at the age of 59.
Hughes was, first and foremost, a writer, penning the story that would eventually become National Lampoon's Vacation. But rather than tell the story from the father's point of view, it's told via a boy narrator. The story, "Vacation '58," is written like a kid would speak, and that's where Hughes' talent lie. Reading faux-teen speak that is so obviously written by someone not of the generation is like nails on a chalkboard, but with Hughes it was fluid. There was no overuse of slang, no hyping of fast-fading fads.
As I type, I can hear these lines, hilarious yet natural, cycling through my brain. You're stewed, buttwad! Hey Cameron, you realize if we played by the rules, we'd be in gym class right now? Blane! His name is Blane?! That's a major appliance, that's not a name!
You look good wearing my future.
He stopped directing after a disastrous time on Curly Sue, but he kept writing and script doctoring, often under the name Edmond Dantes ' the wronged protagonist who seeks vengeance from Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.
Even more so than the way his teens spoke was the way they felt and acted. Yeah, he dealt in broad, sometimes laughably so, characters ' brains, athletes, basket cases, princesses and criminals, to paraphrase one of Hughes' more famous passages. But they were all relatable. You got to see yourself as whoever you wanted to see yourself in ' be it the priss who is deeper than her facade lets on, or the girl who acts crazy because she's not going to get attention any other way. It was something for everyone. Even in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with its impossibly cool main character, there was Cameron, who hated his parents and just wanted to spend in the day in bed. Even Ferris, the most outlandish of the Hughes characters ' and that includes Kelly LeBrock's fantastical Lisa from Weird Science, only because no teenager is that sure of himself ' talks to directly to the audience. He's about to play and he's asking you to be on his team. You. Yes, you. No matter what Hughes movie you're watching, you find your teenage self within those characters.
Take Sam Baker from Sixteen Candles. Her entire goal throughout the movie is to be noticed. She's not different, she's not special ' she just wants recognition that she exists. Sam wants validation, not just from her classmates (but only if it's the right kind of validation ... sorry, Anthony Michael Hall) but from her parents, as well. Hughes movies are all built around these simple teenage tropes: subversion of authority, fantasy realization, that desire to be the coolest guy in the room.
At the end of Sixteen Candles, ultimate heartthrob Jake Ryan and Sam sit cross legged, facing each other over a lit birthday cake. He tells her to make a wish and she says, "It already came true." That's what really made Hughes great ' the fairytale elements. They weren't super outlandish, but they were the escapist flourishes that make movies worth watching. A group of kids from several different social cliques put together in a room will probably not end up best friends. No teenager can hijack a float at the Von Steuben Day Parade, lead the entire city of Chicago in choreographed dance routine and still get away with cutting school. And the most popular guy in school doesn't fall in love with anonymous teen just because she bites her lip and looks at him doe-eyed. But it was fantasy grounded in a harsh high school reality.
Yeah, Jake Ryan would never have noticed Sam Baker in real life. But it's not real life. It's the movies. So Sam gets to celebrate her 16th birthday with him, while wearing a princess dress and a flower crown. And the Weird Science boys get to create the perfect woman and use her to defeat their enemies. And Ferris Bueller gets to spend a day, where he should be in gym class, just enjoying life. And that's a fantasy everyone, teenager or not, can take part in.
So we're not going to pretend to know any more solid facts about this event than you do. Let's see: We've got a lineup of Brian Blomerth, Frankie Martin and Eyeballz, Andrew Jeffrey Wright and a few TBAs. (Wright is a local artist who also makes pretty tees for Art in the Age.) It's ostensibly a comedy show. But a comedy show that's like, subversive or something. And about art. Oh wait, here's a note from one of the performers about last night's show in Baltimore. Surely that'll clear things up:
So we will be in my hometown tonight at my home space, Space 1026. Philly, get ready for some serious experimental theater! You are not going to see any of this this stuff on PBS! Last night we performed at Tarantula Hill in Baltimore. With the exception of when Brian Blomerth was onstage the room was kind of crickety. Brian has a great act based on art therapy, gender roles and whether the microphone works or not. The evening had a lot of festivities, a cat show, a food eating contest, a baking contest as well as our four acts and videos. The caretakers of Tarantula Hill, Twig and Carley, rule! We each made four more dollars than the night before!
Well, not exactly. But sounds fun, no?
Thu., Aug. 6, 8 p.m., $5 donation, Space 1026, 1026 Arch St., 2nd floor, 215-574-7630, space1026.com.
The boy wonder Wes Anderson returns to center stage after two critically underwhelming films ' although I gotta admit that The Life Aquatic has grown on me, while The Darjeeling Limited has not (love that art direction though). So here we are at an important juncture for Anderson, he's branching off, doing something new. There's the obvious animation aspect, which Anderson has never fully explored, but, and I think more importantly, he's working of an adaptation of a much beloved book (I can think of no Roald Dahl book ' from The BFG to Esio Trot ' that is not beloved), rather than working from his own source material.
For me, this is a mixed bag. Anderson has always had a strong visual style. From the spareness of Bottle Rocket to the overstuffed rooms and iconic costumes of The Royal Tennebaums to the cross-section and stunning revelation of the jaguar shark in The Life Aquatic and I think that bodes well for an animated film, especially stop-motion animation, where everything must be painstakingly constructed. Other than maybe Guillermo del Toro, there is no other director working today who I would rather see work in this medium (maybe one of the Pixar guys ' Andrew Lasseter, perhaps). That being said, I think the voices are off. They're instantly recognizable and it's completely jarring to hear George Clooney's voice come out of Mr. Fox's mouth. At the same time, when I heard about this casting, I thought it was perfect. Who better to play the wiliest characters of them all? But in animation like this, I want to get lost in it. I don't want to remember that I'm watching puppets every time one of the characters opens its mouth. In essence, though, this looks exactly like I imagined an animated Wes Anderson movie would look. It's quirky and funny and almost too hip for its own good. And while there's solace in the familiar, I was really hoping for something ' well ' fantastic.
Bonus points for Bill Murray though, always bonus for points for Bill.
This trailer has drummed up quite a bit of controversy in movie blog land, so I'm quite interested to hear what you guys think. Love it? Hate it? Think Anderson is a quirk-filled flash in the pan? Lay it on me.
As a different point of discussion, what Roald Dahl book would you like to see turned into a movie? I think Dahl translate pretty well to film and I'm always surprised there isn't more of them. Too dark, maybe? Of course, there are the various incarnations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Witches, with Anderson regular Angelica Houston is one of my all time favorites. Scared the shit outta me when I was a kid but I loved it. I'm also a fan of Henry Selick's (A Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) James and the Giant Peach and I have very fond memories of an animated BFG that used to air on ITV in England.
What Dahl adaptations do you want to see? I think The Twits would make a superb, surreal live action film (c'mon, how cool would it be to see the Dahl's description of the food particles stuck in Mr. Twits' beard?). I've always wanted to see an animated short of Esio Trot ' a sentimental favorite. But all I can see in my head are Quentin Blake's fabulous illustrations, so that may only be a pipe dream.
|photos by K. Ross Hoffman|
|Kitty Daisy and Lewis|
Endearingly familial bar-trading battle
There was a blood-red full moon over Philadelphia last night, and there might just have been a bit of hoodoo magic wafting through the air at Kung Fu Necktie, as a pair of doe-eyed British sisters in lacy black dresses, glossy bouffants and lavish eye-makeup took the stage, as though the room was built for them, and launched into an a cappella rendition of Jesse Powell's wryly off-color 'Walk Right In, Walk Right Out,' kicking off a fiery, barnstorming set that rocked the joint to its knees and then some. This family band ' the girls were soon joined by their equally stylish bro, mum and dad ' don't simply hearken back to the days when rock 'n' roll, r 'n' b, swing, country, western (yep, two different things) and juke joint blues hadn't yet gone their separate ways but were still all muddling about together ' they drag those days kicking and howling right back into the present, and it's an exhaustive, exhilarating experience.
Here's the skinny: Kitty (16), Daisy (21) and Lewis Durham (19), crackerjack multi-instrumentalists all, busted outta Kentish Town last year with a self-titled debut which was the first album in over fifty years to be issued on 78rpm 10' vinyl, cut by Lewis himself in the family's home studio (yes, it's also available at 33rpm, and however fast CDs and MP3s go ' it'll be out here at the end of the month on DH/Mercer Street records.) The album's a righteous blast from top to bottom ' a passel of covers and a few dead-ringer originals ' and a truly uncanny evocation of its sources (the trio's zealous devotion to vintage recording techniques certainly pays off, but even that can't account for the eerie throwback resonance of the sisters' singing voices.)
Great as it is, though, the record seems almost like a mere curiosity in comparison to the powerful testament of KD&L's live show. Their parents may tag along to hold down the rhythm section ' Graeme (a noted mastering engineer) on rhythm guitar and Ingrid Weiss (former drummer for the Raincoats!) on stand-up bass ' but they mostly just hang back and let the kids run the show. One song might feature the gritty-voiced Kitty kicking out a mean blues harp solo between choruses while mild-mannered, pompadoured Lewis rips up a rockabilly riff on his hollow-bodied Harmony and Daisy, sitting side-saddle on the drum stool, wails mercilessly on a single snare drum, her heels flying up as she bangs away. But the next number might find them in a whole new configuration: an accordion and a pair of dueling banjos for bit of western swing; djembe, ukulele and homemade lapsteel for a mid-set diversion into Hawaiian hula music. When they invited the ridiculously pedigreed Jamaican trumpeter Tan Tan, who looked old enough to be their grandfather (but is probably more like a kindly older neighbor) to join them for some rootsy ska, Kitty even pulled a trombone out of somewhere to join him on the coda.
And so it went. I was dancing too hard to pay all that much attention to the songs, but they played 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky' and 'Got My Mojo Working' and Canned Heat's 'Going Up The Country' and Louis Prima's 'Buona Sera Signorina' (fake-out ballad intro segueing into red-hot stomp.) And their second encore (the hard-clapping, foot-stomping sweaty crowd would barely allow them to leave the stage for a minute ' not that there was anywhere for them to go) was an extended boogie-woogie piano jam that featured really the only breach in the siblings' uncanny professionalism; an endearingly familial bar-trading battle between the virtuosic show-off Lewis on keys and a somewhat flustered Kitty, his lil sis, on an apparently malfunctioning guitar, which ended when she responded to a particularly flashy run of trills by flashing her brother the bird. (The family that plays together, you know')
It's hard to imagine a better venue for these cats to play than the intimate, retro-vibed KFN, with its ruby-dim ambience and kitsch exotica decor. It's hard to imagine a worse place for them than half-empty, daylit stadiums opening up for the least enthusiasm-generating rock stars of this decade ' but that's exactly what they've been doing for the bulk of this, their first American jaunt; doggedly attempting to hep early-arriving Coldplay audiences to the jive. This was one of only a very few mid-tour small-room headling gigs. So we got lucky this time, Philly. Fingers crossed, we'll be this lucky again: the Durhams should return, or so they promised after the show, sometime around late October. If even a tenth of the excitement they generated last night works its way into local consciousness over the next two months, they're gonna need a bigger venue for darn sure, and it's gonna be a party for the ages ' don't forget your dancing shoes!
Philly's own Lemon Treasures opened the show in sweetly ditzy fashion with a mix of titters and titillation, offering semi-novelty covers (the best being Sam the Sham's 'Little Red Riding Hood'), cutesily comic originals, and somewhat bumbling burlesque shenanigans. The duo (plus-drummer) have an amateurish charm and a decent performance concept, but they're only halfway convincing as either performers or musicians: primary vamp Lisa Vega hasn't quite got the conviction to back up her pep (though she does have the outfit down), while guitarist Elizabeth Knauss might want to replace her toneless electric with something a bit more cabaret-style (a ukelele would do nicely.) It should be stated, however, that Vega made up for any deficiencies in on-stage swagger during the headliners' set, when she enthusiastically lead the way on the dancefloor along with her nattily sideburned partner.
Chalk it up to high-school histrionics and adolescent angst unleashed with a boundless production budget.
Billy Joel and Elton John played Citizens Bank Park Saturday night, but anyone seeking a hearty dose of big gushy sentiment, pop/rock star-power and good old-fashioned melody would have done just as well to wander across the sports complex to the Wachovia Center, which could hardly have felt more packed and eager to receive its own pair of bona-fide megastars (and first-class songwriters), Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. Sure, this was a country show, though about all that meant in practice was an occasional mandolin, banjo or fiddle adding a bit of timbral inflection to the battery of barn-storming guitars ' for what it's worth, there were no cowboy hats or even boots evident on stage, though there was a smattering throughout the (predominantly female, substantially blonde) crowd.
True to her name, Swift took the stage promptly and bashed through a scant-hour set that was a scaled-down version of her batshit-spectacular headlining tour earlier this year, without the fairy-tale castle but still pretty preposterously overblown, with multiple set and wardrobe changes. The ostensible takeaway message of her performance was 'don't cross Taylor (more specifically, don't break up with and/or get broken up with by her) or else she'll write a nasty song about you,' a theme underscored by a video interview clip (which played while she changed out of her tinselly silver dress before reappearing in the same sparkly red dress she wore in the video ' ' and sitting on the same nondescript couch! ' to sing the more-rueful-than-vengeful 'Forever and Always') and later reinforced by melodramatically staged renditions of her kiss-off numbers 'Picture to Burn' (with video-screens full of flaming picture frames), 'Should've Said No' (featuring a bizarre and unfortunately underused garbage-can-drum assemblage), and 'You're Not Sorry,' the latter performed at the piano with lightning crashing in the background, cleverly medleyed/mashed-up with Justin Timberlake's 'What Goes Around Comes Around,' which is pretty much the pinnacle of modern revenge-fantasy pop.
Taylor's caked-on make-up and weirdly dispassionate expressions did fit the heartless, vindictive bitch role surprisingly well (and tossing around her tremendous blond mane, as she does at every available opportunity, makes everything seem that much more dramatic) but on the whole it's a pretty bad look for her, far from the sweetly homespun image she typically cultivates and the understated romantic pragmatism that characterizes most of her best songs. Chalk it up to high-school histrionics and adolescent angst unleashed with a boundless production budget. Thing is, Swift's on-stage manner is so uncomfortably labored ' particularly her cringably trite, stilted, awkwardly drawn-out banter (worst bit: 'I've got this theory' I think you'll agree with me' my theory is that music' is just love stories' set to melodies' ') ' that the sweetness and self-awareness of her songs all but disappears. Still, the girl's only nineteen. She may not be nearly as gifted a performer as she is a songwriter, and she has yet to rack up the arena-touring experience to make up for it, but by that same token she's new enough to this thing that a bit of genuinely infectious, youthful gee-whiz wonder can't help but seep through despite her most affected, schmaltzy-face stagecraft.
She made a big show of hometown pride (she was born in Wyomissing, in Berks County) which seemed relatively sincere, though it's hard to really tell, and she wandered into the crowd mid-set to commune with her adoring fans, many of whom look more or less like her, if a bit younger ' or more specifically, to let them flood over her and hug her while she clutched a microphone and sang 'Love Story,' a two-way display of affection which was genuinely heart-warming to watch. But the set's nicest, simplest, and most potent moment, corny as it was, came after a solo acoustic rendition of her first and maybe-best single, 'Tim McGraw' (performed at the end of a thrust stage on her custom koa-wood guitar, which is, naturally enough, a Taylor), when she stood, silent, looking out at the screaming, cheering crowd, first in strained, studied disbelief and hand-on-heart I'm-so-touched earnestness, then laughter, and finally just eyes-wide astonishment at the impossible craziness of it all, which you've got to believe, after a full several minutes of letting it all settle in and wash over her, has got to be real. That's the gawky, ham-fisted performer Taylor, to be sure; it's also probably the writer in her, pausing to observe and respond to the world around her; but it's the real-live bemused-and-bewildered teenaged girl Taylor too ' the one who just happens to have been America's top-selling artist of 2008 ' and if it can be her, it can be all of us, sharing that corporately-sponsored space in that carefully scripted magic moment.
So much for openers. Keith Urban, who's twice Taylor's age and then some (and is also waaay hotter, no question) is a totally different animal; a mature, affable presence who needed no fancy gimmicks to put across the power and intensity of his hybrid pop-country-rock. That's not to say his set was without its bells and whistles ' this was still a lavish, sophisticated production, with a seamlessly integrated mobile video-screen system making creative use of a live camera crew (with real-time visual effects and overlays and sporting-event-style cut-aways to unsuspecting audience members) and a few cute stunts like the flashy (literally) 'lite-brite' guitar and, for the encore, canons spouting glow-in-the-dark confetti. But for the most part the focus was squarely on Urban, who sported a fresh, ruggedly tidy look (jeans, no-frills red plaid shirt, shiny guitar strap, plus earrings and tattoos) and a persistent grin, and led his bandmates (each of whom sang a short a cappella cover, ranging from 'Ain't No Sunshine' to 'Who Do You Love') through a powerhouse two-hour set. For my taste, the set list leaned a bit too heavily on the big emotive ballads (his back-catalog is packed with them) and left the inventiveness and variety of his excellent 2006 album Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing sadly underrepresented ' though several of the snappier tunes from his new one, Defying Gravity, helped to make up for it. With slow jams coming seemingly every other song or so, the energy level seemed to flag after a while, but the crowd sure didn't seem to mind. As made clear by a YouTube montage of fans (including a fatigued serviceman and a cute little kid) singing his sentimental 'You'll Think Of Me,' they like the weepy ones (and I'll admit his recent-issue ballad ''Til Summer Comes Around' got to me a bit too, but then I have a soft spot for love songs about amusement parks, with bonus points for Knopfler-esque noodling.) Keith also did Taylor one better by walking through the crowd all the way across the arena to perform a few numbers at the far end (quipping 'Who's got the good seats now?') ' is this something only country musicians do? Maybe they're the only ones willing to put up with the annoyance of being tugged on by thousands of hands (not to mention the uncertainty and potential danger involved), in order to demonstrate their commitment and connectedness to normal folks. Anyway, it's a touching spectacle (pun, er, semi-intended?), and if it tends to take on a disturbingly religious quality, that's probably just an effect of the rapturous joy which is common to all great musical experiences.
In this week's Agenda section, Kristen Humbert clued you in on the exhibit "8 Bit & Beyond":
Curated by local illustrators' collective The Autumn Society, the show features more than 50 pieces inspired by early video games. Joseph Game, one of the Society's founders, created wood-mounted paintings that showcase prominent video game characters, like Link in Zelda: A Link to the Past (pictured). Similarly, Pat Kinsella's digital works cleverly depict Mario's day job ' fixing bathroom sinks. And Tim Durning illustrated a parody of N.C. Wyeth's The Giant, placing one of the Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus in the clouds.
To see images from the exhibit before you dedicate yourself to a night away from World of Warcraft, check out our online gallery here. While there's tons of great work all around, we have to say, the acrylic painting below by Anthony Pedro is definitely of our favorite. 'Cause you're all like, what is that? This has nothing to do with video games. It just looks like a quaint little painting that'd be hanging on my mom's wall '
OH SHIT! It's about DUCK HUNT! Oh man, the days '
Opening reception Fri,. Aug. 7, 6-10 p.m., free, through Aug. 31, Brave New Worlds, 45 N. Second St., 215-925-6525, bravenewworldscomics.com.
|Photo | John Vettese|
So by now you've probably heard the big news about last weekend's All Points West festival. It rained, and rained, and rained some more. There was lots of mud. There was more than a bit of complaining among grumpy slaves to fashion who weren't used to coping with a storm front while watching live music. So many new kicks were tarnished, so many paper-thin dresses were inadequate for the elements, so many spirits were broken. Behind it all, there was more than enough stellar music to make up for the conditions. Let's recap.
|Photos | John Vettese|
ACT 1 - Rain and redemption
My girlfriend Maureen once made the great observation that an unusual number of Vampire Weekend's songs deal with dressing appropriately for the weather ("Is your sweater aaah-aaah-on?"). Maybe they have some kind of weird New Wave foresight and knew that someday they would play in front of a couple thousand people in the worst climate imaginable for a concert - they wanted to warn their fans! VW's set coincided with the pinnacle of Saturday's monsoon-ish downpour, during which I was so drenched that you probably would have believed me if I told you I'd fallen in the Hudson. (This was the point when my camera was cooked; thankfully my good buddy Chris from MusicSnobbery.com was on hand to lend a point-and-shoot that did a fine job getting me through the rest of the weekend). Onstage, frontman Ezra Koenig was undaunted, neither by the storm, nor the possibility of electrocution. I've always said that one of my favorite elements of Vampire Weekend is the fun that the guys obviously, unashamedly have while performing. They amped this up several dozen notches to offset the rain at All Points ; "It's kind of a fucked up situation we're all in," Koenig told the crowd. "So let's all try and enjoy it." Opening with the lovely (and apt) new song "White Sky," he beckoned everybody to scream along with "One (Blake's Got a New Face)"; only the appropriately-dressed were asked to join in on the weather-referencing "A-Punk" (the line "Look outside at the raincoats coming"), but the participatory element was appreciated all the same. Likewise, The National preceded VW and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs followed them with exuberant, above-and-beyond sets that were tight, energetic (yes, The National was energetic'that's something, innit?) and momentarily able to deliver the crowd from the bog it was unwittingly mired in. I blame Fleet Foxes for the atmospheric conditions - between their lovely folksy madrigal harmonizing earlier in the day, they made references to Gandalf, Shadowfax and conjuring of things.
Damnned Middle-Earth hippie magicians.
|Photos | John Vettese|
ACT 2 - Jay-Z, and hip-hop that's not as good as Jay-Z
The bad weather eventually subsided, as did the comparisons to beleaguered chapters of global history (Maureen on the cluttered, chaotic press tent: "This is like 'Nam!" Chris on a dude washing off in muddy water: "What is this, Calcutta?"). As the audience dried, the festival's first night capped with Jay-Z being, if you'll pardon the blog-o-hyperbole, just fucking incredibly awesome. An eight-piece band. "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn" kicking things off. Memphis Bleek helping out on the rhymes. A career-spanning set. A freestyle encore. Several minutes of thanking random individual members of the crowd for singing along. A born entertainer in top form. Was it raining earlier? I'd forgotten.
The first act we saw the next day was also a hip-hop group - Chicago trio The Cool Kids - and man do I feel for them. With Jay-Z's spirited production still fresh in everybody's minds, the Kids' comparatively stripped-down approach was fated to pale in its shadow. They have two MCs and one DJ, they do the party rhymes and do them well, have swagger and style, but it all gets dwarfed on the huge stage and swallowed in the vast open air of Liberty State Park. All that was audible, unfortunately, were beats and scratches, with the vocals coming through occasionally at best.
Evidently, the Ultramagnetic crew that came next has much more experience at doing turntablist hip-hop in a live, outdoor setting. Kool Keith more or less schooled Cool Kids on how its done: a DJ mix with texture and variety, more bass bumping the front row off their feet and volume generously cranked on the delivery. Adopting his resurrected Dr. Octagon persona, Keith was flanked onstage by an entourage that included none other than Ice-Motherfucking-T, and they worked the field with panache and aplomb. "Sometime it's good to just be on the side, be a hype man," Ice told the crowd. "That's how we all got our start." He dropped a bit of unaccompanied gangster shit into the mix, but about a half-hour in, the novelty of "Woah, that's Ice-T" wore off and Keith by that point had slipped into the raunchiest corners of Dr. Octagon's raunchy mind. Time to move on.
The day's final hip-hop moment came from Chairlift, who started off their early evening dance tent performance with a cover of Snoop Dogg's "Sensual Seduction." It was great, but also the only remotely edgy trick the trio had up their sleeve; the rest of their set was a more or less pleasant, inoffensive performance of St. Germain-ish bubbly lounge pop.
|Photo | John Vettese|
Interlude - Cynicism
My mind went wandering far and wide during The Arctic Monkeys' midafternoon appearance. Maybe it was because they frontloaded their set with new-ish, minor key Motorhead-fucking-Kings-of-Leon garbage. Maybe it was the boom cameras cris-crossing our sightlines at all angles imaginable. If you were in the crowd, the booms blocked your view of the stage. If you moved back, the booms blocked your view of the screens they were ostensibly filming for. Did the cameras even care if we saw the musicians? Or were we, as Chris suggested, nothing more than extras in their concert-film DVD? And what was with all the dry ice? The Monkeys are trying really hard to be dramatic. Back to the crowd. Many attempts at witty t-shirts, most failing miserably. "Things go better with Coke." Hah, yeah, we get it - and it's not funny. "Who the fuck is Mick Jagger?" Now this prompted some googling, since I've seen kids in my neighborhood wearing it as well.
Apparently Keith Richards sported a similar jersey when the Stones were on tour in the mid-70s. I wonder if the shirt-wearer was aware of this, or just liked the idea of wearing something with the word "Fuck" in big letters. Oh, hey, it's "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor." This song is going to be their "Bang a Gong." Make of that what you will.
|Photo | John Vettese|
ACT 3 - Six string idolatry, likely and not
Dude, nobody told me Annie Clark is a guitar god! Wow. This was my first time seeing her live after a few years of appreciating St. Vincent's records as quirky, hauntingly arranged things of beauty and grace. But man, she can rock it. Solo electric on a cover of The Beatles' "I Dig A Pony" and Clark wailed, 12-bar blues style. And the noise jam, the visceral back-and-forth strumming that closed out "Laughing With A Mouth Full of Blood." The rumbles, the squeals, the torn air. It was the set to see on Saturday. Were he not in seclusion back at the main stage, Kevin Shields with be looking on with pride.
As for Shields and My Bloody Valentine, theirs was easily the most polarizing performance of the day.
You had your devotees for whom this concert was a effects-pedal Mecca, who crowded the front and craned their neck to get a look at the gear setup, who were bouncing with antsy anticipation. (This carried over to the photo-pit for whatever reason as well; it was seriously a logjam of lenses up in there.)
Then you had your people who were indifferent on MBV, but were so irritated by the zealots that they went the opposite direction and took to loudly hating on them just for the sake of hating on them. This prompted a bevy of rather asinine criticisms. "They don't do anything, they just stand there!" Well, uh, yeah...people call them "shoegaze" for a reason. "You can't hear the vocals!" Dude, have you ever listened to Loveless?
Once they went on, their set proved neither as transcendent as the fans believed (or wanted to) nor as disposable as the haters insisted. They opened with two of my favorite Loveless cuts, back-to-back: "I Only Said" into "When You Sleep." From there, they just kind of coasted. Songs were on point and true to the recordings, almost to a fault. Shields pre-sequences a lot of the sounds and loops that make the music, well, great; that jingle-jangle in "Soon"? Yeah. Not live. Disappointing. The song grooved and I enjoyed hearing it, but kind of the same way as I enjoy hearing it on CD.
To be honest, the bulk of their set underwhelmed me - until "You Made Me Realise." This is the number they're famous for ripping shit up on; holding one insufferable chord, frying power circuits, making people nauseous, etc. etc. The go-to comparison is an airport hanger. And when the freakout first started, I was reluctant to buy into it, but wow, they just did not let go. We had a stopwatch going; 9 minutes and 40 seconds. I took my earplugs out just to get an idea of how heavy it was. And while I think Bardo Pond is louder at the Khyber, they're only slightly louder; and that's in a teeny, enclosed room. This was in a giant outdoor field. Eventually the release came, and the music concluded to a mix of thumbs-up, devil horns and middle fingers from the crowd.
ACT 4 - Prog-metal healing
As evidenced by Tool's All Points West appearance, the band is focusing on the visual more than ever:
|Photo | John Vettese|
Ha. Haha. Eh, ok, not funny.
Their stage setup actually looked like this:
|Photo | John Vettese|
And now, for some self-indulgent background, because blogs are a self-indulgent medium:
Go back in time about 13 years and Tool was the shit to the teenaged, goth/industrial-leaning John. I'd like to think my tastes have improved since then, but nevertheless I've always had a soft spot for them.
Go back about three years and I saw Tool again, for the first time in forever. I was a bit put off by the way the show seemed to favor the sprawling, half-hour long songs in their newer offerings, and I was further put off by the perplexingly high concentration of burnouts and frat-bar-looking dudes at the show. I mentioned this to some friends, asking when the hell the crowd took this turn and naively wondering whether or not they "got" the music. In response, a douchebag named Rob who I was acquainted with at the time showed me this SomethingAwful.com article, which generally skewers Tool fans for complaining about Tool fans, their pervasive self-righteous self-loathing. (It does a pretty good cut-up on the band themselves, to boot.) It's so very harsh, so very true, and honestly, kind of hysterical. Of course my reaction was way dickhurt at the time: "Oh fuck, no, I'm being one of Those People."
It killed things for me and since then, I've been unable to listen to Tool (the relative merits of this can certainly be debated). But after taking in a few songs of the loud and blinding Crystal Castles on Saturday night, I decided to trudge back to the mainstage and check in on Keenan and co.
Going into it expecting to see what I saw at The Tower - a metal jam band, a football game crowd - I was able to relax and enjoy the show. I appreciated how well the Quay Brothers-esque music video clips were looped and synced up with the music, and the LED stage set that turned the band into silhouettes. I dug the hypnotic, elliptical drumming and how fully it surrounds you live. I had fun singing along with "Stinkfist." "Third Eye" was dope, "Schism" badass. Keenan's voice doesn't ring as true as it did at the Factory in '96, but he thankfully is once again comfortable showing his understated sense of humor: "Yeah, New York is a pretty cool city I guess. But in all seriousness, you don't fuck with Jersey." Right on, man.
It was a healing moment; forgiving myself for loving the band, forgiving my distancing from them, releasing whatever tension and frustration lingered from the wet, mud-caking, equipment breaking weekend. Just spacing out, enjoying the scene, and then quietly walking away.
EPILOGUE - Yet more photos
|Photo | John Vettese|
|I wasn't kidding about the photo pit being a logjam. This was during Jay-Z; it was easily twice this during MBV. For bonus points, locate Music Snobbery Chris, whithout whose generosity this photo would not have been taken.|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Neko Case is a fine singer; it's a shame her own songs aren't more interesting. This was during "Hold On, Hold On."|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|She had curious video footage, at least. Tigers and cyclones with hearts, etc.|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Crystal Castles kicked off their set with a thermal detonator.|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|In case you were unsure where the "arts" came from in "All Points West Music and Arts Festival," here you go - a half dozen site-specific sculpture installations that looked badass at night.|
Let this just be a reminder that tomorrow morning, at the bright 'n' early hour of 10 a.m., tickets go on sale for It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's live Tower Theater performance of "The Night Cometh," the fourth season episode in which Charlie writes a rock opera. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
(This version of the trailer is copied from the Apple.com trailer site. Go there if the embed gets taken down, because I haven't found an embeddable one yet.)
This is the much-anticipated trailer for Peter Jackson's locally shot (woohoo!) film The Lovely Bones, based on Alice Sebold's best-selling novel. Let's get to the nitty gritty: I haven't read this book but this trailer looks AWESOME. I wasn't a huge Lord of the Rings fan, mainly because I really just wanted to see some hardcore elf battles and because the movies wasn't three hours of that, I was annoyed. But what those hardcore elf battles (and the rest of Peter Jackson's oeuvre) has pointed to is a strong visual style that's worth reckoning with.
By the looks of this, Jackson and art directors Jules Cook and Chris Shriver (who worked with Jackson on LOTR, which had stunning art direction) nailed it. I don't mind that it looks CGI-y. It's heaven. Maybe heaven looks like that. It would kind of be badass if it did. I'm also digging the cast, from Marky Mark in his '70s wig to the cig-ed out Susan Sarandon to Saoirse Rose, whose performances in Atonement and I Could Never Be Your Woman make her one of the few child actors I actively don't want to slap. This girl is good. And that's not even discussing Stanley Tucci. Ah, Stan. Best character actor working today? Me thinks yes
Anyone who has read the book have an opinion? Let me know what you think!
|Norton, 208 pp., $14.95, June 1|
The balm here is that Vladislavic integrates the storied history of the city fully into that of his own past, declaring at one point that 'the city ' is no more than a mnemonic,' a recourse to memory which exists in vivid multiform before his eyes. He's troubled not just by the burgeoning divide in society, but also by the erasure of the past; demolished houses, pilfered statuary and white-washed native murals have eerie power simply through negation, and it is the author's hope that something of himself lives on in the city, that the city 'listens' to him and holds a recording of his astute passage through its many streets just as his keen powers of observation are at the city's disposal. His sensitivity and vulnerability reach their height at the quiet interchange of a tortuous moment where polar opposites of the city, the privileged white writer and a bleeding would-be burglar, take part in a moment of shared terror, the effects of which temper any initially wrathful inclination as the burglar slowly escapes.
The book is divided by a blank space wherein the author abandons the country after nearly doing the same with his possessions, the many things that grow to become as burdensome as memory as the story progresses. But he returns home since he's as inseparable from the city as he is from his hoarded recollections; 'We will never be ourselves anywhere else. Happier perhaps, healthier, less burdened, more secure. But we will never be closer to who we are than this.' And it is in this sentiment that the novel's hopeful spirit, nearly battered by the pervasive misery, is enlivened, as the author, gifted by his sensitive awareness, re-examines the intermingling of two destinies. His lament for the past ' for both personal and societal reasons ' is countered by a courageous call to the future that all suffering cities require. As Johannesburg lives through his luminous writing, this hopeful call for change will carry this city's hero on, as well. A rightful honor, since Vladislavic, inspired by the indelible stamp of culture and humanity of his native city, has gifted us not only with a vision, but with a great work of art.
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