Lollapalooza is a mere three days from now, and I'm slathering on the sunscreen in advance. At last year's festival, I was super-aggressive and managed to take in 27 full sets from various artists. This year, the lineup isn't as deep and I'm planning to take a more relaxed approach. Here's my plan - with notes where appropriate:
11:45 The Fratellis (I'm digging their album - hope it translates live)
1:30 Ted Leo w/ Rx (Maybe he'll bash his face in again (bottom of the page))
2:30 Polyphonic Spree
3:30 Electric Six / Against Me!
5:00 Silversun Pickups (On a smaller stage. It's going to be packed)
6:30 The Black Keys
7:30 LCD Soundsystem
8:30 Daft Punk
12:45 Tokyo Police Club
1:30 Tapes 'n Tapes
3:30 Cold War Kids
4:30 The Roots
5:00 Roky Erickson & the Explosives
6:30 Yeah Yeah Yeahs
7:30 Patti Smith
8:30 Interpol (I can't get enough of the new release. It's fantastic)
12:15 The Cribs (Should be fun. Maybe they'll bring this chick.)
1:15 Rodrigo y Gabriela
2:15 Amy Winehouse (I'm skeptical of how good she'll be, but worth checking out)
4:15 The Stooges (Top act of the festival for me)
6:15 Modest Mouse
7:15 TV on the Radio (They really got the crap slot here)
8:00 Pearl Jam (what the hell - might be decent)
So what's your plan?
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Lollapalooza is a mere three days from now, and I'm slathering on the sunscreen in advance. At last year's festival, I was super-aggressive and managed to take in 27 full sets from various artists. This year, the lineup isn't as deep and I'm planning to take a more relaxed approach. Here's my plan - with notes where appropriate:
Monday, July 30, 2007
Ingmar Bergman dead at 89. I have only seen a handful of Bergman's films, but have absolutely loved them all. This is a day where I wish I had been more aggressive in viewing his catalog. Based on my limited knowledge of his work, his reputation for intensely personal films that deal with the most human of issues is much deserved. When people discuss the "greatest directors of all time", he is often overlooked, likely because his films are in Swedish. Had he directed English language movies, I'm sure he would be placed on everyone's top five list. If you have never seen a Bergman film, any of his renowned works is a good place to start (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Fanny and Alexander, Persona). You and I will both be playing catchup, as I definitely plan to see everything he's ever made. The only film reviewed in this space so far is Smiles of a Summer Night (89: Sparkling). Bergman continued to direct through the critically lauded 2003 film, Saraband. He will be missed.
UPDATE: Roger Ebert has written a eulogy on Bergman, and it is of course brilliant. Check it out here.
Schwarzenegger alive at 60. Today is Arnold's sixtieth birthday. In honor of his achievement (still kicking despite the steroids), here's some of his early work. He's come a long way. Enjoy!
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
People often come up with rules of self-protection when it comes to which movies they’ll watch. For instance, John Campena over at The Movie Blog says to avoid any direct-to-DVD release featuring name stars. There are other rules that everyone seems to know: No sequels with different actors (Robocop 3!). No movies based on video games (Super Mario Bros!). Brian DePalma movies are always worse than you think they’re going to be (Snake Eyes!).
I have a new one for you – one you probably haven’t thought of. Beware the movie titled after a popular song. There are some technicalities to consider here. The song in question can’t be released in association with the movie (In the Heat of the Night). If the movie just happens to have the same name as the song, but the two are clearly totally unrelated it does not qualify (American Psycho is a superb Misfits track, but is not featured in the movie and not popular enough to be well known by the film’s audience). Finally, if the movie is named after an event or issue that the song also just happens to reference, it does not qualify (Bloody Sunday features the U2 song, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, but both are in reference to the same historic occurrence). The following examples come to mind:
Dead Man’s Curve
The Song: Looking through their discography, you forget how many hits Jan & Dean managed. This song was one of their top three – a somewhat tongue in cheek warning about street racing. The song became ironically tragic when Jan Berry sustained brain damage from an accident very near the curve they wrote the song about.
The Film: Not to be confused with the Mark-Paul Gosselaar vehicle, Dead Man on Campus, this 1998 release featured soon to be stars Keri Russell, Michael Vartan, and Matthew Lillard. It uses the age old urban legend that if your collegiate roommate commits suicide, you get a 4.0. There are various roommates and boyfriends and girlfriends who continually try to off each other (while making it look like a suicide) to garner a 4.0. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but it’s one of those movies where there are so many random twists, you’re sure they made it up as they went along. The video title was shortened to “The Curve” either to avoid being mentioned in this blog posting or because they wanted people to think it was a different movie than the one that got a 0% on the Tomatometer.
The Connection: Much like the plot, I assume the title was determined after they were already well into the process. The only soundtrack produced was for the score, but this phrase has always come from the hit song. Avoid this movie.
Down to Earth
The Song: The title track from Stevie Wonder’s 1966 album, this is not one of his most memorable hits. Stevie was only sixteen when it was released and went on to more renowned work soon thereafter. However, it’s a fine tune and one of many that drew attention to Wonder at a young age.
The Film: When is Chris Rock going to make another good movie? I say “another” because I found CB4 to be hilarious despite its consistent nonsense. This remake of Heaven Can Wait (which itself is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan) is a poorly done comedy about a standup comedian who is incorrectly killed off by bumbling angel Eugene Levy. Because it’s not his time yet, he is sent back to earth in the body of a fat, rich, white dude. There’s potential here, but all the comedic scenes are horribly misplayed. Hence the 5.0 IMDb rating and 18% Tomatometer.
The Connection: Are we sure they named this movie after the song? The working title was “I Was Made to Love Her”, a far more famous Stevie Wonder song from the same era. Furthermore, check out the opening lyrics of the song: “Down to earth, once again. I’ve been away to long. I got lost but then, I came home again. Home where I belong.” Apparently, these lyrics fit better. The Stevie song they chose for the soundtrack, however, is “Uptight.” Go figure. Avoid this movie.
Can’t Buy Me Love
The Song: Do I really have to go into detail here? Huge hit for the Beatles from their 1964 album, A Hard Day’s Night. The song is superb.
The Film: Patrick Dempsey is a lawn-mowing nerd who pays a popular cheerleader (Amanda Peterson) one thousand dollars to be his girlfriend for a month, hoping that it will make him more popular. It works, he shits on his best friend’s house and generally starts acting like a jerk. However, in a drunken tirade calling out her friends, Peterson reveals their contract and Dempsey finds himself even less popular than before. His former best friend finally decides to sit with him at lunch leading to one of the football players being decked. What follows is the worst slow-clap in the history of cinema. I know people who claim to love this movie, but I have to believe they haven’t seen it in a while. The IMDb rating is a not horrendous 6.2 (38% Tomatometer). I have to believe people are rating this based on a nostalgic remembrance of how good they thought it must have been. It’s horribly acted and totally inane. Here’s one sentence from Ebert’s review: “It doesn't have a thought in its head and probably no notion of the corruption at its core.” Seriously, it’s going to take me months to get over that slow clap.
The Connection: Well, if it wasn’t obvious already, the song is played over the opening credits. So there you go. More dough for Michael Jackson. Avoid this movie unless you want your nostalgia ruined.
Love Don’t Cost a Thing
The Song: A huge hit for J-Lo and the opening track from her 2001 album, J.Lo.
The Film: This is a 2003 remake of Can’t Buy Me Love. Same premise as above, except this time, the cheerleader in question actually needs the cash because she wrecked her car. Oh, and everyone’s black. I haven’t seen this one and don’t plan to, but its 4.4 IMDb rating and 13% Tomatometer speak volumes. I don’t have much else to say here.
The Connection: OK, so it’s a remake of a vapid movie based on a song. But rather than use the same song again, they obviously should tailor it to their new audience so they use a more current song recorded by a Puerto Rican. Hey, it’s closer than four white guys from Liverpool. Avoid this movie.
Let’s Talk About Sex
The Song: After two albums, it appeared that Salt-N-Pepa were likely to end up one-hit-wonders. Their first single, “Push It,” was a huge success, but their next release flopped. Their third album made them stars, and the biggest hit on the album was “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The lyrics don’t seem the least bit provocative now, but in 1990, they apparently were.
The Film: Troy Beyer was a moderately successful actress, probably best known for her recurring role on Dynasty as Jackie Deveraux. Let’s Talk About Sex was her directorial debut and got a fair amount of indie attention when it was released, partly thanks to the racy posters featuring her and the other two female leads. I’ve seen this movie, and it has all the pitfalls of a lousy indie film: forced drama, insipid characters, and too many goofy situations. Apparently people agree with me because its IMDb rating (3.7) is just as bad as its Tomatometer (15%). Furthermore, they’ve only let Beyer direct one more film – the aforementioned Love Don’t Cost a Thing.
The Connection: I’m guessing they couldn’t get it on the soundtrack, but the song was such a hit, it was still in rotation on mainstream radio at the time. It’s clear they were trying to gain name recognition. Avoid this movie.
Fools Rush In
The Song: Um, have you heard of Elvis Presley? He’s, like, famous and stuff. And this is one of his most famous songs. Except it’s called “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
The Film: I get all those Matthew Perry movies from the height of his Chandler Bing era confused. This is the one where he marries Salma Hayek after a one night stand results in her being preggers. Not the one where he pretends to be gay, and not the one where he is Bruce Willis’ next door neighbor. Unfortunately, because those all seem like one big lousy movie to me, I can’t remember too many specific things about this one. I think Hayek’s family gets really mad at her for marrying a gringo, especially since it was done hastily. Tomatometer says 35%.
The Connection: What a dumb name for a movie. The Elvis song in question is on the soundtrack as well as two of his other big hits. Avoid this movie. Avoid those other Chandler Bing pictures as well.
The Song: Far and away the biggest hit for The Turtles, junior high kids all across the country have performed this tune on talent night since it was released in 1967.
The Film: Due to a glitch in the campus housing assignments, aspiring writer and incoming freshman Patrick Dempsey is assigned to room with a boisterous female played by Helen Slater. I believe she’s a theater major, or at least intends to act as silly and outlandish as possible – partly to needle Dempsey. Dempsey is irate at the situation, particularly when Slater brings Brad Pitt (in his big screen debut) home to spend the night. Eventually, they find a way to manage, then find a way to screw, then find a way to fall in love. One could say they become Happy Together. Ugh, is this an awful film. In college, we had a TV, but no channels and a housemate bought this one from the cheap rack. It was one of nine videos we had on hand, so it played often. It’s one of those movies that is so bad it’s almost funny. But not quite. I’ll never be able to scrub this one from my memory.
The Connection: The song is on the soundtrack and pretty much rammed down your throat during a ridiculous montage. Even if you only have eight other videos and you’ve seen Aladdin and When Harry Met Sally a collective 86 times, avoid this movie. At least watch The Empire Strikes Back video taped off the television w/ commercials included so it ran out of time and doesn’t have the ending.
Jumpin Jack Flash
The Song: Huge hit for the Rolling Stones. You know it. It’s a gasgasgas.
The Film: I know hardly anything about this movie. I just know that my buddy Rob despises it more than any other movie he’s seen. I also know that Whoopi’s in it which is enough to keep me away (and a 28% on the Tomatometer doesn’t help).
The Connection: Rob says the song is on the soundtrack and that makes him angrier than anything. Rob also says to avoid this movie. I trust his judgment.
Save the Last Dance
The Song: The Drifters were one of the most popular acts in the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Save the Last Dance for Me” was the title track of their third release and one of their biggest hits. It may well be their best song as well.
The Film: Julia Stiles moves to a rough part of Chicago where she encounters black people. She dances with them, dates one, and they all sort out their differences. There’s a lot of dancing and fighting. Then she gets into the Juliard school of dance – or something equally prestigious. I’m sorry I can’t recall more info for you. Since Julia Stiles is involved, you already know the acting is terrible. Also, I was really bored. There are very few scenes where anything important happens. I think in the end Julia and her boyfriend have sex, but nobody makes any jungle fever jokes.
The Connection: The only way this title makes any sense at all is if they’re referencing the song. There’s nothing in the movie about saving dances or the last dance. I do think they should have called this “Dirty Dancing 2: Dancing in the Streets.” It still would have been named after a song, and not made any damn sense, but at least people would have known what to expect: A movie that you should avoid.
Some Kind of Wonderful
The Song: It’s The Drifters again. I’m telling you, you don’t realize how many hits these guys had. It was also covered by Carole King and Marvin Gaye. The phrase is also mentioned in Marvin Gaye’s “Too Busy Thinkin’ About My Baby.” However, there’s a completely different version recorded by Grand Funk Railroad. These days, I’m guessing that’s the one people think of when they hear the phrase. At any rate, there are many options.
The Film: Mary Stuart Masterson is a tomboy and Eric Stoltz is her best friend. He has a crush on the popular girl played by Lea Thompson, but Stoltz and Masterson don’t have the cash or clothes of the in-crowd people. Eventually, Masterson and Stoltz end up together. As you may have guessed, John Hughes wrote this film. I found this movie to be an obvious, paint-by-numbers Hughes flick without any of the creativity found in Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller, or Vacation. However, it’s cruising along with a 76% Tomatometer. Perhaps I need to revisit this one.
The Connection: There’s no clear reference to either version of the song. Maybe that’s why the ratings are higher? Still, I can’t see how this title would make any sense without referencing one of them. Based on my personal recollections of this film, I say avoid it and watch a good John Hughes movie.
The Song: Sam and Dave’s biggest hit, the tune was also borrowed by The Blues Brothers and used in their movie.
The Film: C Thomas Howell has the grades to get into Harvard Law School, but not the cash. He finds a scholarship for African American students and by putting on a bad wig and overusing tanning pills, he manages to win the scholarship under false pretenses. However, he’s really bad at basketball! Will anyone discover his ruse? He falls for Rae Dawn Chong, and I think eventually gets in trouble, but I can’t really remember. A 0% Tomatometer sums it up better than I can. Howell and Chong later married in real life, so at least something good came of this.
The Connection: I have no idea if it was on the soundtrack, but I’m guessing it was. Even though James Earl Jones is in it, avoid this movie.
Sweet Home Alabama
The Song: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most popular song was made in response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” It is without question the most ubiquitous “southern rock” song ever made.
The Film: After establishing herself as a New York City socialite, Reese Witherspoon goes back home to Alabama for some reason or another. She still has a husband there she never divorced. Later, her current fiancé, Patrick Dempsey, follows her to find out what’s taking so long. She ends up with the original husband all over again. I can’t remember more of the details because this was one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in recent years. The Tomatometer agrees, chiming in at 38%.
The Connection: The term “Sweet Home Alabama” is meaningless without the song. If the song were never made, this movie probably would have been called “War Eagle!” It’s on the soundtrack, but by a band called Cornbread, not Skynyrd. Avoid this movie.
A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
The Song: The Persuaders were a 1970s R&B outfit and their biggest hit was “Thin Line Between Love and Hate.” In the same style as The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time,” it topped the R&B charts in 1971 and went gold.
The Film: Honestly, I don’t know a damn thing about this movie beyond the fact that Martin Lawrence wrote, directed, and starred in it. Apparently he’s some sort of player and one of his conquests gets cross with him and then gets even. IMDb 4.4, Tomatometer 13%. Nuff said.
The Connection: Though this could have been a feasible title without any connection, the song appears on the soundtrack. However, it’s recorded by H-Town – whoever that is. Avoid this movie.
What a Girl Wants
The Song: Christina Aguilera’s second single from her debut album is the one that made her a huge star. You’ve heard it a million times, so I don’t have to go into detail here. It is catchy and annoying.
The Film: A remake of 1958’s The Reluctant Debutant, this 2003 movie stars Amanda Bynes as an American teen who finds out that her father is a British politician. She goes to England to meet him, but they must remain secretive about their connection or he will likely lose the election. I haven’t seen this movie, nor do I plan to. Tomatometer sez 35%.
The Connection: While it doesn’t appear on the soundtrack, how the hell else would they have come up with this name? Avoid this movie.
The Song: People forget just how big Billy Ocean was in the mid 80s. This was one of the big singles from his breakthrough album, Suddenly.
The Film: Patrick Dempsey is a young pizza delivery man who, in addition to delivering pizzas, delivers love and romance to a series of older women. Compounding the significant problem that most of these women are married, he has to keep his life as a male prostitute hidden from his girlfriend and parents. When his mother orders his “services”, he realizes he must put an end to his lascivious behavior, but not before all the husbands figure out what’s going on and try to dole out some mob justice upon his face. Vic Tayback steals the show as lead angry husband. I can’t really remember how it ends, but I think the husbands learn their lesson and start treating their wives better. And Dempsey goes back to college. The movie starts off OK, but quickly degenerates into nonsense, hence the 44% Tomatometer rating.
The Connection: Perhaps this is a bit of a reach – they could have named the film Loverboy if this song had never existed. But it was such a gigantic hit, they must have known people would make an association. Avoid this movie.
Addicted to Love
The Song: Robert Palmer enjoyed a long career, putting out albums for thirty years. Far and away his greatest success, “Addicted to Love” was a smash hit, largely thanks to a video featuring five sleek models clad in black and pretending to play instruments.
The Film: Oooh boy is this a stinker. Matthew Broderick’s girlfriend leaves him for a chef. Broderick decides to move in next door to the chef’s apartment and spies on their “activities.” Meg Ryan is the chef’s former girlfriend. She and Broderick team up to try to split up the new, happy couple. Wouldn’t you know it, they fall in love. The plot is totally inane and all of the characters are complete idiots. Aside from that, it’s really boring.
The Connection: I think it’s fair to say that none of the characters in the movie are actually addicted to love. Broderick is addicted to pain. Ryan is addicted to revenge. The other two lovers just seem happy together. The title was clearly chosen because there was nothing else to call this dumb piece of nonsense, so they named it after a song. Avoid this movie.
Yes, there are some exceptions to this rule. La Bamba, Walk the Line, Boys Don’t Cry, and Lean On Me are all at least very good, if not excellent. However, you will notice that all of these movies have something in common. They’re all biopics. So if the movie named after a song happens to be a biopic, the rule no longer applies.
The only true exception to this rule is Stand By Me, which is not a biopic, is clearly named after the song, and is an excellent movie. I have no explanation for this, but you will notice that in this case, the title would have worked even if the song didn’t exist (though it wouldn’t have been as catchy). Do not avoid this movie.
Here’s a list of some other films that you should avoid because they’re named after songs and not any good. Guess which one Patrick Dempsey is in:
|Girls Just Want to Have Fun||5.4||33|
|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band||3.6||25|
|Eve of Destruction||4.5||0|
|Something to Talk About||5.4||35|
|Bye Bye, Love||5.8||16|
|In the Mood||5.8||60|
|Love Potion #9||5.2||27|
|Wedding Bell Blues||4.9||40|
So when Superbad doesn’t live up to your expectations, remember that it’s named after a kickass James Brown tune and you should have known better.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
If you visit this space regularly, you will note that we rarely delve into the political arena here at FtY. This space is about music, movies, and the occasional rant against television. For the first half of 2007, we have been reviewing a different Schwarzenegger film every two weeks using certain criteria. At the risk of offending some of our regular readers, we’re taking a look at our current president’s administration and see how well these criteria fit. If you haven't read at least one or two of the reviews, this won't make a lick of sense. At least look at Recap Part I.
Quality/Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Obviously, these are not going to be “Ahnold” lines, but there seem to be an endless supply of notable quotes. We live in the era of the soundbyte, and for better or worse, here are a slew of them:
“I can hear you. The rest of the world can hear you. And the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
“Bring them on.”
“Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”
“I’m the decider.”
“But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.”
“Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a — you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.”
“I hear there’s rumors on the internets that we’re going to have a draft.”
“I couldn’t imagine someone like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah.”
“The really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway.”
“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
“One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps.”
“Can we win (the war on terror)? I don’t think you can win it.”
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"
“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier – just so long as I’m the dictator.”
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, ‘fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.’”
“Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”
“Face for radio.”
“You gonna ask that question with shades on?”
“I’m trying to escape.”
“I’ll be back.”: I tried to find something here, but aside from quotes actually made by Governor Schwarzenegger, I got nothin’.
Smarmy Villain: Now this is a tough one. I can choose Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz. Both orchestrated the war to disastrous effect. Both spread various lies about our reasons for going, and both are smarmy as hell. But because he was the man in charge of the Defense Department, and the fact that he is the evasive king of the non sequitur, Rumsfeld gets this title. Never without his air of superiority, Rummy is quick to refute any attack either through evasive answers or outright fabrication.
Rough and Tumble Henchman: Now, come on. This one’s obvious, right? He shot an elderly man in the face! His scowl is unparalleled in the political world. He recently declared himself a fourth branch of the federal government, in effect telling everyone, “Don’t you even try to mess with me.”
Diminutive Sidekick: We’re going to go with “legal counsel” on this one. Based solely on physical stature Harriet Miers may as well be Harriet the next-door neighbor from Small Wonder. She’s tiny. And Alberto Gonzales may even be shorter. Check him out compared to Bush here. Bush is only 5’11”, so Gonzo must be in the 5’5” range. George has kept both of the advisors close to him throughout his tenure as president.
Rejected hot love interest / Not nearly hot enough love interest: Now we could go in one of two directions here. You could say that he has moved away from Laura to an obsession with Condoleezza. Early on, we saw Laura all the time. She was often presented with or even before George, while Condi was more of a bit player. But now that Rice is the Secretary of State, she has been brought to the forefront. And there was that whole kissing bit. For those that wish to debate the relative attractiveness of the two women, I remind you that this is what Condoleezza actually looks like. I’ve heard people (mostly women) claim that she’s attractive. I can only fathom that this is because she occasionally wears leather boots and some of my friends have some fetish fantasies that they have yet to recognize themselves. It’s no contest.
However, we could take this is a more subversive direction. We know that while Bush has his lady friends, his first true love will always be the sweet, intoxicating nectar found in a bottle. I mean, check out the captain here. He is hot. But on his 40th birthday, Bush gave up alcohol (it took him a while to stick to that, but he eventually gave it up). In doing so, he turned to Jesus. So yeah, I’m claiming that Captain Morgan is hotter than Jesus. Just physically. Um. I’m sure I’m probably going to hell anyway, but perhaps we should stop right there. Let’s just say that you have options on how to interpret this category.
Arnold yelling: If you don’t think Bush is a hollerer, you’re not paying much attention. Be it in debates, summits, or on the campaign trail, he loves to raise the volume to further his message.
Poignant cursing: While Arnold’s characters often curse to drive their point home, the poignancy of the curses made by this administration has actually resulted in legal consequences. A federal court adjusted FCC regulations in part because of two comments made by Bush and Cheney. First Cheney told Senator Pat Leahy, “Fuck yourself” on the floor of the Senate. We don’t have any footage, but it probably played out something like this. Perhaps more memorable was the exchange between Bush and Tony Blair at the G8 summit. I’ll let the video speak for itself:
Superfluous Explosions: We’re there to liberate. Er. WMD’s, er whatever. We can’t fathom that the Iraqi citizens are the least pit peeved after this? This footage is from Baghdad, the largest city in the country. Superfluous Explosions defined:
Director: A possible option for the diminutive sidekick, Karl Rove is far more than that. He has been involved with the Bush family’s political run from its beginnings in Texas all the way through the orchestration of many of W’s tactics and positions. His success in getting and keeping Bush in power is clear. However, he’s also been at the center of a number of scandals including the treasonous leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name to the media, the firing of US attorneys for political reasons, and the illegal RNC e-mails. Through it all, he has remained Bush’s closest advisor and continues to help guide Bush’s decisions. And then there’s this:
My eyes! My ears! Somebody kill me now!
Franco Columbu / Sven Ole-Thorsen: Not applicable, but I’d be curious to hear their thoughts, wouldn’t you?
Shirtless Arnold: While there are some pretty impressive photoshopped images of the president on the internet, this one is technically n/a. Unless you count Abu Ghraib.
Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: While there has been some talk of impeaching the vice president, it does not appear likely. So unless that fifth heart attack gets him, I don’t think this item will be completed. Seriously, if try to kill him he will shoot you in the face.
Even more severely brutal killing of villain: After much clamor from retired generals to Pat Buchanan to anyone with any common sense, Rumsfeld resigned on November 8 - the day after the mid-term elections. Sadly, it was neither severe nor brutal. In fact, it was a bit lighthearted:
Plausibly implausible plot: Ah, the elephant in the room. You know this category was coming, and you knew this would be a doozy. While this has been an overwhelmingly mendacious administration, all falsehoods seem inconsequential compared to what we heard in the lead up to the Iraq war. I urge you to examine the Iraq Resolution. (The official document can be found here.) Reading it now, it’s an amazing series of ridiculous claims. Especially now that we know US intelligence had already refuted several of these points. The most outlandish reason for invasion is “The efforts by the Congress and the President to fight the 9/11 terrorists and those who aided or harbored them.” So while this story is ridiculous on its face – and I won’t waste your time by getting into all the various ways these statements are ridiculous – the American people somehow bought into this plan. In April of 2003, 72% of Americans supported the war, and 60% supported it even if no WMDs were found. In May, 79% of American citizens said the war was justified. So despite the fact that all of the claims ranged from questionable to totally implausible, America found the reasons for invasion plausible anyway. There are other plausibly implausible programs we could tackle, but as I said, this is the “big plot” of the administration, for lack of a better word.
Ambiguous ending: Bush has claimed that the end of our military involvement in Iraq is for “future presidents” to determine. However, the only thing that can salvage his legacy at this point would be to find a way to get our military home safely. Without any change in the Iraq situation, there is no way Bush’s approval ratings climb above 30% ever again. He has wasted billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, done nothing to address issues such as health care or global warming. So while I don’t see much ambiguity at this point, we are not at the end. Impeachment is possible, but unlikely. This means that the jury is out for another 18 months. We’ll see what they do with their remaining time.
So there you have it. Our last Schwarzenegger Sunday of 2008. If it weren’t all so sad, this edition would have been more fun.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Coming up only to show you wrong. San Diego blogger Rosemary took in a Band of Horses show the other night and lead singer Ben Bridwell ended up giving her the finger during their hit song, Funeral. You can see the video here:
In her posting about the incident, Rosemary is upset. No one wants to get the finger, especially from a band you adore and have been looking forward to seeing for over a year. Bridwell later apologized to the audience, but upon receiving said finger, Rosemary bolted from the club, perhaps justifiably furious. In her post, she shares the fact that she did not watch the opening acts (a pet peeve of mine - it seems no one wants to give openers any respect nor learn about new acts these days). She also makes it clear that she pushed her way to the front, in part so she could film the performance.
This creates a quandary regarding just who Rosemary is. Either she's a fan or she's a journalist (i.e. blogger). If you're a fan, then why would you want to spend one of your favorite songs looking through a viewfinder and trying your best to keep your camera steady? If Bridwell looked down to see one of his fans was paying more attention to their shot than his performance, particularly someone who has pushed their way front and center, perhaps he has the right to be offended. But if she is a fan, and this is how she chooses to experience the show, then why should Bridwell be put off by that? She has the right to be offended as well.
However, if she is filming from the perspective of a blogger/journalist who wants to put this up on Youtube and be part of the online indie-rock community, then fleeing after receiving the finger is unacceptable. Journalists stick their necks out all the time and deal with the consequences involved with getting the footage/interview/experience they need to tell a good story.
In her post, I feel like she's trying to straddle both sides of that line. It reads as though she had her "blogger hat" on - at least during Funeral, in which case she had no right to take offense. I still sympathize. No one wants one of their favorite bands to come down on them. But when you chose to film the performance, you are no longer just a fan. I recently started bringing a camera to concerts so that there would be some visuals to go along with my reviews. I often feel terribly guilty about pulling out the camera and blocking everyone's view. If the quality of my pictures appears less than ideal, it's because I always take a few and then put the camera away for the rest of the set.
Bridwell addressed the incident in greater detail in an interview with Pitchfork. I totally understand where he's coming from, and he seems justified in his irritation with this trend. Feel free to judge for yourself. I haven't taken video at concerts for the very reasons he states. I'd rather watch the show with my eyes than my camera. (Hat tip: Brooklyn Vegan)
Son of Mustang Ford on the road again. Adam Franklin is on a solo tour supporting his new album, Bolts of Melody. It's his first release since a 2003 album that Toshack Highway split with Sianspheric. If you're unaware of Franklin, he was the frontman for hard-luck shoegazer band Swervedriver. I don't think he's been in town since a 2002 show at Schubas where he played an acoustic set at which my brother and I asked him to play "Last Train to Satansville." He immediately did. After the show my friend Dave (who is borderline in love with Franklin) and I spoke to him for about fifteen minutes. He seemed somewhat exhausted by the music business and neither of us were surprised that he took some time off. Bolts of Melody is somewhere between his two previous outfits. The first song, "Seize the Day" previously appeared on a Toshack Highway EP, but has more of that Swervedriver fuzz included this time around. He'll be at the Empty Bottle on 10/18. I recommend going.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
First the Rawk:
Then the Roll:
And finally, the Schlock. Actually, let me explain. What you're about to see is my favorite German hip-hop video. Actually, it's the only German hip-hop video I've ever seen. I was in France with my brother back in 2000 and this video kept coming on the European MTV. They must have played it twice an hour. We were captivated. Tell me this isn't amazing. It isn't good, but it is fantastic. Seriously, if you don't find this hilarious, I pity you. NOTE - probably not-safe-for-work. Unless you work at the Sybaris.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
After overdoing things a bit on Saturday, I was determined to have enough gas to make it through Sunday with energy at the finish. Once again, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, though there was less of a breeze today so keeping cool was crucial to maintaining a full tank.
Things began about ten minutes late as Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox took the stage looking like he stepped out of a Madonna video. Adorned with a silky dress, and a cross around his neck, he also wore a glove that suspended a mobile. The glove was quickly discarded and the group set about pumping out thick sounds for their half-hour set. While most of the bands seemed to build up the quality as their sets went along, Deerhunter started out hot. Their goal is as much about noise as it is sound. The consistent flow of noise from the stage enveloped the crowd, and people were clearly drawn in. I expected something more like Stereolab where the band would just get up there and play, so they impressed me.
We hustled over to the front of the stage for The Ponys’ set. Once again, major sound problems arose throughout their first three songs. Melissa Elias’ bass was not coming through the main speakers, and the vocals kept cutting in and out. We were close enough that we could hear everything because the monitors were still working. Unfortunately, the band didn’t realize they weren’t being amplified so they just kept playing. Finally, they got the bass going again and Elias played a few notes, as musicians often do when they get their amps back. Frontman Jared Gummere quickly said, “OK, stop playing so we can play!” Once the technical issues were behind them, they managed to rock out. And I must give Gummere a big thumbs up for wearing Nigel Tufnel’s t-shirt, even if it was the wrong color.
The multi-tasking musicians of Menomena had a large audience awaiting their set. As soon as they took the stage, they received a nice welcome from the crowd. Or maybe everyone was just excited to see a baritone sax at the ready. On their record, their layered vocals serve as the featured instrument, but live they came off as shy. Or perhaps they were simply too quiet. All three members sing, and all of them seemed a little shaky today. In general, their set was a bit loose. But their songs are great and they have a ton of potential. I’d love to see them at their own show. They probably need to go for vocal training if they want to put on a more compelling show.
We took a respite near the Balance stage and sat in the shade leaning against a fence. However, we were in a good position to take in NOMO, an Ann Arbor funk/jazz/rock/whateveryouwannacallthem outfit. We couldn’t see the stage, but from where we sat, the group was clearly and played some really good stuff. I could see them coming to Martyr’s one day. This set was the end of their tour, so we may have to wait awhile. From where I sat, I definitely dug them.
Jamie Lidell came across as a passionate and unique performer. I was interested to see just how he pulls off his one-man band act. He basically has two types of songs. On some, he beatboxes and does all kinds of electronic mixing and theremin playing behind a table. On others, he gets out in front and sings Motown-fashioned whiteboy soul with a backing track. Wearing a bathrobe (perhaps a kimono?) and bits of silver and gold-colored foil on his head, he could easily be performing the exact same routine in his bedroom. His music is not actually anything in particular, but it’s a whole lot of not anything. Despite being soul music, I can’t fathom there’s much meaning or importance to any of his songs. I liked his soul tracks a lot better than the busy electro-mixing routine. He definitely gives it all in his performance. I imagine a non-festival setting would work better for him.
What to say about Stephen Malkmus? I’ve never been a fan of him or Pavement. In fact, I always figured that Pavement was a band that critics adored, but had very few actual fans. Those in attendance on Sunday proved me wrong as many were quite enthused about Malkmus’ set. I sat on a blanket with friends far away from the action. He was fine I guess.
Reputed to have an extravagant live stageshow, Of Montreal did not disappoint. Here’s a list of all the random theatrics presented onstage: a guitarist with gigantic pink wings, much banner waving, a man dressed in a tight, black jumpsuit (who reminded me of the Domino’s Pizza Noid) who ran around the stage doing all kinds of random tasks, a golden Darth Vader and another man dressed in black hoisting up the Noid guy (who was now wearing an Eyes Wide Shut mask) on their shoulders so he could let his gigantic lobster-claw arm survey the audience… I’ll stop there, even though it’s only about halfway through the list. I think you get the idea. It was an impressive array of what I would call a whole lot of nonsense. I’m not steeped in Of Montreal’s music, so perhaps each of the acts on stage related to the song being played. I have to give them credit to put that much together. I wonder if they pull out all the stops when they play their own shows. Either way, this will get you asked back to a lot of festivals. It was really fun. The band played pretty well, but all the theatrics distracted from anything they were playing. That’s the drawback I suppose. It was definitely an enjoyable and memorable performance. Of Montreal Setlist:
Suffer for Fashion
Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider
We Can Do It Softcore If You Want
She’s a Rejecter
The Past is a Grotesque Animal
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
Chrissy Kiss the Corpse
The Party’s Crashing Us
All Day and All Of the Night (Kinks cover)
The New Pornographers are nothing if not bright and cheery. When their set began I was immediately impressed by how tight they play, and how crisp their sound is. Heck, even their fans in the audience sing along in tune. How many bands can say that? They know what they’re doing onstage. When they played a new, unreleased track, they got the audience to clap along to ensure they wouldn’t lose interest. However, I have trouble getting too into this band because I wish they rocked harder. I’m not an indie-pop guy, and I feel like if this band would throw a little more edge into their music, the result would be more than what they have now. My original plan was to check out Klaxons at the Balance stage, but after last night’s sound and crowd problems, I instead chose to set myself up for De La Soul.
I was able to place myself about twenty yards from the stage, right in the middle. As soon as the set began I realized I had made a grave error. I was positioned directly behind my nemesis, Stringbean. For those who don’t know, Stringbean is the guy who’s really tall (minimum 6’3”) and doesn’t headbang, dance, or even twitch during a show. I don’t mind someone being tall, but you’ve gotta get moving during a concert so I can at least find a rhythm where we all get to see. Well, even though De La Soul immediately got everyone up and grooving, Stringbean stood pat. I couldn’t believe my mistake. Halfway through the set, a crowd-surfer came by and I was able to slip in front of my nemesis and all was right in the world. Oh, was it ever right. I really was completely out of gas after two days standing in the sun. But as soon as the music started, I found my second wind.
Monday, July 16, 2007
On a gorgeous Saturday, the Pitchfork Music festival emitted more than just sound from Chicago’s Union Park. There were good vibes, good food, and smells that ranged from the horrible to the sublime. But truly, everyone was there for the bands. The 2006 festival set an extremely high mark, despite the fact that the temperature cleared 100 degrees. Superior weather, more space for the side stage, and a complete sellout filled the weekend with promise.
Doors were supposed to open at noon, but no one was allowed admittance until after 12:45. While this may have caused bigger problems at some festivals, the Ashland Ave. throng was patient and well behaved. The delay was caused by the people who were supposed to wet down the baseball infields to avoid dust flying around. Glasgow’s The Twilight Sad opened the day on a mellow tone, starting with a song that generated little reaction from the crowd. That frontman James Graham rarely acknowledged or even faced the audience didn’t help matters. He spent nearly the entire set facing sideways with his eyes shut. The only one on stage visibly exuding enthusiasm was drummer Mark Devine. But as the set moved along, the energy picked up and the crowd responded. Everything built to their single, "And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth". Certainly able to write a catchy melody, this is a band with a lot of potential. The set showed promise, even if it felt like the entire band was somewhere else. Califone was up next, and I hung in there for two songs, but they weren’t doing anything to compel me to watch. So I took that time to peruse the rest of the festival. The most unique thing about the Pitchfork festival is the poster art fair. We spoke to a few of the artists who were all friendly and looking to discuss their work. There was some amazing stuff for sale and if I had a place worth decorating, I would have been in the market. Check out Vahalla Studios for an example of what was available.
Voxtrot of Austin, TX is probably a little too peppy for me – or rather there’re a little not rawkin’ enough. They kept their energy up throughout their jangly, strummy set and people watching seemed very pleased. I think they would benefit from some heavier riffing and drumming, but that’s not to say they didn’t play well.
Grizzly Bear was one of the bands I was most eager to see, but I was unsure how their delicate music would play at a festival show. Sure enough, at our initial position, two guys behind us were chatting throughout each song. They were talking about Grizzly Bear, each trying to top the other in what he knew, but if they were so into the band, shouldn’t they have been listening? This annoyed the hell out of me, but when a couple in front of us left, we took their vacated spot and all was right in the world. Grizzly Bear live is an experience. They are definitely not suited for a festival show, but all four members sing, creating dreamy harmonies that ebb and flow like a breeze. Instruments are swapped in and out frequently; we saw an autoharp, a recorder, a mini Yamaha keyboard, and a clarinet fed through something that lowered its output by about six octaves. The band is constantly busy, particularly drummer Christopher Bear. There were some technical complications with the clarinet-to-lefthandonapipeorgan thing, but they were quickly remedied and the show continued. Anyone unfamiliar with their music beforehand was probably not drawn to the performance, but I thought they were brilliant. I would love to see them perform at their own show. They said that this is the end of their tour, but I thought they were opening for Feist on all their recent shows. I’m crossing my fingers for a Metro or at least Vic show sometime soon. I’m fairly certain that I completely messed this up, so consider it 100% guessing – feel free to leave a note with any corrections! But here’s my best guess at Grizzly Bear’s setlist:
“Final Round” (new song?)
Deep Blue Sea
A song I didn’t recognize (another new one?)
On a Neck, On a Spit
Prog rock supergoroup, Battles fought off their own technical problems (this will be a running theme) and left everyone talking. I set up near the sound booth and spent the entire set lamenting that I hadn't made my way closer. Battles is the kind of band you wish you could watch perform in a small closet – (see their video for an example). The first thing you notice is that John Stanier has the highest crash cymbal in the history of rock and roll (beating out Silversun Pickups’ Chris Guanlao by about a foot and a half). It’s so high that he has to look up to find it for each attack. Stanier is the centerpiece of the band, and he’s also the engine that makes things go. He’s the de facto frontman. Based on the chatter around the festival after their set, most attendees came away very impressed. While I enjoyed their performance, it was less than I was hoping for. Perhaps their album is mixed so well that they can’t recreate the details, but to me they felt a little “jammy”. The songs tended towards a steady rhythm and volume, and I was hoping for a buildup in intensity. Perhaps my expectations were too lofty – or maybe it was all the technical problems that derailed the set halfway through. They stood out as being a superb band, but I wanted to go crazy and they didn’t present that opportunity.
I took a relaxing break during Iron and Wine which meets with what they’re doing on stage. They sounded really good, but I was kicking back and talking with friends for a bit. Samuel Beam, sporting a woolly mane and beard, did come out and do an encore cover of Radiohead’s "No Surprises" which was in itself a surprise.
Oxford Collapse had the unfortunate position of playing on the Balance stage (where there was never enough volume) at the same time that Mastodon was rattling thoraxes on the Connector. That made it difficult to hear them at all. There was not enough sound coming out of the system they had in place, and on the first song, we couldn’t hear any vocals or guitar. In the middle of the set, the vocals completely dropped away and I saw at least seven people look to the sound booth to see if anyone was even there. Once they saw that there was indeed someone working the booth, their look changed to a glare that said, “what are you doing?” Eventually things ironed themselves out, but it didn’t help the performance at all. The band played fine, and incorporated a sax and some additional percussion. But they need to add another guitar player. They can’t get enough sound to fit their songs out of the three instruments they have on stage.
As soon as Oxford Collapse finished, a huge press of people pushed forward in anticipation of Dan Deacon. It was a very tight squeeze, particularly since my friends were all at Cat Power. As he often does, Deacon set up in the audience for his electronic dance party which for some reason motivated people to press forward that much more. Getting closer was not going to result in seeing anything. Here’s the picture I took from my vantage point about twenty yards away: It was packed. Deacon urged dancing from the entire audience saying, “you don’t dance with your eyes, you dance with your feet.” This did not deter the throng from pushing closer. People tried to dance, but it was nearly impossible with no room to move. On roughly the fourth song, a few dance circles opened up which was great fun. And suddenly the set was over. The police had arrived and promoters were justifiably concerned about safety. I’m not sure if it was the crowd surfing over concrete or possibility of people spilling onto Ogden Avenue that had them worried, but they announced a “twenty or thirty minute break” which meant Deacon was done. The festival handed out water to anyone who wanted it between sets which was smart. I can’t imagine bigger festivals having the wherewithal to do such a thing.
But things were no more comfortable for Girl Talk. My biggest problem was that I could not evade a man who possessed the worst B.O. I’ve encountered in my life. He kept his arms up most of the set as well. But there was nowhere to go. The stage was almost as packed as the audience. People in various states of undress were dancing and throwing confetti to the audience. The highlight of the set was when Grizzly Bear came out and sang “Knife” with Greg Gillis providing his Girl Talk treatment of hip-hop beats and electronic buzzes behind their vocals. Gillis' performance is impressive. As my friend Chris said, "He can DJ my party anytime." But after forty minutes or so, I had to escape. It would have been much better if I had some of my friends with me, but they couldn’t reach where I was. So I was dancing while pressed against strangers, one of whom reeked. Getting out of there was no easy task. The mass of people went back about a hundred yards before it began to thin. I can't imagine the people at the back could even hear anything.
Finally, Yoko Ono took the stage with most people seemingly sticking around out of curiosity. The thing most people don’t realize is that Yoko is 74 years old. Just to be out there and putting on a show at that age deserves some credit. Her set featured a lot of wailing and guttural vocal output. Most of the people passing by were giggling as they departed. After the “mashup” at the Balance stage and nine hours of rawking out in the sun, I was out of gas and headed home.
It was a superb day. For my money, Grizzly Bear was the most impressive act on Saturday, though most of the audience seemed really taken with Battles. As others have said, there needed to be more room and more volume for Dan Deacon and Girl Talk. Perhaps the organizers did too good a job getting talent on the Balance stage. Something to think about for next year. There are clearly way more people here this year. Even though last year’s lineup was phenomenal, I assume it was not sold out. Or if it was, they increased capacity this year. All were well-behaved and relatively cordial to one another. After one day, I feel like I’d already received my 35 bucks worth, and I look forward to Sunday’s festivities.