Monday, October 22, 2007

saying it brilliantly

Entertainment Weekly does it again. Damn. I am such a sucker for that rag.

Just picked up the latest ish and there was this lovely piece on "My So Called Life." (The complete 6-disc set is out now. Uh-oh.) It made me made me revisit the devastating age of 13...oy.

I love how Mr. Tucker *perfectly* makes the allusion to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye..."a portrait of adolescence." Both Salinger and MSCL's Winnie Holzman possess that gift that certain adult writers have of -going back- to their own youth and pulling out those inner monologues that ring true for both the young and the old(er?)...He also touches on how the style of the show may have turned people off (I still know peeps my age who just didn't dig it the way me and my MSCL-head friends did) because it was not plot-driven, but instead was "designed to be a fluid mood piece." Oh, and dig that dreamy lede. Fuck yeah.

Have at it:

DVD Review My So-Called Life: The Complete Series (2002)


[above]Claire Danes and Jared Leto in My So-Called Life; the show that turned teen angst into poetic TV drama retains its moody appeal on DVD
By Ken Tucker

''I'm in love. His name is Jordan Catalano. He was left back. Twice. Once I almost touched his shoulder in the middle of a pop quiz.''

These are some of the finest lines ever composed in the history of television, in their context. That context was My So-Called Life, which ran for 19 episodes on ABC, and now stands, in the six-disc My So-Called Life: The Complete Series collection, as a portrait of adolescence equal to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye or any other meditation on this most evanescent formative period of life.

MSCL was executive-produced by Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (the pair who'd previously given us thirtysomething), but the series' true author was Winnie Holzman, who wrote the pilot, penned many subsequent episodes, and maintained creative quality control. Holzman had her 15-year-old protagonist, Angela Chase (Claire Danes), speak, via voice-over narration, the lines I quoted up top; in the pilot, she's gazing dreamily at Jared Leto's Jordan, a sensitive bad boy who doesn't even know the intelligent, radiant, but shy Angela exists. The yearning in those words, the ache in Danes' voice, let you know this was a perfect conjoining of subject and actress, and that Holzman and Danes were going to take you on a painful, familiar, exhilarating journey...and then MSCL was canceled by ABC after a mere single season.

The fact that book-smart Angela is drawn to a ne'er-do-well like Jordan — that he will be the unconscious catalyst for rebelling against her parents (the amazingly subtle Bess Armstrong and Tom Irwin) and for seeking out new, offbeat friends (the beguilingly quirky A.J. Langer and Wilson Cruz) — dramatizes the push and pull of teen angst. The show's ratings doubtless suffered in part because it wasn't plot-heavy; rather, it was designed to be a fluid mood piece. The genius of MSCL was that it permitted Angela to remain as self-absorbed as any average teen, while opening up subplots for the parents' own arrested-adolescent struggles. And the series was positively revolutionary in its nuanced depiction of Cruz's Rickie, a gay teen who was alternately effusive and despairing. (See what Cruz told recently about his experiences working on My So-Called Life.)

The extras include the mini-doc ''My So-Called Life Story'' and commentaries on six episodes, the best being an analysis of the pilot by Holzman, Herskovitz, and director Scott Winant. Danes, now shimmeringly adult, provides both an audio commentary and a separate, candid interview. Many young performers are anxious to leave their early work behind, but Danes recognizes what an extraordinary experience she had in her first starring role, and seems to treasure it as much as we do. A

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday Record Shopping Ritual Revisited

Recently I have been missing...and craving the ol' ritualistic record hunt that I used to religiously perform every Saturday with E-Beth and Erica. It was something we each *had* to do (weekly) and could always share our nerdy enthusiasm with each other, unashamed.

Since I became smitten with Fitzy (and Saturdays used to be the only *day* we could spend together ...once upon a time), and since my two coffee-clatching, musichead buddies have since skipped town, I have neglected my need and have only sporadically purchased music in the store, proper.

But this week I realized I had the pocket change to splurge and get the drugs I needed. Fitzy joyfully accompanied me on my mission and I scored 5 discs and one piece of vinyl!

Oh, and to address you, mystery blogger: one of my purchases included the phenomenal "Naturally" by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Fitzy had just acquired his fave single of late, "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?", had me hear it that morning and we danced. And I fell in love with it, and knew I had to buy it that day along with these other treasures:

The new Dan Wilson, "Free Life." Natch.

The 'Mats "Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?" Just cuz. I got the fever and I never properly owned the two new singles. Right.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, "This is Somewhere." I know I was superfucking lazy about writing about Austin...Grace Potter and her boyfriends (ha) were one of those pleasant surprises of a festival find. Soulful vocals, wailing guitar solos and scorching sexual stage chemistry -- I had to follow up.

Gov't Mule, "Mighty High." They headline a show with Grace on Halloween! Homework (the best kind.)

The vinyl? Arctic Monkeys (shocked?) 10" single for "Fluorescent Adolescent" which contains three (!) songs I have never heard. Righteous.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

music is power

This morning on the bus, a young Somali woman (with a bright red headscarf) has was sporting a gray AC/DC hoodie.

I couldn't keep the grin from spreading on my face.

Meanwhile, my iPod has been so fucking comforting (as always, I guess) on these rainy, gloomy mornings. I have been loving the latest Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings record, "100 Days, 100 Nights." She is dynamite and that band is so stellar--straight up James Brown, working crew of musicians--ellos en fuego. I kept wanting more after hearing their stuff on the Current. And then I read this piece about her in the Times. It got me *needing* the record. It's funky, soulful "throw-back" style R&B with a hint of gospel. They achieve that magic, though--that kind of magic that makes throw-back sound fresh. I so dig the record's packaging, too. Ms. Jones (former prison guard at Rikers Island New York), in all her short, packed, stacked glory is decked out in a 60s-style, gold lamé lookin' gown--striking a pose. The CD looks like vinyl and the astrological signs of each Dap-King are listed after stating which instrument they play. Love it.

Speaking of the beloved Current, Mary Lucia just had Dan Wilson on this week to play and promo his new solo record. The two of them sounded like ol' buds and he played one of my most favorite songs of the past year, "Easy Silence." I was lucky enough to see him play it in a very un-crowded Hoot, last spring. He introduced it as a song he "wrote with the Dixie Chicks" and I really didn't know what to expect. I dig the Chicks, actually, but didn't know what it was gonna be. I certainly didn't expect to cry like a 'little bitch,' which is exactly what I did. It was *so* intimate, *so* quietly powerful, it blew me away. It was partly those Chicks' lyrics, I guess--but I think what caused me to produce tears was the eloquent *melody,* it cut right to the bone. Dan Wilson has one of those rare, *perfect* pop voices that remains rich and full even in the most quiet circumstances. He also has a knack for writing ridiculously catchy, insidious hooks that latch themselves on to you immediately and stay there for-freakin'-ever.

This is another one of those--the melody is pretty, simple and infectious.

Easy Silence

by Dan Wilson, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison

When the calls and conversations Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind
, cars, and airplanes leavin'
Burnin' fumes of gasoline and
Everyone is running and I
Come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify
And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in

Breathing sanctuary in the
Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Friday, October 12, 2007

to honor Fitzy

(it's his b-day today)

AND he happened to write a fucking *SUPERB* re-telling of our ACL Day 2 Expereince.

I am shamed and refuse to write about it, now.

Check this shit out:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
ACL Festival Day 2
The Ike Reiily Assassanation is a band that, whenever possible, doesn't hit the stage until after midnight, so when I saw that the IRA would be performing a noon set at ACL, I was both thrilled and appalled. Granted, the other bands slated to play the days bigger slots probably had more fans than the Chicago five piece group, but Ike's brand of rock and roll is faster and more rowdy and more deserving of late night billing than most. So, being a smaller fish in a pond of...well, whales, Ike's band was relegated to an all too brief half hour set to kick off Day 2 of ACL. Arriving at the festival just before noon on Saturday, there was already a crowd of a couple hundred dedicated and excited fans hovering around the Ausin Ventures stage where the IRA would soon tear through a handful of songs. There we sat waiting in the hot sun for them to start, and when the band started it was apparent that these were tried and true Ike fans. Many people sang along, and after the set flew by, the band was out in the crowd socializing with old freinds who made the trip from the Chicago area and meeting old fans for the first time who said things like "I saw you guys for the first time in New York a few years ago and have been a huge fan ever since." We were hoping we'd get to spend some quality time backstage with the one band we had connections to at the festival, but alas, the IRA had their first ever gig in Mexico that very same night and couldn't stick around. So we said our goodbyes and dove into some shade.

After a little break from the sun, we saw a bit of the set from former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo. The Mavericks were a pretty cool honkytonk country band with a bit of a Latin flavor. My favorite songs by them were "What a Cryin Shame" and "Oh What a Thrill". Unfortunately, he didnt play either of those songs. But, he did cover a Dwight Yokum number called "It only Hurts Me When I Cry". Very uplifting indeed. This was really cool because I had seen Raul's voice compared to Dwight's before, and Mr. Yokum is one of my favorite country artists. He also sang that "Besame Mucho" (kiss me much) song that Sanjaya sang on American Idol. Sadly, that is the only way I know that song, which I probably should not admit, but it's true. Again, the diversity of bands at this festival was astonishing. This particular act drew out thousands of older country music fans and their children. In Fact, this was by far the most kid-friendly festival I have ever been to, and not only did parents bring their youngsters, but they allowed their tweeniebopper kids to go to the festival also, as there were thosands of fresh faced youngsters wandering around in packs.

The legendary Soul Stirrers were next on our agenda, and they were absolutely fantastic. Hailing from a small town in Texas, the band has undergone many lineup changes since they started out around the year 1930 (not a typo!). They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and are the only Gospel quartet that can boast of that honor. Once fronted by the late great Sam Cooke, this is a band that had Christians and athiests alike praising the power of music. Soul, gospel, faith and emotion came togehter masterfully when Willie Rogers, the current leader of the Soul Stirrers belted out "A Change Gonna Come" after paying tribute to the man who wrote that brilliant preotest anthem, Sam Cooke. Rogers displayed more soul in his singing than anyone I had ever seen, and it was inspirational to be in the prescence of a group that has had so much impact and positive influence on several generations of muscicians. Another highlight from their set was when Wille Rogers left the stage to start a train of fans around while leading a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In".

Stephen Marley, the second son of Bob, was already playing on the main stage when the Soul Stirrers finished. He has got to have one of the biggest, most genuine and contagious smiles of anyone I have ever seen. Maybe it was all the Ganja being openly smoked throughout the crowd, but the energy surrounding the stage and the music was overwhelmingly optimistic and positive. Stephen sang some of his fathers most poignant and well known reggae classics like "No Woman, No Cry", "Jammin", and "Could You Be Loved", along with lesser known gems like "Punky Reggae Party" and "Duppy Conquerer". Back over in the Revival Tent where the Soul Stirrers had just played, New Jersey bluegrass outfit Railroad Earth were sawing away on fiddles and various other stringed instruments. Packing the tent to the gills with their east coast take on bluegrass, RRE is a really fun band to see and were the one band I had already seen earlier in the year, at 10KLF back home in Minnesota.

Next we very briefly watched a very old and tattered looking Steve Earle, but it wasn't all that great so we moved on and tried to get a good spot for what was our most anticipated show of the day, Arctic Monkeys. When the White Stripes, who were scheduled to be Saturday night's headliners, cancelled at the last moment due to Meg White's "Acute Anxiety", we, along with thousands of other fans, were very disapointed, but with so many other great bands playing, it was easy to get over that and instead focus on what we would be seeing.

Arctic Monkeys were origianlly going to be palying head to head against Muse, another English band that is far bigger overseas than they are here. Unlike Arctic Monkeys though, Muse had played the ACL festival before, and had impressed the important people enough that instead of playing their set at the same time as Arctic Monkeys, they were invited to fill in for The White Stripes on the Main Stage a couple hours later. What this meant for Arctic Monkeys is that there really was no other significant act playing at the same time, so by default thousands of extra people came to see what all the fuss over these young lads was about, altough it was clear that many of the people in the crowd had never even heard of Arctic Monkeys. "Where are they from?" one young man in the audience asked another. "England?" his buddy responded unsurely. Allow me to ever so briefly recap the Arctic Monkeys rise to international (but not American) prominence. Following what many called a "deafening buzz" on the internet about the band, their debut album sold an unbeleivable 118,000 copies in the first day and beat the Beatles to become the fast selling album in UK history. Since then they have continued to grow in popularity around the world, and when their second album came out in May of this year to critical and popular accalim, they were cemented as leaders of England's new school. Arctic Monkeys have been touring to support the new record, full of Alex Turner's clever wordsmithing and the unique sonic experience of thundering drums and quick, heavy guitar riffs, and this year they have headlined the biggest fetivals in Europe like the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Back in Austin Texas, however, Arctic Monkeys were seen by many as a bunch of overhyped young foreigners, and not given much of a chance. I can symapthize a little bit. Their sound is so different from anything else out there, and the lyrics are so quick and insightful that they may seem pretentious, or just incomprehensible, to the uninitiated. Turner sings (or does he speak/rap?) with a strong accent and his British slang is often jumbled to make it difficult to decifer, but he is a genius of observation and has a very dry, fast moving sense of humor to go along with the pace of the set and songs.

Fresh from headlining Englands 35 year old masterpiece of culture, Glastonbury, it was clear that these young musicians were not used to this kind of uninterested, dissmissive crowd. Glasto, as its known overseas, sells out its 160,000 tickets in minutes, but here the energy level in the crowd was unbelievably low. Alex pressed on with the set and managed to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. It was almost dusk, and when the sun began to fade for the night, you could feel the collective sense of relief as it cooled down to a more comfortable temperature. "Can you cheer up a bit now, the sun's gone down?" Alex said, and I remarked that he was probably up on stage thinking to himself "What a bunch of cranky wankers!" Then without warning they launched into a song proclaiming "They say it changes when the sun goes down around here...". These are some of the coolest picures ive ever taken, the way that the clouds were parting as the set came to a close, allowing the sun to break through and shed some proverbial light on the Arctic Monkeys, as if to illuminate their presence to the thousands of unimpressed onlookers. It was fantastic. I wished so much that everyone at that show could have felt the same way I did, like I was witnessing the landmark gig for the Arctic Monkeys in America. This was perhaps their biggest stage yet in America, for though they have played on SNL, Letterman, and have made other t.v. appearances, this seemed like it could be the breakout performance that had people in America buzzing about them.

Absolutley knackered after that intense show, it was time for a brief break before heading over to what would be another highlight of the weekend, Muse. Muse just opened the new Wembley Field in England with a two night stand, and here at ACL, they rocked my fucking face off. More than any other band in recent memory, I was astonished at how cool they sounded, and they are only a three piece band. The stage show was equally mind-bending. It was face melting area rock complete with a full visual assault from two jumbotrons. There were colors floating from the stage as the band laid waste to thousands of unsuspecting fans who probably thought there was something of an ordinary rockshow in store for them. Maybe it was the blaring sun we had to contend with all day that had everyone feeling wiped out, but it looked like many of those people who were leaving the main stage long before Muse's set finished simply could not take the assault on the senses anymore. the visual effects were stunning. At one point I turned to Brianna and just to clarify asked, "They *are* bending time and space right now, aren't they?" I really wanna explore that crazy band and delve into them a bit, they were fascinating. These are not my videos, but they give an idea of what the show was like. Whew, as I said, I was blown away by these guys and it was an awesome treat because I knew absolutely nothing about them going into the show and had no idea what to expect. We had survived another insanely hot day in Texas, and still had an entire day of music to go.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

John Kerry/Bruce Springsteen

This is it. The song [see below] on "Magic" that made it happen for me. It nestled its way into my brain and it took hold, and it won't let go. KILLER hook and fucking powerful use of Kerry's testimony and Bruce's knack for making *pop*/rock songs about shit that matters: war, death, real/flawed love and people's lives. Using the Vietnam ref in a song about Iraq works, for obvious reasons, but it's the Kerry + Springsteen connection that hits me so hard every time I hear it...I think of Vote for Change and how relevant it was then. Now, it's almost 4 years later and we're in a *worse* spot. Makes me sick. But, as always, Bruce is there. By asking us to join him in his disgust and rage and then to party to the pop--it makes us not forget or ignore the horrors that exist, but to keep the sanity. And, I have FINALLY realized that all of "Magic" is doing just that and the show on Nov. 2nd will be the most cathartic therapy one could hope for.

P.S. "Anger can be power/do you know that you can use it?" also applies....Strummer, wish you were here.)

Here's that killer:

Album's version

We took the highway till the road went black
We'd marked, Truth Or Consequences on our map*
A voice drifted up from the radio
And I thought of a voice from long ago

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The kids asleep in the backseat
We're just counting the miles, you and me
We don't measure the blood we've drawn anymore
We just stack the bodies outside the door

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The wise men were all fools, what to do

The sun sets in flames as the city burns
Another day gone down as the night turns
And I hold you here in my heart
As things fall apart

A downtown window flushed with light
"Faces of the dead at five" (faces of the dead at five)
Our martyr's silent eyes
Petition the drivers as we pass by

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Darlin' your tyrants and kings fall to the same fate
Strung up at your city gates
And you're the last to die for a mistake

Friday, October 05, 2007

ACLF Highlights (apologies for the delay..there is more to come)

Austin was magical. We were able to make the most of our time there and I really do dig the city. But, I gotta tell you, MPLS still kicks Austin's butt when it comes to a *cool* music town--of course, I'm superduper biased...but still.

I must say that the festival boasted some of the most rabid, passionate music lovers I have ever stood next to at shows. I think I saw the most musical tattoos in those three days than I have ever seen in my life. It was also the most international festival I'd ever been to--the line-up and the fans were from all over the globe. I admit it, I closed my eyes and dreamed I was at Glasto a few times. Afterall, the headliners at Glasto: Arctic Monkeys, Bjork and the Killers were all at ACL. C'mon! Incredible. Our very own Euro festival.

I actually got to have a quick chat with a bloke from Manchester (!!) who had been to Glasto this year. I spotted him sitting in the shade, where I was headed (the heat was brutal), and he looked like he was in rough shape. Nursing a beer, no water in sight, his face was the same color as his crimson White Stripes shirt. He was speaking to some kids about his defiant White Stripes-shirt-wearing "statement" (they canceled, as you may have heard--a huge disappointment to him and the rest of us) and that distinctive Northern accent hit my ears like a familiar song. To my sheer delight, he told me how the Glasto crowd (yep, all 177,500 of 'em, my friend) sang *every word* of those lyrics along with Alex Turner. He called Turner a "young genius with words" and then stated, very matter-of-factly: "They're the best band since The Smiths." This coming from a Mancunian! Nice.

The heat was rough for me, I admit it. Any time there was a low point for shows, I wanted to retreat to the shade or the glorious, misting fans that were scattered throughout the park. Fitzy and I kept remarking about how well-run and organized the festival and was. There was hardly a moment that we had to wait in line too long, or felt overwhelmed by the crowd. Bottled water was $2, which is downright cheap in the festival world. And I can actually only cite a few times(during the sets of The Killers and Ziggy Marley) that made me feel crazy-claustrophobic-like. We mainly stuck to "Our Side" of the stage, which meant where ever the masses *weren't* flocking to. This worked beautifully. For big, headlining acts like Bjork, Bloc Party, Bob Dylan and more, we were able to get extremely close to the stage and have a great perspective with lots of room to breathe. Ahhh, it was niiice.

Now, on to the music.....

Bloc Party was, unfortunately, my biggest disappointment--and I still generally enjoyed what I saw of their set. (Maybe it had something to do with their time slot--4 in the afternoon, the hottest muthafucking hour of the day. oy.) I have loved their two records and listened to them a million times. I've poured over reviews of shows and interviews with them in the NME and Q. Maybe it's just the ol' Alex Turner truth: anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment (I'm *kinda* experiencing that a bit with the new Springsteen album right now, believe it or not...I'm confident this will change after repeated listens, of course. A-hem. Right.) So, although Kele was handsome, charming and in great spirits ("Howdy, y'all!! We're not gon' let a bit of sun and heat get in the way of having fun, now are we!?" he enthused in his clipped Brit accent) the rest of the band seemed bored and it showed in their playing. The sound was muddled and I never fucking say this, but I felt wasn't *loud* enough!

So, I made a quick decision. This was one of the worst double time slots for me--Lucinda Williams was playing concurrently at the opposite side of the park. I knew we had to make a dash for it. I wanted to see her in a very bad way but my logic was: I had seen her before (at First Ave, it was incredible) and her new material has been too downy clowny for me...I had never seen Bloc Party--the choice was clear. But, their set was lacking, so I made my way over to the sweet sounds of Lucinda. She was drinky, rockin and wearing a "U.S. vs. John Lennon" t-shirt (with the classic, "WAR IS OVER if you want it" cover her back). Most excellent. As we were heading over, I heard the familiar guitar and bass lines of...the Doors' "Riders on the Storm"!!! So kick-ass for a festival, I thought. Later, she made some rambling, but well-intended anti-war statements and had a particularly spicy dig at organized religion before she played the "Gotta Serve Somebody"-esque "Get Right With God."

Speaking of gettin' saved...Fitzy and I were lucky enough bear witness to the Legendary Soul Stirrers in a revival-like setting--the one and only hot, crowded tent. Formed in 1927 (I shit you not) they were the gospel/soul group that Sam Cooke belonged to before he went secular and made the music we mainly associate him with. Willie Rogers, the lead vocalist nowadays, was *the* most moving, passionate, *soulful* vocal performers I have ever seen and heard. As soon as he mentioned Mr. Cooke and began to sing, "A Change Is Gonna Come," I was...gone.

I cried like a little bitch, man.

***I had to just post this, so I will be inspired to *finish* telling the tale. So, obviously, there's more to follow.........***