Wednesday, March 31, 2010
South by Southwest? North by Northwest? So... Where is That?
Labels: 2010: Are We Recovering Yet?
The XX's in Philly March 29, 2010 Part II
And so to the show. The XX’s had started as a band of four; their only CD to date records them as such. Just before the American tour one of the members, vocalist /keyboardist/guitarist Baria Qureshi, opted to leave the group. The remaining 3 close friends, Jamie Smith, Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, sucked it up and continued on with the tour plans, which included a stopover in Austin at the S X SW annual music/film/video hoopla.
And how fortunate we are that they did. If there was ever a more polite and self-contained group of musicians to front a stage I’d like to be (formally, of course) introduced to them. These folks make their parents proud. Not the thorniest way to introduce a show involving rock musicians, I realize, but it’s got to be said. Are you more than tired of hearing of Amy Winehouse’s alcohol/drug/self-deluded repeated acts of rage? The XX’s are a stunning pleasure to watch perform. Low key, tight, deflective and reflective. The 3 remaining members have been friends since early childhood and their intimate closeness comes through in their performance.
If only their performance were allowed to show through completely... For those of you familiar with their album, the vocals of Ms. Croft and Mr. Sim are central to their music. The signature guitar playing of Ms. Croft is an excellent framing of the lyrics and, more specifically, her whispery singing. She manages to inject an "uh-uh" into most of her utterances, all discretely, while Mr. Sim's soothing low voice provides a solid walkway for the songs' passage through the cool. With the exception of one song on the CD, Fantasy, there is nary a note of shudder nor shake. The CD shimmers. "Fantasy" was a clue as to how the sound engineer at the show was to opt to present the band sound. Disturbing bass came from the speakers such that clarity of sound was eliminated. The subtlety of Ms. Croft's and Mr. Sim's vocals were completely negated; subtlety requires restraint and speaker-distorting bass eliminates any chance of whispery vocals. It's as if the clown engineer who had set up the first act's performance was allowed to fool around with the simple and clear sound of the XX's. A miracle happened about half-way through the show. Either someone knocked off the sound engineer or he came to the realization of the criminal act he was committing with this band. The screechy bass was cleared up and we were allowed to hear the quiet interplay of the two vocalists.
As with the album, the set started out with "Intro", a short song anyone who watched the Vancouver Olympics is familiar with (Apollo Ohno’s AT&T spot). Most of the songs (if not all.. I lost count) from the CD were covered and half were fabulous thanks to the corrected sound. Shelter and Stars were especially memorable with the minimalist lighting and the give and take vocal exchanges of Ms. Croft and Mr. Sim.
Now, if only the first half had been allowed to play out with those setting...what a thoroughly enjoyable performance that would have been.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The XX's in Philly March 29, 2010 Part I
Opening the show was Nosaj Thing, a LA-based musical modulator who performed two songs; the first being a 4-5 minute item, that wasfollowed by sporadic clapping from the audience, and then a 30-45 minute song. The actual time was difficult to recall as the space-time continuum seemed protracted/stretched into other dimensions. Well, I confess, I napped for a bit, which was extraordinary since the volume was on 11 for the entire, uhhmmmm, performace. Jason Chung, the single member of Nosaj Thing, seems to be the recepient of some favorable reviews, a surprise for me to read after the performance as the response from the rabble (and I proudly include my name in that grouping) was also of a review-ish nature, but not one tending toward the favorable nor the positive.
The sound settings during Mr. Chung's performance were, as stated, set on high volume but also on deep bass. VERY DEEP BASS. Profoundo Bass. Long langorous notes were launched that vibrated the floor, the wooden pews, and the beautiful chandeliers. It was a bass sound of such strong affect that my bladder shook and demanded that the legs go forth and walk toward a rest room. A walk, it turned out, of epic proportions as the direct line to the WC was right by the stage where the performer was in trance and in performance. This path was prohibited lest a restroom-bound audience member might de-trance him. Instead, one was guided out the front door of the church, cheerfully guided to a side street and and then to a side entrance, followed by a descent of two flights to the bowels of the church where one, uhmmm, could empty one's bowels.
I can't say enough about the staff of the R5 Productions, which run these concerts. A cheery ever-smiling positive groups of employees one would be happy to have at their place of employment. Standing out in the rain guiding those in need of relief to their place of release with nary a smug face? Well, hope for the future of American youth is fortified! I couldn't help but notice a crowd of fellow attendees all lined up downstairs along with yours truly. Some seemed to be there not for lower body relief but upper body, specifically the aural area, reprieve from the onslaught from up above. So, it was good to know that even the youths had issues with Mr. Chang's electronic noodlings. The long voyage back was shortened on the return trip to my pew. Nosaj Thing had finished his piece and peace was upon us all. I was allowed to walk past the stage where such magnificence was unleashed upon us.
A note to Mr. Chung. For those of us who were there specifically for the headliners, it would have been a good thing to hear a few words from him. Even a "Hi, how ya doin'?" would have been better than the monkish silence heaped on us.
JJ, the next act, bills itself as a duo. The Swedish "group" stretches the meaning of that word to its ultimate meaning point. Elin Kastlander, voice-wise, a singer in the Bjork school of emotive stylings, stood stock still, twirling her electrically shocked hair for expressive purposes while singing in an English variation that was difficult to comprehend. The other member, Joakim Benon, would slink unto the stage at various times, whisper hints into her ear ("Twirl your hair again...I think the audience likes that" or "Stoop and sip your water..let them know you are capable of mobility") and then depart the stage.
On occassion Mr. Benon would slip back onto the stage, pick up a guitar and seemingly strum. In the background canned music played including drums, piano, violin, and electronica. And guitar. On occasion the guitar he played coincided with the soundtrack; on most occassions it did not. In all occcassions, it was a distraction; it would have been best if the guitar had no strings.
Home-style movies were broadcast on one of the side walls of the church, in total disconnect with the singing and mis-tuned strumming. Whales and cheetahs were in the movies as was Ms. Kastlander who was shown twirling her hair in the movie. I can testify that while I was not impressed with much of JJ's act, Ms. Kastlander's hair-twirling was of a high standard. So, we were blessed to see her twirlling her hair in the movie and also in real life (Yes! She wasn't using a body double for this tricky action) and, on quite a few occassions, both simultaneously. As far as performance judgements go, if I wanted to imagine what Swedish karaoke was like, I simply had to alter my focus from the movie on the side wall to Ms. Kastlander up on the stage, alone, with the pre-recorded music that accompanied her for almost the entire "duo" performance. Cruise ship, anyone?
It's hard to pull one over on a Philly audience, although I was pleasantly surprised at their empathy. There was much of the laughter and the joking and jesting once JJ departed but nary a boo thrown in their general direction.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Labels: 2010: Are We Recovering Yet?
Monday, March 22, 2010
"Bloggers Aren't Real Writers."
"They say it's on behalf of employees, said Max Meehan, a nonsmoker who mans the door at Beerland. "But you don't have to be a bartender or a waitress. Get employment elsewhere."
He said the plan would hurt business — Beerland earns as much as 16 percent of its sales from tobacco, he said — and lead to further restrictions on nightlife.
"It's gateway fascism," he said. "If it's such a public hazard, why push people into the streets? The whole thing is dreamed up by suburban schoolmarms."
Why bring Mr. Meehan's name up?
Well...this gem of his opinionating ways came up in the NYT ongoing review of the just concluded annual SXSW festival.
His short epistle reminded me of John Kruk's timeless response to an elderly woman's inquiry as to his employable qualities, which was, "Lady, I ain't no athlete. I'm a baseball player."
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Theory of Ice & Walrus
The Walrus offers her take on Team Canada's Olympic Hockey Gold.
A choice passage:
"And that’s the beauty of the Big Game, because the laws of probability might allow for any number of feasible outcomes, but in the end, in this only universe, this best of all possible worlds, only one thing happens. It is the single greatest moment of existential freedom a player can face, a point where he ceases to be whatever he otherwise is, whatever he inevitably will be over the eighty games of a season or the 600 games of a career, and is nothing greater or lesser than what he can accomplish in sixty minutes."
Sports matter because they give us metaphors for life, miniaturized scenarios stripped down to the bare essentials. Half of life is la longue duree, the things we do repeatedly, our habits, our jobs, our homes, our families, the things and people and places that recur again and again. That is the part of life where we practice, and grow, and struggle, and eventually become what we are. But the other half is the singular chances, the days unlike any other, the moments. The interviews, the dates, the tests, the accidents — these are life’s elimination series. Those events are not less real or momentous because they don’t give us the time to show the true depths and dimensions of our character. When the Big Game happens in real life, we don’t call it unrepresentative, we just call it unfair. And it is.
Let's hope she sends her academic career into the Sin Bin and get on with the life she was made for.
The best living writer on hockey. Seriously.
I'm not sure. All I know is my attitude is fossilizing into one where I view the convenience of the cell phone as leaning most toward the person on the other end of the ghostly wire than to me; I carry (and pay for) a cell phone for someone else's desire for usage. A good friend has successfully snubbed the ownership of a cell phone by stating he's not yet seen the benefits of his peace being disturbed. I admire his resolve (and his monthly savings).
A short snippet from Mr. Lethem's piece:
"This shop owner insisted, as well, that we counterpersons observe a strict hierarchy as to the precedence of a real live customer, standing in front of us waiting to be served, over a caller on the telephone. Telephone customers, he explained, however preemptory and insistent, were to be considered as ghosts, non-entities, birds in the bush. They hadn’t made the commitment to appear in person in the shop, and so weren’t to be given any privileges to rival those customers who had. We shouldn’t ever make someone standing before us wait while we dealt with a telephone order; we were always to put calls on hold. I suppose this was where my notion of the morality of proximity was first instilled"
Monday, March 01, 2010
Tornadoes are actually quite common in Sochi, though are not as large as the ones destroying whole towns in USA. However, in Sochi they often cause havoc as well. Twisters in Sochi usually form over the Black Sea during stormy weather, then coming down crushing at the city. Two years ago in August, strong tornado came in destroying residential houses (our family friend’s house was almost completely destroyed — and these are brick houses!), part of «Youzhnye Kultury» park, and many buses on overnight bus parking, causing public transportation interruption in Adler for the next few weeks"
From Sochi Travel Info -Travel the Russina Rivieria!
One of the amazing things about the Vancouver Olympics was the succesful way (in most cases) the Canadians dealt with the weather problems dealt to them on a daily basis. But even they did not have to deal with tornados. This should be interesting, most especially in the way things will be worded by the Soshi Olympic Committee when faced with meteorological events out of their hands.
Labels: 2014: So SO SOCHI
The WINNER of all of the Losers
My Ever-Loving Wife reminded me of this Jerry Seinfeld routine, upon hearing of last night's valiant but unfortunate losing effort in the gold medal game of Olympic hockey by Team USA to the host country, Canada.
From the Washington Post (ht to Whisky Prajer), USA defenseman Jack Johnson , a student of the observational life humour of Mr. Seinfeld commented after the game,
"We're pretty devastated," ..... "In any hockey event, you lose a silver medal. You don't win it. You win a gold, and you win a bronze. You lose a silver. It's just the way it is. In time, we're all going to be very proud of what we did, but it's not what we came here to do."
Jack, Jerry feels your pain...and gets a laugh out of it.
Addendum: Studies (counterfactual thinking) and reality show that winning silver is not conducive to your health.
Labels: 2010 Vancouver Olympics
Got dem Krugman Blues
But, that just wasn't so.
Now, he is though, as Loudon Wainwright III has composed the Krugman Blues, which he performs live at the New Yorker here. (The song id part of his latest CD, Songs for a New Depression....(note to Ever-Loving Wife: Honey, It's not in my collection. Yet.....)
Also in this link, Hendrik Hertzberg posts an excellent link to the London times for an article on the late Kate McGarrigle. Was she a perfect human being, warts and all (though you'd have to look with an atomic microscope to find them), or not? My feeble thoughts on her sad departure were originally here.
Labels: 2010: Are We Recovering Yet?