Sunday, May 23, 2010

A few thoughts before The End of Lost

If you aren't caught up to this point you should probably just quit reading and go rent the DVDs. You don't have time to get caught up but you might find yourself watching four or five episodes at a time.

In the lead up to this final episode I've been attempting to keep my expectations in check. Basically, I don't want a six year journey to feel tainted because of the choices the creators made in the last 150 minutes. Really, any show that has me this excited for a final episode has already succeeded. I've had a good reminder of the exhilarating highs the show has produced over the years when a work friend of mine started in on Season 1 last week. Every day he would come in, "Dude, I watched four episodes last night..." and then start going into the twists and turns and his theories that were sometimes correct and oftentimes as laughably wrong as most of mine were. While I may tentatively agree with this NY Times piece that the first season was the show at its best and that the speculation I referred to above is a big part of the success of the show I think the author is way too harsh on the rest of the series.

This mythology may be a major driving force behind the show and provides for most of the speculation I've enjoyed but if there wasn't the character development of the bonds we've made with them the mythology behind it all would ring hollow as it does on many of the other serialized shows that have crashed and burned in Lost's wake. I'll admit that outside of a few stellar performances (the actors playing Locke, Desmond, Ben among the most notable) the acting has been average at best and the show has fallen victim to lazy story writing or meandering plot lines and never really fully developed a quality female character but the positives more than outweigh the negatives. Watching the characters struggle and grow we feel their triumphs are well earned.

I think back to episodes like "Through the Looking Glass" and "The Constant" and moments like "we're going to have to take the boy", Locke pounding on the hatch until the light comes on, "Not Penny's Boat", and any number of Ben Linus moments and I think of TV at its best. Regardless of whether their vision of an ending is as "good" as something else I've imagined it's still been a fun ride.

And if it really does suck? Well, what good is the internet if not a place to vent misplaced righteous indignation?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How I spend way too much time and money on concerts

This was a post I started several weeks ago and never finished. I was reminded of one of the bands today and decided to go ahead and finish it. Basically, it's a recap of a bunch of concerts I went to in a few week period in March. Along with the relevant information I'll include whether I saw Paul Shirley, former Iowa State/NBA basketball player and current writer/music elitist/Haiti hater/6'9" guy at the back, at the show.

Surfer Blood / Turbo Fruits
3/13 Replay Lounge
Paul Shirley: Yes
The Replay is one of the smaller venues in town and mostly hosts newer bands hitting up the midwestern college towns. Surfer Blood was on their way to Austin for SXSW (where they were definitely at the center of the "buzz band" vortex as chronicled here) and the Replay was the only place in town they could find to play or they kind of blew up after they booked but people were definitely stoked about it. They may not have technically been over the fire code because of all of their patio space but it was impossible to even get across to the bar or the bathroom. I was able to look past all of that because both bands put on a great show. By the end it was a huge mass of sweaty, fist-pumping humanity. Thanks to the wonders of streaming the local public access TV show "The Turnpike" you can see some of the highlights and get an idea of just how freaking crowded it really was.

Xiu Xiu / tUnEyArDs
3/29 Jackpot Music Hall
Paul Shirley: No
Xiu Xiu has been around for a while but I wasn't all that familiar with most of their stuff but I'd heard enough to be intrigued and have gotten to know someone who was in the band several years ago. tUnEyArDs (really obnoxious with the capitalization...) was fascinating to watch and listen to when she opened for Dirty Projectors earlier this year so I decided to check this show out. I think I wrote about tUnEyArDs once before but it's basically one woman setting up loops of beats or backup vocals and singing over them with a lot of traditional African influence. It was a little bit different seeing her this time as she seemed a bit more low-key but I'm still a fan.

Xiu Xiu was completely awesome. They had all kinds of weird shit to make music with. I mean, they had two gongs, three or four cymbols that were smaller than the palm of your hand, and even played one or two songs by doing...something, on a program called Korg DS-10 as I later learned, on a Nintendo DS. Anyway, I didn't always "get" what they were doing on every song but the passion that he put into them was infectious.

Beach House / Bachelorette
4/6 Granada
Paul Shirley: Yes

This show was originally at the much smaller Jackpot but was moved to Granada which was a good idea because there was a pretty massive crowd on hand which got to witness a really good show.

Bachelorette's accent had me thinking she was Swiss maybe but turns out it's New Zealand. She was pretty sick apparently and had to restart one of her songs but won points from me for drinking shots of Jaeger throughout the show to get over it. Musically there were some similarities to Tuneyards (not capitalizing anything this time) in that she set up a lot of loops herself then sang over them. I liked it. Plus she had a big video screen with cool stuff going on behind her.

Beach House was pretty much what you would expect. Their album is called "Teen Dream" and pretty much everything they did evoked a trippy dream about prom or something. Weird shimmering rotating diamonds on the stage, lots of fog, lots of dim colored lighting. I thought they were going to fight with whoever the lighting guy was for not turning down the overhead stage lights as much as they wanted. The lead singer reminded me of Alice Cooper in shoulder pads (check out the pics here) but, hey, she was way more ironically hip than anyone else there. This was a great show to just chill and take everything in.

Shearwater / Wye Oak / Hospital Ships
4/8 Bottleneck
Paul Shirley: No
This was what I might call the surprise of the stretch of shows. I was somewhat familiar with Shearwater but probably wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for my friend, Spencer, who was touring with Hospital Ships. They were making their triumphant return to Lawrence as their US/Canadian tour rolled through town. Hospital Ships generally plays as a collection of really talented musicians revolving around Jordan Geiger. This might have been one of the larger iterations that I've seen but I liked it and they played a couple of songs that rocked out a bit more than usual.

Wye Oak was my big surprise. I hadn't listened to them at all but thought they put on a fantastic performance. And, like Beach House, they're from Baltimore. Turns out The Wire lied to me and it's more than just drugs and drunk cops. I'm realizing I'm saying the same thing about every band I've seen ("really good", I'd be a terrible reviewer apparently) so I'll point out two notable things, one about each member of the band. They guy played drums with his right hand and keyboard with his left hand...AT THE SAME TIME! I guess he would have been fun to watch but most of my attention went to the singer who had the gorgeous voice and cute face that makes all the dorks in the audience fall in love with her. Oh, one more thing. Check out their cover of "Strangers" by the Kinks that they did for the Onion's AV Club. They did this at the show and killed it just as much as they did on the video. Great song, great band.

I liked Shearwater a lot but I made a comparison between the way the lead singer sang some of his songs and a medieval minstrel and it was kind of hard to get over that at times. It's kind of impossible to describe unless you see it. That said, they were awesome and write some pretty amazing songs.

The Big Pink / A Place to Bury Strangers
4/10 Bottleneck
Paul Shirley: Yes
Wow. It's hard to even know how to describe what this show was like.

First, it was a completely bizarre crowd. There were the expected indie hipsters in skinny jeans and the metalheads in black t-shirts but there was also this group of women that looked like they just stepped off the set of Real Housewives of OC or something. You know the kind I'm talking about? Lots of makeup/fake tan/fake boobs/dressed young but like, 40? Then there was this group of people that were kind of like the fratty/party types. They all had on those cheap plastic Mardi Gras beads and showed up yelling and high fiving their friend "RUSSELL!" whose name had to be screamed apparently. It just sort of seemed like they were at the wrong show. Some of these people will show up in the story later but I wanted to set up the scene now.

APTBS starts off with lots of fog and lit only by some projectors behind them. It made a pretty cool effect and they had some nice designs they would use later. Their whole deal was pretty much to hit you with a wall of sound and then drop another wall on top of that one. I've been to loud shows but I'm not sure many have been louder than this (and I expected this but still managed to forget my ear plugs at home which I really regret). I guess I'd describe them as sort of an electro-rock band that was kind of like New Order but cranked up to 11 in every manner possible. The last 20 minutes or so was nothing but fog, strobe lights, and utterly destroying us with their guitars. All of that was completely disorienting and the band members would disappear for a while and then reappear even though they were 10 feet in front of me. It was just an incredibly intense environment and it was hilarious to see everyone around me almost staggering outside after their set just to get away from everything. The passers-by all seemed a little shocked by the huge crowd of zombies shouting in each others ears.

Speaking of that crowd... The fratty partiers were up front really rocking out and dancing to all of this. There were two couples who rarely, if ever, left the embrace of the other and there was lots of making out throughout the show. Behind them there was this Bro-type with a chinstrap beard and the jorts that go down to your shins. He was drinking High Life but every time he would drink it was a full head tilt back so the bottle is sticking straight into the air for a full second or two. I saw this right away and thought, "ok, the show is starting and he doesn't want to hold it so he's just going to slam this one" but within 30 seconds he had another bottle and was doing the same thing. Throughout the show he was constantly going up to complete strangers and putting his arm around them or getting a fist bump and always, always nodding his head with the beat in the most exaggerated way possible with one hand in the air in the shape of a gun also moving with the beat. Anytime he noticed someone that looked like they were enjoying the show he was immediately in their face showing them how much he was enjoying it too. It was like if you had to mime someone saying "YEAH! KILLER SHOW, BRAH! SO TIIIIIGHT!" it would be this guy. He tried to get one hipster kid to fist bump him and the guy totally shut him down and I thought they were going to fight over it. Not surprisingly, after chugging High Life for hours, this dude did get into a little pushing match with Fratty Party guy and then Handlebar Mustache guy who tried to calm him down.

He also spent some time trying to grind on Real Housewife #1 (Fake Boobs) before Real Housewife #2 (the Crazy one) totally cock blocked him and pointed to some young guy who was possibly the prey for this cougar or her son. Not sure which. The Crazy one got her name for spending the first 2 songs of the Big Pink's set standing in the 2nd row and staring at the crowd or someone in the crowd? Really weird. Handlebar Mustache guy wasn't having it and kept telling her to turn around but she kept staring at him until he started ignoring her. Why these people were here? I have no idea. I will give fratty party crew credit for singing along to every song so at least I know they were serious fans. In case you thinking I'm making it up, The Pitch commented on the exact same weird crowd vibe in their writeup of the show.

Ugh, let's get back to music. During APTBS's set I remember thinking, "holy shit, I can't believe this is the opener. The Big Pink has a lot to live up to." And they did...pretty much. It's kind of an unfair comparison because it's just impossible to duplicate the intensity of the first set so even though they played great it didn't feel like the show ramped up like they usually do. And the thing is they were a total kick ass rock band as well but it felt a lot different than if another band had opened. Actually, they complemented each other pretty well. It's tough to make a lot of what they do on their record sound great on a stage but they did a really good job, for the most part. I love their song "Velvet" but it was missing some of the synth/reverb stuff which disappointed me a little. They closed with Dominos (which they killed and was a great finish) and no encore (which usually I don't mind but would have liked to see another song or two, so I guess they succeeded there).

The Ettes
4/10 Replay Lounge
Paul Shirley: No

Yes, my friend John and I are such live music junkies that we say, "yeah, those bands blew out every one of our senses but, eh, it's still early, let's go see another show." Not too much to say about these guys. Kind of a punk/twang outfit based in Nashville now. I thought it was some decent stuff. The singer reminded me of Loretta Lynn backed by a punk band but John wasn't feeling it.

So, anyway, way too long (and probably really boring) and way too many shows. On the horizon I have the Black Keys in KC and Caribou/Toro y Moi and who knows whatever else comes around. If you're curious, Paul Shirley wrote about two of the same shows (and a few I wish I went to but had to skip due to other shows or the whole poor, insanely busy grad student thing) in this post and whines because Rogue Wave told him to fuck off over the whole Haiti thing.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

I think this is supposed to be an attack ad?

I love the incredulous way the announcer reads the quote " explains the origins of life" like someone was making the case for UFOs bringing Lizard People to run our government. Only in Alabama (and about half of the other states and every Republican primary) can you be mocked for saying something reasonable.

I was flipping through the Sunday paper today and came across a special Mother's Day interview with Sarah Palin. It was her usual drivel that isn't even worth mentioning except for her quote about teaching her kids "Alaska values" then goes on to list hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, and gold-panning. Gold panning? What the fuck? I've never been to Alaska but I have to guess that most people don't actually teach their kids gold-panning unless they want them to portray some yokel miner for tourists, right? I mean, gold-panning? Was she serious?

The other thing that amused was the glossy insert they put in there. One is the "USA Weekend" and the other is "American Parade" or something like that. Anyway, both of them have this section where people write in with questions about celebrities. I don't have the section in front of me but I'll summarize the questions I remember and answer them how I would have.
"I read that John King is replacing Lou Dobbs on his CNN show. What can you tell me about him?"
Yeah, Try it.

"I really love what's her name on Cold Case. Has she done any other TV or movies?"
IMDB. Seriously.

"I really love the Andrews Sisters. What are they doing now?"
Jeebus, are you 105? The Andrews Sisters? They haven't had a hit since WWII, have they? Two of them are dead and one of them is clinging to life in a nursing home. Wikipedia.

I mean, really, isn't this just Google for people that have no clue how to use it? I've decided I want to get a question answered but I'm struggling to come up with something inane enough to actually have a chance.

Junction City, KS, is just a weird place. I stopped at Subway and in the parking lot there was a pickup with no fewer than 5 metal and decal Transformers logos and a back window sticker that said "To Destroy and Enslave." I would have taken a picture but I was afraid it would turn into a robot and crush me. In addition was a new Mustang with lots of decals about "German engineered, French engine, American muscle" which didn't make a ton of sense to me and then the other door had something about "mama's ride" and class or some other crap. Like I said, weird place.

Update: OK, one more political ad. Here's John McCain getting all Mavericky. I like the nice touch of bringing in the skinhead and the "one of us" lingo.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

New video - Spence

The current and former Lawrence Fucking Kansas residents reading this will appreciate the new video from Spence, filmed on location all over town. Hey, it's my coffee shop. Hey, that guy serves me beer at the Taproom. Hey, that guy with dreads is 1/3 of Cowboy Indian Bear.