Wassup Rockers

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the live category.

MoCCA Fest 2010.

I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year’s MoCCA festival. I wanted to attend both days but I only got a chance to go on Sunday. Before I swung by the fest I had to go pick up a DVD from the library–Breaking Bad season 2. I’m on ep 4 currently and I think I’m going to puke from the tension. The show is amazing.

It was expensive, but overall I feel like the operation ran a lot more smoothly than last year, which was the first time MoCCA happened at the Armory. Unlike last year, it wasn’t incredibly hot. For some reason it felt a lot more family-friendly, and on top of that the Scandinavian presence was stronger than ever.  I guess people are really responding well.

I actually went to the Scandinavian panel. I don’t know that I got as much out of it as last year but it was still fun and I liked getting a perspective primarily from people who are more involved with the publishing industry. The panelists were: Espen Holtestaul from Norway, Fredrik Strömberg from Sweden (substituting for fellow Swede Johannes Klennell, apparently too shy to sit in on the conversation), Ville Hänninen from Finland, Mats Jonsson who is also from Sweden, and Henrik Rehr from Denmark. Sheesh, I wish I could link to more official websites, sorry.  Clearly I’m too much of a dum dum to figure out what they are.  Anyway, it was moderated by Shannon O’Leary who although cheery could have been more incisive on the question front. There also wasn’t a lot of Q&A time, although after one weird and random alien conspiracy question from some feller I thought maybe it was for the better no to have a lot of audience input this time around.

I enjoyed myself a lot and I’m really happy I spent a good amount of money on independent artists, though of course I shelled out some money to the bigger publishers too.

Adrian Tomine was nowhere in sight this time around, but I was very happy I got to meet Dorothy Gambrell. She signed the book I bought from her, and so she drew this really miserable picture of Girl that made me very giddy. Plus the company with whom she does merch (Topatoco) was giving out discount coupons so yay!

So here are the comics I picked up:

Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker
– Issue 1 of The Unwritten, which was given out free!
The Numbers of the Beasts by Shawn Cheng
– The second Cat and Girl book
Lihan Himo (“Lust for Meat”) by Olli Hietala
The Ragbox by Dave Kender – I’m assuming it was the author or one of the artists who graciously sold me the copy for $5 instead of $7
Danica Novgorodoff‘s adaptation of “Refresh, Refresh” by Benjamin Percy
– The first set of L’age dur by Max de Radiguès
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
– Issues five to seven of Optic Nerve, since they had a special offer. Now I only have #8 left to buy.
Ayaje’s Wives and Monsters & Condiments by Matt Wiegle


Why So Serious?

“Somewhere deep down is a decent human being in me—it just can’t be found”
– Eminem (1)

Oh man. I must explain myself a bit. Recently I’ve been obsessing over British comedy, and in particular I’ve been very puzzled with myself as to what makes me laugh. This has been a question I’ve wrestled with a lot since a lot of the comedians I like can be quite offensive. In fact, I love it when comedians can offend me and make me laugh all at the same time.

Take Frankie Boyle.

It really pains me to read all this press he’s gotten recently for some jokes he made about people with Down Syndrome (2). In particular, a woman wrote about her experience seeing him live, and how, as a mother of a child with DS, she felt his jokes were unduly cruel. Of course the whole situation blew up when she called him out on it.

I want to state a few things in his defense. First, the woman knew of his comedy style, she enjoyed him on Mock the Week. She paid for a ticket to this show, which is part of a tour called I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face. I’m assuming she was laughing along just fine until it got to a subject too close to home. It’s like he routinely does jokes about pedophilia, rape, etc. So no surprises, you know?

Second, I have no doubt he felt real shit about it, especially to the point that he felt he had to explain himself. Usually he handles heckles well, but she definitely had enough of an effect for him to admit it was the most excruciating experience he’s had on stage.

I’ve read interviews he’s done and he definitely has an “off” switch. Even though I personally don’t think he has the best command of the stage, at the end of the day, what he does is a performance (3). His onstage persona is not who he is as a whole. If it’s unfair for him to view people with DS in such a two-dimensional way, it’s pretty unfair for us to see him that way, too. If he was as despicable as he makes himself to be onstage, I’d demand that his children be removed from his home. There’s plenty of lines he spews out that don’t seem to have any function other than to offend, but he’s shown just as many flashes of decency and understanding (4). When I first encountered him just a short while ago, I didn’t know what to make of his humor, but reading these interviews really made me appreciate him and understand his thought process.

That said, the nature of the jokes seemed particularly nasty, at least from this woman’s account, and apparently he didn’t do a particularly good job at defending himself (would love to hear an official statement, but apparently Bigmouth Boyle ain’t talking). I don’t mind controversial subjects, but the way they are approached is key. For me, the cardinal rule is: don’t make fun of those who have less power than you (5). It’s unnecessary, cruel, and worst of all, it’s too easy. That’s one of the more annoying things about this whole hullabaloo. Boyle is really funny and really smart, and in the past he’s made exactly that point about his own work, that it targets people worth targeting. I don’t know what happened on the evening this woman attended; because of that Herald Scotland interview I want to say he was just improvising and unfortunately relying on really broad punchlines because he couldn’t think of something better at the moment. Sigh. Regardless, I don’t expect every joke (inappropriate or otherwise) to reveal some fundamental truth about the human condition, but at the very least it shouldn’t be based on such empty stereotypes.

I do see the need to tackle taboo topics. Somebody has to fill the court jester role, and I think it’s more than honorable for an individual to say what others are too afraid to say. But from this woman’s account, Frankie’s jokes weren’t the result of the buffoon speaking truth.

I do want to raise some complaints about the complainers, though. Please don’t act all sanctimonious about Frankie’s sense of humor, tutting away saying crap like “What an outrage! IS THAT ANY WAY TO BEHAVE?!” It’s like some people want a fucking medal for feeling offended. Newsflash, you dipshits, you should feel offended! Calm the fuck down  and stop huffing and puffing about how you want him to be brought down. If anything, I’d be deeply worried about the state of humanity if people weren’t offended by his humor.

Let’s just hope that the people who laughed along weren’t doing it out of malice and that they were laughing nervously. There’s nothing worse than someone who laughs at offensive shit like this because they prescribe to that world view. (For example: the difference between people who loved Archie Bunker because he was bigoted, as opposed to those who loved him in spite of his faults.) Or at the risk of sounding like I’m dripping in schadenfreude, let’s hope they were laughing at Frankie—I seriously wish I’d been at the show just to see the woman cut him down. I mean I love him, I love his sense of humor, but he knows better!

I leave you with the words of another ex-alcoholic Scotsman:

(1) One of the very few hip-hop albums I actually own. Obviously I was one of the millions who bought The Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out. For some reason that line has never left my mind, even though I couldn’t even remember the title of the song. I just re-listened to the track for the first time in like eight or nine years, and it was really fucking good! Too bad Eminem is so irrelevant because the talent was so there.

(2) I was speaking to some of my friends about this situation and someone brought up the whole hoopla about Family Guy recently.

(3) Fuck, the clip from Alan Carr: Chatty Man got taken down, but he literally says “the act is an act.” By the way, he hates doing live shows, which he also mentioned on Chatty Man; this may explain his weird stage presence. From what I’ve seen, he’s not particularly brilliant at doing long-format stand-up. Shouldn’t we commend him for having the sense of retiring in the near future?

(4) See this appearance on You Have Been Watching.

(5) Here’s a great example of this, on the subject of rape.

Fuck Queue.

Oh man. I got an email from the Public Theater about the cast list for The Merchant of Venice, which they’re doing for Shakespeare in the Park. At first I was way excited: Jesse Tyler Ferguson! And then more excited: Jesse L. Martin!

And then my heart sank:

Al Fucking Pacino?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s AL PACINO. But that’s the problem. He’s a real star. Not even a Broadway-level star, which would have been problematic enough. I mean, my mom knows the name Al Pacino, y’know? Okay, she couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but she has heard his name. Not only that, she knows he’s a big deal. And you know what happens with big deal stars when they decide to sashay their way across the Delacorte Theater? The lines to get a ticket are fucking massive. Ohhh I’m gonna have to wake up so early for this shit!! I’m not looking forward to it.

(Don’t you love how I’m worrying about this five months in advance?)

On the other hand: I can’t wait to see a latter-day Pacino chew up the scenery. He’s already done Shylock on film though, I wonder how he might read the character this time around? We’ll see what he and Michael Greif come up with. And to think, I was already so thrilled they chose to do The Merchant of Venice!

Calle 13, Bomba Estéreo + Eric Bobo @ Central Park SummerStage.

Yesterday I went to SummerStage to see Calle 13. It wasn’t as crazy as I expected in terms of the crowd. Maybe it’s because they played for free just a few years ago, but I feel like it took a while for the place to be packed with people. When I got there the doors weren’t even open, and I didn’t want to bum around for two hours in the sun, so I actually left the park and cooled off in a bookstore for a while.

When I returned, although the venue wasn’t packed, it was crowded enough that I didn’t want to push my way to the front. I decided to watch just a couple of yards away from the bleacher seats, right behind a barricade. This means I really couldn’t see anyone on stage, really.

The first act was Eric Bobo, son of Willie Bobo. He played percussion along with a DJ. It was okay. The DJ played pretty much all the famous old school breakbeats ever, except no one declared that there was no problem they couldn’t fix since they could do it in the mix. Eric Bobo performed well, but I thought the set was better suited for a club.

Bomba Estéreo fared better than Bobo, for a number of reasons. This is a band, so that there was more happening on stage. The music itself was better, too, more hooky, with more momentum, plus the arrangements were a lot more dynamic. Eric Bobo was limited to his percussion, and although he pulled out all his tricks, at the end of the day, I feel that it didn’t compare.

Bomba Estéreo played a similar set to the one at the Bowery, full of energy and great stage presence. They also go to try some more songs, since the Bowery set was pretty short. I wasn’t sure how well they’d sound in an outside, daytime show, but they were excellent again. I didn’t know how well the rest of the audience would respond, since I myself had no clue who they were just five days ago and I imagined most of the crowd was the same. But people really took to them. The band got the crowd’s attention and the crowd obliged them with plenty of attention, and I found that really impressive. Hope they make it big, whatever “big” means nowadays.

When Calle 13 took the stage, the audience was plenty hyped up. It was pretty overwhelming. I just don’t have enough people to talk to about this kind of music. Not in real life, anyway. It gets lonely. So it was incredible to see thousands of people roaring approvingly at the band. I was feeling the triskaidekaphilia, y’all, haha.

That’s what was really great, too, there was a huge band. Rhythm section, horns, the works. It made me realize how well the music lends itself to a live setting. The sounds just took over and my body could only respond by dancing. It was amazing.

Residente was pretty awesome, really funny and really appreciative of the audience, though with mad attitude, too. That’s one thing I gotta give him, I think his rhymes are kinda lame sometimes, but he’s a great performer. I couldn’t really see Visitante though at one point I saw him playing the accordion and I was just filled with glee. I’m sure René contributes, but I still consider the music to be Eduardo’s domain, and I’m constantly amazed by some of the sounds with which he comes up. (Sorry for switching in their real names; for some reason I don’t think of them by their stage names!)

Not gonna lie, one of the biggest thrills for me was hearing their little sister Ileana singing live, even if she looked like a pulguita from where I was standing. I just think she’s incredibly talented. Are you pumped for her solo stuff? Cos I am. I mean, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that “Hormiga Brava” is my favorite Calle 13 song, but I didn’t expect them to play it because it was never a single or anything. They went through all their hits and I loved every moment. But then they DID play “Hormiga Brava” and I almost fainted from how beautiful it was. I felt like they were playing it just for me, you know? Sigh.

They finished the set with “Atrévete-te-te” and everyone went batshit crazy and the band left so everyone was clamoring “¡Otra! ¡Otra!” and obviously we were all being silly because the concert was planned so that there would be enough time for an encore but we all got into shouting for them to come back anyway and when they did we was all cheering so loud and then, and then, and then! I could kinda see them all lining up in a row together, and “Thriller” started playing and they started doing the zombie dance and everyone was like, “AHHH!!!!!” cos it was awesomesauce. They did play an encore (“Electro movimiento,” yeah!) but that MJ mini-tribute pretty much took the cake.

I think I can die a little bit happier now.

Aubele, Niña Dioz, Bomba Estéreo, RH+ y la Lafourcade @ Bowery Ballroom, 7/9.

Qué onda, I have to keep this short. Long story, but obviously don’t have a chance to do my usual let’s-make-the-post-as-long-as-possible thing.

Okay, last night I went to the Bowery for the LAMC showcase, mostly to see the most lovely Natalia Lafourcade. I actually sat at a table in the upstairs section for a bit, but I learned my lesson: the best way to go is to be out on the floor. I had a pretty sweet time. There were a lot of acts so here are a few words about each of them.

First off was Federico Aubele, hailing from Argentina, and I was surprised because I thought he had a bigger following. Unlike all the other artists (aside from Natalia) he was the only one with whom I was familiar. I hadn’t been impressed by the stuff I’d heard before, but I was pleasantly surprised by his brief set. I’m definitely going to revisit his recorded stuff.

Second was Monterrey’s Niña Dioz, and I swear to god, I was tickled by her presence. I just didn’t expect her and her sound… she mostly reminded me of Lady Sovereign, mostly cos she was tiny, too. Wow, I was just shocked that she was rapping for real, but I still couldn’t help that just last year (it was just last year, right??) La Mala Rodríguez was kicking LAMC ass. Niña Dioz was an oddity, but after two songs I got over it.

Next was Bomba Estéreo, from Colombia. By this point I saw the floor filling up and I decided to join in because I wanted to be right up front for Natalia. Bomba Estéreo were EXCELLENT. I knew nothing about them but the lead singer girl just comes out and she’s like, “¡¡CUUUUUMBIAAAAA!!” And you can imagine what came next. Or not! She wasn’t joking about their sound as “psychedelic cumbia.” The only thing that sucked is that they got too into their music, so that they would just draw out the psychedelic sounds to the point that it tested my patience and also felt kinda masturbatory in their part. Obviously it would have been fine if they’d been headlining but c’mon, son! If their music hadn’t rocked and if they hadn’t had such a punkass attitude I would have jumped on stage and punched them into silence.

I’m pretty sure Hector Buitrago was there!!! I love him. It’s too bad I missed him tonight at Celebrate Brooklyn. I saw him pop up at the venue when Bomba Estéreo came on.

After that was Chile’s RH+, who were okay. That’s all. Of all the musicians, I think they were the oldest, either late 20s or early 30s. (At least that was my perception.) I don’t know, man. I just couldn’t believe they came all the way from Chile when there are plenty of bands with their sound right here in the city. Underwhelming, though confident and well-rehearsed.

AND THEN: Natalia. And two band members, one who was on synth and xylophone and backup vocals, and also a drummer. Natalia was so beautiful and er, Lilliputian. Como una muñeca de porcelana, pero no como las extrañas que me dan heebie-jeebies. She was so full of joy, every statement she made was pretty much followed with a giggle. Her thank yous were so sincere and she genuinely seemed to want everyone to just love her new material.

I think bands like Grizzly Bear would just seethe with jealousy if they heard her music. They would go into a small room and weep to themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that melody first??” Her music is a refreshing pop delight, and I think I left the venue with cavities she was so damn sweet. I can’t fucking wait to hear the new album and I hope she comes back to the city real soon. The music was so uplifting.

I just want to say that her bandmates were right on. It wasn’t just that they were competent and focused in doing a good job, or that they were happy to be there. It was more like, they were so ecstatic to be with Natalia and when she played a couple of songs alone, they would bop their heads and mouth along to the lyrics–they clearly LOVE the new songs. It was so great. Especially the drummer, I loved him so much! He was this flaco who looked like a mouse and you could tell that he’s one of those dudes who drums because he can’t mofuckin’ sit still. Even during the songs when he wasn’t drumming his ass off, he was just swaying along happily.

After their set was one more artist, León Polar. Unfortunately, it was already past 1 am by the time Natalia finished, so I couldn’t stay. (In fact, I got home at around 2:40.) As Natalia and her buds cleared their way, I waved to her drummer “¡OYE!” and when he noticed me I asked, “¿Me puedes dar el setlist?” He was kind enough to do so, and even though I said gracias, I kinda didn’t get to say it loudly enough, and there were other concertgoers behind me clamoring for a setlist, too, so he was distracted and didn’t hear me. I wish I’d had a chance to ask him his name, so I could thank him appropriately. Oh wells.

I don’t have a scanner or whatever unfortch, but here is what the setlist says:

Bowery Ballroom
Natalia L

Cursis Melodías
Ella es Bonita
No Viniste
Hu Hu Hu

I will say, however, I don’t think they followed the order quite as it was. They definitely did NOT play “Casa,” probably because they were running out of time and they were too nice to be like, “I don’t care, I’ma do what I want!” Ah well. La próxima vez, right?

BTW! I thought I saw Jon Pareles at the show, but it was from a distance so I wasn’t sure. Turns out I was right! Do I get points for being geeky enough to recognize him? No? Boo.

Jesus, my post still turned out in epic length. I’m so sorry.

Twelfth Night @ Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park).

[EDIT July 6: I am getting several hits from people wondering how early to line up for the show. My coworker’s girlfriend had Friday July 3 off so she decided to try for a ticket. She lined up around 6:30, but apparently, about 100 people showed up around the same time… she did NOT get tickets. Since this is the final week, you’re probably going to have a pretty tough time. I’m speculating that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, being workdays, won’t be as bad, and that Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be particularly difficult. I’ll leave you to decide when to show up. I wish you the best of luck!]

For weeks I’d been planning on going to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park on June 18, because it was a week day I had off and before the reviews came out, so I figured the lines wouldn’t be as bad. But when I woke up on Thursday, the weather was just drab. Rainy all day. I watched some of The View; Anne Hathaway was on and all I could think was “Damn… I guess today’s a bad day to go.”

But as the hours passed I kept checking the weather, and by 5 pm I noticed that by 8 pm, there would “only” be 50 or 60% chance of precipitation. So even though I’d spent all day resigned with not being able to go, I decided that a little rain was not enough to keep me away. In fact, I imagined that plenty of people would be hesitant to go to an outdoor theater on a rainy night, so I decided to take my chances and see if I could get a ticket.

Well, the girl at the box office gave me my ticket and all I could do was throw my fist in the air and cry ALLAHU AKBAR! Why? Because my ticket was in section C, row CC: front row, in the best section of the theater. Although it’s sucky to go to the theater alone, the fact is that it’s more likely you’ll get a better seat. I just didn’t expect it to be that good!

I went off and grabbed me some dinner, and then I came back for the show. They opened the doors a bit late, and the show itself started past 8 (not unusual). The theater was about half empty, and I’d guess that a good number of the people there were (1) people who are familiar with the rain policy at the Delacorte Theater, (2) people who, like me, made sure the weather cleared out before they got a last minute ticket. As I waited for the show to start, two thoughts ran through my head. The first was, “Shit, I hope the production doesn’t suck,” and the second was “Muthafuck, I hope this doesn’t turn into some participatory production.” That’s what freaks me out about first row, that maybe an actor will try to interact with you and shit. That just sent me into a panic.

On the first count, I can confirm that the production was good, a solid B. I feel like it was time well spent, and I felt a pang of sadness I didn’t have anyone to share the experience. I’d say the entire cast was pretty good, committed, well-rehearsed. I’d even say that they really embraced their roles and were having a lot of fun, which, in turn, made it fun for me to watch.

It was drizzly the first half hour but the actors soldiered on, and I felt particularly bad for the ladies who wore gorgeous, short-sleeved dresses. The clothes were seriously rocking. I’d peg them very Napoleonic-era (maybe?).

A good half hour into the play, the drizzle finally got a little too hard to bear, so the Voice From God (okay, the dude who does the announcements) said that there would be a pause while the rain passed through. It didn’t take long for the rain to weaken, and so the actors went back to their places, kinda rewound a few lines to remind us where we’d stopped, and just went on as if nothing had happened.

I should mention that, when I first read the cast list, I really hoped there would be singing involved. Now I can say I’ve heard lovely people like Audra McDonald and Raúl Esparza sing to me live onstage. Er, well, the music was fairly good and the musicians were totally right on, but I did feel like the compositions were a bit long and dragged the pacing a bit. So part of me was like, “Damn, these songs are so pretty,” and another part of me was like, “Damn, can we get on with the ~*CRAZY ANTIX*~ already?”

But I didn’t hate this as much as I hated the fool, Feste, walking over to the front row right as the second half of the show started, and putting out his hat for money. Holy shit. I mean, I was totally laughing on the outside but weeping in the inside, and the only thing that made me feel a little better was that he didn’t put out the hat in front of my face, just the people next to me. It was a very close call, though, and lucky for the actor, David Pittu, because the couple sitting next to me was a lot more gracious about the unscripted moment than I would have been. Ack!

Another aspect of the show I didn’t dig too much was that the humor was played very broadly. The thing is that, in terms of execution, the actors did a great job, so my beef is with the directorial choice to deliver the lines with a clear wink and a jab with the elbow. At the same time, I infinitely preferred this more accessible, enjoyable production over last year’s Hamlet, you know? So I ain’t complaining too much on that element of the show.

I have to admit I wasn’t too hot with Esparza in the part of Orsino. He wasn’t bad, but I’d say miscast. Then again, I was basically expecting Pushing Daisies all over again. Sigh! Not only that, he had like, superintense sideburns–they really distracted me. I’d love to see him in another production soon, though!

McDonald was pretty good, though I found her far more watchable in her funny moments than in her brooding ones. Her timing is really good. Anne Hathaway held her own, and it’s probably the most physical thing I’ve seen her do since like, The Princess Diaries. She even gets into a sword fight. The choreography was all right, nothing major, but it’s still always cool to see a sword fight in a live production. By the way, the dude who played Viola’s twin brother looked acceptably similar to Anne Hathaway, but even more eerie, he seriously reminded me of the youngest Jonas brother(!). The actor’s name is Stark Sands (for real…?). Surely it was just from seeing him from a distance, but I was still like, “WHOA… Where’s Miley Cyrus, dude?” That said, I thought he was pretty good in his more minor role.

I really loved Jay O. Sanders in this; he was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream a couple of years ago as the head of the rude mechanicals, easily the best part of a so-so show. Again, he did not disappoint. He has a great voice, too. But I think my favorite cast member was Julie White, who played Maria with mischievous glee. Even though Maria plays a pretty awful trick on Malvolio, I still felt like she was totally awesome, and Julie White really made her a very inviting and sympathetic character.

The play itself is so funny. I had very faint memories of reading it in school and then watching the version with Helena Bonham Carter. I couldn’t remember anything except that there was a mistaken identity plot that centered around cross-dressing and that there was a funny servant lady named Maria but whose name was pronounced Mariah. Also, I remembered feeling more than a little awkward with the weddings at the end because of all the gender-bending. I’m not even gonna consider the political statement that the Public Theater may or may not be making by putting on this show at this moment in American history cos my mind would explode, yeah? But back to the words: there were some hilarious lines, that had everyone tittering and at times howling. Really bawdy lines. The weird thing was realizing how badly I’d needed to have a good laugh, and the production did the trick. All in all, a good night at the theater, especially since it was free.

The show will officially open on June 25, and will close on July 12 to make room for The Bacchae.

MoCCA Fest 2009.

[Edit: My friend from work wrote a li’l something on MoCCA too. Clickety click here. Also, I was lurking around a day or two ago looking at other people’s posts, and someone mentioned how annoying it was that there didn’t seem to be any trash cans in the fucking armory. I agree! I kept looking around for a place to dump my trash, and eveeeeentually I found a receptacle.]

Went to the MoCCA fest, which was moved from the Puck building to the Armory between 25th and 26th Streets. The space was striking, absolutely massive–everyone fit under one space, instead of having to split the exhibitors into several large rooms. On one level it was easier to have everyone under one roof, but on another level it also felt a little less personal. I don’t know what could be done about it; the fest had long outgrown its former space, and the move was necessary. The one thing that actually sucked was how humid it got, people were just sweating left and right.

It was just overwhelming to have so many exhibitors and fans in there. Even though there was a floor plan, it was easier for me to just get a feel for the space, so I literally walked up and down every aisle to see who was there and what they had to offer. Then, once I finished doing that, I just returned to the tables that really caught my eye, which was mostly the international artists.

It remained crowded almost all day, so I didn’t get a good glimpse at certain tables. As it happens every year, I saw Adrian Tomine, and his buddy Seth was there, too. I didn’t get anything signed by him, but seeing Adrian was comforting, like, “There’s a familiar face!” Haha. Jason showed up and signed shit, as well as Tom Gauld and I think Kurt Wolfgang too, among many many others. Everyone was so friendly and eager to engage in sweet conversation while enticing us common folk into buying their creative output and in my head I was like, “AHHHHH TOO MUCH I CAN’T HANDLE IT!” but mostly I just smiled politely, said hello, glanced at some of the comics here and there, and just moved on.

Listen, I was on a budget, okay? I really wanted a copy of Joann Sfar’s Piano, but by the point I saw it, I was down to less than $30… And the book was going for $40. There were some other really cool from L’Association and this Belgian publisher named Bries. Bought a couple of titles from the latter.

I was hoping (it was a wild and futile hope, really) that maybe they might have Papa est un peu fatigué but they didn’t. I bought another Ville Ranta comic instead. Bought some other comics from the Scandinavian contingent. I got a mini-comic signed by one of the artists, and I thought he was just gonna give me his John Hancock but he was nice enough to draw me a little something. So I just want to declare this artist, Simon Bukhave, as totally awesome for taking the time and effort to do so.

There was also a Romanian table. I shit you not. Like, of all the random places… They were featuring a series called Hardcomics and I bought a couple, including one that wasn’t even translated. But that’s okay, because I really love the artwork.

The one panel I attended was called “Scandinavian Comics 101,” and the panelists included: Åsa Ekström (Sweden), Mattias Elftrop (Sweden), Johanna Rojola (Finland), Thomas Thorhauge (Denmark), Ib Kjeldsmark (Denmark), Erik Falk (Norway), and one more artist whose name I didn’t catch (also from Norway). If you know his name, or if I misspelled anyone’s name, please let me know! The panel was moderated by Steffen P. Maarup, who is Danish. As soon as I saw how many artists were participating in the panel, I realized we weren’t going to get too far into some deep dialogue from the artists of the various countries they represented. The allotted time was just too brief to get very far… However, the panelists were all very charming and made some great points. For example, I had no idea that so many of them were deeply influenced by French and Belgian comics as opposed to American ones. There was a curious audience member who posed a really interesting question about race and whether the POC in the Scandinavian countries were active at all in the comics scene. The panelists didn’t have much of an answer other than that POC are not really visible. Honestly, there was plenty said during the short time and I’m sure someone who took more copious notes will hit every bullet point discussed… but unfortunately that someone isn’t me. Sorry!

Dude! I do wanna give props to MoCCA for putting out refreshments at the panels!! I feel like my admission money mostly went to good use. Hehe. I had fun, and I got some really cool comics that I’m probably never ever gonna see again, so… it was worth it. Hope all the international artists are able to come next year, too!

Some Geekery.

– Wednesday eve I ran the fuck out of work and I made it just in time to the Broadway district.  Went to see August: Osage County.  It was tightly written, deftly acted, and beautifully staged.  There were a lot of genuine laughs and none of the actors had quirky/distracting acting styles.  Even though one of the understudies was in the production that night, the play still felt completely natural, like the entire acting team had been playing these roles together forever.  It was incredible how well everything meshed and I have to commend the director for that.  I admit that I was a bit of a hardass in the beginning, not wanting to get too involved with the story, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t move me.  I didn’t give an ovation, but I was very content that there was an emotional impact somewhere deep in my sorry little heart.

There was a pretty heavy revelation in the play that had no foreshadowing even, except when the scene where the revelation is revealed began, I understood from a mile away what was about to be revealed and so I braced myself for it.  My friend from work had warned me there was a big twist, true, but I didn’t know the nature of the twist.  All she told me was that this is not the sort of play to read before watching.  It seems that other people weren’t as ready, because the majority of the audience gasped loudly when the character finally dropped the bomb.  I could only giggle nervously when I heard everyone react.

Shameless namechecking: I’m pretty sure Lauren Hutton was in the audience.  The only reason I am kinda doubting myself about whether it was really her is that I couldn’t imagine her being as short as the woman I saw at the theater, what with Lauren Hutton being a model and all.  And I guess I couldn’t understand why she would be seeing the play a year after it opened on Broadway.  And I don’t even know if Lauren Hutton was bumming around NYC lately.  Does she live here?  But I stand by might words: I saw Lauren Hutton in the audience.

Regardless, it was well worth the money and the fact that I missed Lost.  But you mofuckers better believe I’m not gonna miss the Lost finale next week.  Hope it doesn’t suck, LOL.

– My friend from work and I went to see Star Trek today.  I am not a Star Trek person at all and my knowledge of it is minimal, so I was pretty much experiencing everything for the first time.  The movie was… kinda boring.  No, I mean… it was fun… it was okay, but it didn’t feel necessary.  Do you think it’s fucked up that I expect so much out of a fucking action movie?  Star Trek was slick, and noisy, and busy, with a lot of stuff, and a lot of good-to-great actors in bit roles, and a lot of redshirts.  There were some funny parts, too, I won’t deny it.  I liked a lot of the actors and I thought they were well cast, but when there’s so many peeps in the screen, it was like they barely got to do anything other than look good in their uniforms.  Each of the characters got a pivotal scene, or if not pivotal at least a spotlight scene, but mostly to serve either Kirk and sometimes Spock.  Other than Kirk and Spock, they have no internal growth that we can see, it just feels like a lot of cool actors wasted, c’est tout.  For example, I wish Uhura had (literally) kicked more ass, it’s like she only threw one punch, and her biggest contribution was to confirm something that Kirk said.  Oh, and I guess she played a love interest.  At least she took the initiative to kiss first.

The action was just okay, not especially well-choreographed, and I was particularly mad about the villain’s death.  It was very Darth Maul, you know, like this big looming evil presence that is discarded of fairly easily at the end.  I ended up wondering what the big deal had been with the dude.  Sheesh.  Most of the plot did make sense, which was nice, although a lot of it felt like going through the motions.  Y’know, just a lot of archetypes reaching familiar points of growth, like the rebel who grows up to be a leader, or the mixed-race dude who learns he doesn’t need to prioritize one of his races over the other and instead learns to love all of himself.  Et cetera, et cetera.

My biggest concern was that I never felt there was anything at stake.  As soon as Leonard Nimoy showed up I thought, “Well, no one has to worry about anything, everything will turn out just fine and dandy.”  It’s like, it finally hit me that in this alternate universe, the rules are so flexible I never really feel like anyone is really gonna get hurt and I’m never really gonna get emotionally invested.  Not that I want emotional manipulation in the form of  women in refrigerators and the like, but some real sense of struggle would have drawn me in more.

Another thing I think really sucks is that the movie was as good as it could have been, and I’m bummed that most likely, there will be a sequel that will just be more big explosions and playing it safe so as to please all the fans.

Oh!  And let’s not forget what we really learned in Star Trek.  (1) Cheating in tests is okay.  (2) If you ignore ALL the rules, you can still become captain of a starship and everyone will love you!!  (3) It’s fine to needle your anal-retentive frenemy into having a mini-emotional breakdown so that you can take over his job after he proves himself incapable of being level-headed enough to lead a team.

The previews were pretty wack.  The audience was mostly dudes, many at least in their 30s, though there were all these middle school boys, too.  There were some girls, many of whom were with their guys.  Okay, I’m out.  Live long and prosper, y’all.

LAMC 2009.

Okay, here goes!  I totally missed that the LAMC website posted its full schedule.  Sorry about the delay.  Below, I’ve organized the shows by artist, with approximate set times when available. Please let me know if you see any errors OR if you have other, non-official LAMC events for me to add. And remember, times, locations and acts might change!

Sat July 11 – after midnight – SOB’s

Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS

Banda de Turistas
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Bomba Estéreo
Wed 8 July – Bembe
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom
Fri 10 July – Antigua
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS
Sat July 11 – after midnight – SOB’s
Sun July 12 – Nublu

Calle 13
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Ceci Bastida
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

DJ Afro (Los Amigos Invisibles)
Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS
Sat July 11 – all evening(?) – SOB’s

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Domino Saints
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

El G (ZZK)
Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Ella Fuksbrauner
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Eric Bobo
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Federico Aubele
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Gaby Moreno
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Javier Garcia
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Juana Molina
Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

León Polar
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Los Amigos Invisibles
Tues 7 July – 7 pm – Apple Store Soho – GRATIS
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS

Los Delinqüentes
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Los Hollywood
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Natalia Lafourcade
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Raza Odiada
Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

RH+, AKA Rock Hudson
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra



I’m excited, they announced the panel topics for the LAMC recently.  Pueden encontrar los temas en el sitio oficial, aquí.  Make sure to check back for the full schedule!  Hope they get a good mix of acts this year… Can’t wait to see who’ll play Summerstage! NYRemezcla reports that Los Fabulosos Cadillacs will be playing the free show at Central Park!  It’s going to be INSANE. EDIT April 26: There will be two Summerstage shows this year, both of which will be free.  The opener for Los Cadillacs will be Eric Bobo, maybe one more opener to come?  The other show will headline Juana Molina, Curumin and ZZK’s El G.  Should be a hot show.  Details here. EDIT May 4: Celebrate Brooklyn date is up, and it’s amazin’!!  Los Amigos Invisibles AND  Aterciopelados will be playing on Friday July 10.    Also of note (but not related to the LAMC) is a free show on July 2, headlining Obie Bermudez and featuring Cucu Diamantes and Rebel Diaz.  All Celebrate Brooklyn deets here.

EDIT May 19: SOB’s updated their website.  On Thursday July 9, they will be holding the LAMC Acoustic Showcase; actual acts to be determined.  On Saturday July 11, they will also have an LAMC After Party, featuring Bomba Estereo, Afrobeta and DJ Afro on the turntables throughout the night.  EDIT May 24: I was snooping on Natalia Lafourcade‘s MySpace page and realized she’s playing two gigs, one of which is the Acoustic Showcase at SOB’s.  The other set will take place on the afternoon of Thursday July 9 at the Bowery Ballroom.  Yay!

EDIT May 27: Heyyy the Mercury Lounge posted its LAMC show, and it looks like a marathon event!  If you wanna see 7 bands in one night, this is the night to go, haha.  The show will take place on Wednesday July 8 and some of the acts featured are Ceci Bastida and Monareta.  The other acts included are Banda de Turistas, Maluca, RH+, Domino Saints, and Los Hollywood.  Click here for all the details.

PEN World Voices 2009.

¿Qué onda? Un virus atacó mi computadora… Pero bueno, todavía estoy viva.

I’d been waiting for today for a while. The PEN American Center announced the full lineup for their PEN World Voices Festival. (You can see all the info ici.) And I’m outraged by how many of the events are not free! Hehe, actually, most of the stuff is free and the ticketed events are fairly cheap. So go check out all the good stuff.

Also, Andrés Neuman (Bogotá 39) won the latest Premio Alfaguara. Man, he’s cashing in big time. I’m so curious to read his novels, what the hell does una estadounidense have to do to get her hands on some cool new lit??

Marjane Satrapi + Chris Ware @ NYU Skirball Center (Festival of New French Writing).

Earlier tonight I went to see Marjane Satrapi and Chris Ware in conversation, with Françoise Mouly as moderator. Even though I wasn’t feeling 100%, this was an event I needed to attend because… well, how often do you see a lineup like that? It was fucking free, too. So I HAD to go. I didn’t take notes but here are some of my impressions:

I’d seen video footage of Marjane Satrapi before doing interviews and stuff, so I had a clear sense of what she’d be like. Thanks to my coworker, I had the pleasure of seeing Comic Book Confidential a little while back, so I knew what Françoise Mouly would be like, too. (In one word: HOT.) When it came to Chris Ware, however, I didn’t even know what he looked like, what his voice sounded like, so imagine how surprised I was when he walked onto the stage. No really… one some level he looks like a walking, talking version of one of his drawings, which weirded me out. Even the kinda bummed out attitude was so familiar. And yet, as the discussion went on, he uncovered all these interesting layers that made me appreciate him so much more as a complex individual. His self-deprecation was almost off-putting (his wife must be one patient woman) but it was still genuine enough for people to be able to laugh in sympathy. And hey, for such a mopey cartoonist, he had great comic timing.

I think for the most part I gained a lot of wisdom from Satrapi, but it may just be that her French-accented English just made her sound really deep. What’s cool is that even though Satrapi and Ware have such wildly different styles in their artwork and their creative process, most of the hour-long conversation was dedicated to noting how much they had in common. So one of the really cool things that Satrapi talked about was the relation of the audience and the medium of her work. For example, a reader is very active when reading a comic because they are allowed to imagine what is going on between the panels, but working on the film version of Persepolis, it was difficult to have to fill in those missing points between the panels because a film goer is a lot more passive when experiencing a movie.

Another point Satrapi made was that drawings are closer (more intimate?) to human nature than, say, photographs, because a photograph reproduces reality whereas a drawing reflects the way an individual views the world. Well this reminded me of that Bible passage, “God made man in his own image,” which makes me think of how artists are trying to create the world through their own eyes. There is some quality of wanting to take control and be a little bit God-like when you are an artist, of creating a world and having a say in how things turn out… Do I make any sense right now?

I think it was at this point that Chris Ware chimed in, speaking of his daughter. He spoke of how his four-year-old daughter has been scribbling or doodling ever since she could hold a pencil, but ever since she’s started (pre?)school, she’s been coming home with these pictures of, for example, things that could be recognized as faces. What he meant is that she learned that certain abstractions, certain shapes or whatever, can be combined to form something recognizable. So that a circle can be a head and two dots can be eyes and there can be a line for the nose and a line for the mouth. And this isn’t something that was innate, but that it was something she learned. Yeah, I was thinking about McCloud’s Understanding Comics when Ware talked about this. But I mean, what really struck me was realizing that we learned that certain symbols are universal, so that everyone sees “<3” and says, “That’s the shape of a heart,” or maybe a triangle resting on top of a square symbolizes “house,” and that this is something learned.

We were able to see Ware’s gradual artistic process, from the blank page until the final product, and you could kind of feel the audience going, “Holy crap.” Cos even in its raw, blue-pencil form, you could see how detailed everything was. Even Mouly and Satrapi were looking at the images and whispering to each other, “Incroyable!”

The other amazing thing was we all got to watch a short animation that Chris Ware did of this… I don’t know, I guess it was a feature on This American Life. The story he animated was so hilarious, and not just because the story was so great, but because the artwork complimented the storytelling so brilliantly. It makes me wish he only did animation. It was pretty wonderful to see his familiar figures in motion.

Man, I haven’t laughed this hard since… er, well, since last night’s 30 Rock. But really, I felt so happy to be there and to witness this event, not least because we got to see this short animation. Earlier today, as I got ready to go out to this discussion, it kind of hit me how lucky I am to live in New York where there’s always all this cool, oftentimes free shit happening. Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere cheaper, but shit like this makes me feel so privileged to live in this city.

I liked hearing about the different methods Satrapi used in her different comics, too, but it was really cool to just hear about her childhood, too, about how she had limited exposure to comics as a child, and then finally learning how much potential the medium offered her to express herself. I wish Ware had shared more about his childhood, too, though he was so sure that the audience didn’t care to hear anything about it. He did mention, though, how annoyed he was

As the conversation wound down, Mouly mentioned that Ware and Satrapi had published their first books at a relatively young age, at 31 and 30 respectively. After the event was over my friend and I were walking down the street, and we both expressed some sort of relief that we still have time to accomplish something. I mean, frankly I find it kinda hard to even see myself alive at age 30 (is that a weird thing to say?), but this event gave me a bit of hope. It made it slightly easier to see a future ahead of me, one where I could actually contribute something of substance to the world, whatever that may be.

Hm… I forgot to mention a lot of stuff about their conversation, so hopefully some other bloggers will fill in. They’ll probably be a lot more eloquent, too. Ultimately, I was left with a deeply positive impression of Mouly, Satrapi and Ware, and it was really cute to see Satrapi and Ware, in particular, praising each other’s work.

Before I sign off, I have some name-dropping to do. First, as I’d hoped, Art Spiegelman was totally there, sitting in the audience. I was just thrilled to be in the same fucking room as Spiegelman. Second, when I walked outside Skirball, I almost bumped into this person taking a picture of his (her?) friend with… Paul Auster! Can you believe it! Paul Auster was at the event too! I mean, unless he just happened to be walking past the Skirball Center at the very moment the discussion was over and everyone was spilling out onto the street. But I doubt it, especially knowing that his work has been graphic novel-fied, I’m pretty sure he attended the discussion too. Fucking cool. Once again, I love living in New York.

Black Watch @ St. Ann’s Warehouse (Final NYC Performance).

I’ll keep it relatively short. Earlier this evening I went to the last performance of Black Watch, which was playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Paid full price for my tickets, hahaha. For the most part, I loved the location, I think it’s great that they’re using a warehouse as a performance space and the set up was wonderful too. The only thing that sucked was the lack of legroom.

To sum up the play, it’s the story of a unit of Scottish soldiers who were sent to Iraq, and in the span of the play we see their motivations for being in the army, their relationships with one another, and the boredom and shock of being part of a war that they didn’t even start in the first place, among other things. The story is framed as an interview between a researcher looking to write a play about their war experiences–which we can assume became Black Watch–and several soldiers now out of the army.

After the performance my dad told me how he loved it, but would have loved it even more if he knew more English. I think he actually said that he wished he’d understood as much as I did, and I had to fess up and tell him that I couldn’t understand a good portion of the play because of their accents. The combination of a non-American accent plus my damaged hearing meant that I kind of struggled to understand some parts.

Luckily, there was plenty that didn’t rely on dialogue. There was extensive use of video and sound effects, but I absolutely loved how well the actors took advantage of the strip of space (there was no real stage). Really inventive and really well-executed. The choreography was particularly memorable, from the fighting sequence, to this really great sequence where the actors were signing (I’m assuming it was Scottish Sign Language?) the content of the letters they’d received from home. Even the scene where we finally see some casualties was choreographed in the most stylized–but certainly effective–way.

The actors obviously put some serious work into the performance, and I think they can go home satisfied, knowing their last performance went off without a hitch. Or if there were any hitches, I definitely didn’t realize it. I couldn’t tell you what the characters’ names were… it tends to happen with most war-related movies I watch. There’s such a strong element of “unity” that it didn’t seem to matter. All the horrible shit happened to all the characters. They were all stuck in Iraq fighting some stupid war that they hadn’t started in the first place. There’s one scene where two of the characters get really angry at each other so their jefe is like, I’ll give you ten seconds for you to duke it out, and suddenly it becomes this elaborately staged fight sequence where all the actors pair off and they all get into simulated fisticuffs. A really interesting point in the play, by the way, was that they differentiated between fighting and bullying.

Another very strong element was the music. I liked the singing okay, at first it was jarring because there was no hint that they’d burst out singing out of nowhere, but I got over it very quickly because the songs were beautiful. Even better, however, was the music composed specifically for the play. The program I have in my hands says it was written by this dude named Davey Anderson. Really evocative shit, if a little too loud for my fragile ears. I know, I know. I should just stop complaining about it because obviously I live in a loud world that’s not gonna bow down to my lower volume demands. And I must admit that they used dynamics very effectively, too. It’s just that when it got loud, it got MOTHERFUCKIN’ LOUD. Like, all the way to 11. It was stressful.

They warned us about a million times that this was a 2-hour production with no intermission and that if we exited we weren’t allowed back, but the pacing was good and I never felt bored. I didn’t react as strongly as other people at first. Like there were a lot of funny lines but I couldn’t muster up the energy to… well, to LOL. I did enjoy the quips a lot, I think I was just feeling sick (honestly, I’m feeling sicker by the second). But as I got more worn out I guess I opened up more and more to what was unfolding in the play. When the Dude Who Was Clinically Depressed just bugs out on the Researcher Dude, I actually felt a lot of angst for the Depressed Dude. Somehow I got roped into the play emotionally and it didn’t hit me until then that I’d become really invested in these dudes, even if I couldn’t tell them apart into individuals. Strange? Like real life.

As a final and lighthearted note, I want to point out that Rosie Perez was here to watch the play, which now makes it twice that I’ve seen her at the theater. Jesus, I don’t know how I ended up writing so much…

(Very, Very) Old News.

Coño, while looking for my old newspaper pieces, I found out that the CMJ live reviews I wrote last year for Washington Square News don’t credit me anymore. WSN redid their website and reformatted everything, and now my name is nowhere to be found in their blog posts! Anyway, I’m just linking them here for myself, so that it’s easier for me to find them… at least until WSN decides to rework their site again and my shit disappears altogether. Sigh.

Saturday Looks Good to Me and Takka Takka @ CMJ Day Stage on 16 Oct 2007

Oh My Rockness’s “Norway Vs. North America” Showcase @ Knitting Factory on 17 Oct 2007: featuring Golden City, Monomen, Team Robespierre, Ida Maria and We Are Wolves

KEXP Broadcast @ Gibson Ballroom on 18 Oct 2008: featuring Simian Mobile Disco

Def Jux Showcase @ Northsix on 19 Oct 2008: featuring Activator, Junk Science, Despot, Yak Ballz, Cool Calm Pete, Hangar 18, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, El-P and Bigg Jus
(This post is the clearest evidence that, when the website and the blogs were redone, they used my original drafts in these new posts instead of the edited final versions, because at that point Northsix had already changed its name. My editor corrected this when he originally posted my review, whereas here, the mistake stands.)

Justice @ Terminal 5 on 20 Oct 2007: unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the opening band, though I do remember they weren’t much to talk about.

Come On + Get Up.

You know, you hear about how during its brief existence, Rites of Spring would makes dudes weep because they was so fucking intense on stage and shit, and it would kinda make me giggle because nowadays it’s difficult as hell not to feel jaded and to encounter a musical group that can really make you react in such an extreme and honest way, but mostly it makes me feel jealous that people got to experience such a treasure before it fell into the deepest darkest ocean water lost to humankind forever.

So imagine the shock of finding that there are live videos of Rites of Spring on YouTube. And like, how am I supposed to feel? I’m a staunch believer that death should be respected. “Rest in peace” actually means something to me. Part of me thought it was cool that only a few people got to experience the band live, and that once the band imploded, it was over with.  After that, it was all about letting the memories be tainted by time. But the curiosity got the best of me, of course, so I watched a couple of videos anyway, instead of just ignoring it and letting my idea of Rites of Spring remain. I was kinda disappointed by the videos, mostly because of the video/audio quality. Another thing is that Guy Picciotto, who will always and forever be my favorite member of Fugazi, is attached to the guitar in the videos I saw, so he doesn’t just flail and spaz. Y’know. Like, I call it “dancing” but it’s more like he’s shaking off demons or something.

Anyway, the disappointment led me to YouTube more videos of Guy, which led me to videos such as these:

Not gonna lie, I can’t watch them anymore tonight, cos they’re really… getting me hot.  No, really.  I love him for his talent.  Heh.


I forgot to mention that recently I went to see Danny Hoch‘s new play, Taking Over. Danny basically tackles the issue of gentrification in New York by portraying a series of diverse characters. I think the show is worth seeing, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. Before I went to see the play, I read all these articles about it, all of which followed the angle of “Danny Hoch makes upper-class New Yorkers uncomfortable for ruining NYC.” So I got like, really really excited about it, right? Cos I thought he was just gonna tear the audience a new one, you know? I thought he was gonna be really… mean. One of his characters shout out to the audience, at one point, “GET THE FUCK OUT!” which is something that I’ve literally said to at least one person I know.

Needless to say, he wasn’t as vicious as I expected. He was really good at humanizing all the characters, so that even the annoying gentrifiers had some good points about the development of the neighborhood. I thought that, in terms of meanness, this was gonna be like a walkin’, talkin’ version of “We Use Words like Mackadocious,” which is one of the most unforgiving essays I’ve ever read in my life. Though I should clarify that “Mackadocious” is not about gentrification, it’s about… wiggers. And it’s hilarious. You can learn a bit more about it here, if you’re not familiar with it already. Just track down Bomb the Suburbs, I love it that book to pieces.

But back to Taking Over. Even though it didn’t satisfy my schadenfreude craving (I can’t believe I know how to spell that word correctly) by having Danny yell at the rest of the audience in a variety of accents, I did enjoy the play a lot. Oddly enough, my favorite character was the former NYU student selling her DIY wares on the street. The manner of speech was so exaggerated, like every statement was drawn out and said in the sweetest way. It was overdone and yet, it felt just right. It was spooky because I could actually think of at least one girl of whom I was reminded as I watched this segment of the play. And although the girl Danny portrays is supposed to be one of the ~*EVIL GENTRIFIERS*~, she was so sincere you couldn’t hate on her for her ignorance. At least, you couldn’t hate on her too much.

The show ends on December 14, so if you have even an inkling to see the play, you totally should! If anything, it will send your mind reeling on the issue of urban development and class differences.

Also, who the fuck knew that Danny could speak Spanish like a fucking native! Well, I dunno if a real Dominican would be like, “Yeah, he sounds bona fide,” but to me it sounded spotless. God damn!

EDIT: Just got an email telling me the play has been extended to December 21.

WFMU Record Fair 2008.

HOLY SHIT!!!  I OWN THE CHANDRA ALBUM.  To clarify, I did not buy the original Transportation EP.  I bought a rerelease from this new label called Cantor and it actually has 4 extra songs (!!) and comes with this extra booklet with an essay on Chandra Oppenheim and lots of pictures including one that confirms Kate was a real girl!  And I’m like, “Why would Chandra write such a mean song and then fraternize”–sororize?–“with this girl.”  But I’ve watched Mean Girls, so I know all about this frenemy thingamajig…  Anyway, the LP cost me a lot (a lot = $15), but the record was just calling my name.  You know how it is.  First I walked away and figured I’d look at all my options before buying any records, but I only lasted like, 10 minutes before I swung back again and just bought the record.

I talked to the dude who runs the label, Aaron.  I didn’t think to ask him whether he already has distro for this release, which is the first on his label, or if he was ~*DEBUTING*~ the LP at the fair.  He did look like a proud papa holding the record in his hands.  I asked him about Chandra and he told me he’d mostly been in contact with her through email and phone; he’d only met her for the first time very recently, and he also told me that she was still making music.  AWESOME!

I also bought Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, and Roy Orbison’s In Dreams.  I mean I was really conflicted whether I wanted to get Del Shannon’s Runaway or the Roy Orbison, but I finally went with the latter because I wanted to hear his take on “All I Have to Do is Dream.”  Those three album are it, I didn’t have enough money for anymore purchases, which is sad when you consider that these two other albums cost me a total of $11.  I saw this Nikki Giovanni record that looked really cool but I passed on it.

I’m surprised by how much it pains me, but I passed on this Tim Maia record, too.  The dude who owned it was like, “Very good prices!”  But I’d already bought my three records by this point and zapped my dinero so all I could do was grimace in return.  I’ve never even listened to Reencontro, the record in question, but it’s not like you see a mothertouchin’ Tim Maia LP everyday.  Veloso and Jobim and Getz, there was plenty of that shit, but Tim Maia?  Pfft.  I also saw that first Last Poets album and it was $40 but I didn’t have $40 to spare.  That one pains me a bit too, but not as much as the Tim Maia.  Ugh…

When my Token Twee Friend and I got to the fair, DMBQ started a seriously raucous set.  It was pretty right on, at least if you like noise music.

The rest of the fair was really wonderful.  I’d waited for it all year and finally being able to go was just such a great experience.  And getting to buy the Chandra record, I feel like I can die a bit happier now.  Everyone was so friendly.  Some dudes from Wax Poetics were there and they were funny.  Made me like that magazine even more.  The last DJ spinning music at the fair was awesome, he played lots of oldies.  Also, they had some kid come on stage and “sing” “Beat on the Brat” and then he encore’d with “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”  I couldn’t see what the kid looked like but hearing him made me LOL.  It was a great way to end CMJ week.

I have all these things lined up to write about, cool things I’ve done and read and seen and experience, but it always takes me like a year to write one miserable post, it’s ridic.  Maybe I’ll catch up eventually, but not tonight.

Don’t Shush Me.

Déjenme ver:

First, if you’re in NYC this month, check out I Kiffe NY, a cultural festival organized by the French Institute Alliance Française which will take place starting tomorrow, October 6 until October 28. Basically, it focuses on urban culture in France, so they’re highlighting awesome shit like music, film, visual art, and dance performances, along with the requisite scholarly panels for those of you (like me!) who like that shit. A lot of the panels are free! Just make sure to check if they’re in French or English. The dance performances seem really fun, but they’re a bit more expensive, $25. It’s not Broadway prices, but still… you could buy a lot of falafels with $25. They’re organizing a CMJ showcase, too!

Second, I was just on Racialicious and found this post from a week or two ago on an ad that Daddy Yankee did to encourage voting… o algo así. The problem is that the slogan is, to say the least, confusing. “Vota o quédate callado.” I mean, that doesn’t sound like my vote is important or necessary or crucial in influencing anything. Well, the Racialicious folk and Raquel Rivera sum up the ridiculousness of this slogan way better than I could, definitely check out what they have to say.

So let’s talk about the song this guy SieteNueve giving Daddy Yankee shit for his politics. The Racialicious contributor says SieteNueve is a reggaetonero, but from the sound of the song… sooooo not. Which, to me, makes the message of this video even louder. No es solo una batalla entre demócrata contra republicano o lo que sea, también es como una batalla entre rap y reggaetón. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it? Either way, I’m digging the song a lot!

The reason I’m mentioning this even though it was posted a while back is that I haven’t heard much hollering about it. And, well, I love me some drama so I thought I would add fuel to the fire. Besides, I don’t think it’s a song that should be… er, shushed and forgotten.

Another thing: it may be because I’m listening to lightweight shit like “Especially For You” all the time (shut up shut up it’s an awesome song), but this dis track is like, the meanest shit I’ve heard in a while. It might be even meaner than Chandra’s “Kate.”

Haha, no no no. Chandra’s “Kate” takes the cake on mean.

Ian MacKaye + Thurston Moore @ St. Francis College (Brooklyn Book Festival 2008).

Today was the Brooklyn Book Festival and one of the more unexpected panel offerings was a Q & A with Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye.  I’ve already seen Ian speak before and I’ve already seen Sonic Youth live, but I wasn’t gonna pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So I queued up as early as I could to make sure I would get a ticket for this.

Johnny Temple, who used to rock out but now publishes books at Akashic, introduced the two and sat back as people interrogated Ian and Thurston.  Before he gave up the mic, he did state that not a single author at the festival was getting paid to be there, which was amazing to hear, because they had some incredible “gets” (Walter Mosley spoke at the venue right before the Ian & Thurston panel, I saw him exiting the place).  I think only five or six people got a chance to ask questions, mostly because the two dudes had a lot to say.  The introduction by Johnny was really great because he gave out a warning that all panelists should give out at Q & A sessions: don’t ask stupid questions.  Johnny Temple reminded us that Thurston and Ian have been interviewed a gazillion times, so if we had any basic questions we should just Google the information.  I was pleasantly surprised by the level of questioning from the crowd, which mostly consisted of younger (college age?) people.  I just wanna give props to all the people who got a chance to ask questions because they were great.  Even though we were at a book festival, they understandably asked a lot about music and business, like about the “pay what you want” model à la Radiohead, or how bands these days are quick to align themselves with corporate brands that have nothing to do with music in the first place.

Even before anyone asked any questions, Ian just had to rant about how we shouldn’t use Google as a verb and speak of personal music-listening devices instead of iPods and to stop talking about YouTube and refer to them as video streaming websites.  He was crazy serious and he absolutely had a point that we shouldn’t use brand names so mindlessly but I couldn’t stop laughing because before the panel started, my friends and I jokingly bet that Ian would talk more (moore??) than Thurston.

But Thurston got his say, too, such as when he declared his fetishistic love for LP records, and how he and Steve Shelley have had plenty of arguments whether to “sell out” their music for products that are totally unrelated to music.

Above all, I thought Thurston and Ian were hilarious as a pair, in a comedy duo kind of sense. Just picture them.  There’s this one really tall dude with floppy hair and another kinda short dude with hardly any hair. Ian definitely played the straight man, carefully considering the questions posed and giving long answers with lots of anecdotes, while Thurston mostly sat back and looked cool, offering occasional witty comments.

As Ian is wont to do, he told stories about when he was younger and he did so very eloquently.  He spoke of the shock of hearing a mix tape for the first time, how it had never occurred to him that an(y) individual could choose which songs to put into a tape and even draw a little cover for it.  The weird thing is that this story veered into how the person who showed him this mixed tape was some druggy European dude who was a friend of a friend (or something) and how Ian had met said druggy European dude on a ride to see the Ramones in New Haven in 1979.

“What year did you say it was?” Thurston asked him.
“Dude, I was there!”

Those are not direct quotes.  There was this whole exchange with Thurston asking whether Ian did coke with the druggy European dude and Ian bursting out with a resounding HELL NO.  Thurston said he didn’t remember Ian at the Ramones show, but that he sure remembered Ian’s druggy European friend, haha.  I’m not sure if Thurston was just pulling Ian’s leg about being at that Ramones show.  This suspicion was exacerbated by the fact that, nearing the end of the hour-long discussion, when they seemed to forget about the Q & A and just started throwing out respectfully bromantic comments at each other, Thurston spoke about one of the first times (the first time?) he met Ian.  Sonic Youth were playing at the 100 Club in London and Ian was just chillin’ in the audience and then Thurston approached him and was all like, “Yo wassup” and they started talking and how all of a sudden Nick Cave made an entrance and Ian* was “three sheets to the wind” and started bugging out about Nick Cave being in da house and la la la (here Thurston began a priceless impersonation of Nick Cave, except I was laughing too hard to be paying close attention)–which prompted Ian to reply with “That is such a lie!!”  And then Ian started talking about how it wasn’t the first time that Thurston had lied about Ian, except by that point I had completely lost it with the unexpected Nick Cave cameo in Thurston’s anecdote.  When I left the auditorium I was still howling with absolute joy.

To be hyperbolic about the whole shebang: this was one of the most rewarding hours I’ve spent in my life, if only because it was bitchin’ humid outside and it was so delightful to spend it with Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore in an air-conditioned auditorium with pretty sweet acoustics that allowed everyone to ask questions clearly without a mic.

I’m sure some of those present will read this and say “This is a completely inaccurate breakdown of the event” and I agree.  I didn’t take notes on purpose because I imagined it would be one of those wonderful experiences that I’ll allow to become tainted in my memory with the passage of time.

The rest of the festival, minus the insufferable weather, was fun, too.  Somehow I ended up subscribing to The Dirty Goat, a lit mag that features a lot of non-American authors both in their original language and in translation.  At least… I hope they send me the issues.  I paid good money for the subscription, haha.

EDIT: The One Story posse was at the festival, too, and they just posted a story that various passersby wrote collectively.  It’s kinda sorta hilarious.  I really wanted to get a subscription to One Story but I had to resist their allure because I was short on dinero.  I’d ask my parents to buy me a subscription, but I’m planning to ask them for new bookshelves as a combination birthday/Christmas present this year, and that’s already asking for too much.

* ANOTHER EDIT: Ah shit, my token 90s friend told me that Thurston was referring to Nick Cave as “three sheets to the wind,” which makes a lot more sense.

Estoy Aquí.

Hi. It’s been a while.

In case you cared, and I’m sure you don’t, I did go see Kinky for my very first time a few weeks ago. I had this whole post about how much I loved the entire afternoon, from Pistolera to Mariachi Real de Mexico to el Instituto Mexicano del Sonido to Kinky. I was wrong about my guess in the previous post; IMS did not DJ the show and instead played a solid set with his band and it was wonderful. At one point they did a real 1-2-3 punch going from “Para no vivir desesperado” to “Mirando a las muchachas” to “Hip hop no pares.” They’re my favorite songs of his so I was ecstatic.

Well, I scrapped that whole long post because all those silly little details aren’t crucial, what matters is that I was watching Kinky from the back, and I saw how strongly people reacted to their set, and I really had one of those moments where I thought, “Why am I not doing something like this? I could do it!” I don’t mean to say that Kinky were so sub-par that I thought I could do better. But I did wonder what stops me from making music while other people just get up and do everything they can to make music. Siiigh. You know what they say: those who can’t, blog.

Last night I went to a free screening of Velvet Goldmine at McCarren. It was fun. There were a few technical snags which were annoying as hell, but for the most part, I had a good time. I feel like I giggled through the entire movie. At first it didn’t seem like there were gonna be a lot of people but when the movie ended and I looked back at the crowd, I was surprised! I also thought there would be a big queer contingent dominating the crowd, but there was a strong mix of people to see the movie. Either way, I’m glad there’s so many people who dig the movie.

I leave you with a real gem I found on YouTube. Absolutely glorious.

A Day in the Park.

Oh guck!  I mean, oh fuck!  Alejandro Escovedo had to cancel his appearance at SummerStage tomorrow so he’s been replaced by el Instituto Mexicano del Sonido and Mariachi Real de Mexico!  I’m sorry to be so happy about this change, but I’ve wanted to see IMS live forever and missed every chance.  I’m mad excited about this!  However, it sucks Escovedo had to cancel due to illness, hope he gets better soon.

I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that IMS will be DJing throughout the afternoon.  The Central Park folk run a tight ship in terms of scheduling, so I’m sure it’ll be like the Jamie Lidell show with three performances and a DJ playing between sets.

This video makes me so happy.

Jamie Lidell, Janelle Monáe, etc @ Central Park SummerStage.

Fui a Central Park pa’ ver el concierto de Jamie Lidell, Janelle Monáe, Little Jackie, José James, y el “dejota” Gilles Peterson. The concert was really loud. I know I keep saying that about every concert or movie I attend, but it just stresses me out. I also hate seeing so many kids running around at these things without any earplugs or headphones on; they’re gonna ruin their hearing like that. For some reason it makes me want to punch their parents, which is a pretty unfair statement because it’s hard enough to be a parent without having some childless douchebag blogger talk shit about you on the internets cos you forgot to cover your kids ears’ at one measly loud show. ANYWAY.

Janelle Monáe totally stole the show today, no offense to el señor Lidell. I think the best non-musical part of her set was when she took the time to tuck her hair back in place. I don’t know how she gets her hair like that, but basically in pictures it always looks impeccable. During the first song I thought it might be frozen in place, but girlfriend shakes it like a Polaroid picture (yay for 5-year-old pop culture references) so her pretty hair got all messed up. Bee tee dubs, Janelle is mad flaquita, it’s true. Like when she would stand in profile she would disappear cos she was so skinny. Nah, nah, I’m just playin’.

I should really talk about her music, right? Okay, well, it was fucking awesome. It was my first time being exposed to her and I’m tellin’ y’all, I’ve caught the virus!! Especially cos you’re like, “Oh, she just crazy, doin’ moves she learned at the James Brown School of Rock, blah blah,” pero then she busts out Chaplin’s “Smile” and you’re like… “Oh, hi. I love you.” [In Oprah voice:] She can siiiiiiing, y’all!!! Monáe really stands out because production-wise, she’s not part of that retro female army that seems to have cropped up post-Amy Winehouse‘s success. Instead, she talks about robots and shit, and is more forward-sounding too. It’s like the “All is Full of Love” robots come to life and singing about their experiences.

Dude, her band was cool, too. What was up with the one dude who was dressed like he was ready to go golfing? He was just pushin’ buttons and shit, but he was so happy to be there, and he knew every word to her songs.

I was kinda offended cos Little Jackie went on after la señorita Monáe. I don’t mean to dis cos I’ve only heard their one single, “The World Should Revolve Around Me,” but come on, Monáe has been hyped so much and she is obviously (1) a fantastic performer and (2) a more interesting musician. Pffft. I held my final judgment until the set ended, but after seeing their set, I couldn’t take the band too seriously. On record, the single is flawed but catchy, but live, it was much more underwhelming. I feel sorry for them. If they’d been stuck with a more lackluster lineup, they might have had a greater effect on me. It’s not that the group didn’t try. The one thing they had was good stage presence. I liked that they had their whole act down, like how the backup vocalists pulled out a lot of girl group moves that were really charming. But if you think about it, there were like six or seven people on stage, and the performance was pretty mild compared to some other musical acts I’ve seen. At first everyone was enthusiastic and still reeling from that high of having witnessed Janelle Monáe do her thing, but as Little Jackie’s set continued, less people seemed invested in cheering on the group. It didn’t help that they have a song titled “LOL,” which had so much more potential to be hilarious, but they delivered it with straight faces.

Having heard the other groups, it was interesting to notice how hard Lidell’s band rocks. I mean, not when he was alone on stage buggin’ out and doing all the crazy electronic shit, but when he’s with the other four awesome dudes in his group, la música suena muy rocanrol. It makes an interesting counterpoint to the vocals which are so much more soul-based. The arrangements reminded me of early rock music. Am I making sense? Whatever.

So Lidell was dressed like mofuckin’ matador, the bassist/guitarist looked like a parachuting Elvis, the sax-y dude was in a robe, the drummer was dressed in all green which reminded me of Peter Pan, and the keyboardist… actually, the keyboardist looked like a regular civilian. It was nice to find out this music works well in sunshine. Just puts a smile to your face, y’know? Lidell’s voice was in tip-top shape. The performance was enthusiastic and fun, and people were very receptive, though I think he would have benefited from a smaller crowd. Even Lidell had to give props to Janelle. (Earlier, he actually watched her entire performance and he just had a goofy smile on the entire time. He was so tickled by her act.) I think the phrase he used was, “That’s the craziest shit I’ve seen in a long time,” but mind you, that’s no direct quote.

I did see the opener, Jose James, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying too much attention. He seemed like he was all feel-good vibes yesterday. I don’t really get jazz, so I don’t know if he was “good” or “bad,” but part of me thinks that if he really stood out he would have caught my attention. Is this a fair statement?

And about the DJ, Gilles Peterson… it was a good set, although my music taste doesn’t jive too much with his. Biggest surprise: he mixed Violeta Parra‘s “Arauco tiene una pena” with some really hard techno beat. I was perplexed by the choice. Luckily, he redeemed himself by following the song with “A Message to You, Rudy.”

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

Get ready for a longass post. I know that in the blogosphere, timeliness is next to godliness, but y’all gotta understand my modem died in the ass on the 23rd and it took me a while to get back on track. Believe you me, I was überpissed that my modem died only after two months.

But part of me is really glad, because on the 23rd I went to a free panel for the NYILFF on this movie that, until the day of the panel, was titled Humboldt Park. Now it’s called… something really generic and forgettable with the word “holidays” in the title. I really enjoyed myself at the panel, mind you; the cast members present were Freddy Rodríguez, Luis Guzmán (!!), Melonie Diaz and Vanessa Ferlito. They were all really nice, and the cool thing about the footage was that they really did seem like this big, fun family which warmed my crooked little heart. Half the panel focused on the making of the film and the other half was a Q&A that veered a lot more into Latinos & the film industry in general. But I felt funny listening to the filmmakers. I’m not trynna sound like some punkass kid who’s all “FUCK THE SYSTEM,” but I felt like they were pandering too much to what the studios want. The filmmakers seemed really eager to please a wide audience (por ejemplo, the title change was, apparently, because Humboldt Park “wasn’t testing well”) and although that’s a noble pursuit, you can’t be all things to all people, so I wasn’t sure how to receive this information. More than anything, I ended up feeling worried.

The whole conversation was kinda getting me down, PERO. Then they talked about an upcoming project that I pray will not end up in some sort of development hell. The words “Puerto Rican City of God” actually escaped their lips a number of times. Holy shit. It’s gonna be based on that Tego song, “Julito Maraña.” They said the script was a beautiful mess of 160 mofuckin’ pages. That’s a shitload of pages, y’all. It’s actually gonna be filmed in the Puerto Rican ghetto, too. I don’t know where this area is but I inferred that it’s an area headed by a drug lord, and he actually gave his blessing for this movie to be filmed. They haven’t started filming though, they’re probably still working out all the pre-production shit.

I know we should be moving away from the sort of movie that makes it seem like Latin America is nothing but a destitute shithole filled with violence and pain and corruption, but I dunno… if it’s done well (I fucking hope it’s done well) and there’s true artistry involved, I think this sort of story is worth being seen.

On the 24, I went to the Public Theater to see a new play called Tío Pepe, which was part of the Public’s Summer Play Festival. I knew it was going to be a modest affair, but I had no idea that all the tickets for the play’s week-long run were already sold out. They told me I could get on a waitlist for the matinee, and since I didn’t have other plans, I told them I was game. I was the fourth person on the list and some of the people were requesting multiple tickets, but I totally lucked out and got a ticket!

I’m so glad I got in, because the play totally exceeded my expectations. Just goes to show that, even though this work is by an up-and-coming playwright, Matthew Lopez, the Public definitely produces quality shit. It had a cast of five and, although I don’t claim to be an expert, they were all really wonderful except that a couple of them had really really terrible accents. I mean that it was very obvious they’d grown up here or had lived here since infancy and that they mainly spoke English. But that’s okay, generally their delivery was really good and believable and fun.

The script was pretty good, too, lots of laughs and it was really a great way to deal with issues of escapism and self-delusion, among other things. When I found out the reason for the play’s title, I was like, “Ooh, this is really juicy info.” The other thing is that it was totally sincere about its appreciation of old school musicals. The matriarch of the family, played by April Ortiz, got to sing a bit and she had a great, booming voice. I hope this play can move up to longer runs or bigger venues. It would be a pity to just let it die.

Oh my god, and the actor playing Alejandro, the son who wasted all of his potential, was sooo fiiiiine. He’s some dude named Nathaniel Mendez, and his bio was short as hell–he doesn’t even have a Law & Order credit (yet). What is this kid doing with himself? Okay, maybe it’s because he’s not a New Yorker or something? I was shocked by the short bio, to be frank, because he was so good in the play. Hope he gets more work.

That same evening I went to see Estilo Hip Hop. Last year, I went to a screening of Raquel Cepeda‘s Bling: A Planet Rock, and they showed a preview of Estilo Hip Hop. At that point the filmmakers, Vee Bravo and Loira Limbal, were still seeking financing and were working on their footage. They showed us like 15 minutes, and I’m telling you, that after seeing the final product on the 24th, only two or three of those minutes made it into the 1-hour movie. I do remember them last year expressing their ambition to do a far more extensive project with exposure to more countries, but in the final product they focused on rappers from three countries, Brasil, Chile, and Cuba.

The screening was fucking rowdy as hell. The doc was awesome, I wish it hadn’t been just an hour. The doc doesn’t just focus on hip-hop in Latin America, it also focuses on the real activism that hip-hop has inspired, which I thought was fucking rad. The music was great, too. As ex-Prisionero (and current Updater) Jorge González said in an interview about Chilean hip-hop: “Chile es un extraño caso en el que el hip hop no pasa por los Beastie Boys, sino por De La Soul.” Loosely, “Chile’s a strange case in that hip-hop is influenced not by the Beastie Boys, but by De La Soul.” Don’t worry if you missed out on Estilo Hip Hop in Nueva York, though! Vee and Loira said the movie’s gonna air on PBS in Spring 2009.

As I noted in my overly emotional way last Friday the 25, I had wack first time at the Quad, what with the screening of Stellet Licht (Luz silenciosa) fucking up and all. As luck would have it, El Guincho cancelled all his US shows (visa issues?), which meant he couldn’t do his show at the Seaport. So Friday was just filled with disappointment. The bigger slap in the face is that they were replaced by some Brooklyn indie band. C’mon, those are a dime a dozen. I mean, yeah, the band was okay, but what makes them stand out? I was pleasantly surprised, however, to hear Atlas Sound for the first time. The tourists and other passersby didn’t give a shit, but I thought the music was good. Pop-y just the way I like it, and kinda ethereal in certain parts, too. I wonder what Deerhunter sound like.

On Saturday the 26 I went to see Malta con huevo, which isn’t ~*QUALITY*~ shit, but it still made me giggle. There were like ten of us in this hugeass auditorium, which in itself was totally hilarious. I think my favorite thing about it is the tone and how it changes from the first half to the second, but I also dig the structure of the story.

This past week I wasn’t up to much. I’m still getting used to having cable for the first time since, um, 1995. And that was cable in fucking Chile, too. I’m totally fascinated in how useless it is. (We got the service so my parents could watch Korean-language channels.) We don’t get any of the expensive channels but I was still shocked that there’s really no profanity allowed on cable. I think the bestest thing about having cable is that they show Law & Order all the time, and I’m totally addicted to the entire franchise, it’s true.

I found the Criterion Collection DVD of La haine at the library (thank heavens, cos I didn’t want to spend the money on it without seeing what was in it) and I have decided that Mathieu Kassovitz is the most handsome director in France. Also, fashion aside, the themes in the movie are still remarkably relevant. It was weird hearing the director’s commentary, though, because it was done before Sarkozy was elected, and Kassovitz is very vocal about not being a fan of the dude. But I’m still glad I listened to it, because I did get a better sense of how these kids’ lives are turned upside down in a mere 24 hours. It was cool because he also mentioned that he was on Charlie Rose, so I tracked down the interview and it was great!  It was a relief to see that Kassovitz hasn’t always had a great accent in English–when I heard how well he spoke English on the DVD, I was kinda shocked and wondered if this man was perfect.  I’m glad to see that he is human after all, and that he had to learn not to sound like the stereotypical French person speaking English. You can see the interview here. I also loved hearing on the commentary that Jodie Foster sent a copy of the movie to fucking Scorsese, imagine how Vincent Cassel felt about this? He musta pissed his pants…

I also watched American Psycho and it was pretty fucked up but I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s just that when a part was funny, it was really fucking funny. Like that whole sequence with all those interchangeable yuppies comparing their business cards… it was delightful to watch. It was exciting to find out that it was directed by a woman, just because there aren’t enough female movie directors anyway. I’m glad I heard the director’s commentary for this movie, too, just because it helped me understand and interpret Patrick Bateman a little better.

I’ve been reading a bit, too, if you would call it that. I read Agota Kristof‘s The Notebook, which had its share of disturbing moments, but the narration was incredibly and consistently well-done and the story culminated to a satisfyingly fucked up ending. In addition, I finished The Left Bank Gang and The Living And The Dead by the Norwegian comic book wonderboy that is Jason. I was pretty “meh” about The Living And The Dead, but I thought The Left Bank Gang was fucking awesome. I finally read The Rabbi’s Cat, too. Damn, I totally forgot that Joann Sfar is a dude, so you can imagine my surprise when I read the “about the author” bit in the inside cover of the book. I read Sfar’s The Professor’s Daughter which I thought was too brief and not substantial enough, but thankfully The Rabbi’s Cat did not disappoint. The story was lovely, especially because I don’t know much about the Jewish culture in North Africa, and I also loved Sfar’s artwork. Can’t wait to read the second part.

I also read a couple of essays from this book called Beyond Babar, which is about children’s literature in Europe. The only reason I picked it up at the library is because one of the essays was about Christine Nöstlinger‘s Konrad, which was one of my faves as a kid. There was also one on The Neverending Story and how it’s ~*TOTALLY META*~ in a way that the films could never capture. (Would have been cool to read an in-depth discussion on Michael Ende‘s Momo, too.) It was a cool book with a lot of discussion on translation.

I’m excited about this month. I’m gonna go see Janelle Monáe and Jamie Lidell at Central Park mañana (¡¡es gratis!!), and I’m gonna spend a lot of time at MoMA watching Coen Bros movies. They’re having a marathon! Also, next week, the Fordham University Theater peeps are staging a version of The Martian Chronicles with mofucking puppets, and the tickets are pretty cheap, too, so I’m gonna try and check out the production. Good shit all around.

To Catch You Up.

Here are some things I’ve done or gone to in the past two weeks and haven’t written about:

On July 10 I went to a DJ Showcase at SOB’s (for LAMC) where I saw DJ Raff for the first time! I didn’t stay the entire night and I lost track of the many DJs, but I’m pretty sure I also saw Gregzinho spin cos he was the one who played a lot of Brazilian funk. It took me a while to loosen up, but once I did, I had a lot of fun.

On July 11, I went to my last day at work after only four hours of sleep, and then after work I ran over to the Park Avenue Armory to see Die Soldaten. (History on this opera here.) I wrote this whole spiel about my experience but fuck that. Basically, I dozed off several times in the second half of the production because I was tired, and I’m not an opera expert, but that was a disappointing experience. I spent a lot of money for my ticket and the storyline was another iteration of the fucking “fallen woman” storyline and I didn’t care to be emotionally attached to any of the characters. I didn’t “get” the music, mostly because it wasn’t exactly melodic shit, BUT I do commend the conductor and the musicians for the solid execution. The technical aspects of the opera, too, were absolutely brilliant, but who cares about that stuff when the story and the music don’t grab you, right?

On July 17, I went to see Junot Díaz for a Central Park SummerStage event. He took part in a reading, Q + A, and a roundtable discussion with Aleksandar Hemon and Saskia Sassen. Sassen is a scholar and not a fiction writer, so her approach to the works of Díaz and Hemon was interesting. Most of the crowd was there for Junot and I felt bad for Hemon, whose work deals a lot with his Bosnian identity and roots. Weird shit: both Junot and Sasha are bald and wear glasses. [Cue eerie music.] It was a beautiful night in the park and good to hear them. Didn’t know that Sasha existed so it would be cool to check out his stuff. The questions were mostly sucky but there were a number of interesting answers, so I was really happy with how the evening turned out, and I hope the Central Park folk add more readings and literary events next summer.

On July 19, I literally forgot about Siren and instead I ran over to the Belasco Theater on Broadway because I heard Passing Strange was closing the next day AND because I heard that the July 19 performances were going to be filmed by SPIKE MOFUCKIN LEE. And yes, I totally saw him walking around the theater! I also saw S. Epatha Merkerson (y’know, the tough NYPD lady on L&O) and Rosie Perez in the theater. That was way cool, but you know what was fucking cooler? Passing Strange. Holy shit, that show was beautiful. I refused to give Die Soldaten an ovation (I’m stingy with my ovations) but I gave one to Passing Strange. I’m gonna remember my experience forever. That show was so well-written and it’s such a pity that it had to close, especially considering that shows such as The Little Mermaid and Grease are still running. Tch. Broadway is pretty much a joke except for the rare times it gets shit right. Sometimes I couldn’t even understand the lyrics but the music seriously rocked–I have admittedly listened to the Spring Awakening soundtrack multiple times, but that shit does not even compare to how hard the music rocked at this show. The humor, especially the meta shit, was absolutely divine. Can you believe my luck, too? I got to the box office two hours prior to the show, paid $27 for my ticket and got an orchestra seat. Not to be overly dramatic but… okay, let’s be overly dramatic: I feel like Somebody’s watching over me, man.

On July 20, I braved the brutal heat and went to see Liars for the first time in like, five years. In these past five years, the band has grown beautifully and they’re one of the few New York bands that have not disappointed me. The set was solid, and I was feeling woozy. (I was actually dehydrated, I’m sure.) And who knew they had a fourth person live! I didn’t. Seriously, excellent set, though it was kinda weird seeing them in the daytime. A lot of their shit sounds way too spooky and is better suited for the nighttime.

Yesterday I went to see The Dark Knight. I don’t know why the dude sitting next to me sat next to me but we had fun together. I mean, I liked hearing his reaction to the movie and I think he was tickled by how I reacted to the movie; we weren’t completely quiet about how we felt… I was kinda disappointed with the trailers they showed, I thought they’d go for more awards season fare but they went for the action trailers instead. Saw a Watchmen trailer and… I was lukewarm about it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not familiar enough with the comic. But I felt kinda bummed to see the March release date, which to me is bad news. (HEY! REMEMBER WHEN 10,000 BC WAS RELEASED IN MARCH? LOL) I really really hope I’m wrong about that. Er, anyway, The Dark Knight was fucking awesome; in particular, I’m awed by the script. I actually felt confused during a couple of big action sequences and at times even zoned out, but I was totally at the edge of my seat during the Superevil-Nemesis-Explains-It-All bits. Not that I’m always into a lot of talk-y shit, but the way it was written and laid out was really compelling to me. I think I’ll go see the movie again. One complaint: the theater turned up the volume to eleven and it seriously hurt my ears. It’s one thing for my ears to be damaged from constant concert-going, but the c’mon, they should feel safer at the fucking movies!!

In the next few days, I’m gonna try to catch some movies at the New York International Latino Film Festival, which started yesterday and ends on Sunday July 27, and the Hola Mexico Film Festival, which begins today and will also end on the 27.

Deerhoof + Metropolis Ensemble @ Celebrate Brooklyn.

To The Kid I Yelled At For Standing On His Seat At The Beginning Of The Deerhoof Set:

I know I was cranky at you and it sucks to be yelled at, but I seriously appreciate that you listened and got off your seat. I know we were all there for the music and that seeing the band isn’t as crucial, but come on, if I hadn’t wanted to see the Deerhoofers, I could have stayed home and just listened to my CDs, right? And even though they were so distant and tiny, I really loved being able to see them instead of spending the entire hour they were on stage staring at your derrière. Honestly, I don’t know what you were hollerin’ at me for, about how you couldn’t see them well, cos after you got off the seat, I saw you record plenty of video footage without any problems. But yeah, seriously, thank you so much for actually stepping down from your seat.

Stay fresh,
Elizabeth U.

Welllll. The Metropolis Ensemble were pretty cool. I wasn’t too hot on the first piece, which to my ears, meandered too much without a proper anchor. The soprano, Hila Plitmann, was seriously talented, her voice captured every subtlety well, but I was mad spooked when she started this spoken part. I dunno, for some reason it gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The first piece was no comparison to the ensemble’s reinterpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Giving it a more electronic spin was cool. All right, so I wasn’t scandalized the way people were back in the early 20th century. And there were certain points when I was like, “This sounds like a soundtrack to a sci-fi movie made in the 70s or 80s.” (Where all my theremins at, right??) Pero, when it came down to it, the ensemble was totally rockin’ that shit. Real badass.

Deerhoof were absolutely lovely. I didn’t know a lot of the songs and assumed they played a lot of new shit, though after a few unfamiliar songs I panicked and was like, “What if they’re just old songs I’m not familiar with?!?!” Truth is, I only own like two of their albums; I’ve heard like three or four of them in their entirety and they’re mad prolific so who knows what I’m been missing!! They might have played old stuff, though I doubt it. The newer stuff, for some reason, sounded more melancholic to my ears. They played some great older shit, but c’mon, they didn’t even do “Panda Panda Panda.” I know “Running Thoughts” would be asking for too much, but why not “Panda Panda Panda”?? Inquiring minds wanna know.

Yo, Greg Saunier is crazy. He went up to the mic a couple of times and was Paula Abdul-level incoherent, though he managed to inform us we could pick up free sheet music for their first Offend Maggie single, “Fresh Born,” at the Celebrate Brooklyn booth. All the fanboys were geeking. There was one kid who was dancing so intensely he was like, having seizures. Imagine how crazy he dances when he’s alone in his room?!?! Anyways, Greg is fucking awesome, it’s like his inner rhythm machine has only three settings, Supersoft, Hard and SUPERFUCKINGHARD. It didn’t dawn on me until today that the reason he looks so huge at the drums is not just because he’s damn tall, it’s also because the kit hardly has any pieces. Maybe like three pieces… I mean, Nick Andopolis would laugh his ass off at Greg’s kit, y’know what I’m sayin’? The other thing that I realized is that as jerky and out of control he might seem, Greg is totally right on when it comes to keeping time. Dude’s brilliant.

Oh my god, and since when are there four ‘hoofies again? I totally haven’t kept up since Friend Opportunity kinda disappointed. So that was a surprise. New guy didn’t say much, everyone else said thanks and stuff like that. Hilarious, cos the mic is at Satomi’s level and John and Greg had to crouch down a lot to speak into it. Man, I can’t wait to see this band again.

Julieta Venegas, Plastilina Mosh + DJ Bitman @ Central Park SummerStage.

Went to Central Park today to see DJ Bitman, Plastilina Mosh, and Julieta Venegas. I got there 30 minutes before the show started, which was stupid of me. I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t gonna get in, but I woulda had a better spot if I hadn’t had issues with the trains. Thirty minutes before a SummerStage show is cutting it too close, especially when it’s a big fucking deal like Julieta Venegas, y’know? La próxima vez tendré más cuidado.

Can I tell you something hilarious? I totally forgot that DJ Raff was gonna play with DJ Bitman. I was so stoked to see him on stage, for real. Big step for him and for Bitman, and I’m so happy for them. I don’t know Bitman’s material too well but it was cool to hear him spinnin’, especially cos they did Raff’s “Latin ’n’ Proud.”

Weird, on the hard copy version of the SummerStage program, it says, “Chilean musical veteran DJ Bitman a.k.a. Jose Antonio Bravo (of legendary group Los Tres)…” I heard a huge record scratch sound in my head, y’know? I was like, HOLD UP. Los Tres?? I don’t know what the source for this bio was (the one on the SummerStage website is accurate), but it’s like, if he had really been in Los Tres, I sure woulda heard about it. And I probably would have paid more attention to him, because Los Tres are fucking awesome. I’ve checked out some other sources and none of them even mention that.

Anyway, it was a good set, very hip-hop heavy. They had a rapper with them, he seemed really nice, had a decent flow but mostly a chill vibe. Oh, and for one of the songs, this pale little flaquita with the shortest mini-skirt evz came out and I was confused and realized that it was Francisca Valenzuela. She did her thing and immediately disappeared. I can’t even remember what she sang, I had my earplugs on (and thank the lord cos shit was mad loud) and on top of that, her fucking mic was too low. Actually, during Bitman’s set there were major mic issues. Like sometimes Bitman would wanna say some stuff to hype up the crowd or say thanks, and they wouldn’t turn on the mic for him. Goddamn. The sound people should pay closer attention!! That’s actually why I didn’t catch the rapper’s name, but I think someone said he was venezolano? Will have to verify.

Plastilina Mosh were a surprise for me. I’m not too familiar with them and I expected them to be not unlike Bitman and Raff, just a lot of electronic stuff, so imagine how I felt when a full-on band showed up on stage. Yes, there was a keyboardist and a laptop DJ, but also two fellas mainly on guitar, a main vocalist/guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. The drummer was a woman! That was fucking exciting, you don’t see many female drummer bumming around, you know? She was really good, too. For some reason they were all dressed as if they were in different bands, which made me LOL a little. They had great energy and it was actually really cool to see that they were muy rocanrol.

They did, however, lose me around the time they did their “we don’t really know how to reggae but here’s our attempt at reggae” song, mostly cos in my less-than-knowledgeable ears, it didn’t sound very reggae and even worse, it was kind of too slow to be playing during a hot summer day. And this slump dragged on for like three songs before the good vibes picked up again. They covered “Viva Las Vegas.” They also did this really catchy song that they dedicated to all the ladies, which was really great until they started going “Me so horny/love me long time,” which are phrases that just make me really uncomfortable.

Y qué digo sobre Julieta. Let’s start with the superficial stuff: I think she’s better-looking in person, which is incredible because whenever I’ve seen pics or video footage of her, I’ve always been captivated by how pretty she is.

I know I must sound demanding but her set was a mixed bag for me. It was way too short, for one thing, and that made me wish Plastilina hadn’t gone on for so long. Second, it was very heavy on newer material, like from the past year or so. Now, I absolutely LOVED “Primer día” and “Eres para mí,” but I’m not that big a fan of Limón y sal. I mean, I sang along to “Me voy” and “Limón y sal,” but c’mon… they’re pretty weak pop songs by Julieta standards. Also, she did the rap part to “Eres para mí,” and I almost fainted from the shock, just cos I’m so used to Anita Tijoux rockin’ the mic at that point. This live version was fierce though!! The songs included “Lento,” “Algo está cambiando” and “Andar conmigo,” which I’m not complaining about. It just would have been nice to hear some of the lesser known stuff, like “A tu lado.” ALSO! She did “De mis pasos” which is such a badass song and the live arrangement for it was awesome. Seriously, one of the best pieces she’s ever written and I’m glad she still keeps it in her repertoire.

Julieta was backed by fourteen other musicians! There was a string quartet, a 4-person horn section, and some percussionists, as well as a regular band. They were supercool, plus they all seemed to be having fun which made me happy. And she played on guitar, keys, and (the crowd favorite!!) her accordion, though half the time I think she just sang.

I think the best thing about this lineup was that they’re all acts that have been around a while. They were all very polished and professional and got through the minor technical difficulties that appeared on occasion with a smile. Not only that, the fact that these acts have been doing their thing for a “long” time meant that they were all comfortable and had a great connection which really helped the vibe. I will say that this wasn’t my best experience at the LAMC show for SummerStage but I definitely enjoyed it for what it was. In part I was a bit upset with some of the crowd, but I don’t wanna get into it because I don’t have the energy to get mad. I dealt with it as I could. And believe me, when the announcer peeps came up and mentioned how many people had to be turned away, I was definitely grateful that I got a chance to see all these musicians.