Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pearl Jam wins website fight

The National Arbitration Forum announced today that a ruling has been issued in favor of Pearl Jam regarding the rights to pearljams.com.

Pearl Jam filed a complaint electronically with the National Arbitration Forum on November 8, 2005, asserting legal rights to the domain name pearljams.com. The address was registered with Domain Systems, Inc. by the Respondent, Vertical Axis, Inc. c/o Domain Administrator, on August 25, 2005. The panel found that the domain was being used without permission to refer Internet users to a variety of commercial web sites unrelated to Pearl Jam, including links to "Sponsored Results for Eddie Vedder," "Eddie Vedder at Amazon.com, Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder-$9.99 and Eddie Vedder on Yahoo!Music," and, later, to categorized links, including links to "Freshwater Pearl," "Jam," and "Eddie Vedder," as well as "chess" "music,"
"Fischer," "ICC," and "Blitz."

Ruling in Pearl Jam's favor, National Arbitration Forum arbitrator Bruce E. Meyerson concluded that pearljams.com was "confusingly similar" to the PEARL JAM trademark, which was registered on August 15, 1995 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Meyerson also found that Vertical Axis, Inc. did not have legitimate rights to, or interest in, the disputed Web address, and was using the address in bad faith for its own commercial gain.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gary Glitter reportedly pays off accuser families

Anyone who watches sports has heard his tune Rock and Roll Part II - better know as the "Hey" song. You know it - doot dooo...da doot da doo - Hey! The song has appeared in a commercial for Starbucks and numerous soundtracks, including Any Given Sunday (1999), The Replacements (2000), Sugar & Spice (2001), Small Soldiers (1998), The Longest Yard (2005), Moonlight Mile (2002), and Bedazzled (2000). One would think Gary Glitter has made a few bucks off this one.

Now, he's reportedly parting with some of that cash. He's been said to have paid the families of two teenage girls in Vietnam who accused him of having sex with the children.

This story coincides with reports that the Vietnamese police have dropped the rape charges against Glitter. If true, he's no doubt humming a familiar tune. Of course, any celebration may be premature as he may still be facing legal jeopardy for lewd conduct with minors.

Wolf Creek

by Rob Dunne

Take the affable Aussie charm of Mick Dundee and combine it with the psychotic disposition of Hannibal Lector. And hey presto! You have the bad guy from Wolf Creek. This psycho certainly stands out as memorable within the genre.

The story opens predictably. Captions tell us that the story is based on true events. Then we meet the happy-go-lucky youths driving a beat up car in the middle of nowhere. Except the setting this time, instead of American Hicksville, is the Australian outback.

The kids are off to see Wolf Creek - the secluded site of a massive meteor crater. Considering the freaks they meet at a bar in Emu Creek (far less sinister sounding) on the way, you have to wonder why the hell they want to check out Wolf Creek at all. I had the same reaction when the lawyer decided to seek refuge with his family in "Cape Fear" (tempting fate just a little).

In any case, they arrive at Wolf Creek and their car breaks down (shocker). In the dead of night, along comes Mick (yes, same as Mr. Dundee) in his trusty tow-truck. However, this is where the dynamic between predator and prey differs from other slasher movies. Mick does not arrive like Leatherface wielding a chainsaw. Nor does he have that slack-jawed hillbilly inbred demeanor that just screams "I'm going to rape and eat you".

Mick is an alright bloke. Bit rough around the edges. Unrefined. But he really does seem like he just wants to help out. He nonchalantly offers to tow the car to his garage where he has spare parts to fix it. But he isn't pushy about it. He even tells them to hurry up and decide because he has to get a move on. Mick's casual approach is the key to his success. The kids take Mick up on his offer and off they go.

Even back at Mick's place, the banter continues as they all gather round a camp fire and listen to Mick's tales of the outback. However, there is a sense of dread building. The moment when Mick just glares at the guy in the group after an innocent quip is very, very unsettling. The audience knows that Mick is going to turn on them. It's just a matter of when and how bad. Believe me, when Mick shows his true colors, he is one evil bastard. Torture and screaming ensue.

Ultimately, I was disappointed with Wolf Creek. It had a lot of promise but failed to deliver. Mick was a truly menacing figure and the Australian outback shows what it really means to be in the middle of NOWHERE - even when a victim escapes, they are still screwed because there's nowhere to go (psycho's paradise). But the dread that suddenly turns to terror never reaches a worthy climax. I will always remember Mick, though.

Marco Benevento, Marc Friedman, Andrew Barr Friday December 9th at Scenic Ave B

by Rich Casella.

Thank you Marco. Thank you for releasing me from my inner cynic.

You see I have a theory about life and that theory is that as soon as you decide that everybody is evil, all bands suck and there is giant conspiracy by corporate America to take over the world and turn us all into drones, somebody or something will come along and show you something you hadn't seen. If your eyes aren't open, you'll miss it.

And if you as ask yourself why have I been released from this inner cynic, the answer is because I saw the show on Friday night over at Scenic on Ave B and let me recount.

After arriving promptly on time at 8pm as the show was scheduled, we found a place at the bar and were lost in conversation. Thank God the conversation was good because we may very well have left since they couldn't have started until 9:30.

The three men taking the stage were Marco Benevento from Benevento/Russo duo, Marc Friedman (bassist from The Slip) and Andrew Barr (drummer for The Slip) in a one night musical union of two groups.

I could tell these guys were something to see just by judging their choice of musical gear. You see, the choice of equipment is kind of like the company a person keeps. Just as you almost always can judge a person by who they surround themselves with, I envisioned a good show just by their gear.

So we waited around until they started and passed the time by talking to a few people and hearing the stories of the great musicians Benevento plays with.

The lights went down, They started playing, the devotees started grooving to the music, and I was wondering where the hell the beginning of the song was and when they were going to get to the point.

Now since I have the attention span of a hard boiled egg, 5 minutes into this I was ready to leave.

But something told me to stay and slowly it happened.

I began to see what those devotees saw in the music as they flailed their arms around like the lunatics I see in old footage of Woodstock.

This wasn't direct verse, chorus, verse solo songs. This was an energy that was coming through the music.

It was musical experimentation that was just far enough out there to be called unique but not far enough to lose me. Every song seemed to offer a bass line, or a drum fill or a keyboard melody to lose myself inside. I genuinely became absorbed in the music and saw a different energy and commend Marco for being the one to introduce me to it.

The band's performance was quintessential improvisational rock. As the bass player begins to play a line the rest of the band seems to make room as he grabs his moment to say something musically. Likewise, each band member will either step up or back off as they each have their time to improvise. It seems that the song morphs and moves as if it has a form or shape as opposed to a musical beginning and end as we generally understand in contemporary music. These qualities, however, make me believe this band would not translate well as a studio project.

Seeing this unfold draws you into the music as though you have a say in what they are going to play next and it is quite interesting to watch. It also has a strange tendency to draw people to one another and create the communal experience that is their show. This explains the mild mass hypnosis that takes place.

So thank you Marco for releasing me perhaps hours before the cement that is my cynicism solidified forever. Great show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unorthodox: Sean Altman & Rob Tannenbaum's What I Like About Jew

By: David Schultz

So what exactly do Jewish people do on Christmas? This question has puzzled the non-Hebraic population for years and perhaps it's time to reveal the secret. For years the options available to us members of the Tribe were quite limited, consisting primarily of dining out at a Chinese restaurant. Since 1998, Rob Tannenbaum and Sean Altman have been providing New Yorkers an alternative to mu shu and egg rolls with their "What I Like About Jew" revue. The vaudeville-style show, with its blend of acoustic music and wittily snarky comedy, has struck a chord with Jewish New Yorkers, who flock to the Knitting Factory for a different kind of Christmas celebration. This year's Knitting Factory shows are at the center of "What I Like About Jew's" Hanukkah length, eight day, seven show east coast tour, featuring stops in Boston and Washington D.C.

The brainchild of Sean Altman and Rob Tannenbaum, "What I Like About Jew" derives its energy from their comedic and musical talent. While immediately identifiable with "What I Like About Jew," they may be familiar to audiences from their other ventures. Altman, a skilled singer-songwriter, spent eleven years as a member of the a capella group Rockapella, appearing regularly on the PBS geography-themed game show "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego," before embarking on a solo career. Tannenbaum, when not serving as the music editor of Blender magazine, can be found on VH1, including this evening's "So Jewtastic," offering his insight on a variety of topics.

Not for the faint of humorous heart, Tannenbaum and Altman take great delight sarcastically tweaking Jewish stereotypes with a scathing and incisive wit designed to amuse the open-minded and offend the stodgy. In discussing "What I Like About Jew" with Earvolution, it became clear that no sacred cows exist and they are willing to poke fun at anything or anyone. Even their audience doesn't fall outside the scope of their humor. With a sly grin, Tannenbaum notes that he can't even recognize the audience anymore. "So many have curly hair and big noses, they blend together." Altman attributes another cause to the audience's homogeneity. "The bandages from their recent rhinoplasty."

With their Christmas performances, "What I Like About Jew" often expounds upon the commercialization of Christmas, especially as it pertains to its exclusion of the Jews, taking aim at the topic long before the traditional media uncovered the so-called "War on Christmas." The majority of the show consists of Tannenbaum and Altman's collaborative efforts, allowing them to vent their spleen about "Jews For Jesus" and take gleefully pointed gibes at Jewish rituals like circumcision ("A Little Off The Top") and of course, the Bar Mitzvah, ("Today I Am A Man"). Each will usually take a solo turn, Altman gravitating to his astutely observant ode to the Beatles, "Taller Than Jesus" and Tannenbaum opting to unleash an acidic elegy about the insufficiencies of J-Date or crooning a ballad for the ladies about how he's better looking than the guy they're going out with.

Altman and Tannenbaum invite their friends along to participate in the fun and willingly relinquish the stage to allow their guests to shine. Author Cindy Kaplan has become a staple of the Christmas shows, having performed on every Christmas Eve show since 1999. "It's impossible for us to imagine doing the show without her," says Tannenbaum. "But then she might ask us for more money, so I'll say it is possible to imagine doing the show without her." More demure, but no less caustic, Kaplan offers a highly comical set focusing on the alienation most Jews feel at Christmas before concluding with her musical fantasy about being married to Jesus ("Bride of Christ"). Tammy Faye Starlite, another regular guest, will once again bring her southern-Baptist revival meeting fervor, making her annual faux-sincere effort to show the Jews the error of their ways and convert the audience to her salaciously biblical ethos.

The show's genesis occurred during a 1997 Christmas Eve performance at the Bottom Line. Altman was hosting an a capella event and recalls Tannenbaum "begging" him to perform a holiday song he had written called "(Its Good To Be) A Jew At Christmas." While performing the song, they used the word "kike" on stage, much to the consternation of the Bottom Line's owner, who lectured Altman on the use of the verboten word. Altman recalls being chastised, "I'm not going to tell you can't use it, but I am going to tell you that a lot of people got upset." Rather than be cowed, the incident emboldened Tannenbaum. "It established our mission, how can we use the word 'kike' on stage."

Indicative of the show's humor, Tannenbaum and Altman cleverly work the derogatory epithet into their work. They remain unabashed by the strong feelings the term can engender. "For a very long time Jews have been the quiet minority, we're supposed to assimilate, not cause trouble, not make any noise," explains Tannenbaum. "Jews have been, for instance, very slow about claiming the terms of their oppression. For Asian-Americans, it's now routine for them to call themselves chinks, African-Americans use the n-word. Lesbians love to call themselves dykes but you get a Jew who calls himself a kike and 'O My God, call up Abraham Foxman.' Jews don't like other Jews to cause trouble."

Come 1998, the two capitalized on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, penning "Hanukkah for Monica," a song Altman recalls being "born out of trying to get airplay and sell records." With a repertoire of two songs, Altman and Tannenbaum invited every Jewish singer-songwriter they could find to join them for their first Christmas Eve Knitting Factory show. Relegated to one of the smaller performance areas, the two looked at the sold-out room and realized they were onto something. However, they also realized that the format of the show needed to change. "Once we start making dick jokes," says Altman, "someone can't sing a sensitive song about lost love. The performers who haven't gone over well are the earnest singer-songwriters." The show's evolution to its current mix of music and comedy came naturally. "Finding funny singer-songwriters isn't that easy," explains Tannenbaum. "Finding funny comedians is a little easier."

While most of the additions to the show have been successful, there have been some setbacks. The first attempt to branch the show out from Christmas to Rosh Hashanah went relatively unnoticed. Tannenbaum, who scheduled the show on the first night of the Jewish New Year, accepts the blame for the relatively empty house. "I decided we would perform on the one night that even bad Jews go to temple." Those who made it to that show missed a cameo appearance by pop star Moby who joined Altman and Tannenbaum on stage for a brief bit of improv comedy. "We converted him," brags Tannenbaum.

Another misstep involved the inclusion of pornography czar Al Goldstein. Having read an article that a destitute Goldstein was working as a celebrity greeter at the Second Avenue Deli, Altman brought Goldstein into the "What I Like About Jew" fold believing that Goldstein was a "performance artist waiting to happen. Although neither of us had ever seen pornography, we'd heard of it," explains Altman with an almost-sincere innocence. "I thought that he might, as a Jew, be an interesting guest." Twenty plus rambling minutes of what loosely could be termed stand-up comedy later, the experiment wound up being "high concept in its awfulness." The pair talk about Goldstein with affection, appreciating his efforts, even forgiving him for failing to promote his "What I Like About Jew" participation on the Howard Stern show. "I'm not sure he remembered," recalls Tannenbaum. "Homeless people tend not to have great scheduling capacities. Checking his Blackberry was not on the top of his list of things to do."

Even though "writing smutty songs about being Jewish" remains essentially a hobby for Altman and Tannenbaum, "What I Like About Jew" continues to evolve. While there will always be room for the holiday classics like "Ruben The Hook-Nosed Reindeer," new songs are incorporated each year to keep the show fresh. Last year saw the inclusion of "Not Another Song About Our Dicks" and this year will see the inclusion of the Passover themed "They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)." The upcoming shows will double as a tour in support of Unorthodox, "What I Like About Jew's" debut release, featuring Tannenbaum and Altman's most ambitious and ingeniously devilish compositions. While Altman's very active solo career gives him an outlet for his more traditional songwriting, Tannenbaum's dreams of writing more conventional songs can be summed up concisely. "None," Tannenbaum unequivocally replies.

Despite the indisputable success of "What I Like About Jew," the shows have met with some backlash from those who find the humor offensive. "People see the title, 'What I Like About Jew,' and figure it's going to be Israeli folk dancing," reasons Altman. "Then right off the bat, we come out with the dick jokes and people have gotten up and left. We take that as a badge of honor."

"In the first song when we rhyme tuckus with sukkos, I hear a couple of chairs scraping and little orthopedic shoes walking towards the door," jokes Tannenbaum. Chuckling, they go on to describe the surreal experience of being heckled at a benefit concert by an offended mother.

Going beyond concerns of content, the most serious accusation leveled against Tannenbaum and Altman is that they are self-hating Jews. The two are undaunted by the allegation, but being Ivy league educated guys, make an effort to understand the motivations of their detractors. "There's a Yiddish expression, 'a shanda fur die goy,' meaning it's an embarrassment that the non-Jews should see us acting this way, cause it will reinforce everything that they ever thought about Jews," explains Altman. "It's a fine line, neither of us is religious, but we both feel tremendously connected to our people and our culture and we're not alone. Obviously we've struck a chord with a lot of secular Jews. It's possible to enjoy the rituals and the culture and also want to make fun of it," he concludes. "There's something very affectionate about making fun of your people."

Tannenbaum confronts the issue from a different perspective. "Doing a show is often as close as Sean and I get to going to synagogue." Taking the thought further, he likens "What I Like About Jew" to attending temple. "We're surrounded by Jews. It gives you a sense of community, but it's not in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew." Breaking into an impish grin, Tannenbaum comes to a profound conclusion. "So our shows are actually better than temple."

Tannenbaum takes exception to charges of being self-hating. "The idea of a secular Jew is unique to Judaism. You don't hear people talk about being a secular Muslim or a secular Christian and, for secular Jews, it's good to have a way to stay in touch with your sense of Jewishness. For religious Jews it's easy, you go to temple, but if you're a secular Jew, how do you stay in touch with your history, your legacy?"

When confronted with the suggestion that one doesn't keep in touch with their Judaism by mocking it, Tannenbaum smirked and reacted profanely. Altman responded with more considered aplomb. "I really don't think we're mocking it, we're reveling in our Jewishness but not in the religious aspect of it. We're reveling in the food, in the relationships; we're reveling in the trappings of Jewishness. Not necessarily the religious aspect." Seeing as they have obviously given the idea some reasoned thought, the question remains, are they bothered by such accusations? "No," says Tannenbaum, "cause we're usually pretty drunk."

Regardless of criticism, "What I Like About Jew" has definitely resonated with large numbers of Jews. From its origins as a one night Christmas Eve novelty show, Altman and Tannenbaum now sell out multiple night runs in New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Tannenbaum is fond of saying that they will bring their show wherever there are Jews, usually following the promise by noting that a tour of Mississippi will probably not happen anytime soon. Beyond bringing the show to the people, Tannenbaum jokingly considers expanding the franchise, wondering about the potential success of "What I Like About Mormons" or "What I Like About Seventh Day Adventists." When presented with "Instant Kwanzaa," "Ob La Di, Ra Ma Dan, Life Goes On" or "Islam Lies Down On Broadway" as potential brand-growers, Tannenbaum groans. "Make it clear that you came up with those," he instructs.

Musically, "What I Like About Jew" comes right out of the subversive, Phil Ochs-ish style coffeehouses where singer-songwriters hone their witty, topical repertoire. However, Altman and Tannenbaum approach the show with a very punk attitude. While working on new songs, Altman's wife, opera singer Inna Dukach, frustratingly inquired, "well, I hope it's not another song about your dicks." Thus, the impetus for "Not Another Song About Our Dicks." Exemplifying all that is punk, Tannenbaum maintains a defiantly rebel attitude. "The best way to get us to do something you don't want us to do is to tell us not to do it."

The "What I Like About Jew" 2005 schedule:

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Boston, MA
Ryles
212 Hampshire Street in Inman Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
Showtimes: 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Tickets $15
Special Guest: Carla Ulbrich

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Northampton, MA
Iron Horse
20 Center Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Showtime 7 p.m.
Tickets $15 advance, $18 at the door
Special Guest: Carla Ulbrich

Thursday, December 22, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
Tin Angel
20 S. Second Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Showtimes: 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Tickets $12
Special Guest: Adam Brodsky

Saturday, December 24, 2005
New York, NY
Knitting Factory
74 Leonard Street
New York, NY 10013
Showtimes: 7 and 9 p.m.
Tickets $18 ($22 at the door)
Special Guests: Elon Gold, Jackie Hoffman (late show),
Cynthia Kaplan, Tammy Faye Starlite

Sunday, December 25, 2005
New York, NY
Knitting Factory
Showtimes: 6 and 8 p.m.
Tickets $18 ($22 at the door)
Special Guests: Todd Barry, Jackie Hoffman, Cynthia Kaplan

Monday, December 26, 2005
Washington, D.C. area
Birchmere
Alexandria, VA
Showtime: 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $17.50
Special Guests: Adam Brodsky and Eric Schwartz

Tuesday December 27, 2005
Annapolis, MD
Rams Head Tavern
Annapolis, MD
(410) 268-4545
Showtime: 8 p.m.
Tickets $22.50
Special Guests: Adam Brodsky and Eric Schwartz

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ponderosa Stomp 2006

TWO-DAY MUSIC FESTIVAL WILL BENEFIT NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS VICTIMIZED BY HURRICANE KATRINA

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Ponderosa Stomp, the annual New Orleans roots music romp that draws music fans from all over the world, will find a temporary home in Memphis in 2006. The festival will take place May 9 & May 10 at the city’s multi-level Gibson Factory. The money raised will be split between the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and a special fund to be administered by the Mystic Knights of the Mau-Mau — producers of the Stomp — to directly help New Orleans and Gulf Coast musicians. In the wake of damage dealt by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Mystic Knight of the Mau Mau want to try to help musicians rendered homeless and jobless by these disasters. The event will return to New Orleans in 2007.

Tickets for the event will cost $40 per night, with music starting at 5 p.m. and running until at least 2 a.m.

According to Ponderosa Stomp promoter Dr. Ike, a full-time resident of New Orleans, "New Orleans and Gulf Coast musicians have played a major role in the development of American music. Without them, such musical forms as jazz, blues, R&B, rock 'n' roll, Zydeco and Cajun music would not exist as we know them. Katrina and Rita have greatly affected the ability of these musicians to make a living and continue the rich traditions of Louisiana music. The Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau seek to raise money to help out the musicians so they can keep the New Orleans tradition alive."

The internationally renowned Ponderosa Stomp exists to celebrate, pay tribute to, and teach the cultural significance of the unsung heroes and heroines of rock 'n' roll, rhythm & blues and other forms of American roots music while they are still alive. The Stomp festival and its year-round activities provide both a voice and career revival to overlooked sidemen, session musicians and other influential pioneers whose contributions have shaped American culture for over 50 years.

New Orleans and Gulf Coast-based artists confirmed to play this year's Ponderosa Stomp include Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Joe Clay, Jay Chevalier, Rebirth Brass Band, Willie Tee, Eddie Bo, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Rockie Charles, Tammy Lynn, Warren Storm, Lazy Lester, The Bad Roads, Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, Lil Buck Sinegal and Archie Bell. Memphis area-based artists confirmed to perform include Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Sonny Burgess, Hayden Thompson, Ace Cannon, Hi Rhythm Section, Travis Wammack, Willie Cobbs, Kenny Brown and the Bo Keys.

Among the other artists slated to perform at Ponderosa Stomp are The Nightcaps, Kenny & the Kasuals, ? & the Mysterians, Lady Bo, Billy Boy Arnold, Jody Williams, Deke Dickerson & the Eccofonics, Johnny Jones, Chick Willis, Clifton James, James Blood Ulmer, Betty Harris, Dale Hawkins, Dennis Coffey, Herb Remington and The Fabulous Wailers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rocklighter wallpaper for cellphones, the next concert must?

We've all done the pre-concert prep before leaving the house. Tickets - check. Beer cooler - check. Tailgating snacks - check. T-shirt money - check. Earplugs (ok - only for old guys) - check. Lighter for rock ballad illumination - gone?

With smoking so out of style these days concerts have been somewhat devoid of a time honored arena rock moment: the raising of lighters in the air for a gentle sway to our favorite anthems and power ballads. Of course, some non-smokers still bring the lighters just for the concert theatrics. But, the concert police are even beginning to crack down on those. Something about 20,000 simultaneous butane releases being bad for you. Never fear, new technology promises to keep the concert lighter phenomenon alive well into the new millennium.

Modtones gives you RockLighter (TM) wallpaper! Now, right after you call your BFFL who couldn't make the show, you can turn your phone into a hip loyalty torch to show the band you really get what their trying to say. And, you can get it for around the same price of your ringtone. Go on, you know you want it.

The Life Aquatic . . . with Seu Jorge

By: David Schultz

Relatively unknown outside of his native Brazil, American audiences are likely more familiar with singer Seu Jorge from his acting endeavors. Making his film debut in Fernando Meirelles' Oscar-nominated City of God portraying reluctant gangster Knockout Ned, Jorge practically steals the last third of the film with his raw but captivating performance. From an acting perspective, Jorge's next role was considerably smaller. As Pele dos Santos, one of Bill Murray's red-hatted crewmen in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Jorge's character had minimal dialogue and floated on the periphery of the plot However, much like in City of God, Jorge found a way to charm the audience, but this time it wasn't with his acting ability, it was with his musical talent.

To a large extent, all of Anderson's films deal with the difficulties people have relating to their friends and family. In Zissou, Anderson subtlety extended his alienation metaphor further by using Jorge's Portuguese-language renditions of seventies-era David Bowie classics to bridge several scenes, creating an even deeper feeling of disconnection. In preparation for the film, Jorge created acoustic guitar arrangements of several archetypal Bowie tunes, focusing primarily on Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders Of Mars and Hunky Dory. Although relegated to the fringes of the film, Jorge's performance, which consisted primarily of his singing, provided as many memorable moments as the accomplished actors at the forefront. Disappointingly, only six of Jorge's gorgeous compositions were included on the film's soundtrack.

For those yearning for more than the smattering of Jorge's interpretations included in the film comes the release of The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions containing the complete set of acoustic arrangements Jorge created for the film. The collection consists of 13 exquisite reworkings of some of Bowie's most familiar tunes (14 if downloaded through iTunes) and one throwaway track, the whimsical "Team Zissou." In removing the glam, Jorge strips Bowie's songs to their bare bones, bringing to the surface the remarkably elegant melodies that lie beneath. Translating Bowie's lyrics into Portuguese, Jorge not only adds splendor to the compositions but also provides them with a suave and debonair flair a la Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Singing in a lower and warmer register than Bowie, Jorge, through his simple and uncomplicated arrangements, transforms glam anthems like "Rebel Rebel," "Ziggy Stardust" and "Suffragette City" into softly meditative pieces. Even in Portuguese, Jorge conveys the wistful emotion of "Quicksand," "Life On Mars" and "Space Oddity" (the iTunes exclusive) with a depth and beauty that transcends language. The one song Jorge truly makes his own is Hunky Dory's "Queen Bitch." That Jorge's most significant screen time comes during the closing credits, where Anderson features the singer playing the Velvet Underground influenced tune immediately after closing the film with the original, highlights the triumph of Jorge's version.

Jorge's interpretations offer a wonderfully different take on familiar Bowie classics. Bilingual listeners will not be thrown by the foreign language: however, for most of us, the removal of ingrained lyrics as well as the elimination of familiar guitar licks will result in these seventies classics being heard with a fresher ear, which should earn renewed respect for Bowie's earlier work. For those seeking a perfect complement to the Arcade Fire's brand of Bowie-esque pop, Jorge's Life Aquatic Sessions neatly fits the bill.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Quiet Man: Ray Lamontagne Comes to Town Hall

By: David Schultz

This past summer, the soft-spoken troubadour Ray Lamontagne headlined the side stage at the Dave Matthews Band's Island Getaway on New York's Randall's Island. Although the stage was small, the guitarist's reflective, introspective songs were swallowed by the massive audience filling the expansive stadium-sized setting. This past Monday, Lamontagne returned for a performance at New York's most intimate concert arena, The Town Hall. The cozy, tiny setting provided the perfect venue for Lamontagne and his searing, soulful music.

Since the 2004 release of his debut album Trouble, Lamontagne's burgeoning reputation as one of America's more talented singer-songwriters has been well documented by both the written and on-line musical press. Lamontagne sings with a bold voice, belting out sensitive, reflective lyrics with a brave confidence. On stage, he bares his soul with the same forthright honesty contained on Trouble. Startlingly in contrast to the strength with which he sings, Lamontagne seemed embarrassed to be playing to such a large audience, addressing the crowd numerous times in a quiet soft spoken voice that, at times, approached incomprehensible mumbling. Even with a microphone, the back rows had to strain to discern Lamontagne's wispy, but witty quips. While noting that Town Hall was really a very nice building, the denim-clad Lamontagne chided the audience for not dressing better. The humility exhibited by Lamontagne fits nicely with the persona behind Trouble's open-souled meditations. If Lamontagne's stage demeanor is sincere, it's touching. If it's not, Lamontagne has mastered the greatest strength a performer can have: faking sincerity.

Taking the stage alone, Lamontagne held the audience mesmerized with familiar songs from Trouble as well as newer songs like "She's Your Girl (But I Want Her)" and "Allie (You Should Be Married By Now)." Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, Lamontagne offered improbably sparer yet equally captivating versions of signature pieces like "Jolene," "Shelter" and "Trouble." Brandi Carlile, who opened the show, joined Lamontagne for "Hannah," adding her Melissa Etheridge-like voice to the tune's pleading chorus.

Given the intimacy of Lamontagne's songs, the audience remained respectfully quiet throughout the evening. The shy singer clearly does not relish being the center of attention and the eerie museum-quality silence, especially between songs, must make Lamontagne feel as if he's playing in a fishbowl. While raucous cheers would definitely be out of place, the reverent silence appears to hinder Lamontagne's ability to establish the connection he should be building with the audience. Over time, Lamontagne and his fans should find a nice common ground that will allow Lamontagne to come down off of the pedestal he's being placed upon so that he can comfortably play for them.

Tremendously engaging, Lamontagne's thoughtful, reflective style and brutally honest, emotional lyrics are unrecognizable to only the most hard-hearted of listeners. The well-traveled singer's unassuming and humble demeanor fuel his ability to create earnest and genuine songs. Given that success has come early for Lamontagne, his growth as an artist will have to come in full view of his fans, while living with the unavoidable comparisons to Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake and Astral Weeks era Van Morrison. Sadly, extreme fragility often accompanies performers who are extraordinarily open with their emotions, frequently overwhelming them and leaving their fans to wonder what could have been. While the future is always uncertain, Lamontagne's ability to transform inner doubt into musical gems will surely carry him though any growing pains he will experience.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Grubspoon: Happy Accidents

by Emily Tartanella

Grubspoon could be from two very distinct decades.

On one hand, they've got the vocals that would make Robert Plant nod approvingly. They feature drums that fall like rocks in a quarry. They swagger like the kind of band who would make their home at (the dearly departed) CBGB's in the glory days of Television.

Meanwhile they use guitars that might as well be swathed in flannel. With a call and a response, they can evoke some of the best (and occasionally worst) of recent metal. Not to mention, Grubspoon rock like the bizarre love child of Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. Make no mistake; this is guy-rock at its best, be it from the 70s or the 90s.

Perhaps the worst thing about Grubspoon is their name. Shudder. But, aside from that, this is an endearing CD full of epic hooks, catchy songs, and emoting that makes Nickelback look like Kraftwerk. Grubspoon traipse through genres, picking up the best they can find and combining it into Happy Accidents. They hail from Washington, D.C., but sound like Seattle rock, and they keep shifting the more you try to pin them down.

The songs are, frankly, excellent. Opener "Love at First Sight" shows that Grubspoon can make girls dance, albeit in a slightly menacing way. The basslines are dark, edgy, but the harsh vocals definitely contradict any use of the word "moody."

Future single "Monster" has a surprising charm to it, featuring piano keys and a repeated chant of "My darkest hour." It's here that Grubspoon show their potential. This is a fantastic song with a style all its own, one that could provide a soundtrack to any teenager's life. Other highlights include "Penance," with a Pixies-vibe that makes your toes curl, and "Hooked," which seemingly resurrects Joey Ramone and gives him enough speed to make it to the mic. The irresistibly profane "FVA" (Fuck Virginia) pounds like the Beastie Boys at their most ruthless and seethes with a primal, furious energy.

Despite the embarrassing "Kaleidoscope" (way too close to Limp Bizkit territory) and occasional lyrical slightness, Happy Accidents makes you want to run upstairs, slam your door, and blare your stereo. No matter which era or what genre Grubspoon come from, they know that rock is about the chords, the power, and most of all the fundamental spirit.

If it's too loud, don't you dare turn it down.

Black Friday Rocks: U-Melt and moe. Continue A Worthy Thanksgiving Tradition

By: David Schultz

In literature and cinema, the impending arrival of something fantastic, whether it be the Next Big Thing or Culture-Changing Event, comes heralded by an event which foreshadows its impending appearance. In adventure stories, an archeologist discovers a hidden artifact with mysterious wisdom buried amongst the ruins of an ancient civilization. In science-fiction, humans await the fulfillment of the prophecy promising the coming of "the One." In fairy tales, a wizard's vision foretells our hero's eventual return. In the real world, no such prophecies or oracles exist to clue us in to the advent of something brilliant, meaningful and exciting. Instead, history gives us the tale of Paul Revere, taking what he knows to be true and relaying the news to all within earshot. In that vain, let it be shouted from the rooftops to all within Earvolution's reach, "U-Melt are coming! U-Melt are coming!"

The east-coast based quartet is fronted by Rob Salzer, potentially one of the most exhilarating, lethal and electrifying guitarists playing today, and keyboardist Zac Lasher. Not to be relegated to the background, U-Melt possesses an exceptionally stellar rhythm section consisting of bassist Adam Bendy and drummer George Miller. Throughout their live performances, the rock-solid foundation created by Bendy and Miller opens doors for Lasher and Salzer to treat the audience to heavy doses of their creative, free-flowing, improvisational interplay. While structurally similar to Particle's Steve Molitz and his former band mate Charlie Hitchcock, the interaction between Lasher and Salzer comes across as more relaxed, intimate and complementary than that of their west-coast counterparts. From the moment they hit the stage, U-Melt grabs the crowd with undeniably funky grooves that hit new levels when Salzer's mind-bending guitar work and Lasher's hypnotic, entrancing keyboards are given room to roam. Listening and watching the relatively unheralded Salzer breeze through incendiary, awe-inspiring solos, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the mounting excitement that Salzer could be rock's next great guitar hero.

For the second straight year, U-Melt timed their late-night, after-hours gig at New York's Lion's Den to coincide with moe.'s annual post-Thanksgiving visit to New York City, providing New Yorkers with a double bill for which they could truly give thanks. U-Melt’s diligent marketing and promotion team expertly positioned their Lion's Den performance as an after-moe. party. The appellation is not gratuitous as moe.'s Al Schnier joined U-Melt at last year's show. For those with the energy to make both shows, U-Melt ingeniously, yet respectfully, turned moe. into their opening act on this post-holiday Friday. No small task, moe.'s presently on the top of their game.

Building their reputation through energetic live performances, tales of their legendary marathon shows serve only to enhance U-Melt's reputation as a young, hard working band. In September 2004, U-Melt extended their late-night set at the Strangefolk's Garden Of Eden Festival to just over six hours, finishing sometime after breakfast at around 10:30 a.m. Even more remarkable, the band performed the entire show without the extravagant luxuries of set breaks or bathroom breaks. In that vein, U-Melt hit the stage on Friday evening shortly after 1:00 a.m. Like a Kenyan marathon runner, U-Melt set a quick pace early and never slowed down until they hit the finish line three hours later. Amazingly, the band never hit a down period or dallied with trippy space interludes throughout their lengthy set. One need not worry about their familiarity with the U-Melt catalogue: as accurately described by the title of one of their tunes, their groove is infectious. With the energy given off by the band, it's impossible to stand still and even the most uncoordinated of dancers will quickly find their inner Napoleon Dynamite.

Like most jambands, U-Melt possesses a fine series of remarkable instrumental numbers that become extended jams. Although excelling at improvisation, don't be misled into thinking U-Melt are virtuosos adrift in the absence of songs. U-Melt has crafted a number of well-written songs that give them something to interpret, rather than just an excuse to jam. On this night, U-Melt treated the Lion's Den to both: fine instrumentals like "Ernest Funknine" and "Marvin The Pussy" blended well alongside well-constructed songs like "Missed," "Through The Prism" and a newer composition, "Silent Silhouette." The band approaches their material with an apparent stern demeanor. However, the veneer of their seriousness quickly evaporates as a friendly glance or wave from a familiar face in the audience will get any of the band's members to break into a mile-wide grin that reminds you that these guys are having a blast.

In The Commitments, Jimmy Rabbitte promotes the band by telling a reporter that they don't play gigs, they slip into town under the cover of darkness and hit and run. Given U-Melt's penchant for late-night, after-hours shows, the same might be said of them. U-Melt may very well sneak into your town, tear up the night while you're asleep and be gone by daybreak. Scratch that: they'll likely still be playing when the sun rises. Giving insomniacs reason to rejoice, U-Melt will be returning to New York City on New Year's Eve, taking the stage at Coda somewhere south of 2 in the morning.

Earlier in the evening, moe. continued their Thanksgiving tradition of playing New York City, with their first of two shows at the Roseland Ballroom. Technically, this might have been a three night run as moe.'s frontmen, Al Schnier, Chuck Garvey and Rob Derhak played an acoustic set at Coda a couple days later. Well traveled musicians, moe. seems to be comfortably sliding into their position as elder statesmen of the jamband set. This summer the band hosted their 6th annual moe.down festival at Turin, New York's Snow Ridge Ski area, inviting musician friends like Keller Williams, the North Mississippi Allstars and Tea Leaf Green to celebrate a communal weekend of music and fun. The festival sets up its own radio station, occasionally hosts a 3 on 3 basketball shootout or m-o-e (think H-O-R-S-E) tournament and should the mood strike him, Al Schnier will make his way over to the children's tent to play a set of nursery school classics for the toddlers. Their winter version snoe.down 2 will take place over St. Patrick's Day weekend in Lake Placid.

The Zappa-esque instrumental "Meat" anchored Friday's first set. moe. rolled into the tune to start the show and continuously returned to it throughout the evening. On every reprise, a different band member provided their take on one of the song's many catchy riffs, sometimes offering two or three separate interpretations. The majority of the show showcased moe.'s heavier side, consisting of straight forward rock and roll featuring Rob Derhak's booming, weighty bass.

Flanking Derhak to either side, guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey displayed their differing methods of achieving the perfect guitar solo. During the first set, Garvey punctuated the songs with crisp, precise solos and displayed his range by playing a little slide guitar and even handling his axe like an upright pedal steel. During the second set, Al Schnier let loose screaming, wider ranging solos, letting his inner madman loose. Where Garvey will pick, Schnier will often strum with the contrast between the two guitarists enhanced by the fact that the two don't play in a vacuum. At one point in the evening, Schnier and Garvey engaged in an intriguing parlay where Schnier would start a musical roll only to have Garvey finish it. Like couples who have been together long enough to finish each other's sentences, Schnier and Garvey showed that it could be done musically as well.

Jim Loughlin's percussion, especially his use of the vibes, features prominently in moe.'s mix and further ties the band’s music to Frank Zappa, one of the band’s admitted influences. However, where Zappa would incorporate marimba-like beats to induce a sense of zaniness, moe. integrates Loughlin's contributions more fully into the flow of the music, giving some songs, like the encore-opening "Crab Eyes," a distinctive moe. flavor. Oftentimes the band will meander between songs, occasionally during. However, their departures from the musical theme do not detract from the overall performance, instead offering a pleasant counterpoint for when the band finds themselves easing back into a nice groove.

moe. concluded the show with some of their bouncier, funkier material. The audience joyously sang along to the opening a cappella verse of "Spine Of A Dog," bouncing furiously once the song kicked in. The second set closer, "Dr. Graffenberg," a quirky jumpy song with numerous shifts and changes showed off the tightness of the band. In other hands this song would be a jumbled mess. In moe.'s hands, especially with Jim Loughlin's contributions on the vibes, they produce a tune endearing in its goofiness. Keeping the looser feel for the encore, they returned for the lilting "Crab Eyes" before finishing off the evening with a rousing rendition of "Captain America."

This Thanksgiving, music fans were able to express their gratitude for the music's present and music's future. Music's present, moe., refuses to remain complacent, mixing established concert favorites with fresher material and infusing both with inspired and creative improvisation. As for the future: a momentous force looms large on the horizon and it goes by the name of U-Melt. At this point in time, U-Melt is playing small clubs, giving everyone an opportunity to see a band worth getting excited about in intimate venues. Go see them now, while you can, if all is right in the world, larger venues and greater crowds await.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!