Saturday, July 29, 2006

100.3 Degrees Fahrenheit

Fuuuuuck!!! Man, I think I caught Clinton's cold. Hopefully, I'll be recovered tomorrow so as to go to the Houston Press Awards. Now as you know Linus was nominated but not asked to play but nevertheless I managed to scrounge some VIP wristbands which is really what it's about - free booze! Last year the LP4 got totally plastered at the Rice hotel and had a blast so I've been kind of looking forward to it this year. You'd think the rest of Linus would be just as excited but it seems only myself and Steve are really up for it this year. Why? Because Linus are old men and we suck!

Anyhow, here is my planned route throughout the day (with random pit stops at the free booze area) so maybe I'll see you guys at one of these places:

Whorehound @The Brewery Tap
God's Temple of Family Deliverance @ The Office

Dizzy Pilot @ the Office

6pm - [this one's gonna be tough!!!]
A Pink Cloud @ The Brewery Tap
Rotten Piece @ The Office
Drop Trio @ M Bar
The Jonx @ Boaka Bar

The Medicine Show @ Red Cat Jazz cafeé

Satin Hooks @ The Grasshopper

Fatal Flying Guilloteens @ The Brewery Tap

Friday, July 28, 2006

UME ... Again

Yeah, well after Linus Practice last night I headed out to Rudyard's to go see Oneida; Ume; and Black Snakes and Kangaroo. [Hey how many Ume shows have I seen in the last few months? This is getting a bit much, no?] Of course, nobody in Linus wanted to or could go and everyone else I contacted seemed to want to stay in, so I was off to Rudz sans a posse. Luckily there was a pretty good crowd. Stu from the Jonx was there along with Joe Mathlete, John Sears, Joel (fired for walking), Phil (Sharks and Sailors), and a bunch of other people which relieved my greatest fear of just picking my nose while I wait to hear a band.

I came in on Black Snakes and kangaroos last song which consisted of them shouting "Black Snakes and Kangaroo!!!" while collapsing onto their equipment and each other - pretty much a good humored band wrestling match with feedback but I would have liked to have caught a few songs. C'est la vie...this was their last show.

Ume followed up with a somewhat restrained set....well at least as restrained as Ume can be which means I could actually figure out what Lauren was doing on the guitar which is actually pretty impressive. I suspect she doesn't get the props she deserves as a guitarist since her performance is always this wild blur of hair when she really gets going. Next time you watch Ume play actually check out what she's doing; her hands crawl around the fretboard like some freaky long thin legged insect. And in case you, like me, were wondering, she uses a drop D tuning on one guitar and an opening tuning on the other.

Oneida closed off the evening with an amazing set. The two additional guitarists added a lot of texture to this bands 70's Krautrock sound but the drummer (who for some inexplicable reason look like the love child of Dana Carvey and Grant Hart last night) was, to me, the star of the band. The guy was just throwing in all these nonstop beats and fills that, when the band got into one of those one bass note grooves, just drove the whole machine into this unstoppable force. I caught a good part of their set but given that I had to work the next day 1am was quitting time for me. So I left the band and the audience dancing and bouncing as I made my way home to a nightcap with Rosa. If you were sleeping, you missed out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Adding Machine - A Layman's review

The end of the month during the summer is a rough time to put on a play in Houston as most people's disposable income gets eaten away by higher energy costs. So, it's nice that there was a Poor Schlep Night better known as "Pay-What-You-Can Monday Night". I still paid my tenner but it was nice to know the option was there. For me, the big thrill was that, with my schedule, this was actually the perfect night to check out this show. Now I'm no theatre critic and having neither read the play nor seen another performance I cannot speak to Mike Switzer's direction but I'll gladly offer up my layman's review as it gives me something to do while I'm "participating" in a teleconference.

The Adding Machine poses some difficult problems during the first act as Mr. Zero (Marc Carrier) is a completely unlikable arrogant, repressed, and subservient schmuck. The character has no redeeming qualities and, as he allows the world to run over him, Carrier plays him in a manner that alternates between two extremes; Mr. Zero is either detached from his surroundings or frustrated at his stagnant life. Rice's difficulty is that his character is appropriately a frustrating bore - a mere petulant baby - which leaves the question of how to move a play along with such a character that is largely passive and submissive. All movement (save for Mr. Zero's murder of his boss which is more a mere fit than any act of self-determination or rebellion) is generated by his surroundings. Things act upon him and not the other way around.

Two scenes stand outs in the first act. Played beautifully is the bit where Mr. Zero imagines a conversation in which his boss (Stephen Foulard) tells Mr. Zero "Mr. Zero, I've had my eye on you" and rewards his 25 years of labor with a raise and a promotion - hilarious. Foulard plays this scene brilliantly like some clichéd cuddly well-to-do boss out of a Frank Capra movie coming in to reward the hard working noble hero. Mr. Zero's vision is as pathetic as it is funny and, of course, Mr. Zero's reality is far from what he imagines; while he does the receive the visit from his boss (who can't even recall Mr. Zero's name) the visit is to inform him of his being fired which results in Mr. Zero snapping with the murder of the boss.

The following scene, in which the Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, Fives, and Sixes join the Zeros for a dinner party, is also quite funny and the cast clearly has fun with the silly manner in which the characters all go down the line completing a thought. The banter is inane and clichéd but that is the point and the cast plays it with a vaudeville verve that carries the scene. The first act closes with Mr. Zero fate sealed by a jury leaving the second act which, despite the death of the main character, is where the play comes to life.

With all the main plot points taken care of, Rice starts to have some serious fun with his play and nobody personifies the energy of the second act more than John Dunn who steals the show with his performance as Shrdlu - a repressed soul of a murderer who is consumed by a hilarious self-imposed angst. His greatest torment is that he is not consumed by flames of hell for his sins. Dunn plays the character perfectly not simply with his voice (think and angst driven Boris Karloff) but with his whole body (primarily via an Igor-like gait) - simply an inspired and hilarious performance. Shrdlu and Zero eventually reach The Elysian Fields whose beauty and joy neither can accept butZero is handed one chance to find happiness when Daisy (Liz Seabolt), Mr. Zero's unrequited love, finally finds him. For a minute Zero gives into enjoying himself but eventually shuns the Fields for a room where he works ceaselessly with an adding machine. Here in the final act the Lieutenant (a brilliant Stephen Foulard- again) arrives to tell him his time is up and it is time to go back to Earth for another round. This is clearly Foulard's scene and he plays it expertly. As the Lieutenant is to a large extent a voice for the audience's disgust for the Mr. Zero, the Lieutenant lays down the reincarnation scheme of Rices afterlife - souls go in, get a break, recharge their batteries, and get thrown back. He explains that some souls get better and others like Mr. Zero's get worse. Mr. Zero, he explains, gets worse because he is by nature a slave and that he clearly cannot improve his lot. The Lieutenant mocks Zero to the point where Mr. Zero begs to not be sent back. The Lieutenant finally resorts to giving Zero a false Hope to return to the mortal world where the play ends as they make room for another soul.

One thing that should be pointed out is that the music was excellent. Charlie Naked did a great job and his players were excellent! Jeff Millers bass had this gorgeous Berlin Krautrock tone that I particularly loved and Phil Kriegs Theremin work was impeccable! Im hoping for a CD-R release soon.

The curious thing to me about the play is that while this is a dark comedy and some point to its eastern religious reincarnation elements, I find Rice's main message no different than someone as mainstream as the afore-mentioned Capra. Unless you think that Rice is suggesting a kind of fatalism [which I don't think he is doing] what is the ultimate message here other than enjoy life and make it your own? That's hardly anything radical. To me what makes the play really stand out is the whimsy of the second act where Rice is clearly having fun with his play. So, maybe that's why my thought after the play wasn't one of "Man, that was really deep" but one of "that was really clever and cute." In underground theatre Im sure that is anathema but I say there is nothing wrong with being clever, cute, and whimsical. Now come on, let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty.

* Thanks Karen Lawrence for the correction

Sunday, July 16, 2006

tea at 3:30am

Good morning laddies.

Well it's 3:30am which is a bit early to get home from a Linus show (I normally get in at 4am) so i'm a little awake. Everbody else was pretty bushed but I actualy needed to chill a bit before I hit the hay so, given that everyone is sleeping, tea and blogging will have to do.

I have to say that, given the fact that Blue Cheer was playing with Gods Temple at Walters and Mike was having his benefit party for the adding machine, we had a really good night. Plus Rosa was at our show which was a rarity given the fact that usually Orion is with one of us.

Concrete Violin's set was really trippy (it made me wish I still did shroons!) and the addition of the guitarist was really cool. Perhaps we were pushing the Rudz crowd a bit but I really enjoyed it. The Dimes followed with a fantastic set of music. I've already posted about them so you know the story. The nice thing was that a lot of people came up to me saying they'd never heard the Dimes and really liked them which, to me, is half the point of asking bands we like to play with us.

Our set went off well; given the fact that I tend to be hypercritical, that is saying a lot. Surprisingly, we actually had a decent turnout of people so it was nice to do a good show. Sloppy at points but good. We started off with an off-the-cuff version of "Interstellar Overdrive" and as it turns out Daniel Johnson was outside with Two Star Symphony and he totally loved it - going so far as to request a copy of the board mix on CDR. Go figure.

I can say this though the Kimonos, who closed the evening, sound much better live than they do on CD and that's from someone who liked their CD. But while The Kimonos played I was pretty busy and only caught chunks between my chores. Example - one chore was to pick up our projectors. Now given that Karen was busy with Mike's benefit, I was surprised and happy to see her at the show (though she missed our set). Naturally I get to talking with her when suddenly - disater - I realize that the reel I left rewinding is totally eating the film. JOY! See I take 5 minutes with a good friend and see what happens! Needless to say, I spend the next 20 minutes or more picking up my mess and marking spots where I have to splice out damaged film. Mercifully nobody stepped on the film that was laying on the floor. So the rest of the night consisted of the usual rock and roll glory of picking up shit, counting money, and such.

Well, it's almost 4 am now and the rest of my tea is getting tepid. But I should close with how typical this is for a rock show. It's not sex, drugs, and rock and roll ala Lonestar Pornstar. No, it's spending a lot of money on repairs, equpment and supplies. Picking up and hauling heavy equipment to and from the rehearsal space. You hardly have any time to talk to anyone and you smell when you get home between 3 and 4 pm.

So why do we do this? Fuck I guess its all about the music. Despite all the above, it's simply nice to play your music well and play with other bands you admire. If people like it, well that's just gravy.

So goodnight. Apologies to anyone to whom I didn't get to say "Hi" but thanks for coming out. It was fun.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Double Nickels on the Dime

It takes a lot for me to actively rag on a local band. My policy is that I could spend much better time praising a deserving band than wasting time ragging on a crappy one but even this policy has its limits.

During last year at the Houston Press Music Awards I was exposed to my first breach of my policy when I witnessed Lonestar Pornstar. A bunch of guys who still play that nu-metal/funk/rap crap that everyone (except drunk frat guys) thought had mercifully died a few years back. Any band that starts off describing itself with "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll" is still wallowing in 13-year-old fantasies but, I guess if Buckcherry is still selling its snake oil to morons, why not these fuckers. Now we have the dubious honor of being in the same category as these guys. My suggestion? Vote for them as best band! Why? If the Best Band curse holds they will break-up within a year of winning. But that was last year....

This year it came as a shock to find a band that was the complete polar opposite of LSPS yet a band that was equally worthy of contempt - Million Year Dance. The band (nominated for best new act and best male vocalist) is easily the most self-absorbed self-important circle-jerk of a band I've seen in quite some time. Musically, let's just say I already own one Coldplay album - I don't need their version. Now in and of itself that's not quite enough to earn my active contempt as there are a lot of bands who sound like bigger acts and will simply garner a ho-hum from me. Where this band takes the ball past the end zone, under the seats, and outside the stadium is on the altar upon which present themselves. They say a picture can say a thousand words. OK well then here are three thousand words:

Please, don't interrupt me while I am being sensitive.

I am so fucking beautiful. I mean just look at me!

Damnit, this is not fair trade incense! Who's responsible for this abomination!

But wait there's more. You may ask who has inspired this band? Coldplay, Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe...Oh wait here it is on their myspace:
"Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Jesus, Paramahansa Yogananda, The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh,and any one who uses non-violent (ahimsa) action to promote positive change in the world."
Then they go onto describe themselves thusly:

In the greatest state of liberation one may witness all the wave energies of the universe connected- these energies are the million year dance. Our mission is for everyone to feel just as much a part of our art as we are. We would hope the listener or audience participant could travel along the journey with us, and not at a distance.

_Joel lewis and nic houston are the pulsating truth, steven wetherell and doyle odom are the infinite mosaic of possibilities, and jonathan welch is the tangible explanation: all of them seamed together by a web of emotional creative response and interactivity_

We are dedicated to positive activism. If anyone has a way of improving the world (maya) and transforming negitive into positive without just complaining yet using action; please feel free to contact us. We would love to help. Of course, help comes from within, so we must all ask ourselves, "What could I be doing at the present moment to bring positive change into the world?"
Now, I grew up with punk rock and one basic anathema to punk rock was the idea of idol worship. Musicians and bands are to be admired and all that but worshipped? That utterly misses the point that the bands are never above their audience. The way MYD portrays itself clearly suggests a clear level of vanity in search of willing apostles.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no issues with strong views or politics in bands. This band played with Free Radicals which is pretty much Nick Cooper's baby. Now is Nick a bit much sometimes with his politics and in his trying to make a buck any chance he gets? Yes, but a few things are important which negate this. First, is the fact that Free Radicals are a great band and the music is the main focus. Secondly, whatever you think about Nick he puts his money where his mouth is. Lastly, the politics of Nick Cooper and his band are one of encouraging individual action by people - not "hold my hand and join us" but a serious challenge. The power to improve things does not come by joining or worshiping the band.

Meanwhile, Million Year Dance says it's committed to "Positive Activism". But what does that mean conctretely? Well as the band states it "Our mission is for everyone to feel just as much a part of our art as we are." Salvation can be found in Million Year Dance! The world will change if you sit in a circle burn incense and worship at my feet! Tell me plebians of how great my art is!


You want positive activism? Get off your goddamn pedestal.

And there you have it - the Lonestar Pornstar of 2006.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Houston Press Music Awards Suggestions

A few suggestions for the Houston Press Music Awards per me - Ramon Medina. Note just becasue I don't pick someone doesn't mean I don't like them, I may simply not have heard of them.

Best New Act -Sharks and Sailors
Best Punk - Fatal Flying Guilloteens [Hey where is Somethign Fierce???]
Best Alternative Rock - We're in this category and normally it's an honor to be nominated but given that Lonestar Pornstar is in this category I'm not so sure. Also what the fuck is Alternative Rock? Oh well, hey if it gets us into the party and free booze - I ain't gonna bitch too much. : )
Best Traditional Rock - Whatever-the-fuck this category means. I'm going with Bright Men of Learning for what it's worth. The do a nice Pavement Jr. thing.
Best Metal - Crap this is a tough one. Bowel, Gods Temple of Faily Deliverance and Whorehound all rock. My randomizer says....Bowel. Sorry GTOFD and Whorehound the 16 sided die did not smile on you today.
Best Indie Rock - Crap another hard one. Bring Back the Guns, Dizzy Pilot and The Jonx are all great but I'm gonna go with the Jonx.
Best National Rock - Why ZZ Top of course! Even if they fucked up all their early albums with drum triggers.
Best Experimental / Avant Garde - "One of these things just doesn't belong here come on can you tell me which one..." Man, how did Satin Hooks get in here? I mean even they have to be saying "What the fuck are we doign here?!" But it's a tough call between Rotten Piece and A Pink Cloud. 18 sided dice! what say thee? Rotten Piece it is! Somewhere in Houston Dom curses his sfortuna.
Best Folk/Acoustic - ahh an easy one...The Medicine Show
Best Jazz - Drop Trio
Local Musician of the Year - Jana Hunter (woo 3 easy ones in a row)
Best Female Vocalist - Gina Miller (The Kimonos) Hey they are playing with us at Rudz on the 15th of July.
Album of the Year - Write in time! Babel Fishh - The Use of of, Something Fierce - Come for the Bastards, Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, The Ka-nives - Get Duped!, and that's just off the top of my head....
Best Concert Venue/Best Rock Venue - Hell Rudz or the Proletariat. We love both so I split mine up.
Best Record Store - Sound Exchange fool!
Best Blues Venue - Ettas!

Of course as usual great bands like the Dimes, The Red and White, Powers of Light and Darkness, Georgia's Horse, and John Muzak (to name only a few) are utterly ignored. But thems is the shakes. Reguardless July 30th should be fun.

Oh and here is the link to the music awards...