Bon Iver and Bowerbirds

The Music Hall of Williamsburg was at capacity last night, filled with fans eager to sway thoughtfully through this bill of sweet, quiet folk. Amidst hoots of recognition, North Carolina’s Bowerbirds began with Hymns For A Dark Horse opening track “Hooves,” perfectly setting the tone for their lovely set. Phil Moore’s luscious voice floated through the space with a soothing clarity as he gently strummed his guitar, while it took Beth Tacular a few numbers to warm up. She seemed a bit wobbly through “In Our Talons,” but soon enough she was back to form, shining especially on a new song that gave her a whole solo verse. This and a few other newbies, one tentatively titled “Teeth Of Life,” augmented their performance and proved their next album something to anticipate, though in truth I’d melt for Moore’s voice on just about any quality of song.

Shortly after, Justin Vernon as Bon Iver took the stage as a room full of people pelted him with love. He was appropriately sheepish about all the attention, as only this year did his debut For Emma, Forever Ago rocket him to noteworthiness and, apparently, female adoration. From packing Sound Fix in February to selling-out tonight’s full-size venue, Vernon and crew have toured heavily and taken his humble catalog of songs to other levels of rocking. There were plenty of quiet, Vernon-centered moments that showcased his mastery of the high note, but there was also lots of jammy release that surprised all who had thought they wouldn’t need earplugs at a Bon Iver show. A new number called “Blood Bank” was especially rock-songish with Vernon banging away at the keyboard and enlisting the strengths of his full band. Their updated performance style and new material suggest a more thrilling overall experience, though fans initially drawn to their hushed hymns might wish for more of Vernon’s soft side. However, the rockin’ moments seemed quite appropriate since some of the most powerful parts of the album come when Vernon really lets loose, and certainly these did not go unappreciated in a live setting. All present proved their enthusiasm by singing along to “The Wolves Act I And II,” after which Vernon gave dumbfounded thanks to Brooklyn for coming to see his band perform. He’s clearly in the midst of realizing that lots of people really like his music, and that seemingly many more are to follow. After an encore of “Skinny Love,” the crowd was told they had heard all the songs there were to play, making Bon Iver’s big night feel complete.

Liz and Laura’s upcoming journey to Londontown!

Liz and I are embarking on a European odyssey (or EuroTrip, in the tradition of bad movies) at the end of August, and you’d better believe we’ll be covering our exploits! Look forward to many photos of drinking, brawling, and questionable British foods. We hope to court Princes William and Harry while we’re there, and if all works out as planned, we shall return princesses! Princesses Liz and Laura will lord over you like gods! Just as it should be. It’ll be like that Julia Stiles movie, only less creepy and badly-acted.

More updates to come!

L Word fans — is Niki supposed to be Lindsay Lohan?

jenniki

(Spoilers included, obviously)

So am I the only one who thinks the starlet character Niki (above right) is supposed to be Lindsay Lohan, or is this just obvious and I’m the last person to figure it out?  Regardless, look at the evidence: Lindsay herself went from a raven-haired lady lover (or two, depending on how many of the rumors you believe) to the semi-butch Samantha Ronson around the time this season was being written, not to mention the fact that Lindsay also hasn’t come out of the closet and probably had some ‘get a beard boyfriend’ conversations with the movie studios.  Similarly, Niki went from the dark-haired and feminine Jenny (above left) to the semi-butch Shane.  If the writers don’t make use of this similarity (i.e. put Shane in a fedora for as long as this ill-conceived romantic pairing lasts), I’ll be very disappointed.  Plus, Katherine Moennig can totally rock a fedora.

Shane with hat

 

SamRo

Joan of Arc

In what seemed a bit of an odd coupling, teen band Ponytail got the crowd grinding with their frenzied yelping and insane energy before the main event, Chicago’s Joan of Arc. Or perhaps the varied bill makes perfect sense, since throughout their surprisingly long career JOA have defied categorization and continually changed and updated their sound. After being pummeled by such a swath of noise and energy, the revelers settled down as singer/guitarist Tim Kinsella took the stage solo for the gentle “Shown and Told.” In response to the giggles incited by that number’s mention of a “hermaphrodite stepfather,” Kinsella noted there was now proof that despite a reputation as very serious, Joan of Arc could also be fun. This discovery was an appropriate beginner for the set, as the band who have been accused of being deliberately cryptic or strange proved their desire to present a story that the listener could interpret for themselves. As he went on to ramble to the audience throughout the set, telling stories that were half analysis and half explanation, Kinsella sheepishly weaved the tale of the band that is at once self-aware and appropriately detached – the songs may mean one thing to the artist, but should be interpreted as they will by each individual ear.

Thusly engaged and schooled in the Joan of Arc catalog, the show felt like a rather intimate evening, a sentiment also aided by the Knitting Factory’s smallish space. In a live setting and without the aid of fancy studio techniques, their sound comes across with more of a garagey, indie feel than a group known for its sonic exploration and experimentation. This is not entirely inappropriate, given the tendency towards a guitar band sound on their latest Boo Human, though that album is certainly not without its jazzy tempos and electronic blips. The show’s touring lineup expertly reflected the JOA’s current direction with guys on guitar and bass providing accompaniment for songs that became more rockin’ as a result, not to mention the extended jam sessions that ended a number of the tunes. Notably free of “weird” sounds, one lone man on a humble keyboard and xylophone setup provided organ tones and some percussive backup. Of course, in one evening it would be impossible for these folks to accurately represent their entire catalog of music, and so the focus here was on the enjoyment of the moment and what the individual chose to take away from it. Personal outlook was key as Kinsella told the story of his idea during their Japanese tour to make up a batch of T-shirts, some reading “Life is easy” and others “Life is hard,” just to see which variety would sell the most.

Only a spoiled bitch with no soul would trash a wedding dress

Have you heard about this horrible trend?  Brides spend thousands of dollars (or, most likely, their parents do) on some princess dress, a waste of money to begin with, and then when the wedding is over, what do they do?  They trash the damn thing!  They roll around in the mud, tear it up, climb trees, whatever, and all the while they take pictures and think they’re part of some awesome new tradition.

There is nothing awesome about that degree of wastefulness.  There are thousands of women who would be happy to take a donated dress, even if it does have a few minor stains or tears from the big day.  There are dozens of charities devoted to distributing and otherwise reusing used wedding dresses, dozens!

These brides are just showing their true colors as spoiled whores who only care about themselves and their own stupid fantasies.  Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding when people are starving to death across the world is awful, I don’t care who you are.

The Love Guru

Did somebody make this film in a drunken stupor? It’s AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Awful!

I can’t believe I spent a whole hour downloading it. That’s a total of two and a half hours I’ll never get back. Mike Myers stole them from me.

Let me count the ways I hate this film:

1. It is really racist and offensive. If I were Indian I would be pissed.

2. It’s quite obvious that Mike knew how bad and thrown-together it was and he kept promoting it anyway with that same boring story about his dead father who liked Peter Sellers movies. I don’t give a shit if his dad was God, he should have kept this little tribute to himself.

3. Mini-Me jokes, still? It’s not OK to make sport of midgets just because they’ll participate for money! And the jokes are so many levels below the quality of even Austin Powers 3, so the whole thing comes off as borderline creepy and cruel.

4. Jessica Alba.

5. Weird graphics appear on the screen occasionally to illustrate the guru’s lessons being applied, as if we were in first grade and needed a visual aid. Not to mention the actual visual aids (i.e. overhead projector) that Mike uses for his useless philosophical prattling. I know he’s just making fun of Deepak Chopra, but I don’t think the rest of us find that as screamingly hilarious as Mike does. And Mike? You know that story about how you used to call up your friends with this voice and they just thought it was a laugh and a half? They were humoring you.

6. Instead of hiring a child actor for a five minute scene, Mike decides to digitally plant his face on some kid’s shoulders. What kind of ego trip is that? It reminds me of Eddie Murphy. Not good, especially when his co-player in the scene is an actual child without a freaky CGI head bobbling around.

7. Mike’s lame attempts to recapture the wacky, random spirit of Austin Powers with characters like Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (played by Justin Timberlake), who has a big wang (just replace that with any other exaggerated physical characteristic — insta-Mike Myers character!). It’s not really funny or interesting, but Justin did a semi-decent job I guess.

8. The fact that Romany Malco from Weeds was completely wasted in a thankless, one-dimensional athlete role.

9. It has the look and feel of a movie whose release was delayed for retooling or reworking, year after year, most likely shelved for a while, and finally released when Jessica Alba became famous or something along those lines. Remember My Boss’ Daughter? Like that.

I’m getting nauseous. I think I have to stop trying to recall details about this movie. Just don’t see it! Not while drunk! Not even while extremely baked! Rent Forgetting Sarah Marshall instead — it’s so many thousands of times better!

If only there were a way to wash out your brain.

Siren Festival 2008: Part 2

Large in size but with each member expertly holding their own, North Carolina’s Annuals played many new numbers from their forthcoming album, a follow-up to the excellent Be He Me. At times main guy Adam Baker sings with the smoothness of a lullaby, but where this band really shines is when the songs explode into their climaxes, turning Baker into a beast of a live performer. His face assumed many insane positions as he sang impossibly high parts, leading him to literally foam at the mouth. Meanwhile, keyboardist Anna Spence remained oddly collected as the sun beat down on her high-collared frock. She was but gently flushed as she rocked sensually along to her finger tapping.

Many people were quite excited to see the fuzzy, buzzy Times New Viking, another very loud band. Their bratty vocals that can sound like a schoolyard chant were augmented by the loose guitar of Jared Phillips, who wins the ballsy rockstar award for chugging whiskey on an oppressive day such at this. Fellow chugger and drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott was particularly enthusiastic, as are many who manage to sing and drum at the same time, and the pretty spurt of yellow flowers atop his kit were a nice summer touch. For fans of such a group who strive to preserve the real, palpable qualities of live sound on their recorded albums, seeing TNV in concert is a must.

Ra Ra Riot crammed their six members onto the stage and brought a massive sound of strings, driving bass, and syrupy vocals. The ladies providing orchestration had slick, modern instruments whose busted appearance reflected the recent touring frenzy these guys have been on in support of their forthcoming debut The Rhumb Line. Alexandra Lawn’s cello was visibly broken and taped back together, while Rebecca Zeller’s violin bow kept snapping strings just as fast as she could tear them off in order the keep playing. A highlight was their cover of Kate Bush’s “Suspended in Gaffa” that had the band zigzagging in between one another as they pranced about the stage.

Beach House, the dreamy duo from Baltimore, marked a break in the frenzied day with their calm, gorgeous tunes that had the audience casually swaying. Victoria Legrand’s alto pipes belted though the curtain of humid haze, rising expertly to the soaring high notes as the songs demanded, while guitarist Alex Scally sat and played calmly in his chair. Their latest Devotion is a gorgeous album with its soft melodies and relaxed mood, but in a festival setting their power was a bit lost among the tight crowd expecting to be rocked. But appropriately to their name, Beach House’s sound is summery in a way that suggests a breezily serene evening, so at least this ode to the season could be appreciated.

The kind of dude you’d imagine was quite the troublemaker in his school days, former Unicorns member Nick Thorburn began the Islands set inside a metal garbage can. I can’t be sure if this was the very same waste receptacle used by the Dodos earlier, but his flailing about set a tone of wackiness and good-time fun for the band’s set. An already playful, lively set of characters, the group seemed to feed off the surging crowds as they stuck to mostly upbeat, poppy numbers. At one point a rapping friend joined them onstage for a fine moment of typical Islands genre-jumping. As Thorburn lit a handful of sparklers and held them over his guest’s head, it truly felt the epitome of summer.

It was just plain awesome to have rock royalty Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks available to see free of charge, and their inclusion in this year’s festival certainly says something of Siren’s ability to attract huge names. Masters at their trade, the various Jicks, including former Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, rocked it mightily as Malkmus picked away at his guitar with commanding ease. He shifted between jarring solos and playful comments to the crowd, many of whom were grinning widely while mouthing all the words. It was a shame when the set drew to a close at the end of its too shortly allotted time, but hey, the chance to see icons play at sunset in a classic setting is one not to go unappreciated.

The final players, overflowing Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, fed the tired crowd one last surge of energy with their huge sound and rampant enthusiasm. Kevin Drew spilled his sense of sadness as to the fact that Coney Island is falling to development pressure, and urged us kids to hold onto our rights and not be trampled by the Man. It seemed appropriate that the night should end with a message, one that reverberated throughout the land as Drew encouraged all to scream along to the final song. Though it’s always difficult to assess their lineup at any one point in time, among those present this evening were Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman, one of the guys from Do Make Say Think, and Brendan Canning who has just released Something For All Of Us… under the BSS wing.

Though she truly tests a person’s ability to withstand harsh conditions, the Siren Festival was once again an awesome time.