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Friday, October 07, 2005
Why journalism Sucks: Vol. 5
Although calling E! Online coverage "Journalism" is a bit of a stretch, I'll admit.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?
The New York Times has rarely seemed so hip. They ran a story about the goddamned awesome indie project, "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" which pokes fun at the awful lyrics of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Turns out Nick Diamonds from The Unicorns was one of the leaders of the project. Should'a known.
David Cross, Arcade Fire, Karen O. from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beck, Peaches, Tagaq, Elvira (!). How cool is that lineup?
Sony's got the exclusive download on their (otherwise useless) song service, but you can listen to the entire song for free on the official Vice Records site. (Just wait for it to load and hit PLAY.)
Enjoy, boys and ghouls.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
The Space Monkeys! turn 100 with today's new comic strip, a celebration of sorts (minus Meany). Come help us celebrate.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Next time I get busted for cocaine...
... and I lose my endorsements, please make me feel better by assuring me that maybe crazy-ass Sharon Stone may come to my aid and tell people that they're being ridiculous, just ridiculous for getting upset over a little blow. Who are they to take away a girl's $7 million?
Hey -- do you think if I asked really nicely that Sharon Stone could score me some coke?
When PJ gave me a copy of The Unicorns' CD Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, I gave it a cursory listen and liked it OK, but felt it was all screwy, boopy, weirdy craziness and didn't really go back to it.
Now, I'm listening to it all the time. The fact that the band broke up after their first release probably makes it that much more of a romantic notion. Start the reunion hopes now.
Then PJ goes off and finds a whole other album's worth of material that was kept underground and now we're doing the happy dance of joy of fans who uncover a hidden treasure chest.
So, rock on 'Corns. They have other projects going now (The Cornn Gang and The Islands just to name two), but we'll always be fans of The Unicorns.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Oh my Zod!
New Smallville recap is up:
All Zod's Chillun Got Choke-Holds -- Just as the town of Smallville recovers from a meteor storm, two black-clad disciples of Zod (the iZods) wreak havoc. Then are quickly contained. Clark finds the real Fortress of Solitude and tells his secret to Chloe. And Lex is, what, a little more evil? Maybe? It's hard to tell. And James Marsters shows up.
It's good to be back.
Moms, friends, confidantes
Two women who have, in various capacities as friends, made me a better person (or made me look a lot smarter than I am) have blogs you should check out.
They are Tracy (you may know her as the former Pineapple Girl) and Michelle.
Both are now moms with families and responsibilities that I can only fathom in theoretics. Both have at one point or another wisely given me the, "Omar, you are a complete idiot" look, but have been kind enough not to say it out loud.
And both are great people you'll be lucky to know.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
The dust, the heat, the water bottles, the xylophone (Brady Bunchin'), the last Jamba Juice in town, the orange and maroon chairs, the walking, the missed brother, the ants that ate the gyro.
I had a big entry planned for Austin City Limits Fest '05, similar to what went down in these pages last year, but it's been more than a week and it's getting to be seven times the day late/dollar short limit. If you weren't there, you probably don't care, and if you were there, well them I'm juste telling you what you already know, right?
PJ was much missed, but he wasn't particularly interested in a lot of the bands this year (he might have changed his mind had he heard Arcade Fire in advance).
So here's the quick highlights:
Yes, it was freakin' hot. Not like last year, where it was sweat and sunburn. This year it was an unholy merger of sunlight, dryness and intense dust. On Saturday, when we were burning up, we kept getting warnings that the next day was going to be a "Scorcher." When we hear that shit in Austin, we're like, "Sure, yeah, buddy. Go back to Minnesota, or wherever you're from. Freak."
But indeed it did scorch, to the tune of 108 degrees (a number, that if you associate with a fever, is far past death). I'm not sure how the bands survived, but Rebecca and I brought chairs and cowered in the shade and under an (inadvisably black) umbrella. Our setup looked like this:
OU and UT colors, eh? We are at odds in our loyalties.
The dust was at its worse on Sunday, right after Franz Ferdinand and before Coldplay. We hunkered down on a hill and covered our mouths and noses while people walked by sporting bandit bandanas and couching up lung tissue. I'm not exaggerrating here. It was very, very dusty; you couldn't see across Zilker Park. Check it:
Combined with the heat, it made for a kind of Faustian Hell, where you couldn't believe you paid money to be there, and could still somehow find pleasure in this torture.
But what made up for it was the...
Here's what I saw and some snap judgments:
Lucinda Williams, Friday
My love of Lucinda is well-documented, but I haven't seen her live in a very long while. She was the first thing I saw at the fest; I had a little trouble getting there from work and there was a detour to a friend'd house for nearby parking that didn't turn out to be so nearby. She opened with "Drunken Angel," sounding a little wavery in the afternoon sun as everybody waited for her to have a meltdown like two years ago. Before this set, anytime you'd ask someone about Lucinda in relation to ACL, you'd hear the words "Meltdown" or "freak-out." She played just fine, showing off about three new songs (they were good) and doing a great "Bleeding Fingers." The set felt short. She closed with "Get Right With God," which rambled on nicely.
From my notepad: "Not bad at all."
Thievery Corporation, Friday
Holy shit, these guys (er, guys and ladies and more) were awesome. I only knew the name from their song on the Garden State Soundtrack, "Lebanese Blonde." I was wandering around looking for food and just kind of doing my own thing when I heard their funky-fresh beats. I was drawn to the Heineken stage and just watched as they hit Europop, reggae, techno-funk, Middle Eastern sitar-thrashing and rap. It was stellar. They had about a jillion band members, all alternating different kinds of singing, instrument playing and rapping. Then they went and ruined an almost perfect set with a plodding, lame war protest song called "Marching the War Machines Into the Sun" with a promise that they'd be taking that to Washington D.C. the next day. I and many others wandered away during that one.
From my notepad: "These dudes are lunch-packing. Their beats are nothing less than Cap-'n-Crunch. These are beats you could pack in your lunchbox early morning for afternoon sustenance. Ethnically speaking, there's almost nothing cooler than seeing a large crown of sun-baked white people getting down to Afro-Latin rhythms. You want to go up and say, "You're welcome," or "Here ya go. Partake, bitches. Ugh. Protest song. Stop, like, harshing our buzz, dudes. Shut up."
Blues Traveler, Friday
I only caught them in passing, as I walked over to Keane (and quickly walked back when I could stand only so much whiny). They were jam-banding, which would become a sore point with me over the weekend and my curiosity only went so far as to see exactly how much weight John Popper has lost/gained. He seems to be hanging in there in the 220 range.
From my notepad: "220? 225?"
Black Crowes, Friday closer
Here my jam-band indignation grew exponentially. I am not a Phish fan. I never saw the Dead. I don't need a three-minute song expanded like taffy into a 20-minute free-for-all. Fuck that shit. Play the song. End it. Move on. The Black Crowes kept stretching stuff long past the point of my interest, and it was only the pretty, cool breeze that kept me in my chair. They closed with "Remedy" which was goddamned amazing, but it never really hit any higher points than that. Everybody was looking around for Kate Hudson.
From my notepad: "Just play the goddamn song, already. Stop molesting it."
Quite a few groups I wanted to see on Saturday, including Kathleen Edwards and Bettye Lavette cancelled their Saturday sets because of the travel problems associated with Hurricane Rita. So we didn't end up at Zilker until late in the afternoon, just after Death Cab for Cutie finished and just in time to get comfy for Jet. They had a great big rock sound that exploded in the first song and never let up. "Cold Hard Bitch" sounded amazing and the crowd let them know it. They sagged a bit in the middle with the less bombastic songs, but "Look What You've Done" woke the crowd up and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" was hot butter on a warm biscuit. When they rock, they really rock and they made me a fan with this set.
From my notepad: "Woo!"
Oasis, Saturday closer
One of the reasons we were even at ACL Fest this year (the lineup didn't seem as stand-out at first as last year's) was that Rebecca loves Oasis. She saw them in concert years ago and still considers herself a fan. So we settled at the same spot we camped out for Jet and waited. It got dark. The brothers emerged. And they were dicks. I mean they were annoying, mean-spirited, rude to the crowd and just full of themselves. But boy did they sound great. Their new stuff rocked and the classic songs everybody was there to hear ("Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova," "Don't Look Back in Anger") had the desired effect. Their unintelligible between-song chatter was borderline fan abuse, but most people were willing to forgive, especially after an absolutely outstanding closer of "My Generation" that everybody should have stuck around to hear. Noel mostly just played, but Liam looked like he wanted to choke-a-bitch. And with his dark sunglasses and limp demeanor, I'd be inclined to put him in the 2006 Death Pool. Seriously, homes is not looking like he's long for this world.
From my notepad: "These guys must fucking hate Coldplay. They can't believe all these British bands have leapfrogged right past them. Liam is like, 'Fuck those guys. Noel could have written "Clocks".'
Arcade Fire, Sunday
And here's where I go, "Squee!" We missed a big chunk of Sunday's early lineup, mostly because the band I wanted to see most, Los Aterciopelados, cancelled. It was a huge bummer, but at least it got us out of the sun at 12:30 p.m. on the worst day. We also missed Maneja Beto, whom I wanted to check out, and more egregiously Rilo Kiley, who seems to soak up praise like a large and soft sponge. I was sad to miss all that, but even at the late hour of 4:30 p.m., the heat was brain-scalding. We camped in some shade with our chairs and umbrella and still felt like our eyeballs were about to dribble out. We drank four bottles of water in less than an hour.
Rebecca didn't know anything about Arcade Fire and I only knew one or two songs. Holy shit. Wow. They get on stage, all 11 or so of them, with their cymbals and choir vocals and xylophones and God knows what other instruments lurking in the mix and they launch into an explosive and joyous "Wake Up." It was as if they had a shield against the wilting heat because these folks are from Montreal. If us Texans couldn't stand the heat, how were they even standing in the direct sunlight?
"Wake Up" went from its deliberate and gorgeous build to its frenetic '80s dance bit and we as ACL attendees were collectively charmed, baffled and absolutely enthralled. This was magic. We all knew it.
They went on through the songs of Funeral like there was no tomorrow, jumping, jamming, rocking, filling our hearts with their full, lush, incredible sound. Rebecca joked that they were the ultimate "Brady Bunch band" a group of kids who form a band out of ragtag instruments. "Hey, what do you play? Triangle? Great, come on! Let's play!"
One guy from the band kept jumping around with a cymbal on a stick. He beat the shit out of it, leaping and cavorting joyously around the stage. At one point, he laid down on the stage and we all wondered if he had suddenly succumbed to the heat. It was a very real possibility. Then he starts smacking the cymbal from his position on the ground. We all cheered.
Much of the chatter I heard the next few days was from co-workers preparing to go buy Funeral at Waterloo Records. Seriously, these guys will blow your mind. Check out the Pitchfork Media review if you don't believe me. And yes, I know I'm way late to the Arcade Fire party, but I'm just glad to be invited.
Best show of the fest.
From my notepad: Blank. I was too busy listening and baking.
Franz Ferdinand, Sunday
I saw them last year and was so charmed by the group that I was willing to miss Wilco to check them out again. We sat very far from the stage, but could still hear everything just fine. The stage was decorated with a huge banner, the cover of their new album. The new songs sound just as great as the ones on the last albums and I do recognize that you're either a Franz fan or you're not. They're not for everyone. We just sat and listened because by this point it was just too hot or dusty to do anything else.
This was also the set where I put a gyro down on the ground on a paper plate for five seconds and when I looked at it again it was covered with ants. Tragic.
From my notepad: "These guys are troupers. They're facing the sun and still managing not to sound pissed-off. Wish the crowd was more into them."
Coldplay, Sunday closer
We decided not to stick around for Coldplay. Friends of our told us they were going to try to listen from outside the park where there might be less dust. I kept trying to send a text message to our entertainment editor to alert him to the dust crisis, but I couldn't get the messages to go through. (Thanks, Sprint!) I told Rebecca that I'd seen these guys twice before and felt no particular loyalty to stick around if she wanted to bail. We decided to just sit and suffer. I'm not a huge fan of their latest album. I think it's kind of boring and predictable, unlike their last one which seemed to come out of left field.
So it was to my complete surprise that when the band finally started playing, with some pretty awesome visuals and the sunniest attitude of the whole festival, that we were so charmed we stayed for almost the entire set. The band was the anti-Oasis. They continually thanked the crowd for putting up with the heat. They gave props to Franz Ferdinand and lavished Arcade Fire with effusive praise. They engaged everybody to sing-a-longs that were cute even if they didn't exactly reach U2 heights.
Mostly, though, they just sounded good. There's a definite Coldplay backlash in the air; people are bagging on them for being pretentious or suddenly mainstream or whatever, but I'm here to tell you that their live show is the real deal. They play fantastically and genuinely seem thrilled to be there, unlike some other bands I've already spoken ill of. Their wavy, airy ballads and propulsive rock songs floated perfectly in the late festival air, filling the space like no other band at the fest. Sure, they probably have the most expensive gear, too, but a good attitude goes a long way and it was impossible not to like these guys after their cordial, talent-infused set.
From my notepad: Too dusty and dark to write. Although I remember thinking that someone with a face bandana was going to take the opportunity to commit a robbery.
We started walking out about two songs from the end. I stopped by the Jamba Juice and got what I was told was the absolute last Jamba Juice sold at the entire festival. That's right. Last Jamba Juice in Austin at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night.
As we left the festival, we could hear "In My Place" in the evening air. We were dirty, sweaty, tired. But we had big smiles on our faces as we the long trek back to the car.
And bonus link: Safety tips for next year's fest.
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