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by Sachyn Mital

15 Jun 2009

While a free show at 2 pm on a weekday in the tourist-teeming Rockefeller Center from a multiplatinum musician should draw a huge crowd, Moby’s small acoustic performance at the NBC Café had only been briefly mentioned on his website so people were not packed shoulder to shoulder. Those folks ‘in the know’ and those fortunate enough to be there all witnessed an intimate showcase with Moby as he played a grab bag of songs and humbly chatted in-between.

When not creating music, Moby has made occasional guest appearances at NYC’s comedy venue the Upright Citizen Brigade Theater. At the café, he got to share some of this lighter side. In between songs, Moby jokingly stated that the first goal of showmanship is to interrupt a song as often as possible, or rather during, switching from piano to guitar or when part of a song eluded him. The intimacy even allowed him to offer sandwiches and fruit from the green room to the audience.

Accompanying Moby was Kelli Scarr, his friend and former lead singer of Moonraker. She has lent her talents to his forthcoming release, Wait for Me and in return he is producing her debut release Piece. Scarr’s warm voice substituted for the old gospel very well on “Natural Blues” and “Honey”. She also sang the title track from his new album and “Southside”.

Moby also sang a couple of covers for which he requested help from the audience. People eagerly sang “doo doo” in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and vocalized the trumpet within Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.  Finally, despite requests to play all day, Moby ended his brief show with a Neil Young cover. Clocking in at around 45 minutes, the show was a great way to spend a lunch break. Seeing an artist in a venue where the sound of a blender can overpower the singing makes a person feel a part of something special.

by Rich Kassirer

15 Jun 2009

In the past couple of years musicians who have decided to free themselves from the corporate structure of the music industry have come up with creative ways to finance their albums. One way they’ve done this is by offering their fans special deals in exchange for some help with funding. This has included exclusive meet-and-greets, autographed items, special concert seating, and even personalized house or backyard concerts for top donors.

Well, Erin McKeown has taken her house concert idea to someplace totally new: her house. Erin is offering up a series of concerts at her own house in Western Mass., and is inviting fans to join her over the Internet. In what she is calling Cabin Fever, Erin will play four shows from various places in her yard, all with different themes, and is asking people to pay $10 per show to stream it live on her site. A cost of $30 will get you all four shows. This is all to benefit the recording and release of her new album “Hundreds of Lions.”

She writes: “In the grand tradition of barn-raisings and house-rent parties, Erin McKeown is inviting you into her living room, onto her porch, into her river, into her yard and asking you to lend a hand… just as farmers needed their neighbors to help raise the roof and musicians have sung for their supper.”

by Thomas Britt

15 Jun 2009

It is difficult to match the showmanship of Dan Deacon, but Sam Herring and Future Islands did just that with an opening slot on Deacon’s recent Bromst tour.

Front man Herring exudes a Joe Cocker vibe that elevates the band’s sound to something altogether more soulful and unique than much of today’s run-of-the-mill synth-pop.

Joe Stakun’s video for Wave Like Home standout “Beach Foam” places the band in some sort of solarized screensaver baptism. The video is a good introduction to the band’s strange, hypnotic universe.

by John Bohannon

14 Jun 2009

Segueing into Saturday after Friday’s festivities, I came to the slow realization that my body can’t quite handle these events like it used to. After a barrage of beat-driven acts on Friday, my goal on Saturday was to seek out a relaxing array of music throughout the day in preparation for the day’s headliner, Bruce Springsteen.

One of the most pleasant surprises came in the form of a press exclusive performance by Nonesuch newbies, The Low Anthem. Combining the droning element of a pump organ and the subtle nuance of atmospheric tones, the band hit a perfect chord, especially the vocals, which were absolutely phenomenal and as pure as can be. Their debut Oh My God, Charlie Darwin will be making it into my hands as soon as the festival is finished, and I suggest it makes it into yours as well.

Now, for the record, I have always had an avid hatred for the music of Jimmy Buffett. I’ve stayed as far away as possible from hotel resorts that might pipe out his tunes as I check in, and you’d never find me in one of his Margaritaville restaurants. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a giant smile on my face during his set with Ilo Ferreira and the Coral Reef All-Stars. There is something mighty charming about the man in person. Whether you like Buffet’s music or not, he knows how to make an audience feel good—and one can do nothing but commend that.

by Bill Gibron

14 Jun 2009

Dario Argento has often been referred to as the ‘Italian Hitchcock’. The filmmaker even made a latter day film based around the renowned British auteur. But with outlandishly stylized efforts like Suspiria and Inferno to his name, as well as cruel and callous crime thrillers (known as “giallos” in his native Rome), it was often hard to actually see the connection. Argento is so much more than Sir Alfred’s rightful heir, the differences between the two being easily identifiable. One used overt style to sell his standard mainstream thrillers. With a few stumbles along the way, Argento has remained one of international fright films’ most consistently inventive and unusual maestros.

Still, for many in his fanbase, there has been a missing motion picture perspective, a single film that has been squirreled away by a studio that thought it was getting visceral terror and, instead, got baffling, beautiful terror art. Paramount has sat on Four Flies on Grey Velvet for almost 40 years, never allowing it a legitimate home video release. Now, Mya Communication has rescued the title from the vaults, and it’s time for macabre mavens everywhere to rejoice. What we have here is not just a horror Holy Grail. It’s not just the missing link between Dario and Hitch. Four Flies on Grey Velvet is, without question, one of the great works of post-modern dread ever.

For struggling rock star Roberto Tobias, making music is a release—and right now, he could use an escape. After being relentlessly followed by a man in dark sunglasses, he decided to confront the stalker. An accidental death and a few photographs of same later, and Roberto is being blackmailed. Yet oddly enough, the extortionist doesn’t want money. Instead, they seem content to further torture and torment him by murdering his friends and professional associates. Turning to a hippie friend named ‘God’ and his constantly drunk companion ‘The Professor’, Roberto hopes he can catch the criminal before the police get involved. When it appears that his friends’ efforts aren’t working, our hero gets a fey private detective with a rather poor track record involved. While his wife Nina worries and his arm candy Dalia tries to comfort, Roberto is convinced that someone is trying to frame him for the killings.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is indeed a forgotten Argento masterwork, a wholly visual free-for-all that ends up surpassing almost everything he had done before, or has done since. It sits right at the start of his oeuvre, the third film in his “unofficial” animal trilogy (along with Cat O’ Nine Tails and Bird with the Crystal Plumage) and the first to fully explore the various camera tricks and visual flourishes that would come to dominate his early period efforts. There are moments of pure optical madness present—a run through a series of red theater curtains, a killing that ends with a victim’s head striking each and every step down a stairwell. But there are also aspects of narrative and murder mystery subterfuge getting a post-giallo workout. Argento would define the format forever with Profundo Rosso. Four Flies actually feels like an unusual audition for some kind of half-thriller/half Gothic fairy tale hybrid.

One thing’s for sure - the original Master of Suspense would be proud. There are literally dozens of differing elements present that would tickle old Alfie’s shock sensibilities. Our hero has a recurring dream about an Iranian beheading, the blade of the executioner moving ever closer to the victim as the vision plays out. Elsewhere, there is a visit to a coffin convention, the players moving around displays showing outrageous, avant-garde, black comedy burial paraphernalia. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Argento film without some cinematic stalwarts—the conspiring supporting cast, the secret rendezvous that turns fatal, a wheezy murderers psychotic ramblings, the oddball turn that ‘solves’ the case. The novelty here is something called retinal retention. It centers on the idea that the last thing a victim sees actually registers on the back of their eyeball. Through lasers and sophisticated scientific techniques, we get the final clue to the killer’s reveal - sort of. 

Of course, the mystery is never the meat inside any Argento movie meal, nor is the police procedural attempting to solve the crime. Wisely, Four Flies sidesteps the whole authority angle, giving Roberto a reason to avoid the fuzz. Instead, he offers more “unusual” ways to address authority. Made in 1971, during the last lilting remnants of the dying counterculture, our fiendish filmmaker really lets loose with the fringe characters. Of particular interest is a man named “God” (short for Godfrey) who seems to be the puppet master for all of Roberto’s self-sleuthing, and later on, a homosexual PI provides his less than competent case solving methods in full limped-wristed swish mode. Yet Argento is not playing bigot here. Instead, he is messing with gender types, taking on both the macho and the mincing as a means of countering the eventual ‘reality’ of the killer.

Of course, all the proposed political context is just moviemaking smoke and mirrors. The real power is in the moving picture, and there are stunning examples of same throughout Four Flies, including an ending that is absolutely haunting in its slow motion vehicular violence. This is the filmmaker in full blown experimental mode, a man so assured of his visual acumen that he is willing to toss aside all other baser elements of cinema—story logistics, character detail, tone consistency, etc.—to achieve his ends. For some, this will be nothing more than slick self-indulgence, flash for the sake of unclear aesthetic aims. But when viewed through the prism of his growing directorial confidence, in conjunction with where he hoped his career would flourish, Four Flies becomes an outrageous omen of things to come.

Why Paramount sat on this film so long will always remain a cinematic mystery. Sure, one could argue that Argento has made more accessible films, even within Suspiria‘s fever dream dynamic and latter works’ (Opera, Stendhal Syndrome) unbridled gore. But as something indicative of who he was/is, as an example of his art at its most malleable and insane, Four Flies on Grey Velvet is without exception. It’s the kind of film you ‘expect’ when you hear about the man, his mannerisms, and his methods. It’s the giallo that redefines the genre as it cements certain filmic formalities. If you go in expecting straightforward crime solving and a wealth of clues/red herrings as to the killer’s identity, you’ll be disappointed. Argento litters his scenes with all manner of diversion, but very few lead to the final denouement. Indeed, as whodunits go, this is more of a “who cares”. But as a work of celluloid skill, Four Flies on Grey Velvet has no equal. It’s a great, great film.

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