Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jun 10, 2009
Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital

Hailing from Manchester, England—home of The Smiths, Oasis, and New Order plus many, many other artists—Doves gained acclaim in the latter half of the ‘90s after switching from creating electronic to rock oriented music. The first two albums, Lost Souls and The Last Broadcast, each earned prestigious Mercury Music Prize nominations and the third release, Some Cities, was another high caliber work.


Four years later, the trio are touring in support of their newest album Kingdom of Rust, a diverse record with some quieter songs such as “Compulsion” and new influences, like the Spaghetti Western elements in the title track. At this show, the group’s three core members, Jimi Goodwin on bass and brothers Jez and Andy Williams on guitar and drums respectively mostly kept in a triangle while the unofficial fourth member, Martin Rebelski, remained aside at his keyboards.


Showcasing their dynamic songs against a video projection background, Doves tirelessly tore through songs during a 90-minute set with Goodwin barely pausing to address the audience until later on. Opening with “Jetstream”, a song from their new album with subdued vocals and warped electronic effects, built up the crowd’s expectations. Doves followed with “Snowden”, letting Goodwin’s vibrant vocals fill the venue as he inquired, “why should we care?” and the frothing guitar and keyboards reached climax.


Continuing to alternate between a sparser sound and full stadium rock, Doves sandwiched the quieter songs (“Almost Forgot Myself” and “10:03”) between the powerful works (“Pounding” and “Words”). And they pushed the audience into the break on a high; after stomping along to the Motown-tinged “Black and White Town”, pulses quickened on the tense almost frantic “The Outsiders” until finally the guitar-propelled “Caught by the River” bathed everyone in its warmth.


Though this venue has never been acoustically friendly to any artist I’ve seen here, the audience remained receptive despite the muddled sound. So Doves returned for an encore to a crowd applauding for older favorites. Goodwin took a moment to thank New York, as well as their “favorite couple ever” Dennis and Lois, then crooned “The Cedar Room” a slow, steady missive before trading places allowing Andy to sing “Here it Comes”. Doves closed out the night with “There Goes the Fear” as Goodwin and Andy banged away in a Stomp-like percussion frenzy at the end. The crowd, similarly enthused, applauded ardently, letting Doves know they are always welcome on this side of the Atlantic.



Tagged as: doves
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jun 5, 2009
Words and pictures by Thomas Hauner

Sunday afternoons are inherently lazy, especially those bathed in grills, sangria, and sunshine. Thus the Sunday afternoon summer dance series—Sunday Best—on the banks of the Gowanus Canal at BKLYN Yard was a lively way to mobilize and relax all at once. Quesadillas and fresh watermelon nourished the crowd between Sapporo’s and a cool breeze maximized the informal vibe. Dogs and babies alike danced to resident DJ’s Justin Carter, Doug Singer, and Eamon Harkin who warmed up the crowd before Andy Carthy, a.k.a. Mr. Scruff, took the helm later in the afternoon. The dance floor swelled as Mr. Scruff mixed mostly eclectic funk and other retro-tinged tunes, like “Summertime”.  But despite the healthy turnout of kids and proximity to the canal Mr. Scruff abstained from playing any of his fish-themed repertoire. All in all, it was an ideal afternoon on a canal in Brooklyn.



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jun 4, 2009
Words and Pictures by Sachyn Mital

Though unable to attend the event as a member of the press, I was lucky enough to win two contests (from 101.9 RXP and Moby’s Twitter) to get me into the Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium for a listening party for Moby’s new album Wait For Me (out on Mute on June 30th). I missed out on the free booze and the schmoozing unfortunately, and as Moby was there, a chance to speak to him. But for the 250 people, press and contest winners alike, gathered within the gorgeous Rose Center, the listening party was an utterly unique event; the entire album played with accompanying visuals from our solar system selected by the resident astrophysicist for the evening.


The venue could not have been more fitting given Moby’s fascination with space. He titles songs “We Are All Made of Stars” and his ‘Little Idiot’ alien is often a lonely space oddity across many music videos. Snippets of “Pale Horses” playing in the lobby show the alien crafting imaginary friends on the moon or in the older “Why Does my Heart Feel so Bad” he feels excluded after he floats to Earth in a wheelbarrow. And Moby has another direct connection to the Planetarium; it is home on weekends to SonicVision, a mix tape he selected accompanied by visual effects of an abstract universe and giants robot dancing.


Moby humbly introduced the event, noting that the sound system was not operating at 100 percent but thanking everyone for coming. Wait For Me, a more ambient electronic album than his most recent works, has a very cohesive sound though the dynamic changes quite a bit. Some tracks featured the distinctive gospel vocal samples in rotation since Play, at least two tracks had contemporary vocals from Moby and a female friend, and surprisingly one song in the middle had a danceable four-to-the-floor beat. But the majority of the record is rich and lush instrumentals, similar to Little Idiot, the bonus disc to Moby’s 1996 album Animal Rights. And to experience all of this while traveling through the universe, pulling back via the Milky Way, plunging close to the mountaintops of Earth and amidst the rings of Saturn was a grand experience. What a way to introduce a great album to the terrestrial world.


Tagged as: moby
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jun 3, 2009
Words by Kevin Pearson / Photos by Kate Legere

A Hawk and a Hacksaw are the kind of band I wouldn’t mind playing my wedding or my wake. They alternate between upbeat, oom-pah led numbers, and mournful dirges with the switch of an accordion key. That they do so in such an idiosyncratic way makes whatever musical track they take always sound like them. Of course, this might be due to the fact that no other band in the indie realm—except Beirut of course—utilizes the same variety of musical sources. But while the Balkans and that area’s folk music is a jumping off point for A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Moroccan bazaars, Mariachi bands, and other Eastern influences also seep through into their sound.


Initially a one-man band consisting of former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer, Jeremy Barnes, A Hawk and a Hacksaw doubled in size several years ago with the addition of violinist, Heather Trost, as a permanent member. Over several albums and EPs, the duo’s sound—Trost’s violin and Barnes’ accordion—has been fleshed out by a revolving array of auxiliary musicians, most notably renowned gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia and the Hun Hangár Ensemble. While neither of these groups back Barnes and Trost on this current European tour, the duo are instead augmented by three additional musicians playing tuba, bouzouki, and trumpet.


At first, it’s fascinating. Each musician is thoroughly engaging. It’s not your typical instrumental set up either. All of tonight’s percussion comes via Barnes’ foot, which stomps out a minimalist beat upon the skin of a solitary kick drum that is also attached to a couple of tambourines. That he does this whilst simultaneously playing the accordion is cool. The fact that he’s always on beat and on key is impressive. Trost’s violin playing is rousing in that it seemingly spirals out of control like a wild steed only to be lassoed at the last moment. “Nimble” is an understatement when describing the bouzouki player, whose fingers dance across the fret board faster than a stenographer covering a front-page court case. The only musician whose playing seems un-chaotic and methodical is the tuba player. But while this might not be as exciting to watch, his deep notes, in lieu of a bass or proper rhythm, ties everything together, allowing Barnes and Co. to cavort in their gypsy instrumentation.


If there’s any complaint to be made it’s that, aside from an encore that found the band playing unplugged amongst the audience, crowd interaction was kept to a minimum. Instead of being encouraged to move and to dance, it seemed, at times, as though we were watching a museum piece. There was a gap between performer and audience that was never gulfed. I am sure that this has a lot to do with the band’s need to concentrate on their dexterous playing, but such joyous music, especially music of an instrumental nature, needs interaction and both band and audience failed to adhere to this. Sure, there were a few handclaps and some nodding of heads, but unfortunately the overall the atmosphere was one of reverence over reaction.



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jun 2, 2009
Words by Alice Singleton / Images by Michael Brosilow

In 1970, poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron declared that, “the revolution will not be televised.” Playwright Tom Stoppard reminds us, however, that just because the revolution might not be televised, that doesn’t negate the need for a groovy soundtrack as tanks roll in, bullets whiz, and dissidents get beaten senseless into hopelessness, submission, and enemy collaboration. The final and fatal assault in Stoppard’s play comes when those that fought the hardest transmogrify into plain ol’ political progressives, settling for the serenity of a gentler and kinder body politic that they once put their love and lives at stake for.


The year is 1968 and Professor Max Morrow (Stephen Yoakam), is a loyalist to the Communism ideal, yet resides in a decidedly un-Communist abode in Cambridge, England, where he tutors students in the ways of classical philosophy and Socialist order. His wife Eleanor (Mary Beth Fisher) is also an academic and shares Max’s passion to open their home to further tutoring students, all while battling the chronic effects of breast cancer. Max’s pupil and protégé, Jan (Timothy Edward Kane), wants only to lose himself in the rock music that fills up the milk crates on his apartment floor, including the music of Plastic People of the Universe, a dissident Czech rock band. Max teaches and preaches to Jan why they all must remain true to the Communist cause, ignoring the Czech government, as it turns menacing and violent against protesters. In turn, Max ignores Eleanor’s desperate need for her husband’s erotic validation, which is now possessed by her student Lenka (Amy J. Carle). Eleanor also loses her sixteen-year-old daughter Esme (Mattie Hawkinson) to the embrace of London hippie culture and her barely hidden sexual desire for Jan.


Unable to contain his boredom of the socialist ideal as academic argument, Jan returns to Prague to get up close and personal with his love of all things rock ‘n’ roll. He positions himself a disciple of the Plastic People, who have become an enemy of the state for their refusal to discontinue playing music not sanctioned by the government, which has banned all Western-influenced commodities. August 1968, and Soviet tanks roll through Prague. Czech dissidents and idealistic college students valiantly but unsuccessfully fight back; the Plastic People go further underground and Jan recommits himself as a disciple to rock ‘n’ roll, following the Plastic People, and purchasing the music of the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground, and Pink Floyd.


Jan builds his rock ‘n’ roll monument even as government agents stand sentry outside his rundown Prague flat until the damn breaks. By the mid-‘70s the government, losing patience with those ideologues who challenge them, order the destruction of all things anti-government, including Jan’s precious record collection, an act that culminates with his interrogation, beating, and imprisonment. Jan stays behind bars until Max, lonely via widowhood, speaks with the higher-ups during a return visit to Prague, and arranges his release.


The years pass. Glasnost arrives. The Berlin Wall falls. The ‘90s bring a new name, government, and political philosophy to the Czech people, while Max’s heart breaks in double time to the fall of Communism in the East and the rise of political Conservatism in his adopted West. Max is now an old man, still professing in Cambridge, taking up British citizenship and living with the now-divorced daughter, Esme. His former son-in-law Nigel has gone to the Czech Republic to document the rise and fall of old and new, and meets a dejected and disillusioned Jan, using him as a “guide”. When Nigel confirms that he and Esme are no longer married, Jan makes the journey to Cambridge to visit Max and thank him for his kindness at arranging his release from prison.


Esme greets her old crush Jan as if she’s sixteen again, her spirit and sexuality renewed. About to lose her daughter Alice to university, and with her father becoming more embittered by romantic regret both human and political, Esme wants more than the occasional sighting of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett cycling through Cambridge to quench her desire. She plans a dinner party to include Lenka, Nigel, and Nigel’s new wife Candida (Susie McMonagle). The dinner table passes around shared histories and the evening ends with regrets, reshaping of lives, and the absolution that love never dies… and neither will rock ‘n’ roll.


Rock ‘N’ Roll makes its Chicago debut after critical and commercial success on Broadway and London’s West End. A revolution may or may not be televised, but Stoppard does a most excellent job of writing the revolution as a powerful presence on stage. Director Charles Newell shapes the music to deftly ebb and flow with the characters’ emotional rise and fall, failures and triumphs, and all the actors live up to their places on stage, with Mary Beth Fisher literally consuming the theater as Eleanor and the adult Esme, absorbing the moisture from the stage rafters to give her characters their very life’s blood and dimension. So convincing and scene-chewing was Ms. Fischer’s presence, it was not until the end when the actors took their requisite bows that I realized only one actress played two decidedly different generations.


Rock ‘N’ Roll is a force of cultural nature, and a lyrical reminder that no matter where we stand, with a revolt before us, there’s a soundtrack for it, and we pick the selections from an ethereal jukebox.


Runs through June 7th


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.