As a fan of Guster since the late ‘90s, I’ve got a special place in my heart for the band. Their album Lost and Gone Forever remains their standout for me even as I have found gems on newer albums, like this year’s Evermotion the group’s first for Nettwerk. So when I they came around New York to perform at Summerstage in Central Park, I figured it would be an enjoyable show. And, despite the heat, it was.
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It was not just another Wednesday night at the Soda Bar, a dive with a tiny stage that rarely hosts a band with platinum album sales. Veruca Salt was launching their first tour with their original lineup since the 20th century, a cross-country trek that will take them to a number of more venerable venues. But San Diegans were thrilled to have a chance to help the band kick off the tour and word even had it that some hardcore fans had traveled many a mile to witness the tour opener.
A rare live performance from UK electronic duo Basement Jaxx, packed in as much wild fun as they could before a 10pm curfew in Central Park. Apparently the band hadn’t performed live in New York for at least ten years (though they have come around for a DJ set at least). But unfortunately, for whatever reason, three openers (Fei Fei, Masters at Work and the Internet) were allotted time before Basement Jaxx, cutting into what could have been a longer set from the duo. When they finally went on around 8:45, Basement Jaxx had the crowd going crazy (one woman in the front row wore a unicorn horn). But for all the craziness offstage, there was more on stage, with outlandish costumes (including multiple gorillas at the end) and multiple kinds of dancers (including a ballerina) instead of the standard, trippy projected visuals other acts use.
Jukebox the Ghost have a high probability of experiencing some technical difficulty during one of their shows. Fortunately, at Central Park’s Summerstage the greatest difficulty the band encountered was a microphone that was too close to pianist Ben Thornewill’s face, or one he got too close to, as he bumped into it at one point. Could it be their “curse” doesn’t apply when they are openers? I don’t know for sure, but I would rather have dealt with some technical difficulties and watched a longer set than catch them in abbreviated form. But I take what I can get. And the piano driven pop trio, Thornewill, Jesse Kristin on drums and Tommy Siegel on guitar, were in fine form.
Perhaps no cultural institution depends more on the naiveté and innocence of children than the circus. The big top is little more than an enclosed container that seals out the conventions of science and the rules of society, creating a menagerie of simulacra. Piercing this shell with any sense of reality eviscerates the illusion. This characteristic makes it very difficult to use as a subject for art.
Any rendition would take place on a continuum between two unappealing poles. The subject matter can be treated with snarky irony, poking fun at the absurdity of the illusion. On the other end, the subject can be treated with empty nostalgia. Either pole has a powerful gravity. Trying to avoid both requires not only a skilled hand, but also a strong critical eye. Danish ceramic artist Lea Nielsen’s surreal depictions of circus stories avoids either trap in the works selected for her recent exhibition Circus is in Town, VÆG Contemporary Art Gallery, Aalborg, Denmark.