Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 16, 2009
Director: Katie Turinski; Cast: Mark (Zebra) Thomas, Lee Kyle, Devan McGrath, Benjamin Porter, Jeffery Kriescher; Runtime: 68 minutes

It’s tragic to say that, for the most part, I’ve seen so many “slices of reality” and artistic biographies that I wince at the prospect of either. With so many people living life within the incessant Twitterati spectacle, it’s difficult for me to believe that people can actually be captured in the wild. It’s hard to sneak a camera in front of someone and not see themselves begin to live as autobiographers. That’s just one of the reasons that Sissyboy was such a genuinely enjoyable film. Katie Turinski had delicate, intimate technique as a director. She obviously built a fairly stunning rapport, a confessional safety zone, and even an eye for capturing settings that were as entertainingly revealing as the characters themselves. 


Sissyboy follows the ideas and relationships contained within a cross country tour of a group of drag queens, albeit drag queen self-consciously acting as satires about the ideas of women rather than attempting to embody some idealized, materialistic, glamorized interpretation of femininity. They’re gender outliers, critiquing some of the reactionary gender rules that gays import into gay culture. Geeky, muscley, tatted, or sporting wheat grass facial fur, these gay men simply don’t fit a type. The sissyboys are a softer version of what Leigh Bowery was to RuPaul. They’re a courageous troupe of funny and flawed artists that have managed to laugh at some really painful life experiences. They share these stories in mini-monologues of free association, group history and their struggles with being who they are. The documented understand that they’re something of jesters, hiding hard realities with flamboyant misdirection. But for all their meth benders and petty thievery, they’re a deeply compassionate group of people that you fall in love with within seconds. 


Sissyboy, however, is so much more than a Pacific Northwest version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It’s rarely talked about how gay people try to import the morality of oppression into their own communities in fetishizing gender roles. The sissyboys seem completely aware that as flippant as their performances seem, they are at odds with unspoken codes of bigotry in their own communities, and they want to address these injustices as much as heal their own private, complex and sometimes troubled personal worlds. The sets might look like elementary versions of the Passion Play, but the shows are brave and garishly hilarious. They rewrite a L’Trimm song to make it from the point of view of teenage Muslim women serenading hot Jihadis. They turn a Fergie song into a primal pro-choice howl. Other jokes are so profane that I can’t even explain them without sounding evil. 


This is the kind of narrative documentary that runs well above its form. I thought this was the best intellectual documentary with ballsac close-ups I’ve ever witnessed. The sissyboys presented here seem like admirably self-aware artists creating without endgame. I’m ruining nothing by telling you that at some point, they decide that their experiment has run its course. They created something and understood when it was finished. How many lovely things would be better off as hit-and-runs? How many artists move on so gracefully, leaving such a comfortable place? It’s difficult not to gush about a documentary like this as much as I am embarrassed for doing so. But the sissyboys were such an outstanding collective of comics, commentarians, artists, and humans, that I forgive myself an hour and some change of being hopeful in the land of the damned.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Mar 10, 2009
by Randy Haecker
Words and Pictures by Randy Haecker

Headlining the Italians Do It Better showcase at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge, the Portland duo Glass Candy delivered a spellbinding set of indie disco magic on Saturday night. Charismatic frontwoman Ida No was joined by musical director and keyboardist extraordinaire Johnny Jewel.


The duo played a selection of underground hits from their 2006 breakthrough album B/E/A/T/B/O/X, as well as a strong selection of material from the newly-released Deep Gems. With a myriad of black and pink balloons piled high on stage, Glass Candy finally appeared after 1:00 am. Opening acts for the concert included Nite Jewel and Twisted Wires.


For more information on Glass Candy and Italians Do It Better visit www.myspace.com/glasscandy.


 



Tagged as: glass candy
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 9, 2009
A brand new guitarist and a late start couldn't slow down the Peacemakers, one of America's hardest-working bands.

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers w/Shurman, Sunday, March 1, Houston, TX@ The Continental Club


Roger Clyne seems to hit Houston’s Continental Club about twice a year. And for the third time in his last four appearances, he was playing the club on a Sunday night. After going to a few Clyne shows in Austin and at Gruene Hall on weekend nights, it seemed like a little bit of a letdown to go to another Sunday night show where the crowd could be counted in the dozens instead of the hundreds. And at first, it seemed like it was gonna be roughly the same 80 people who always come out to the Continental Club. By the time the Peacemakers got started, though, there were well over 100 people in the crowd, many of them ready to sing along.


First up, though, was Shurman. This was our third time seeing them open for Clyne, and their fired-up country-rock is always a nice way to start the show. Shurman has recently relocated from Los Angeles to Austin, and their drummer stayed behind. So Peacemakers drummer P.H. Naffah filled in for the band’s 40-minute set. The set was typical, which is to say a lot of fun. I don’t know all of Shurman’s songs yet, but I always enjoy seeing them. The highlight of the set was probably a cover of Elvis Costello’s “What’s so Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?” Not just because it was a strong cover, but because the guy standing next to me was so excited that he was about to explode. Shurman playing that song seemed to blow his mind.


Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers hit the stage at about 10:45, a little later than planned due to the doors opening about an hour late. They opened the show with “Wanted”, a live staple that is generally the only song in the set to come from the second Refreshments album, The Bottle and Fresh Horses. Right away it was noticeable that despite wearing a similar black cowboy hat, the band had a new guitarist. Original Peacemaker Steve Larson has left and been replaced by Jim Dalton, a strong guitar player in his own right. Dalton’s influence was felt early on, as he sang a lot more backing vocals than Larson, and even used his microphone to speak occasionally. Clyne is often the only person talking onstage, so it was nice to have a bit of banter for a change. Dalton was also responsible for putting “Tributary Otis” in the set, a rare second song from The Refreshments’ second album. Later on, the band also pulled out “Sin Nombre,” an unprecedented third song from The Bottle and Fresh Horses. Seeing as that album is right at the top of my list of favorite Clyne albums, it was a nice treat.


The rest of the set was mostly standard-issue Peacemakers, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. The sweet “Down Together” featured the first of many great singalongs from the audience. Live staples “I Don’t Need Another Thrill” and “Mexico” also had excellent audience participation. This paved the way for Clyne to take an audience request, which led to the band playing relative rarity “Easy” for the first time with Dalton- they said they hadn’t even rehearsed it together. But it still sounded good.


A woman in the crowd spent most of the night yelling at the top of her lungs for “Green and Dumb”, the beautiful love ballad that doesn’t usually show up until late in the set, but is almost always played. She should’ve saved her voice, because, sure enough, the song showed up in the encore, great as ever. The band closed the show with their cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and said goodnight shortly after 12:30am. At a scant one hour and 45 minutes, this made it the shortest Peacemakers show I’ve attended- the band almost always goes over 2 hours. But since the show started late, it was a blessing that the band got finished (relatively) early, because I was able to get 5 ½ hours of sleep or so and actually function the next day.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Mar 6, 2009
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

The minimalist folk music of Ida was so ethereal, concentrated, and beautiful at times, it’s as if they had coaxed their sounds from the earth’s elements—air, for the bellows of various sound-boxes and the music’s lightness; fire, igniting and electrifying Dan Littleton’s guitar; earth, procuring their instruments’ bodies; and water, the common solvent, generating a lyrical flow. No other sources would be sufficiently raw or beautiful.


The intimate setting of Joe’s Pub was ideal to listen to Ida’s delicate harmonies and sentimental melodies. Though a time-constrained set, the group—consisting of Littleton, singers Elizabeth Mitchell and Karla Schickele, violinist Jean Cook, and percussionist Ruth Keating—relished the venue’s sensitive acoustics and the crowd’s attentiveness. 


Their first song didn’t start so much as emerge. Littleton and Mitchell played complimentary rolling patterns on mini hand-held xylophones, and as they ebbed and flowed together they slowly added harmonies, singing, “I have not been here before.”


The somber lucidity of Mitchell’s vocals were arresting and soothing at the same time.  And when paired with Littleton’s parallel intonations, or the entire band’s gentle backing vocals, their sound was sonorous and lush.


Ida sounded equally fragile and sparse too. The majority of their instrumentations and accompaniments began with faint strumming and would eventually swell into all-encompassing droning tones, with the help of Cook’s even-handed violin bowing or Mitchell’s harmonium. Their attention to sonic textures made for really interesting combinations of tones and layered together made Mitchell’s plain but increasingly gorgeous voice float above it all.


Their tactile focus made their song structure become increasingly repetitive, however, and one had to scrutinize the lyrics or melody to find distinctions between numbers.


Littleton added density with electric-guitar cadences on “Late Blues”, creating monstrous distortion and feedback during the chorus and bridge. It was a jarring contrast to the verse’s introspective shell.


The best song of the night used to be about America, we were told, but instead had simply become another Dolly Parton cover, “The Pain of Loving You.” The treat was that they ditched their mics and exploited the small room’s acoustics singing a cappella.


Ida’s last song was the closest they’ll “ever come to ‘We Will Rock You’”. They got everyone tapping the song’s simple beat in unison on tables/people, revealing further their elemental nature.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 5, 2009
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

It was one of those nights when the headliner legitimately got outplayed and outperformed. Which isn’t to say that Blitzen Trapper put on a bad show. It was a solid performance with their sound and set well balanced, along with all the other trimmings that one comes to expect from a band coming off their most successful year and most lauded album to date, Furr (8.5/10 on Pitchfork; #13 album of 2008 on Rolling Stone; #4 single of 2008 on Rolling Stone, if you’re keeping tally).


But the Montreal trio, Plants and Animals, was in it to win it. They played one of the most broadly satisfying sets I’ve heard from anyone in months. Its scope was large enough for each song to feel new and captivating, but consistent enough with their natural idiosyncrasies to know that it flowed from the same spring.  So post punk numbers ended up sounding like jam-band musings and vice-versa. 


Though no battle of the bands, they played with a feverish reckless abandon yet compelling earnestness and epic, carefully constructed, songs became filled with intuitive improvisations.  Drummer Matthew Woodley was prolific and at once contemporary and old school with his traditional grip. On “Faerie Dance”, his hard beat evoked the laissez-faire groove of Sublime, as did the harmonic “la-la-la’s” in the fading chorus. Singer Warren Spicer was an amalgamation of Kurt Cobain’s dissonant melodies and blonde hair and Freddy Mercury’s flamboyant exuberance and epic vocals. The latter was particularly true because I was convinced that their song “Bye Bye Bye” was a Queen cover. It was not. But its contrapuntal chorus (“Bye bye bye”) and main lyrics (“What’s gonna happen to you”) over piano power chords was a total characterization.


With each member perspiring out of sheer intensity, they still had their heads on right and seemed genuinely unpretentious. At one point Spicer even asked, “You guys are feeling this, right?” 


His question put the pressure of pleasing ephemeral tastes in perspective immediately, and the source of their uncertainty became obvious: Everyone was talking, seemingly not paying attention. But after their finale, “Bye Bye Bye”, the crowds’ roaring delight assured Plants and Animals that they, in fact, were heard and well liked.


All this made Blitzen Trapper’s task, for me, nearly impossible. The scattered sextet simply could not match the drive and flowing harmonies of Plants and Animals. Despite having twice as many band members on stage, their sound seemed empty and flat, with singer Eric Earley dominating the workload. He even took over completely for a two-song solipsism, playing “his grandma’s favorite song,” “Cocaine Blues”. Cute. 


Furr’s best songs, “Black River Killer” and the title-track, were also the best received. But they were also played more or less verbatim on the album. The set was reserved and controlled in exactly the ways that Plants and Animals’ wasn’t. Instead of an exhilarating live experience, it was a reprise of their album. That album was pretty great, but when an Allman Brother’s-esque band comes up short live, it’s always a let down.


 


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.