Film

'The House of Steinbrenner': A Lot of Memories Here

More impressionistic than chronological, The House of Steinbrenner pulls together both nostalgic imagery and bracingly pointed interviews.

The House of Steinbrenner

Director: Barbara Kopple
Cast: Hal Steinbrenner, Maury Allen, Bill Gallo, Joe Girardi, Jennifer Steinbrenner
Rated: NR
Studio: ESPN Films
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-09-20 (Stranger Than Fiction)
Website
Trailer
If the old stadium was the House That Ruth Built, the new park is the House that Steinbrenner and Bloomberg Fleeced.

-- Dave Zirin, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love (NY: Scribner 2010)

"One thing my dad instilled in us was the obvious: without the fans, we are not." Hal Steinbrenner's assessment of his family's relationship to Yankees fans sounds about right, if a bit dramatic. And while George Steinbrenner's history with the team was tumultuous, it was also legendary. As recounted in Barbara Kopple's The House of Steinbrenner, this history continues to shape the team's present and future -- and especially, its relationship to its fans.

At least a few fans see this as a successful relationship. "The Steinbrenner family is the best owners in sports," yells one man watching the most recent champions parade, in November 2009. "New York fans," he adds, "are the luckiest because we got the Steinbrenners. They'll spend the money so that we can have parades like this! Let's do it again!"

But, the film reveals, not everyone feels so copacetic. Screening at New York's IFC Center on 20 September, as a pre-season Monday Special for Stranger Than Fiction (including a Q&A with Kopple), then premiering on ESPN Tuesday, 21 September, as part of the 30 for 30 series, looks at the transition from the old Yankee Stadium, built in 1923, to the new one, which opened across the street in 2009. More impressionistic than chronological, the film pulls together nostalgic imagery and some bracingly pointed interviews with owners, construction workers, players, and fans, all voicing opinions as to the move's various effects.

Smart, subtle, and trenchant, House of Steinbrenner doesn't detail the controversies that attended the move, including its location on public parkland in the Bronx, and its cost, some $2.3 billion, with $1.2 billion in taxpayer subsidies. But it does indicate that, for all the team owners' talk about looking after fans' interests, the stadium -- like so many others, from the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins to the new Meadowlands, which houses the New York Jets and the Giants -- is saddling taxpayers with construction, parking, and security costs, on top of increased ticket and concession prices. "I just spent $100 on four sandwiches and four drinks," says one Yankees fan at the new stadium. He's smiling, a little painfully.

"The regime that's taken over is more concerned about the dollar than they are about the fans," says another fan. "It's no longer about getting your kid in and getting your family in and making it reasonable. It's not reasonable." That regime, in place since 2008, is headed by Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, George's sons. Hal explains to Kopple that he's "a numbers guy," a graduate of Culver Military Academy who's more comfortable keeping track of accounts or piloting his airplane ("It's peaceful, nobody can get me"). When Kopple asks how he's taking to his new job, Hal admits, "The thing that's hardest for me is what my dad was really good at, promotion, marketing, dealing with the media. I'm an introverted guy and he was certainly extroverted and knew how to promote." Clips show Hall in front of cameras and taking questions from reporters, looking as nervous as he's suggested he feels.

The House of Steinbrenner points out differences between the two Steinbrenners' styles, with old footage of George -- turtlenecked, blustery -- making pronouncements ("My number one frailty is probably impatience... Sometimes I know I am impatient with people because I want them to be doing better"), a scrolling list of the many Yankees managers he hired and fired (20 changes over 23 seasons, the most famous being Billy Martin, hired and hired some five times), and a series of comments by sports writers (Maury Allen: "I don’t think he considered them human beings, I think he considered them an aspect to making the team more successful") and players (Derek Jeter: "Mr. Steinbrenner, he's the reason that we're here today"), as well as headlines and cartoons depicting his long and frequently contentious reign.

"The purpose of owing a ball club is to win ball games," says George Steinbrenner. And now, apparently, to turn a profit. If the film features a plinky piano score over images alluding to Steinbrenner's long-failing health ("He's not George anymore," says the Daily News' Bill Gallo, "he's a quiet man in his twilight") and death this year, it also offers a pointed, concise look at the transition from the first stadium to the second one. Even as Deborah Tymon, senior vice president of Yankees marketing, observes (with a slight choke in her voice), "The ghosts are going with us, the history's going with us, the legends will never be forgotten," the film shows how those ghosts are also bought and sold. Specifically, the new regime undertakes to sell literal chunks of the old park as collectibles: sections of the frieze, strips of sod, seats, freeze-dried grass, and assorted signage, are all available for sale on websites.

The sellers say their goal is to "save as much as we can because it is such a special place." At a press conference, Kopple's voice sounds from within a crowd of mostly- male beat reporters, asking, "What is the most expensive item?" The answer is hardly forthcoming, alluding vaguely to the value of all the items for fans, especially "something in the locker room." A quick, handheld shot of lockers being disassembled is subtitled, "Derek Jeter has agreed to purchase his locker for an undisclosed price." When Hal insists that his family is interested in keeping a trip to the ballpark "affordable" for all families, he notes, "There's not a bad seat in the stadium." The film cuts to ticketholders, turning to the camera in frustration, as they point out their sight lines are obstructed.

With such intricate allusions, The House of Steinbrenner consistently makes several points at once. While it acknowledges the Yankees and the Steinbrenners' success, it also notes the fans' range of feelings. The "house" of the title refers to many experiences, individual and collective. More than once, fans remember attending games with their fathers, associating the place with their own pasts, some imagining futures when their own children will recall being with them at a game.

It's history to come, maybe.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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