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Weezer + Pete Yorn + am radio

Adrien Begrand
Weezer + Pete Yorn + am radio

Weezer + Pete Yorn + am radio

City: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Venue: Northlands AgriCom
Date: 2002-04-23

Weezer
Weezer
Pete Yorn
S E T    L I S T
Dope Nose
Photograph
My Name is Jonas
The Good Life
Superstar
Island in the Sun
Surf Wax America
Tired of Sex
Burndt Jamb
Knock Down Drag Out
Undone
Why Bother
Don't Let Go
Say It Ain't So
Hash Pipe
Only in Dreams
ENCORE
Happy Together
Buddy Holly
More Than Just Geek "Edmonton. City of champions," Weezer head honcho Rivers Cuomo said in sandpaper-dry fashion as he and his bandmates took the stage at the Northlands AgriCom, a sarcastic nod to the city's somewhat embarrassing self-appointed title dating back to Wayne Gretzky's days in the Alberta capital during the 1980s. Cuomo, known for his somewhat prickly onstage demeanor, looked less than enthused to be playing. "We came here to smack some butts, so assume the position," he unenthusiastically declared, sounding about as menacing as Eddie Deezen on downers. That geeky façade of Weezer, though, is just a ruse. They came to town to rock our worlds, pure and simple, and on this unseasonably frigid April night, in front of just over 3,000 fans in an odd, cozy arena that looked (and sounded) like a rectangular concrete warehouse, they succeeded on every level. Opening band am radio started the evening off with a brief set, playing catchy, hook-laden tunes that sounded more Britpop than emo. Their singer admitted this was the biggest audience they had faced to date, and the band looked a bit out of place, with only the singer showing enthusiasm while the four others put in workmanlike efforts, sticking to their spots on the stage. Los Angeles' Pete Yorn, the cool guy singer-songwriter of the moment (thanks in part to Winona Ryder and a whole lotta hype), was an interesting choice as opening act for Weezer. His music from his excellent album musicforthemorningafter is just as introspective as Weezer's, but his style is a bit more laid back, more Springsteen than emo, and it was clear it would be a challenge to win over the young crowd. Despite the typically muddy, opening act sound, Yorn and his tight four-piece backing band were very strong, especially on songs like "Life on a Chain", "For Nancy", and "Closet". The most sublime part of his set was a stirring, slightly down-tempo cover of The Smiths' classic "Panic" (a song older than half the audience) which segued into "Strange Condition", one of the best tracks from Yorn's album. By the end of his 45 minute set, the cheers from the floor were louder, showing that Yorn will easily win some new young fans during this tour. The kids were there for Weezer, though, and as the opening chords to "Dope Nose" were struck, it was pandemonium, as the band kicked into their current single, the catchiest song they've done in years. Surprisingly, the set list was light on material from Maladroit, their excellent upcoming album; everyone was familiar with "Dope Nose", but the cool Funk Lite of "Burndt Jamb" and the even newer tune "Superstar" (currently in contention for Album Number Five, which was being recorded this past month. It's all very confusing) received the most tepid reaction from the fans. No, there were few surprises this night, as Weezer stuck to its growing catalog of career highlights. The audience, perhaps the most well-behaved rock crowd I've seen, giddily ate it all up, happily crowd surfing, pogoing, and just having fun. If you took all seventeen original songs from that night's gig and put them on a compilation album, it'd be better than most other "best-of" releases you'll come across, such is the high quality of A-list material the band has put out on four measly records. The majority of their set rotated among the first four albums: "Don't Let Go" ("Played in F sharp. The key of champions."), "Hash Pipe" (preceded by a cautionary "Pardon my mayhem," from Cuomo), "Knock Down Drag Out", "Island in the Sun", and "Photograph" from last year's Green Album; "Tired of Sex", "The Good Life", and "Why Bother" from 1996's cult fave Pinkerton. However, the biggest cheers were for the songs from their first eponymous album, as every word of "My Name is Jonas", "Surf Wax America", "Undone (The Sweater Song)", "Buddy Holly", and "Say it Ain't So" were joyously sung along by the crowd. For good measure, the band played a pogo-happy cover of The Turtles' "Happy Together" as an encore. Onstage, Weezer were neither overly charismatic nor shoegazing, but despite a couple technical glitches (being the first show of the current tour), they were very, very tight. Stringbean guitarist Brian Bell stuck to his side of the stage for the duration, contributing mostly rhythm guitar with a few lead fills. The rhythm section consisting of ebullient drummer Patrick Wilson and bassist Scott Shriner were solid throughout, with the tattooed, animated Shriner, looking as anti-emo as he could manage, serving as the band member who connected with the audience the most. The show's success, though, depended on Cuomo, and after his subdued opening remarks, he quickly loosened up, thanks in part to a pair of panties thrown onstage during "Dope Nose". "How rock and roll," he said, holding them up. "Wait a minute, these are briefs. Nasty." The bearded Cuomo also donned a wool hat thrown by a kid in the crowd early in the set, and spent the entire show looking like Badly Drawn Boy's shrimpy little brother. Much has been made about Weezer's ironic, geeky image, how they take hard rock clichés and give them their own twist, from their metal riffs and contrasting sensitive-guy lyrics, to their brilliant merchandise that lampoons Eighties metal (their parody of Slayer's "Slaytanic Wehrmacht" T-shirt is genius), all the way down to the big, goofy, lit-up, Van Halen-styled "W" that descends at the end of their show. It all sounds so satirical, but when you see it in person, when you see several thousand kids go absolutely nuts when that "W" comes down during the climactic "Only in Dreams" -- just like kids like myself did when Iron Maiden's "Eddie" appeared during their concerts years and years ago -- you're hit with the realization that Weezer, above all else, want to rock. From the "W," to the pillars of smoke during "Hash Pipe" (lovely symbolism, there), to the ludicrous confetti blizzard, to the strobe lights, they, like their fans, are just reveling in the pure, glorious stupidity of rock and roll, and bless 'em for it.

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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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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