Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Portland Part One

12/30/08 - Tuesday

We walk into Burbank airport as the PA system plays "The Power of Love". I'm in a fog from last night's sleeping pill, which is actually good, because I'm too hazy to have a meltdown over travel chaos.

8:00AM - We're in flight, and the women two rows behind us won't shut up. Their kids aren't making a peep. These women have their amps on eleven, they sound like a copy of OK! magazine read aloud. They won't stop talking about Jacob, Bela, Kristen, and "New Moon" (I later learn that New Moon is one of the Twilight novels). They used the word "exactly" a lot. Is this the new trend speak? I thought the new trend speak was "You stay classy, fill in name here." We couldn't even hear the flight attendant's explanation about the oxygen masks and what not.

12:00PM - Corned beef reuben at Kenny and Zukes. Excellent.

1:00PM - shopping at Powell's books. The store is huge. Ursula buys a bunch of stuff. I decide to come back later to go on my shopping spree, buying a copy of Salem's Lot. I've read it before, but this time I want to break it down for analysis. I am made of fun.

3:00PM - stopped by Floating World Comics, one of a few shops I had hoped to visit. I picked up the new Mister X book, a copy of the Omega book by Jonathan Lethem, and The Caterer, which is kind of like Sealab 2020 after a judo chop from Bob Burden.

3:56PM - In the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Portland. We're only staying here for the night, but I could see booking another night at the end of the week; pretty cool digs. "Killing an Arab" is playing on their PA system. There is a photo booth in the lobby. Sitting diagonally from us on another couch is a guy who went to UMD with me. I can't remember his name, but I remember that he used to play ballad-y sort of songs on an acoustic guitar at the experimental stage nights where I used to read spoken word stuff. He still has a pony tail. He doesn't recognize me; I decide not to bother him.

6:30PM - Messed up going to see the Auteur at the Living Room theatre, grabbed some dinner at Clyde Common. Maybe a little too much beer...as you can tell by this choppy post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Club Suicide at the Dragonfly

The Suicide Girls have been around for over seven years. Originally their success was due to a combination of a DIY work ethic with an alt-rock aesthetic. Nowadays alt-softcore is getting mashed up with burlesque and other ideas, and we get to enjoy the results. Case in point: Club Suicide.

The Club night is held on Saturdays at the Dragonfly. The club itself is not that unusual - a large stage with a dance floor surrounded by tables and multiple bars. Of course, the first thing I noticed were the Suicide Girls dancing on the go-go pedestals. They're actual members of the site, which makes things rather surreal. Next was the photo booth near the coat room, where people get in on the SG act, at least for a night.

The music driving the club is conducted by two DJs - Amanda Jones and Robert Lockerby, the current crop of synth-heavy bands on Indie103.1's heavy rotation. Occasionally they played something that sounds a little out of place - like the Strokes - but that's probably an attempt to make things more accessible to newcomers.

The crescendo of the evening is the Electric Hula-Hoop performance by Suicide Girl Xiolita. As the club pulsed to Peaches "Boys Wanna Be Her", she whirled her hoops until they practically strobed in the dark (psychotronic pics here). The spectacle was the ultimate in neon noir, bringing out everyone's inner Blade Runner.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky

The Wrestler is the story of Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a professional wrestler twenty years past his prime. After a heart attack and bypass surgery he tries to reconnect with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and start a relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei), but the ring eventually pulls him back home.

Stylistically the direction of the film mirrors the state of Robinson's life. Aronofsky often follows Rourke with a handheld camera, shooting The Wrestler in a style much closer to a documentary than his previous efforts. The result is the opposite of the sort of spectacle that was Robinson's life in his heyday. This is life after fame.

As far as Rourke's performance goes, I'm happy to say that the Motorcycle Boy reigns once again. His performance drives the movie, and it's not hard to see why the award nominations are starting to appear.

Unfortunately, the film's flaw presents itself when the story tries to meet our expectations. In order to succeed in keeping his new found life, Robinson has to avoid wrestling. However, if Robinson were to follow through on this heroic journey, we wouldn't have the big finish that mainstream audiences expect. The choice is made to contrive against Robinson's character arc to appease this expectation. Ultimately disappointment in our hero is the result.

Despite the problems with the story, I would see The Wrestler's performance again for Rourke's performance alone. Hopefully he'll stay in the ring this time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CSS & Natalie Portman's Shaved Head at the Echoplex

The first time I went to a show, I had no idea what I was getting into: Sonic Youth at the Living Room in Providence. I walked in and stood right in the middle of the audience, with a perfect view of the stage. The moment they broke into "Mary Christ", the crowd erupted, and I found myself in the air above them. I distinctly remember being able to see the band perfectly...and stepping on someone's collarbone.

Eighteen years later, I'm off to the Echoplex to see CSS. Again, no idea what I'm getting into. I had been to the Echo before (on Election night), but never to the Echoplex. The club was painted in standard red and black, but was much bigger and cleaner than I had expected. The crowd was a sea of Members Only jackets - exactly what I expected on that front. We came in late for the opening act: Natalie Portman's Shaved Head. They were halfway through their set and loud as hell. They reminded me of Ima Robot's quirky brand of pop, but when they broke out "me plus yr daughter", Ursula and I decided to check out the sequined action. The rest of the set was great, finishing up with "Sophisticated Side Ponytail."

CSS was off to an energetic start with "Meeting Paris Hilton", complete with a masked Lovefoxx riling everyone to get moving. The crowd responded, about a dozen twenty-something girls in stilettos and legwarmers bouncing around slumber-party style. But by the time the band got to "Music is my hot, hot sex", things had slowed down. The only action really going on in the audience was six people capturing footage on their phones and cameras. I didn't really check back in until the encore - "Let's make love and listen to Death from Above" and "Alala". I'd probably see CSS again, but it would only be a sure thing if Natalie Portman's Shaved Head opened for them.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Meat Beat Manifesto at the Knitting Factory

My favorite scene in music has always been Industrial, because like Punk, there was not only a community behind the music, but an intersection with philosophy and methodology. To be specific, I'm interested in the deconstruction and reorganization of found elements in order to produce a new meaning, or the "Cut-up". This informed not only my perspective on music, but writing and visual arts as well (I started to touch on this in some entries a while back). The cut-up is still a staple of Industrial music, and although it's not completely accurate to call Meat Beat Manifesto an industrial band, they do use the cut-up technique. Hence my interest in seeing them perform at the Knitting Factory.

The last time I checked out the Knitting Factory was back in 2005 to hear Andy Khouri spin, so all the new businesses in the Galaxy complex threw me off; I almost missed the sign to the club. I had also made the mistake of not checking with friends to see when the bands came on, so I showed up early. Luckily I had my notebook, and the bar had cheap beer. A half-hour later Gabriel Dub opened. The set started off with a guy behind a macbook triggering a grating sound which eventually morphed into heavy heavy dub. Like Bauhaus Dub interludes with triple LFO. A black guy with dreads sang mutant dancehall over it. I liked it alot - at least until two more musicians came out, one of whom was a woman playing what looked like an electric violin. but sounded like a shakuhachi flute in reverse. If the Goths had shown up at that point, their pet bats would be flying into each other. Anyway, the electric violinist eventually playing something less atonal, and I enjoyed the rest of the set.

For this show, Meat Beat was comprised not only of Jack Dangers, but Mark Pistel on electronics, Lynn Farmer on live drums, and Ben Stokes on video. The set opened up with VO samples and shots of Marshall Applewhite over MBM classic techno/hip-hop/industrial beats. The highlight of the set - or my favorite - was "Radio Babylon" in front of shots of Grace Jones and flames. The encore was a barrage of beats and a obama-animation followed by "Edge of No Control". As the show wrapped up, I noticed quite a few people capturing video with their phones, probably for posterity, but hopefully some of them intended to do some remixing of their own.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have a tendency to collect crap - or stuff, as George Carlin put it. My house is the big pile of stuff with a cover on it that Carlin was talking about in his routine. Stuff collected from the past ten years that I intended to do something with at some point. A lot of this stuff is books. Some of the books were actually bought by friends, paperback novels leaving their houses for the Salvation Army, but somehow making a several-year pit stop at mine. One of these books is the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby's story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a young man who moves to Long Island and becomes Gatsby's neighbor in the 1920s. Nick's shallow cousin Daisy and her husband Tom also live in the area, as well as Jordan Baker, Nick's love interest. At the center of the story is Gatsby, a man of mystery and a former lover of Daisy's who wants her back.

Throughout the novel Carraway idolizes wealth. And although his perspective on morality changes, his perspective on materialism does not. While reading the novel I couldn't help but think of not only the excess of the 80s, but the alterna-yuppies, starbucks punks, & chuck basses of today. Not much has changed, and as I shop for a blu-ray dvd player to go with my HDTV, I doubt much ever will. But hopefully we can treat each other a little better (especially this holiday season), lest we suffer the consequences, like the characters in the Great Gatsby.