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Saturday, December 25, 2010

AND BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED....

This movie was cool. Nothing to do with this blog tho..




As I type this out I am listening to Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas".     As we come to the holidays and the close of another year I have been reflecting a lot lately on life and my family, most of which has passed away. Instead of sadness I am definitely on the side of the warm and fuzzies tonight. I'm where I'm supposed to be at this exact moment in time. A place where people love me and appreciate my friendship. I'm glad that the people I choose to surround myself with in life don't care about the commercialized, pissing contest that the holidays can be to some. Although I am not fully pleased with my station in life, it's all about the journey and at least I know I'm not alone on this road. A wise man once said “it's not where ya from it's where you're in the mentals”. Or to put it another way: I will “fake it `til I make it” which has become my motto of late. In this spirit I'd like to share my favorite holiday memory of all time: The Sears Wishbook!


Not the idea of famous Sears catalog of gifts or the idea of getting any of them at all. But something else a little more innocent and special from my childhood. Growing up in a semi-serious Jewish family as a child meant Chanukah was our primary concern. But my parents being less conservative than most knew we didn't have many friends of Hebraic (editors note: Keefbonics) descent so they incorporated some Christmas spirit into out lives with stockings, a small tree (my dad called it a burning bush of fiyah) and gifts. Even though times were tough and means were meager we always got a few gifts for Chanukah and some kind of small gift for Christmas so we wouldn't feel “left out” We also got chocolate bunnies at Easter even though it often conflicted with Passover. There isn't a deep meaning to this part except that I think it was cool my parents were concerned with our feelings and tried to spread the love around to multiple holidays so we would feel less weird.


We had this electric Menorah growing up.
One year for no good reason it burst into flames. 
My second favorite holiday memory is really a collection of memories. Since most of my friends celebrated Christmas, Christmas day for little Keefy meant getting to play with his friends toys when he didn't have anything especially awesome to share (like underwear or homemade mittens and hats with pom-poms on the top like South Park). My best friends from childhood are still my best friends today thirty plus years later so Jesse, Danny, Anita and Damien and your families- thank you for always including me in your festivities and making me feel welcomed and loved. It still means a lot to me to this day that your good fortune was also made to feel like mine. No one ever flaunted what they had- it was always “look at this cool thing we can both play with!”. I was a lucky kid then and a lucky grown up dude now.
Anita, Me, Jesse and Danny at Jesse's wedding in 2005.

Sears started putting out a holiday catalog back in 1933 and it made an indelible mark on popular culture and my life too. I recall the mailman knocking on our door to hand deliver the book because at 700-800 pages it wasn't fitting in our tiny mailbox. Every member of my house was vying to see it first. My father like to look at tools. My oldest brother liked to look at instruments and stereos. My middle brother just like to thumb through and look at the colorful pictures. My mother liked to look at clothes for the kids. Like most children, I liked the toys and games. Especially the original 11 Inch G.I. Joes, Lionel Trains and Star Wars toys once the movie came out and got big.




What made The Wishbook special besides the excitement when it came to our house was a ritual my mother and i would do together. The book already would be in the house about a week and mom would get out the book and have me sit in her lap. We would go through about 200 pages of the book- towards the back where the toys were a page at a time. Together we read every single description of toys or games that I was remotely interested in. The last line of many of them was “and batteries not included.” which we would say in unison, every time. Do this about 200 times and you are laughing hysterically. At least we were. It wasn't about the gifts because often she would say “I don't think that toy is right for you” if it cost too much or was inappropriate (“you'll shoot your eye out!”). I knew I was only gonna get one or two presents as it was and likely not from Sears when Corners Department Store was down the block from my apartment in the projects. But my mom made it a point to do this with me every year from about ages 3 to 8 every year and it made me really happy that she did. It was a blast.

Whether you remember The Wishbook and have your own special holiday memories or not – check out this cool website someone put up with entire catalogs (Sears and other stores) from the past here http://www.wishbookweb.com/ .  

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: TRON LEGACY (no spoilers, well not that many)

Directed by Joe Kosinski (Walt Disney Pictures)


This TRON........
Not this Tron........
On my way out of town I went to the AMC 34th Street Theater in New York this past Friday with my pal Ojaay to see the hotly anticipated Disney film TRON: LEGACY. Although I tend to be down on remakes and 3-D technology I was thrilled to see this film in 3-D IMAX. I won't ruin the movie for those of you still waiting to see it by giving up too much info. A sequel to 1982's TRON written and directed by Joe Lisberger (who co-produced the new movie) TRON: LEGACY continues the story of video game designer/alternate digital reality creator Kevin Flynn. Although there are a few nice nods to the original in the new movie- you do not have to be familiar with the original to enjoy it or understand the story.


Ojaay and I await the film in our seats.

In the first film Flynn who is a rising star programmer at corporate computer giant ENCOM (sort of a combination of KONAMI, GOOGLE & MICROSOFT) makes some  amazing discoveries. After having someone else take credit for his work and getting ousted, Flynn tries to hack into the mainframe where his life is digitized and rendered into the “world of the grid”. The grid is a world inside the mainframe where artificial intelligence controls nearly everything while there are battles at stake between actual “programs” sentient human forms and “users” who are their real human counterparts operating in the system. Although the technology was terribly limited at the time (1982) and the look of the film was primitive by today’s cgi standards it was a triumph as the first mixed live action/computer animated movie. Although low budget and early tech impaired the visuals somewhat, the story has fascinated sci-fi fans for nearly twenty years. Including me. I was very excited to see the sequel come out. I saw the original TRON film at the old Allerton Avenue Movie Theater in The Bronx and I dragged my poor mother to take me. She couldn't have cared less for sci-fi and I think after that she rarely took me to movies and I went by myself a lot after TRON.

Check out this cool pic of the old Allerton Ave. movie house! Good times-
TRON: LEGACY opens up with a recap of the history of the franchise. Ergo, that's why you don't need to know more of the story than I have given you. We see Kevin Flynn as played by Jeff Bridges tucking his son Sam in one night talking about the world of the grid and promises to show it to him someday. Then he leaves for work on his motorcycle. The next day he disappears just as he is on the verge of a major breakthrough (harkening back to the events of the first film). He is never seen again according to news reports and ENCOM reorganizes without him after a major stock crash, similar to the real life events of the video game industry crash of 1983. Young Sam is left in the care of his grandparents, but never recovers emotionally from the loss of his dad.


Flash forward to today and we see grownup Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) who is a wealthy aire to his father's vast fortune left to him when he vanished. Sam could be a major player in ENCOM like his father was supposed to be, but he shuns that life although he is clearly a brilliant computer whiz. He lives off the radar of most people with a lot of expensive toys and a cute puggle. Sam is visited by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), reprising his role from the first film as Kevin Flynn's confidant and partner. Alan is still on the ENCOM board, but doesn't like the way they do things. Alan gives Sam his pager (!) tells him to go to his father's old arcade and to his office. Sam winds up in the office and finds his father's old private lab with his research. Sam ends up transported to the world of the grid and once he gets his bearings he attempts to answer the riddle of his father. Similar to the first film the world is predicated on battle games for survival and there is a claustrophobic feeling of desperation in the film similar to the first MATRIX movie. Once again the common theme of a lot of sci-fi being that the technology that frees us also puts us in peril. 

The original name for the sequel was TRON 2 or TR2N. 

Bridges turns in a brilliant performance (with a slight nod to the THE BIG LEBOWSKI) as the user Flynn as well as his creation the renegade program Clu. His scenes with himself in both roles were amazing and had me reflecting on how he has reinvented his career in the last few years. So very proud of him. Boxleitner as Bradly/Tron is solid in limited screen time and Hedlund gives a strong performance as does Olivia Wilde as the beautiful and mysterious Quorra. Micheal Sheen is brilliantly delicious as Castor and Cillian Murphy is quite funny an uncredited role as the son of Edward Dillinger, a main character in the first movie.

DaftPunk played DJ's in the movie.

Visually the film is exceptional and the 3-D (which again, not a big fan of) was really well done. The special effects and the actual blocking of actors seamlessly works together like most modern films, but still maintains the cold feel of the world of the grid. Some of the action scenes are tremendous and have all the bells and whistles you expect from a flick of this caliber. I also have to give props to Daft Punk for the amazing soundtrack which evokes the original TRON soundtrack by Wendy Carlos, a favorite of mine. Overall the film was very enjoyable and I am looking forward to future sequels and the TV series that is due next year.




To follow the story a little deeper before going to the movies check out http://www.flynnlives.com/



Thursday, December 9, 2010

DECEMBER 8TH WILL BE ROUGH, THE REST OF MY LIFE.....

As today draws to a close I am deep in reflection. Actually I have been since before midnight yesterday. December 8th is date burned into the minds of many of my friends today. Just as December 7th- “the day that lives in infamy” (Pearl Harbor Day) did for my parents and their peers. It's a strange convergence that has been pointed out by many to be true. If you have already guessed at the topic of the tale, that's fine. The stories have been told and retold a lot today. I have my own spin on how these events affected me personally.

"Nobody told me there'd be days like these..."

Thirty years ago while coming home from the studio John Lennon was shot to death outside of his home in his adopted home of New York City. John once joked that THE BEATLES were “bigger than God” and his death sort of proved him right, sadly enough. You can argue all day and night if either he or Paul were more talented (I always preferred quiet ol' George Harrison myself), but there is no doubting that John was the fiercest of THE BEATLES. By using his celebrity for social activism, opening political dialogue and continuing to be a rebel in his post-Fab Four life, I believe he actually fulfilled the very weak promise of the hippies. Most of them their protests and causes for drugs and sex and proto-consumerism in the 70's. John remained a vital artist throughout his career and an was always iconic. His loss at such a young age (40) was immense. He would have turned seventy this past October.

Cosell interviewed Lennon once before on MNF 
Like many I was watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell made the announcement. My brothers and I were watching the meaningless game (since the Giants weren't on) and my mom was relaxing after teaching her dance class. Since it was her birthday I believe we were having ice cream, very likely Sealtest's Heavenly Hash, which was the family choice at the time. I could barely comprehend the bad news as an eight year-old, but my brother the rocker was devastated and my mom started to cry. Although my mom was clearly the generation before the Beatles she enjoyed some rock and pop music including them and THE ROLLING STONES. She just cried for hours and would remark the next day to my father that is was like part of the world died with John. My father was a jazz-o-phile and didn't care much for the rock music his annoying putz sons listened to. I also recall that next day at school being very somber and coming home and listening to WNEW as gravel throated “Scottso” Scott Muni played non-stop BEATLES and John solo stuff for hours and hours. Muni started every show the remainder of his career (20 plus years until his death) opening his shows with a Lennon or BEATLES song in tribute.

STRONGER THAN ALL

Like many metal fans of the 1990's I was and still am a huge PANTERA fan. From the very first time I saw the “Psycho Holiday” video on Headbangers Ball, I knew these guys were the shit! They was no denying their musical talents which became refined and improved over their career. But what really made PANTERA great was their heart and personality. Their awesome spirit, take no prisoners attitude and general super fun quotient set them apart from the serious, scowling metal dudes in every other band. Later in the decade when metal was struggling a bit as a genre the band continued to be uncompromisingly heavy and unashamedly true to themselves. Their albums are all time greats, their live shows were legendary and their 3 home videos were a handbook on how to hang out, have a good time and party until the break of dawn. Dimebag Darrell was a the center of this madness, this chaos, this musical force of nature of a band. Dime has four solos in Guitar World's top 100 solos of all time list and countless other great ones also (http://guitar.about.com/library/bl100greatest.htm). He wasn't just a dynamite lead guitarist and a great riffer and songwriter, he had a lovely soul and a love of life that was indeed "larger than life". I think he also had a sensitivity he only showed glimpses of, but I think it came through in his humility and kindness. Things that don't often get associated with metal, let alone legit guitar gods.

Dime and the DigiTech Whammy Pedal
Just a week earlier I had seen Darrell and his new band DAMAGEPLAN at Irving Plaza in New York with SHADOWS FALL and THE HAUNTED opening. DAMAGEPLAN played a fine show with PANTERA covers like “Becoming” and “Walk” sprinkled in. After the show I was near both Dime and his brother Vinny Paul by the bar. Dime was immediately mobbed and seemed like he was trying to skate out of the venue. I just figured to myself that I'd meet him at the next show. Vinnie gave me a sweaty hug and a few minutes of his time to talk about metal, drumming etc.

One week later, when Darrell was gunned down 30 seconds into the start of a concert, just after midnight on Dec. 8 2004, it sent a shock wave throughout the music world. A lot of people were calling it "the 9/11 for Metal". Initially news was sketchy, with many major news outlets not having the full story until the next morning. Early reports just said “former PANTERA member dead in Ohio” and many people today will admit they assumed Philip Anselmo's drug problems caught up with him. But it was Dimebag that was murdered, along with three others by a homicidal, obsessive fan, who himself was gun downed at the scene by a brave policeman. I didn't find out this terrible news until I got to work the next morning like many, and I started to get a barrage of calls at my desk confirming the worst. I broke down and cried some, then called some people myself to share the news/grief. I couldn't concentrate at work and went through the motions the rest of the day and went home to listened to my records and just felt numb all over. This was like the death of a family member to me. PANTERA was not just a favorite band of mine, but they helped inform my own music that my bands played. At the very first show of my band GRUNT we played “Cemetery Gates” and “Five Minutes Alone”. We often molded our music after the “Cowboys From Hell” eventually covering “Walk” (which I am now sick of), “Domination”, “I'm Broken” and my personal favorite, “A New Level”. I lived my life by their words, saw them many times in concert, met friends and lovers because of them, and generally followed their every move for over a decade. Today many of the current crop of metal bands have the influence of PANTERA in their veins to varying degrees of success. Dime's legacy lives on and there will never be another lead player or a person quite like him.

Dime's resting place.
Note the Darrell poster in my old bedroom in The Bronx


Of course I would be remiss not to mention again that December 8th is my mom's birthday. These thirteen years without her have been tough to be sure. I think I have been especially down in the dumps the last few years on this date including the last few days. She was taken from me and this world too soon. A great mom, a tireless advocate for the handicapped, an amazing talent and a best friend to me and many others. I'd like to think that I carry on the lessons and the history she gave me and try to honor her. Her wisdom stays foremost in my mind daily. I sincerely hope I can do her some justice since she was a one of a kind person and a lady always.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

If I had a higher power it would be Amanda Fucking Palmer.......... or “I'd rather be a bitch than an ordinary broken heart”

This is my third or fourth attempt at this blog and so advanced apologies for this 2800 plus word, disjointed mess you are about to enjoy. Or not. Not getting done with one this has been holding me up from finishing at least three other blogs soooooo..... here.... we.....go!

Just a girl and her Uke
Attempt #1- Summer 2010.... July 15th
Through the miracle of social media I found out Amanda Palmer had a secret “ninja gig” today at Harvard's American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.). Props to Scott Trano (organizer of the annual Zombie March) for posting on his facebook about this. One of the few perks of long term unemployment is I can go to things like this. Yay spontaneity! Hopped on the Redline to Harvard and walked right into the the theater and sat down as Amanda came out to applause with just her uke. I had guess it would be a little uke and Q&A which is fine for me. She played some tunes (including a tear rending version of “Makin' Whoopie” and talked about her upcoming collaboration with A.R.T with her co-starring in as the Emcee in Cabaret From August to October. You bet your sweet ass I got tickets! She did some Q&A with the audience on a wide range of topics and talked about some future projects, if and when she will get around to writing a new album, social media, her relationship with her fiancee Neil Gaiman (geek-swoon) and the possibility of being selected as a TED Conference (http://www.ted.com) speaker.


If I had a higher power it would be Amanda Fucking Palmer. I know that is ridiculous for me to even type these words because the idea of a higher power doesn't apply to my life. As in n/a or Not Applicable. But I feel like Amanda Fucking Palmer is a revolutionary genius, a songwriting marvel, a business and social media innovator and perhaps the savior of the future of the music industry. Or should I say a future where there is more music, more love given to the fans and a LOT less industry? That would rule. I adore Amanda and just about everything she has done since the Dresden Dolls. Everything she touches turns to a shower of golden coins with pictures of unicorns making sweet love on them. I don't really listen to any pop music or even get my music through the same channels everyone else does. I lead a most singular existence musically, preferring the safety of hard rock staples, the thrash and death metal underground that I trust and whatever else is on my ipod that I can't update for over a year now (grrrrrr, another blog for that story). I think in the past ten years the only modern artists I remotely have an interest in is Lady Gaga, Muse, Robin Thicke, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Them Crooked Vultures (no brainer there knowing me) and DD/AfP/Evelyn Evelyn and her extended projects' repertoires. I know that is crazy talk to some people and there is no doubt I am missing some good bands and artists out there. On the rare occasions I hear anything on radio or video it is severely awful. Sev-er-ly. That is not to say that there isn't a lot of terrible crap in my preferred genres, but more often than not- I choose correctly and am rarely let down by rock and metal. Just sayin...... check out these amazing people!


As a frequent visitor to Boston before I moved here five years ago I knew about the Dolls before they hit it big. A girlfriend of my ex once name dropped them to me in a convo and said I should check them out. This was earlier in the last decade when they were a local sensation around The Bean circa 2002. And check them out I did. I played to the first DD record (which I never understood why Roadrunner, a predominantly metal label ever signed them) here and there and liked it a lot. However, I was hearing the Dolls, but clearly not LISTENING carefully enough. Along with copious amounts of awful and embarrassing breakup music I jammed in 2007, I listened to the self-titled album and their second Yes, Virginia on a never ending loop for about about a year. The first record is truly the best breakup record ever. I dare anyone who has lost love in their life to listen to “Truce” and not shed a few tears or hear “The Jeep Song” and not laugh you anus off. In that time I really fell in love with the band and AfP and remembered why I loved music in the first place at a time when I hated everyone and everything. I needed that music in my life and so I found it and the messages of overcoming the obstacles of loss within it. That and some good therapy can help you get over anything really.


Why is AfP a revolutionary? Well the Dolls broke up for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they were fighting a losing battle in today's music biz where they were a critical smash, but commercially undervalued. Perhaps if they had the same push as half of the terrible crap Roadrunner put out (Nickleback? Really?) they'd have fared better. RR dropped the ball and did nothing to properly promote them. So after they ran DD into the ground and Amanda's brilliant solo album (produced by Ben Folds) Who Killed Amanda Palmer album was also left to die (when your own label is misogynist and derisive to your career, it's time to go.) Amanda did the unthinkable – she went off the industry grid that so many rely on and booked her own world tour and went on bravely with no expectation of support. She did this largely via Twitter where she is a major influencer; networking with her ravenous fan-base in a way few other artists have done. She engaged them directly and worked collaboratively with them to help fuel her career and the fans embraced her back. She wrote and played songs live like “Please Drop Me”. She fought to get free of her contract and when she finally got her emancipation (and later the rights to all of her music) she celebrated with a free song on her website. Since then she has gone the route of releasing her own music digitally through her website and www.Bandcamp.com, reaping more direct financial benefits (as opposed to the points system) while espousing a “pay what you want format”. One might say in this age of downloading/sharing this is unwise, but she is proof that it works following the example of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails and other artists who have also released albums in this way. She's not rich, but a lot happier.

Buy this at http://www.amandapalmer.net/afp/
Her connection to her fans via social media has enabled her to make a better living in this way than she ever made in the traditional artist/serf versus label/overseer relationship. She operates outside the boundaries of the system and still thrives, luckily for us all. Amanda talks about the history of artists and the idea that there is no shame in “passing the hat” like in the old days of performers. If her fans want future output from her and artists like her they will buy the albums from her directly- paying as little as they want. But they also pay as much as they want in the form of a donation that goes right to the artists' pocket. This is how new and underground musicians will survive the coming (already here) industry apocalypse. Only 3% of the commercially popular acts really live the old fashioned jets and limos lifestyle anyway. What you see on Cribs is fake as can be. Bank notes and bad credit galore. This new fangled approach has worked in spades for Amanda's recent release of her covers album Amanda Palmer Plays the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukelele which cost as little as 84 cents (50 cents for the license of the songs, 34 cents for the production of each digital record.) With special packages bundling the record with shirts, colored vinyls, and deluxe packages with limited edition content signed ukuleles and even phone calls by Amanda who will sing you a song! My Orange collectors vinyl is hopefully in the mail as I type this. This kind of unprecedented access to the fans is really special and unique now, but I see it catching on in the future for those that want to be close to their fans and offer a deeper experience. Love your favorite band and they just might love you back!

Blog Attempt II
September 14, 18
Well I am turning into the kind of creepy stalker I always warned people about. Hopefully we don't wind up reading about me in the Boston Herald. “Excuse me Amanda, does this rag smell like chloroform to you?” leads to “Keith lived alone with only his cat Trouble and was always frowning. He listened to a lot of metal and “How soon is now” on infinite repeat sometimes. It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for.”. Ok. Just kidding. Sort of........

I went to the #140 characters Social Media Conference at the Boston Convention Center today. Mostly to hear from Amanda Palmer who was speaking on a panel about the future of music and social media. There were great soc-med presentations by Chris Brogan and Jeff Sass about the future of personal branding in the digital age. I also met with a great company that does Twitter analytics called Tap11. I'm still not sure Twitter equals making profits for people and brands. Only time will tell. But I do love Twitter. Holla at me @Keefy (http://twitter.com/keefy) if you are on there.

As part of a panel moderated by Matthew Ebel, Prince's former manager and another industry type, Amanda discussed the responsibility today's artists need to have to protect and cultivate their own careers and how the old big machine is obsolete. Connecting with the fans is key via social media and she talked about all of the ways she has been able to survive without any help from the industry. Self-reliance for artists is here now and it is the way forward. 



Did someone say stalking? Three days after the #140 Conference and it's my 38th Birthday. I spent a lot of years not really celebrating much or depending on others to ensure a good time. Not anymore. Since most of my friends are far way and the few people I asked to go bailed I ended up out by myself. But it was no sad affair, nay nay I say! I went to a nice diner at The Fours (surf and turf) and I had my ticket to see Cabaret at The Oberon/A.R.T. In Cambridge and I was pumped up! A lot of people know me musically from my 20 years in rock and metal bands or my time at LaGuardia High School. What a lot of folks don't know is that I spent a lot of time in musical theater as a kid. I did tons of community theater and dozens of productions from the ages of 8 to14. I think along with Jazz the Broadway Musical is one of the few uniquely American art forms. I also went to a bunch of Broadway plays as a kid coming up including Cabaret on Broadway with Liza Minnelli as the Emcee- the role Amanda plays. We puttered into the theater and there was a cool energy in the room as we waited for the show to start. The show, directed by Steven Bogart was awesome with some amazing artistic twists and turns thrown in for good measure. The entire cast was amazing, but especially Amanda who took the bawdy, androgynous Emcee role to new heights with tremendous dramatic gravitas and depth. Plus she pretty much wore a prosthetic dong under her pants the entire night so props for that kind of commitment to the role. I met an interesting girl, Nancy a theater major from New Orleans and we chatted about AfP, Cabaret, DD etc during the intermission. She ended up next to me since I ate the other ticket and it was the only other open seat in the place. Nancy told me to hang out after the show and that Amanda would come out eventually to sign autographs. And she did! She was gracious with her time with everyone and very sweet and not creeped out by me which was nice. She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek when I told her it was my birthday and autographed my WKAP Book for me as well. She also took a purely badass pic with me that I will never forget, ever. It was about as much a fanboy moment as I shall ever have. The end?
The best everrrrrrr!



Nope. Not the end just yet....

Blog Take III- November......
While meeting Amanda she made an announcement (to all ten of us) that the Dresden Dolls were doing a short “Bandiversary tour”, including Boston and tickets were going on sale in a few days. So as a present to myself I bought a pair of tix. Now for a bit more context. This has been a remarkable year of concert going for me. I never thought I would see bands like Alice in Chains, Faith No More, The Cro-Mags, Decapitated and D.R.I., ever. Let alone all of them in the same year. Somebody pinch me! And now I can add the Dolls to that esteemed list. My pal Gretchen came to town to go to the show with me as we are bound by our mutual love of all things Amanda. I had to go to class the night of the show which made me nervous. Right after class I jumped in a cab to The Wilbur Theater and made it to my seat with a good fifteen minutes before show time. There was a surreal vibe in the place as people came in costumes and boys dressed like girls and verse-visa. Just a very simple stage of Amanda's electric piano and Brian Viglione's impressive drum set- both on equal risers. They walked on stage and immediately took their spots in the darkness. And then the madness set in....

I already knew they were going to play their first album in its entirety so I was prepared for that. But hearing them in your headphones alone your room is one thing, but experiencing them in person is another story all together. Perhaps I wasn't ready to feel all of the of love, lust, angst, anger and confusion that the first DD album emits, but the air was pretty thick with feelings with everyone singing, cheering, crying and sighing the entire two hours plus they were on stage. And while I know I am all Amanda all the time- Brian is equally important to the equation. His performance was phenomenal. Whether it was his interplay with AfP, his amazing dynamics of delicate intricacy or his brutal heaviness (three floor toms and double bass drums!) he was dope. Amanda for her part was just deadly on the piano and vocally. Equal parts Brahms, Billy Joel, Joan Baez, Bowie and Carol King rolled into one being and that is just for starters. From the first notes of “Sex Changes”, to Amanda's self conscious stopping of “Girl Anachronism” to make sure she didn't fuck up, to the sweet silliness of “Pierre” the show was was so epic in scope. So many heart stopping moments and many smiles. In between songs we were treated to anecdotes about the formation of the band and a back story of most of the songs which was amazing too. As a bonus I managed to not cry during “Truce”. Coming out for an encore of “Mein Herr” Brian picked up the acoustic guitar and Amanda took to the balcony to sing and vamp her ass off! After the aforementioned “Pierre” and a very sad take of “Boston” they brought the house down with a rousing cover of BLACK SABBATH's “War Pigs” that had me screaming with glee like a little girl. But what makes up the glory of The Punk Cabaret is more than just great musicianship. It is raw emotion that you cannot fake or look away from. It is the soul of what is missing today and what needs to come back in a big way. That's what set this show apart from all of the others this year. The memory of this night and really the last few months full of Amanda-ness has buoyed me personally and will stay with me a long, long time.
Amanda sings "Mein Herr" from the balcony

Set List:
Sex Changes
Modern Moonlight
Mrs. O
Good Day


Girl Anachronism
Missed Me
Half Jack
672
Coin-Operated Boy
Gravity
Bad Habit
The Perfect Fit
The Jeep Song
Slide
Truce
Post show giggles
Encore:
Mein Herr
Pierre
Boston
War Pigs

Saturday, November 6, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: HOWL

Written and Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Werk Werc Studios)


I went to the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA to watch the movie Howl staring James Franco as the late, great Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Warning: I am a huge poetry fan and Ginsberg is one of my idols so this review is going to be fairly one-sided. When I was 15 my uncle Lenny gave me his copy of Howl and Other Poems and told me "I could learn a lot from it”. Lenny being an eccentric artist, musician and intellectual was always trying to broaden my horizons and I was always eager to check out whatever new thing he had to share. I was by no means a sheltered kid growing up. Howl just blew the doors off of a lot of dark and light corners off life I really had no clue about at the time. I was already trying to write my own poetry as an early teen with primitive attempts at song lyrics, sonnets etc, but after reading that book and absorbing other Beat Generation titles I tried to raise it up to another level. I'm not sure I've ever gotten there with my writing, but I keep trying. When I went on vacation last year to California and stopped in San Francisco I made my pilgrimage to the famous City Lights Bookstore which is a major focal point of the film and ground zero for the Beats.



The film which was produced by the team that created The Times of Harvey Milk, covers Ginsberg (Franco) recounting his life interview style from the period when he was writing Howl and flashes forward and backward at different points to his cross country travels and finally his crucial appearance in San Francisco at the Six Gallery readings in 1955 where the Beats really coalesced as a movement. The central point is as much a focus on Ginsberg, his written and emotional journeys, but more importantly the obscenity trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (owner of City Lights) of which Howl was the focal point.

The case which was a landmark at the time pitted the honestly and blatantly graphic content of the book versus those who deemed it obscene. The prosecution brought many witnesses and experts to bear witness as to whether or not the book had artistic merits and if the obscenity was necessary to tell the narrative. Other experts argued that out of context anything can be considered obscene or ridiculous or silly. In context the content of the words is paramount to the vitality and purpose of the poem as a story telling device since it reflects Ginsburg’s life experience/journey. The verdict was of course not guilty and this was crucial to American artists and writers at the time since this was the precursor to the more open times of the 1960's. Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of "redeeming social importance" and this paved the way for the protection of writers and other artists who would face future scrutiny. I couldn't help watching the court room scenes and feeling just how relevant this was to today's public battle for the soul of this country. The forces of evil (most of the mainstream media, the moral majority, tea baggers, crazy right wing entities) can never silence art and if they try they will surely rue the day. They just mint more free thinkers and rebels. To quote Otep Shamaya “The tighter they try to make the noose the faster we all break loose!”

 The film has received some poor reviews because of its non-linear story telling, but I think it is unfair. Franco gives a stunning performance and is joined by an excellent cast such as Aaron Tveit, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels and Treat Williams. The film itself is masterfully done in my opinion. On top of the stunning courtroom drama, many of the scenes are constantly inter-cut with amazing animation not unlike Waking Life or PINK FLOYD's The Wall with Franco reading most of the text of the book as a voice-over or at filmed poetry readings. The movies' frenetic pacing style mirror's the meter of Ginsburg’s own words with a seamless editing job between animation and real shot film. Plus the use of black and white shots and old school film shooting style (deep focus, dissolves and cutaways- not the modern MTV jump cut style) to fit the period coupled with hints of color and finally dizzying imagery later on is top notch. If this movie doesn't earn a wider release in spite of its brilliance and Sundance pedigree- please do yourself a favor and find a way to see it.



Here is the poem for those interested:
http://sprayberry.tripod.com/poems/howl.txt
 
In Art-
Keefy

Saturday, October 9, 2010

LIVE REVIEW: THE SUMMER SLAUGHTER TOUR 2010 The Palladium, Worcester MA

(Disclaimer: This is a massive concert review that I wrote and was paid for but was never published.)

Woohoo in Woostah!

Since 2007 The Summer Slaughter Tour has become destination one for all things death metal in North America and other parts of the world. Other tours have some bigger names, but none has the quality of underground, brutal bands year in and year out. Despite this being my third concert in five days I was not about to let exhaustion make me miss this show. Especially with the hotly anticipated return of DECAPITATED to American soil and a bevy of the genre's other top bands this was an event not to be missed.

The show started off with a bummer for me since I missed most of VITAL REMAINS' short set as they went on much earlier than the purported 5 PM main stage start time. A band of VR's stature and legacy in death metal should really have been higher up on the bill anyway. As I was walking in I heard the strains of “Hammer Down the Nails”, their set closer. I was happy to see the venue densely packed in so early which is somewhat unusual. If you have a chance to go to this tour or their own do not miss these guys!















Another early band I did not want to miss was instrumental merchants ANIMALS AS LEADERS. Definitely the most out of the box band of the show AAL plays a mix of proggy instrumentals that are certainly heavy enough for the tour, but don't necessarily fit into a neat category like their peers. Led by guitar wizard Tosin Abasi, the band is quickly becoming recognized for fine musicianship, their inventive style and the much buzzed about 8-string guitars. Their best song was “On Impulse”. They are definitely worth checking out.

CARNIFEX was up next. I had never really been into them, but wanted to see how they fared live. Coming out of the burgeoning SoCal death scene like so many others these guys have garnered a lot of respect with release earlier this year Hell Chose Me. As soon as they started to play “Entombed Monarch” the place went crazy. Alternating between blast beats, thrash riffs and sludgy deathcore breakdowns CARNIFEX certainly makes people move. In spite of this they don't feature too much inventive guitar playing which was really noticeable following the mastery of ANIMALS AS LEADERS. Also, I don't find a lot of variety in them from song to song which is a let down. On the other hand that kind of simplicity keeps a bands' style memorable and the fans ate it up. Songs like “Sorrowspell” and “The Diseased and the Poisoned” went over well and the pit ninjas were in full effect throughout the set.

We are the road crew!
After CARNIXIFEX came DECREPIT BIRTH also from Southern California. As one of the rising stars of the technical death metal scene they seemed to have the most fans of the early part of the lineup. Starting off their set with the bludgeoning “Of Genocide” they set off a wave of awesome moshing. Next came “The Living Doorway” and the band was just on fire tearing through all of the complexities of the track. Not only is DB a great bunch of musicians, but frontman Bill Robinson is one of the most charismatic performers in all of metal, making them great to see live. Supporting their just released opus Polarity they next jammed out on the new track “The Resonance” which is everything you could want in a modern death metal song. Based on the response of the crowd at the Palladium everyone in the place seemed to know the just released new material as well as the older songs. Guitarist Matt Sotello was one of the many talented guitar stars of the day and that says a lot considering the bill. Other standout tracks of their all too short set were the crushing “Prelude to the Apocalypse”, “Polarity”, and “The Infestation”. Before they finished up Bill said they were going to open for SUFFOCATION and THE FACELESS this fall so that is going right on my calendar. I think the next time these guys play Summer Slaughter they ought to be higher up on the bill based on their new album and great songs.

Set List:
Of Genocide
The Living Doorway
The Resonance
Prelude to the Apocalypse
Polarity
Symbiosis
The Infestation

Decrepit Birth. I'm a fan.
Bill Robinson of DB  knows Quantum Mechanics. Just sayin...



Denver's CEPHALIC CARNAGE was next and I was just happy to see them at the show at all. They have spent most of the tour dealing with van troubles and missed a few dates. I'm glad they were able to make it since I have been into the band since their fine second album Exploiting Dysfunction (2000). Since their beginnings twenty years ago as grindcore outfit, their great playing abilities have found them standing firm along side today's best technical bands. I was kind of bummed that some of the crowd had lessened a bit before their set. By playing a bevy of great old songs as well as several new unreleased jams, they asserted themselves well against the other bands this day. Anyone unfamiliar with the band was indoctrinated immediately by the grindy and brutal opener “Hybrid”. “Wraith” from the excellent Anomalies record was next and was truly inspiring to hear live. Guitarist extraordinaire Steve Goldberg is the kind of guy that makes me crazy as a guitar player. His hands are literally a blur on the fretboard, but he practically looks sedated the entire performance. Vocalist Lenzig LealCARNAGE's lyrics and his stage persona; he is also one of the funniest guys in all of metal. Imagine if John Belushi didn't die, quit the blues for deathmetal and kept smoking his weight in weed. That would be Len. After playing quite a few more old school CC jams they play a bunch of promising new songs that are every bit as good at their oldies. The hilarious “Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder” which Leal said was about masturbatory addiction will be an instant classic. After taking a couple of fitting hits off of his pipe they jammed out to “Kill for Weed” and closed out with the ever sick “Lucid Interval”.

One of this year's best albums.


Set list:
Hybrid
Wraith
Abraxis of Filth (new)
Endless Cycle of Violence
Untitled new song
Warbots A.M. (new)
Persistent Genital Arousal (new)
Kill For Weed
Lucid Interval



The very popular VEIL OF MAYA followed CEPHALIC CARNAGE and again the crowd was well packed in ahead of their set. VOM play what I feel is a fairly generic brand of screamy deathcore similar to SUICIDE SILENCE, with a few occasional glimpses of ability. Other than guitarist Mark Okubo's fretboard work I found them unimpressive along side some of the greats of the genre from the other bands. Although they are fairly accomplished players and very fine performers (especially vocalist Brandon Butler) I have yet to grasp why they are such a big deal. I'm not against them for their success at all. In these times when it is so hard to 'make it” in music, especially for underground music like metal; I'm glad to see bands sell a ton of merch and have a throng of fans who know all of the words. You could say I am rooting for them to do well, I'm just not crazy about them. Their best song in my opinion was “Namaste”, a nod to the TV show Lost (which I love) and the instrumental “Pillars”.

VOM likes Lost.

Set List:
(id)
Unbreakable
Crawl Back
Dark Passenger
Pillars
We Bow In Aura
Namaste
Wounds
It's Not Safe To Swim Today


Boston deathcore merchants THE RED CHORD came on next to the approving roar of the basically hometown crowd. Setting things off with the thrashy “Demoralizer” the pit went nuts. “Born Needle” followed the opener and in terms of grooves THE RED CHORD had them over every band this day. The difference between this band and others is they don't simply rely on the “core” part of their style and have plenty of death metal and experimental chops that then infuse their songwriting with. Vocalist Guy Kozowyk has enough gravel in his throat to hang with the best of them and he is a fine frontman, amping up the crowd between songs. The band as a whole are very energetic and involved with the performance as they ripped through their set list favoring crushers from 2009's Fed Through the Teeth Machine. Songs like “Floating Through the Vein” and “Hour of Rats” really showcase the bands ability to write harsh yet intricate songs that get the crowd moving. “Black Santa” is another groove laden jam with brilliant and funny lyrics that might have gone over the head of some of the knuckleheads in attendance. Their final two songs “Dreaming in Dog Years” and “Antman” saw them go out on a very strong note with violent circle pits and lots of head banging.

Set List:
Demoralizer
Born Needle
Floating Through the Vein
Hour of Rats
Nihilist
Black Santa
Dreaming in Dog Years
Antman

I believe Wu Tang once said "die hard fans demand more..."



The excitement was growing in the venue as the show marched toward the last few bands left. ALL SHALL PERISH was up to the task of bridging the gap to the anticipated headliners. Bringing a mix of styles from thrash, deathmetal, deathcore and occasionally even some blackmetal they have a little something for everyone. They proved as much with their tight, brutal and uptempo set of songs drawn primarily from their 2008 release Awaken the Dreamers. Kicking things off with “No Business to Be Done on a Dead Planet” is the most brutal song about the sad state of the Earth this side of a GOJIRA record and was a splendid opening cut. “Stabbing to Purge Dissimulation” followed and just killed with insane riffs and gruff vocals. Hard hitting new drummer Adam Pierce stood out instantly playing the parts Matt Kuykendall made famous. “When Life Meant More” kept up the pace and had some of the best guitar playing the band did all night. ASP is one of the few bands out there can can satisfy audiences who crave thick mosh parts as much as they do gonzo instrumental excellence. Founder/mastermind Ben Orum's guitar style sees him shred with the best, bring crushing grooves and play blistering solos as well. Orum and touring co-guitarist Francesco Artusaro played some Olympic level shred at times. One thing that really sets ASP apart from many other bands is its intellectual and politically venomous lyrics. For instance “Gagged, Bound, Shelved & Forgotten” is certainly as sick as its name implies. However, instead of being about a serial killer it is a statement about the not-so hidden hands that control our society. They slowed the pace down a bit with the neck breaking grooves of “Never...Again” to the delight of a very large and active mosh pit. “Herding the Brainwashed” is another face peeler they played alternating between thrashy, punishing riffs and a PANTERA-worthy slow part. Vocalist Eddie Hermida's stuck pig-squealing wail punctuates the vocals on this one. Closing with the awesome one two-punch of “Eradication” and “Wage Slaves” they ended in fine form. Special thanks to my buddy Ron Douglas for turning me on to them a while back!

Set List:
There is No Business to Be Done on a Dead Planet
Stabbing to Purge Dissimulation
When Life Meant More
Gagged, Bound, Shelved & Forgotten
Never... Again
Herding the Brainwashed
Eradication
Wage Slaves


You should own this record.





Although the changeover for the bands was pretty fast all day long the wait for the THE FACELESS to take the stage felt like forever, even if it was only twenty minutes. There was no question who everyone in the venue was there to see since the band is one of the preeminent artists in the scene today. On top of that I was extra psyched because whenever they come to the northeast they seem to be very far down on the bill. So of course I was relishing the chance to hear them do a longer set. I just knew it was going to be an incredible night when the started off with “Shape Shifters”. After the gentle introduction the phenomenal opening riffs just poured out followed by a volcanic torrent of ill beats of “Coldly Calculated Design”. The venue let our a long cheer when started to play and more or less the entire place was moving from then on. Lead vocalist Derek “Demon Carcass” Ryquist prowls the stage like a maniac unleashing a deep guttural bellow that few others in metal can match. The bands' legendary chops were on immediate display as guitarist Michael Keene led the action from his side of the stage. With his blinding amount of skill and style Keene might have been the most talented guy on the stage the entire day. His partner in guitar antics Steve Jones is no slouch either. Jones also has great chops and is a great stage performer as well, contrasting Keene's reserved demeanor. Blowing through “Sons of Belial” the band played this skillful mini-epics with great passion as well. My personal favorite song by the band is “Xenochrist” so I was really happy to hear it live. Lyle Cooper's hyperactive, inventive drumming is usually the bedrock the band builds their songs on top of. In addition to Cooper, I'd took notice of their exceptional new live bass player who did a great job, but I couldn't quite place his face or name. They should keep him on at any rate as he did a great job and I always though Brandon Giffin was the weak link in the chain. Of course none of their collective abilities would add up to much if the songs weren't also there. THE FACELLESS writes some of the best crafted tunes in all of modern metal as evidenced by “Horizons of Chaos: Oracle of the Onslaught” and the two part “Planetary Duality”. It was over way too soon when they played what I feel is still their defining song, “An Autopsy”. After they tour this fall with SUFFOCATION I do hope they get off the road for a while and work on album number four.

Set List:
Shape Shifters
Coldly Calculated Design
Sons of Belial
Xenochrist
Horizons of Chaos: Oracle of the Onslaught
Planetary Duality I
Planetary Duality II
An Autopsy


At last the long day was coming to a close and DECAPITATED was getting ready to take the stage. It might be tough for most any band to follow THE FACELESS but DECAPITATED is not just any band. This tour is among their first shows since the terrible van accident took the life of drummer Vitek Kieltyka and put former lead singer Coven out of commission. Leader and guitarist Vogg Kieltyka decided to reform the band and soldier on in his late brother's memory. After recruiting some new members the band rehearsed for about a year before hitting the road rather than do the typical comeback record then tour cycle some bands might do. I think this is a great way to return the group to prominence and remind fans of their prowess before moving forward.

So with a minimalist intro and slow building light effects the band took the stage to cheers. I was kind of disappointed about a third of the crowd left before they went on, but they received a heroes welcome nonetheless when they came out. The band started with “A Poem About an Old Prison Man” and the remaining faithful fans were well rewarded for staying. I couldn't help but smile through the blissful rage the song made me feel, happy to see this band back and on its feet. Any doubts anyone had about the abilities of this lineup were dispelled with a dynamic performance. New frontman Rafal Pitrowski is a great showman, running all over the stage and banging his long blond dreadlocks into oblivion. He was having some voice problems throughout the set, was joined by a friend for one song, but he held up as best as he could. New drummer Krimh Lechner is just astonishing in terms of his hand speed and preciseness of his timing. He did a fine job stepping into the big shoes of Vitek. Right before the second song “Day 69' there was a loud chant of “Vitek” from the crowd. Vogg definitely appreciated it.



Much like their Polish countrymen VADER, DECAPITATED doesn't get overly fancy in terms of depth of style. Rather, they just cave your chest in with great riffs and tons of triggered double-bass blasts. “Post Organic” was another sick cut that is just so heavy you can help but nearly lose your mind. “Visual Delusion” was another song played off of 2007's Organic Halucinosis and nearly all of that entire album was performed this night. Perhaps Vogg sees the band as a continuation of that era; so that is the logical next step forward for the band. “Visual..” was Rafal's best performance of the night also, despite his a fore mentioned issues. For those wondering I'd say he falls closer to the side of Coven's hardcore-ish death vocals than Sauron's shocking howl between his two predecessors. Both “Invisible Control” and the mighty “Winds of Creation” highlight Vogg's guitar style. Clearly influenced by all of the classic death metal guitarists, Vogg is a consummate player's player with a full amp sound many two guitar bands would be jealous of. His lead style is a strict homage to Dimebag Darrell making him a rarity among soloists in the genre. Similar to PANTERA, when Vogg takes a solo, bassist Filip Halucha holds down the riffs very well all by himself.

Vogg takes a solo!




NUFF RESPECT 4 DCAP!



I was having such a good time enjoying the show that when Rafal said it was the last song of the night after only 45 minutes I was very confused. As they closed with the majestic crunch of “Spheres of Madness” I was sure they would come out for an encore. Alas, they didn't much to my consternation. Other than the briefness of the set list DECAPITATED's return to America was a definitely a triumph. Hopefully they will do a headline tour next year when their new record comes out.


Set List:
A Poem About an Old Prison Man
Day 69
Post Organic
Visual Delusion
Invisible Control
Winds of Creation
Flash B(l)ack
Mother War
Spheres of Madness