Sunday, October 20, 2013

Concert Review: Festival Supreme

Jack Black and Kyle Gass planned Festival Supreme to be a "Coachella of Comedy" and if you gauge the comparison based on number of hipsters in ironic tshirts, overcrowding, and long lines, they succeeded. The Santa Monica Pier doesn't really work as well as a setting as the polo field in Indio does.  There was a lot of crowding and too much standing required, but overall, I'd say, as at Coachella, the lineup was worth the suffering. It was a quite a collection of titans of comedy.

I arrived around 2:15pm and saw the queue was snaking up the pier and around the block that houses The Lobster restaurant. The festival was starting at 2:30pm. There were no staff or volunteers managing the queue, so I inadvertently jumped part of the line and avoided having to wrap around The Lobster. There had seemed to be 2 separate lines, and I thought both were leading to a merge.  This meant I got into the venue in 30 minutes, whereas some others waited about an hour and missed the opening acts.  I heard some people say they had circled The Lobster twice because the queue process was so disorganized. Nobody was laughing at this point.

Once inside, I caught some of Garfunkel and Oates set on Omega Stage - the biggest of the 3 stages. The sound kept cutting in and out on them. They kept a good attitude and sang one song off-mike to those in front. Jack Black came on stage to help out and the sound came back. They were given a few extra minutes to finish. I hadn't seen them before and got a big kick out of their catchy tunes like "The Loophole" and "The College Try."  After their set, I went over to Club Intimacy to watch The Abe Lincoln Story.  Their set was fun but not too memorable. I was excited to see them because they feature The Millionaire from Combustible Edison on guitar, but they don't have that same loungey, quirky vibe.  My favorite song they did was "Get High and Go to Work."  

Next, I went to The Mighty Tent for Eric Idle.  The tent was packed for Eric's set and the food vendor row was very close to the margin of this tent, so it caused a bit of a cluster with the food vendor and bar lines merging into the tent crowd.  Jack Black came out to introduce Eric, but Billy Idol came out instead! The crowd went wild, as Billy broke into the Lumberjack song.  Some silly banter ensued between Eric and Billy about which Idol or Idle was actually supposed to perform, and Billy eventually ceded the stage to Eric and his bandmate Jeff Davis.  They ran through an entertaining set that included many classics like "The Penis Song" and "Drunken Philosophers." They also brought Billy back onstage to join in for "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". 

I went over to Omega Stage for Fred Armisen. He was performing as Ian Rubbish, wearing a Rod Stewart-ish wig and acting like a British punk rocker, fronting a band that included Leigh Gorman from Bow Wow Wow on bass, Steve Jones of Sex Pistols on guitar, and Clem Burke from Blondie on drums.  Unfortunately, the music wasn't as cool as the lineup.  It felt sort of like failed performance art. 

At this point, my feet were hurting from standing for 3 hours.  There were a few picnic tables that were full, and no other seating options other than the hard pier - unless you had VIP tickets which granted access to Rusty's Surf Ranch.  I went over to Bubba Gump's to sit at the bar, have a drink and catch some of the USC vs ND game.  I then headed back into the festival, intent on seeing Patton Oswalt in Club Intimacy. There was a human traffic jam in the narrow passageway that went alongside The Mighty Tent and led to Club Intimacy. Inexplicably, there was a large booth for LA Weekly in the middle of the narrow passageway, and this was also the only way to get to the bathrooms (if you didn't have access to the VIP bathrooms).  People were using the narrow gap between the LA Weekly booth and the wall to try to get through, squeezing as if in a cave. It was like a soccer riot in the making. Eventually I got to the front of the passageway, only to be told that Club Intimacy was full. I was bummed I couldn't see Patton, plus I then had to push my way back through the crowd. There were no staff at the start of the jam to let people know they wouldn't be able to get into the tent.  I watched Princess on Omega Stage - Maya Rudolph's Prince tribute band.  Like Fred's act, these musical acts were funny for a song but not for an entire 20-30 minute set.  I did enjoy their version of "Darling Nikki" complete with backward vocals. 

I decided to try my luck at getting into Club Intimacy and endured the tunnel of crush again. Again, the staff said the tent was full, but this time I ignored them and waited. Once we were allowed past the walkway entrance, the tent wasn't full at all. I wondered if that had been the case during Patton's set too.  I watched Hannibal Burress who was pretty funny. After all the musical acts, it was a treat to see some good old fashioned stand up.  Then Tig Notaro came out and she killed it.  I love her deadpan style.  I have been a fan since I heard her Taylor Dayne story on This American Life. I headed back to try to watch some of Zach Galifanakis only to hear him wrap up at 7:10pm. He was supposed to start at 7:00pm so, unless he started early, he only did 10 minutes. This was a disappointment to the packed crowd in The Mighty Tent.  

My feet were again killing me, and I wanted to watch the end of the football game, so I went back over to Bubba Gump's, only to discover they had removed the bar stools, probably because it was so crowded. I walked all the way to the end of the pier to Marisol but they didn't have the game on in the bar, only for table service.  Dejectedly, I went back to Bubba's and propped myself up on the bar to watch the last few minutes of the ND victory.  I then successfully pushed my way back to Club Intimacy for Sarah Silverman, who did a very funny 20 minutes of stand-up.  I'm told I missed a very funny set by Triumph, with cameos from Conan O'Brien, Sarah Silverman, and more.  I also missed Adam Sandler.  I saw a little bit of Mr. Show Experience - the funniest part was Brian Posehn and Scott Ian of Anthrax as fake metal band Titannica. 

Now almost 7 hours into the event, I got a burger and a beer and tried to ignore my exhaustion to get fired up for Tenacious D. They did not disappoint with a set that featured a giant squid and a giant Metal god.  They also brought out Andy Samberg's band Lonely Island for a great medley of tunes such as "Diaper Money" and "I'm on a Boat."  The D did songs off their most recent album such as "Roadie" and "Death Starr." They also did classics like "The Metal" and "Tribute."  I left toward the end of their set to avoid being in another crush that I was sure would ensue at the end.

Event planning is hard - I know, because I do it for work, although not on this grand scale.  I think if they do this again, they either need a larger venue or to sell less tickets. They need more staff and volunteers to manage the crowd and the entrance queue.  I also think there should be at least one stage with seating.  It feels kind of unnatural to watch stand-up while standing, and standing for so long wears on you if you're not dancing. Some of the layout problems such as the narrow path to bathrooms and Club Intimacy and the proximity of the food vendor lines to the tent crowds can be rectified if they have more space. LA State Historic Park downtown would be a good option.  I think this was a very cool festival with an amazing comedy lineup, so I hope they do bring it back.  Thanks for the laughs, Kyle and Jack! 

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Courtney Love - Live at The Canyon Club

Courtney Love
The Canyon Club - Agroua Hills, CA
July 26, 2013

Courtney Love at...The Canyon Club? In Agoura Hills? Isn't that the place where, like, Flock of Seagulls and The Knack appear on their nostalgia tours?  Well, guess what folks...Live Through This is almost 20 years old...and as Courtney remarked "This is my oldies tour, and I am never doing this again..."

It's an odd venue deep in the Valley. Appropriately for the evening's show, there's an antique store in the same strip mall by the club called A Beautiful Mess. They sell dinner packages for the shows, so a good portion of the crowd was sitting down when she took the stage.  Courtney said, "Are you people sitting down? Is this dinner theater? Am I playing fucking dinner theater??? Oh, how the mighty have fallen." Well, she needn't have worried, although she mentioned "dinner theater" a few more times during the show, because most of the crowd was packing the general admission floor area and screaming along with all the old songs.  And is she still relevant? Well, I went with two 17-year-olds who are avid fans and pushed their way to the front and had a joyful and emotional time. The songs capture the female experience in a visceral, honest, and often ugly way, and the world hasn't changed that much in 20 years.

Her new band is all dudes, and they are tight.  They ripped through a 70-minute set that covered her whole career. It was a treat to hear "Gold Dust Woman".  She played a couple songs off America's Sweetheart and Nobody's Daughter, but the bulk of the set was from Live Through This and Celebrity Skin, with a smattering of Pretty on the Inside.

Some people dismiss Celebrity Skin as too poppy and slight, but I like the album a lot and so did this California crowd. When I first moved to LA, I drove up the PCH to Malibu listening to the album and songs like "Malibu" and "Pacific Coast Highway" and I felt like I was finally home. This was now the soundtrack to my life, just as Live Through This had helped me navigate the difficult transition between college and "real life."  

While I don't always like Courtney, I always respect what she's gone through and how she has managed to survive, and I dig her music. And she looks quite good at 49. I wasn't close to the stage but didn't notice any obvious creepy plastic surgery. She's still got energy and her barbaric yawp.

"Let me check out the demographic...Nirvana t-shirt? check.  Homos? You were there for me at the lowest points. Fucked up girls?" Courtney said. Yes, they were all there in abundance. Who else was there? Nikki Sixx was watching from the side of the stage. Courtney made a reference to her best friend being there and how they were an odd combo, but didn't really say if she was talking about Nikki or someone else. I can picture Courtney and Nikki having some shared experiences to discuss. 

Overall, I'd say she seemed much more commanding and in the groove than when I last saw her in 2010. She's obviously worked more with this band and is comfortable with them. She said they will have a new single out before Christmas.

I was pleased to see Live Through This made the recent Entertainment Weekly list of 100 Essential Albums. "Violet" still riles me up, and I felt a solidarity with everyone in the crowd who was singing along, even the dude next to me with the Affliction shirt and Goo Goo Dolls hairstyle with frosted highlights.  Courtney came back and delivered "Doll Parts" as an encore, after complaining about how hard it was to breathe life into that old chestnut.  Breathe life - and spit fire - she did. 

My reviews of Hole in 2010 and 1998.

My Courtney Love choose-your-own-celebrity adventure

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Kerfuffle: An Inside Look into the West/Kardashian Baby-Naming Drama

"Kerfuffle:  An Inside Look into the West/Kardashian Baby-Naming Drama"

By C. Crumpet Swank

21 June 2013

I think People magazine is pulling our leg today with this absolutely ridiculous “confirmation” that Kim and Kanye have decided to name their little darling North West.  True, Kaidence didn’t make the cut, although it had been a front runner among the family.  At the Jenner/Kardashian kompound in Kalabasas there was much discussion this week about other choices, but nothing was written in stone.  The long-rumored Kimye was eventually discarded because I reminded Kris that there was already a semi-celebrity with essentially the same name, Kimya Dawson, who wrote all those boho-chic songs for the Juno soundtrack.  And so the deliberations wore on…   Surely, some of the names we floated during those fruitful discussions by the infinity pool bear revisiting.  This whole “North” thing—I think it’s pretty darn risible.  I mean, really, North Donde West?  It sounds like a cul de sac in a Flagstaff, AZ retirement development. And where’s the femininity, the verve; the special K?   For all of you who could not be there, here are some of the names we discussed:


Kardigan (remember all those nifty prepster sweaters Kanye first wore when he arrived on the scene?)


Kondoleeza (a strong, powerful, educated woman)


Krosby Billsandkash


Kastanet West (genuinely sounds great and is a nice musical nod to Dad; other options in the same vein:  Koronet, Kettledrum, Kalliope, Akkordion, Klezmer)




Kumbaya Mylord West (a nod to Dad’s messianic complex)


Kootie LaLa


Kruller Krumpet (to acknowledge all the pastries that were so key in the baby’s well-documented development.  Bruce duly lobbied for Krispy Kreme and there was some support in the air—but Kris, who adores the spelling, reminded her hubby that the trademarking opportunities are already sewn up.)


Kleopatra (Kim is smoky-eyed and gorgeous like Liz Taylor…Cleopatra was Egyptian…which makes her Kanye’s forebears.  Knefertiti was also thrown into the mix by Kendall.  Much debate ensued about which ruler was hotter.)


Kornukopia (this baby will have many talents and opportunities)


Kulture Klub (because she’s such a wonderful amalgamation of various kultures)


Kiplinger (because Mom’s proudly all about the $$$; also, Kippi is a sweet little nickname)


Kibble Ann (a nice, traditional family name)




Kundalini (Kim thought it was a delicious pasta dish at Drae’s, but I explained what a peaceful, mystical name it really was.)


Knelly (Kourtney’s always been a big fan of Little House on the Prairie which was filmed close by in the Valley.)




Kopakabana (since Mom and Dad aren’t afraid of putting on a show)


Knarly Rae (honors the baby’s Valley Girl roots in Kalabasas)




Kesha Kabbalah (Who doesn’t love a virtuous namesake, á la Madonna or Jesus/Yeezus?)


Kordovan (Bi-racial children usually have gorgeous skin tone, á la Halle Berry)




Krabapple Kumquat (sunny Gwynnie paved the way with Apple for her tyke, and Krabapple adds just the right amount of tartness for the daughter of the reigning “king of kontention” in the hip-hop/rap world.  As they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  And in keeping with the fruit theme, Rob recommended the middle name to honor Kim’s entrepreneurial/artistic spirit with the project that first put her on the map.)    


Koupe de Ville (since she'll most likely have a lot of junk in the trunk like her Mom)


Ketamine Kwhorentine [pronounced ˈkē-tə-ˌmēn ˈkwr-ən-ˌtēn]  (in the tradition of classic, elegant French names like Christine, Evangeline, Clementine, etc.)


Koka Kola (the synergy is just waiting to happen)


Kelly Klarkson (Kylie wouldn’t let this one go…)


and perhaps the group favorite (We’re just waiting for Alex Hailey’s blessing and to see if he’s willing to be the baby’s godfather)…


KUNTE KIMTÉ (since Kanye doesn't seem to have any problem taking famous references in black history and reemploying them in a totally tone deaf way; e.g., on the new album, his appropriation of MLK's "Thank God, Almighty…free at last" to describe a pair of breasts he has "liberated" from a bra in a sordid bathroom f—k.) 


KUNTE KIMTÉ—it verily skips along the tongue.  I can see why the family went ga-ga over this potential choice.  So romantic and erudite!  Just like the much-admired couple who spawned this little 21st-century treasure.   

North?  Bah!  In the immortal words of Public Enemy:  "Don’t believe the hype!"

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Mary McCray Reviews Steve Martin's New DVD: The Television Stuff

They all say Generation Xers love irony in our literature and popular entertainments; we love “wink-wink” kitche; we love high camp; we love meta-texts (texts that are self-aware and self-referential). Everyone points to our love of The Brady Bunch (and other now-campy shows of its era) as evidence of this phenomenon, a particular indicator which never felt especially accurate to me. After all, the first time we poured over Brady Bunch re-runs after school during our pre-teen years, we loved it. We loved it straight on without a smidgeon of irony. Bad 1960s TV for adults evolved into swell recycled kids television in the 1970s. We thought The Brady Bunch was a well-executed, highly engaging, plot-driven dramedy. And we didn’t appreciate the show on any other level until the various TV reunion specials appeared in the 1980s. Then we realized it was bad; but we still loved it because we didn’t want to let it go; and irony allowed you to keep loving things that were really bad. So...(and this is important), we loved it both ironically and with a chaser-kick of sincere nostalgic love. Let’s not kid ourselves, Xers. When we ironically like The Brady Bunch, we are also aiming that disparaging irony back on ourselves for loving it the first time.
Those among us who became writers and lit readers took this love of loving things ironically and made heroes out of writers like Douglas Copeland (especially for his recognition of us in his novel Generation X), David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen. Dave Eggers seemed the boldest in his performance of meta-writing. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was packed to the rafters with self-awareness.

Before he died, David Foster Wallace gave a reading at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles where he made an unexpected plea for a return to sincerity. We had gone so far with irony, he said. Maybe he thought we had lost emotion, had lost heart. The story he read, "Incarnations of Burned Children" from the short story collection Oblivion: Stories (2004). epitomized tragic sincerity and his point made a deep impression on me. I wondered how my generation of writers set off on this track of "high-plains-irony" we sometimes call post modernism, following on the works of novelists like John Barth. 

For Xers, was it really all because of The Brady Bunch

Ape Culture’s co-editor, Julie Wiskirchen, came to visit me in Santa Fe a few weekends ago and she brought me the new Steve Martin box set of his early TV appearances and specials, Steve Martin: The Television Stuff. The bulk of the material ranges from 1976 to 1982. After watching it, I now propose that Steve Martin introduced Generation Xers to a new type of humor that included large doses of meta-performance and irony. At least I’d like to propose that’s where irony started for me.

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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Concert Review: Sound City Players

38 song set. 3.5 hours. Dave Grohl on stage the entire time. Now that's a concert!

After the LA premiere of his documentary Sound City Players, Dave Grohl ventured a few blocks to the Hollywood Palladium to jam with his all-star band.  We were about 20 feet from the stage and our brains almost exploded from all the entertainment.

First up was Alain Johannes from Queens of the Stone Age who did a few songs including "Hanging Tree".  Then came Chris Goss from Masters of Reality and Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine.  Then Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played a couple of tunes including "Whatever Happened to My Rock N' Roll". Dave drummed during their set.  Throughout the night, Dave appeared on guitar, drums and even bass. These sets were heavy and solid, but I was looking forward to some of the more melodic music to come.

Next up was Lee Ving of Fear, who got everyone hopping with punk rock classics like "I Love Living in the City" and "Beef Bologna."

Dave brought out old bandmate Krist Novaselic, Corey Taylor from Slipknot, and Rick Neilsen from Cheap Trick.  Dave's fellow Foos Pat Smear and Taylor Hawkins rounded out this supergroup lineup.  Previously, I only associated Slipknot with a migraine they induced in me at Ozzfest 2001, but Corey can actually sing.  I liked their original tune from the Sound City soundtrack: "From Can to Can't." Other highlights of the set were "Ain't That a Shame" and one of my all time favorite songs: Cheap Trick's "Surrender."  Rick Nielsen threw an old record into the crowd during this set and played his famous Hamer checkerboard guitar.

Rick Springfield is still pretty hot, and he blazed through a set of his hits including "Love Somebody" and "I've Done Everything For You".  Dave Grohl seemed to have the best rapport of the night with Rick, and marveled at the amazing opening 3 notes of "Jessie's Girl" that spurred instant recognition in the audience.  "That's songwriting!" Dave's enthusiasm is infectious, and I love how he admires so many different genres and eras of music.

Now I have never been a fan of John Fogerty or Creedence Clearwater Revival because I find his voice too shrill, but he won me over with his energy and by playing the one song of his that I, as a baseball fan, really enjoy: "Centerfield."  He also played all the CCR classics: "Born on the Bayou," "Proud Mary," a blistering duet with Dave on "Fortunate Son" and "Bad Moon Rising."

After being on my feet for almost 5 hours, I really wanted a break but I refused to leave my post without getting an up close glimpse of Stevie Nicks.  She was the grand finale, and it didn't disappoint.  Stevie and Dave began with a duet: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."  She then played "You Can't Fix This," a new contemplative song she had written for the Sound City soundtrack about her 18-year-old godson who died recently of an overdose at a fraternity party. She did "Dreams," "Landslide," and an incredible nearly 10-minute-long version of "Gold Dust Woman." "Gold Dust Woman" is the song that made me listen to Fleetwood Mac - only after I heard Hole's version of it.  Since then, "Rumours" is a CD that never leaves my car.

I go to a lot of concerts, but this was one of the best shows of my life - a night that celebrated so many different styles of awesome music and amazing performers. Once again, I felt truly happy to be living in LA and having an opportunity to see this. I hope Dave makes good on his plans to tour a bit with this all star band so others can experience it. As we left and navigated our way through the street meat vendors, someone in a car yelled out their window, "Who played tonight?" A few of us responded in unison: "Everyone!"

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