Monthly Archives: June 2007

Legitimacy, conferred.

Well, it’s official: Miss Crooks has been reviewed by the Paper of Record, and favorably at that, despite the “No Hepburn” headline. Way to go, Kid!

Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?

Years ago, when I interned for a not-great, not-metropolitan newspaper, a guy tried to hold up a bank wearing a Bob Dole mask.


This crook was far more inspired. It’s not Spidey’s first act of larceny, either.

Bloody, Bold, and Resolute. Also, naked.


Daniel Eichner is MacBeth and Kathleen Akerley is his persuasive lady.

Behold my DCist review of the Washington Shakespeare Company’s all-nude production of MacBeth.

So. We’ll — and this is not the regal “we,” but rather the “we” that denotes “Klimek and those among his confederates who be not wussy bitches” — all be out the night of Tuesday, July 3 to see those cars who are also robots.

But meanwhile, there’s another, less hirsute, even more powerful echo of my childhood rippling through the public consciousness this week, thanks mostly due to a ubiquitous ad campaign for which Rupert Murdoch has paid a dear price. We’re 19 years and three films on from John McTiernan’s uber-tense, class-conscious, sharply edited original — the film that no less an authority than Entertainment Weekly recently named as the Greatest Action Film of All Time, and certainly it’s in the top five — but it’s link to the imagination that thrived inside my chubby, awkward 12-year-old body in 1988 remains intact. Then as now, that imagination yearned to kill slumming members of the Royal Shakespeare Company while eulogizing them thusly: “Yippe Kay Yay, Motherfuckers!”

Bruce puts on manly readiness for Die Hard, Part the Fourth.

The PG-13 rating gives me pause. The phrase “directed by Len Wiseman” gives me pause. The presence of Justin “I’m a Mac” Long . . . well, I sort of like him, actually. His performance as Queerbait in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story showed him to be a mature, insightful actor of surprising nuance, who could also catch a crescent wrench to the nutsack and take it like a man. And so, my fellow Americans, we are faced with a sober choice: Live Free? Or Die Hard?

Or, uh, Live Free or Die Hard? (It’s the summer movie wherein a car fights a helicopter and a jet fights a truck — but they don’t turn into robots!)


The midnight sneaks are actually tonight. But if we go to see that free screening of Barbarella at the Hirshorn Thursday night at eight, a 10:30 show at Gallery Place of this tone poem to revolution, male pattern baldness, and airborne vehicular manslaughter would be just about perfect. Come on, Guys! Hanoi Jane meets John McClane! As a watershed cultural event, it will be second only to this:

What say ye, Friends? Can I get a witness?

Outtamind (outtasite).

Saw Wilco play Merriweather last night. A fine time, at least as much due to the company as to the music. I’ve seen Wilco at least four times in the last seven years, with at least three different lineups, and my impression is always the same: They’re a great band, but seeing them perform live is not essential to the task of getting them the way it is for most musicians that I love. They never dissapoint. They just never blow me away. And that continues to surprise me, because, the snoozy Sky Blue Sky aside, Jeff Tweedy is a fine a songwriter as anyone of his generation. (He’s also quick as a rattlesnake with a left jab, and with an explanation, too.)

And he always believes in what he’s doing, which is an admirable thing. Last night’s 25-song set included only five from the 20th century; only two from before 1999’s summerteeth. The band played two-thirds of Sky Blue Sky and surprisingly, just as much of yankee hotel foxtrot (seven of 11), which is what they were touring the last time I saw them, probably in 2002. (The fact that my usually-infallible concert memory is hazy where Wilco gigs are concerned is telling in itself.) The Sky Blue Sky tracks seem to get a pretty favorable crowd response (and even the folks on the lawn, where I was, stood for the entire show), so maybe the vox populi does not share my tepid record for the album Tweedy said he made so his wife would could hear him sing a few nice songs for a change.

The set, since I bothered to write it down:

01 A Shot in the Arm
02 Side with the Seeds
03 You Are My Face
04 I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
05 Kamera
06 Handshake Drugs
07 Via Chicago
08 Shake It Off
09 War on War
10 Sky Blue Sky
11 Impossible Germany
12 Jesus, Etc.
13 Hate It Here
14 Walken
15 I’m the Man Who Loves You
16 Hummingbird
17 California Stars
18 Poor Places
19 Spiders (Kidsmoke)
20 Heavy Metal Drummer
21 The Late Greats
22 I’m Always in Love
23 Outtamind (outtasite)
24 I’m a Wheel
25 What Light

I’ve no idea why Tweedy decided to leave things on that odd note. It was 10:55, and the band had gone on at quarter ’til nine, but I’m guessing Merriweather’s curfew is 11 p.m., which would have left time for one more. I thought he’d close with “Sunken Treasure,” but I was hoping for a wack-ass cover (“Don’t Fear the Reaper,” anyone?) if not a complete curveball like, say, “Remember the Mountain Bed.” But noooooooooooooooooooo.

News of the Day. Yesterday.

Thanks, Billboard! Your June 20th edition spilleth over with plenty!

They’ve got details of the copious bonus material that will make the inevitable 30th Anniversary Edition of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True a necessary purchase even for people like me, who have already bought it twice. (If you started on him in ’77 instead of ’98, like I did, you’ve surely paid for it more times than that.) Also, there’s a free iTunes podcast series chopping up a long interview with the Imposter about the first 10 years of his career. I assume it isn’t the 1995 interview by Peter Dogget that comprised the bonus interview disc from the first time these albums were reissued — in 1994-5 by Rykodisc. This, of course, was followed by the Rhino reissues (featuring different liner notes by Elvis than the first reissue series and even more bonus music), and then the current reissue series which gives you bupkis in terms of extras.

They’re also breaking down Prince’s imminent Los Angeles residency: He’ll play seven gigs (with the usual unannounced after-shows expected) to 200 people per show, for the novel price of $312.10 (general admission standing) or *cough* $3121 (oyster bar included). Meanwhile, he’s already pretty much done with the titular inspiration for the pricing scheme: A little more than a year after the release of 3121, his new record, Planet Earth, will be released July 24th.

Best of all, Ted Nugent is about to release a new record . . . called Love Grenade. Sez the Nuge: “We come from the old school of shitkicker, R&B-driven, grinding guitar lovemaster.” Indeed.

Best. Movie. Song. Ever!

Not by a long shot, actually — the song blows. But I love the idea: a film-by-film recap of the last 19 years in the Die Hard-a-verse, set to verse. So now there’s something besides the title that’s cool about the forthcoming Live Free or Die Hard. Too bad this inexplicably pussified PG-13 version of Die Hard is likely to make 1990’s Renny (Deep Blue Sea) Harlin-helmed Die Hard 2: Die Harder look like The French Connection by comparison.

Our Music Is Red, with Purple Flashes

Mosty dug Pink Martini‘s show at Wolf Trap Monday night, and reviewed it for the Paper of Record. Can’t believe they didn’t play “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love,” but choosing the setlist is — all together now kids — the artist’s business, not ours. Even when they’re wrong: I would have taken anything in place of “Brazil” to wrap things up.

China Forbes (left), Thomas M. Lauderdale and the rest of Pink Martini. Photo by Adam Levey.

I was at a late, long happy hour with the staffers of DCist’s arts section last night, all of whom I was meeting in person for the first time. As expected, a fine and noble bunch.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone: Ring-a-Ding-Ding, Baby!

And here’s my review of DMCP, courtesy of DCist.Dead Man’s Cell Phone; Noonan and Foucheaux

Keystone Kops

I found that post from Stewart Copeland about blowing the first big Police reunion gig up in Vancouver that the Sound Opinions guys talked about on last week’s show.


Still about six weeks to go until I see them at V-Fest on my birthday, so they’ve got some time to shake off the rust.


Here’s the original four-track demo of my Last Train Home review from today’s Paper of Record:

Like a grimace breaking into a smile, local heroes-gone-Nashville Last Train Home opened their set at IOTA Friday in a serious mood: “Flood,” a tremolo-drenched lament from their new “Last Good Kiss” album, is a solid track, and the band — in its mighty seven-piece incarnation with trumpeter Kevin Cordt, pedal/lap steel player Dave Van Allen, and keyboardist/accordionist Jen Gunderman — mined it for its every anguished note. But it’s the recognition of how narrow be the slit between humor and pathos that distinguishes frontman Eric Brace’s best songs, so it was a happy thing that nothing in the two-plus hours of soulful country-rock that followed was as somber (or as sober) as that opening number. Despite the hues that mystery and melancholy that Cordt and Van Allen, especially, brought to tunes like “Dogs on the East Side” or the Harry Nilsson-esque “You,” the evening’s general vibe was that of a loose-limbed good old time.

Journalistic ethics compel us to disclose that Brace is a former Washington Post staffer. (Also a gentleman, scholar, champion of the oppressed, friend to animals, and generally opposed to things like global warming and genocide.) Don’t hate him because he also happens to be the charismatic leader of what has become, in the decade since its beginnings as a nights-and-weekends kind of thing, a justly celebrated professional outfit, or because he’s got the songwriting chops to come up with a tune like “Louisiana.” That one was the evening’s highlight, bookending a rambling medley that lassoed Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” Rodney Crowell’s “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Are You Wasting My Time,” and holding its own in such prestigious company. Brace & Co. fought back laughter throughout the number, perhaps because Gunderman kept having to stand up and strap on her accordion back on or sit down at the keyboard whenever Brace shifted tunes. This band is good enough that they needn’t rely on such clowning, but it does make them all the easier to love.

Deleted Scenes!


Sentences, actually.  From the Mika review.

Copy I liked that got axed from the version that ran in the Paper of Record:

“The Royal College of Music-trained pastiche artist’s debut is as hooky and heartless as the chewing-gum jingles he’s already been paid to write,

gene-splicing Freddie Mercury’s caterwaul, the disco-era Bee Gees’ groove, the Pet Shop Boys’ irreverence and maybe at least something of Ray Davies’ social observation into a series of ringtones-in-waiting that contemporary audiences can claim as their own. Scissor Sisters? So 2005.

Nobody knew Mika back then, when snow was colder and iPods topped out at 60 gigabytes,

but the almost frightening adoration with which a sold-out crowd welcomed him for his first DC appearance made the show feel more like a homecoming than an introduction.”

Pull over, dat piece too fat.

Co-incidentally . . .

I was working on my Last Train Home review a little earlier, wondering whether it would be appropriate to mention the smokin’ hotness of their keyboardist and accordion player, Jen Gunderman. I mean, in addition to being a musician of formidable skill, she contibutes a lot to the onstage visual of this band, the other six members of which are dudes. Would I be branded a sexist for saying so?

Jen Gunderman, musician/hottie

I decided to have a look back at what I’d written the last time I faced this dilemma. Damien Rice played the Lincoln Theatre six months ago, and Lisa Hannigan, who is also a huge presence on his last record, was probably the best thing about the show. Oh, look what I called her: “a striking visual and musical foil.” Not exactly Clarence Thomas, am I? A writer who errs too often on the side of caution is not likely to be read, much less remembered.

But look at what shared the page with my Rice review! Jen Gunderman at IOTA! Playing “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in its entirety! That would have been something to see and hear. So is she, fellas.


It ain’t just for the ambitious and accomplished anymore.

Verily, I’ve been a writing fool this week. Thursday saw the publication of my Mika review in the Paper of Record, plus a write-up of Garbage Warrior, a terriffic film about a rebel sustainable-housing pioneer (!) that made its U.S. bow at SilverDocs this week. Yesterday I had three more pieces on DCist: Reviews of another pair of SilverDocs, Stand Up: Muslim-American Comics Come of Age and 14 Women, plus a preview of a Phillips Collection exhibition that opens today.

Next week, the action continues. My review of the first of three Last Train Home shows at IOTA this weekend is scheduled to run in the Paper of Record on Monday. I’ll have a piece about Dead’s Man’s Cell Phone, the brand-new Sarah Ruhl play at Woolly Mammoth, on DCist Tuesday, probably, and Wednesday I should have a review of Pink Martini‘s Monday-night Wolf Trap gig in the Paper of Record.

This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!

Once, they call it. There’s a song by that name in the film, but the title could just as well be writer/director John Carney’s private joke about how often this premise can be expected to work: Two talented musicians, one of them very young and not yet famous; the other no longer young and probably as famous as he’s likely to become, meet cute on the streets of Dublin and spend a couple of days pining away for one another in song. Their songs. We get to watch Frames frontman Glen Hansard and Czech singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova perform them, live and for the most part, in their entirety. Risky, but it works, probably because of the two leads’ relative obscurity as musicians (in the U.S., at least) and not-quite-total inexperience as actors, rather than in spite of it.

The same can be said for the shot-on-video picture’s threadbare production values. It looks like it probably cost less than a used Prius, and one suspects there’s a reason all of the “extras” in the Dublin street scenes keep looking at the camera. (Most of whatever they did spend probably went into making sure the all-important tunes were recorded and mixed properly.) All of this is a big help to those of us who are predisposed to come to a romance with more skepticism than we bring to a Die Hard sequel (ahem) — we can’t help but be disarmed by the film’s modesty, in scope if not in theme.

Although Hansard and Irglova aren’t playing themselves, exactly, there’s a Prince-in-Purple Rain kind of thing happening here. But it’s weirder than that: Hansard and Irglova had written most of the songs heard in the film together for 2006’s The Swell Season album before they were both cast in the film. Carney’s original plan was to cast Batman villain and zombie-dodger Cilian Murphy in Hansard’s role. It’s hard to imagine how this could have worked: Trying to explain how a guy who looks like Murphy and sings like Hansard remains an unknown street musician in Dublin for 20 years would necessarily push the movie out of the realm of realism and into the realm of, at best, Elvisism — or far, far worse. In real life, Hansard’s band, the Frames, have had a strong following in Ireland—and who knows, maybe they’re huge in the Czech Republic, too—for a decade or so. Over here, well, let’s just say there was plenty of room to stretch out at their fine 9:30 Club appearance back in April.

In any case, this alternate-universe Hansard lives with his Da and works in the family vacuum-cleaner repair shop (!) while busking on the streets of Dublin. Because he apparently needs the spare change people drop in his guitar case when he plays Van Morrison covers, he dares perform his own songs only at night, when the crowds have gone. His songs are good, but not, you know, so good that it’s impossible to believe he’s made it past his mid-30s without making at least enough cash to get out of Da’s attic. He’s got talent, but he lacks confidence. What he needs is a muse.

Mercifully, as said muse, Irglova isn’t just a cipher put here to prod along the awakening of Hansard’s character. (The film never gives them names — they’re “Guy and “Girl” in the closing credits, which sounds pretentious but doesn’t play that way.) Their age difference of nearly 20 years actually makes sense, partly because it’s impossible to imagine Irglova’s character giving his the time of day once she’s experienced any of the good things about adulthood — everything we find out about her suggests it’s pretty much all been about duty and obligation for her so far — but more importantly, because this film is mature enough not to pretend their attraction to one another is forever. It’s honest in a way that movie romances almost never are.

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