Monthly Archives: August 2007

Judgment Day Plus Ten

Or “judgement” day, but I’m going with the spelling used by the producers of the Greatest Film of All Time, which of course I don’t need to tell you is James Cameron’s 1991 apocalypse-contraception epic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

In 1992, I got my driver’s license and French-kissed a girl for the first time. But the highlight of 1991, the year of Achtung Baby and Use Your Illusion I and II (I wouldn’t buy Ten for a year, or Nevermind for several more after that), was definitely T2. It was the first film for which I bought the screenplay. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-purchased the film each time a new VHS or DVD edition was released.

terminator1.jpg terminator2.jpg terminator3.jpg

August 29, 1997 is the day that film told us half of the human race, give or take a few million, would perish in a nuclear exchange instigated by SkyNet, the artificial intelligence network entrusted with all the assets of the U.S. military. When SkyNet unexpectedly becomes self-aware, it decides that its human masters are a threat and takes preemptive action. You’ve all seen the movie. The 2003 release Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, revises the date of Judgment Day for obvious reasons, having an aging Arnold tell us, “Judgment Day is inevitable” and actually letting us see the beginnings of it in a surprise downer ending. But T3, although a decent-ish genre flick if not compared to its two brilliant precursors, was neither written nor directed by James Cameron, the auteur behind the first two, so it ain’t part of the canon as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway. We’ve lasted another ten years. Congratulations, everybody! Does that mean Michael Jackson is 50 today?

Sustainable Community

Well, this is a bit odd. But only a bit.

I’m writing this from my old office in the house I lived in in glorious Ventura, CA from late 2000 until early 2005. This is day four of my first return visit to the Golden State since I moved to the District two years ago. I saw my ex, with whom I remain on friendly terms, for the first time in two years last night — she made dinner — and we’ll be hanging out together with some mutual friends this evening and tomorrow.

I shared a Studio City apartment with two really cool people with whom I’ve lost touch for about five sad months in mid-2005, but for most of my California experience, I lived in this town, in this house. Ventura is so beautiful it’s a little bit heartbreaking to come back and realize I gave this place up. I had good reasons for moving, and the two years I’ve lived in DC have been the two happiest of my life. But still.

When I came to Ventura, I had just turned 24, and the place (and of course, the relationship that brought me here) seemed full of promise. Two years later, it’s exactly as I left it. All the stores and restaurants I remember are still here . . .


. . . including a few whose survival I never understood . . .


. . . and most significantly, the original, non-News Corp.-affiliated Kwiki Mart!


Salzer’s, my favorite record store (with apologies to Amoeba, which surely has a more wide-ranging selection but to which I never developed a sentimental attachment) remains. When I stopped in yesterday afternoon, Frank remembered my face, though I think he had to get my name off my credit card. I asked if he still had his band, and he told me they would be playing tomorrow night at a new bar that’s opened up since I left, a place downtown called It’s All Good. (Their booker must have better taste than whoever chose the name, I guess.)

Since I haven’t really found an indie record shop to favor with my commerce in DC, I was eager to drop some cash at Salzer’s. I got the new Rilo Kiley CD, Under the Blacklight, which came with a free vinyl single. (Not only does Salzer’s regularly beat chains like Borders on price, even if you’ve let your KCRW membership — usually good for $2 off every CD you buy — lapse; they also give you freebies like singles and posters. What’s not to love?) Also, since I’m catching up on Spoon and the New Pornographers, I got a pair of catalogue titles; Gimme Fiction and Electric Version, respectively, along with A Year in the Wilderness, John Doe’s new solo record, featuring, appropriately enough “The Golden State.”

Anyway, I went to my old house after that, greeted my old cat, and set out to run one of my old routes.


With it’s moderate temperatures, low humidity, varied terrain, sparse traffic, and of course, its beauty, Ventura is a runner’s paradise. It’s more known as a surfer’s paradise, of course, but I never quite got the hang of that.


After running all summer in the heavy, humid DC air, to run in a place where I can actually stand to wear a shirt comes as a shock to the system.

I carried my camera in my bottle-belt and took these shots while I was out puffing along.


Anyway, after dinner and a catch-up visit with the ex last night, I went back down to Los Angeles, where I’m staying with my beloved professor from the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, and her two dogs. Today I’m back up in V-Town at least until tomorrow night.

Earlier this afternoon, I was tooling around downtown. Like I said, it’s all exactly as I remember it. Which shouldn’t be strange, but given how quickly Columbia Heights, where I live now, is changing, and how constant the change in Chantilly, VA, where I grew up has been, it’s odd — and comforting — to find some continuity.


I happened to be walking by the post office earlier, and I thought I’d stop in to get another look at the WPA mural I remember. Since I was already there, I figured I should ask if they have the new Marvel Super-Heroes stamps. I recognized two of the four postal clerks working the counter. And when I asked for the super-hero stamps, one of them remembered me. Specifically, she recalled that I was the guy who never wanted to use a meter strip to send a package if I could decorate the box with dozens of stamps instead. Nice.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to get to Sylva’s, which has relocated since I was a member, and Ralph’s Comic Corner. Viva Ventura.

What do the Cranberries and Dick Cheney’s judgment have in common?

They were both a lot better back in 1994 than they have been since 2003.

Gosh guys, I though you said John Kerry was the big flip-flopper!

I love Willie Nelson.

So, I submitted my September review requests today, with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price’s Sept. 6 Merriweather appearance at the top of the list. I’ll take my dad if I get that one. I wonder if Willie will play the tune I found from him on iTunes today: “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other).”


It’s a pretty great song, actually. Maybe not as great as the cover image, which of course is included when you buy it from iTunes. Somehow I don’t think this one would go over so well with the crowd of jack-holes who were, apropos of nothing, chanting “USA, USA” when I saw Willie play Wolf Trap in, I think, 2003. But you never know.

The release date was Valentine’s Day last year. Nice.

Oh, I got some play in Freedom Rock again today. Just some talk about carbohydrates.

Column Itches

Today’s Paper of Record features my review of nu-Sinatra Michael Bublé’s surprisingly groovy show at the Patriot Center Saturday night. Or, if you’ve got some time on your hands, you can read my original version, which, I am reliably informed, weighed in at a mighty two dozen column inches. Oops.Take it away, Fellas!

Gentlemen, your attention, please: You won’t want to hear this, but it’s okay if you don’t hate Michael Bublé. Yes, your wife and/or girlfriend has had at least one of his CDs on repeat since his self-titled debut became a hit in 2003. Yes, your mother calls every time he shows up on “The Today Show.” But on the evidence of his glitzy revue at the Patriot Center Saturday night, he’s after your vote, too, fellas! And thanks to his self-deprecating, consciously Rat Pack-y stage persona, he probably deserves it.

Case in point: Greeting the people of “Virgin-yah,” he said he knew the correct pronunciation, but would stick with his because it sounded more like “a mystical fantasy country I want to go to.” After a rendition of “Fever” that was, well, feverish, he expressed his “sincere appreciation for you, my fans — you should see the house I just bought!” Badda-bing!

Resplendent in a black suit, tie loosened just-so, the 31-year-old Canuck’s evocation of the Chairman, God rest his blued-eyed soul, stopped just shy of punctuating his sentences with, “And you can take that to the bank, Buster!”

The standards-heavy setlist was mostly a series of big-band valentines to the ladies who squealed every time he narrowed his eyes in their direction. The dude may more resemble “Footloose”-era Chris Penn than “Footloose”-era Kevin Bacon, but with charisma like he’s got, the ladies would melt even if he looked like Tom Petty.

Oh, and he can sing a little, too.

Actually, he can sing a ton. It’s rare in this era of “American Idol” bathos to hear a vocalist whose got the range, the control, the — how you say? — chops to pull off the histrionic flourishes Buble deployed early and often during the 95-minute concert. His Shatneresque closed-fist gesticulating looked silly during his opener, Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” because he hadn’t shown yet that he had the pipes to live up to the hype. By the end of the song, nobody was laughing. Not at him, anyway. He makes it look easy, and makes it sound — oh, how it burns to admit this! — spectacular.

Not that the ladies in the house necessarily noticed. Based on the frequent interruptions of “We love you, Michael!,” they appeared to have come more to bask in the star wattage than to listen to him sing.

He didn’t discourage this behavior: When he asked a pair of girls in the front row their ages, and they responded seven and ten, he shot back, “There are pictures of me on the Internet I hope you never see!” Sensing that his hearts and minds campaign was in need of emergency course-correction, he leapt into the audience to pose for snapshots with the girls. Camera-wielding fans immediately surrounded him. He’d broken away when a fortyish woman fairly attacked him, throwing her arms — and other limbs — around his body while her husband (?) clicked away. A beefy security man hovered nearby, but apparently never got the kill sign. When Bublé finally crawled back to the microphone, he quipped, “Virgin-yah my ass.”

At $68 and $88, tickets weren’t cheap, but you could see where the money went. A 13-piece band backed the star, and the raked stage used four vertical projection panels to achive the impossible, turning the charmless, acoustically-frigid bunker that is the Patriot Center into something approximating the Sands Hotel.

About that band: Marvelous! Early on, Bublé turned the spotlight over to them. Feigning jealousy at the rapturous response their hot-jazz instrumental got, he sulked offstage. Trombonist Nick Vayenas leapt up for a hilarious monologue about what an insecure diva his boss is, complete with a too-brief impression of Buble’s jerky dance style. Only when Vayenas began to howl “Try a Little Tenderness” did Buble return.

Further hilarity ensued when the star, pledging to “take this to a manlier level,” gave a quick-but-great unplugged version of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right, Mama,” with the moves Ed Sullivan wouldn’t broadcast. Buble called for the men in the house to asset their authority (“She might have dragged you here, but you are nobody’s bitch!”) just as the band kicked into “YMCA.” He struggled through a few choruses before admitting, “I’m glad I don’t know all the words to this.”

The only lull came when Bublé interrupted the parade of lounge favorites for a pair of tunes he co-wrote with pianist Alan Chang, “Home” and “Everything.” Both sounded ersatz amid all the warhorses, despite (or probably because of) the fact both were No. 1 Adult Contemporary hits.

“That’s Life,” featuring a ten-voice gospel choir, closed the set proper. For his encore, Buble ripped through “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and repeated his seemingly-heartfelt thanks, minus the Krusty-the-Klown-styled line about the new house, before saying goodnight with Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.”

It was a classy, brassy finish to stylish and supremely entertaining evening. The only tacky note was the “MB” logo on the video screens, in lights, and on the back of the music stands. Yo, Mikey! You don’t need to put your name all over the stage. You already showed us who owns it.

Muse’s Invasion Hit Parade

(A shorter version of this piece is published in today’s Paper of Record.)

Combining the dystopian preoccupations of Pink Floyd and Radiohead, the attack of early Metallica, and the vocal flamboyance of Queen, the English power trio Muse bristle with enough energy to repel a totalitarian coup d’etat. At least we’d better hope so, since this seemed to be only one of the ill-defined threats against which their bombastic-but-fun set at the Patriot Center Thursday was meant as a rallying cry. The speech from President Kennedy that played as the band took the stage has never sounded more topical, but there’s still something distinctly Y2K about Muse’s sense of gathering menace.

The gig slammed into overdrive with probably the most nakedly silly tune in the group’s uber-serious oeuvre, “Knights of Cydonia,” and didn’t rest for a minute. “The time has come to make things right!” decreed the lyrics, projected in urgent block caps via three LED video screens. Er, details to follow? Probably not.

In the vocabulary of “Spinal Tap,” the entire 90-minute set was performed at 11, leaving the band nowhere to go when they really wanted to stir things up. But the audience was plenty stirred throughout, keeping the security team busy catching crowd-surfers and sending them back to the rear of the floor.

Frontman Matthew Bellamy’s crotch-thrusting-but-somehow-asexual guitar heroics are awesome — it’s like Eddie Van Halen broke into the Edge’s garage one night and stole his prized collection of effects pedals — and his heavily-processed vocal wail kept what sounded like a sold-out crowd (it wasn’t) at attention all night. Lead-footed drummer Dominic Howard knows how to bring the pain, too. But more variation in the tempo of the set would have given arena-ready anthems like “Starlight” or “Stockholm Syndrome” even more impact. As it was, “Invincible” was the evening’s highlight, if only because its deliberate, martial build brought some contrast to the unvaried crunch of the other songs.

Apocalyptic images of fallout shelters and missile-targeting systems flashed across the screens in sync with the band’s bleak-but-hooky pronouncements. The robot dance team video for “Supermassive Black Hole” brought a welcome —possibly even intentional — bit of humor to the otherwise po-faced sci-fi pageantry.

The precision of the video accompaniment (and the heavy use of prerecorded samples) is probably responsible for the show’s other flaw: It appeared to permit not a single spontaneous second. But, you know, they’ve got an invasion of our alien overlord one-world government masters to fight off! Or something! Nothing must be left to chance!

They Put the ‘Broad’ in ‘Broadway’


My DCist review of ACT’s Hellzapoppin’ is here.

My Semi-Alphabetical, Entirely Subjective and Wholly Arbitrary Account of the 2nd Annual Virgin Festival

Or, how I saw, like, six bands out of the two dozen-plus who showed up to play.

team.jpgTeam V-Fest ’07: Hillz, Crooks, Klimek.

A is for Amy Winehouse. Not counting the right-earful of the Frattellis we got on our way in, she was the first performer we saw at the festival on Saturday. She sounded great even if she looked like hell — as D. Hillz pointed out, most of her meager body weight appears to be concentrated in her beehive hairdo. Her 45-minute set felt like it was about an hour-and-a-half long, but it wasn’t her fault she had to play at 2 p.m. on a witheringly hot day. Even under the best of conditions, material like hers would be a tough sell at a dusty horse track. She made the best of it and acquitted herself respectably, especially considering how the tabloid schadenfreude industry seemed to be expecting her to vomit up Courtney Love’s paperclip collection or something.

B is for the Beastie Boys. And I wish it wasn’t, because you don’t generate much suspense by declaring the second act you mention the highlight of the festival. Even though I started college the year Ill Communication came out (day one of V-Fest was my 31st birthday, if you must know), I was never a fan in their heyday. These guys actually won me over the one prior time I’d seen them perform, at the Tibet Freedom Concert at RFK Stadium in 1998. Then as now, they showed up on a bill with lots of other bands that interested me more, and proceeded to walk all over their competition. I think it was Ad Rock who kept mentioning that “the Po-lease” were up next.

beasties.jpgThe Beastie Boys performing. Obviously!

We did dutifully check out the other dual-B act in the lineup, local heroes Bad Brains, on Sunday. We saw H.R. throw that loaf of bread into the audience, stuck around for about three songs, and then split when he started doing that steam-of-consciousness space-voyage thing that I’d read so much about. (“It’s Sunday!” he declared cheerfully.) Besides, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were about to get going on the North Stage.

C is for Miss Crooks, first among equals in the V-Fest squad. A loose cannon who plays by her own rules, she single-handedly increases our badass factor by orders of magnitude. It’s always good to have a crazy person on your team who can make potential foes back away in fear.




C is also for Cheap Trick. I didn’t get up early enough on Saturday to see them play.

D is for D. Hillz, who bore the weekend’s sustained heat and dust with good humor and grace. Everyone whould have the experience of attending a rock festival with him. What a guy.





D is also for Panic at the Disco, who, in the photo below, you can clearly see hanging out stage right watching Regina Spektor’s set early on Sunday afternoon.


E is for Explosions in the Sky. We were watching Spoon on the North Stage while they were playing the South Stage.

F is for both Fountains of Wayne and Fiction Plane. They both played Saturday before we got to Pimlico. We’ve already told you how another “F” band, Scotland’s The Fratellis, were playing as we made our way into the horse track. If you plan to play Virgin Fest, make sure the name of your band doesn’t begin with “F,” I guess.

G is for Gnomes. Look out, y’alls! They’re everywhere!


H is for Ben Harper. Sounded okay from the beer line. Speaking of which: $9 for a 24 oz. Hefeweizen! Not a deal, obviously, but not extortionist as concert provisions go.

I is for Interpol. Their North Stage set made a fine soundtrack to our hat-shopping, and we could hear them perfectly. All their songs sound the same to me, but I do like that one song they keep playing, so hats off! Their bassist, especially, is awesome.

I is also for Incubus. D. Hillz says his brother credit Incubus with saving his life. This, apparently, did not sufficiently stir Mr. Hillz’s curiosity enough for him to demand that we watch Incubus’s set. I can only conclude that D. Hillz doesn’t love his brother.

J and K are two letters you won’t find anywhere near LCD Soundsystem, who sounded great as we were walking by. Alas, it was only a walk-by, because we were getting sustenance and using the toilets in preparation for the Beastie Boys/Po-lease double-bill that would soon be kicking off on the North Stage. And honestly, despite all the critical hosannahs Sound of Silver got earlier this year, it was hard for me to imagine, listening to that record, that it would go over live.

I can be wrong. I frequently am. I probably was in this case. Wish I’d seen their whole set.

M is for Matisyahu! He seemed to draw more people to the South Stage than Regina Spektor had for her Sunday North Stage set immediately prior. That crazy Hasidic rhymer! Also, Modest Mouse. They played the South Stage opposite the Po-lease on Saturday night, so, you know. I bought their allegedly spectacular new record, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, a few months ago. It didn’t grab me enough to demand the probably fifth or sixth listen it would need to plant its seed in my brain.

N is for Paolo Nutini. Booked opposide Winehouse Saturday, so . . .

Oh my God, was it ever hot on Saturday . . .

P is, of course, for the Police. I gather I’m in the minority on this, but they were the biggest letdown of the festival for me. It wasn’t the setlist, which opened strong with peppy takes of “Message in a Bottle,” “Synchronicity II,” and “Walking on the Moon.” It was the performances. They were frequently slowed waaaaay down and larded with the kind of noodling Sting didn’t used to let Andy get away with back in the day. Andy’s a great guitar player, and I don’t blame him for wanting some of the spotlight now that he’s in his sixties and another Police tour seems . . . well, still more likely than this one seemed a couple of years ago, I guess.


Sting seems to be going out of his way to be mangnanimous to his two bandmates, changing that line in “So Lonely” to “Welcome to the Andy Summers [or Stewart Copeland] show and whatnot, but it just seems to prove that it was always best for all of them that he ran the band. “Driven to Tears” just went on and on, and between Andy’s guitarorhhea and Stewart’s need to play with his gong and all the other weird percussion elements he’d brought, “Wrapped Around Your Finger” was an unholy mess. But it wasn’t until “de Do Do Do, de Da Da Da” that I felt certain that Andy and Sting were actually playing in two different keys.


I can’t imagine that playing these songs in these arrangements still interests Sting on any level. Frankly, the Police classics that he played on his solo tours (“King of Pain,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”) rocked harder when he played them with Dominc Miller and Vinnie Coliuta (sp?) on guitar and drums than did the versions we got from Andy and Stewart Saturday night. That second-encoure surprise of “Next to You” — what was that, one-third time of the way they used to play it? It sounded like the Grateful Dead covering the Ramones. A disgrace! And I say this as somebody who bought the damn ticket, more than for any other reason, to see The Police.


Since I cared enough to write it down, here’s the setlist: 1 Message in a Bottle 2 Synchronicity II 3 Waking on the Moon 4 Voices Inside My Head / When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around 5 Don’t Stand So Close to Me 6 Driven to Tears 7 Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic 8 Wrapped Around Your Finger 9 de Do Do Do, de Da Da Da 10 Invisible Sun 11 Walking in Your Footsteps 12 Can’t Stand Losing You ENCORE 13 Roxanne 14 King of Pain 15 So Lonely 16 Every Breath You Take ENCORE 17 Next to You

As for Peter Bjorn and John, we had sought shelter from the heat by 4 p.m. Saturday, when they went on, so I only heard a bit. They sounded good, though.

R is fo Regina Spektor. She performed without and band and neither that nor the hugeness of the venue intimidated her a bit. Her early set on Sunday was one of the best performances of the festival. She seemed thrilled to be playing to so many people, and genuinely flattered by their fond reception of her.


She sang in Russian a bit and seemed to greet the crowd mainly in Dolphin. Adorable.


S is for Spoon, another band, a la LCD Soundsytem and Modest Mouse, that critical consensus holds I should be “Ga Ga” for. Okay. I watched their entire set on the North Stage Sunday. It seemed like they were louder than any of the other acts I watched perform on the North Stage. Good but not great.

T is for The Smashing Pumpkins. In your world, maybe. I didn’t stick around Sunday night to hear them. Didn’t care then, don’t care now. All I know is that calling your album Zeitgeist is much an asshole move as calling your album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I saw a guy during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set wearing an Infintie Sadness tour t-shirt, and I had to fight the urge to give him a wedgie on general principle. When I heard Billy Corgan feeling the love at Live Earth by accusing the entire audience of stealing music from him via illegal downloading, it seemed to set a new peak of douche-bagitude even for Corgan. Astounding.

U2 weren’t there, but I saw them play the Staples Center a couple of years ago.

V is for Velvet Revolver. Heh. We watched a couple of their songs as we were making our way towards the exit just out of curiosity. They sounded better than I expected, actually. It was great just to see Slash up there shredding, his hair-mask disguising the effects of aging and whatever else he’s been into since GnR shut down sometime during the first Clinton Administration. Their cover of “It’s So Easy” sounded good. And Scott Weiland’s rebuke to someone for throwing their shoe onstage (“Did your mommy not hold you when you were two?”) confirmed he could be just as big a jackass as W. Axl Rose.

W is for Wu-Tang Clan. Their hour-long set seemed mostly to be about self-promotion. (“When I say ‘Wu-Tang,’ you say ‘Forever!'”) Their A-listers pretty much hung back and let the minor leaguers do the heavy lifting. Best crowd-surfing I saw all weekend, though.

X weren’t there, but I saw their rockabilly alter ego, The Knitters, play the Birchmere a few months ago.

Y is for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose set was the best we saw on Sunday, methinks.


Karen O was such a magentic presence that she kind of overshadowed the band. I just saw Marilyn Manson perform in the same clothes, and Karen O likes to end songs with that earsplitting mic-drop just like Manson does, but the contrast between them was still night and day, and not just because I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play during the daytime. Karen actually seemed to be reacting to the crowd reacting to her. It’s a monumental difference.


The festival format really shows you who has it, because you can’t hide behind your production. Another band is coming on right after you, which means you get to bring on your instruments and your clothes that’s pretty much it. And everybody can see what you’re doing in between songs. Anyway, that extended coda to “Maps” to close their set, for which Tim Burton lookalike — well, they all kind of look like Tim Burton, really — Nick Zinner switched from an electric to an acousitc mid-song, was one of the most memorable moments of the festival, with the crowd singing along as a light rain fell.


Z is for Led Zeppelin, who didn’t play the Libbey Bowl in Ojai a couple of years ago.


We’re gonna need some more cine-geniuses.


Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni both died on Monday.

Thank you, Gentlemen, and may you both rest in peace.

Organs, Pummeled.


My buddy Joe recommended the review simply read, “Manson. Slayer. Fuck, yeah!” He wasn’t at the show, but it turns out he was at least half-right.

FACT:  This was the loudest show I have ever attended.

Thanks to Capt. Miller (Ret.) for fellowship, transportation, ear plugs, and research assistance.