Monthly Archives: December 2009

Becoming Unwritten: The Roots at the 9:30 Club

If NBC ever releases a compilation of The Roots’ performances as house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the DVD commentary track might make your player explode. The veteran Philly hip-hop band won’t finish a tune without referencing pieces of nine others. Their hyperlinked performance style is reliably thrilling, though you do sometimes want to yell at song-surfing bandleader/drummer/Twitter addict Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, “Hey, I was digging that!”

Last night, at the first of two 9:30 club dates, The Roots offered a sweaty, channel-flipping blitz, packing about eight hours of mercilessly funky rap, rock, go-go, jazz, and soul into 140 breathless minutes. Though they’ve continued to tour since they got their gig upstaging SNL alum Fallon, their return to the 9:30 still had a celebratory, school’s-out vibe. Continue reading

When it comes to holiday cards, you guys are really mailing it in.

It isn’t me you hate. It’s the holidays. I understand. I do.

An entire sub-genre of comic films and fiction make bank because this time of year has become for so many people nothing more than a season of weary obligation, stress, and exploding credit card debt. As kids, we may lie awake fearing that Santa Claus has weighed the evidence and judged us naughty. But as adults, we quake in contemplation of a vague but terrifying litany of list-related penalties far worse than a lump of coal in a stocking.* Consider, oh Constant Reader, the social or professional consequences of omitting someone from the greeting card list — assuming you still bother with that — or the holiday party evite. I bet plenty of people fear the terrible price of these sins of omission more than they fret about being overlooked themselves. Continue reading

Had myself a Noir-y little Christmas

Wherein what is intended as a brief endorsement is buried ‘neath seven longish paragaphs of rambling reminiscence.

Less than six hours until the blessed day arrives, the Christmas Spirit is upon me.

I wish I could say the Christmas Spirit is an impulse towards charity and forgiveness. As an unmarried, childless, over-30 boy, however, I am forced to admit that I have more often thought of the Christmas Spirit the way I’m thinking of it now: as the odd pairing of tranquility and giddy excitement Christmas engendered within me as a child. The reason I’m feeling an echo of that sense of wonder is at least partially because of a cynical, violent, profane comic book, one with a heart as black as the finish on a Glock pistol.

I started reading comics in 1987, and my personal celebration of Christmas -– my holiday gift to myself, delivered faithfully each December regardless of whether my year’s conduct could be classified as “naughty” or “nice” –- has incorporated a comics binge ever since. Continue reading

Young Frankenstein, Getting Older by the Minute

It’s aliiiiiiive!

Well, sort of. In places. For a while.

But not really.

The stage-musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’s beloved 1974 horror film spoof Young Frankenstein will haunt the Kennedy Center Opera House through the holidays, and it’s an utterly explicable choice for this season of multi-generational out-of-town guests: bland and familiar even if you’ve never seen the movie, offering neither challenge nor much reward.

Sporting a brow even lower than that of the stitched-from-corpses creature at its center, and with about as much to say, the show — which began its 14-month Broadway run two years ago — represents Brooks’s attempt to repeat the success of The Producers. As with that 1968 film-cum-2001 Broadway smash, Brooks once again joined new music and lyrics to a story he brought to the screen more than three decades earlier. Continue reading

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: The Screwtape Letters Returns

Karen Wright (foreground) and Max McLean in The Screwtape Letters. (Jonny Knight)

Actor and dramatist Max McLean was thinking hard about hubris versus humility even before he had a hit show on his hands.

“According to [C.S.] Lewis — and he gets most of his ideas from John Milton —pride is the first sin, the real sin,” McLean says. “All other sins are byproducts of that.”

The star of The Screwtape Letters — a wickedly seductive adaptation of Lewis’s 1942 novella about a senior demon in Hell advising an apprentice demon on Earth as he tries to effect a man’s damnation — has reason to be cautious. His show, which is of course about the very process by which a man may be corrupted, is enjoying boffo success. It begins a return engagement at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Landsburgh Theatre tonight. Continue reading

Shoot Out the Lights: Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs at IOTA

Just how retro is the strain of handmade country-blues peddled by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs? During their ramshackle hour-long set at IOTA last night, the guitarist/percussionist/singer Lawyer Dave introduced two different tunes as “a song about domestic abuse,” and in neither case did he follow-up with a Chris Brown joke.

Violence between lovers has always been one of the major themes of this music, of course. No one goes to counseling in the blues! Continue reading

Viva Christmas! El Vez and Los Straightjackets at the 9:30 Club

Chestnuts roasting. Jack Frost nipping. Yuletide carols being sung by the self-described “Mexican Elvis,” and folks dressed up like luchadores — mask-wearing Mexican wrestlers. Isn’t that how that one goes?

Well, that’s how it went at the 9:30 club last night, where Los Straitjackets — an ace surf-rock quartet out of, um, Nashville, despite their custom of performing in those sharp Mexican wrestling headpieces — were the house band for a bizarro 90-minute Christmas party hosted by East L.A. novelty singer/activist El Vez, who made good on his promise to spread “Santarchy,” and James Brown-like front splits, to the masses.

You could even call it a traditional program of holiday fare, assuming the Burlesque is the tradition you mean. Continue reading