Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Great Dictator (1940) d. Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin does his Hitler.

The Great Dictator (1940)
 d. Charlie Chaplin
Criterion Collection #565

  Really digging Charlie Chaplin right now, but unable to slip him into casual conversation.  Compare the contemporary relevance of Chaplin to another recent emphasis of mine, Russian movies.  I've used Russian movies in two different conversations in the last week and gotten good responses both times.  So Chaplin isn't very cool, but he is a genius.

  Like any artistic genius who controls his/her own means of production AND obtains positive critical, popular and financial response to his/her early work, Chaplin became obsessed with a passion project.  As the accompanying featurette by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli documents, Chaplin wanted to make a movie about Napoleon.  He spent close to a decade working on this proposed film of Napoleon in exile.  He had people doing research, he bought rights to a book on the subject, he paid to have a screenplay created.   The featurette uses excerpts from letters between Chaplin and his close associates that show he didn't really abandon the Napoleon in exile project until the mid to late 1930s.

  The Great Dictator was released in 1940, and it incorporates many of the characteristics of the unamde Napoleon movie.  Specifically, the central plot point of The Great Dictator: Chaplin playing both the Hitler character and a Jewish barber who looks exactly like the Hitler character.  Watching The Great Dictator for the first time, it was hard not to be shocked at Chaplin's aggressively political film.  Even with the funny included, The Great Dictator is a serious fucking movie.   The Chaplin Dictator character talks about exterminating the Jews repeatedly, as well as casually discussing murdering 3000 striking factory workers because he "doesn't want any of his worker to be unhappy."

  Even more amazing is that The Great Dictator came out before the U.S.entered into World War II.  As readers may or may not know, during the Jo McCarthy led Communist witch hunts after World War II, attacking Fascism BEFORE the US entered officially into World War II was called being a "premature anti-Fascist" and was grounds for being accused of being a closet Communist. The Great Dictator is the kind of bold film that could only have been produced and released by an Artist with complete control of his means of production.   It is quite an accomplishment, and an astonishing film, but in terms of film art itself vs. historical significance, it is a flawed masterpiece with a clunky 2 hour run time and dozens of cringe inducing moments.  Still worth seeing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Gold Rush (1942) d. Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin performs the "dance of the rolls" scene from The Gold Rush, among the most iconic single scenes in cinema history.

Movie Review
The Gold Rush (1942)
 d. Charlie Chaplin

  Originally shown as a silent film upon release in 1925, Chaplin himself added narration (spoken by Chaplin) and music to a 1942 re-issue that the Criterion Collection bills as the "definitive" edition.  To me, that is a little like calling the CGI enhanced versions of Star Wars that George Lucas put out last decade as being the "definitive" version of those titles.  Or like calling the colorized version of a black and white film the "definitive" version of that title.

  I guess at a certain level the Criterion Collection is about marketing, and considering that it is Chaplin himself who wrote AND spoke the narration AND picked the music AND he wrote AND directed the 1925 version, he can do whatever the eff he wants to The Gold Rush.

 The Gold Rush was an international hit for Chaplin and the so-called "Dance of Rolls" scene, which younger people might have only seen reenacted by Johnny Depp in the trailer for "Benny and Joon" is among the most famous single scenes ever shot on film.  Chaplin only has five titles in the Criterion Collection, so The Gold Rush, even in the narrated/music enhanced format- and by the way when I say "Music enhanced" I mean "flight of the bumblebee" used over and over and over again.

  The Gold Rush is a true classic of film: A work of art that has both maintained an Audience and critical esteem for over a century.  Surely that is a fair measure of a classic work of Art?  Audience and critical esteem fro 100+ years?  Using that standard, you don't really know until a 100 years have passed, but for The Gold Rush we are 12 years off from that point. 

Show Review: Jessica Pratt @ Casbah; Delphic Oracle & Azar Swan @ The Void

The lovely and talented Jessica Pratt at the Casbah

Show Review:
 Jessica Pratt @ Casbah;
Delphic Oracle & Azar Swan @ The Void

 I've been trying to experience the San Diego club scene with an eye towards the social architecture developed by 18th century English writers in dance/crowd/pleasure garden scenes. (1)  These descriptions are typified by a structure where the protagonist arrives at the designated gathering point, always as part of a group- never alone.

 Once arrived, the Author will often describe the physical location: the venue, as it were.  This physical description was often a drawing point for contemporary (18th century) readers because it would describe places, like the Ranelagh Pleasure Garden in London, that novel readers had never been to.  After this description, there is a description of the initial social arrangement of the protagonist.  Often times, this is a younger woman talking to an older woman, often times the subject of conversation is either the physical space just described by the Author or the particular social problem which the scene is met to resolve.

 This social problem is usually related to courtship, courtship and inheritance being the two main subjects of 18th century fiction, and inheritance not really being the kind of thing one discusses in public at a social gathering.

 After the initial set up of the scene and social problem confronting the protagonist, usually there is a set piece where the protagonist engages the setting and the problem at the same time: Talking to her beau during a dance, or while watching a performance and this animates the relationship between social space and social interaction, creating an impression of movement within the narrative.

  I haven't figured out how to adapt this dynamic to a show review without disclosing more personal information then necessary, but I'm working on it, because I want to incorporate literary techniques into art criticism.


(1) For early examples the work of Frances Burney are particularly apt.  Try Camillia or Cecilia- both of which have been reviewed here.

The Horse's Mouth (1958) d. Ronald Neame

Alec Guinness plays Gully Jimson in The Horses Mouth (1958) d. Ronald Neame

Movie Review
The Horses Mouth (1958)
d. Ronald Neame
Criterion Collection #154

    The Horses Mouth is a comedy about washed up painter Gilley Jimson, played by Alec Guinness, who has lived past his prime.  In the first scene Jimson is being released from jail after serving a sentence for making harassing phone calls to the gentleman who owns all his early works.  First thing he does is of course resume said threatening phone calls.  The plot largely concerns Jimson figuring out a way to squat in a wealthy collector's apartment and create an indelible masterpiece on the wall of their flat., followed by a kind of coda where he creates an epic painting on the wall of a soon to-be-demolished Church.

One of the Gully Jimson paintings from the film.

  Jimson is obviously a character who was very close to Alec Guinness's' heart: Guinness wrote the screen play and it is hard to miss the obvious passion he brings to the role, raspy voice and all of it.  The script is based on the on the novel of the same name by Joyce Cary- Criterion Collection calls the novel a classic but I'd never heard of the novel or the author.

  At times it seems like the Criterion Collection is just an endless exploratory journey, the artistic equivalent of having some kind of warp drive that would allow you to hop from planet to planet instantaneously.  Almost every day I am humbled by just how little I know about the world of literature after 23 years of formal education and actually being interested in the subject both in and out of school for roughly the same amount of time.

 There is just so much out there it is easy to get overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis. I know I say this quite often but I could have easily lived my entire life without seeing or hearing about or discussing or being aware of the existence of The Horses Mouth, but it was a fine way to pass a couple hours, and it is worth checking out particular for the Anglophiles out there, and of course it is a much watch for those dedicated to British comedies from the 50s and 60s.  Anyone? No? Ok.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Show Review: Blouse & Feathers at The Void San Diego

Blouse frontwoman Charlie Hilton

Show Review:
Blouse & Feathers at
The Void San Diego

  Watching Feathers play their all-girl take on trad synth pop, I was considering the possibility of buying new deck shoes/topsiders for this weekend's Vampire Weekend/Beirut Hollywood Bowl show.  The Vampire Weekend show is Saturday, which does not leave enough time to buy online, except by perhaps using some kind of Amazon service that requires signing up.  Leaving aside the issues of delivery, there is the simple question of what one gains by showing up in an obviously new pair of deck shoes at a Vampire Weekend show at the Hollywood Bowl.  I would think that you might be mocked by more knowledgeable attendees, mocked about the newness of ones topsiders.  The prospect of shoe-related mockery at a Vampire Weekend show was enough to make me physically shudder, and frankly made it hard to focus on the opening band.

Charlie Hilton of Blouse

  After the set, sitting at the bar using my smart phone, I looked up Feathers profile.  Unfortunately Feathers was also the name of a short-lived Freak Folk act fronted by garage-rocker King Tuff.  The earlier Feathers put out a record on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label in 2006, and that record accounts for most of the profile plays/listeners on Last FM.  Meanwhile on Facebook they have 3000ish fans. So they've got entry level listenership.  On the positive side, they are an all female synth pop band- so huge potential audience out there.

  On the negative side, people are going to be sexist because the music industry is sexist and permeated by the male gaze.  I thought they showed potential but will rise or tread water based on the larger popularity of the synth pop genre. Genre is unfortunately crucial for band with smaller Audiences because genre functions as a separate spectrum for drawing Audience attention.  Artists will often come to the attention of new Audience members because of their placement in a specific genre with which the audience member is already familiar.

 The idea of liking "new music" is always mediated by genre awareness on the part of the listener. Jf a lesser know Artist is working in a disfavored genre with few natural adherents, their job is tougher and it makes the talent level of the Artist more important for gaining any kind of wider Audience.  Synth pop is def. what I would call a disfavored genre at the moment. I'm talking about drum pad driven, with synthesizers and a lead singer, synth pop.  So that is an uphill trek for Feathers but I wish them the best on their journey.

 You can't talk about Portland based, Captured Tracks signed band Blouse without mentioning the fact that they once used drum machines and no longer use drum machines. Blouse is now a trad indie four piece with a live drummer and a sound that is best described as trad indie rock.  It probably bodes well for their long term future, but ultimately the particular method of delivery is secondary to the presence of singer/guitarist Charlie Hilton.  Blouse is going to succeed or fail based on her popularity irrespective of the arrangement of the band around her.

  It's inconceivable, given their relationship with Capture Tracks, that the decision to abandon synths and drum machines in favor of guitar and drums, was anything other then an honest organic artistic decision, so more power to them I say. It can hardly hurt their appeal. As long as Hilton is fronting the band the style of delivery of the music is unimportant.  Personally, I find her compelling but coming so soon after Pharmakon blew my mind (last night) the indie rock vibe failed to click. Not their fault, mine.

What Maisie Knew (1897) by Henry James

They made an updated movie of What Maisie Knew, starring Alexander Scarsgard from True Blood.  By all accounts a terrible movie.
Book Review
What Maisie Knew
by Henry James
p. 1897

Guide to 19th Century American Literature

Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin ,1899,  9/26/13
Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1885, 10/15/13
Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ,1880 , 7/16/13
Book Review; Ben Hur by Lew Wallace,1880  6/13/13
Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott,1869, 3/9/13
Book Review: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1860, 9/19/12
Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852, 9/12/12
Book Review: The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne,1851, 5/30/12
Book Review: Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851, 8/27/12
Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables,1851,  6/21/12
Book Review: The Pit and The Pendulum  1842, 3/28/12
Book Review: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, 1844, 3/27/12
Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839, 3/20/12
Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, 6/18/12
  What Maisie Knew is about the fall-out from a messy, messy divorce, written from the perspective of the daughter of the divorcing parents.  James starts What Maisie Knew with what must have then been a newish phenmenon: A split custody arrangement where she is to spend half her time with Dad and half her time with Mom.  Both Mom and Dad quickly remarry, and the first several chapters will ring true to anyone has been through a nasty divorce, with both parents jockeying for affection and trying to turn Maisie against the other parent.

 This, however does not last, instead first Mom loses interest, then Dad, and Maisie ends up spending time with her step-Parents, who have their own new relationships.  It's a sad but familiar plight, but James creates Maisie as a calm, thoughtful little person (it would be a stretch to call Maisie a child given her narrative prowess) who persists as a calm center in a maelstrom of failed relationships and sexual drama.

   Maisie's parents are thoroughly despicable people, feckless and "immoral" by the standards of the day.  Thankfully her step-parents are slightly better, particularly Sir Claude, who when he is not having an affair with Maidie's step-mother (Yes, the step-father and the step-mother hook up in What Maisie Knew) treats her with respect and dignity.

  In the end Maisie turns her back on all her assorted would-be step parents, parents and guardians and chooses the reliable Mrs. Wix and literally sails off into the sunset, leaving Sir Claude behind.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Summer Interlude (1951) d. Ingmar Bergman

Maj-Britt Nilsson plays Marie in Summer Interlude (1951) d. Ingmar Bergman

Movie Review
Summer Interlude (1951)
d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #613

  Part of the point of this endeavor (watching all of the Criterion Collection titles) is to learn more about my own taste for films.  One of the early discoveries thus far is that I really like Ingmar Bergman.  The film text book I bought, itself from the 60s, derides Bergman claiming that his fans are typically people who view film as a form of literature, but if viewing film as a form of literature is wrong then baby I don't want to be right.

 I love the heroines of Bergman- dark, steeped in regret and repressed longing, I feel like I identify with them and their experiences.  Bergman's films are steeped in fatalism/existentialism/ Protestantism, gloomy and severe they represent a body of work that comes close to approximating the real emotional experience of many people who love and lose, people who are isolated from their surroundings, people who live in the past.  His culture is so far from what we call "contemporary pop culture" that he might as well be a 19th century novelist, and yet all of his films maintain a relevance simply by virtue of their emotional acuity.

 Summer Interlude is about a summer affair between two young people that ends with the death of the boy, Henrik.  Marie, the female half of the pair (played by a winning Maj-Britt Nilsson) is a ballerina who tells the story from the present in flashback forms.  The happiness of the past is contrasted with the gloominess of the present, where Marie is "always tired" and wonders what the point is of all of it.

  Bergman successfully counterpoints the beauty of the Nordic summer with the reality of a present where Marie is trapped inside the ballet theater for days on end, rehearsing for a big performance but realizing she is nearing the end of her professional career as a ballerina.  I agree with the Criterion Collection synopsis entirely:
Touching on many of the themes that would define the rest of his legendary career—isolation, performance, the inescapability of the past—Ingmar Bergman’s tenth film was a gentle drift toward true mastery.
  Everyone should watch Bergman movies, particularly those struggling with isolation and/or the inescapability of the past.  Don't we all do that?

Show Review: Pharmakon & Body of Light @ The Void San Diego

Pharmakon/Margaret Chardiet as she appears live.

Show Review:
 Pharmakon &
Body of Light
@ The Void San Diego

  Watching Pharmakon is like seeing a Margot Tennenbaum esque woman being possessed by a Japanese water ghost, playing music that seems to have sprung forward in time from early Throbbing Gristle period Industrial/Noise Music.  Most impressively, it is just her, one person- Margaret Chardiet- there is no dopey looking dude twiddling knobs while she makes her unearthly screams.  Pharmakon inverts the traditional pop formula of pairing an edgy/threatening looking image with a sound that is rooted in America popular music song conventions.  Rather, Charadiet pairs a preppy image (seriously, she was wearing a black Polo dress) with a sound that is edgy/threatening.
Pharmakon channels a Japanese Water Ghost

     I think if you had to look at the overall Pitchfork aesthetic sensibility, she represents a larger category of Artists who are seeking to bring extreme sounds to mainstream Audiences using a variety of "cloaking/disarming" strategies. Liturgy would be another well documented example of what I'm talking about.  The two actual genres where this strategy is a verifiable phenomenon are death metal and noise.  I think tied to this inversion of traditional pop formula is the idea of the rock concert as a performance/performance art.

 I had a conversation with Shub for Dirty Beaches about their recent performances in Southern California and he said, "We want the Audience to see it as a piece, like a movie."  After seeing their performances, I totally get that, and I believe that Pharmakon has similar ideas.   She is an Artist, performing a piece, which is called "Pharmakon plays a rock club."
Japanese Water Ghost example

  Chardiet showed real maturity and sophistication during the Audience interaction portion of her performance.  Like many DIY/Indie artists she walked into the small crowd gathered around the stage, but she actually walked up to individual audience members, touched them on the shoulder and made eye contact- which is a far cry from the useful thrashing and wailing that you see.  She successfully created a moment of intimacy with the Audience that was completely at odds with the harsh, discordant nature of the performance.

 Thus, you can see how Pharmakon is manipulating multiple conventions of the DIY/indie scene at the same time during her performance. So if it isn't already clear, I was deeply impressed and I highly recommend you see Pharamakon live if given the chance- you will not regret it.

  Openers Body of Light was another one man show that worked in the emotive gothy territory of Cold Cave, a band I saw over the weekend in two piece form.  The singer/only guy on stage had a noticeable presence on stage that engaged the attention of the Audience.  He wore leather gloves, a white t shirt as well as a belt.  I frankly question the belt or the leather gloves- one or the other.  But there was a lot to recommend Body of Light, particularly to fans of emotive goth pop.  He actually reminded me of Majical Cloudz.

Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy (1954) d. Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini, film director.

Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy (1954)
d. Roberto Rossellini
Criterion Collection #675
Part of 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman
Criterion Collection edition released September 24th 2013.

Yet another fun Italian movie about a disintegrating marriage.  Here, Ingrid Bergman plays Katherine, married to Alex (George Sanders).  They are an English couple visiting the Naples area to sell a villa left to them by an eccentric uncle.  While there, their marriage frays to the breaking point, only to be resolved in the last 60 seconds of the film in what feels like a cheap, tacked on happy ending.

Both Stomboli! and Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy have endings that put a happy spin on two 90 minute journeys of personal anguish.  Ingrid Bergman cracks exactly two smiles within both films.  Both times, the smiles are for men other then her husband and lead to further arguments and disagreements between her character and her husband.

 The real star of Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy is Naples.  The husband and wife spend most of the movie apart, she going to museums and various archaeological sites, he running off to Naples and consorting (but not consummating) with the prostituti. The tone of Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy is set when Bergman announces to her husband that after nine years of marriage, she feels like they are perfect strangers.

 Growing up, you always heard about the seven year itch, but as someone whose own marriage broke up after nine years I have to say that seems to be more accurate.  Anna Karenina's marriage lasted nine years, this one- there are others.  Something about the nine year mark.  I guess that's enough time to know that you are fooling yourself.

  While Journey to Italy/Voyage to Italy is interesting enough, I would be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone besides Italian Neo-Realist die hards and fans of films about failing marriages.  I'm one but not the other.  The Italian neo-realists are my second least favorite Criterion Collection genre behind "every movie from Japan."  Luckily the third film in this Rossellini collection is NOT available on Hulu Plus so I'm all done for now.

Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (1974) d. Barbet Schroeder

Idi Amin

Movie Review
Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (1974)
 d. Barbet Schroeder
Criterion Collection #153

  Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait plays better as a farce then an expose.  The story of the making of Idi Amin is probably better known then the content of the film itself.  French director Schroeder (who would become well known in the US a decade plus later for Reversal of Fortune) was invited by Amin himself to come to Uganda and shoot a documentary.  One imagines that he had something like The Triumph of the Will in mind.but that is not what he got.  Instead, Schroeder created a fairly straight forward documentary that largely consists of Amin talking at the camera.  In terms of impact Amin comes off more like a parody of a genocidal tyrant then and actual tyrant, although the comic element is undercut by Schroeder's off screen commentary.

 In one particularly intriguing seen, Amin lectures his assembled cabinet and singles out the foreign minister for criticism.  While you are listening it's hard to take Amin seriously- he sounds like a pompous high school teacher, but then Schroeder tells you that said foreign minister was found shot to death in the Nile river a month later and suddenly Amin looks terrifying.

  Idi Amin Dada is filled with such queasy/funny moments. It is hard to really find comedy in someone so obviously psychotic and when you add in his penchant for extra judicial murder it can be at times hard to watch.  But it is, I think, the definitive film on the phenomenon of the 20th century African Strong Man dictator, and will be watched forever for that reason.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pharmakon Plays The Void San Diego Tonight

Pharmakon aka Margaret Chardiet plays the Void in San Diego, tonight
A pharmakós (Greek: φαρμακός) in Ancient Greek religion was the ritualistic sacrifice or exile by the sorcerers of a human scapegoat or victim. The victims themselves were referred to as pharmakoi and the sorcerer was referred to as a pharmakon.  (WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR PHARMAKOS)

Event Preview
Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
PLAN A: Pharmakon, Body of Light, Sunwheel, Elvissa @ The Void.

Pharmakon is Margaret Chardiet, a New York-based industrial-noise artist who makes intense, visceral compositions out of raw, punishing sounds. Her new album, Abandon, is white-knuckle all the way, and closing highlight "Crawling on Bruised Knees" is likely to give you nightmares. In a good way! (SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT IF I WERE U)

  What happens when an Artist who plays uncompromising, not-popular, experimental style of music hooks up with critical respect from Pitchfork, the hottest indie record label in the biz (Sacred Bones) and major label level PR?  You get Pharmakon.  With only 30,000 Last FM plays, she has attracted critical attention far in excess of actual listeners.  There is nothing  wrong/problematic about that, but it certainly raises questions about how many people will show up to see her on a Tuesday night in San Diego.  I, for one, will be there.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Bela Lugosi as the iconic film version of Dracula.

Book Review
by Bram Stoker
p. 1897

  This may actually be the worst book on the entire 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list.  It's obviously included because it has been tremendously popular and served as more or less direct inspiration for a century plus worth of Vampire culture, but it really is a shitty, shitty novel.

 Why so, you may ask.  Well, Dracula is a kind of epistolary novel- where everything is written down by the various characters in the form of journal entries.  The epistolary novel was en vogue in the 18th century- Samuel Richardson- largely regarded as the first true "Novelist" wrote exclusively in this format, but it was soon abandoned by writers because it is clunky and subject to the inevitable "I am writing this even as the murderer enters into the room, oh there I can see him now with the knife gleaming in the candle light by which I write this now... I must go..." type of up to the minute narration.

  This kind of narration might have cut it in the 18th century before a hundred years of innovation rendered it utterly obsolete, but unless Stoker is writing as an homage (and I'm pretty sure he isn't) it just comes across as antiquated and amateurish.  So ultimately you are talking about the importance of the character of Dracula, and the genre of Vampire horror.  I have little respect for either.  Dracula has no depth- he is simply a monster.  A charming monster, but a monster.  And as for Vampire horror.  Well.  I'm not sure which is worse- the Twilight films/books or True Blood but both of them fucking suck.  Anne Rice sucks, books and movies.

 Vampires are just stupid, and Dracula is terrible.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crocodiles 2013 North American Tour Fast Approaches


Crocdiles Fall 2013 North American Tour Dates

10/18 New York, NY - CMJ

10/19 New York, NY - CMJ

10/20 Washington, DC - DC9 !

10/23 Louisville, KY - Zanzabar !

10/24 Nashville, TN - High Watt !

10/25 Atlanta, GA - The Earl !

10/26 Jacksonville, FL - Jack Rabbits !

10/29 New Orleans, LA - The Mint !

10/30 Houston, TX - Fitzgerald's !

10/31 Austin, TX - Holy Mountain !
11/01 El Paso, TX - Lowbrow Palace !

11/02 Tucson, AZ - Last Exit Live !

11/05 Las Vegas, NV - Beauty Bar @

11/06 Costa Mesa, CA - Detroit Bar @
11/07 San Diego, CA. - Casbah @

11/08 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo @

11/09 San Francisco, CA - The Chapel @

11/11 Portland, OR - Bunk Bar @

11/12 Seattle, WA - Barboza @

11/16 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle @

11/19 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace @

11/20 Montreal, QC - Divan Orange @

11/21 Boston, MA - Great Scott @

11/22 Philadelphia, PA - Boot and Saddle @

11/23 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall Of Willamsburg @

! w/ Royal Bangs
@ w/ Wymond Miles

  Man, no rest for the wicked right?  I'm not really on duty for this tour because Crimes of Passion was put out by Frenchkiss in the US, and I don't want to step on any toes with my internet wizardry- so no Facebook magic this time through. I'm still super interested in how it all goes.  I note that they added a regional opener for some of those tough dates in the southeast:  Royal Bangs is from Knoxville Tennessee, and presumably their 10k FB likes with a heavy southern tilt won't hurt ticket sales.   They also have a record out.  Wymond Miles is a pretty conventional choice for the West Coast/trip back to the East Coast- but he is a consummate pro and has a record out 10/15 so there will be some momentum there.

  As the months go by and I see what some of their better received counterparts are getting on their newest Pitchfork reviews, I feel better and better about the long-term prospects of Crocodiles.  Sure, they didn't exactly knock it out of the park, but there is a stable/unward trend line both in terms of critical appreciation and absolute size of Audience.  If you look at the trend on for their Last.FM profile, you see a bounce in weekly listeners from  1200 to 3300- close to 3x, and then the gradual fall back to a higher resting level, which will probably be like 2250 vs. 1200 prior to the album release.

 I don't have sales figures from the US, but I know in our territories we shipped a fair amount of physical product that makes me anxious for another record to sell in those territories.  The tour dates have gone well up and down the board.  They have a new asset on the way (video) to help boost interest for North American tour promotion.

 Our of all the dates on the tour there are only a couple that look problematic.  A Thursday night in Nashville. A Tuesday night in Vegas.  And a cheeky Monday/Tuesday sequence in Portland/Seattle.  But what can you do. 

Stromboli (1950) d. Roberto Rossellini

Ingrid Bergman being judged in Stomboli d. Roberto Rossellini (1950)

Movie Review
Stromboli (1950)
 d. Roberto Rossellini
Criterion Collection #673
Criterion Collection Release Date: September 24th, 2013
Part of  3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman

  Roberto Rossellini is probably the third most famous Italian film director behind Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, but he is the number one representative of Italy in terms of films in the Criterion Collection: he has 12, vs. Fellini with 9 and Antonioni with 6.  Rossellini is typically credited with being the originator of "Italian Neo-Realism," a style of cinema which preceded the French New Wave but shares aspects of that movement in terms of being a post-World War II reaction to pre World War II trends in Cinema.

 Stromboli was his first film with then Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman.  Of course, Bergman had cemented her role as a Hollywood icon/A lister with her performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942).  The story goes that Bergman wrote Rossellini suggesting that they make a movie or two together, Rossellini, presumably not a moron said, "OK."   They subsequently had an affair and that affair produced twins (Isabella Rossellini is one).  Bergman was ostracized from Hollywood for a decade afterward- like she gave a fuck- although maybe it was hard for her to abandon her husband and child(!) which she did.

  Considering the existential/bleak tone of Stromboli, the story of a Lithuanian national stranded in a Post War Italian Refugee camp (Bergman) who agrees to marry an Italian fisherman out of desperation, only to find herself marooned on his desolate, volcanic, hell-hole of a home island, the viewer has plenty of time to reflect on the ample back story between Rossellini and Bergman.  Indeed, it is not so hard to actually search for the back story on the web while the movie is playing because there is so little happening on screen.

  Basically, Bergman is sad that she is on the island, for 90 minutes.  It's hard to compare Stromboli to Antonioni's L'Avventura.  L'Avventura has a different story, but the similarities between the volcanic type island that figure prominently in both films is hard to ignore. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Show Review: Dirty Beaches in SD & LA

Show Review:
Dirty Beaches
Los Angeles, the Echo
San Diego , The Void

  It was extremely gratifying to see all the people who turned up for the sold out Los Angeles Dirty Beaches show and the almost sold out San Diego Dirty Beaches show over the last two nights.  Los Angeles was a particularly inspiring site with sold out shows both for Dirty Beaches at the Echo and downstairs at the Echoplex for Cold Cave as well; with a line down the block for people who didn't have tickets but wanted to get in.

  In San Diego there was an even split between pre-sale and walk up: 50/50- and I've never personally seen the Void that crowded other then for the opening night and the Shannon and the Clams show.

  Both performances were well received- all the bands were appreciated at both venues.  Merchandise sales were strong at both venues.  Audience enthusiasm was high at both venues.  At the same time it's humbling to consider that being to sell out the Echo and almost sell out an under 200 cap venue in San Diego puts a band at the very lowest rung of the ladder of music business achievement.

  Going to the Cold War Kids show at the Wiltern on Thursday night really put that observation in perspective.  In the seven-ish years I've been doing this it's the first time I've been apart of a tour that had that kind of back-to-back success (that I witnessed on both occasions) and there is so far to go before any kind of a reasonable living can be derived from the performance and sale of recorded music.

  Because after all, what is it worth to be cool?  Here is my take: Coolness is what brings you to the attention and interest of people who are uncool but who have money.  If you are a cool artist/label/band you can do two things: Trade your cool for someone else's money or try to build something yourself (yourselves) that uses coolness to atttract "un-cool" general population audience members.  I.E. either you do it yourself or you let someone with money and experience figure it out for you.  Just being cool isn't enough.  There are not enough Audience members with money who care to make a lifetime of cool financially rewarding.

  Selling out a 200-300 cap venue in LA is great, but it is quite literally the lowest rung that a viable band can occupy.  It's the starting point, not the end. While I was at the Echo show Friday night, it was hard not to remember that the last time I was back stage at the Echo was in 2009 when I saw Wavves play a similarly sold out show- spring 2009.  Four years plus later, Wavves is playing the X Fest, and the Artists I'm working with is trying to again sell-out the Echo.

 I'm not really troubled by it, because I can't imagine any of the Artists I work with being particularly stoked by a 430 PM slot at the X Fest, but it is impossible to deny that shows Wavves being way "ahead" in the climb up the music industry ladder.  At the same time, I feel a sense of accomplishment because I know that when Dirty Beaches sells out the Echo 'we" i.e. the artist and label- are keeping 100% of the money derived.  There is no psuedo-indie taking the digital sales money, there is no d bag manager taking 50% of the ticket sales.

 It's a trade off- we're all further away from that mass audience, but controlling what we've manager to generate ourselves.  It is a DIY outfit, for better or for worse, but the last couple of days it's felt better.

Thanks to Goose Island and DoLA for the tickets!  

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