Sunday, January 24, 2010

We've Been Rocked Like A Hurricane For The Last Time, Sort Of

What's that old adage about a tree falling in the forest? Or, better yet, what exactly is news?

That second question, it's something I try to answer two days a week teaching a First Amendment course over at Southern Connecticut State University. Why am I talking about all of this today? Well, this story says that '80s German metal group The Scorpions is disbanding. It's a shocking development; shocking, I tell you.

To be honest, I interviewed guitarist Rudolf Schenker about two years ago and he went on and on, in a thick accent that I didn't completely understand, about how the band could keep going forever. But was anybody listening anymore? Don't get me wrong, I know there are people out there who worship at the alter of The Scorpions, who think that "Wind of Change" singlehandedly brought down the Berlin Wall, and who wake up every morning singing "Rock You Like A Hurricane" as a way to get ready for the day. I know that dude exists, and his name is probably Klaus or Adolf. I understand. But do enough folks care for the AP to do a story on this, and for various online news outlets to pick it up?

And, more importantly, The Scorpions think they are Cher. Go re-read the story I linked to above. It says the band is calling it a day. But then it says a new record will come out in March. Then it says the band will tour for the next "few" years.

Um, so The Scorpions are breaking up, possibly in 2014 or something, and that's news? Heck, telling me Coldplay's breaking up in a few years is something I'd hardly consider news. So much can happen before then.

In the case of The Scorpions, the members are in their 60s. Yes, their 60s. So telling me they are going to break up in the next few years just makes me say, "No sh*t." I mean, really, this is news? Some 60-year-old dudes who haven't had a hit in two decades are breaking up? Oh, golly gee, someone get me a chair to sit in; I'm so damn shocked.

Anyway, here's the reason the Berlin Wall crumbled:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dawn And Justin, Justin And Dawn

If people needed a reason to see more live music, Thursday night at Fairfield Theatre Company's StageOne should have provided an ample one for the 100 or so folks in attendance. With Dawn Landes opening and Justin Townes Earle headlining, it was a heck of a show.

As many of you know, I've been a big Landes fan for a couple years now. Ever since I first popped "Fireproof" into my CD player, I can't stop listening to her. The singer/songwriter's new disc, "Sweet Heart Rodeo" is even better, says my review. Well Landes certainly didn't disappoint last night. It may have been the best 25-minute set I've ever seen. Seriously.

Flanked by her backing band, The Hounds, Landes delivered a sometimes stark and poignant and sometimes loud and immediate performance. She gave the crowd eight songs, three ("Young Girl," "Money In the Bank" and "Sweetheart of the Rodeo") from "Sweet Heart Rodeo."

I hadn't seen her perform in more than a year, and what I found most striking was the way she commanded the audience's attention. The two previous times I caught her, Landes was a more timid live player. That's no longer the case. She seemed far more comfortable, and results showed that.

The highlight of the set came at the right time, when she closed the show with "Kids In A Play." Always leave the audience wanting more, right?

Justin Townes Earle headlined, performing two sets. He played solo, but what's always so amazing about seeing Earle - the son of famed country icon Steve Earle - live is how adept his guitar playing is. Throughout one of his performances, it always seems like there are two guitar players, but it's just him.

Earle's best moment came on the poignant and immediately grabbing "Mama's Eyes," which is off his thoroughly excellent "Midnight at the Movies."

Lucky for you guys, I used this show to try my hand at adult filmmaking. Um, that doesn't sound right. Let's try again: Lucky for you guys, I used this show as an opportunity to try out my new mini camcorder (it even made that photo above!). Here are two Dawn Landes videos, and one from Justin Townes Earle. I think they came out so good, I'm going to start doing this at most gigs. Enjoy.

Oh, Conan, You Poor Guy

With today being the last evening we'll ever be able to see "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," it's vitally important to the world for me to have my say. Vitally important, like the world-won't-continue-to-spin-and-orbit-the-sun important.

Exaggeration? Nope.

Let me start off this possibly incoherent and positively unnecessary ramble by saying I'm a big Conan fan. I like his show more than Jay Leno's. I like his show more David Letterman's. (I do, however, dig Jimmy Kimmel's more, but that's besides the point.)

Two of my favorite days in the last 10 or so years involve going into New York to see Conan's old show get taped.

OK, so I've made that clear. I like Conan. I like his show much more than Jay's.

With all that said, I can't stand all the columns being written about how unfair this whole situation is, about how Conan is a victim. Screw that.

If Conan's a victim, please sign me up to be a victim. Heck, you can let me host "The Tonight Show" for a few months, give me $40 or so million and even kick my ass and I'll take it.

Look, NBC messed this situation up royally. There's a reason nobody watches NBC anymore. The network's management is stupid. It acts as if it doesn't understand what the country watches. And, hell, with the move of Leno to 10 p.m., it basically took a huge dump on its audience. They wouldn't want to see adult dramas, right? Heck no.

But Conan's ratings have been pathetic. I know part of that is NBC's fault for making Jay the lead-in to the news. Let's be realistic, though: Conan's jokes aren't necessarily made for 11:30 p.m., when the audience is much older than it is at 12:30 a.m. A masturbating bear? Hilarious, but maybe not for everyone.

No matter the reason, though, NBC is getting its ass kicked up and down the late-night ratings highway by David Letterman. If it wants to give Jay Leno his show back, because Leno regularly won the ratings war against Letterman, it can do that. Firing Conan is fair. If his ratings aren't good, well, then, that's NBC's choice.

When the network decided to stupidly cancel something like "Southland," do you think they gave all actors millions of dollars and paid for their moving expenses, etc.? Um, nope.

So Conan got fired. He still gets more rich. His profile is much larger now, so when he inevitably shows up at 11:30 p.m. on Fox or ABC in September, more people will watch him than they did over the last few months. And NBC gets Jay back, puts all those "Law & Orders" back on at 10 p.m. and looks incredibly stupid in the process. Everyone wins. Sort of.

Conan is not a victim. Conan is a big winner in all this. His show sucked in the ratings, he got fired and he stills gets a bajillion dollars.

That seems like a sweet deal to me. And making NBC look incredibly foolish? That's just gravy.

Icky Kris

You know, I've been meaning to make this post for a long time. And, I know I can be prone to a little hyperbole, but it's time to make a grand statement:

I haven't heard a song as bad as Kris Allen's "Live Like We're Dying" in a good five or so years.

Yes, we live in a world where Nickelback and Hinder and crappy metal bands and, of course, hundreds of "American Idol" crapsters exist, but this song just hits all of the low points in music. It's trying oh so hard to please everyone. There's some Jason Mraz in there. There's some Jack Johnson in there. There's some of the least edgy rap I've ever heard in there. In short, it's positively god awful.

I was at the gym yesterday and was forced to endure the song, and that's what drove me over the edge, what drove me to this post. I just can't believe someone would put that tune on a record, even if Kris Allen is an "American Idol," a star born of a show that's determined to ruin music's reputation. But, seriously, this dude is 24. He's supposed to know what's good and what's just embarrassing.

As many of you know, I've killed David Archuleta a lot in this space and in print, but give him credit for one thing: His music is aimed at middle-aged women and it's not trying for anything else. It's over-the-top pap meant to make the ladies gush and wish he was their kid. I get that. Kris Allen should go that way or make bad folk-rock like Mraz or something. Don't try to be everything. Don't try to make me want to put pencils in my ears Please.

You don't believe me? Here's the video:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Golden Crap

You'll get to read a whole lot of my thoughts on last night's Golden Globe Awards come Friday in Weekend. For the most part, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did its typical horrendous job of picking winners, but, of course, I took the time to complain and make bad jokes. Be on the lookout for that.

The only thing I will say about it is that for James Cameron's "Avatar" to be such a big winner is one of the biggest jokes in the history of the awards show. Coming on the heels of nominating "Nine" for some many trophies, the HFPA just looks like a bunch of star-struck idiots this morning. Idiots. And, now, I'm done with that.

Dinosaur Jr.'s show at Daniel Street on Friday was really good. It wasn't the best I've seen them over the last few years, but it was pretty damn good.

And, lastly, in case you missed it, I wrote a feature story on Dawn Landes for today's paper. Check it out here. Here she is performing the new tune "Romeo" a couple months ago:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'Avatar,' Really?

Most science-fiction is polarizing. There are some people that worship at the alter of George Lucas. He could animate a piece of poo, give it a sword and make it fight goobly-goblins and there'd be a legion of fans who loved, loved, loved the movie. (I might actually like that film.)

I understand this. But I still can't believe the legion of people who simply loved James Cameron's "Avatar."

I will never get those three hours of my life back. I could have slept. I could have watched TV. I could have run. I could have listened to music. I could have drank beer. I could have hung out with friends. I could have done a whole lot. But I didn't.

Two Saturdays ago, I watched "Avatar" and was completely disappointed.

Clearly, I'm not a sci-fi fan, and that obviously contributes to my disdain for the film. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good movie when I see it. Cameron's own "Aliens" and "The Abyss"? Those are great sci-fi films. "Avatar" is an overly long piece of crap that looks really cool, but has a storyline that only the dumbest humans would find meaningful.

It's practically a fable for morons. I've never seen a movie that attempts to beat its audience over the head — repeatedly — with its "message." We get it. The dialogue is so laugh-out-loud worthy, I actually did howl in the theater a couple times.

Yet when you try to have a rational discussion with a fan of the movie, they find it simply amazing that that you don't like it. Now, I admit that some of the people I know who liked it simply have absolutely no taste in the arts. That makes sense. If you like Staind or something, you and I are never going to be on the same page artistically. That's OK.

But what about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? I know that if I threw a huge party and boozed up the foreign film critics, my old Weekend videos could have received a Golden Globe, but, seriously, "Avatar" as a best-picture candidate? Even in a down year for film, this is simply unconscionable. I guess those buffoons did nominate "Nine" for five awards and then had the audacity to claim all American critics are dumb and that the film would be seen as a "classic" in a few years, so ...

Why am I going on about "Avatar" today? Well, besides yesterday's story about the Vatican's reaction to the movie, or the one that says the frivolous flick might be racist, I got sent this story.

You want to see my favorite couple graphs? Here you go:

On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.

"I wasn't depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy ," Baghdassarian said. "But I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed."

Um, really? Those couple hundred words make me fear for the human race. I saw "Avatar." I paid attention. I don't want to live on Pandora. I mean, for God's sake, if anything, it's a world that condones bestiality. I don't about you, but I don't want to have sex with flying dragons and then also jump in the sack with those blue cat people, too. Sorry dude.

Seriously, though, can we all admit that the movie was cool to look at and bad as a film? Please, please, please?

And can we all admit that while, yes, Cameron was trying to deliver a message about the environment and peace, he did it in a way that a friggin' squirrel could have figured out?

Nothing subtle. Nothing intelligent.

I'm still sore from the hammer beating me over the head with the stupid point.

Where's my animated poo?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight

For those of you who may like to hear the sweet and amazing sound of my voice, I will be the guest on tonight's "Local Bands Show" at 10 p.m. on WPLR. You can listen at 99.1, or online. James, Rick and I will discuss the best local music of the year. We play about seven of my favorite tracks. Good times. Good music. Listen.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Too Awesome

I can't get enough of this song and dream about the day next week when the record arrives on my desk.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Um, Really?

The director of PR for the XL Center in Hartford e-mailed me a press release today. The title of it is "XL Center Hub For Top Tours."

Am I missing something? The first paragraph then says that the venue secured four of the top 14 touring acts in 2009. Four out of 14? Is that a hub? These are the kinds of questions that keep me up at night.

Happy New Year

How's it going, everyone? I hope we're all doing well. Now that the holidays are in the rearview mirror, I have to admit I'm a bit happier.

Oh, sure, I love Christmas and everything, but I'm a creature of habit. I'm oddly anal about my schedule. And when things are forced to change, I don't really like it.

For the last couple weeks, I've had odd deadlines, long drives, days off (but with the same amount of work), crazy hours, etc. This week? Well, everything's back to normal, in its right place, and I couldn't be happier.

I hope you all feel the same way. Oh, and last weekend, I saw three movies: "Sherlock Holmes," "Avatar" and "Up in the Air." "Sherlock" was better than I thought, but nothing special. Of course, I'm a Guy Ritchie hater, so take my opinion for what it's worth.

I wanted to die throughout "Avatar." Did it look cool? Yep. But I didn't need to waste three hours of my life, either.

Now, "Up in the Air" might be my favorite movie of the year. In a couple weeks, I'll publish my 10 best movie story right here on this here blog. The Register's official list will be in Weekend Friday. I didn't write it because there are far too many movies not here in New Haven yet, and publishing said list in the newspaper, in February, would look dumb. Yep. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

What else? Well, good ol' Santa Claus brought me some mini camcorder thingie. Once I figure out how to use it properly (this weekend), you can expect plenty of video stuff on this blog, both of me talking and bands performing, etc. It should be fun. My New Year's resolution is, of course, to break posting records on this here blog. Wish me luck.

The most exciting part of the new year is all the upcoming CDs that I'm super excited about. Some I already have, some should be in the mail. We're talking Vampire Weekend, Peter Gabriel, Miles Kurosky, Midlake, Dawn Landes ... the list goes on and on.

If we want to look back, though, you can read my selections for the best records of 2009 here. It took me a while to figure them out, but I'm very happy with the list.

By the time this post gets published, a new batch of Hall of Famers will be nominated. Let's go Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Robbie Alomar, Mark McGwire and, um, I'm not sure.

What else? Not much. You may also have heard that Wilco and Trey Anastasio have both confirmed Connecticut dates.

Oh, and I'll be watching the People's Choice Awards tonight, so expect a diary in Weekend Friday.

That's it. I leave you with a video for Vampire Weekend's lead single off their new record: