Rock Gods #139: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

It took a year of planning, a cast of dozens, and the support of an 88 year old knight of the realm, but the Poise Snatchers persevered, and last Sunday afternoon on the college on the hill they presented Sir Franz Laporte’ s opera Pera in its four hour entirety, with the composer in attendance.
” it was originally meant to be on a much smaller scale,” marveled the Snatchers’ lead snarler Moe, who played the lead of Maurice. It’s not coincidental that the singer and his character are so similarly named—Pera is a favorite opera of Moe’ s parents, who saw the work’s world premiere in Muhlenberg on their first date in 1972. A self styled academic brat, Moe brought the punk project to campus for the annual Off Road Summer Arts Festival of scaled-down chamber projects before even considering the Bullfinch, which will be hosting a revised version next week. “it was [Bullfinch booker] Q’ s idea to divide it into three separate sets,” Moe elaborates. If the project persists beyond campuses and punk stages, “We have a two-act version in case we can’t get the Act Three chorus together.”
All of which is cool with the eminent European composer Laporte, whose trip to town was sponsored by a college residency and support from various embassies and international cultural agencies. “He’s completely unfazed by what we did to his opera,” Moe emotes. “Seventy years ago, he was hanging with some of the fringiest art scenes in Europe. He’s seen it all. This is nothing to him. Flying to America when you’re pushing 90, that’s the big excitement.”

Once the opera smoke clears, it’ll be The Piccolas, Encompass and Rochester Factory at the Bullfinch, hitting the anvils… The Wolf Trap and Open Victoria at Hamilton’s, hitting the classics a little too hard… After a streak of elite indie encounters, D’ollaire’s returns to its mainstream focus by flouting the vocal waverings of Bay Ruth and Rich Bayer. From Bay to Bayer…

Listening to…

Techno flourishes and high-pitched vocals aside, this widespread collaborative work by a six-initialled artist reminds of nothing so much as High Llamas. There’s that same sense of ambient drama, the same need for melody amid the found chords, the same sense of a finely painted backdrop. It sounds distant and full at the same time.
A lot of folks will say Moby, but I say High Llamas. No, there’s nothing Beach Boysy about it. But that sense of stormy, effervescent tranquility is hard to nail, no matter whether you’re coming from an ocean-surf or a warehouse-rave direction. Cool keyboards are cool keyboards, and there are probably ‘50s lounge-LP fans who’ll fall for SBTRKT tracks like “Ready Set Loop” and “Go Bang.”

Where’s Terry?

I was so appalled by the Spring Issue of DGA Quarterly that I had to buy it and pore through it to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Is it possible to print a multi-page article on Doctor Strangelove, analyzing several scenes and noting numerous characters by name, without once mentioning Terry Southern, the key co-author of the screenplay which nailed those scenes and colorfully christened those characters?
I understand that this mag is the house organ of the film directors’ union. Still, sentences like “Kubrick wastes no time getting his narrative going” and discussions of how the comedy is measured and paced amid scenes of suspense willfully deflect the importance of the writer, ascribing to Kubrick what any fan of Southern’s novels and other screenplays will quickly realize are this writer’s hallmark, not this director’s.
The whole tyrannical director-as-auteur theory was softened decades ago to allow for the contributions of key collaborators. Even the hyper hands-on director Stanley Kubrick gave credit where due and didn’t hog the limelight more than he needed to. He corralled stars from all fields and used their talents wisely.
The especially galling aspect of this DGA Quarterly piece (penned by Rob Feld) is that it leans heavily on quotes from Lawrence Kasdan, a writer/director who knows firsthand that movies don’t make themselves up as they go along. In other realms, Terry Southern has been sanctified for taking a meandering and unfocused Strangelove script and adding consistency and sharp contemporary satire to it. Here, he’s roundly ignored for that feat, though the monikers he coined (Brigadier General Jack Ripper, Major “King” Kong, President Merkin Muffley) jump around the page as lively as he made them.
I clearly recall the aggrieved letters which Evan Hunter, mystery novelist supreme and equally adept writer of screenplays, would write to the New York Times whenever some critic would analyze Hitchcock’s The Birds and attribute certain achievements in it to the director when they had originated with Hunter the screenwriter. Hunter’s passed away, but his mission remains. Directors are great and necessary, but they don’t do it all. When discussing Doctor Strangelove, give Terry Southern (not to mention Peter George, who wrote the novel which initially inspired the film) his due.

Rock Gods #138: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

We got that Extinct lyric pretty much right last week:

You were smart—when you threw me over

You’ll smart—when I’m in the clover

I can change—more than you suspected

I’m unchained—can do the unexpected.

Not Blake, sure, but you gotta hear the tune, and Robert Stankus’ uh, unexpectedly good singing voice. That chance will be coming sooner than we could ever hope. An album will take a good deal longer, but that small label that signed Extinct last week wants to put “Smart” out as a radio single within the next two months.

Rich Johns and a solo set by Sidney George at the Bullfinch…

The Silvermen and D-Guild at Hamilton’s, a purported hip-hop happening though both acts are all white… Game Changers and Complicated Shadows at D’ollaire’s. Is it us, or is the big room getting too hip for its own good?…

Listening to…

The Black Rabbits, Hypno Switch (Rock Ridge Music.

It’s not news that I’m a big fan of the first three Jonas Brothers albums, when they were screaming youngsters and hadn’t yet “matured” into ‘70s California and faux-funk territory. So I hope I’m not embarrassing the Black Rabbits when I say that this Asheville, N.C.  quartet (fronted, interestingly, by brothers: Jetson and Skyler Black) sound wonderfully Jonasesque in their mix of clean, clear, studied vocals (lots of warbly oohs and ahs) and frolicsome playing (bash, bash, bash). The Black Rabbits create songs that build from simple beats and statements into grand emotional outbursts. They stay friendly and sloppy, which is something the Jonas Brothers were never allowed to accomplish. Such informality is an especially tough trick with songs like “Hurry, Hurry,” which resemble something the Turtles might have done in the 1960s. It helps when the producers are Tom Petty’s old drummer Stan Lynch and Backstreet Boys guitarist Billy Chapin.

Hypno Switch’s title song has adorable nyah-nyah backing vocals and an opening “Hey!” that’s screamed at exactly the right moment. The penultimate track, “For Way Too Long Way,” slows down the pace, for half a song anyhow, even adding “doo doo doo”s, and the album closer “So Long, Sophia” gets positively ballady, approaching a modern INXS “Never Tear Us Apart.” Hey, the Jonas boys had their slow songs too.

Arts & Ideas: A ticket back to Box City

We walked past the corner of Chapel and Temple yesterday, the former site of Café Bottega. My daughters both lit up and proclaimed “It’s Box City!”

A long-vacant empty storefront is what it was. But for one marvelous weekend at the outset of the 2001 International Festival of Arts & Ideas a fortnight ago, Box City emerged Brigadoon-like in the economically downbeat streets of  New Haven.

Mabel and Sally are not accustomed to thinking inside the box. Yet they are proud and loyal residents of Box City, which returned for the opening weekend of the International Festival of Arts & ideas. They’ve taken part in the festival’s communal construct-a-city activity each time it’s happened, diligently receiving their building permits from architecture-savvy on-site volunteers, then designing and decorating their own edifices, which get placed in a cityscape where small businesses (especially pet shops) outnumber residences seemingly 10-to-1.

Only real gripe I heard about Box City this year is that nearly all the building materials were new, when this is a real opportunity to indulge in some creative recycling of boxes, paper and various decorations.

Box City lives on in the girls’ bedroom, since they arrived at the appointed apocalyptic moment when Box City was being demolished on Chapel Street, and brought their buildings home with them.

Who knows, maybe next year the whole Arts & Ideas festival will take place in Box City rather than New Haven.

Rock Gods #137: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Got a song stuck in our head. That’s because it’s about arrows. When the Bottom Cushions did it last week at Hamilton’s (yeah, we braved an off-season College Nite at the club), they fired toy arrows at the crowd. One of them hit us in the neck and fell down our shirt. Since we weren’t paying attention to the stage antics at the time, it registered as a severe shock. Thought we’d been stung. Then we had a flash of that squirrel dropping out of the ceiling at the Bullfinch that time.

Friends, and friends of the band, immediately came to our aid. Since it was a shot which had unnerved us, it was prescribed that another sort of shot should calm those nerves. Thanks for the bourbon guys. But the stun lingers. Serves us right for going to Hamilton’s on a College Nite in the off-season.

Fork and Bowl at the Bullfinch, with solo sets by both Fork and Bowl (formerly Frank & Beans)… Circle Lane and AMF at Hamilton’s… D’ollaire’s is closed due to a minor drinking infractions. Minors were drinking there, and they lost 36 hours of openness…