Thursday, July 23, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Evergreen Terrace

Today an article I wrote on hardcore band Evergreen Terrace ran in the "80 Hours" section of The Daily Iowan.

Now what many people don't realize is that journalists actually do a ton of work preparing for interviews, scheduling interviews (which can be quite the challenge), and transcribing interviews. It's a process that can be annoying and takes way more time than it should.

Actually doing the interview and writing the story are usually considered to be the perks of the job, especially when the interview subject has some particularly interesting stories to tell.

However, about 80% of what is said in the interview never makes it to print and most of these interviews are filed away and/or lost forever. Which is a shame, because there are some good stories that come out of interviews.

That brings me to the story I am going to share with you, as told to me by Josh James, guitarist for Evergreen Terrace, and transcribed by yours truly.

Here is "The Shit Story":

Me: Do you have a favorite tour story? Like something memorable or funny that happened to the band?

Josh James: “Man, I got so many stories, it would blow your mind. Here’s a good classic story.”

“We were on tour with Bane and our drummer really had to take a shit. So we were playing this place called Alvin’s in Detroit. He was like ‘man I really got to take a shit, but this bathroom is absolutely disgusting here’.”

“And I was like ‘oh I don’t know where to go, because all the gas stations are really shitty as well.”

“Sometimes you can use where your trailer hooks up to your van, the frame of the trailer makes like a triangle, and you can sit on that and you can use that as a toilet and just shit onto the ground. And Kyle was like, ‘aw, dude I’ve never done that, I’ll do that’. But it’s like the worst place to ever try and do it, because we’re in downtown Detroit. So, you know, of course I encourage him because I just want something bad to happen to him.”

“So I was like ‘well you have to be completely naked because your pants will get caught’ and he was like ‘OK’.”

“So he’s standing downtown completely naked, just with a pair of Vans slip-ons and he starts taking this shit onto the street. No one’s noticing and he’s like ‘keep an eye out for cars’. And I’m like ‘alright’, so we’re standing on a staircase like laughing and taking pictures and stuff. All of sudden this car comes by, but we’re not paying attention and then we see these sirens and it’s a cop that had driven by.”

“The cop gets out and one cop looks like Puddy from Seinfeld and the other cop looks like Carl Winslow from Family Matters.”

“So they get out and instantly me and Jason start laughing our ass off because we just cannot believe that a cop actually was the one car that drove by.”

“So I’m watching the cop walk up and then Kyle is freaking out and he runs to the side of the van, but he’s accidentally locked his clothes and keys inside of the van and me and Jason didn’t have our keys on us.”

“So me and Jason just start laughing so hard because we can’t control it. Kyle is standing there at the side of the van just holding his dick and his balls in his hand, doing the pee-pee dance and he’s just freaking out, like ‘oh my god, what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do?’”.

“The cops still have no idea what they’re walking up on. So I see the cop looking at me and he goes to turn the corner to go around the van and he steps right into the shit. At that point I just lost it, I had to like turn around because I wanted to laugh so hard.”

“Then the cop turns around the corner and he sees Kyle standing there completely naked with just shoes on. And the cop just looks like disgusted, confused, you know anything that a stranger would think at all. So, he looks down on the ground and he sees his footprints that are just like shitprints and he’s like, ‘IT’S SHIT!’”

“He freaks out, Kyle starts begging for mercy and starts telling him ‘I’m so sorry sir, I’m real sick, I’m real sick and then the cop is just like telling him ‘Ah, tell it to the judge!’”

“The cop leaves for a few minutes and cleans the shit off his shoe and he comes back and he’s like, ‘what do you do in the band?’ and Kyle’s like ‘I’m the drummer’ and the cop’s like ‘ALWAYS THE DRUMMER’ and he’s like ‘I’m gonna let you off easy this time and I’m gonna give you a ticket, but if I ever catch you shitting on my city again, I’m gonna take you to jail so quick you won’t know what to do.”

“So he gives him the ticket and the ticket says above subjects was called ‘defecating onto the ground, claims he was sick, but yet his friends were laughing and pointing and taking pictures’. So it was pretty interesting.”

Me: That's awesome. How much was the ticket for?

“It was like $150 dollars and this was when Kyle still lived in Nashville and his legal address was his parent’s address, so it’s not like something he would tell his mom.”

“Then like two weeks later his Mom got a letter in the mail from the Detroit court system saying he hadn’t paid the ticket. So he called her and was like ‘sorry I gotta tell you what happened’ and then his mom disowned him.”

There you have it, "The Shit Story" as told by Evergreen Terrace guitarist Josh James. The band hits the stage at the Picador tonight alongside The Acacia Strain, Cruel Hand, and Unholy. Below is a studio and music video from the band:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Apocalypse Hollywood

Last Wednesday I went to go see the new Harry Potter movie (you know, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, aka Numero Seis). I'll leave the reviewing up to our lovely Arts editor, Rachael, and to have the last word on the movie, but frankly, I found it lagging and lacking. It was a filler movie, of sorts, and I saw it as more of a bridge than a real mvoie that could hold its weight on its own. That, however, is besides the point. What is is my favorite part of any movie-going experience: the previews.

Oh, and previews in the theater are something magical. It wouldn't really matter if the clip was trying to sell me a biopic on the creator of shoelaces, I would undoubtedly lean over to the person next to me and whisper "I want to see that"... and I know you've been there, too. But there was a theme in Wednesday's previews (even if it's been a relatively popular subject in recent decades): Movies about what will happen to us and our Earth after life as we know it has decidedly ended.

Admittedly, there are a agood handful of top notch movies on the apoloclypse. Waterworld sheds life on an, erm, water world (and Kevin Cosner does his best to keep afloat a movie that should have sunk terribly and horribly and disturbingly). Zombies are the focal point of more than enough versions of Dawn of the Dead (and Shaun of the Dead, which needs no discussion). 2007's I am Legend highlights Will Smith's uncanny ability to consistently defeat bad guys in the midst of total world destruction (a la Men in Black), but contains an awkward amount of religion (Will Smith famously screaming "There is no God!" but retracts the statement-- the zombie-like characters creating a sort of expose on what the world would be like with out any organized religon. Unfortnately, that sounds a little too settling.)

But more recently, Hollywood has taken yet another stab at multiple retellings of this world sans life ideal.

WALL-E proved to be a moving and undoubtely thoughtful picture on what will happen with we've rotted our world to absolute shit. Manhattan has been turned into a series of unrecycleables and meager machines have been hired, if you will, to clean up the continues formation of waste. That is, until another robot ("Eeeee-va" is the most beautiful two syllable phrase I've heard in a long, long time, thanks to this children's movie) lands on our little world to test the living situation (obviously nil). It's a satire on where we as fat and lazy human beings (although, Americans seem to be the only group of people that have made it up to live in space... a generous thought, Pixar and Disney) will be in a few hundred years if we continue to be fat and lazy (procreation is a completely different thought). WALL-E managed to make a children's movie into something very 1984-esque and required viewing for all 7 to, eh, ... everyone.

The most religously driven upcoming Hollywood disaster has, unfortunately (because I love him) John Cusack's name all over it. 2012, set to release this November, tells the story of, well, 2012. If I have to explain to you the meaning behind this little number, then you've not opened the pages of your National Enquirer in quite some time. But it's the little superstition that on the 12th of December, 2012, our world as we know it will simply end via natural phenomena. Talk about hella Doomsday. The movie depicts fireballs and earthquakes. From the same creators as The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 follows the same general eventline. Cusack, who has taken more of the father-roles (and I greatly miss him in his Say Anything days. Greatly) is constantly in the car, driving away from whatever it is that's threatening his family, or in the airplane, flying away and calming down his children and partner. Nostradamus can tell me over and over again what's going to happen in 2012, you religious yay-sayers can urge me to unplug my computer on that day, but frankly, I'm going to see the movie (admittedly in the theaters) and chuckle in all of my glee that, hey, Cusack's back and, wow, cool effects.

Coming out in September, the movie 9 depicts the post-apocolyptic world from a, well, a sock puppet's point of view. The main character, 9, is a few inches tall, made of cloth, and has a zipper running up his stomache and wakes up to find himself in a world of low-hanging dark gasses and evil-doers behind most, in not all, corners. He meets other sock puppet characters (conveniently named 1, 2, 3, ... 8) who have chosen to hide for the rest of their lives from the bad cats. Elijah Wood and John C. Reilly debut their cartoon skills in this eery movie that resembles WALL-E in its allure, but will undoubtely contain it's own spectacular spectaculars. But hey, what's more interesting than seeing how your potato sack will fare once you're gone?

Us movie goers have more to look foward to beyond this year, even. 28 Months Later is set to come out in 2011 (if development plans don't die before then) and the zombie saga continues. There are more than enough versions on what we're going to experience when we've actually expired... what's with this possibly-not-so-new versions on post apocalyptic us?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

There's something fishy in Miami

It all started with “Miami Vice”…

Across the globe, there are several cities I don’t believe I’d survive in.

Oh, not for lack of creature comforts – or a sense of adventure and personal intuition – but the simple I-would-be-the-first-one-offed-in-a-slasher-film lack of survival.

I’m not really down with the sex trade, so Bangkok is on the list. Should I be lucky enough to make it to the Green Zone, I’d have a slim-to-none chance in Baghdad. My next vacation destination definitely won’t be Norilsk, seeing as the Russian city has been closed to foreign visitors since 2001.

Also on that list of Ellen-Don’t-Go’s is the beachy keen Miami. Surf, sun, sand – the perfect escape until you turn on the telly and realize that, though New York City may have been the birthplace of crime, Miami is its unmarked mass grave.

Showtime’s “Dexter,” CBS’ “CSI: Miami,” and USA Network’s “Burn Notice” prove that it’s not just the ’gators that’ll get me – it’s the vigilante serial killers, the gang shoot-’em-ups, and the Beretta-toting drug smugglers.

“Dexter,” the hour-long drama about the blood-spatter analyst who chops up non-convicted murderers in his spare time, returns this fall for its fourth season. The title character masquerades a perfectly normal bloke, which makes me wonder: How many perfectly-normal-bloke serial killers are out there walking around in the world, much less Miami? But in terms of, er, waste disposal, Miami has glades, bays, and a large number of brightly colored foreclosures to choose from.

At least the show’s cinematographers are honest in their interpretation of Miami – much of the time, cast members are pitting out, dripping with sweat in the sweltering Florida humidity.

As for “CSI: Miami” – which lays claim network television’s worst dialogue – Miami is depicted as a mass of exploding cars. Once every couple of weeks, a big fireball shoots into the sky, throwing everyone at the crime scene onto the ground, with the exception of Lieutenant Horatio Caine (played by the quickly aging David Caruso – in recent episodes, a filter has been used to blur the lines on his craggy face). Just finishing its seventh season with the inevitable cliffhanger, the CSIs are always sweat-free and irresponsibly attired.

The only indication that any of this “I’m watching you” violence happens in my favorite locale are the aerial shots provided by low-flying helicopters. Every other pan consists of ground-level buildings and bikini-filled pools. (By the way, the show is shot and filmed in Los Angeles.)

“Burn Notice” is the Mama Bear of this dangerously bloody fable. It’s not too shabby, but it’s not too chic, either. Focusing on ex-CIA operative Michael Westen trying to save his hide – and survive the murky mire and his mother – the show just started its third summer season on cable’s USA Network. Some underhanded deal or other seems to be going on, usually involving C4 explosives, a ’76 Dodge Charger, and countless Mojitos.

While Westen and his pals are fighting off the flowered shirts and gold chains of Miami scum, the director and producers made a few good decisions – allowing the actors to sweat, squint, and suffer the heat of Hollywood, Fla., all on their own as the cameras roll.

So, in rather blunt conclusion, the second I stepped off the plane at Miami International, I’m absolutely certain that the hanger would explode, a serial killer would be my taxi driver, and my hotel room would neighbor a cocaine cartel. And if all of that combined didn’t lead to my demise, I’m sure the ’gators would be glad to do the job.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not just an obnoxious redhead

Kathy Griffin is the definition of bat shit, but in the best way possible. She's has no filter, no boundaries, and doesn't let criticism get to her. I fucking love it. The feisty comedienne has pulled so many crazy stunts and has done so many things that made me nearly die laughing. So, I think its only fair to make a list of her top four most memorable moments thus far.

4. "Rat Costume". Remember that time when she dressed up in a rat costume to scare her dogs Chance and Pom Pom? If not, here's a rundown. So Kathy was trying to get her dogs to stay in the yard, so she decided the best way to train the animals (forget invisible fences) was to dress up as a giant rat to scare the crap out of them. If you watch "My Life on the D-List," (or enjoy anything Kathy Griffin) but missed the episode, you need to watch this recap.

Enough said.

3. New Years with Anderson Cooper OK, you can't get funnier than Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin together. I don't think I can describe the beauty of their interactions, so I'll let youtube speak for me.

I know, right?

2. Shopping with Paris Hilton There are a few reasons for why this made the third spot on the list. First, Kathy Griffin thrives off of making fun of Paris. Seriously. She did a horse walk in imitation of the dumb blond in her stand-up once. So tell me, why did she decide to go shopping with her? I don't know. I also don't know why Paris agreed to do it. But she did. Griffin donned a neon pink skirt, a mini-shirt, and a huge-ass bow on her head for their outing. Oh, and she called the paps. But she does that a lot. Usually, I have to change the channel when I see Paris Hilton on TV, but the combination of her with the funny girl glued me to the channel. Watching Paris and Kathy shop at Kitson for clothes Kathy would never wear was priceless. But maybe I just find shit like that amusing.

1. "Suck it, Jesus" This is Kathy Griffin's shining moment. It's exactly why she's so fabulous — she really, really doesn't give a shit. For the 2008 creative arts Emmy's, she won an award for "My Life on the D-List." So, what does Kathy do? She gets up onstage and tells Jesus to suck it. Fabulous. She also nearly got her ass handed to her by Christian groups around the nation because of it. And she didn't care. This chick is my hero.

— Rachael (who wishes she had thought of telling Jesus to suck it)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remember the Time

Some of us are members of the working world and thus can't enjoy the simple things, such as properly mourning a legend. Take note, because I'll only write this once: Thank God for BET. I'm about to watch the four-hour memorial and live blog. You'll cry, you might laugh, hopefully we'll give Michael Jackson a proper Arts staff send-off. Join me...

7:02 p.m. I know if I critique BET for everything, it'll feel like an even LONGER night, but must the on-air personalities use phrases such as "holdin' it down" during news coverage? Really, BET? Come on now...

7:07 p.m. Awkward. Note to BET: Try not to mention the finances when trying to point out Michael Jackson's skills. Sure, buying the Beatles catalogue was smart, and yes, Jackson marketed himself well and was obviously a wise businessman. But regardless of his worth, he died a few hundred million dollars in debt. Let's just not mention it, eh? Not today.

7:23 p.m. Michael Jackson's death was a lot of things: Upsetting, unsettling, tragic, sad. But the timing was shocking. The exit was not. Unfortunately, geniuses have a habit of not getting too comfortable on this mortal coil. And we all go, at one time or another...

7:25 p.m. Let's also not compare President Obama to Michael Jackson, or draw parallels. It does major disservices to both men.

7:27 p.m. "Michael Jackson was the first star of post-integration America." -- Kevin Powell
An excellent point, one that hasn't been made enough.

7:29 p.m. And then you ruined it, by attributing Obama's electoral success to Jackson's popularity. Tsk, tsk.

7:30 p.m. While I never get tired of watching the footage from Jackson's last rehearsal, it never loses its potency, its ability to break my heart.

7:38 p.m. That aerial shot over the 405 reminds me of O.J. Always, even when it's a hearse, unfortunately.

7:40 p.m. The Jackson 5 were unofficial civil rights leaders. They led on the cultural front. I'm with that, in a Diahann Carroll kind of way.

7:41 p.m. Because we're sharing, here's my favorite young Michael Jackson moment.

7:43 p.m. Can we stop referring to the Jackson 5 as "black boys?" Uncomfties...

7:46 p.m. "Prodigy." Another word not being used enough to memorialize Michael Jackson.

7:54 p.m. I once went to a training session for hospice volunteers, and learned this bit: "You are in death who you are in life." You die as you live, essentially. The point is, in death we have to address the controversies of Michael Jackson's life, because that's who he was. That's what we're remembering.

7:55 p.m. A) Don't give Rep. Peter King anymore play. He doesn't deserve it, especially at Michael Jackson's memorial. As MJ would say, "That's just ignorance."
B) I give Peter King approximately 6 weeks before he's caught Sanford-style with some Peruvian mistress, or something. And the sequined glove will be on the other hand, so to speak.

7:58 p.m. Let's not compare Michael Jackson and Jerry Falwell. As Aaron Sorkin once wrote, "I think Jerry Falwell's a fat ass." Point made.

7:59 p.m. I agree with Danyel Smith, someone I really respect, in saying that we shouldn't address Jackson's criminal charges and strange peccadilloes at his memorial. And I hate feelings.

8 p.m. Can we not make it about race? I know it's BET, but really. People are reticent to lionize Jackson, more because of his character flaws and poor judgment -- and alleged lascivious behavior with minors -- than because of his race. I promise. Race factors into it, I'm sure, but not nearly as much as BET's pundits would have us believe.

8:08 p.m. During commercials, I flip to Fuse's Michael Jackson video tribute. I encourage you all to do the same, or just watch some classics on YouTube. Maybe go in chronological order, perhaps.

8:11 p.m. Yes, we're all Michael Jackson disciples. Just with varying degrees of talent.

8:12 p.m. Don't steal my idea: But I want my groom and I to do a choreographed dance to this song at my wedding. They won't let me embed it :(

8:16 p.m. Sick pleasure/vengeance moment #1: I love that the same police officers/department who investigated Michael Jackson's child molestation cases now have to provide security at his public memorial. God bless L.A.

8:17 p.m. If you want to know how to Moonwalk, and don't act like you don't, click here.

8:18 p.m. Yes, Chris Brown emulates Michael Jackson. No, we didn't need that reminder. At least Michael Jackson wasn't violent. And I don't care if that makes me a hypocrite.

8:19 p.m. Say what you want, but it takes a truly unique talent to get notes from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela.

8:22 p.m. Fuse is playing the long version of "Remember the Time." Not only is that one of my favorite all-time, let alone, Michael Jackson videos, it is also one of those touchstone pop culture relics from my childhood. And I really hope that's what ancient Africa was like. Complete with Iman. Plus, this song is a jam. Don't believe me? Throw it on at a party and try not to grind.

8:26 p.m. Now we're getting to the festivities. And the church set-up is already breaking my heart. And now they're bringing out the golden, rose-covered coffin. Flamboyant in life, flamboyant in death. AMEN.

8:31 p.m. It is a really stinging thought to know that just 12 days ago, in the place where they are now memorializing him, Michael Jackson rehearsed and thrilled spectators.

8:34 p.m. Say what you want about Mimi, she looks classy and homegirl got pipes. This is perfect, just as it should be. And all the Mariah die-hards are glad Trey Lorenz is up there too. Just like it was on "Unplugged."

8:36 p.m. Tailing "I'll be There" with "Never Can Say Goodbye?" I'm already starting to feel feelings. Good move.

8:38 p.m. (BEWARE OF CHEESY COMMENT AHEAD) It really does take a Queen to eulogize the King (of Pop). Latifah scores again.

8:40 p.m. And then she started reading Maya Angelou. How am I going to last another two and a half hours? Point, Angelou.

8:46 p.m. The transitions between performers/speakers/what-have-you are like mini-moments of silence. Only Michael could cause a capacity Staples Center crowd to be that silent, that often, that effortlessly.

8:49 p.m. I'm glad to only hear from Berry Gordy now. He's showed great restraint, and his eloquence shows the wait was worth it. And yes, I agree, Michael took "Who's Lovin' You" from Smokey. Michael made it his own.

8:51 p.m. So many of the comments on TV have been about how WE remember Michael, what he meant to US...It's really nice to hear Berry Gordy, someone who knew Michael best as a child, remember those times and talk about Michael as Michael.

8:56 p.m. I never said it, and Berry Gordy brilliantly reminded me, reminded us all. "Thank you, Michael."

9 p.m. I always thought, I knew, I'd live to see Michael Jackson's death. I didn't think about it a lot, but it isn't a shock that I saw it happen. But for his Motown colleagues, many of his fans, and so many of his family and friends, as Stevie Wonder said, they never thought this day would come. How hard it must be to outlive a child, a cohort, a protege...

9:03 p.m. Stevie never lost it; we just forgot about it. "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer." GOD...Most poignant moment of the night, thus far, and tough to top for sure.

9:08 p.m. Is anyone else confused as to why Kobe's here? I don't mind, but huh? Better question: Where's the other legendary MJ? "Jam" was not that long ago. His Royal Airness, where are you?

9:10 p.m. Magic Johnson just said Michael made him a better point guard. Let's not forget Michael Jackson's extraodinary work ethic. Genius ain't easy, folks, and it don't mean lazy either.

9:12 p.m. Part of me knew this night couldn't go by without a KFC reference. I'm glad it was at least done tactfully.

9:14 p.m. Seven words into "Will You Be There," another one of my Jackson favorites, and I already feel chills. J-Hud, you're my heart's American Idol...And she made "Will You Be There" into a gospel song, from a pop ballad. Damn, girl...

9:16 p.m. I have a soft spot for Free Willy anyway, but my heart skipped, I gasped when I heard Michael's voice do the spoken outro...Check out the original.

9:18 Sorry, I know I'm supposed to be grieving, and I am. But note to the media: If you stop following Al Sharpton and his cause o' the week, people will stop calling him. He will go away! I know he's a friend to the Jackson family, and I'm not saying he shouldn't be on stage, but his acting as Jackson family spokesman the past 12 days makes me want to vomit. Besides, everyone knows that's Jermaine's job.

9:21 p.m. How did I know Al Sharpton would make it about President Obama?

9:23 p.m. OK, Rev. Al. Nobody hit your buzzer. I'm all about being tasteful and respecting the kids and their father's memory, but don't lie. Why can't both be true? Why can't he have been a weird guy who was forced to live under weird circumstances? Or I'll even cut him slack: He was forced to be a weird guy by the weirdness of his circumstances. I'm just saying, all night we've been celebrating his exaltedness, Jackson was weird. Genius is rare. That's why it's genius. So don't go telling Prince, Paris, and Prince II that their dad wasn't weird.

9:27 p.m. I'll say it: One of these things is not like the other. But go ahead, John Mayer. Plus, he's got the talent, and he definitely has lots of cred. He doesn't look out of place at all, and he's playing really well. "Human Nature" is one of Michael Jackson's best songs, and a great fit for Mayer. I wish he was singing though, not that the nameless background singers aren't doing a great job.

9:33 p.m. I never though Brooke Shields would be the most emotional person at the memorial. And she's breathtaking.

9:34 p.m. Great visual #1: Brooke Shields learning to Moonwalk from Michael Jackson.

9:36 p.m. Brooke Shields extracted laughs from the most somber of crowds. She's a highlight, and she wins the award for bringing me closest to tears.

9:39 p.m. Sick pleasure/vengeance moment #1: Brooke's moving words got me thinking about how Tatum O'Neal's handlers made her break up with Michael Jackson because he was bad for her image, because he was black. And now she's a crack addict. And Brooke Shields is a happily married mother of two and in the midst of a career resurgence. Hmmmm...

9:41 p.m. Michael Jackson's version of "Smile" was the first version I ever heard. As a child, I thought he wrote it. The song appears on Disc 2 of HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I. Listen to it here, though I take no credit for the fanvid.

9:43 p.m. I give Jermaine a lot of shit, he named his fucking kid Jermajesty (though I'm sure he or she is very nice), but he can sing and that was touching. (And were the sparkly gloves really necessary? It seems a leeeeetle bit tacky. But however he chooses to grieve and demonstrate his grief. No judgment (beyond thinking it's tacky).

9:53 p.m. Can we just not talk about the child molestation thing? Is a fucking memorandum necessary? Yes you, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. And I like you, but for real...

9:56 p.m. Rep. Lee understood enough to gloss over the years of emotional and physical abuse and power struggles in the Jackson family, to praise their natural talent and hard work. So, I know she can, she just isn't glossing over enough.

9:57 p.m. Why did we have to drag the Congressional Black Caucus into it?

9:58 p.m. I'm fine with Congress recognizing Jackson as a great humanitarian. Guinness says it. But do we have to propose that now? What with health care disintegrating, people stuck in Guantanamo Bay, and Sarah Palin on the loose? TIMING, Sheila, TIMING.

10:01 p.m. Usher is the perfect person to sing "Gone Too Soon." Without Michael Jackson's trailblazing or influence, Usher would be just another B-boy.

10:02 p.m. (CHEESY MOMENT #2) "Gone Too Soon" makes me hope Michael Jackson and Ryan White are together in Heaven, hanging out like old times. No?

10:11 p.m. I still love Smokey Robinson. And "Tracks of My Tears." But that's another post.
10:12 p.m. I was just thinking this show needed someone from "Britain's Got Talent," and then Shaheen Jafargholi appeared. I know it's unfair, and little 12-year-old Shaheen is talented, but that's always going to be Michael's song. And he was 10. I just can't bear to hear anyone but Michael sing it.
10:16 p.m. I do not think I can handle Michael Jackson's living legacy, Kenny Ortega. And bring out Zefron, porfa?
10:18 p.m. Allow me to say what no one else will: "I hate 'We are the World.'" It's cool for what it was, and it was big at the time, but I can't take it. And this presentation is really tugging on me, but not in the good way.
10:20 p.m. Don't worry, the second I caught Prince Michael swaying with Smokey Robinson on stage, my conscience returned.
10:21 p.m. "HEAL THE WORLD." OMFG. Complete with little kids yearning.
10:22 p.m. I'm crying. But it's because Jermaine is ruining this poignant moment. He's making me laugh, with his sunglasses, mouthing the lyrics, and Just For Men-inspired coif. COME THE FUCK ON Jermaine.
10:27 p.m. You lost me at "I was his voice." Jermaine, I feel for you. I do. You're grieving. I can't imagine. Do you HAVE to sound like such a D as you do?
10:30 p.m. Marlon said what a lot of the MJ fanatics feel: Hopefully he can truly rest in peace. Marlon is articulate and his words are touching.
10:33 p.m. Paris put it all in perspective. My heart aches for her, and her siblings. Even Janice Dickinson probably teared up at that.

BET is going to end the night with a post-memorial wrap-up, and then its Jackson video tribute block, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." I spent the entire weekend immediately after Jackson passed watching the marathon, and I recommend it. Let the music speak, because he no longer can. And this memorial was perfect. It was the best, the only way, to properly commemorate a legend's life, this legend's life. But tonight, the active mourning ends. We must officially move on, as the news cycle does, and as programming rebounds, but never forget the King of Pop.

-- Meryn, who just laid her first hero to rest.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

80/35 Mainstage Day Two

The second day at the main stage yielded some of the best acts yet, since (and let's be honest) it isn't hard to top a flavor-less Public Enemy. The day kicked off with Poison Control Center, which unfortunately your loyal staffers were not in attendance at since we were trying to wait out the rain (which was a good idea, considering the remainder of Independence Day was significantly less dreary than Friday).

The first act we saw was New Monsoon, and they were really, really good (even for a jam band). The lead singer was seriously working the guitar - which made for some rocking tunes. One of the things I really liked about New Monsoon was the band's ability to create a relaxed vibe that made it so nice to just sit back and drift away with the music.

After New Monsoon, Man Man took the stage and stole the entire day. Seriously. They were fucking awesome. Man Man didn't just put on a concert, the members put on a show with endless energy, rockin' tunes, and enough props to make Carrot Top go wild. Each one of them was so into it, with costumes that seemed caveman-esque (excluding the lead singers sparkly tunic - see below), and the energy those guys brought to the stage revved up the crowd so much it was a shame to see the boys finish their set.

G.Love and Special Sauce followed Man Man, and let me tell you there was nothing lovely or special about the performance. OK, so G. Love has a nice voice, but that's about all he had going for him. The singer had a reggae-vibe to him, but I kind of thought he had a country-twang/wannabe rapper thing going on, which is just flat-out awkward.

Broken Social Scene took the stage after G. Love, and I have to say it was definitely a highlight. The music was awesome (I would have to rank Broken Social Scene's tunes better than Man Man, but Man Man's overall performance factor was higher), and it was a much needed upper after G. Love and Special Sauce. The band really worked with the crowd, and the whole show felt really connected, which is definitely something I look for when I'm at a concert.

The final band that took the stage was Ben Harper and Relentless7. I wasn't disappointed with the band's show at all. Harper's smooth and sexy voice delivered a solid set to a crowd full of eager fans who were looking to hear good music and dance to some beats. Needless to say, hottie Harper fulfilled my wish of seeing a good band close out the fest. I'd listen to his harmonious vocal chords any day.

Overall, a really great lineup on the mainstage all weekend. Nearly every band delivered a solid set, which aided in making 80/35 the place to be over the holiday weekend.

--Rachael (who thinks the lead singer in Man Man's tunic was sexy)

The scent of success is vaguely similar to the odor of a basement consignment shop.

Thank goodness a light drizzle was all the crowds felt today at Des Moines 80/35 music festival. It certainly wasn't your typical Independence Day -- no overwhelming heat, or blood, sweat or tears. Well, maybe there were tears. (And there might have been blood -- I just didn't know about it.)

Either way, the 4th of July went pretty much unnoticed, minus the few shout-outs from the bands ("Where are all my fourth of July girls?" said rap/rocker G. Love) and the occasional waving flag in the crowd. Fireworks went off later in the evening, after headliner Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 played the main stage.

It wasn't like I took the time to count heads, but I gotta guess that there were more people in attendance today than yesterday. The main stage area seemed filled to the brim relatively early, by the time third-from-the-end act G. Love & Special Sauce performed.

And yes, the painted-boob ladies loitered in the throngs of concert-goers today, as well! (No pirate sightings, though.) Today's crowd seemed far more like a throwback to Woodstock, with earth mother-types and dread-heads lounging on the cement. There were hula-hoopers, bubble-blowers and ring tossers running through the masses in front of the stage -- to what purpose, I have no idea. It felt a little...psychedelic.

Parents with children, parents without children and expecting parents turned out in greater numbers than college-age single folk. (That's not to say that Boozy Bob and Tipsy Tammy weren't on the scene...because they were. As were hundreds of their clones.)

Various smoke smells and body odors drifted through the crowd, making its scent slightly reminiscent of [Iowa City consignment shop] Ragstock -- a little sweet, a little sour...and very dusty. Patchouli and pot, anyone? It was a kind of a comforting sensory sensation, but that could have been the second-hand high, or the fatigue of walking around for ten hours.

(Photograph provided by DI staffer Christy Aumer.)

80/35 Off the main stage... DAY 2

The first off main stage act I caught of the afternoon was Miss Derringer. I was not familiar with the band, and had virtually no clue what to expect when heading towards the stage. What I got was a fun filled, extremely excited band. They dressed themselves in black, and their lead vocalist had a Marilyn Monroe attitude about her – and sang with it. They performed multiple duets, often dancing around each other. The energy they brought the stage seemed to carry over nicely to the crowd, who ate ‘em up.

At 5:15, I hit up the Meredith West Stage for one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend – Cymbals Eat Guitars. And these boys brought it. They kicked off their set with “And the Hazy Sea,” launching into an anthem of angst and anguish. They weren’t intimated by the intense amount of fans that accumulated by the end of their set. The thing I liked most about these guys: they were genuine. They didn’t seem to be caught up in the image of being a rockstar, but just were straight up rockin’.

After catching up with a buddy I ran into, I caught the last song of Iowa band, “Cleo’s Apartment.” They didn’t fit the mold of the typical Midwest band, playing mixes of rap and R&B… and from what I saw, the audience responded and they took it to ‘em.

Brother Ali – blind, albino rapper… fucking… owned. Preaching ‘fight the power’ lyrics to the packed Mediacom stage crowd on 4th of July, he carried himself to the max. America’s liberty didn’t phase him as he proceeded to melt everyone’s faces. Another genuine act = another badass show.

The Envy Corps took the Meredith West Stage at 8:15 with their Radiohead-esque type styles. The street packed itself with the hipster crowd of the festival, as the hippies made their way to the stage for the acoustic blends of Ben Harper. The crowd responded well as the Corps played new music. Hailing from Ames, they proved the quality of musical talent that can be found in our great state.

For the second day in a row, the side shows of the festival carried almost as much weight as the main stage. I talked to quite a few people who didn’t even bother to buy a pass because the bill of the side shows was so great, and the best part about it – each one delivered.

Hope you all had a chance to make it out… and if not, there’s always next year.


eric s


Friday, July 3, 2009

Talk about a crowd...

Despite the persistent rainfall, people turned out in droves for Des Moines' 80/35 rock festival Friday, July 3. With three stages, two horsed officers (...they rode horses...I don't know the correct term for that...) and all of Locust Street lined with tented vendors, folks had their pick of entertainment, whether they purchased a wristband for admission to the main stage (and headlining acts) or not.

Honestly, the people to people-watch were just as entertaining--if not more so--as the musical performances. There were topless women with flower-painted boobs; seriously plastered/seriously stoned hipster-types; bros who just got off of work slugging back beers with their buddies; families with small, rain-drenched and shoeless children; and (of course) us totally normal press folk.

Take, for instance, these beer-slinging pirate dudes. Why were they dressed like pirates? WHY WERE THEY DRESSED LIKE PIRATES?! There were no pirate-themed events. No pirate vendors. Nothing. Just...pirates. But hey, everyone can like rock 'n' roll, right? Even pirates.

Of course, there were the famed topless women, breasts galore covered in body paint in the shape of free-lovin' flowers. Their power to turn head was undeniable. And unsurprising. But damn, girl, wasn't it cold in the rain?

Most of the people attending were just like these concert-goers below. Screaming, drenched, swaying to the music, et cetera. Outlandish sunglasses, plastic bags doubling as raincoats and various tight t-shirts/tight jeans combos dotted--nay, littered--the crowd-scape.

And what do all the pirate people, flower people and people people have in common? They all hit the Locust Street beer-and-burger vendors--or the hummus-veggie-wrap vendor (singular)--and they all rock out with their, um, individual personalities out at 80/35 in Des Moines this holiday weekend.

(Photos courtesy of DI photographer Christy Aumer.)

Day One Mainstage Hits and Misses...

Well despite the steady rain, day one of the 80/35 music festival was a success. I stuck to the main stage all day, and the acts were better than the turnout at Billy Mays' funeral.
Things kicked off at four p.m. with Tilly and the Wall, an indie group out of Omaha that's known for ecletic attire and tap dancing. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Tilly. The group connected really well with the audience, and made the show feel informal, fun, and just a damn good time. The crowd that came to cheer on Tilly was so eccentric and they gave off a really chill vibe that made the overall atmosphere even better.

Matisyahu, the Hasidic Jew rapper/beat boxer/reggae singer/country-star/flava flav stand-in (just kidding on the last two)followed Tilly, and he was surprisingly good. Well, until he sang the same smooth reggae tunes over and over again and lulled me into a slumber and I was forced to take refuge in the nearest Starbucks. Quite the different crowd out for him than Tilly...definitely the hippie style, but still, such a fun group of people.

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks followed up Matisyahu, and it was a surprisingly un-entertaining show. Sure, the tunes were good, but the sound sucked. The bass was too loud,the singing was inaudible, and there was very little crowd interaction. I mean, the atmosphere still rocked, but there was something missing from the overall performance. That something could have been band member's that got along, practice-time, or desire to be in Des Moines. Not impressed, Steve.

OK, so let's talk about Public Enemy. The hip hop stars, with Flava Flav in tow, were supposed to take the stage at 9:30. Well, it was nearing 10:30 when Chuck D started doing his thing. Oh, and Flava Flav? He was in a "hospital" in "Nevada" for "exhaustion." Really, Public Enemy? Really? OK so Chuck D still rocked it, with or without his clock-toting cronie, but it was definitely a disappointment. Regardless, the crowd still rocked out, and your wonderful arts staffer's ears may never be the same again. It was unfortunate that by the time Public Enemy was really going at it, the rain was pouring down and made things a little unpleasent. Could have been worse though.

Overall, a great first day at 80/35. Let's just hope the rain holds off tomorrow. Regardless, your loyal staffers will be updating the blog tomorrow night, and watch out for a constant stream of fabulous twitter updates from dailyiowanarts.

--Rachael (who was really hoping Flava Flav would throw her his clock)

Off Main Stage at 80/35

While the folks who paid enjoyed their Matisyahus and Malkmuses, the rest of us poor folk enjoyed some damn good music on the side stages.

At 4:45, William Fitzsimmons took the Mediacome stage with his soft, acoustic melodies about loss and love -- and giant, motha fuckin' beard. The crowd seemed to enjoy what they heard, and it seemed to increase with his set. During Fitzsimmons' set, the rain picked up. His soft styles went well with the mood of the drizzle.

Talked a little with William after the show, and he seemed to have a good time. He was happy people came out even in the cruddy weather.

Then, we grabbed some veggie hummus wraps. Pretty good... and not too badly priced. I think it was 5 bucks.

Modern Skirts took the stage a bit late, scheduled for 5:45 but getting started around 6:00. However, they brought a lot of power with their shortened set. The boys from Athens punched the audience in the face. They were definitely not afraid to rock and my ears prove my point. They label themselves as "pop," but their show was about as far from pop as you can get. It was some straight up, rock 'n' roll. Even after fighting a few equipment problems, and getting on a little late, they proved to know how to rock the balls off the 80/35 side streets.

At this point, the rain was getting a bit much... so with a bit of down time between sets we made our way over to the Starbucks down the street and had a good sit, some coffee, and let our ears ring out and clothes dry off.

At about 9, Cedar Rapids based House of Large Sizes continued the Mediacom Stage's theme of the night and rocked the shit out of their set. With only 3 members, they gave a performance defining the word power trio. The side street was the most full it had been all day, and each head trashed as the group rocked. I hadn't had the opportunity to see these guys when they played Iowa City last week, so I was thankful for this chance. They really impressed me, and were one of the most lively shows of the night. Iowa rock roots at its finest.

Tomorrow, the side stages have some big names: Baby Teeth, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Margot and the Nuclear So & So's, The Envy Corps, Brother Ali, and many more. If you don't want to shell out the 40 bucks to have some sophomore girl in high school blow weed in your face while listening to the mid 90's hits of Ben Harper, come on out to the side stages and enjoy some good ol', rock 'n' roll.

eric s.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Man... MGMT Rocks

After I finished cleaning my apartment tonight, I hopped on the computer and checked out some headlines. I saw MGMT recently released their newest music video, "Kids." You may have seen a video with some face painted wolf lookin' people singing the song over the past year, but that's not the official video... this is:

Could I get a resounding WTF?