Monday, October 20, 2008

Live from the CMJ Music Marathon

I was lucky enough to score an all-access press pass to the 28th annual CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival this week, and I'll be liveblogging for Blast. Check the homepage for updates.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Never Too Young

Sometimes there's nothing like hearing about other people's struggles to make you realize how insignificant your own problems are.

So it was quite the wake-up call/reality check/whatever cliche you want to call it when I reunited with a good friend from college earlier this year only to find out that, in the time since we had last seen each other, she had been diagnosed with and survived cancer.

Here's a small plug for a piece she wrote about how the shortcomings of our current health care system only compounded her ordeal.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blast update

In the October issue of Blast I have pieces on Totally Michael, Dragonette and Land of Talk.

In other news ...

Highlights of this past weekend included my first time seeing Madonna, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, which was truly mind-blowing. I wish I had a tenth of her physical stamina. Among other things, the performance reinforced my belief that "Like a Prayer" is the greatest pop song ever written. By the time the show ended, it seemed like most of the audience members (myself included) had forgotten that the time Madge kept us waiting for her to come on (nearly two hours late) was about equal to the length of the concert itself.

Lowlights included the New York Magazine 40th Anniversary Party at Hammerstein Ballroom, where a typical stellar live performance by The National was preceded by an excrutiatingly un-funny performance by comedy troupe Stella - which was particularly disappointing for me since I'm a huge Michael Ian Black fan. Seriously, their jokes felt like they were tied to lead balloons.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New York State of Mind

Quote of the Week:

"You don't regularly see things in New York that make you go, 'Wow, that's awesome.' You don't see humans interacting in a way that takes you off guard and makes you smile. You see a guy taking a shit on the sidewalk." - Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere

Since I moved to New York, I've learned a few things about New Yorkers. One is that they have an uncanny ability to take things in stride and be unfazed by pretty much anything. Another is that there's a sort of camaraderie among New Yorkers in embracing the glaring flaws and shortcomings of their city, and sometimes even turning them into endearments. Both of these attitudes I think can be applied to the above quote.

In the past eight months, I've also discovered that the reaction from people who don't live here to the fact that I do generally falls into one of two categories.

The first are the people whose concept of New York living was formed as the result of repeat "Sex and the City" viewings, who believe I spend my nights (and days) drinking expensive martinis with friends, meeting eligible, handsome, rich bachelors on a nightly basis, and not really working ... at all. (Only one of the above occurs in my life with any regularity). I would refer them to the Charlie Todd quote.

The second are the people who can't fathom why anyone would want to pay out the nose for a tiny apartment, brave public transportation for a commute that's longer than most people's lunch breaks, and live in a city with a high crime rate, low air and water quality, and a noise factor that could at times probably make Marlee Matlin wince.

For those people ... there's really no point in trying to respond, because the fact of the matter is that most New Yorkers have probably wondered the very same things themselves.

A friend of mine, whom I met while we were both students in Boston, was recently profiled in a New York Times interactive feature about 20-somethings struggling to get by in New York City. While it would be dishonest of me to portray myself as "struggling," the story really resonated with me. I definitely don't count every penny I spend, but let's just say I'm not going to be owning any property ... or nice shoes, for that matter ... anytime soon either.

But it's worth it. And this is why.

I recently commented to a (different) friend that I've been having all of these what I dubbed "'I Love New York' moments" throughout this summer ... probably owing a lot to the weather. Some of my favorite memories include afternoons spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, rooftop barbecues, brunches in Brooklyn, and picnics/concerts in Central Park.

What spurred me to publish this post (which I originally composed back in June), was this article in today's New York Times. It says more eloquently than I can what I'm trying to convey here.

Which is ...

When I read Charlie Todd's quote in New York Magazine, my first thought was, "Wow, that's so true." But as I thought about it more, I realized that although it may have some veracity on the surface, I've been finding plenty to smile about here in the Big Apple ... even if it is sometimes just a guy taking a shit on the sidewalk.

Yes We Can!

Out of everything that's come out of the DNC so far, these guys are by far my favorite. I'm glad someone is finally bringing this issue that I've been bitching about for years to the forefront.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Now I have Culture Club in my head

I can't remember the last time I read an article that held my attention as much as "The Chameleon", David Grann's profile of a European con artist, in the current issue of The New Yorker. Talk about truth being stranger than fiction.

Don't be deterred by the fact that the online version is a daunting 13 pages. It's one of those stories where your eyes fly over the words just to find out what happens next.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This month's Blast articles

At long last, my profile of Uh Huh Her is the cover story of this month's issue of Blast (click anywhere on the cover to access the article).

Also in the issue are album reviews of the latest offerings by CSS and The Stills.


Monday, June 30, 2008


Continuing my recent trend of catch-up posts ...

Last month, I really tried to take advantage of my BAM membership. (It wasn't hard; they always have a ton of great stuff going on that I'm eager to check out). Two events were particularly enjoyable.

The first was a panel discussion and film screening with photographer Annie Leibovitz. The film, "Life Through a Lens," was written and directed by Barbara Liebowitz (Annie's sister) as a part of PBS's "American Masters" biographical series. Ethical implications of nepotism aside, the documentary offered an intimate portrait of Leibovitz, arguably the greatest living photographer. The only downside of the evening? No one - including me, who chickened out - brought up Hannah Montana.

The second night was the kickoff of the Sundance at BAM series, which showcased films that stood out at the Sundance Film Festival. The opening night selection was "American Teen," a documentary that followed five high school students through their senior year in small-town Indiana. I highly recommend it to cinephiles when it opens later this year.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Viva la Rock!

In the six weeks or so since I've actively blogged, I've been to quite a few shows. Most recently was Coldplay's free performance at Madison Square Garden last night - a cool gimmick the band offered to fans in New York, Barcelona and London to celebrate the release of their latest record, the inanely-titled "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends."

I'm definitely not a hardcore Coldplay fan ... I only own one of their albums (not "VLVODAAHF" - someone needs to come up with a better acronym) and my familiarity with them doesn't go much beyond the singles they've released. Still, that's about 20 songs or so right now so I consider myself pretty well-versed.

I thought it was great that a band that could have easily sold out Madison Square Garden probably several times over decided to treat fans to a free show. Apparently they did too; singer/Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow Chris Martin reminded the audience members that we didn't pay anything for tickets no less than three times. But, snark aside, the band put on a great show, even trudging to the back of MSG to perform "Yellow" literally in the midst of the audience. And if the production aspects were truly a preview of their upcoming tour in support of "Viva La Vida," it should be a real crowd-pleaser.

A couple minor points of contention:

-Tickets were given out for only the first and floor sections of the venue, so it was about half-full. I can't understand what the rationale was for that; it certainly didn't offer any hint of intimacy if that's what the band was going for. Maybe the rest of the space was needed for Martin's ego.

-No encore, which is understandable, given the fact that the show was free and all. But the band's set list also left out "White Shadows," "Talk," "Speed of Sound," and most surprising to me, "The Scientist." Go figure.

But all in all, it was a great show. And definitely worth the cost of admission.

In a related note, or several, here's a brief overview of some other noteworthy performances I've seen recently.

-Uh Huh Her at Highline Ballroom, May 20: After a mediocre show at Webster Hall last December that was rife with technical difficulties and sound problems, I had low expectations for this one. (Even though their album, "Common Reaction," out August 19th, is amazing - pre-order it now!). But the ladies didn't disappoint, putting on a great show in front of a sold-out crowd that went fairly apeshit despite not knowing the majority of the material. I also had the opportunity to interview the very sweet and talented Camila Grey and Leisha Hailey the day before for a feature I'm working on. Look for it in an upcoming issue of Blast!

-Frightened Rabbit at Pianos, May 27: I was thrilled to be a part of this Scottish band's first ever sold-out U.S. performance ... even if it was in a 120-person capacity bar. Oh well. Gotta start somewhere. Anyway, I've been prattling on about this band to anyone who will listen for the past couple of months and it was a treat to see them live in such an intimate setting. I advise people to jump on the Rabbit bandwagon soon because they're really starting to get some buzz. And, in a return to my old stomping grounds, I had a tiny piece on them published in the Boston Globe's Sidekick section prior to a show of theirs in Beantown. Check it out here.

-Northern State at Knitting Factory, June 3: What's not to like about an all-white, all-girl rap trio from Long Island, one of whom goes by the stage name "Hesta Prynn"? And if that isn't enough, lines like "Enjoy a lemonade spritzer with Elliot Spitzer" should do the trick.

-Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at WAMU MSG Theater, June 10: A great performance from music's most unlikely pairing, plus a bonus mini-set from producer T. Bone Burnett. Plant's pipes are just as strong as they were in Led Zepplin's heyday, and his dance moves, hilariously, haven't changed all that much either. Imagine the lanky blonde swinging the microphone stand like a pendulum to his latest folk-tinged material and you get the idea.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Much overdue Blast update

So, a mere three weeks after these articles went live, I'm finally getting around to linking to my latest Blast stuff. Been busy - apologies.

Three quick album reviews this month:

Death Cab for Cutie - "Narrow Stairs"

Gavin Rossdale - "Wanderlust"

Ladytron - "Velocifero"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


So, the Kentucky Derby was a great time - until second-place horse Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking both her ankles during the race.

Needless to say, that turn of events put a damper on an otherwise wonderful day. (Video footage to come). Like many attendees, I put my money on Eight Belles to place, so I'm donating half of my winnings to Save the Horses, a hopefully legitimate charity organization that rehabilitates retired racing horses. The other half of my winnings went to Drink the Juleps, a personal charity I established at about 10:30 a.m. on Derby Day. Unfortunately, DTJ was shuttered about eight hours later due to lack of funds.

Anyway, speaking of horses ...

The greatest thing to come out of Australia since ... ever, maybe? ... is An Horse, who were the opening act for Tegan & Sara at Terminal 5 last night. They are my new addiction - I bought their EP at the show last night and it's been on a nonstop rotation on each of my music-playing devices ever since. Check them out!

Friday, May 2, 2008

New Blast articles

New issue up today ...

Yada, yada ...

Eisley - my new obsession!
Frightened Rabbit

In other news ...

Patrick and I leave for the Kentucky Derby in approximately 9.5 hours (God, I need to sleep ... ) and are SUPER excited about it. Look for episodes of "Derby Diary" to be posted on YouTube soon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gossip Girl

I feel compelled to rave about The Gossip's concert at Webster Hall last night.

For the first hour or so, the concert was good. No complaints. Here's a clip of "Yr Mangled Heart." But when the band launched into "Standing in the Way of Control," the performance soared to Amazing level. I literally thought Webster was going to implode amidst the energy of a sell-out crowd jumping, singing and rushing the stage during the encore.

Singer Beth Ditto was predictably outspoken, waxing philosophical on politics and media conglomerates' coverage of music and celebrities, and shooing a bouncer away when he tried to prevent a fan from jumping on stage during the show's closer "Listen Up" — which led to about 40 audience members following suit. Ditto eventually jumped (er, tepidly climbed down) into the crowd and it was like Palm Sunday a month too late - with fans clamoring to grab her hand as she led everyone in a self-affirming chant of "You Are Important!" while at the same time probably pondering how the hell she was going to hoist herself back on stage (eventually she just sort of walked back towards the front of the venue and headed backstage). I'm hoping a video of this lands on YouTube. It was really something to behold, and a really uplifting, positive message.

Also, what other concert can you go to where you'll hear both an Aaliyah cover (prefaced by Ditto saying "We're sorry we did this to you") and a rendition of "Careless Whisper" (video to come, I hope)?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

King of the Road

Kaki King's show at the Bowery Ballroom last week was predictably awesome, capped off with a rousing rendition of Bubonix' "Fashion Tattoo." It's nice to see that Kaki is reaching out and exploring different musical genres like, you know, German hardcore.

Check out a clip from the show here.

In other news ...

I received minimal heckling this weekend while I was out and about in Red Sox wear. Probably a lot less than Gino Castignoli.

And finally, for your reading pleasure, here are links to a couple of articles I've come across in the past few days that really held my interest.

First, this depressing piece from New York Magazine about Dr. Ramon Torres, a leading physician in the early fight against AIDS who eventually became a crystal meth addict.

And second, Yvonne Abraham's column in today's Boston Globe — her first after a long maternity leave hiatus — about her personal experience with the naturalization process.

Both really well-written and captivating stories.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Evil Empire in my backyard

Ever since I decided to move to New York, I knew this day would come, and I've been preparing for it with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, joy and fear. And it's finally arrived (almost).

This weekend marks my first Red Sox-Yankees series as a New York resident. Luckily a friend and fellow Sox fan has offered to take me to a Sox bar to watch the games, where I can don my "2007 World Champions" T-shirt and hat and (hopefully) not get a beer thrown in my direction. I'm picturing a Red Sox bar in New York to be a little like the underground warehouse in "Fight Club." Like, maybe the first rule is you don't talk about Eric Gagne, and I'll have to name the starting rotation in order just to gain admittance.

Life has been pretty easy for me as a Sox fan in the Big Apple so far. While I don't wear my Sox pride on my sleeve, I've "outed" myself as a fan on a few occasions - with mixed results. A guy who works at my gym, happy to find an ally in the city, offered me a free sports drink after I paid my membership fee with a Red Sox check. On the other hand, there was also the MTA worker who responded "Not with that card" when, during my second week here, I inquired about purchasing a subway pass and slipped my Sox MasterCard through the window.

But let's face it. I moved here in the December-January time frame. New York sports fans had other things on their minds. Now it's baseball season, and Sox and Yankees fans know that the race for the AL East practically begins in the offseason.

So we'll see what happens this weekend. I'm feeling pretty good about the series, and I hope the good guys give me at least two reasons to wear my World Series shirt with pride next Monday - even if it is stained with beer.

Monday, March 31, 2008

My poor, neglected blog

So I realize I've been a little lax with the posting lately. I wrote four articles for Blast this month, and while I'd like to use that as an excuse, the truth is ... I'm just lazy.

Anyway, check out my Blast articles on:

Kaki King
Great Northern
The Raveonettes
The Gutter Twins

Highlights of the past few weeks:

-The Great Northern/Gutter Twins show at Webster Hall was amazing. I can't say enough about Great Northern, which you can probably tell from the article.
-The Raveonettes show at the Bowery Ballroom was also great. I still maintain that they are a band whose records don't do them justice. Go see them live if you want to get a real feel for their sound.

And now baseball season is starting! Life is good:).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hooray for me!

I'm normally not one to "toot my own horn" (as my mother would say), but I was excited to learn last week that I won the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association's Keystone Press Award for Best Feature in our category (Division IV) for "New Arrests, Old Wounds," an article I wrote while I was at the Press Enterprise last year. I'm hoping to get an electronic copy of the story soon that I can post it here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gary Busey, Batshit Crazy

To anyone who missed Gary Busey's amazing red-carpet assault of Ryan Seacrest, Laura Linney and Jennifer Garner before the Oscars, check it out now. Jennifer Garner's face when Busey mauls her ("Where's Ben?!?") is priceless and better than anything she ever did in Juno.

Best exchange:

Ryan Seacrest: "I'm a little nervous."
Jennifer Garner: "I don't blame you."

My favorite moment of the night. I'm giddy right now.

I'd like to thank the Academy

I'll be liveblogging the Oscars later today over at Blast (provided technology cooperates). Check it out during the show for updates and witty commentary.

Until then, here are my predictions and wishful musings in the major categories:

Best Editing:
Should Win: The Bourne Ultimatum
Will Win: No Country for Old Men

Best Cinematography:
Should Win: There Will Be Blood or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Will Win: Atonement

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Should Win: Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Best Original Screenplay:
Should Win: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Will Win: Diablo Cody, Juno

Best Song:
Should Win: "Society," Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild) (not nominated)
Will Win: "That's How You Know," Enchanted

Best Score:
Should Win: Gone Baby Gone (not nominated)
Will Win: Atonement

Best Documentary:
Should Win: No End in Sight
Will Win: No End in Sight

Best Supporting Actor:
Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Will Win: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:
Should Win: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Will Win: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

Best Actor:
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress:
Should Win: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose or Laura Linney, The Savages
Will Win: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose

Best Director:
Should Win: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Best Picture:
Should Win: No Country for Old Men
Will Win: No Country for Old Men

"Bitches get stuff done"

Update: With links!

I was thoroughly psyched for Tina Fey's return to Saturday Night Live as a host tonight to mark the show's first episode since the end of the writers' strike, and she predictably lived up to my expectations. The show was a perfect way to tide Fey fans over until "30 Rock" returns in April. I thought the skits were a bit shaky at times but, you know, the cast and crew are a bit out of practice. The highlights, I thought, were Tina's speech about Hillary Clinton's qualifications ("Bitch is the new black!") during Weekend Update and the hilarious/creepy "I Drink Your Milkshake" parody sketch. The latter, I might add, nicely teased Ellen Page's hosting duties next week, which I'm equally excited for. (Re: Page: If her outfit at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday didn't settle the "Is she or isn't she?" rumors, I'm not sure what will.)

Also, was it just me or did Amy Poehler look like she could barely conceal her disdain for Mike Huckabee during his cameo on Weekend Update? I have to say, I really admire Huckabee for having the good humor to explore a little humor at his own expense. His awkward exit-cue obliviousness was hilarious. Maybe once he finally drops out of the presidential race, he could find a future in comedy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My kind of Nationalism

I was literally moved to tears more than once by The National's performance at BAM last night. I've never been so emotionally affected by a concert before (and no, I wasn't on anything except a beer). My eyes welled during the opening chords of "Start a War" and I bookended the show with a similar reaction during the closing notes of "Gospel." The band's flawless performance, augmented by a nine-member pseudo-orchestra was 90 minutes of bliss. Opener My Brightest Diamond opera/indie/punk mishmash was easy on the ears too. And Sufjan Stevens' guest appearance playing piano for "Ada" was also a special treat.

The album "Boxer" pretty much acted as the soundtrack for my move to New York, which was a perfect fit, since the band's songs are so sentimentally evocative, both musically and lyrically. And having first row, dead center seats less than 10 feet from the stage, enhanced the experience immensely. (Singer Matt Berninger bumped into my foot as ventured off the stage during the first encore ::goosebumps::).

I also signed up for a "Friends of BAM" membership, so I'm really looking forward to checking out all the great stuff they have to offer in the next year.

The National, along with Modest Mouse, are opening for R.E.M. on their spring/summer tour. I'd encourage any music fans to get tickets yesterday.

Set list: (courtesy of The Music Slut)
"Start a War"
"Brainy "
"Baby We'll Be Fine"
"Slow Show"
"Secret Meeting"
"Mistaken for Strangers"
"Squalor Victoria"
"Wasp Nest"
"Racing Like a Pro"
"Apartment Story"
New song (title not given)
"Fake Empire"

Encore 1:
"City Middle"
"Mr. November"
"About Today"

Encore 2:

Saturday, February 16, 2008


My edited top movies list:

1. Gone Baby Gone (doubtful this would change)
2. The Savages
3. Charlie Wilson's War
4. Zodiac
5. No Country for Old Men
6. Juno
7. In the Valley of Elah
8. Michael Clayton

I'm in a movie-watching blitz 'til the Oscars. More updates will hopefully be forthcoming.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Please Don't Stop the Music

Amy Winehouse sure knows how to put the funk in dysfunctional. Judging by her performance at last night's Grammy Awards via satellite from London, rehab has done Winehouse a world of good. She may not have been able to get a visa from the U.S. government in time to appear at the show, but the crowd's reaction proved that at least some Americans are on her side (Although apparently not all).

Winehouse's performance (sans crack!) was undoubtedly the most anticipated of the show, and she surpassed my - and I'm assuming many other people's - expectations. Her defiant smirk as she belted out smash single "Rehab" made it clear that she understands the irony of her smash single and is perfectly comfortable laughing at herself. At the same time, she seemed truly grateful to the fans who have continued to support her throughout her struggles and to the show's producers for allowing her to perform - albeit from across the ocean.

The best was Winehouse's completely gob-smacked reaction when she won Record of the Year for "Rehab." Her stunned silence made it seem like, after winning five awards, she might have realized her true potential for the first time. She's drawn innumerable comparisons to Britney Spears for her tabloid-y exploits, but in my view there's no similarity between the two. For one thing, Winehouse has genuine talent and an incredible voice. Compare her performance last night with Spears' at the VMAs earlier this year. Britney's was a disaster. Winehouse's offered a glimmer of hope that she can overcome her personal problems and continue to make contributions to the music world for years to come. That's what I call a comeback.

A few more thoughts on the Grammys:

-I totally have a girl-crush on Rihanna and I'm not afraid to admit it:). Her performance with The Time was the best of the night. And while I loved Winehouse's shout-out to "Blake Incarcerated" in her priceless acceptance speech, "Umbrella" should have taken home the prize for Record of the Year.

-Kanye West's tribute to his "Mama" was genuinely moving. Too bad his inflated ego prevents anyone from feeling too sympathetic toward him.

-I wish Feist would have won at least one of the four categories in which she was nominated. Sigh. But maybe her lack of mainstream awards will keep her indie cred intact. Oh, wait.

-And last (and least), Herbie Hancock?!? No wonder the Grammys have a reputation for being out of touch with the current music scene. Given that the theme of the show was a 50th Anniversary celebration of stars from the past, I guess it's only fitting to give the award to a legendary old-timer. But what a letdown for mainstream music fans. Hopefully the upset won't send Amy back into the bottle.

Friday, February 8, 2008

It's lonely on the fringes

It's not an easy thing to admit.

All right. Deep breath.

I didn't like "Spring Awakening." There. I said it.

(Gasp). You mean the critically acclaimed Tony Award-winning musical that tourists are flocking to like adolescent girls to a Hannah Montana concert? Yes, that one. It was just ... meh.

It's a familiar position for me, being on the outskirts of what are typically held as self-evident truths in the pop culture world. I have no interest in Harry Potter. I don't see how people find Scarlett Johansson attractive (from the shoulders up, anyway). And don't even get me started on "Sex and the City."

But back to the show. Let me be clear. I didn't dislike it. I went in expecting to love it; I've been waiting for months to see it. I think it's a great story, both dramatically and metaphorically, and thought Lea Michele and many of the supporting cast members were outstanding. The final "graveyard scene" was incredibly moving and even brought a tear to my eye.

Still ...

I was too distracted by the sprays of spit flying from Jonathan Groff's mouth every time he said a line to appreciate his abilities as a lead actor. Blake Bashoff overacted too much for my taste as Moritz. I thought Duncan Sheik's score was nothing special. (Let's just say there's probably a reason he was only a one-hit wonder). And the choreography (when there was any) was a bit too spastic and seizure-like.

So maybe I'm missing something. Maybe if I had seen "Spring Awakening" before all the hype I would have had a different reaction. And maybe if I see it again it will strike more of a chord. But for right now, I'd tell people to save their money and go see "Avenue Q" or "Hairspray." Contrary to what its name implies, "Spring Awakening" left me feeling a bit drowsy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My latest review

The March issue of Blast is up, and in it is my review of Kate Nash's "Made of Bricks." Check it out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dying Young

Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

2008 is not turning out to be a good year so far for male heartthrobs. Two of my childhood crushes have died within the past week. First, Brad Renfro last Tuesday (admittedly, not entirely unexpected).

But then today the devastating news that Heath Ledger was found dead in an apartment in Soho completely floored me.

Both were talented actors in their 20s (although Renfro's career kind of peaked while he was a tween, I believe Ledger's was just getting started). Both had small children. Both deaths were supposedly drug-related.

I don't think I've ever been as in shock over a celebrity death as I was when I heard the news about Heath Ledger. I went online at work, saw the headline on MSNBC, and literally felt my jaw drop. After I left work, I discovered that I had three text messages and two voicemails about the news. I'm not sure what this says about me that my obsession with celebrity gossip is so well-documented that friends and relatives felt it necessary to immediately get in touch with me with updates like this. Oh well.

I passed Ledger walking around in Union Square a couple of months ago. He looked slightly disheveled, but definitely not like a junkie on death's door or anything. It's so sad that we'll never get to see the full potential of his talent.

His death drew my mind immediately to the criticism AP writers have faced recently after admitting they've already prepared an obituary for Britney Spears. Seeing how quickly some Heath Ledger bios went up this afternoon, and assuming that editors had no prior warning about this one, I can only imagine all the multimedia packages that have been put together for Batshit Britney's inevitable end. I don't think the AP's being callous or insensitive in preparing the obit, but merely realistic. Reporters have a responsibility to do whatever they can to give themselves a jump start on what will be "breaking news." I don't think anyone's going to be shocked if she turns up dead one of these days. Ashamed for feverishly following her downfall for personal amusement, perhaps. But shocked? No.

Heath Ledger, on the other hand ... well, that's a different - and truly tragic - story.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blondes have more fun

Blonde Redhead put on a good show at Terminal 5 last night before a sellout crowd. They have great chemistry on stage and captivated the audience as they barreled through their set with minimal banter. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that singer Kazu Makino's accent makes it sound like she's saying "Fuck you" every time she thanks the crowd.

For me, though, even more impressive than them were openers The Raveonettes. Their music is definitely more accessible than BRH's to a casual listener, but their stage presence, anchored by a stand-up drum kit consisting of only a snare and a floor tom, was great. I'm excited that they're coming back here in March.

After seeing Editors there on Thursday night, Saturday's show also solidified my love for Terminal 5 as my favorite concert venue in New York. Within three tiers, it holds 3,500 people, but it has the atmosphere of a tiny club. The bars are fully stocked, bathrooms are plentiful, the coat-check is efficient and the sound is crystal clear. Couches on the second and third floors provide ample space to comfortably lounge while you're trying to tune out the opening band's set.

Today I saw guitar goddess (and Golden Globe nominee!) Kaki King at the Apple Store in Soho. I had heard about her wizardry on the gee-tar, but was completely dumbfounded to see it in person. She uses a really interesting technique of recording parts of songs as she's playing them, so she can set them on a loop begin playing a different track of the song. In other words, she created bass, percussion, rhythm and lead guitar parts completely on her own. My words aren't doing her performance justice; you really need to see it for yourself to truly appreciate her talent. And, she became probably the first artist to cover both Morrissey and Justin Timberlake in the same set, with awesome, innovative covers of "Tomorrow" and "LoveStoned."

Speaking of good venues, Kaki's performance marked my first time seeing an in-store performance at an Apple store. Obviously, like all of Apple's ventures, the "theater" setup in the store was really cool - comfortable plush seats, great sound quality and an intimate feel with less than 100 people watching the performance. All in all, It was definitely worth standing out in below-freezing temperatures for a half hour waiting to be let in.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Editors razzle-dazzle

I was completely blown away by the Editors' concert at Terminal 5 last night. I mean, wow. I can't remember the last time I've seen such a powerful live performance.

Thanks to the cold, icky weather, I was undecided about whether or not to go to the show, but I ended up saying "what the hell" and bought a ticket at the box office, figuring I would leave if I got bored or tired. I'm so glad I went. The band was amazing, the sound was impeccable, and Terminal 5 is a great venue. I ended up chatting extensively with a musician/deejay in the crowd, mostly about how much singer Tom Smith resembles a Morrissey/Ian Curtis hybrid. But we also both remarked on the incredible feeling of straightforward positive energy among what felt like a sell-out crowd. Smith has a stunning ability to command an audience's attention, and the band's hopeful lyrics and soaring melodies make for a great live music experience. I think this is definitely going to be one of my favorite live shows this year.

Supporters Hot Hot Heat put on a good show, as well.

All in all, it was a great way to kick off what will be a music-filled weekend for me. Check back early next week for my updates on tomorrow's Blonde Redhead show and Kaki King's performance at the Apple Store in Soho on Sunday. I heart New York:).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Golden Globe picks/Top movies

I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm simply not going to get a chance to see many of the better movies 2007 had to offer at any point in the near future, so here's a partial list out of the ones I've seen so far:

1. Gone Baby Gone (doubtful this would change)
2. Charlie Wilson's War
3. Zodiac
4. No Country for Old Men
5. Juno
6. In the Valley of Elah
7. Michael Clayton

(Ed. note: I haven't seen I'm Not There, There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Once, Atonement, The Kite Runner, No End in Sight, American Gangster, Into the Wild or 3:10 to Yuma, all of which I think would have stood a decent shot of making my top 10).

Along the same lines, I have to make my picks for the Golden Globes with only limited information. Oh well. The list below is for the categories for which I have an opinion.

Since the awards show has been canceled in light of the writers' strike, reading this blog entry will probably be about as exciting as watching the awards get doled out press conference-style tonight. Interesting though: I wonder how many members of the general public were even aware of the WGA strike (which has been going on for weeks) before the Globes were canceled.

Best Picture, Drama: No Country for Old Men
Best Picture, Musical/Comedy: Charlie Wilson's War
Best Actress, Musical/Comedy: Ellen Page, Juno
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson's War

-Best series, Drama: Grey's Anatomy (in all fairness, I haven't seen any of the other shows. But Grey's experienced a wonderful return to form this year that I think would be hard to top. Although I hear Damages is great.)
-Best actress, drama: Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
-Best actor, drama: I haven't seen any of the nominees, but based on reviews and word of mouth, I would say Michael C. Hall, Dexter
-Best series, comedy: 30 Rock, hands down
-Best actress, comedy: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
-Best actor, comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
-Best supporting actress: Rachel Griffiths, Brothers and Sisters

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The British continue to come

I saw one of my new favorite artists, Kate Nash, at the Bowery Ballroom last night. She put on a great show, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was sold out, considering her album was just released on Tuesday.

Nash is the latest sassy Brit to come stateside. She reminds me of Lily Allen - but is more musically diverse (and less pregnant!) Edit 1/18: not anymore:(.

Although she hasn't yet developed a strong stage presence (she seemed a bit awed by the crowd's enthusiasm, and her banter was limited to a few "thank you"s and a "Happy New Year"), the live performance as a whole was top-notch. Nash has a real set of pipes on her, and she didn't miss a beat when pounding out quirky rhythms on her piano.

I'm supposed to be interviewing Nash by the end of the month, so look for a feature on her in an upcoming issue of Blast. And in the meantime, give her a listen. You'll be glad you did.

Also, on a side note, now that my move to New York is complete, my blogging should become more frequent:).