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:).