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"