14 August 2007

Quickie Reviews: What Could Be Worse?

Here are some unrelated short form music and movie reviews, etc. for your reading pleasure...
  • Caught Galactic et al. at Central Park's Summerstage for free this past Saturday (50th show of the year). The line-up was a NOL-A-rama with Jon Cleary opening up solo piano, the Soul Rebels Brass Band hitting second and Galactic rounding out the bunch. There's really little to complain about when it's mid 80's, perfectly sunny and you're smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, outdoors and enjoying the heck out of the day, the music and the company. Cleary is like a poor man's Dr. John, just seeping with Nawlins spirit. The Soul Rebels were fun for the most part, but a little too much of that annoying hip hop "I say x, you say y" bullshit. They were basically a poor man's Rebirth Brass band, but they got the job done. Galactic started off with a big dose of oomph. The second tune was "Sunday Arak" I believe, possibly a Balkan Beat Box tune... man that shit was wicked funky to the nth degree. The bass line was impossibly groovy and Rich Vogel's clavinet part just oozed the good stuff. Ben Ellman's sax went tangential to this dirty filth, loopy, happy frenetic, juiced-up Saturday afternoon stuff. Fantastic. After a while, Galactic settled into house band mode, first inviting Donald Harrison Jr. on sax and Will Bernard up on stage. Harrison was insanely tasty on the horn, the best blower I've seen in a while -- he showed no shyness up there, his first note was the loudest of the day. Bernard played a quick solo and seemed to evaporate into the ever-warming air. Harrison stuck around here and there and later on the Soul Rebels came out and then Cleary and then both for a stretch. The Galactic boys kind of willingly faded into the background, ably holding it down while we got a whole platterful of that Mardi Gras spirit. I could have done without a repeat performance from the Rebels who basically did the same thing they did during their own set, and Cleary seemed to suck out a little bit of the funk in favor of a smoother, cheesier vibe... but overall, it was hard to complain. The coup de grace was the appearance of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and company in full feathered regalia doing a run of classic New Orleans numbers... a stretch that couldn't have been and wasn't complete without an Iko Iko and Big Chief. What could be worse?
  • Nothing. What could be better? Post-show dining at Hill Country BBQ. Dayum! That's some tasty meat.... I got involved with the beef shoulder (kind of like butter if butter was made from meat), jalapeno cheese sausage (holy shit, that's some good sausage), some sort of corn casserole which was one of the better BBQ sides I've had in the city (might just beat out the crazy creamed corn from Daisy Mae's), some of the tastiest corn bread I've ever had (accompanied by a wild ancho butter with a bit of a butter bite), plus whatever I could salvage from my neighbor's plate. Someone had room for dessert and those were just as good as the food: the pecan pie was darn near perfect, a little single-serving with the thinnest, most delectable crust you could imagine. The peanut butter and jelly cupcake sounded pretty good, but tasted even better. Still full from that meal... and some mighty tasty (if not incredibly expensive) bourbon on tap taboot.
  • I've been fortunate to have seen 2 movies this summer, which is about 1 more than I'm used to getting to. A couple weeks back was the Simpsons Movie. It's been a long time coming, for sure, but the was-it-worth-waiting-for? judgment is in, and I wholeheartedly give this two yellow thumbs up. I haven't seen any bad reviews for this one, but the one I can relate to the most is this one from A. O. Scott of the NYTimes. It's basically a long-form Simpsons episode that's funny the first time through and probably more and more brilliant with the repeated viewings it will demand down the road. The best episodes kind of started out one way setting up something completely orthogonal and seemingly unrelated -- like the set-up was just an excuse for the punchline. The movie is just like that, no better or worse than your favorite episode, just bigger and longer. I feel like the Simpsons was the formative cultural cornerstone of my life: I watched episodes w/ my dad and brother in the beginning, and then obsessed over each episode in college, each Sunday night a beginning and ending to the week... with VHS tapes run ragged by viewing each over and over like the Zapruder film. I'm sure I'm not alone feeling that way and all I can say is that this movie does that all justice. But most importantly, it's flipping hilarious -- I laughed from beginning to end even though I had lost my glasses earlier in the day and likely missed 64% of the visual jokes crammed in there.
  • Last night I caught The Bourne Ultimatum tout seul. The last major action-ish movie I caught previously was the new James Bond, and let me tell you, I'll take Jason Bourne over 007 any day of the week... Americans kick ass, plain and simple. This movie is quintessential summertime theater bliss, the kind of flick that butter flavoring was invented for. The entire movie you feel like you're sitting too close to the screen, but you could watch it from a mile away and still feel that way -- it's just right there, moving faster than you can follow with insanely edited handheld cameras. It made me dizzy and nauseated and I loved it from the opening credits. Good story, kick ass chase scenes and next-level fight scenes. Yes, there is some major disbelief suspension, but don't let the lack of broken bones post-driving-car-off-upper-level-of-parking-garage bother you too much. What a rush! Also worthwhile to help chart the demise of Julia Stiles' acting career... her speaking line-to-sitting there with a dumb look on her face ratio is incredibly low.
  • In my last crop of capsule CD reviews, I totally forgot to include one of my favorites of the year thus far: The Uri Caine Ensemble plays Mozart. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the surprises inside are well worth a look. Basically, Uri -- piano master and Fender Rhodes genius -- has taken a bunch of Mozart tunes and put them through the ringer so to speak. It's not a total reinvention, but rather an appreciation... a Wolfgang Amadeus tribute album, so to speak. Some numbers are played straight, but with a band -- excuse me, ensemble -- consisting of both strings and electric guitars, not to mention drums and DJ Olive, things tend to get a bit weird, wild and fun. Jazz, klezmer, etc. all get thrown in the mix almost all to perfect effect. Totally listenable, somewhere between Jason Bourne and Clancy Wiggum on the "kick ass" scale... I can't recommend this one highly enough. Ned-O-Matic: 8.0.
  • Finally a brief Nedstalgia dose... dug up a ticket stub of the Allman Brothers Band show I caught at the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, NY 15 years ago today (8/15/1992). This was one of the first steps of a stretch of seeing the Allmans at least once a year for a decade or so. The venue was one of those perfect summer spots, basically a small dirt track with a stage situated at one end. When I was growing up, the classic rock FM station would always percolate come June with "You know it's summer when they're rocking at Weedsport" which was enough to get and rockaholic teenagers panties in a knot. The Allmans were made for spots like this and, fresh off their HORDE appearance, the Spin Doctors opened the show. I'll never forget Chris Barron singing Pocketful of Kryptonite and pulling a wadded up ball of masking tape out of his pocked which had been magic-marked in green... I guess to look like kryptonite? I should have known that band was not long for this world at that point. The Allmans were bitchin' as they usually were, the quintessential summertime band, and I was getting my Southern Rock on with some of the best people I knew and know. The setlist is here. My best memory of that night was when they came out for the encore. My buddy was rather enamored with Gregg Allman's baddassness and so when they came out he was yelling (and I was helping) "Gregg" and then he looked over at us (we were close enough to the front) and kind of gave a nod of acknowledgment which we thought was pretty cool at the time. Anyhoo, they busted into Dreams and got into that deep, hypnotic jam that was just supersweet all around. Just as the jam was hitting it's peak, a beach ball flew out of the crowd toward Gregg's organ and knocked over a cup of beer from the top all over his organ. Having recently befriended the man, we were rather ticked off about that, but Allman calmly wiped it off just in time to sing the verse "got to pull myself together..." which absolutely killed us -- just the kind of coincidence that made the show for both of us dorked-out 18 year olds. That and the fact that they followed it up with one of those monster 25 minute Whipping Posts. If I had a recording, I'd share, but they're all the same ain't that... except for the memories.

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