Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Live Tunes Tuesday - Langhorne Slim at The Grey Eagle


Langhorne Slim @ The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC
So the history teacher at work has mentioned Langhorne Slim a number of times, and I’d been anxious to see him as he sounded like someone I would groove on.

In unrelated events, I was planning on being in Asheville on January 21st, as part of plans with my wife.  More on that tomorrow.

I’d been looking everywhere online for some live music to check out, but nothing was really interesting me.

I hadn’t checked The Grey Eagle website because I hadn’t been there before and it hadn’t crossed my mind, but, and you may be ahead of me on this one, serendipity of serendipities, Langhorne Slim was playing at The Grey Eagle on the night that I was looking for some live music!

At this point I hadn’t even listened to any Langhorne Slim, so I wrassled me up some Slim (2008’s self-titled Langhorne Slim and 2009’s Be Set Free) and was impressed, and started really looking forward to the show.

I hemmed and hawed about buying tickets ahead of time, but decided as my evening’s plans hinged on going to the show, that I’d better buy them online. I’m happy I did because it was a sold-out show.

And there’s a reason it was a sold out show. Langhorne Slim puts on an amazing show. It’s abundantly obvious to anyone that Langhorne has cut his teeth on lots of small clubs and wee venues, honing his craft, because there’s a lot of positive energy flowing. He’s jumping around, the bands jumping around. Great fun!  So today I’m going to do you a favor and put all the reason Langhorne rocks in an easily accessible list:

Ten Reasons Why Langhorne Slim is Cool and Why You Really Need to See Him and Buy Some of His Albums

1)       He puts on a high energy show.
2)       When he sings he’s channeling Jim Morrison and is great fun to watch.
3)       He’s got some great songs, particularly Boots Boy and Land of Dreams his Be Set Free album
4)       He's got that “it” factor, that celebrity charisma
5)       He’s already got a back catalogue. Seven albums if you count the EP’s (buy some Slim @ Amazon)  
6)       He's still not too big, so if you start listening to him now, you can say “I listened to him before he was big.”
7)       And because he’s not huge yet, you can still get reasonably priced tickets to his shows.
8)       He’s humble about how cool he is.
9)       He hangs out after the show, so all you have to do is wait in line for a bit and you can meet him / take pics with him.
10)    He’s super-awesome-mega nice and helped me do something sweet for Chika.

There will be a bit more about this concert tomorrow on the first installment of “What’s Up Wednesday”.

What are you still reading?  Go to his website and see where he’s playing next!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie Review Monday - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Before I begin this review, I need to state one thing, and confess another:

1)      For this movie Rotten Tomatoes sucks.
2)      I cry at movies.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has this movie pegged in at a 46%. Meaning less than every other critic that gets their review up on Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like this movie.  Now, I want to be perfectly clear…those mofo’s are smoking some grade-A crack.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an amazing film. Full stop.

As for the confession? I must have cried eight times during this movie.

Back to the review.

It’s a beautiful and tragic movie about the actions we take that push us apart, and the ties that brings us together. It’s about love and sadness and redemption and loss. Newcomer Thomas Horn does a phenomenal job portraying Oskar Schell – he and Max von Sydow (who’s up for a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) – but everyone in the movie, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, is marvelous.

The movie has a wondrous symmetry and maturity to it as well.

Because of the low rating, I kept expecting there to be a disappointing scene that spoiled the movie, or an ending that brought the whole movie down with it.

Nope. It’s a fantastic film.

Bring a box of tissues and prepare for an extremely incredible experience.

5.0 / 5.0 

PS: Also read the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, it’s just as good, probably better but I read it a while ago and don’t remember the details of why I loved it so much.
 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Theo Thursday Pt. 3 - Shadowy Wolves and Close Calls


 :: Casaday Night, the 92nd of Jhyel's Slumber ::

"Casastan preserve...” gasped Theo, as he stumbled backwards slightly under the weight of this creature's abhorrent stare.

With a side-wards glance, Theo began gauging the distance to the fire.  With some degree of dismay, the scurry realized that the fire was too far to reach, at least with any amount of safety.

"Your a big one, aren't you friend?  Much as I'm sure that you would love to bite me in half, I'll have to deny you that meal.” spoke the scurry with a nervous chuckle and a plethora of feigned confidence.

Theo continued to speak, trying to maintain the mammoth wolf's attention while looking for some perch of safety. 

"If you don't try and eat me, I won't have to kill you” he continued, in a placating tone.

Attempting to penetrate the thick miasma of grey seemed almost impossible, like trying to climb to the stars with a stepladder.  Suddenly, though, the option of looking for a safe haven was cut short as the crouched shadow lunged for the skittish Theodore.

"Eep!” yelped Theo, eyes large.  Staggering back for half a grain, he then bolted directly away from the enormous wolf.

"Run for your life, Saw!” Theo screamed over his shoulder, praying that his companion heard his cry.

Theo could hear the muffled, heavy pads of the wolf pounding on the soil behind him, could almost feel the hot, stinking breath on his neck as he plowed blindly through the dense mist.  As the viscous, moist air flowed around him, Theo began to gain confidence. 

"Maybe I can outrun him.” Theo thought to himself convincingly.

Then he heard the rhythmic thudding behind him suddenly stop.  For what seemed like a wick, Theo heard nothing.  Growing suspicious, Theo urged his aching, fatigued legs to go even faster.

And then the wolf was upon him.  His right shoulder driven hard into the stony, barren ground, Theo gasped in pain as he felt the wolf's two front paws smash into him.  The rank, fetid breath washed over him, and he could feel the coarse black fur pushing into his back. 

Theo began to panic, wildly flailing for some means of escape.  He grabbed one of his throwing daggers and thrust it into the wolf, hoping to catch a sensitive spot.  Theo felt the dagger bite, but he couldn't tell where or how deep.

Scrambling, his lean, powerful fingers digging into the grassy earth, Theo pulled himself from beneath the wolf's bulk.  Looking back, the scurry saw the wolf already resuming the pursuit, slightly limping.

But then, almost running headlong into a granite outcropping, Theo managed to mutter one word between ragged breaths.

"Salvation!” he said as he struggled to the top of the lone pinnacle.  Even then, as he was climbing, he felt the wolf's claws caress the back of his left leg.

The wolf snarled and barked, trying to gain purchase on the smooth rock surface with his back legs.  Without hesitation, Theo brought out Kindle and jabbed at the mongrel's face.  Exhaustion and pain setting off his aim, Theo felt the rapier's point graze along the skull, opening a deep, jagged wound near the wolf's temple.   

With a howl of frustration and pain, the wolf streaked off, the leaden clouds swallowing him as he disappeared into the dense mist.  Theo reached for one of his throwing knives, and realized it would be a futile effort, already unable to see the wolf in the all encompassing miasma.                 

As the realization that he was out of danger floated into Theo's mind, his limbs went numb and Theo knew nothing but darkness.  Even as he lost consciousness, Theo could still hear the lingering howl of rage clinging to the night air.


*          *          *

Solenari's mane, fiery and brilliant, beat upon Theo mercilessly, as he tried feebly to raise himself up on one arm.  His whole body ached, his head throbbed and his eyes felt like they were being burned from their sockets by the harsh glare of the sun.  With a cursory examination, Theo found that his shoulder was torn open, blood matting his fur down unpleasantly, and his right hand was so stiff that even simple movements were painful and difficult.  These, unfortunately, were just the obvious wounds.

Throwing his glance across the landscape, Theo tried to get his bearings, having lost them in the pell-mell flight last evening.  In the distance, he spied the torn and tattered remains of the tent; Saw, however, was nowhere to be seen...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Live Tunes Tuesday - G. Love at the Handlebar!


G. Love at the Handlebar
My first experience with G. Love was the song ‘Shootin’ Hoops’ off of their self-titled 1994 second album, G. Love and Special Sauce. A fantastic ode to the bravado of a playground basketball player, ‘Shootin’ Hoops’ is my favorite song on the album, but all the songs are great. If I’m not completely mistaken, and I may be, the singles "The Things That I Used to Do", "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Cold Beverage" got some airtime.

G. Love’s latest effort, Fixin’ to Die, produced by the Avett Brothers, is a bit of departure from G. Love’s blues-influence hip-hop, but if you’re a fan of Americana, G. Love, the blues, or all three, you should pick it up. There’s a lot of catchy tunes on here, my personal favorites being the blues standard “Fixin to Die”, awesome, “Milk and Sugar”, a fantastic paen to coffee, and “Walk On”.

Bassist Timo Shanko
Timo Shanko, the G. Love bassist clowned around nearly the entire show, making faces, playing the bass like a guitar, and pretending like he was going to drop his instrument. Sometimes it was a bit over-the-top, but in general it was amusing and endearing. Jeffrey Clemens was great, and pounded out some great solos.

Drummer Jeffrey Clemens
I’d be remiss if didn’t mention Kristy Lee in this review.  She opened for the band, and she was fabulous.  I was very disappointed when I went to buy her album after the show, but she’d already packed up her merch booth. I ran into her getting oFf the bus, said she was fantastic, and mentioned I’d like to buy her album, but sadly I didn’t have any cash. You can check out one of the songs I liked on youtube, "Hey Crazy" (language warning), but to be honest it doesn’t do her justice. She was fantastic, and played some great music. It's great to run into new artists when going to see an old favorite.

Kristy Lee
So it really boils down to you needing to go buy at least one G. Love album, and if G. Love is playing in your area, definitely shell out the cash, he’s worth it. Check out G. Love on tour here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Movie Review Monday - The Artist


The Artist
I’ll wax on some, but this review of The Artist could be summed up in a few words: it’s a masterpiece.

Admittedly, my expectations were very low.

My reaction?

A silent movie?  Really?

To start, Jean Dujardin is magnetic as George Valentin, and he’s got a 1,000 gigawatt smile to back that magnetism. He’s completely believable and over-the-top as the silent actor being pushed out of his occupation by “the talkies”, the advent of sound into the modern movie of the time. His love interest and co-star is Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, who is phenomenal as well. And his faithful driver Clifton, played by James Cromwell, is fabulous. It’s important to remember that the actors are getting across their personalities with no dialogue. Wow.

Of special note is Uggie, who plays Jack, George Valentin’s faithful canine companion. There needs to be an Oscar for best animal actor, for the simple reason that this dog needs to be nominated for it so he can win.

Part of the reason that I’m giving this 5/5 stars is that not only was it a great movie, but it actually broke through an unrealized prejudice that I had against silent movies.  Oftentimes I would see silent movies on some critics Top Ten Lists and thought. Enh? Really? But now, just by watching this movie, I want to give other silent movies a chance. Kudos to the director, Michel Hazanavicius.

All told, the movie is a story about love. Platonic love, romantic love, and love conquering all. It is a simple, powerful and beautiful tale. Run, don’t walk, to the theater.

★★★★★
5.0 / 5.0

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Theo Thursday Pt. 2 - Prayers to Casastan

 :: Casaday Evening, the 92nd of Jhyel's Slumber ::

Theodore's eyes grew wide as he heard the bestial snarl that knifed through the thin fabric of the tent.
               
Reaching a slightly shaking hand towards Saw, Theo shook him.  Waking with a quiet snort, Saw's eyes were transfigured by terror as the horrific noises reached his ears.

Reaching for the tent flap that was now transformed from a simple egress into a portal of danger, Theo grabbed his rapier and knife belt as silently as he could.

"Stay here Saw, you'll probably just get under foot.” whispered Theo as he put a tight rein on his own fear.

Tendrils of fog danced around the legs of the wolves as they circled the tent.  Theo could read the lean winter in their eyes.  Every aspect of the animals showed how harsh the cold season had been; the lackluster fur, the skin stretched tight over hungry ribs, and most of all, the feral emaciated eyes which told the scurry that mercy would be neither asked, nor given.

The passionate ballet of savagery began, the scurry was fluid in his motions against the grey fur and gnashing teeth, the teeth which seemed to materialize out of nowhere, the fog concealing the wolves to perfection.

Comfortably gripping his rapier in his right hand while holding a throwing knife in his left, Theo assumed the relaxed stance of a natural swordsman.

"You won't find me an easy meal, wolves” snarled Theo through gritted teeth.     

A howl that shattered the night into dark, jagged pieces was the only response.

A wolf the color of ashes lunged from the shadows, fog peeling away from him like a second skin.  With little time to react, Theo rolled beneath the dark form and opened a long gash along its belly.  The leaden colored wolf, seemingly in a great deal of pain, landed heavily on it's front paws.  Weakened, the wolf crashed to the ground and lay still.

Coming out of his roll without a wasted motion, Theo let loose a throwing knife into the throat of an oncoming wolf, whose eyes glowed blood red.  The momentum still carrying it forward, the dying wolf plowed into the nimble scurry.

Theo's lower body was sprayed with blood as the throwing knife was wrenched loose from the wolf's throat by the jarring collision.

"Disgusting!  It will take weeks to get this out of my fur.” Theo grimly muttered to himself in black humor, unable to stop the words despite the grisly situation.

The mist slowly folded away to Theo's right to show a set of knife-sharp teeth, glowing white hot under Poen's gleaming eye. 

"Aaargh” exclaimed Theo, as a gash was opened on his right hand, his sword hand.  The hilt of Theo's rapier became slick as the blood flowed, unhindered out of the vicious wound.

"...ipe” responded the wolf, as Theo pounded the rapier guard down onto the grey and white mottled fur of the wolf's snout.  The wolf turned and sprinted from the skirmish.

"Of all the places to bite me, my sword hand, my sword hand!  I hope the miserable wretch dies a horrid death!” said Theo to himself, trying to comfort himself as his hand throbbed and began to go numb.

Just as Theo was saying this, an inky shape loomed up from the murky gloom.  Its ebony body, silhouetted against the bright white fog, was at least twice as big as the other wolves, maybe larger.  Foam and blood flecked it's muzzle and it's eyes gleamed with a thirsty malice.  The wolf's gaze seemed to buzz.

"Casastan preserve...” gasped Theo...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Michelle Shocked at the Handlbar - Greenville, SC - November 16th 2011

Michelle Shocked's Stage at the Handlebar*
Remember when there used to be mixed tapes?

Well way on back in 1996—just before I went overseas to Cali, Colombia, South America—I got a mixed tape from a friend of my Mom, and on that mix was the song “Been a Long Way”, by Michelle Shocked (off of her Arkansas Traveler).  I loved the song, and if it wasn’t my favorites on the tape, it was damn close.

It wasn’t until a bunch of years later that I picked up a copy of Short, Sharp, Shocked. I was blown away, as there are a number of fantastic tracks on here, including “Anchorage”, “If Love Was a Train” and my personal favorite, “The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore”

So when I found out Michelle Shocked was playing at the Handlebar on November 16th 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to see her live.

In many ways, I was more than satisfied, in other I was not so impressed.

First of all, she’s a great storyteller. She began by informing us that it had become her duty to inculcate in us the legend of … herself.  This was a great way to start the concert, and she proceeded to tell the story of how her first album was released in Europe...without her knowledge!  Someone had been recording her on a walkman with dying batteries.  In an effort to compensate for the slow, low voice (dying batteries!), they overcompensated and sped her voice into an inaccurate falsetto. She didn’t even know about the album until a friend returned from London and told her that he’d heard her songs on the radio.

And that’s just one great story.  She’s got the patter down and it’s enjoyable to listen to her chat.

The downside?

Sometimes she’s just a little too…too… Michelle Shocked. There were a few times when she was so enthusiastic it felt a bit insincere. And during the concert she was nothing if not a huge ham. I also might be reading her wrong and she really is just that nice.

So was it a good concert? Yes. Would I heartily recommend it?  Enh.

I’d recommend going, but with the caveats mentioned above.

*Okay, confession time. I did take a picture of the stage, but can’t find the friggin’ thing.  I don’t have any pictures of her, alas.  This picture is just some random picture from some random club in Greensboro, NC.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie Review Monday - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy centers around George Smiley—recently fired from the British Secret Service agency known as the Circus—and his efforts to bring to light a Russian mole ensconced in the highest echelon of the agency.

The movie is a tense, low-key but high stakes story of intrigue. The acting is phenomenal, and all actors, supporting and star, deliver. So why 4.0 stars and not 5.0?

An unseasoned moviegoer or those who have not read the book may have difficulty following the plot line, as at least half of the story is told through flashbacks that are relatively seamless. Having read the book (okay, most of the book), I had no trouble following the threads, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be as easily followed for those who hadn’t read the book.  For example, there is a three second scene of one of the supporting characters dead in a hospital bed, but if I hadn’t read the book, I might not have known that. Maybe he’s just unconscious? Maybe he had an allergic reaction to his raspberry Jell-O? Does it even matter to the plot of the story? This is of course a primary peril of books adapted to the screen, unless they’re relatively short books. Screenwriters must make tough decisions on what scenes and characters to include, and those that get the axe. I think for the most part the screenwriter’s did a great job with their choices.

Overall, I feel the greatest strength of the movie is the symmetry and the human dramas that unfold throughout, whereas the weakness is the overall structure that is a veritable pogo stick across the timeline of the tale. Well worth watching, but the movie is probably better suited to those that have read the book, as opposed to a stand alone story.

★★★★
4.0/5.0

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Theo Thursday Pt. 1 - An Adventure Begins


 :: Casaday Morning, the 92nd of Jhyel's Slumber ::

pound pound pound

"unnhhh"

POUND POUND POUND

Theodore Bramblerun felt like someone had run over him with a team of horses, and whoever was pounding on the door, certainly wasn't helping matters.

"Good Phoshaina, Theo, you sleep like the dead!” came from outside, just below a scream.

Next to him, Lizbeth stirred quietly; apparently a heavy sleeper.  His mind turned back to the fuzzy memories of last night.  Red wine seems to have played a large part.  Lizbeth apparently had too.  Cracking an eye open, Theo quickly noticed that Solenari was trying to punish him; it was far, far, too bright.

POUND POUND POUND

"Theo!  WAKE UP! It's me, Saw!”

The pounding on the door, felt like it was playing out directly on Theo's head. 

Reluctantly disentangling himself from Lizbeth's warm embrace, Theo rolled onto the floor with a thump, then proceeded to stumble awkwardly to unbar the door.  In less than a grain of opening the door, Sawkin Redtail's brightly bedecked frame flowed into the room.

"New breeches, eh, Saw?  It almost hurts to look at a red that brig...."

"It's Cory!  His horse came back this morning; it's eyes were bigger than saucer plates and I could have taken a bath with the lather dripping from her” tumbled out in a stream of words.

"I thoug...” said Theo, as he tried to wedge a comment into the torrent of words that was bombarding him. 

"He went off on another extravagant quest, for Tisden Weald this time.  He rode off just as Solenari was waking on Unday morn.  He apparently promised his new love interest, Duyna, quite a fetching lass by the way, that he would ride to the ends of Daed for her.  She took him up on it and said that she'd would freely give her very soul if he brought her a flower plucked from the heart of the Forest of Shadows.” as he continued.

With one hand placatingly raised and the other holding his head, the unusually subdued Theo finally managed to say "You needn’t tell me the rest, Saw, I can guess.  Let me get my things together."

"Are you coming back to bed Theo?” came a beckoning voice from the semi-dark bedroom. 

Theo moved quietly towards the soft voice. 

"Good Lady Lizbeth, that I might spend more time in the blissful embrace of your arms, but I must away, a companion may be in dire danger.” Theo managed to say between soft kisses.  Before the lingering kisses could turn into more than lingering kisses, Theo collected his things and was out the door, with Saw moving quickly to his side.

"I have to get some things at my place first.” gasped Theo as the cool, winter air poured into his lungs.
               
*          *          *    

Setting out with a full backpack and a throbbing head, Theo, with Saw at his side, began the journey to Tisden Weald. The hard, semi-frozen hills and rocky outcroppings stretched out before them, as the cool sun glared down at the two scurries.

"We should be seeing the wood by Jhinday, mid-morning most likely.” began Saw with pleasant mindless banter.  "And a fine day it will be I'm sure."

And the day passed with talk of this and that, and on into the evening.  As Poen began her slow ascent into the sky, a heavy fog began to pour across the Moorish highlands.

"It's getting dark, we should probably think about setting up camp.” Theo said, breaking into Saw's lengthy description of a beautiful scurry maiden. 

Shivering involuntarily against the cold, Saw replied, "And a fire would be quite welcome."

*          *          *

As dreams of the beautiful Lizbeth began floating through Theo's mind, he pulled up his bedroll that much tighter against the cold.

"Good sleep, Saw, we have some way to go tomorrow."

Just as Casastan began to nip at the edge of Theo's dreams, a low growl erupted from outside his tent.  A distorted and twisted shadow was cast upon the tent, illuminated by the molten silver light of Poen...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Reverend Horton & Hallelujahs at the Handlebar

The Reverend Rides the Bass Fantastic!
Wow.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

The Reverend Horton Heat is a must see live act.

I’ve been listening to the Reverend and their very own brand of “country-fed punkabilly” since 1993 when my friend John introduced me to the Reverend’s second album, The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat.

With stand out tracks like “Wiggle Stick", "The Devil's Chasing Me" and "Bales of Cocaine" (but to be honest, there are no bad tracks) I was an instant fan.  Liquor in the Front is the second album I bought and is chock full of amazing tracks as well (though if I were to be completely honest, I’m not a big fan of “The Entertainer”.  I find it difficult to believe that anyone wouldn’t consider conversion to the Reverend’s special brand of faith after listening to either of these albums.  I’ve got four more of their albums (Smoke 'em If You Got 'em, It's Martini Time, Space Heater and Spend a Night in the Box), though if you’re looking into a purchase, I’d suggest the first two albums that I mentioned.
Jimbo on Bass!

Back to the concert.  Live?

The Reverend Horton Heat is AMAZING.  Full stop.

Jimbo on bass is fantastic, Paul Simmons on drums was phenomenal and Jim Heath, the Reverend, was transcendent.

I took all the pictures here on the blog, though I didn’t take any videos.  If you want a little taste of what you missed, someone took a video of the Reverend playing Galaxy 500 here, though the audio is mediocre.

The Whole Tamale - The Reverend Horton Heat Complete
I suggest you catch one of their live shows. You can thank me if you find religion!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol - IMAX

Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol
Movie Review Monday

In Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise returns to his role as Ethan Hunt. Other stars include Paula Patton as Jane Carter, Simon Pegg (who’s simply great) as Benji Dunn, and Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, as well as Michael Nyqvist as Kurt Hendricks, the film’s primary nasty dude.  Brad Bird directs, but is also awarded the title “God Director Among Men”, for having also directed Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

This is the first regular blockbuster film that I’d seen in IMAX. Before the movie started, I was a bit underwhelmed by what seemed simply "a big ol' gray screen", especially considering that I’d just shelled out $15 smackers for the show. 

Once the movie started?  Woah!  Hold onto your toupé!  The action is non-stop and there’s many a scene that is just over-the-top cool. The IMAX experience is just that…an experience.  It made edgy height scenes far edgier, travelporn-like shots more spectacular, and overall just allowed a more immersive experience.

The movie’s great.  Will it win any academy awards? No. Is it one of the better, maybe even the best, action move that I’ve seen in a long time?  Hell, yeah!

In summary, MI4: Ghost Protocol is a roller coaster ride of a movie that more than fulfills its action movie aim. Definitely check it out!

★★★★
4.0/5.0

IMAX
★★★★½
4.5/5.0