Saturday, July 28, 2007

Maise on Vacation! / HP Discussion!

(Sorry Maise. I had to Potter-ize your picture. --Iris)

As soon as we get the laundry done and the house clean, it's time for a road trip, and I'll be officially off the grid until Thursday, folks. In the meantime, I think this would be an excellent place for a Harry Potter discussion. Feel free to post your questions, answers, opinions, complaints, grief, etc. in the comments section. SPOILERS WILL BE ALLOWED, so if you haven't finished the book, take care when reading the comments to this thread.

Also, people discussing the book? Note that in the "recent comments" section, the first 10-12 words of your post show up on the home page. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take care to keep spoilers out of your first sentence.

I figure by the time I get back, I'll be able to fully participate. And in case you're worried that this thread is off-topic, just pretend that it's about the Weird Sisters, Hogwarts' favorite band (featuring Jarvis Cocker on vocals, no less!).

Meanwhile, the weekend of August 3rd-5th, Iris, Ro, and I will all be at Lollapalooza, so expect lots of reporting and reviews! Unfortunately, Trent won't be there, but Interpol, Modest Mouse, Iggy and the Stooges, Pearl Jam, Amy Winehouse, TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, Blonde Redhead, and many, many, many more will!

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hello, WTC Readers!

If you see this, that most likely means that you've followed one of my many obnoxious links on the final (for now) post on WTC. So thanks!

As you can see, we're on Blogger at the moment, so things may be slightly different than what you're accustomed to, but we have and will continue to take steps to make reading and commenting as easy as possible. One feature that will take some getting used to is that "Recent Comments" seems to take a while to update. Argh. But look at it this way, kids...if you help us get this site off the ground, we may very well invest in an upgrade soon!

We hope that you enjoy what we've got going on here, and we're very much looking forward to hearing from you. You don't need to register in order to comment...if you don't have a Google/Blogger account, you can use your old screenname (or a new one) by selecting "Other" in the sign-in area. Or you can go Anonymous, if you choose.

And to make you feel a little more at home, here's a picture of Trent, in all his heavily eyeliner-ed glory:


Ro's Retro Flashback: The. Worst. Concert. Ever. December 29, 2002

It’s Ro’s Retro Flashback time! Let’s flash back to December 29, 2002, to The. Worst. Concert. Ever. I had quite recently begun dating someone new (a.k.a. the Tool), who on a previous date, mentioned liking Creed (red flag!). Because their tour was coming to my hometown of Rosemont, Illinois, and because I have an insider hookup to events in Rosemont through a family member, I snagged us some kick ass seats. And for real, these were perhaps the best seats I’ve ever had for a concert. We were off to the side of the stage but right up in front. I could have totally reached out and touched Scott Stapp were I so inclined. (I wasn’t, btw.)

The show started off quite well, actually. Creed had local favorite Local H open for them. Their music is fun, and when you see them live, they have a great energy level. They ultimately proved to be the absolute highlight of the evening because, you know, they’re professionals who actually show up and work for their money.

Local H finished up their all-too-short set. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. The lights were dimmed. People cheered. And still, we waited. The drunken assholes in the row behind us began getting belligerent and sexually harassing the pretty teenagers next to us. And still we waited. Then the police came to remove the drunken assholes. And then we waited some more.

I later learned through my family insider that the reason for the long wait was due to indecision as to whether the show was going to continue (which we were to soon discover was due to Scott’s “condition”). In fact, the police feared a riot would ensue if the show were canceled.

After more than an hour of waiting, FINALLY the band came out, sans Scott. They played some instrumentals for awhile. Morons on the floor bounced around happily until it suddenly dawned on them “Where the fuck is Scott???” Soon enough, there he was, in all his greasy douchebag glory, wearing leather pants, a button-down shirt with a wife beater beneath, and some heavy-looking boots.

Scott staggered around the stage for awhile with the audience morons cheering hysterically. He even attempted to sing, which largely amounted to him standing at the edge of the stage swaying with the microphone held out so the audience could do the singing for him. And for the most part, they did, at first not realizing he was too drunk/stoned/incoherent to remember the lyrics. At some points, he hung onto guitarist Mark Tremonti, nearly pulling him over. Though I gotta give props to Mark, who despite his bandmate’s poor form, didn’t miss a beat.

And then Scott left the stage, probably for about 5 minutes, but the band played on. Mark even sang in Scott’s stead. Scott returned, minus his shirt, staggered around some more, attempted to sing some more, and he was off again! His absence lasted much longer thing time, probably closer to 15 minutes this time. When he returned minus his boots (his socks had holes in them, btw), he repeated his staggering and his sad attempts at singing.

Soon he was off again! After another long break, Scott returned, this time minus the wife beater. He resumed the staggering yet again, wearing nothing more than his leather pants and holey (not holy) socks. When they busted out “Who’s Got My Back?” Scott could barely put two words together at this point. After nearly pulling Mark to the floor for the umpteenth time, Scott fell over, finishing the song splayed out on the floor, rolling around like a dog looking for a belly rub.

According to an interview Geoff Boucher of the LA Times conducted with Scott in November 2005:

Stapp's account of the night is that increasing tension within the band inspired him to turn and call out his mates while performing the aptly titled "Who's Got My Back." Seeing something in their eyes that was less than supportive, Stapp
says, he plopped down on stage on his back and sang to the rafters.
Um, yeah.

After lying down on the job, he proceeded to get up and crawl off the stage. Again. This time, however, audience members no longer cheered. In fact, the once loyal masses turned on the band, booing loudly, throwing shit on stage at the remaining band members. Mark Tremonti finally stopped the band’s musical interlude and said something to the effect of “Scott’s obviously not feeling well tonight. We thank you for your patience. Let me go talk to him and see if we can finish this show.”

Really, I felt for poor Mark. He showed up ready to work. The rest of the band members were equally ready. And yet they were getting booed and pelted with plastic cups, bearing the brunt of an audience that had quickly turned on them due to Scott’s poor form.

Soon enough, Mark was back and said, “We’re going to try and finish this thing.” Queue the music! Scott was back! This time sans the holey socks but with a wet towel draped over his shoulders. It was apparently too much of an effort for him to stand even though he was no longer weighted down with clothes, so he staggered back to the drum set, sat himself down on the riser, and slumped over with the wet towel draped over his head. Ironically enough, they completed this sad spectacle with fan favorite “My Own Prison” all while Scott sat slumped under the wet towel. Something tells me the irony of that was lost on many.

I later found out through my family insider that when Scott was staggering offstage, he was getting juiced up by paramedics with fluids. They didn’t help.

And that, my friends, was The. Worst. Concert. Ever. Which was quickly followed by The. Worst. “Apology”. Ever. Which was subsequently followed by The. Best. Lawsuit. Ever. Even though the lawsuit ultimately went nowhere, at least they tried, which is more than we can say about Scott. But thanks to a bunch of wiley college kids, Scott got his in the end.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Exclusive Concert Review #2: The Police, Wrigley Field, July 6, 2007

In my collection of very first memories are moments I would spend watching MTV in the early '80s with my older brother. In those days, MTV actually played music videos, and the Police were ubiquitous. Their videos, especially in the Zenyatta Mondatta and Ghost in the Machine days, were simple but glorious, capturing three gorgeous, golden-haired young men in the prime of their lives, on top of the rock world, mostly jumping around and goofing off (disguising the fact that they probably wanted to kill each other). Of these videos, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" is so profoundly important to me, personally. It represents to me the fragile happiness of my family when my dad was still alive and kicking, before all the cancer and the slow march to death and the general collapse of the rest of us emotionally. It represents the nights when my parents would go out for the evening, and my brother (then 15) would babysit me (then 4). He'd bake peanut butter cookies and turn on MTV, and "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" would always be on, and I'd nurse my childhood crushes on each member of The Police. And I always loved the Police for that childhood memory, but since then I've learned to appreciate the slightly eerie sound of the piano and keyboards on that song, the sublime cymbals, the sad narrative of unrequited love belied by the sheer joyfulness of the chorus, and oh yes--Stewart Copeland's tiny white shorts and looooooooooooooooong legs. For all of the above reasons, "ELTSDIM" is my All-Time Favorite Song Ever In the History of My Life, and Nothing Is Going to Change That.
But I loved the rest of the Police's catalogue as well...Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine, Synchronicity. ("Synchronicity II" is especially close to my heart for the lyrics, "Another suburban family morning/grandmother screaming at the wall," as we had my maternal grandmother living with us who was quite apt to scream at the wall, among other eccentricities.) I remember watching the Synchronicity concert film on TV, absolutely rapt, only wishing that I too could have been there.

I had to wait a little over 20 years for my chance. It was a terrifying weight of expectation to place on the shoulders of the aging members of a reunited band on one night. I thought to myself, I'm certain to be disappointed. Also, I had been hearing ominous rumors that the Police had been tooling around with their greatest hits, that they were slower, that, God forbid, Sting had been making them jazzier. So as we approached Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL, I almost felt a sort of dread--dread that my favorite band of all time might let me down.

I am happy to report that I was wrong! Yes, some of the songs were slowed down, some were jammier, but nothing was insufferable. As I said to my companions, "Thank God Sting didn't ruin this Police concert!"

The show was sold out, and the difficulty of purchasing tickets was underscored by the fact that we were in section 524, at the very, very highest level, and only about three rows ahead of the very last row. Check out our AWESOME view here!

Some quick notes on the performance, and I don't have the exact setlist in front of me, so bear with me and my rusty memory:

"Message in a Bottle" and "Synchronicity II" opened the show without a hitch. "Voices Inside My Head" and "When the World is Running Down" both sounded more vibrant and lively than I remember from the albums. "Walking on the Moon" was slow, but that had always been a slower, heavily reggae-influenced song. "ELTSDIM" made me feel all happy and misty, and people were dancing like dorks waaaaay up in the nosebleeds. "Roxanne" also brought the crowd to their feet but sort of lost momentum in the jammy middle. I was thrilled to hear both "The Bed's Too Big Without You" and "Can't Stand Losing You." "Invisible Sun" was moving, as the pictures displayed on the jumbotrons evoked those who are stuck in war-torn regions. "King of Pain" sounded just perfect, and everyone in the ballpark knew the words to "Every Breath You Take," of course. Probably my favorite moment in the concert had to be the final encore, "Next to You," during which Sting and co. were blazing--no middle-aged jazziness, just straight-up (and fast!) rawk.

I would say that the only disappointment of the evening was "Don't Stand So Close To Me," with the chorus slowed down 1986-style. Come on, Sting--put some energy into that one! The best thing about the original version was the almost painful sexual frustration of the narrator. The other major disappointment of the night? That the concert had to ever end.

Sting and Andy Summers may not have been as animated onstage as they were in their 20s, which is to be expected, but Stewart Copeland (Celebrity Crush #76) was unstoppable. The man worked his ass off back there, manning his ginormous drumset, about 7,000 cymbals, and a gong. The crowd definitely appreciated it, and for the most part, we were pretty fired up throughout.

I have long felt that Sting desperately needed Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland to keep him youthful and prevent his self-indulgent tendencies. As much as I'd LOVE for the Police to record at least one other album together, I know that their personal dynamics may make that impossible, and I certainly understand each member's need to be the masters of their own respective universes. On the other hand...

Although from where I was sitting, I couldn't hear a SINGLE WORD Sting said, I could swear at the end of the show he said something like, "Maybe we'll be back soon"? God, I hope so! Give me just *one more* Police show in the next 20 years, and I'd be a happy girl.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Nauseating Celebrity Profiles #1: Marilyn Manson, Spin, June 2007

Slate recently ran a highly amusing article entitled "The Worst Celebrity Profile Ever Written?", regarding a particularly fawning Esquire profile of Angelina Jolie, who was dubbed no less than "the best woman in the world" therein. But the completely besotted author of that article is certainly not alone in giving the rich and famous written blowjobs in national publications, and today we will discuss Jonathan Ames' "Return of the Living Dead," an ass-kissing interview with Marilyn Manson that caused me to nearly lose my tall nonfat Starbucks chai just now. (Spin, June 2007 issue)

First of all, I have to say that maybe Evan Rachel Wood isn't all that bad for Manson. He's looking pretty good in these photos (for him, anyway), and he's working a nice gothemo haircut (kind of My Chemical Romance-y). He's still wearing makeup, but he's not trying to be as purposely fugly these days. Nice job.

I should probably add the disclaimer here that although I think Manson's been kind of an underachiever as of late, I am a fan of much of his work, especially Portrait of an American Family, Antichrist Superstar, and especially Mechanical Animals. To be honest, I was rather relieved that Manson wasn't going to play the role of "I'm so angst-filled that I'm Satan" forever. I've not been terribly impressed by anything he's produced since then (although Golden Age of the Grotesque had some fun ditties), and his most recent video, "Heart-Shaped Glasses," wherein he gets into some very compromising positions with the young Miss Wood REEKS of midlife-crisis desperation. But I'm digressing. My point is, I'm not predisposed to dislike a feature article about Marilyn Manson, but I wouldn't be inclined to suck his metaphorical or actual cock either.

So basically Jonathan Ames hangs out at Marilyn Manson's place, gets drunk and high with Manson despite Ames' misgivings regarding his own "mental problems and mild liver problems," and apparently feels REALLY REALLY cool hanging out with Manson, which he proceeds to tell us all about.

"A few hours later, the sun is up and I pull into a gas station on my way to the airport. As I pay for the gas at the register, I see that amid the display of magazines is a copy of Penthouse with Dita Von Teese on the cover. The coverline reads: SEE WHAT MANSON'S MISSING. This is too strange. I buy Penthouse for the first time in probably 25 years, but I feel a little embarrassed and try to explain my purchase to the cashier, 'I know him. Marilyn Manson.' 'Really?' the cashier responds."

Well, shit, color me impressed.

In this article, we are told that Manson is a romantic, which is his most endearing quality and also that "His face is sweet, and his eyes, without his usual colored contacts, are kindly." So forgive me if I feel like I've stumbled into some Goth edition of Teen Beat. The author also leaves statements from Manson like "people would say that drugs and alcohol wrecked my marriage. But buyer beware," curiously unchallenged. He's too busy getting drunk on absinthe (ooh, scary! atmospheric! probably not as hallucinogenic as Ames thinks!) to ask any provocative questions like, oh, why do you continue to hide behind the makeup? What's the status on this Alice in Wonderland horror pic of yours? Does your nihilism in 2007 make you irrelevant? Why are you letting Evan Rachel Wood commit career suicide by starring with you in what is possibly the worst video ever made? Okay, maybe you don't think these questions are any better than "What are your sexual fetishes?", but I'm not getting paid by Spin to come up with them either.

Fortunately for Ames, Manson manages to come up with a few bon mots (I've always been a fan of his dry humor) and impart some interesting information along the way. Maybe it's because in a former life, he too was a journalist, but Manson truly is the reason that this article doesn't completely suck. For example, we learn that "Whenever someone wants to act like they really know me, they call me Brian. But not even the people I sodomize--and I'm not saying I sodomize Evan--call me Brian." This, after Lars Ulrich approaches him with "Hi, Brian." Hee! Manson also claims that Eminem asked him to sing on his first album, but Manson thought it was too misogynistic. "It was the one about killing his girlfriend and putting her in a trunk. It was on a record I could listen to, but it was too over-the-top for me to associate with. It didn't represent where I was at. First of all, I don't drive. And I wouldn't put a girl in a trunk; that's where I keep other stuff."

Oh, and WTC fans who keep score of these kinds of things? Manson claims he has no beef with Trent, but they don't talk. He also says, "He may be very muscular right now, but I'm a much more dangerous person." Hm.

So yeah, in conclusion, you would think that Marilyn Manson would be the one celebrity you could be a little blase about, but Jonathan Ames doesn't see it that way. After all, when the man you're interviewing exclaims, "I'm your number one fan! I also had a hairbrush put up my ass once!", you know you're talking to someone special.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Exclusive Concert Review #1: Skillet/Flyleaf, 6/25 [snicker, snicker]

Okay, now far be it from me to have a laugh at the expense of my venerable spouse, Mr. Maise, but...BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Over the past few months, he has become an avid fan of Flyleaf, a quasi-gothy, quasi-metal band that is, I have to admit, more melodic than most metal bands he enjoys and rather angsty lyrically. The husband was particularly taken with lead singer Lacey Mosley's high, breathy and occasionally shouty vocal stylings. One evening when he had gotten a wee bit buzzed at Hala Kahiki, our local Polynesian dive bar, he waxed philosophic: "Her voice is like a siren. I would crash my boat into the rocks for it." Um, yeah. Whatever. I, on the other hand, feel that her voice careens on the edge of annoying, but I will admit that she is talented, and I really do appreciate Flyleaf's attempts to write metal songs with catchy hooks, that you might find yourself singing along with despite the fact that it's completely out of your vocal range. Besides, the man has gone halfway around the world to indulge my Nine Inch Nails obsession, so who am I to judge? When I learned that Flyleaf was coming to town, I readily agreed to accompany him. Fortunately our Ro came along as well.

The Flyleaf concert at the House of Blues was originally postponed due to the fact that Ms. Mosley had seriously strained her voice. Which I certainly don't doubt. It hurts my throat to just listen to her! But fortunately, the show was rescheduled and happened to coincide happily with one of Mr. Maise's irregular days off.

We missed the first opening act and had a nice dinner at the House of Blues restaurant. (Note to HOB concertgoers: if you buy an entree from their restaurant, you can get line-jumping privileges. Not that they were needed in this case. The show was well attended but not sold out.) So when we took our place in the upper balcony, Skillet was taking the stage. I don't have a ton to say about them. They're from Kenosha, Wisconsin; they're all relatively good-looking; they have a formidable-looking female drummer; they're REALLY LOUD; and while they aren't terribly offensive musically, it's obvious that Nickelback is a major influence for them. Meh. The husband bought their album because it was $10 and because he is amused by the name Skillet, as it reminds him of the chinchilla-esque character of the same name on "12 oz. Mouse." Interestingly enough, both Skillet and Flyleaf dedicated a portion of their setlist to telling us some pitiful tale of a "girl they know." In Skillet's case, she was a depressed cutter, so they dedicated a song to her and reminded us all that God loves her. Which is quite nice of them.

When Skillet departed, Flyleaf followed about half an hour later, as is customary. Lacey Mosley is a lot shorter than any of us were expecting. The band is quite energetic on stage, jumping off of amps, jumping up and down, etc. They played faithful renditions of the album tracks that, thanks to the spouse, I now know up and down. Lacey spends much of the concert with her arms stretched skyward or on her knees, which made me start to wonder...but more on that in a moment. Their tale of woe involved a young woman who had once been beautiful but was covered in burns and was a victim of domestic violence. Apparently in her despair this young woman set herself on fire but found faith in God because when the pain started to be too much, she went into a coma. Jesus, what a downer of a story! Anyway, a song was dedicated to that girl as well.

So around this time, and the fact that the snippets of lyrics I could discern could totally be about a person's relationship with God as opposed to another person, I leaned over to Ro and asked, "Um, is it just me or are these guys a Christian rock band?" After all, one of their songs, "Cassie" very obviously refers to the disputed story of Cassie Bernall, one of the Columbine victims, who was allegedly killed after replying "Yes" to the question, "Do you believe in God?" (The official investigation concluded that this exchange did not occur.) So, although the VERY IDEA of my completely areligious husband taking me to a Christian rock concert is HILARIOUS to me, I wasn't going to give him any shit about it or comment, but he did ask why Ro and I burst out laughing when Lacey dedicated the last song to Jesus Christ. He looked a little sheepish and said, "Her voice just draws me in," and of course, I totally respect that. [tee hee!]

Not that I have any problem with someone believing in God or expressing their faith. I mean, I am a card-carrying Episcopalian after all. But again, it's the juxtaposition of us being brought to this rather Jesus-y rock concert by a man who normally fervently eschews all of that (a big Marilyn Manson fan back in the day, no less!), that Ro and I found humorous.

Besides, Christian rock and this kind of Creed-influenced quasi-Christian rock is just...dorky. I don't know why that is. Elvis can sing gospel, and it's awesome. U2 can get away with being even more overtly Christian than Flyleaf, and it still rocks. What is it about Christian rock as a genre? me out here. (Oh, and both Flyleaf and Skillet are marketed as both mainstream and Christian artists, btw.) Although I'm sure that both bands are expressing themselves artistically in an authentic, heartfelt Nickleback-y way, Christian rock always leaves one with a sense of being conned...of being proselytized to in a way that they think you will find "cool." Being a veteran of Roman Catholic youth groups, I have been subjected to quite a bit of that "rad" message delivery. Also, Christian rock sets itself up as an alternative to mainstream GODLESS DEVIL MUSIC, in a way that U2 never did.

This HILAROUS and ABSURD snippet really says it all. From "Skillet's Answer to Marilyn Manson":

Marilyn Manson stood on stage, screaming something about Jesus. And it wasn't very nice. To Skillet's John Cooper, who was in the audience, it was downright offensive. "Man, you're just rippin' us off!" John said out loud at the Manson concert.

Since Skillet's music is often compared to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, John, Skillet's lead singer, decided to learn more about these groups. He found that the hype about Manson's message wasn't exaggerated; it was very anti-Christ.
As he watched the audience cheer at Manson's rants, he saw just how powerfully music can impact students—for good or for bad. John knew his band could have that kind of impact too, but with a message of hope.

His experience at that concert led to the song "Rippin' Me Off" on Skillet's recent album, Alien Youth.

I mean...Marilyn Manson????? They're STILL using Marilyn Manson as their boogeyman? PLEASE. He is beyond irrelevant and is more concerned about his girl problems and horror movies that go nowhere these days than with being the Antichrist Superstar. I mean, he's pushing 40! Marilyn Manson???!!!! Plus, it should be pointed out that Skillet sounds nothing like either Manson or NIN. Nothing.

The inability of Christian rockers and their fans to differentiate between a criticism of ORGANIZED RELIGION and God Him/Herself is just...a different topic for a different day. Mainly, Christian rock is dorked out because many Christians continue to believe that they and everything they stand for are constantly under siege and that they can't find messages of hope or love or peace in songs by NINE INCH NAILS (gasp!). There's nothing wrong with writing music with a positive message, but when you condemn angry music and dark music simply for being angry and dark, you're missing the point half the time.

I'm kind of digressing here. But I have to say, Flyleaf isn't particularly egregious in the preaching department. You can listen to their music for months and not realize that they're trying to be the next Creed, lyrically. As the husband apparently did. And as far as I'm concerned, they're a hell of a lot better than Creed. Not that that's saying all that much.

After the show, I asked the husband, "If you had a chance to HYPOTHETICALLY date Lacey, but you would have to regularly attend church, would you do it?" He looked a little torn. "What kind of church?" he asked. "Evangelical!" I gleefully answered. Now he looked really torn. "Well, is it a relationship as I would consider it to be a relationship?" "Yes, you would have sex with her," I replied, rolling my eyes. "Well, sure, I guess," he said.

Lacey and company? You've saved another soul.