Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rest in Peace, Patrick Swayze...

Hey everyone, sad celebrity news. I'm sure you've all heard it by now, but Patrick Swayze passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. From all accounts, he was a super-nice guy, so let's relive our junior high days and have a Patrick Swayze retrospective, shall we?

(That's the best version I could find of the SNL "Chippendales" skit)

And the tearjerker clip:

Any other favorite Patrick Swayze moments?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long Overdue Lollapalooza Review--Day 1

Okay, so here's what we decided to do. You see, folks, Iris has some important stuff going on in real life that is preventing her from slaving away on pics and videos. So for a while, we'll have pics and video in separate posts, just so we can let you know what all went on at Lollapalooza and NIN. This way, I can write it all up before I forget everything that happened, and I don't have to feel like a jerk asking Iris about the AV stuff. She'll get to it when she gets to it.

The disadvantage of not doing this "live blogging" style is that now I have to try to remember all sorts of details from about a month ago. Unfortunately, there was no large air conditioned, AT&T-sponsored tent with computers this year, and because I am old, I was too exhausted upon returning home each night to write anything up. But I shall do my best with my fading memories.

So, Day One. A poncho was a must because for the first time since I started attending Lollapalooza, it rained on us just about all day. However, Friday had my favorite lineup of the entire weekend, so we weren't about to let a little rain stop us. On a side note, I really think they need some sort of rule prohibiting umbrellas. They did nothing to enhance the view, and people are never good at walking in large crowds with umbrellas. Someone is bound to gouge out an eye. Ponchos are much safer (if not terribly fashion-forward) and do not obstruct views of the stage or screens.

We made it to Grant Park just in time to catch The Builders and the Butchers' set. I was instantly converted to this band when we saw them opening for Amanda Palmer, and I was certainly not disappointed here. I've described them before as Flogging Molly meets Modest Mouse. They've also been compared to Tom Waites. They boast an impressive array of obscure folk instruments, and their themes are generally dark. When I listen to their music, I get a somewhat eerie feeling, like when I'm driving in some deep backwoods area at night, and it feels like just about anything could jump out at me--deer, bear, werewolves, crazed rednecks. At the same time, their music grabs you immediately; these are not the kind of songs you have to "get used to" or know the lyrics to in order to appreciate. Their music is melodic, beautiful, primal. When they have two drummers flailing against their instruments at the same time, there is something ancient and uncivilized in me that responds. I feel at home in the strange country landscapes that they create, where branches are like arms and hands are like gnarled roots.

I bought their album, "Salvation is a Deep Dark Well," and if you ever take my advice about anything, buy this album. Especially if you're road-tripping out in the woods before summer dies. The song "Vampire Lake" is probably my favorite on this album, and it was my favorite at the show. It totally sounds like the perfect song to play over the closing credits of an episode of True Blood. (I have so many awesome ideas for that show, I know.)

I'm probably not going to get that lyrical over every band I describe, so don't get too worked up now.

While we were getting some food, we happened to catch a tiny bit of The Gaslight Anthem's set. This was a band that my husband had wanted to see (but he unfortunately was scheduled to work on Day 1 of Lolla). In addition, their set began about halfway through The Builders and the Butchers, so there was no way we could have seen enough of them to appreciate them. But listening to them in the background, I had two thoughts: 1) Who invited the Cure this year? and 2) I like what I'm hearing so far. So they will have to be a band that I explore further.

While waiting for Ben Folds, we listened to Bon Iver for a while. A lot longer than I ever would have wanted to. Now there's a certain style of indie music that I just can't deal with. Fine, grow a beard and play folk music if that's what you're called to do, but for God's sake, make it interesting. I'm no expert on this guy's music, but it was a lot of acoustic, falsetto warbling. According to Wikipedia, his latest album was written after he spent three months in isolation in some cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. And what we heard is exactly what you would imagine would be produced by someone going slowly insane in the middle of nowhere. Not like, "shrieking and running naked in the woods" insane. More like "melancholy staring out the window from the bed you haven't left in 12 days" insane. I dunno, I'm sure it's all very intelligent and thoughtful and heart-rending if you pay attention to the lyrics, but that's more attention than I'll ever devote to a guy with an acoustic guitar and a beard singing in falsetto.

Ben Folds was next! He still has quite the devoted fanbase, as this was probably the only show of the day where I felt uncomfortably hemmed in by the crowd and suggested to the group that we move back a bit. I was a big fan of the Ben Folds Five breakout hit album, Whatever and Ever Amen, with its witty lyrics and Gen-X angst--so perfect for me in that stage of my college career. After that, I kind of lost touch for some unknown reason, although I did happen to catch him live at the Guiness Oyster Fest one year, and since he spent a lot of time playing slow, ponderous tunes that night, I figured that his career was kind of heading in that direction. If you goth and punk cabaret kids aren't familiar with Ben Folds, you might know him as the producer of Amanda Palmer's solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, and I feel as though his influence is particularly strong on a song like "Astronaut"--big, crashing piano with a touch of heartbreak.

I am pleased to announce that Ben Folds kept his Lolla set up-tempo. It's really the only way to go if you're playing a large outdoor festival, where all the kiddies are on drugs, and everyone is sweaty and gross (or drenched with rain), and people are generally coming and going throughout the performance. I was happy to hear "Rockin' the Suburbs" and "Kate," an old favorite, although I would have paid him cash money to play "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," as I always felt it was rather a personal anthem for me.

We took a bit of a break after Ben Folds, having a nice sit on a wet bench in front of Buckingham Fountain and doing some people-watching, but we headed back to the north side of Grant Park for a bit of the Decemberists. People who talk about these sorts of things on the Internets were wondering aloud whether the Decemberists would play their latest concept album, "The Hazards of Love" in its entirety. I guess they did, but we didn't stick around for the whole performance. It's not that I don't like the music, but it really wasn't the best venue for long, flowing dresses and quiet songs about "My love rode off into the woods today," or whatever the hell they were singing about. I once read the Wikipedia entry for this album to try to understand what the whole "story" of it was, and you can find that information here, but this is how I explained it to my companions: "Um, so there's like this woman, and she's riding off in the woods, and she falls in love with some elf or demon guy or whatever, and he's got a mother who's magical, and then the girl gets kidnapped by this evil guy...uh..." So, yeah, I'm kind of torn on it all. The music is much catchier than you would think, especially "The Rake's Song," which is rather disturbing, but it still is pretty pretentious. But at the same time, you have to give Colin Meloy credit for doing something very different from the mainstream. It was not engaging us at all during Lolla, unfortunately, and I think the music started to pick up in general as we were on the way out, but by that time, we were heading to the other side of the park for Of Montreal.

Oh God, what to say about Of Montreal without sounding like the world's crankiest old fogey...hmm.

Musically, I have no objection; pleasingly, they remind me of the Scissor Sisters. So you know, upbeat, oonce-oonce, good to dance to, good for outdoor music festivals where all the kiddies are on drugs, and everyone is sweaty and gross (or drenched with rain), and people are generally coming and going throughout the performance. Except the stage show...dear Lord. I couldn't really see it all very well from my vantage point, but it involved unnerving animation on the screen, approximately 5,000 people onstage in all sorts of costumes, ranging from alien heads to one-armed, one-legged unitard things. Were there people dressed as nuns and gorillas? I don't remember, but there might as well have been. Oh, who am I to piss on someone's enjoyable acid trip? I'm just a miserable goth at heart, so I just feel that sometimes, a LOT less is more. I do want to give Of Montreal credit, however, for ending on time, which is more than I can say for certain OTHER acts on subsequent days, but we'll get to that later.

Fortunately, it was at this point that the rain FINALLY stopped, and I felt brave enough to remove my poncho (as I had superstitiously felt during any other break in the precipitation that if I took off the poncho, I would bring on a torrential downpour and electrical storm that would shut everything down). It had been a long, rain-soaked day, but we were all eagerly awaiting Depeche Mode (well, I don't know how "eager" Mr. Iris was to see Depeche Mode, but I'm sure he was certainly eager to bring this soggy day to a close). Barring any sudden catastrophe, it looked as though the Ro Curse would finally be broken! And, shockingly, they took the stage, right on time, and Ro finally had the chance to see one of her favorite bands of all time. Well, Depeche Mode should be among everyone's favorite bands of all time, right? I've spent quite a bit of this summer listening to the old hits as well as the new album. There's something about Depeche Mode that speaks to my personal life situation as I savor my 30s--the yearning for pure love coupled with a certain knowing cynicism. Not believing in the fairy tale is not the same as not wanting the fairy tale; Martin Gore knows that, and that's what has always made Depeche Mode so resonant and heartbreaking.

The Setlist (a respectable collection of new songs and greatest hits...most likely much shorter than on other stops of their tour because at Lolla, the plug gets pulled on *everything* at 10:00 p.m.):

In Chains
Hole to Feed
Walking in My Shoes
It's No Good
A Question of Time
Fly on the Windscreen
Come Back
Policy of Truth
In Your Room
I Feel You
Enjoy the Silence
Never Let Me Down Again
Personal Jesus

So, if you like the new album, then you'll probably think they started off strong with "In Chains" and "Wrong." (The only problem with "Wrong" is that the beginning always reminds me of the SNL parody of The McLaughlin Group)

"Hole to Feed," eh. I really would much rather have heard "In Sympathy," my favorite song from Sounds of the Universe. But at least it's better than "Peace," with the gayest of all gay DM lyrics: "It's an INEVITABILITY!!!!" That line snaps me out of whatever musical trance I happen to be in, as I think, "Ugh." Probably the most pleasant surprise of the evening was "Come Back," which was truly hypnotic, especially with the deep space imagery, although it also kind of resembles that old "Starfield" screensaver.

I certainly can't take issue with any of their other selections, although I missed "Master and Servant," "Somebody," "A Pain that I'm Used to," "A Question of Lust," "Shake the Disease," "It's No Good," "Everything Counts,"--oh, who am I kidding? I'd really have loved to see the show go on for two more hours than it did.

Dave Gahan's voice seemed a little strained and off-key, but hell, with tumors and gastrointestinal problems and leg injuries, I'm just happy he was alive and able to take the stage. Of course, he did his skeevy sexy dancing and strip show. To those who say tattoos look gross when one reaches a certain age, you couldn't prove it with Dave Gahan's upper body...yum! He wanted the crowd to do a lot of his singing for him, which is fine if he's asking us to do the chorus of "Enjoy the Silence," but he really should keep in mind that most Lolla attendees weren't even twinkles in their parents' respective eyes when "A Question of Time" came out.

Martin Gore looked fetching in a shiny silver suit and sounded pitch perfect on "Home." I wish we could have had more of those moments...what a gorgeous, gorgeous mind and voice that man has.

The highlight of the evening was "Enjoy the Silence" for me, which may not be obscure enough for some diehard Depeche Mode fans, but that song taught me at the tender age of 14 that music can make you feel funny...down there. The lyrics represented everything that I ever wanted a lover to say to me, but of course, it's so fucking romantic, it would never happen in real life, with a real average guy, if he had to come up with it on his own. The disappointment of reality is never denied, but the dream isn't surrendered. That's Depeche Mode in a nutshell for me.

And that's Day 1 of Lolla. More to come!