Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tribeca Film Festival: Beneath the Harvest Sky

My favorite film of all time is Stand by Me. One of my favorite books of all time is Stephen King's Different Seasons; within that book is the novella, The Body - the story that Stand by Me is based on. When I was going through and making a wish list of films to see this year at the Tribeca, I noticed people comparing Beneath the Harvest Sky to Stand by Me. This was a comparison I did not take lightly.
So first, why is Stand by Me my favorite film? Coming of age films are a popular genre, but I think the genre that impact people the most - there is always something that reminds us of our childhood. I loved the journey the boys went on when I saw it as a teenager. As an adult, of course I can relate to the Gordie Lachance that is narrating the film; going back and reliving a memory of when your life changed forever. And when you were that young, there were moments in life that shifted everything into another orbit completely and it was never the same as you remembered it.
Beneath the Harvest Sky, is directed by  Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly. The story is about friends Dom and Casper (Callan McAuliffe and Emory Cohen) and their existential teenage crisis of sorts while on the potato harvest break in their small Maine town. Muddying those waters more for troubled Casper is his father Clatyon (AidanGillen) who survives by selling prescription drugs. Of notes, is Emma, played by Sarah Sutherland. Her genes will take her far.
While I don't want to spoil the story, I will guarantee you that the writers have creatively worked a Facebook status into a plot line. Between the very real dialogue of high schoolers and anyone of authority, the questions of love and life are sprinkled throughout. The emotions were raw and uncertain, as is anything at that age in your life.
One of the things the film did was bring back a high school memory that I had not thought of since the spring of 1995. Every class had the cool, really hot kid that all girls wanted to hang out with. Befriending him was huge. So while taking full advantage of my freedom from a study hall, he and I walked around the halls chit chatting. Without reason, he basically said, don't look up to me. Don't become me. That isn't you. It wasn't said with a dismissive tone, he almost said it with realization.
This film reflected more of my experience of growing up in Western Pa . The sheer boredom, silly things that only make sense in Pa (instead of Moosefaris, we had snowdrift busting and deer spotting), and the need to bust your butt during your time off to make any money to support your dreams are all apart of this film and memories from my own youth. 
And yes, I can relate this to music. Dustin Hamman is the brilliancy behind the music to this film. I did some very quick research on him and his project RunOnSentence seems like something I need to check out. There is life in his music and it really was perfect for the film. Check out his website
And finally, what is it with Aidan Gillen and adorable animals? (re: this film, Treacle Jr and Sigur Ros videos)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rock and Roll Comes to Brooklyn

Watch out for music. It should come with a health warning. It can be dangerous. It can make you feel so alive, so connected to the people around you, and connected to what you really are inside. And it can make you think that the world should, and could, be a much better place. And just occasionally, it can make you very, very happy. ~ Peter Gabriel

Years ago, I disowned the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their disregard of the fans. The real reason was KISS. A band that inspired so many artists that were already in the Hall was denied again and again. Upon hearing the ceremony would be in Brooklyn, I was slightly jealous. When I heard that KISS was finally going to be inducted - there was not stopping me from going.

Do I still have problems with the Hall? YES! They are like people who have money and buy tickets to shows and talk the entire time because they don't care about the music they are seeing. But I hope that this year is a turning point. This year's induction really was about the fans. And not just the in the audience fans; the show allowed the musicians who were fans to induct their influences into the Hall.

For me, this was truly a lifelong dream. I'd always heard about the Induction, watched it on TV, dreamed of being there. I live and breathe music. Music is my life and I could not imagine a day without it. To be in the same room with bands and artists I grew up listening to and were influenced by is a moment of my life I will never forget.

The show itself was so very tightly scripted as there was no waiting between inductions and performances; if there was we would have been there until 5am. The sound at the Barclays is always great and Thursday night was no different. Special shout out to the technicians and crew for a well orchestrated show.

I knew immediately it was a rock and roll party when I heard this announcement: To get everyone into their seats, the bars will close until 7:05. Thank you, please make your way to your seats.
Brian Epstein and Andrew Long Oldham, managers for the Beatles and The Rolling Stones respectively were inducted first. "Finally somebody to bring the Beatles and the Stones fans together in glorious harmony, "Asher said to the reporters. "The Hatfield and McCoys of rock and Roll."

Without a pause, Peter Gabriel hit the stage with Digging in the Dirt following his video history. Sad not to hear Mercy Street, as that is my favorite song, but I digress.

Chris Martin of Coldplay inducted Peter.  Chris' speech was simply brilliant: I didn't know how to start, so my mom always told me to look to the Bible. I'd like to start by reading from the Book of Genesis ...And Phil Collins said unto him, 'Who are you oh angel?' And the angel replied 'I am Gabriel. I bring you this good news. I am going solo. Ye, shall be the singer of Genesis.' Chris is a genuine fan of Peter's, confirmed by the story of when he listened to Us on cassette while lost in Paris as a young school kid.
There was a general theme of everyone's speeches. Music is happiness, a community, and such a large part of who we are. Peter reflected greatly on what influence music had in his life and on all of us.
Then, we got some more music from him.  Washing of the Water was first and Chris Martin joined Peter in singing it. Talk about the ultimate fan dream. What came next was, I think, on everyone's wish list for the night. In Your Eyes with Yousou N’Dour was possibly the most energetic performance of the night and we were only getting started.

They were the reason I was sitting in the building. This was the band that influenced so many already in the hall. It was beyond time for them to be inducted: 28 Gold records, over 100 million albums sold, and a fan base known simply as the Kiss Army.

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a super Kiss Army fan, was the perfect choice to induct Kiss. His speech was filled with humble reverence for Kiss. The honor to induct them must have been incredible!
What if you had never seen or heard Kiss before? What if you had never heard a note of their music, never viewed a YouTube clip, never seen a reality show featuring any of the members? And what if you wandered into a divey club in your hometown and saw Kiss in all their glory thrashing the place to the ground? One guy belching fire and spraying blood past his gargantuan tongue. A drum riser bursting through the roof. A guitar player so incredible his axe billowed smoke and shot rockets. A frontman flying back and forth across the joint like a superhero Tarzan. All of them in frightening horror movie/comic book superstar,
sexifying kabuki make up. All of them in black and silver warrior bondage gear and 7 inch platform heels. The place blowing up with explosions, screeching with sirens, raining confetti, all to the pounding soundtrack of bareknuckle badass heavy duty liberating rock and roll. What would you say if you saw THAT? You’d say, 'That band’s fucking AWESOME and deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame!!' That’s what you’d say. ~Tom Morello

For the fans, it was nice that the members played nice. Gene Simmons thanked everyone, including Paul Stanley, calling him the brother I never knew I had. It was Paul Stanley that would openly criticize the Hall, [Fans] don't want to be spoon fed by a handful of people choices. The people pay for the tickets, the people buy albums, the people who nominate don't. Let's not forget that these are the people who make it all possible. We just benefit from it.
Cat Stevens
What I like about Cat / Yusuf is that he put fame aside and did what his heart wanted. But, I am selfish and very thankful that he realized how much music and fame was a part of him - and that he could still influence people without sacrificing his principles.

Art Garfunkel was a surprise, but then I realized what great respect he had for his friend Yusuf: The most sincere seeker, a loving man with an ever-expanding embrace, my friend Yusuf Islam, the artist we call Cat Stevens.
Warm and happy applause welcomed Yusuf back into the spotlight. He was humble, gracious and surprised that he actually was standing on the same stage that Kiss was just moments earlier. [He] doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t throw televisions out of hotel rooms and only sleeps with his wife,” Islam said. “I’d say it was a very brave decision — and one which was unexpected and strangely, outrageously rock & roll. Peace. Mid-speech, a man walked to the stage and handed Yusef a glass of water. Making the night even more remarkable, that man was Bill Murray. 
The moment many had waited for had arrived. Cat / Yusuf took the stage and we were transported back to the 1970's. His voice had not changed. The tone of the songs no different from what we all remembered. We were treated to Father and Son, Wild World, and Peace Train.


Linda Ronstadt
My father loved Linda Ronstadt. My father would have LOVED this performance. Glenn Frey inducted Linda into the Hall as a friend of the legend who was unable to attend due to her ongoing battle with Parkinson's Disease. Linda covered so many genres of music over her career, from country-rock, jazz, and even Spanish. Her influence reached many women who would go on to have very successful careers of their own.

Linda Ronstadt recorded 31 albums. She sold over 100 million records and had a career that spanned five decades. She has been a shining example and a true inspiration to every woman who ever stood in front of a microphone and sang her heart out. And through it all, she remains nothing but authentic. You see, Linda lives in a place where art trumps commerce, where self-exploration trumps self-exploitation, where hard work and integrity trump fame and failure. She never wanted to be a star, she just wanted to make good music. ~Glenn Frey

So how do you honor a woman who has influenced so many other women to get out there and work until their dreams are realized? You invite epic talent in the form of five beautiful women with powerful voices and careers to sing Linda's songs. Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crowe, and Stevie Nicks became a super group of female singing legends.

Carrie Underwood: Different Drum
Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris: Blue Bayou
Sheryl Crow: You’re No Good
Stevie Nicks: It’s So Easy
Underwood, Raitt, Harris, Crow, and Nicks: When Will I Be Loved

Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band

Bruce Springsteen had been inducted into the Hall years
before, something that he and Steven Van Zandt still find it difficult to speak about. But Thursday night, Bruce welcomed his band into the hall. And with age comes wisdom and the ability to acknowledge bumps in the road along the way. What also happens is the realization that without the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen may have never happened.

So, real bands — real bands are made primarily from the neighborhood. From a real time and real place that exists for a little while, then changes and is gone forever. They’re made from the same circumstances, the same needs, the same hungers, culture. They’re forged in the search of something more pro
mising than what you were born into. These are the elements, the tools, and these are the people who built the place called E Street...But that is the hallmark of a rock and roll band — the narrative you tell together is bigger than anyone could have told on your own. That’s the Rolling Stones; the Sex Pistols; that’s Bob Marley and the Wailers. That’s James Brown and His Famous Flames. That’s Neil Young and Crazy Horse... I told a story with the E Street Band that was and is bigger than anything I could have told on my own.~ Bruce Springsteen

After some long, but very important speeches, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hit the stage, with the memories of Clarence Clemmons and Dan Federici very near.
We were treated to The E Street Shuffle, The River, and a 16 minute, jam filled Kitty’s Back In Town.


Hall & Oates
It was nothing but love for Philly when Questlove inducted Hall and Oates. He remembered the first time he heard Hall and Oates - She's Gone in 1974. Questlove was another example of fan inducting the musicians that inspired him.

A very anxious Daryl Hall and thankful John Oates quickly thanked family, friends, and Philly.

And speaking of Philadelphia, you know, I did some research, and did you know that we’re the only homegrown Philadelphia band that’s been put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Now, I’m not saying that because I’m proud of it — I’m saying that because it’s fucked up. What happened to Todd Rundgren? The Stylistics? The Delfonics? Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes? Len Barry? Chubby Checker? How about the biggest single in the history of the world? Chubby Checker. Why isn’t he in? You guys tell me. I’m calling everybody out. That’s all I got to say. I wanna go play. ~Daryl Hall
And play they did. She’s Gone, I Can’t Go For That, and You Make My Dreams took us back to the 80's. For me, I Can't Go For That took me back to the days of waiting for Hall and Oates songs on the radio so I could hit record and proceed creating a my magical mixed tape.


While the other bands and artists inducted are so much a part of my childhood, it was Nirvana that musically told the story of who I was at 13. I was angry, sad, lost, didn't want to wear dresses, and very introspective. Bands like Slaughter and Poison were too happy and dying out. Metallica and the Chili Peppers made do with their new albums, but when we all first saw the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, nothing would ever be the same. It was okay to be angry, to hate the system, wear Docs, and do anything that went against the grain of popularity. As I look back, kind of like the hipters, grunge killed itself because the outsiders became insiders. Someone like Kurt Cobain could not accept that, but someone like Dave Grohl could.

Michael Stipe, close friend of Kurt and Frances Bean's godfather, gave a very eloquent speech about what Nirvana was - not who they were, but what they were.

Lyrically exposing our frailty, our frustrations, our shortcomings. Singing of retreat and acceptance over triumphs of an outsider community with such immense possibility, stymied or ignored, but not held down or held back by the stupidity and political pettiness of the times. They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened.
They picked up the mantle in that particular battle, but they were singular, and loud, and melodic, and deeply original. And that voice. That voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you.
Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls; for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied. We were a community, a generation — in Nirvana’s case, several generations — in the echo chamber of that collective howl, and Allen Ginsberg would have been very proud, here. ~ Michael Stipe

Dave, Krist, Courtney Love and Kurt's mother took the stage to overwhelming applause. Most of us waited to see what Courtney would do. Dave thanked the drummers who came before him and the punk music that drove him to do what he loved. He also thanked his family and gave advice to those who look up to artists such as himself:

Most of all, I have to thank my family because I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family and in an environment that encouraged music. Parents that never told me not to listen to fucking Slayer, you know what I mean? I listened to some really, really fucked-up shit! But my parents never told me not to, because I was finding myself. So Mom — thanks. Thanks for letting me drop out of high school [laughs, points at trophy]. Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs — it’s a bad idea.
I have to thank my beautiful wife, Jordyn, and my two daughters, who I hope grow up to inspire people just like every musician I grew up inspired by. Because I think that’s the deal — you look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, "Fuck, I can never do that." Look at the poster on your wall and think, "Fuck, I’m going to do that!"
Krist Novaselic and Wendy Cobain both reflected on Kurt. Very touching to see how much one man can influence so many.
And Courtney threw her speech away and hugged Dave. I hope it was real - for Kurt's sake.


And to end the night, a spectacular trip into Nirvana history with four wonderful women fronting Nirvana: Joan Jett (Smells Like Teen Spirit), Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon (Aneurysm), St. Vincent's Annie Clark (Lithium), and Lorde (All Apologies).  All three choices were absolutely perfect, Lorde especially. I truly feel Lorde embodies the same anti-establishment that Kurt did. I also hope that she overcomes the urge to fight it and overcome it gracefully because she does have a great career ahead of her.

 I could not have imagined a more perfect night. I hope that it is only the beginning for the Hall to begin to listen. They need to listen to the Dave Grohl's of the world. He is saving rock and roll, literally and figuratively. He gets it. He was a fan turned musician, but he's still a fan. Those people that Paul Stanley referred to don't get it. They don't know what it's like to pay money for partial view seats, to sit outside a park and listen to the show, to buy bootleg obscure versions of a song you've heard a thousand times-but you just haven't heard that one version.

You know I have my wish list of who I want to see inducted - so here we go: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Alice in Chains (eligible in 2015), TRex, Lou Reed, Warren Zevon, the B-52's, Motely Crue, Dire Straits,  Sugarhill Gang, Deep Purple, Chicago, The Cure, Depeche Mode ... you get it. I believe that the fans and the musicians should get the vote. Kiss, the Stylistics, and Chubby Checker influenced artists. They pioneered their craft. Those are the ones who deserve to be in the Hall.

I feel incredible blessed and fortunate to have been able to attend what felt like a family affair. Music lovers speak the same language, finish each other's sentences, and can understand music as if it is an extension of their own soul. It is a beautiful thing and I cannot agree with Peter Gabriel more: It can make you feel so alive, so connected to the people around you, and connected to what you really are inside.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wilkommen Back to Cabaret

[Fraulein Kost has been caught sneaking sailors out of her room]
 All day, sailors in, out, in, out. God only knows what the neighbors think I run--a BATTLESHIP? --Fraulein Schneider

Sixteen years ago, I discovered the Kit Kat Club. I had my first glimpse at the revival during the 1998 Tony Awards. While many went crazy over Lion King, I wanted to know what was this burlesque-like, seedy world that a scantily glad Emcee and dancers lured me to. CD purchased and tickets bought, I felt like an understudy to every character in the show. I watched the movie and fell in love and in sadness with the characters. I could not wait to meet Sally Bowles and the Emcee.

A little background on the show itself. Cabaret takes place in a nightclub in Berlin in the 1930's. It's a time of confusion as the Nazi party is beginning to have more power around the country.

Along with the lovable, dark, and sensual Emcee, there is the sad character of Sally Bowles, a London-born Cabaret entertainer. Enter Clifford Bradshaw, American writer, looking for inspiration in Berlin, running from the truth of his feelings. There is the budding romance between Jewish fruit shop owner, Herr Schultz and boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider.
It's a story of love, loss, and the end of innocence.

Sixteen years ago, I saw Cabaret with Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson. I was awestruck. It was even more perfect than I imagined. There was so much chemistry on stage between the actors.

Sixteen years later, when I heard Alan would be back in his role at Studio 54, I was not going to miss the opportunity. To see an actor reprise a role after so many years is like, well, running  through a field of grain and then drinking the whiskey it produced years later. It's full of experience, waiting, being stepped on, and loved. Sadly, this reprisal would be about loss as well, as his original Sally had passed. But Sally's role would be filled by someone who could understand Sally, Michelle Williams.

With sixteen years of life behind me as well, I wondered how I would react, things in the show that once meant nothing to me, now would mean the world or have some significant reaction that my once young self would not understand.
After having a very busy three weeks at work, I decided that, since I am not a teenager, Miss Paula would have an adult dinner. I literally stumbled upon Gato, Bobby Flay's new Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on Lafayette Street in NoHo. I could have survived on just smelling the food. The wait staff was honest and very friendly. Do yourself a favor, treat yourself to this place. I've been to Bobby's other restaurants and Gato blows them all away. It's a sensory experience between the food, the gorgeously renovated space, and the people that come and go. It took me a few times to realize that the seat I was in sat directly in front of the kitchen. So the entire time, my back was to Bobby Flay as people would pass by and awkwardly say, there is he in blue, go get your mother. I would have loved to raise my glass of Nero D'Avola Cusumano to him for my heavenly 11 Layer potato with sage, white chicory salad, and halibut with saffron-tomato broth and couscous. There was no room for dessert.
Onwards toward my date with my past, I so happily passed paths with some friends from my husband's old firehouse. It was so nice to see you all Ladder 4!!!
It was definitely like facing yourself in the mirror. I thought about how young I was when I first sat in the sit at The Kit Kat Club. When those lights went out and I hear those first few notes and then Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!
 Chills, memories, tears. It was perfect beyond perfection. First, Alan Cumming was not the young Emcee, what he gave to the performance was years of life experience. His young persona of 1998 was replaced by more of a enigmatic, omnipresent shadow watching every move of the characters.
Michelle Williams,  in her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles was stunning and brilliant. She made Sally into her own sad character. Her play off of my new Broadway crush, Bill Heck as Clifford Bradshaw was magnificent. Her blasé attitude towards anything political or permanent was in contrast to Cliff's inner struggle with his sexuality, hatred toward the political situation around him, and loss of the slight glimpse of hope of a future with Sally.
Frauline Schneider and Herr Schultz, played by Linda Emond and Danny Burnstein, were simply perfectly magnificent in their roles. Their parts were politically impacted as Herr Schulz is a Jewish man who wishes to marry German Frauline Schneider. The world became filled with very raw emotion and sadness as the once happy cabaret world around them crumbled.

I walked away loving Cabaret even more. It is a show that is timeless as it does capture something so very real about our world. It captures something we all want: freedom. Freedom to be sexual. Freedom to be in love. Freedom to be who we are. It also captures the sad time of our world where so many lost their freedoms because of who they were, how they worshipped, and who they loved.  


Friday, April 4, 2014

I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people.

For example when we're back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins., it doesn't affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can't fool you, any one of you. It simply isn't fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage. I've tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do,God, believe me I do, but it's not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they're gone. I'm too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child. 
excerpt from Kurt Cobain's  suicide letter 1994
I am sure that most my age remember where you were when you heard the news. It was the day the music died for us. April 8th, 1994 will be forever remembered for me as standing in my neighbor's laundry room hearing that Kurt had died three days earlier from his own demons and guilt that he wasn't enjoying his life as much as he should. Kurt Cobain was 27.
Born in 1967 in a town he would grow to hate, his parent's divorce shaped the angst-ridden, gifted artist very early on in life. 1991 introduced us to Seattle grunge. Being a middle school student full of confusion, angst, and happy that the fall's newest fashion would be Washington State flannel, ripped jeans and boots, Nirvana ushered in for us the music of how we felt. Nirvana, along with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam made it okay to feel sad, angry, resentful, and introspective.
But besides being a gifted, lyricist, Cobain's musical talent was not noticed by most. While it seemed like he was yelling out his words without a care, Kurt Cobain had almost perfect pitch. Nirvana only released three studio albums, it would be their set at 1993's MTV Unplugged that showed their true artistry.  Kurt's odd request of stargazer lilies and black candles like a funeral was an eerie premonition from this soon to be mythic music legend.

The truth is, whatever you believe, it was Courtney's jealousy, a conspiracy, Kurt has his problems. Be it addiction or issues with his mental health. He was also dealing what he probably felt was being a hypocrite. He wrote his music and played in his band to rebel against the system, to rebel against the cool ones. In 1994, Kurt was being emulated, elevated, and compared to artists that he did not feel he was good enough to be compared to. He didn't want to sell out. He in fact fought with Eddie Vedder over that simple fact. You're famous, you sold out. Today, this is what Eddie Vedder has to say about that:
I don’t talk too much about him in respect to Krist (Novoselic) and Dave (Grohl) and I know he said that early stuff about not liking us,” Vedder added. “But there’s a couple of complimentary things that he said in public about me as a human being, which I’m proud exist. But if Kurt were around today, I know he’d say to me, ‘Well, you turned out OK.’ 2009 The Sun
Kurt, I believe, was too vulnerable and sensitive to be who he was. Sadly, that is what made him Kurt. And for Kurt, it was better to burn out that to fade away.
When Nirvana was on the rise, Metallica sent them a fax that read: “We really dig Nirvana. Nevermind is the best album of the year. Let’s get together soon, Metallica. PS, Lars hates the band.”