Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Neverending Workout

I don't exercise much these days, but when I do, I enjoy listening to my iPod. I like setting it on "shuffle" and seeing which of my 5,886 songs comes on next. When I'm especially bored, I try to think of reasons why one song is linked to the next. Sort of like playing a rock and roll Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Last night, I wasn't actually planning on working out. I was merely taking a short walk after dinner. Then - I hit play on my iPod. The Breeders "Little Fury". Great song on an underrated record. I started to imagine what song would come up next. Guided By Voices. An obscure song from one of their earlier records. Easy to connect. Kim Deal from The Breeders was romantically linked to GBV, and had even produced them. Kim Deal and Bob Pollard recorded a duet together, and both bands covered each other live.

Most importantly to this story, however, was that I'd seen both bands live. Several times, in fact.
Next came the Clash. "All The Young Punks". Now, I'm sure I could have come up with a better link to the GBV song, but I settled for them both being bands I'd seen live. Up next was the Ramones "Rock and Roll High School" followed by Frank Black's "Farewell Bend". I could think of clever connections for all these songs, but now I was sort of becoming impressed with myself. I have hundreds of albums on my iPod. The fact that I'd seen all of these bands live was kind of cool.

As I headed back towards my house, I decided to not stop working out until my iPod played me a song by someone I had never seen live.

Jeff Tweedy, Jane's Addiction, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Pj Harvey. Not only had I seen every one of these live, I don't think there was anyone on this list I'd seen less than five times! (If you count Joe Strummer in lieu of The Clash)

As I got back to my house, I realized I was gonna have to get on the exercise bike.

The first song I heard as I pedaled was Mission of Burma covering the Stooges "1970". Ha! I's seen MoB and The Stooges! Then came Stevie Wonder. I slowed down for a second. I had never seen Stevie Wonder in concert. Could it be? Was I done? Then I remembered... Stevie Wonder performed at the TV Land Awards a few years ago. It wasn't a full concert, but I had seen him perform live! I continued to pedal.

Another Neil Young song. The Pixies. GBV. Beck. Mission of Burma, again. Elvis Costello.

At this point, I was starting to become really tired. My knees hurt. My back was sore. I couldn't remember the last time I sweated this much. I began to think about giving up. This was becoming perverse. But it would be such a copout to quit now.

The Sex Pistols "Liar". The Ramones "I Don't Care". This song is only a minute and a half. I can make it through this song. I decided that I would go on until my iPod played a song by a band I've never seen OR when it played a song by someone it had already played. Something had to give.

The Shins. The Who. Would I ever hear a song by a band I hadn't seen? Mudhoney. Cat Power. And then...

Guided By Voices. Finally. Based on the new rules of the game, I could stop.

20 bands. 25 songs. Nearly an hour and a half of exercise.

Of course, when I exercise again, my iPod will pick up where it left off, and this maddening game will continue. I don't know about you, but an hour on an exercise bike is hard. Why did I have to like music so much?!


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bright Side of the Moon

Wednesday night we saw Roger Waters at the Hollywood Bowl. The sold out concert was packed with middle aged overweight white people.

As we were making our way up Highland, we saw a guy playing Pink Floyd songs on his guitar for handouts. As we passed him, sombody ran up and threw him the coolest tip ever... a ticket for that night's show!

As I expected, besides sounding great, the show was very visual. The band played in front of a huge screen that totally enhanced the experience. They opened with "In The Flesh" and "Mother" fron The Wall, and then went into a surprisingly current sounding "Set the Controls For The Heart of the Sun". It dawned on me that the song wouldn't have sounded out of place on one of the later "experimental" Radiohead albums.

A few tracks from Wish You Were Here were followed up by a track from Animals, and a few from The Final Cut. Of course, the giant inflatable pig was released over the crowd. It's been given a makeover - covered with anti-Bush graffitti. The first set ended with some solo song I didn't really know, and a new song called "Leaving Beirut". I was impressed with how Waters made a lot of his songs feel relevent to what's going on in the world today. He's written a lot of songs about World War II, but he could have been singing about Iraq. The punks are dropping the ball. It seems the angriest, most vocal, political, anti-war music I've heard has come from old fogeys and other unexpected places: Roger Waters, CSNY, The Dixie Chicks! Come on kids!

The second set was comprised of Dark Side of the Moon in it's entirety. I think when I saw Pink Floyd (without Waters) in the early 90's, they did the same exact thing. Nonetheless, it is a great, if not overplayed, piece of music. The band was spot-on. The lead guitar player was kind of a cheesy rock dude, but he nailed Gilmour's parts. The solos were identical to the records. A few of the people in the band took turns singing Gilmour's vocal parts, which sounded okay, but seemed pretty cheesy.

For some reason, it was real smokey inside the concert... Ha! I bet you could smell the Bowl from Orange County.
For the encores, the band did five more songs from The Wall - including, oddly, "Vera" and "Bring The Boys Back Home". During the latter, the guy behind us suddenly got real excited and started "singing" at the top of his lungs. He was losing his voice by the third line, he was screaming so enthusiastically. Around the same moment, a guy next to us starting playing air guitar like his life depended on it. It was a perfect end to a a very fun evening.

- H

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brand on the Brain!

Last night we went to the Egyptian for a screening of Guy Maddin's new film "Brand on the Brain!". Billed as a "live cinematic spectacular", I can only attest that it was a truly inspiring theatrical experience - A black and white silent film accompanied by a live 11 piece orchestra, live foley artists, a Castrato, and a live "celebrity" narrator.

Previous showings in other cities featured celbrity narrators as diverse as Isabella Rossellini, Lou Reed, Eli Wallach, Crispin Glover, and John Ashbury.

Before the screening, we spoke with a lady who had walked out of the 7:30 screening. She was complaining that the narrator was just awful. Way too campy. (Her narrator was the guy who wrote Lemony Snicket) Lucky for us, our celebrity narrator was none other than bass legend and compadre Mike Watt.

Watt's narration was tasteful, sensitive, and sincere. If you're familiar with Mike, you know he has a distinct voice - a bassy rumble with a sailor twang. It was perfect for the film, and I can see how an incredibly campy performance could have ruined the experience.

The film itself is spectacular; an incredibly unique, surreal, expressionist fever-dream autobiography that warrants repeat viewings.

"Brand on the Brain!" has been extended through Monday night. Udo Kier narrates tonight at 7:30, Barbara Steele narrates tomorrow night. Starting next week, the film will continue to run, but with a pre-recorded soundtrack featuring narration by Isabella Rossellini. Tickets are available here.
- H

Monday, June 4, 2007

Meet Me At The Smoke House

I'm finally emerging from inside the black hole that is television production, and I am once again ready to eat, drink, and be merry. One of my favorite places to participate in the aforementioned activites is The Smoke House in Burbank.

The refined, old-school hangout has been a Hollywood favorite since they opened in 1946. Their Sunday Brunch is classic.
Me and Gina made plans a long time ago to go there with my family last Sunday. Right after we made the plan, a good friend of ours sent us an email inviting us there the same day for his birthday brunch! So, we ended up getting there at 11, eating with my family, then moving over to our friends table to eat and drink more!

The Smoke House is famous for their Cheese-Bread. Someone who used to work there once revealed the secret ingredient to me... Kraft Macaroni & Cheese powder.
To prove to you how disgusting I am, here is a picture of my first plate:

List of items on first plate: Fried chicken drumstick; Italian sausage; scrambled eggs; potatoes with onions and peppers; tomato, Buffalo mozzarella, and basil; oyster; smoked salmon; asparagus; peel and eat shrimp; an enchilada; cheese bread; and - my favorite - BACON!

List of items on second plate: oyster; salmon; Mexican Churros*; Belgian Waffle; Strawberry crepe; and more BACON!

*The restaurant had a sign referring to the churros as Mexican Churros. I was pretty sure they weren't French Canadian Churros, but I'm glad they clarified.
I ate a lot more food, but I was too full to physically lift a camera and photograph the plates for posterity. Trust me, it was ridiculous.

For those of you who may not be convinced of my love of bacon, that there's a picture of my wallet. My bacon wallet. That's right. My bacon wallet.

Stop smirking Clooney. You know you love my bacon wallet.