This is not a year-end list -- the headline says it all -- herewith, two dozen filmed performances: Gil Scott-Heron, Florence & The Machine at Bonnaroo, Prince Rama, Bootsy Collins, Anna Calvi, Inyang Bassey & Moby, !!!, Capybara, BEAK, The Strokes, Eminem, Best Coast, Idgy Dean, Hanson, Rayland Baxter. I extend my earnest gratitude and warmest year-end wishes to the hard-working artists, managers, publicists, venue production teams and owners who sort things out -- we are partners in endeavors which posterity will look upon with gratitude. As always, ignore all typos.
I'm really dealing in understatement in saying that it's nice when the artist you are most looking forward to hearing at Bonnaroo reminds you why, delivering an epic expression (and a few song premieres) for the very first gig of their US tour. I'd wager they left having gained a lot of heart for the rest of the trip. I don't do lists, but this was really one of my all-time favorite shows, at Bonnarooooooo!, my favorite festival.
The film George Harrison: Living in The Material World which premiered at this year's NYFF does a nice job paying respect to Harrison's lifelong chanting, a practice the uninitiated (me) might view as the mind's screen-saver: perhaps chanting -- and by this I mean (in my case) not sacred texts, but instead whatever serves to keep fluid one's hard-drive space -- offers an additional grasping of, if not grace, then certainly a peaceful sigh that is found in the moments between moments. Prince Rama marry chants with a pastiche of sonic vibes, and attending one of their live exercise classes might not be a bad idea for 2012. At the 49-second mark a moment is stretched into a a few moments between moments, and the drums are heard long after the sound ends, as that's how they were recalled.
INYANG BASSEY & MOBY, NYC
This was technically in 2010, but I'm posting it, since it was just about a year ago - and Bassey's vocal performance is very certainly rewind-worthy...I was invited to film this set during a fundraiser for DJ Spooky's effort to develop part of Mauritania for an artists' retreat. Coincidentally, DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller and I were asked to write liner notes for a re-release of Marshall McLuhan 1967 audio book of sorts The Medium Is The Massage which you can check out at boingboingdotnet
You may notice that each video is partly comprised of scenes from the one preceding...Speaking of which, adapting a perhaps too-dusty lens of history, I kinda see Calvi as one in a long line of New Romantics -- not as in the band The Romantics, who also wore black and red in a video, but instead I mean like the early Sade, who also wore well-draped slacks and blouses. Sade went on to be the biggest breakout from that British post-punk sub-cult, borne of a re-invention which took one as far as a travel brochure and the non-stop rehearsals and digging for exotic sounds and one's imagination -- and yes, one's sense of re-appropriation-slash-re-contextualization, could take them. Calvi's self-declared steez is Flamenco. And none of this would matter if her music weren't worthwhile.
THE STROKES, BONNAROO 2011
I wasn't planning on being at this show, but as I passed the pit en route to another show, it was clear that too much fun was being had. so quickly grabbed a DSLR out of my bag and started clicking away. I don't often use a DSLR and thought I was taking pictures, hence the resultant three minutes of mayhem. Sentimental balloon moment around the 2:00 minute mark. This was a very large and grateful crowd.
BOOTSY COLLINS, BONNAROO 2011
"Shhh I wanna hear the keyboard!", Bootsy hushes the band and the crowd, reading my mind. During soundcheck, unlike others training their lenses on Sean Lennon and Kareem Adbul-Jabbar -- the latter of whom was bespectacled in Bootsy's patented star-burst frames -- I instead watched "The Wizard of Woo", aka Bernie Worrell, who I'd admired since copping my brothers' Parliament and Funkadelic records at age 11 in 'the 70s. And for me, Worrell goes back to my very first Bonnaroo. I've been to the last seven of ten (I was always a C student) and at this first Bonnaroo I was in the pit at the X-Men, aka The X-Ecutioners when I got the most delicious soundbleed form another show I had really wanted to make and which constituted another cosmic scheduling overlap (Praxis or X-Ecutioners.) The version of "Maggot Brain" delivered at that Praxis show by Worrell, Lily Hayden, Buckethead, Bill Laswell, et, al, is worth seeking out online, although the teaser clip that plays is irrelevant to the body of the track.
!!! @ BONNAROO 2011
In addition to !!!'s 2011 set, I'm including an earlier Bonnaroo gig of theirs (below), which remains one-of my all-time favorite sets, anywhere, ever. To my mind -- and you might laugh at this -- they epitomized what a jam band should sound like. I know that sounds weird, but anyone who was at that set will attest to the fact that they were seriously trucking through all kinds of rhythms, from nervy, we-got-the-bus-on-the-road-full-speed-ahead Dead-style windings through Latin percussion and synth grooves, with lotsa straight-up knob-twittled squelchy, dancey, funk-slash-digi-funk. Flavor was added by a hard-working roadie who had been keen to get shit done quickly so he could lively up himself in the pit, which he did, and lead singer Nic Offer feeds off of his energy, initiating a dance-off, as they both bust some earnest moves. Another dude working the gate cracked me up, griping that he'd missed his chance at a beer run because he had to hang back and escort "the fuckin' Olson Twins" in to what M.I.A. dubbed her ",,,last show ever!", which it wasn't, thankfully (MIA rockin the Pistols' colors -- lime and sherb -- in her tribal remix, was another historic show). By way of The Fates adding insult to injury to the Mr. Pissed-off Gatekeeper, when he finally made it to Wal-Mart much later to get beer, he was mocked further by the presence of Olson twins merch everywhere.
!!! @ BONNAROO08
BEST COAST @ BONNAROO 2011
Through dark eyes and a stern brow not unlike Jennifer Jason Leigh's, lead singer Bethany Corsentino looks out at the crowd very little during this number, "When We Wake Up", performed faster and with a muscular, straight-forward fuzz guitar, where the version on the "Summer Forever" EP is a more wan, languorous affair, kinda reminding me at times of The La's "There She Goes"...and this live version has a mild Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation" undercurrent to it. BC's polka-dot Lolita jumpsuit felt apropos (and like a beloved cartoon character, 'name escapes me presently) for a big day at the fair, so I included a big, color slo-mo ferris-wheel shot at the 2:10 mark. I also ran this back in slo-mo, because even though the vocals don't match, it adds interesting drama, not unlike the clip of Beach House at Coachella, which you can also find HERE.
Loretta Lynn's "Fist City" is a fair, but unambiguous warning to a would-be paramour, issued from a scrappy country gal determined to keep her man. The slo-mo floating garbage bag was a perfect accidental moment matching one of the lines in the song, and kinda reminded me of that corny line from the film American Beauty about the sense of wonder a floating garbage bag inspires...They also do "I Want To" from their "Summer" record, which includes "I Thought of You", for which they did a video, borrowing clips from French director Claude Lelouch's film, A Man And A Woman. I interviewed Lelouch on-camera this year, and he discusses how filming some of the very first music videos, known as "Scopitones", informed and saved his directing career, and how important the synergy between music and film is for him. By way of a quick trivia note, Beach House's (not Best Coast's) coltish lead singer Victoria LeGrand is the niece of legendary composer Michel LeGrand. who scored the music for many of Lelouch films, but not A Man And A Woman, which was composed by Francis Lai.
CAPYBARA @ SXSW
Another clip from 2010, but sometimes, it's so nice to instantly fall in love with a song you've never heard before, from a band you don't know, at a premiere party you didn't expect to be at, for a movie you didn't see, even if the rain cuts this, the first time you've had to just relax and have a drink, short. In this case, the band is Capybara, which is my favorite trippy-looking animal at the Bronx Zoo...Which kinda got me thinking about a Bronx Zoo beach hat I wore constantly in college 'til I left it on a freight train I'd hopped during a brilliant field trip. I miss that hat. Anyway, at the 1:13 mark things get positively at-the-drive-in (the place, not the legendary band) via a screen-within-a-screen...
Austin TX's Mohawk is a pretty cool venue -- the entire design of the place (as seen during the freeze-frame at the 2:44 mark) is like an open piano, and as I drank my Scotch it sorta felt like a music box come to life...When I was a kid I used to think that every time I played a record, the band were inside the record player, and so I ended up feeling guilty when I'd play the same song over and over and over, like I had miniaturized slave-labor musicians under my control, not unlike a creepy music biz exec, but I digress.'Nice one. NOTE: For SXSW 2012 Bruce Springsteen has been chosen to make his keynote contribution to Southby's list of incredibly worthwhile addresses -- the last half decade alone saw luminaries Quincey Jones, Todd Rundgren, Smokey Robinson and Bob Geldof share, rare hard-earned wisdom.
SXSXW4JAPAN TELETHON:+ 2011 RAYLAND BAXTER & HANSON
I was invited to film some of SXSW4JAPAN.org's telethon, so I canceled what I had planned for the last day of SXSW and made it over to a little gray corner house about five miles out of Austin to film a few sets. The first performance by Rayland Baxter enveloped me in a "Harvest Moon" kinda feel -- quite fittingly, on a Texas night during which we Earthlings witnessed the largest full moon we've seen in more than 25 years. Hanson, who'd helped to organize the telethon and worked as on-air hosts for the entire 12-hour stretch, performed an impromptu version of "Lean On Me" by the great Bill Withers (see the excellent documentary Still Bill, which debuted at 2010 SXSW Film festival). The SXSW4Japan telethon raised over 100K in 12 hours which is very encouraging and there's still a long way to go. By way of some extra-credit listening you can checkout the "How To Build A Festival" panel I conceived and moderated, featuring panelists Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, Bonnaroo, Moogfest and the Americana Music Association; Marian Goodell from Burning Man, and Daniel Stedman of The L Fest.
BEAK @ BOWERY BALLROOM
EMINEM @ BONNAROO 2011
When the show starts, put your camera on me", this guy tells me -- and I did, and he starts rhyming along with Eminem...he ran out of gas after a verse, but he was on-point for a second, there. Eminem kept going...
How would you react if your opening line-up spot on the the last day of a festival (ESCAPE2NY) got cancelled? Idgy Dean played a tent in a parking lot as if she were Havens opening Woodstock. She was nervous, but the songs she showcased had a lyric bent to them that was inherently rewarding and surprised me way beyond expectations, delivering a nearly miraculous recovery, save for the fact that this was a product of effort, not miracle. I discovered a new artist, and it's always nice when that happens.
R.I.P. Gil SCOTT-HERON
For this fan, during year-end reflection, what was one of many all-time favorite moments from Coachella, this (2010) show -- when Mr. Scott-Heron lamented the loss of life during war, in his hyperpoeticonversationalist near-literalistic, honey-coated grittiness and common-sense moral inscrutability, "Did you hear what they said?" -- is a moment which now, in 2011, has taken on an additional component to its gravitas, which is something you never thought possible, given how beautifully he delivers that meditation. R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron. I've opted to post his performance of "Three Miles Down" a mine's hymn of sorts, which reads like Upton Sinclair. After introducing himself by way of easing into his soundcheck, his eternally conversational voice holding us from the very get, he hit the keys, noting that indeed it was a real piano and not a keyb, subsequently launching into a set during which he traded keyb duties and solo duties with some loving sax, percussion, harmonica, flute...suffice to say, he and the crew to which he joyfully referred several times, delivered a performance which, barely begun, instantly manifested that this was a day when a legend was seriously delivering what you hope for, taking over that very stage where I've witnessed more than a few other sets by legends, including Genesis P. Orridge/Throbbing Gristle and Lynton Kwesi Johnson, all three of these blessed cats turning the hands back on the clock, in the best of ways -- that is to say, whilst also positing and re-affirming their very relevance in the present, making for a triptych of memories on what is my favorite stage (I think it's the same one) at Coachella -- which is saying a lot, insofar as my second favorite stage (and also not the man stage) at Coachella is where I've seen Love & Rockets and Paul Weller -- joined by Johnny Marr, and Johnny Rotten/Lydon/Rotton and Echo & the Bunnymen and Public Enemy, by way of a few quick flashbacks...flashing back a little more, you can read an essay I was write on camping for Coachella, HERE. Safe travels, a serene new year and always pour some out for those not here...R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron. Eternal respect love and thanks from the countless-faceless-voiceless for telling it like it is, and very certainly giving voice, as it were, and beautifully so, and always with just the right amount of authority, and some gorgeous arrangements. Your alarms will continue to be sounded, and so continues the river of language in which you (amongst several key participants in a Hegelian evolution of an art form) dipped your mind, re-channeling a tributary to a sea of language now eternally flourishing, and touching every shore, in fact. NO NUKES NOW R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron. Remember to check for Heron's upcoming memoir. NOTE: I am not a bookseller; this is simply a cultural suggestion.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MADSEN, DIRECTOR, INTO ETERNITY
It is out of respect to Gil Scott-Heron that I am concluding by considering the untenability nuclear energy. INRE nukes, watch this space in 2012.
I had a high fever and was full of antibiotics but I made it to this interview with Michael Madsen, director of Into Eternity. Read my original review of the film HERE