Monday, March 30, 2009
This Saturday the Cannabis reform coalition hosted its annual Battle of the Bands with the grand prize of an opening slot at one Amherst's biggest area events, Extravaganja. The event was held in the auditorium at the Mercy House at began at 6PM when opening act and event MCs Solo Sexx took the main stage to stir up the growing crowd. The group, comprised of two UMass students Julia Sherratt and Heather McCormick who described their act as "a big middle finger to a consumerist, male-driven circle jerk of a hip hop game." The ostentatious duo sported some outrageous outfits including lime green pants and silver jackets while running through songs like "Balle Funk" and "Nursery Grime." Mixing their spit-fire flow with hilarious choruses like the repeated "white people dancing"over thumbing techno beat, served to get people dancing before the start of the show.
Next up was another eclectic local act, Grex. The elaborate collective included acoustic guitarists, bongo players and violinists in a sound mash-up that sounded reminiscent to a less cohesive and more downbeat version to Gogol Bordello's outrageous gypsy punk. Even if the group's sound strayed far from this characterization they certainly looked the part, with most of the band perched indian style on-stage sporting dreadlocks and thrift store tights. The group meandered in and out of control for a bit often spiraling into chanting and drumming that felt meandering and lacked a specific focus. However when the group found its way it proved itself capable of dredging up a head-turning groove.
By now a more than sizable crowd had gathered at the event with many dropping 5 dollars for the "suggested donations" which were then denoted with an accompanying sign bearing the slogan, "strictly enforced." The event was well paced allowing enough time for the crowd to catch some of the lovely summer air between sets, which were filled periodically by local guitarist Damon Reeves who played some impromptu covers.
Next up was one of the highlights of the evening, the eventual winners of the competition Hampshire College's jazz-funk outift, The Bubonic Souls. Easily the largest band of the evening the Souls had not only the standard band combination of guitar, drums and bass but also came equipped with a horn section comprised of a flute player and saxophonist. If the band's sound wasn't enough to turn heads, then the bands sultry lead singer was. However she was not merely eye candy for the band but split time playing lead guitar and taking lead vocal duties on some of the groups songs. Tight, energetic and highly danceable, the band were an easy pick for as one of the leaders out of the gate even despite some of their more lounge act leanings.
The Handsome Truants followed suit, either disproving their name or perhaps proving it by avoiding other obligations. Despite having a tough opening act to follow the group quickly took the stage and whipped the crowd up to its previous frenzy. Consisting of 6 members the collective also includes three UMass grad students who comprised the guitar and drum sections of the band. However by far the most interesting aspect of the band was its enigmatic lead singer who crooned like old-time soul artists over the group's contemporary take on old school rock 'n roll. The songs road hard on their well composed drum beats which gave the crowd a chance to jump up and down and enjoy themselves.
Later acts included the events other winners, local funk outfit Shokazoba and heavy metal rockers Outer Stylie.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The trio of Girlyman put on a show for a packed Iron Horse Friday evening, but it was a real snoozer. If you don't know anything about the band, they are less talented version of Nickel Creek. Girlyman had all the tools in the box to create some commendable harmonies they have recorded on previous albums, but Nate's flat notes were a hinderance to the performance.
Girlyman didn't have any opening acts - this was most likely due to the fact that they enjoyed their stage time far too much. The band told lame jokes about their lives as recording artists. Ty, the percussionist in Girlyman asked the crowd, "Has anybody here ever recorded an album?...I suggest you try it." It was just annoying to listen to them ramble about their lives as musicians.
The band tested out some new material - one of the new songs they played was "Easy Bake Oven." It sounded like everything else they played. They brought a good collection of strings with them, but I didn't stay long enough to hear them play them.
Friday, March 6, 2009
It’s the wee hours of the morning and I just got home from seeing the midnight, or should I say all-night, release of “Watchmen.” If you get chance, definitely go check it out. Just try to ignore the fact that Snyder's interpretation of Nixon has a striking resemblance to Rocky Dennis, and that the movie is nearly three hours long. The movie was made for the big screen, so go see it at some point while it's in theaters.
But, I digress. The only substantial DVD release this week is “Australia,” the extremely long epic staring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. Turns out that the only thing epic about it is how badly it bombed in the box office. I’d stay away from this one if you want your money’s worth. You’ll end up dozing off just like you would watching the Game Show Network all day for free.
One respectable action movie that is worth checking out is “Body of Lies” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. It was actually the #1 rental of the week. I reviewed it, and essentially said that it's not too bad. It’s without question only for those who have a strong stomach, and like a lot of action. It has a pretty involved plot line, so you’ll have to be in the mood to sit down and actually pay attention to it.
If you’re looking for something funny, you have a few solid options in “Zach and Miri Make a Porno” and “Sex Drive.” “Zach and Miri,” if you couldn’t tell by the title, has quite a few umm… visuals that might be a bit much to watch with a new boyfriend or girlfriend or parent. Otherwise, it’s another funny Seth Rogan movie that’s a must see if you’re a fan. “Sex Drive” did pretty poorly in the box office and hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity, but wasn’t received terribly by critics. The consensus of critics on Rottentomatoes.com said that the movie had “some hilarious moments and is well made for a raunchy teen film…” Sounds funny, looks funny, and could prove to be a surprising good rental.
If you’re looking for an older movie to see, how about “Mystic River.” With Sean Penn just recently receiving his second Best Actor Oscar for his work in “Milk,” you should remind yourself of his last award winning performance in a completely polar opposite role. “Mystic River” with it’s all star cast (Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney) is one of the best films of our generation. It touches on so many emotions that it’s nearly impossible to sit still for a moment.
See: “Body of Lies,” “Zach and Miri,” “Sex Drive,” “Mystic River”