May 28, 2012

Somerville Scout (May/June)

Sickert & The Toys in comic book form.  Illustration by Sickert.
Inventing Armageddon: Playing Dead with Walter Sickert & The Army Of Broken Toys ("Somerville Scout", May/June 2012, No. 15)
     How many ways can a guitar player look dead? Do they lie slouched with eyes crossed and an unresponsive tongue? Do they stand stiff, the guitar dangling, or do they fall draped and melting over the instrument?
     These were the important questions asked and tossed about during rehearsals for the post-apocalyptic stage play 28 Seeds, featuring steamcrunk collectiveWalter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. The production – a collaboration with Boston theatre troupe Liars & Believers – was described by Sickert as War of the Worlds meets Rocky Horror Picture Show. So, aliens and cross dressers? We’ll have to see. [CONTINUE]

May 27, 2012

NBA PLAYOFFS: Boston Celtics

          Now my biases will really spread to the surface. There has been no team more exciting to watch than the Boston Celtics in these playoffs, and no series more adrenalized than the Eastern Semi-Finals, which the Celtics took from the Philadelphia 76ers last night in Game 7. But let us not kid ourselves: it was always theirs for the taking. A hard-fought, panting battle with a team sure to implant themselves in the playoffs for years to come, it was Age & Experience vs. Youth & Excitement; but, in the end, it was a cherished victory written in green.
          Not only was the game streaming to me live online, but so was the suffocating fatigue of the Celtics. I could smell the old. But in the face of it, it’s the old, the experience, the cohesion that has kept this team pummeling through the post-season. I’ve got love for the 76ers, but this is not a changing of the guards. This is a lasting blast of grit in the eye of competition. KG was looking tired, almost dropping and sinking through the earth, bringing planks of TD Garden hardwood with him. Ray Allen’s ankles were smoldering, keeping him gated. With about five minutes left in the game Paul Pierce fouled out in a play that could’ve fully switched momentum towards the 76ers, but, as he begrudgingly took a seat on the bench, it was Rajon Rondo, the real star, who put Gang Green on his back.
          When the 76ers backed off him to clog the paint, Rondo held on to the ball and put two clean three-pointers in the hoop with the shot clock running down. He saw the KG screens setting Allen free and set him up for two three-pointers, causing a rumbling sigh of relief to blanket the city. Allen had been cold the whole series, battling injury and regaining his starting status only because Avery Bradley went down with a busted shoulder. Rondo was the magic man, the deliverer, the gift-giver, the shaman. He injects his team with an energy serum when they need it most. Oh and by the way, last night he fell into a category previously occupied by only Larry Bird: Celtics players with triple-doubles in Game 7. History reforms.
          Now we get what we’ve wanted this whole time: The Miami Heat. In just about every game during the season, the Celtics ran through the Heat like hot sauce and ice cream runs through your grandfather. The Heat have a Bosh-sized hole they’ve been trying to cram with wads of Turiafs and Anthonys and I don’t see it working. I’ll take your two superstars and raise you another two. Let’s battle.

May 24, 2012

My Cringingly Belated Gargamellian Recount of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival—Weekend 2: April 20—22, 2012; Indio, California, U.S.A.

“Reality is like gravity: It’s almost impossible to escape” – unknown
Thursday, April 19, 2012
   Through the Sonoran in a sun-singed Nissan; ending up on a manicured lawn with tents all around…
           Friday, April 20, 2012
   The first act I saw full complete songs from was Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong [5:10—6 p.m.]. Cliff’s smile was bigger than the hi-def Panasonic screens that went blurry in the sun. He swished around the stage in his Jamaica-colored clothing and looked happy as a clam up there. Armstrong and the band kept up a sturdy backbeat and everyone rolled [omit] when they started “I Can See Clearly Now.” After that I wandered distractedly, forgetting all about GIRLS [5:40—6:30 p.m.]. Luckily I snuck into the crowd just in time to hear the midnight creeper, “Vomit.” The back-up singers sailed away at the end. Arctic Monkeys [6:30—7:20 p.m.] gave a top-notch performance sweating as the sun went down. Alex Turner salted the audience with scrappy English asides. Matt Helders pummeled his drums relentlessly just grinning like a damn chimpanzee the whole time. They’ve evolved into one tough syrupy mother-[omit] rock & roll band. With the sun finally shut out, Madness [7—8 p.m.] put a dancing mood into the air. Pulp [7:50—8:50 p.m.], making another stop on their reunion tour, lit up the main stage. Jarvis Cocker brought his usual swagger, limping over monitors, then leaping into the air and landing in cat crawl. His black hair fell all over and the band played constantly submerged in lights that pin-needled up and down. A great rock show, but my mind was busy and I never heard the classic, “Common People.” Frank Ocean [8:15—9 p.m.] had the crowd whipped into a frenzy by the time I got there. I saw him through outstretched frantic arms and shaky camera phones. He delivered the two best songs off nostalgia, ULTRA: “Swim Good” and the catatonic “Novocain.” The timing was a blessing. Beautiful shit, Frank. Now, at this point, something began to rise up inside of me. Something clawed its way from the meat gates of my mind and I felt its full force walking in to see The Rapture [8:55—9:45 p.m.]. A casual listener from years ago I expected a twitchy rock band, but my legs and feet acted otherwise. The band’s clockwork percussion swarmed my senses and threw my body into never-ending cycles of dance. A consistent flourish of purple and blue lights both heated and cooled the panting audience. The singer had me gawking at his squirrely yelp that zigged+zagged through the musical elements. A true treat—going in with zero expectation I fell out of there fried. I was fried, fried, fried. I remember walking past and seeing the lights of M83 [10:15—11:05 p.m.] trickle out from under the tent, but found an entrancing solace in The Black Angels [10:50—11:35 p.m.]. The tent of psychedelic noir—tying hair to your ankles, pouring pure electricity onto your brain—was filled with fuzz and the bass lines crept up spine-ways. Oh, my word. Left that and just rocket-launched into Refused [11:20 p.m.], who were playing their first reunion show after drawing the curtain in 1998. The crisp Swedish hardcore punk band just blew up. Their presence was alarming and singer Dennis Lyxzén passed along so much gratitude. They brought lightning to the open desert. Swedish House Mafia [11:30 p.m.] was a little after-burner. They camped on the main stage for three hours escalating a smorgasbord of [omit] and blasting perceptions apart with their three-dimensional, Fourth-Dimensional, FIFTH-DIMENSIONAL light show. [help]
Saturday, April 21, 2012
   My only real focus on Saturday was to see Radiohead [11:05 p.m.], but not just see them play some songs, but get up front and center suffering strobelight seizures, flailing and hopping, hopping and flailing, and [omit]. When I got up to the railing it was clear that everyone else around had my same intention. Having gotten that far, a couple hours sun-roasting wouldn’t be too bad, would it? AWOLNATION [4—4:45 p.m.] [omit]. Kaiser Chiefs [5:10—6 p.m.] came out with that British fuck-all attitude, which is always pretty exciting shit to watch. Singer Ricky Wilson shouted out to the beer garden to get him a drink. He hopped off the stage and walked through the crowd—while the band was playing, mind you—and grabbed his beer. He ended up spilling most of the thing on the way back, but did get one solid gulp. Just before Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds [6:30—7:20 p.m.], some guy whom [omit] asked if I listened to the band. I said, no. He said, Oh, you’ll be surprised; they’ve got some great tunes. I showed polite enthusiasm. During the set all I could do was poke fun at it. The next Beatles? Achoo! The Shins [8:10—9 p.m.] would’ve excited me about six years ago. Still I was hopeful and then quickly let down. The James Mercer Clan are a hollow shell of what The Shins, at one point in time, could’ve become. Boring—sorry. If you weren’t in that crowd for Radiohead, then you damn sure were there for Bon Iver [9:30—10:20 p.m.]. They sort of fooled me with their hive-like art-installation set-up and then, yeah, let me down (not purposefully punning, swear). It was a whole lot of moaning with no climax; cell-killing. The best part was that horn section; at least there was that. Which, then, brings us to the main event; the event at which the entire experience is anchored; the centerpiece, smack dab in the middle of it all: Radiohead. Anticipation was high, but [omit]. The fandom within the first few rows approached Trekkie status. Some nerds tried guessing each consecutive song based on the color of guitarist Johnny Greenwood’s pants. Girls born when Kid A was released winced for transcendence. One fan nearby me collapsed. Up above, the band played splintered in chunks of video screen. Everything about it was demonic. Thom Yorke flashed that gremlin grin full aware of his power. Their precision, especially when exploring The King of Limbs, was numbing. The reconstruction of older songs with drummer Clive Deamer was phenomenal. “Kid A,” “The Gloaming,” “Idioteque,” all became thicker, muscular; the zeroed-out isolation still intact. “Staircase,” recently released, was an endless hallway of untold secrets. Ghosts and ghouls crept. They swept through all albums, OK Computer and beyond, offering an excellent cut-in-the-gut “Paranoid Android,” but no new songs. “Lotus Flower” was the point of total emotional domination. The song, off Limbs, just cut a hole right in time and part of me still lingers in that moment when the drums clamped down and Yorke let out his eerie clambering falsetto. “There is an empty space inside my heart where the weeds take root tonight I’ll set you free.” So good, I’m almost down on my knees crying. They created a vortex of magnetism right there in dry Indio and we were all sucked in.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
   And the sun grew three sizes that day, but was easy to shake off with the help of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 [3:10—3:55 p.m.]. Their rhythms were punctuating and definitive, stretching out into the desert and gathering rivers of sweat from the audience. The horns, the back-up singers, the drums, the guitar and bass, all shared space in each sprawling song. Dancing feet kicked up the dust and I collapsed somewhere shady a few hours. God Bless The Hives [6:05—6:55 p.m.]. They came out in some sharp black suits and riled the slow-sliding zombie crowd into action. The energy their songs release is similar to what collapsing stars release. Coming off like a well-mannered version of the Stooges, they corrupted us with songs like, “Walk, Idiot, Walk,” “Tick, Tick, Boom,” “Hate To Say I Told You So,” and “Main Offender.” Oh what puritanical joy! The festival offered an impressive cast of front men (mostly Swedish), but none as boisterous and self-assuring as Howlin' Pelle Almqvist. He came out, cock’a’the walk, like Jagger’s rebellious stunt double, wearing a top hat and barking declarations of confidence. The crowd was thankful for the jolt. Definitely needed [omit] to enjoy The Weeknd [6:55—7:45 p.m.] more. Saw “Crew Love,” no special guest Drake, moved on. Justice [7:45—8:45 p.m.] didn’t quite slap the bass into me too effectively, but it’s always beautiful to see a giant electronic cross flashing before a massive spinning audience. After At The Drive-In [9:10—10 p.m.] announced they were going to hit a few festivals this year for a one-time reunion, guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López admitted it was all purely for the money—the honesty of which I can respect. However, during the performance, that statement was dreadfully obvious. They played, and they played damn well, but—except for Cedric Bixler-Zavala still exploding all over the place, tossing the mic stand and making gnarled expressions—it was a fairly tame performance. Tame, anyway, for At the Drive-In, one of the most antagonizing, destructive live acts to play. Maybe I’m foolish for expecting, or at least hoping for, total confrontational mayhem, but it was still an honor to see a band almost dead last on the list of reunion possibilities. The second those first notes of “Arcarsenal” and “Pattern Against User” hit, everything was on fire. [omit]! Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg [10:35 p.m.] performed with a holographic Tupac Shakur—too much. That was the end. [shake, shake]

Key Moments: Frank Ocean performing “Novocain,” and stopping the whole thing after the line, “Met her at Coachella;” the tri-fecta live experience of The Rapture, The Black Angels, then Refused; Radiohead’s performance of “Lotus Flower,” “Staircase,” and “Kid A;” ATDI; seeing Eminem appear, as devil on earth, from under the stage after Tupac was digitally beamed back into existence.

May 22, 2012


"I'm not fading back into the shadows," L.A. Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant said to the post-game media after falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Semi-Finals. No smile. No hesitation. Stone faced, dead-eyed. A loss for Bryant is never the end; it’s only the next step to winning.
I am forever a die-hard, by-the-gravestone Phoenix Suns fan. Therefore, a large chunk of my competitive hatred is saved for the Lakers and always will be. It warms my belly to watch them stutter and fail in those big Hollywood lights. The Suns and Lakers have historically been a playoff match-up almost as much as the storied Celtics/Lakers or Celtics/76ers rivalries. Bryant publicly decried his personal vendetta against Phoenix for reasons he couldn’t explain. The Lakers are pure enemies in Phoenix, falling in stature behind only the San Antonio Spurs (of course). You don’t talk to the guy strolling in purple and gold wearing number 24 because you’d have nothing nice to say to him.
I cannot, however, for the pure devotion to basketball, disrespect Bryant's will. There is no other player like him in today's high-fiving, re-tweeting circus, who plays every minute only to win, and who will do whatever it takes (see: German blood exchange; playing with broken finger; dealing with Metta World Peace) to win. Only Kevin Garnett matches (and rises above) him in intensity, but Garnett's a different animal entirely. Bryant is a true basketball player who lives life without distraction and remains focused on the goal. He’s not opening his thoughts to the public and making decisions on the fly so the press can have their field day. He’s stealth. He works hard and gets results and those five rings stand unquestioned. This league rarely puts out a player with that strong insane sense of determination that can put a shiver in your spine. The locker room must’ve been a cold, hard place after that game. They lost to a young team exploding with confidence and diligence, but the Lakers will still linger next year and, so long as Bryant’s still around, they’ll continue to be a viable threat. Ahem. But, next year, that Chump gon' be blinded by purple and orange in the playoffs.

May 18, 2012


There is no “team” in Heat, though it's close. Rather, all you get is “he at,” as in, “Where the fuck he at?”
The “he” on any given night could be LeBron James, it could be Dwayne Wade, or it could represent the entire Miami Heat bench. Who are they and what are their roles? The bench (Chris Bosh's cawing ass included) are there only to beef up the two-headed, swamp-soaked egos of their two "perennial All-Stars." Well, here is it: Fuck the Miami Heat.
Nobody outside of Miami, Florida is rooting for this team. They had the privilege of letting loose on an even more disgruntled team in the New York Knicks for the opening round and now find themselves down 2-1 against the fresh Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Semi-Finals. When you get past the glitz and drama, the Heat are really not very threatening. They're nothing but a bunch of scallywags lumped together to give their two too-cool-for-you leaders a strong whiff of self-importance. Everybody is just trying so hard to please Lebron & Wade; you can see it all over their concerned faces as they tilt toward them in huddles. It’s like they’re watching their best friend go through a mental breakdown and they’re not sure how to comfort them. It makes one sick.
I can just picture each of their sorry asses in the locker-room. Joel Anthony contemplating shaving his head but stubbornly seeking Leron's approval first; Mario Chalmers has Dwayne Wade's words of wisdom echoing in his head, "OK Mario, be like 3D"; crusty Mike Miller just licks his lips stammering in the background; Juan Howard doesn't want to stand; Ronnie Turiaf constantly tries to make Lebron and Wade laugh with unfunny dead-end jokes; Haslem wishes he could kill them both; Mike Bibby (Oh whoops, forgot he went to the Knicks) and Chris Bosh is injured (so who cares). What a team, right?  It's Lebron & Wade and their band of undistinguishable cast-off lackeys and they're looking like cattle in mourning right now. “Aw, what do we do? We’re supposed to be the best.” I mean c’mon, they brought in Ronnie Turiaf to help fill the center void. That’s like calling on the guy who brings the shopping carts in to conduct a meeting with the chain’s top advisers. Watching the Heat’s lopsided, ego-driven, flat-lining rhythm collapse makes it all the more pleasing to see them get beat by a very well-rounded team in the Pacers. Either way; IT’S GON' BE A GRINDHOUSE.

May 07, 2012

MCA Passes the Mic

"I want to offer my love and respect to the end." Adam "MCA" Yauch (1964--2012)

  Adam "MCA" Yauch, who dropped science like Galileo dropped the orange, has left the Earth and two Beastie Boys behind after battling throat cancer for three years. He was the voice of gravel to Mike Diamond and Adam "Adrock" Horovitz's whine and yelp. He was always the steadiest one, leaning in the back chewing bubblegum and moving with a calibrated ease. I always took a personal liking to Mike D, but it was the lyrics of MCA that rattled most in my brain. "All you Trekkies and TV addicts/Don't mean to diss, don't mean to bring static," or, “I’m cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce,” or, "I'll stir-fry you in my wok," and who knows what else, all of it.
     Once at a job interview for Blockbuster I was asked how I prepare myself mentally before going to work. In a moment of hesitation I wondered if I should give them the professional answer, or the truth. "Well...I put on the Beastie Boys and that pretty much gets me ready," I answered. The two employers had smiles that turned into laughs and I was hired.
    This is the absolute beauty of MCA, Adrock and Mike D: When the Beastie Boys play all the problems of the world fall away. Everything loosens up and suddenly it's the first day of summer vacation. Dance, shout, jump, throw shit around and have some fun. The Beasties unlock the part of your brain where all the happiness hides. They instantly achieve pure wild positivity and reflect it back to the listener. No other group does this. Many come close, many have tried, but only the B-Boys can truly make it happen again and again. Just think of the opening seconds of “Intergalactic” or “Sure Shot” and you’ll start to feel that spazzed-out energy. It’s hard not to jump out a window or swing from the ceiling fan when it comes on.
    They've given the world something magical that will last forever. It's heartbreaking to think it’s over, but hard to imagine the Beastie Boys as a duo. They've always been and always will be a trio, but this ends not with a slouching sadness, but of a joyful gratitude. MCA’s soul now may be divided up amongst the rest of us so that a sliver of him will melt inside us always. He now travels by the sound waves of his own creation. He now is the music.