Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gorillaz LIVE: Art, Apocalypse, and Yukimi Nagano

Gibson Amphitheater, Los Angeles 10/27/10

Gorillaz ringleader Damon Albarn has made sure the collective's "Plastic Beach" is awash with ravishing pleasure to haunt its vast scrapheap of other treasures, including
1. Bobby Womack letting loose the sacredness in soul
2. Lou Reed blistering his guitar solo
3. Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash  (THE CLASH!)  blistering everything they touched all night
4. De la Soul proving laughter is the best medicine
5. Guest Arab musicians on stage continuing the interchange Gorillaz started by playing Damascus, Syria this past July
6. Snoop Dogg at his dreamiest opening the show
7. Albarn's playfully unpretentious role during the whole ninety minute set and long encore
8. Miho Hatori, Bootie Brown, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Bashy, Kano, Roses Gabor, the head of Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder singing on "Dare"
9. Jamie Hewlett's fierce-and-getting-fiercer videos (I mention this near the end because a few people still think that only cartoons appear at a Gorillaz live show. They'd enjoy getting themselves to one of the remaining concerts on this tour and see the sea of humanity that works the stage during Escape to Plastic Beach's unprecedented extravaganza.)
10. Much, much more . . .
The number of gifts offered up at LA's Gibson Amphitheater on the night of Oct. 27 is way longer than this list. The mosaic of different elements and moods, all harmonious, is dizzying. Seemingly incompatible people and ideas can mix well and create something valuable: this is news. (Everyone should try this at home. They should definitely try this approach in, say, Washington D.C.)

On top of this, when ravishment comes courtesy of Little Dragon's frontwoman/siren Yukimi Nagano — pictured above—on "Empire Ants" and "To Binge," Gorillaz's project becomes jaw-dropping in a whole new way: they own your heart. And pulse. And dropped jaw. And every other body part. Gorillaz can do gorgeousness, in addition to everything else they excel at.  Take a LISTEN at their site:

Little Dragon is a Swedish pop band specializing in synth/art-cabaret, with its own releases, 2007's eponymous debut and 2009's "Machine Dreams." LINK to their video "Constant Surprises"

2010's "Plastic Beach" is the third Gorillaz album. Their self-titled debut appeared in 2001, featuring songs like "Clint Eastwood" and "19-2000" and sold over seven million copies. The follow-up, "Demon Days" went double platinum in the U.S., won a Grammy, and has been designated quintuple-platinum in the U.K. Music writers and fans jabber about the meaning and limits of Gorillaz's status as a virtual cartoon band. Or not. Many lament Albarn's reluctance to resuscitate Blur. They worry dormant Blur is collateral damage incurred during Albarn's flight from pop music's fame game. They fret that he disappeared into the plasticity of Gorillaz. But these speculations take attention away from something remarkable that this latest Gorillaz album accomplishes. "Plastic Beach" actually functions as a long-playing album was meant to—and too few do these days. One song leads inevitably into the next, as the LP delivers big-time on its promise to create its own self-enclosed, unique world. Repeated listenings deepen appreciation for this flow. And regard for the tunes. The "Plastic Beach" world is filled with bad news and beautiful beats, eco-disasters set in party anthems and plaintive pop tunes to make your heart beat faster. Light, deep, airy, visionary, "Plastic Beach" is unsparing in its diagnosis of the damage the human race keeps visiting on its one world.

And, finally, "Plastic Beach" lets Nagano melt Albarn's gift for early Bowie and Ray Davies-derived songwriting into a warm afterworld to console us for the mess we've made by globally-overwarming this one. 
Gorillaz North American tour ends in Vancouver Nov. 3 and they head to Europe, the U.K., Australia, and Asia.
10-30 – Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena
11-02 – Seattle, WA - Key Arena
11-03 – Vancouver, British Columbia - Rogers Arena
11-11 – Dublin, Ireland - O2 Arena
11-12 – Manchester, England - Evening News Arena
11-14 – London, England - O2 Arena
11-15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands - Heineken Music Hall
11-17 – Birmingham, England - NIA
11-18 – Brighton, England - Centre
11-21 – Berlin, Germany - Velodrom
11-23 – Paris, France - Zenith
11-25 – Antwerp, Belgium - Lotto
12-06 – Perth, Australia - Burswood Dome
12-08 – Adelaide, Australia - Entertainment Centre
12-11 – Melbourne, Australia - Rod Laver
12-16 – Sydney, Australia - Entertainment Centre
12-19 – Brisbane, Australia - Entertainment Centre
12-21 – Auckland, New Zealand - Vector Arena

Check out their website loaded with games and distractions as well as tour info. Plus this video for their song "On Melancholy Hill." CLICK for video and Gorillaz official site

Whirling dervishes. Hip-Hop. Arab Musicians sitting in. Pop. Punk. Soul.  De la Soul laughing like mad . . . 

Set List: Gorillaz at Gibson

"Welcome To The World"
"Last Living Souls"
"On Melancholy Hill"
"Rhinestone Eyes"
"Superfast Jellyfish"
"Tomorrow Comes Today"
"Empire Ants"
"Some Kind Of Nature" (w/ Lou Reed)
"Dirty Harry"
"El Manana"
"White Flag"
"To Binge"
"Glitter Freeze"
"Plastic Beach"
"Cloud of Unknowing"
"Feel Good Inc."
"Clint Eastwood"
"Don't Get Lost In Heaven"
"Demon Days"

Special Guest Lou Reed Joins Gorillaz onstage at the Gibson Amphitheater 10/27/10

Damon Albarn mixes musical styles with grace

This post is the first in a three-part series about contemporary music’s great collectives. Arcade Fire, set to guest on SNL Nov. 13, 2010, and of Montreal, on tour with Janelle Monae, are the other two subjects. (Godspeed You! Black Emperor will provide an occasion for a coda early next year.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hang Out with Charles Bukowski at The Huntington: His Retrospective 'Poet on the Edge' Is Intoxicating

Charles Bukowski has a new address: his retrospective is going on now through Valentines' Day, 2011, in one of the poshest places So Cal's got: The Huntington Library in San Marino.

LA's beloved barfly poet has come a long way from his birth in Andernach, Germany in 1920. He's grown bigger than his countless soul-slaughtering, dead-end American jobs, his crummy rooming houses, his old bungalow on DeLongpre (now designated an Official Historic Landmark). He's now more significant than even his well-designed final resting place in Rancho Palos Verdes with its headstone that sports his famous phrase "Don't try." The essential Charles Bukowski has ended up in the same building as the Gutenberg Bible. The marriage of outsider writer and elite institution manages not to be a mismatch. Hank's weathered face looks damn good hanging on the huge banners at the main entry. He looks even better sharing a banner above the Library entrance with a stray white cat he took in, wrote about, and lost.  
The long walk to view the memorabilia of the influential barfly. All Photographs © S.X. Rosenstock 

Bukowski featured at the main entrance of The Huntington in San Marino, CA

I started, and later ended, my visit to The Huntington Library in their gift shop. I buzzed through my holiday shopping and it isn't even Halloween yet: everyone on my list is getting a Bukowski schwag bag this year.  Books. T-shirts. Caps. Mouse Pads. Magnets. DVDs. (Maybe you'll spring for the $150 sterling silver, rhodium-plated pendants with 'what matters most is how well you walk through the fire" engraved along the rings, hanging on 16" snake chains, complete with velveteen pouches.)

Superb Bukowski books, DVDs, t-shirts, caps, buttons, magnets, mouse pads at The Huntington's Gift Store

I noted the grand entrance to the actual Library, walked calmly in, then rushed past Chaucer and Shakespeare. I spied Bukowski's photo next to a grouping of Isherwood, Auden, Spender. These are the poster boys for the twentieth century. (I used to see Christopher Isherwood frequently in a market near my old apartment; in my dreams his shopping cart always includes Fetzer Zinfandel.) Bukowski's photo on this section faces a death mask of William Blake. Samuel Taylor Coleridge waits off to one side, thrown open to reveal "This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison," which lets loose the hard truth about what good use Bukowski made of bad, worse, and worst circumstances: "sometimes/ Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good . . .   ." 

Located just past groupings of historical figures, Bukowski's two-room party zone in the West Hall contains just his stuff. He loved the rat-a-tat sound and the mechanistic feel of accomplishing his poems on a manual typewriter; he didn't write longhand. The initial exhibit features one of Hank's "typers," flanked by a wine-stained goblet, a holder for his glasses, and two pens in a vinyl pouch. He insisted on only classical music and loved KUSC,  CLICK to link to,  so that's playing. My faves:

          5. Ken Price's serigraphs for "Heat Wave" from Black Sparrow Press
          4. Picking up a weird white cone to hear Bukowski reading his poems
          3. All the horse racing stuff
          2. Bukowski's poem "the bluebird"
          1. Bukowski's poem "democracy" 

I ate lunch at the self-serve cafe, drank a Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut in the poet's honor, wrote some lines, listened to non-classical music on my Shuffle, then toured the main gallery with "democracy" in mind. The faces painted by Romney, Reynolds, Gainsborough made me wish "I had a cure for the chess pieces/we call Humanity." Bukowski tells it to every face: "the problem is you."

The problem I am hopped back to Bukowski's rooms a last time, then bundled up my purchases, and drove home with gifts for others and something for myself—several little notebooks stamped with Bukowski's lines: "My idea of life is the next page, the next paragraph, the next sentence." 

Self-Portrait: S.X. Rosenstock as Lunch at The Huntington's self-serve Cafe: Ham on Wheat, Brut, a draft of Flight Lines

Upcoming Charles Bukowski-related Event at The Huntington: 

John Dullaghan's documentary film about Charles Bukowski, "Born Into This," will be screened for free at The Huntington on Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, at 7:30 p.m. with a Q & A after the film. No reservations are necessary for this event. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

CocoRosie Turns It On: Passion Is the Pull of Your Past

This post appears on The Huffington Post
Sierra (left) and Bianca Casady
CocoRosie's exquisite songs prove ravishingly entertaining live. An evening with the band is fantastic fun. The songwriting Casady sisters blend hip-hop beats, tuneful 1920s sentimentality, opera, with evocations of a poetical otherworld, delivered by their two contrasting voices. Sierra Casady was the vocal and visual center of the show at The Music Box in Hollywood on October 6. Her incantatory, floaty voice and exciting stage presence energized a set that harmonized Gael Rakotondrabe's glorious piano/keyboards, Tez's jaw-dropping beatbox gifts, and sister Bianca's ruthless word wizardry. 

Bianca and Sierra evoke the world of their latest LP Grey Oceans
CocoRosie are touring in support of their fourth LP Grey Oceans (Sub Pop) which appeared in May. They've been lumped in the so-called freak folk category with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, and others, and the designation helps no one. Like some other artists, the Casadys do dress in costumes. They play found instruments and toys, and on stand-out tracks 'Smokey Taboo' or 'RIP Burn Face' or 'Lemonade' and everything else, don't shy from childishness, spookiness, nostalgia, rapture. Here's why:

CocoRosie's inventiveness through four albums arises from their inclusion of elements discredited, purposively repudiated, by our culture at large. Their muse delivers a trip through pure maternal dreamtime, the lost world deep in every person's memory. Each of us was once an infant: it is a mother's heartbeat that initiates us into percussion. A female voice overwhelms us with its capacities to incite or soothe. Ambient sounds—the refrigerator's hum; the wind outside the house; a distant siren;the doggie, the kitty; the squeaky garden gate; the rustle of fabric, the intake of breath, as a woman draws near—all appear to be extensions of, designs by, the mother that is the infant's entire world. We suppose we can put away childish things, artifacts of our humiliating helplessness; we've long kept this devastating music off chart-topping radio. (Bianca's killer encore of Kevin Lyttle's 2004 dance hit 'Turn Me On' plays on this omission.) 

But a fusion infusion calls as Sierra's soprano thrills us with those old, best ecstasies, while Bianca growl-raps the child's —every child's—difficulties, demands, observations, agonies: what is seen as a contrivance in the aesthetics of CocoRosie is a projection onto these artists of a brutal rupture our culture has, in fact, contrived. 

The Casadys have hip-hopped and patty-caked and hopscotched their way into understanding our culture's most essential elusive subject matter. 

How might a motived listener bypass any internalized resistance and savor a hit of their own dreamtime? Art is the medicine. Quiet the mind a little. Revisit Meg White 'In the Cold, Cold Night.' Find Old Time/Appalachian's Olabelle Reed's 'My Epitaph.' Pour on the Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush and Tori Amos. Hop over to a golden oldie, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry's Classic 'Ain't Got A Home.' (He sings "like a girl" and "like a frog," anticipating Sierra's and Bianca's respective strategies; they're not so unusual after all.) Listen to Loretta Lynn's 'One on the Way,' chock full of the sounds of maternal multitasking, magic, pragmatism, heartbreak. Watch a clip of Janet Gaynor in Murnau's silent film Sunrise to register once and for all how we as a culture, generation after generation, make the mothers we so desperately need vulnerable to violence and to annihilating despair. Consider a masterwork by a giant of twentieth-century art: Edna St. Vincent Millay's (1892-1950) "The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver." This great poet, (nicknamed Vincent) dutiful daughter, devoted sister, described by Publishers Weekly with the impressive phrase "sexually implacable," tears our hearts open permanently on the subjects of what mothers give, what society denies them, and what, precisely, is the length, depth, breadth, height, of what we—eternally—need and want from only this source. Consider the aspirations of CocoRosie's mystical hip-hop/dreampop in this stunning pink light. 

CocoRosie's music lives, breathes, discloses, the authentic continuum of time each of us has lived; it articulates the ambient blur of the mother-baby dyad and sings out the faltering steps and unsurpassed intensities of childhood. The band makes effective, revelatory art that rocks the cradle where you—in memory—lay. The Casady sisters rock and rock and rock.

We Are The World opened with powerful performance art choreography interpreting bass-boasting electronica. 

The woodcut pictured above is the frontispiece to Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry volume The Harp-Weaver.  Her poem appears on the Making/Meaning section of this site.