Harry & the Potters: Only playing Aztec pyramids from now on

[[Preface: I’m a big ol’ huge Harry Potter geek. Scoff at me if you must. But don’t scoff at these guys. Love them, instead.]]

From Teaparty Boston, Jan. 29, 2010

Harry & the Potters: Paving the Way for Wizard Rockers Everywhere

Who ever decided that only the cool kids get to be rock stars? There’s a place on that bright, grimy stage for nerds too, and that’s where bands like Harry and the Potters come in. Yes, they wear round-framed glasses and red-and-gold Gryffindor ties onstage. Yes, they sing songs about magical potions and Quidditch and three-headed dogs and teen-wizard angst. And yes, you’re totally jealous.

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In which everything is floating away from everything else

I recently started reading Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction, which has essays on raisons d’etre and raisons d’pick up a fucking pen, from the likes of Norman Mailer, Mary Gaitskill, David Foster Wallace (who was apparently at the time still in a big deformed-baby-metaphor phase), Mary Gaitskill, on and on. In the intro, editor Will Blythe talks about the many, many raisons d’not pick up a fucking pen. He’s pretty spot-on:

Unquestionably, there are many compelling reasons not to write. Some are mundane, like having a job, a spouse, a headache. These things can take time and energy away from the creation of literature. So can not having a job, a spouse, and a headache. (In regard to the absence of the headache, it must be said that you can feel too good to write.) There are other mighty rationales for shirking the pen. Not enough money. Too little experience. Bad speller. Not good enough yet. Not good enough compared to Garcia Marquez. Not good enough compared to Shakespeare. Better than Shakespeare but no one seems to agree. Too much ambition. Insufficient ambition. Paranoia. Alcohol. Heroin. Gas pains. Gout. Hay fever.

And of course, there are always powerful metaphysical reasons for not writing. For instance, deep existential dread. The distortions of solitude. The ravages of time. Black holes. The eventual death of the solar system. Being adrift in a meaningless universe in which everything is floating away from everything else. The temptation of silence. By this, I mean that sometimes silence seems more articulate, more full of possibility than language itself; it is the realm of vision, of the masterfully unwritten, of astounding books that will forever be undiminished by their narrowing in reality.

And yet, we go on. Cause… why not?

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Freestylers in spaaaaaccce

So a college senior and junior write a full-length hip-hopera, with spaceships and dancers and EVERYTHING, and get it put up on one of the largest locally-producing stages in town. I mean, seriously, how badass is that?

I love sitting in on rehearsals, especially the ones where you can tell that everyone involved is totally into what they’re putting together. I watched these guys rehearse in a room in the Old South Church on Boylston. Passed by choir practice on the first floor on my way up.

Fave quote I didn’t have room for the in the article came from costume designer Christian Svenson:

So this is me being a real person who does what I studied in school, which is sort of bizarre. I love that my grown-up job involves making multi-limbed alien costumes and a Loch Ness Monster. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m… doing. I wouldn’t want it to go any other way.


From the Weekly Dig, 27 Jan 09

Plan 9 meets A Nation of Millions

Talking goats, breakdancing. Yeah, you heard me. Talking goats. Breakdancing.

How about this: hip-hop opera. Stage three supermassive black hole. Prehistoric dinosaur planet. Party spaceship. DRUGS.

If this assortment of plot points doesn’t at least cause you to throw a glance over at Intergalactic Transfer Students, you’ve got a serious fun allergy. You should really get that looked at. Continue reading

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Devendra Banhart blesses us all

from Teaparty Boston, Nov. 22, 2009

Devendra Banhart Plays Pulpiteer at Berklee Performance Center

photo by Jessie Rogers

Devendra Banhart was in a giving mood on Friday night at the Berklee Performance Center. Not only did he and his band, the Grogs, play a set that clocked in at nearly two hours, but they did it all with an eager openness that’s precious and rare on the indie circuit these days.

Maybe he’s always in a giving mood. From his long messy locks to his undulating hands that seem to be blessing us over and over again, Banhart oozes that wandering holy man vibe. I almost expected him to start handing out fish to all of us, or whatever it is that Jesus guy did that one time. Heck, he could probably start a cult if he wanted to.

Fortunately, he’s decided to make music instead. And what music it is—airy, pan-genre stuff that reflects Banhart’s NoCal-by-way-of-Venezuela upbringing. With lots of guitars and a little of every other instrument in the trunk behind him, Banhart’s poetic lyrics flow along on the current of his clear, sensual vocals.

Banhart and his four-piece band took the stage looking uncommonly buttoned up, the oft-shirtless Banhart sporting a sweater, tie, and crisp white pants. But they let loose right off the bat with the trippy “Long-Haired Child,” and kept it floating from there.

Songs from Banhart’s latest release, What Will We Be, dominated the night, from the sunny “Baby” to the pulsing “16th & Valencia, Roxy Music.” Mid-set, our lanky hero shooed the Grogs away for some solo work on sweet oddities like “Little Yellow Spider” and “I Remember.” The band returned to remind us how tight their harmonies are, even featuring a few songs composed by the other members. They topped it off with crowd faves “Lover” and “Chinese Children.”

This music already gives you the sense of being serenaded around a particularly groovy campfire, but the lighting at the BPC amped up that imagery, bathing the stage in yellow and orange and casting long band-shaped shadows on the wood-paneled walls.

And if that didn’t feel enough like partaking in an obscure spiritual rite, Banhart’s offhand, between-song blessing to the audience certainly sealed the deal: “Hallelujah, praise the lord, whoop there it is, again and again and again.”

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Al Gore gored

From Bostonist, Apr. 2, 2009

Al Gore at the Wang: When Moderators Attack

Like a teenager with a new LiveJournal, MSG Entertainment’s 2009 Speaker Series is starting to ask itself the big questions: Why am I here? What do I want to be? Does anybody love me?

After a disastrous birthing period featuring Ann Coulter, Bill Maher and a hapless moderator, the series stumbled into its awkward adolescence Monday night with Al Gore as its guinea pig. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Veep struck an easy, confident presence at the sold-out Wang. His main topic, of course, was the need to address climate change. But his remarks on the subject, while informative, were nothing you couldn’t have gleaned from Netflixing An Inconvenient Truth. So why the live appearance, aside from the fact that he had been in town to back Menino’s green initiative? Nobody, least of all the event’s organizers, seemed to know the answer.

Into this vacuum swooped moderator Susan Milligan, who seemed much less interested in Al Gore’s energy initiatives or the audience’s interests than in her own agenda. A political reporter for the Boston Globe, Milligan was two things an interviewer should never be: combative, and far more interested in herself than in her subject.

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An odder “Odyssey”

From Bostonist, Feb. 26, 2009

Review: The Odyssey at Charlestown Working Theater

The Charlestown Working Theater may be one of the most overlooked performance spaces in Boston. A weirdly beautiful space at the base of Bunker Hill, the theater is built inside what was once a 19th-century firehouse. The CWT plays host to smaller local companies like Theatre on Fire and Molasses Tank Productions, plus out-of-town fringe wanderers.

The CWT also occasionally puts up its very own work, and that’s the case with The Odyssey. Yes, it is the Homeric epic you read in high school English class. And yes, it’s done here by a two-person cast. Impossible, you say? Nothing’s impossible when there’s a rocker-mounted rowboat onstage.

The brains and muscles behind The Odyssey are Jennifer Johnson and John Peitso, two of the CWT’s helmsmen (no pun intended). They created and perform in the piece; they even found the boat. In the course of the show, the two take on characters ranging from Odysseus to the Cyclops, and everyone in between.

Well, not everyone. Clocking in at less than an hour in length, this Odyssey isn’t so much the full shebang as it is an arty CliffsNotes version of the epic. But really, the story of Odysseus’s journeys upon the wine-dark sea is little more than a jumping-off point for a mood piece of astonishing beauty.

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Hollywood onstage, again

From the Weekly Dig, Feb. 25, 2009

The Random Caruso

The Random Caruso, a new play by Andrew Clarke currently at the BCA from Centastage, is the work of a Hollywood burn victim. It’s the kind of bitter, hard-edged, I-hate-the-biz-so-much-I-love-it comedy written by scarred veterans of the Hollywood meat factory, walking the same stilettoed path as Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed and Theresa Rebeck’s The Scene. That is to say, it’s nothing much new. But the stage’s love affair with the movie business will never wane, even though the screen rarely reciprocates. And for a world premiere by a playwright with few credits to his name, Caruso is a slick and well-turned-out package.

Caruso is a toast to the symbiotic relationships that keep the movie machine humming. Screenwriter plays toadie to asshole star till get his script gets optioned; actress-cum-waitress boffs asshole star till the Lohans come home, lands a bit part in upcoming movie; asshole star doesn’t drop out of upcoming movie, producer gives screenwriter’s script a shot. You get the picture. In the hands of the underrated Centastage and artistic director Joe Antoun, Clarke’s poison-tipped repartee seldom flags; he even gets the stage crew in on the game. In Michael Forden Walker, Robert Pemberton and Tracy Oliverio, Antoun has found actors more than up to the task of Caruso‘s acidic humor.

The play’s most vindicating moment comes in the main character’s eleventh-hour diatribe about the lowly lot of the screenwriter. Clarke’s commitment to that particular subject is what sets Caruso apart from other screen-on-stage fare. It all makes for a solid, if not surprising, evening of Tinseltown bitchery.

[The Random Caruso. Until 3.7.09. The Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St., Boston.

617.933.8600. Times vary/$25. bostontheatrescene.com, centastage.org]

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