Tag Archives: festival

Grrrls to the Front

22 Oct

Excellent discussion on “Women In Music & Media” featuring Emily Rems of Bust Magazine, Mindy Abovitz of Tom Tom Magazine, and Shirley Braha of MTV. (In order of feminist badassitude, as I perceived it.) Props also to Jessica Hopper, whose 2003 essay “Where the Girls Aren’t” was an inspiration for this post and clarification of a lot of feelings.

Standing in a crowd at a CMJ after show last night, I noticed that Sarah Marcus was right about the music of today. She recently told a college journalist that it’s very unusual today to see a lineup of bands without a single woman or girl musician- that Riot Grrrl had a tangible effect on who is inspired and empowered to start bands of their own.

Well, we haven’t come far enough. I’m not saying I want every college rock show to be Lilith Fair (but hey, it’d be awesome if a few were along those lady-loving lines); I merely want to see heavily increased representation of women in rock, pop and other music genres. I want to stand in an audience without having to hear the indie bros next to me comment on how hot the “token chick” in the band I’m trying to enjoy is. I’d also like to not have my ass pinched sans consent while standing in an audience (or ever).  But making shows into safe spaces for women is a (related) topic for another day.

I don’t think that the way to increase presence and representation of women is to prop up shitty bands, or insult boy bands just for being all-boy bands. But calling attention to the outmoded, overwhelming maleness (and whiteness) of festivals like CMJ, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Bonnaroo is important.  We can all use a Whitey/Sausage Fest Check every so often.  There are tons of great women-led bands out there.  But we need to hear more of them- and we could always stand to have more bands waiting in the wings, practicing in bedrooms and garages.

So take up the mantle of the Guerilla Girls, and demand to hear more rocking bands that include women at your local music venues and any festivals you attend.

And while you’re at it, attend a LadiesRock Camp and get grooving yourself!

I wanna be in yr band.

***

Where do you notice underrepresentation of women-identified dudes and dudettes in music & art?

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Songs of the Day, by Liz Longley, on this, my birthday.

19 Oct

Over Fourth of July weekend this past summer, I went camping and music festivaling with some friends.  I had the pleasure of hearing the music of Liz Longley for the first time live at the New Bedford Summerfest.  Among the whaling city’s cobblestoned streets leading to sites of deep historical significance, folk musicians from around the world made merry.

At the panel “He Was Her Man But He Done Her Wrong: Songs of Love Gone Wrong,” Longley played alongside folk greats Mark Johnson, Antje Duvekot and Cliff Johnson.  Her music literally swept me off my feet, and where I had just planned to pass by the showcase, I stayed through the encores.  With just a guitar and a mic, Longley strummed and sang in her incredibly rich voice with it massive range.  She played “Goodbye Love,” (above), explaining that it was about seeing her ex with someone new via the strange wonders of social media.  I could relate to the feeling- it sucks.  Longley said that seeing the image of them made her throw up.  And then, it helped her to move on.

Well, I bought Longley’s album Hot Loose Wire at the festival, and the song that ended up holding my attention and heavy rotation on my music players was “Free.”  Playful sensuality, kickass declining scales, a sense of true unfetteredness- I love this track.  Get this record soon’s you can press ‘purchase’!  Not only are these two gorgeous songs on it, no- there’s even a hilarious ode to the naughty wiles of Girl Scouting.

Thank you, Liz Longley, for a wonderful album and Thoroughly Modern Milli Vanilli’s double-dose SOTD: Songs of the Day.

As a housekeeping note, I will be making every effort to post every day for the next month.  TMMV to the stars.

Within George, Without George: new Quiet Beatle biopic rocks, moves festival audience

3 Sep

A hearty hello from one of the most beautiful places on earth!  Tonight I write from Telluride, Colorado.  I am grateful to be a part of the fastidious, fabulous staff of the 38th Telluride Film Festival in this tiny town full of mountain highs.

Telluride Film Festival. Image via Lane Scarberry. http://lanescarberry.photoshelter.com/

Tonight was opening night.  One of the first films to screen was Martin Scorsese’s newest documentary film, GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD.  The prolific Scorsese co-produced the film with Olivia Harrison, George’s wife, having previously proved his rock ‘n roll mettle with the Bob Dylan doc  NO DIRECTION HOME (2005) and the historial account THE BLUES (2003).  Few in the house were unaffected by the time Olivia Harrison and executive producer Margaret Bodde took the stage for a Q and A following the Show.

I appreciated the film’s very un-VH1 “Behind the Music” approach.  No mention was ever made of how the Beatles formed, how Stuart died, the financial terms of the band, or basically any of the other flotsam any serious fan would know.  Yet at the same time, the film’s launching right in was equally accessible to audiences whether they own one copy of the Beatles’ Anthology for use and one for a collector’s item, or if they have little to no knowledge of the band.  In two parts and 220 minutes, the biopic follows Harrison – or rather, Harrison documents his own life and Scorsese and his team artfully put together the pieces – up to and past the end of his life.  In fact, death is an ongoing, provocative theme throughout the film.

LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD covers Harrison’s upbringing in Liverpool (“If you go to a wedding in Liverpool, people ask ‘How many fights were there?'” says one of George’s brothers), juvenile musical collaborations with Paul McCartney in a truly “Dickensian” school, and early Beatles years in rowdy Hamburg with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best (before Stuart’s untimely death and Ringo’s entrance onto the scene) in Part One.  Part Two sees Harrison off into the realm of what the press terms ‘mysticism’ and the breakup of the band, George’s emergence as an independent artist in collaboration with Phil Spector (who gives an insightful yet somewhat chilling interview), his meeting Olivia and having a son together, and the attack on the Harrisons’ home and his final cancer relapse.

Poster for LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD. Image via NME.

The music is undoubtedly the star of the film.  New 5.1 remasters of the original Beatles and Harrison tracks reverberated the Palm theatre with sonic power.  Combined with the jagged, imperfect sounds of the demos, the songs made the film (they were even given the first slot in the end credits).  From the passage through Beatlemania to Harrison’s spiritual voyages in India with Ravi Shankar through the superold supergroup Harrison formed with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan, the Traveling Wilburys, music drives the plot and grounds it in the constantly changing history of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Sound is engineered in LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD in a way that no song’s power is ever taken away by being placed on backup track; music is in, on full blast, or the film is much quieter.  This is one of the film’s strongest areas.  Another nontraditional approach is in the interviews: no one can get the intimate answers Martin Scorsese can.  Talking heads have no initial introduction by text.  Only characters whose presence aids the story are identified in the impressive, extensive archival photograph collection or later in their interviews.

One production aspect I was initially not sure was effective was the use of voice over narration by an actor playing Harrison.  But as the story progressed I realized how rich the material in Harrison’s own journals was, and though it was striking to hear these passages read by another man with a Liverpudlian accent, in the end the V.O. was a helpful way to provide more insight into this mysterious man. Three and a half hours, and I still want to learn more about my favorite Beatle!  But as Paul McCartney says, “He’s my mate. I can’t give everything away.”  I feel the same way about Telluride.

In short, I loved my first film since the official start of the festival.  I’m getting to see great friends from last year and enjoying the year-out lens of a former P.A.  I also managed to interact with Werner Herzog during my greenroom shift without peeing my pants!  So, I’d say that TFF XXXVIII is off to a splendid start thus far.

Party At Ground Zero: Fishbone, Longevity Heroes

31 Jul

One of the films screening at a festival at which I’m working here in Boston is EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE.  As a music lover, I was offended by myself for not having been familiar with these guys.  I would say that they’re criminally underrated, but the documentary about the band taught me that:

a) everyone making music from 1982-1993 is in love with these guys’ work, and that

b) the band was found “not guilty” of kidnapping guitarist Kendall Jones after he joined a cult-like group, ostensibly to rescue him from the brainwashing perversion of bigamy and big time Christianity that he fell prey to after his mother’s death.  Nolo homo.

From tight, expressive and often hilarious graphics to a narrative flow that really felt for the musicians even as it dealt honestly with the craziness around them, EVERYDAY SUNSHINE was excellent.  Filmmakers Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler neither shied away from nor overdramatized the band’s story (Behind the Music?  You can’t be anything but under and all around Fishbone’s music, with their energetic stage diving and slam dancing antics.)  Groundbreaking, all black, all male Fishbone were at first hard to get a feel for by this Gen Y filmgoer with Gen X taste but less 80s familiarity.  However, years of interviews, concert footage, and animated recreation of pivotal event’s in the band’s history were effectively used to boldly and necessarily illuminate this L.A. story.

I thought Angelo Moore’s theramin dope initially, but later found myself turned off by his self-centered “madd” tics and wrench-throwing dynamic.  Yet the film never leaves Angelo behind as a credible, vital participant in the continuing tale of this funk, punk, never completely drunk heart and soul-pouring makers of music and culture.  I was surprised to find myself left with a ripped dude with a lone dreadlock like a unicorn’s horn as the most solid, reliable band member (Norwood founded Fishbone) and film character.  Ultimately the story of Fishbone to date is one of keepin’ on keepin’ on, in spite of sales-dipping shitty treatment from Columbia and the rest of the recording industry, adverse personal developments, creative conflicts, infighting and jealousy, substance abuse and mental health issues, some pretty bad outfits and a whole bevy of other reasons to break the band up.  It’s really incredible that they would keep Fishbone alive after 25 years, and not a single smash hit.  Yet they soldier on, bringing Fishbone’s hyperunique voice to the masses.  Or, at least for now, to music insiders and small crowds in Eastern Europe.

Watch the video for Fishbone’s 1985 song, “.”

More next week on the experience of being a white chick working for a film fest showcasing people of color.