Gorillaz_Humanz_Album

Gorillaz Bring Familiar Characters and New Music to III Points 2017

IMG_5926

The moment I stepped out of the Uber I saw a woman wearing a banana suit.

There would be many other one-piece suits at the III Points festival Friday evening. There were cow costumes, velvet leotards, bare butts and see-through clothes of all kinds. Gliding through the crowds listening to artists like Actress and Thundercat, watching the glitter, booze and conversations flow, it all seemed relatively tame to me. Everyone was waiting.

Gorillaz_Humanz_Album

Danny Brown drew a large crowd, but it was clear that many festival-goers (including myself) were really just waiting for the Gorillaz to make their Florida debut. By their set-time of 11:30 p.m., the bar lines had thinned dramatically and people were settling in to see the “cartoon” band formed by English musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett.

My friends and I settled atop a shipping container and cringed each time someone walked past, causing the roof to warp inward momentarily.

“Helllooooo, helllllooooooooooo, is anyone theeeeerrrreeee???” The sample from the 1985 movie “Day of the Dead” echoed and stretched over the crowd of thousands, as Albarn began the show with “M1 A1,” off the Gorillaz’ first album. People were psyched, and those closest to the stage jumped around to the lyrics (La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-hey).

The band, touring for its newest collaborative album, Humanz, pulled heavily from it. After “Last Living Souls,” a great track from the 2005 album Demon Days, the group jumped into Humanz with “Saturnz Bars.” The sounds were clean and nearly album-perfect all night. An impressive group of backup singers and artist collaborators like Jamie Principle (“Sex Murder Party”) performed with the band. Kali Uchis, who performed just hours before at the festival, sang her part in “She’s My Collar.”

Albarn was a bit sarcastic and not overly talkative with the audience. But he was a lively performer, and he indulged us a bit when he told us that as he was sitting on the balcony of his oceanfront hotel, he was inspired by the “lyrics” flying past him on airplane banners. We should expect upcoming songs to include Puff Daddy and Steve Aoki references. 😉

A scene from the music video for "Stylo," projected on the screen behind the band. Photos and video by Shayna Tanen.

A scene from the music video for “Stylo,” projected on the screen behind the band. Photos and video by Shayna Tanen.

The Gorillaz played only a few old hits. “Clint Eastwood” was much welcomed, and concertgoers couldn’t resist standing up and singing along with Del the Funky Homosapien’s part. Watching the band’s characters, 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs and Noodle, on the massive screen added some familiarity to a show full of new songs.

Albarn and the Gorillaz ended the evening on a note that made sense, but that left me in slight disbelief. Saying there’s no more plastic beach that he knows of than Miami Beach, Albarn finished the set with “Plastic Beach.” And then the lights turned off, the band left the stage, and we waited. But no encore came, even though the set finished early.

I hopped off the shipping container and walked around the art exhibits at the convention center, then visited the S3ctor 3 stage to watch Madlib.

After all that waiting, I saw the Gorillaz, which I and thousands of others came to do at III Points Friday night.

Then I got back into an Uber and called it a night.


Set List:

  • M1 A1
  • Last Living Souls
  • Saturnz Barz
  • Tomorrow Comes Today
  • Rhinestone Eyes
  • Sleeping Powder
  • Melancholy Hill
  • Busted and Blue
  • El Mañana
  • She’s My Collar (with Kali Uchis)
  • Strobelite (with Peven Everett)
  • Andromeda
  • Sex Murder Party (with Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz)
  • Out of Body (with Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz, and Michelle)
  • Superfast Jellyfish (with Pos of De La Soul)
  • Stylo (with Peven Everett)
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Plastic Beach
Shayna is the Web Editor of Boca Magazine. She is a 20-something sorta-recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. Most of her time is spent fawning over cats and kittens; cooking food at home for her family; and observing Florida’s greatest asset: nature.
silentman

Movie Review: “Mark Felt” an Unfocused Political History Lesson

silentman

“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” an historical wannabe thriller with an arduous subtitle, presents an executive branch in a state of chaos, scandal and interagency upheaval. There are whispers in darkened rooms of the president firing the FBI director, of government agencies struggling to maintain their independence from a commander-in-chief who demands their loyalty, of a constant stream of leaks threatening to blow the cover off the entire administration. The president, when finally forced to resign, says on television, “I must put the intentions of America first.”

If you know who Mark Felt is, you know we’re talking about Richard Nixon, not the Oval Office’s current occupant, but the movie’s writer-director, Peter Landesman, revels in the similarities between these most shambolic of administrations: As Watergate went, so may Russiagate.

This is one of the jobs of historical nonfiction—to illuminate our current moment by, in this instance, revealing how little has changed in more than 40 years. The problem is that Landesman’s movie is also a shambles, a jumble of rote clichés passing itself off as a linear story. If you haven’t recently re-watched “All the President’s Men,” Alan J. Pakula’s masterly dramatization of the Watergate investigation, you’ll be lost in this film’s impenetrable narrative fog. For drama like this to work, there needs to be a coherent through-line: A + B + C = Nixon resigns. If one ever existed in the original drafts of Mark Felt, it didn’t make it into the final cut, which feels like a three-hour movie chopped and pruned and shuffled into 106 unfocused minutes.

As the first prominent whistleblower of the modern political era, Felt famously leaked damaging information about the Watergate investigation to The Washington Post. As played by Liam Neeson, this career FBI man is the picture of erect, incorruptible integrity, one of the few men with a moral compass in an ethically bankrupt administration. Battling a stilted screenplay by adding snarls and exclamation points to the ponderous dialogue, Neeson’s Felt is nothing less than a saint in a suit and tie. If this were a western, he’d be wearing the white hat.

636346993377108236-Felt-00001

Rallying his beleaguered fellow-agents amid Nixon’s crackdown of the intelligence apparatus, Felt reminds us of the “breadcrumbs leading in the general direction of the Oval Office.” One of the recipients of his leaks, a Time reporter played by Bruce Greenwood, tells Felt (mostly for our benefit), “What you’re doing will bring down the whole house of cards.” Too bad we have to take their word for it.

Instead of evidence to support these trailer-ready declarations, we get the usual shadowplay of secondhand spy theatre—secret meetings in public parks and greasy spoons; the inevitable montage of Felt searching his office for “bugs;” ominously scored, portentous overhead shots of D.C. landmarks. The tone is grave, witless and underlit; perhaps Neeson’s salary precluded the ability to afford light bulbs on set.

One can only imagine the liveliness and linguistic crackle that an Aaron Sorkin could have brought to this project. Or perhaps there just isn’t enough there there in Felt’s story to warrant his own movie. Perhaps he’s fine lurking in the shadows of parking garages, delivering deep-throated revelations to dogged reporters.

As if realizing that Felt’s whistleblowing agenda was light on entertainment value, Landesman occasionally cuts away to an underdeveloped subplot about Felt and his wife Audrey (an unpleasant Diane Lane) searching for their daughter Joan, a revolutionary who ran away from home. This missing-daughter trope allows Neeson to revisit the parental persistence of his “Taken” franchise, but by the time it’s resolved, the conclusion is, like the movie’s stolid wrap-up of Watergate, too little and too late.

“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” opens Friday at Living Room Theaters at FAU, Cinemark Boynton Beach, and Cinema Paradiso in Hollywood.

 

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
LOS PLANETASHorses-Planetas-Wu-Tang-Primavera-Sound_TINIMA20130525_0002_5

Concert Review: Band of Horses at Fillmore Miami Beach

On Sunday night, indie rock veterans Band of Horses stopped by the Fillmore Miami Beach for the last show on their 115-date “Why Are You OK” tour, and provided a pleasant but mostly unremarkable show.

After an opening set by fellow South Carolina group The Artisanals, Band of Horses took the stage at 9:10 to The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” before quickly slowing things down with a soft opening song that featured frontman Ben Bridwell on piano.

LOS PLANETASHorses-Planetas-Wu-Tang-Primavera-Sound_TINIMA20130525_0002_5

Band of Horses has always been a revolving door of musicians centered on songwriter Bridwell, and this was no different on Sunday night. The five-piece group featured two new contributors on bass and guitar following the departure of longtime members Tyler Ramsey and Bill Reynolds earlier this year.

With curtains blocking off most of the seating at the back of the venue’s bottom level, it was clear that the promoters weren’t expecting anywhere near a sold-out show. What they got instead was a noticeably smaller-than-usual crowd for the Fillmore, but one that was packed up towards the stage to create an unusual sense of intimacy for the venue.

Backed by a minimal light show and the band’s customary cursive script font on a large Irish flag behind them, Band of Horses bypassed flashy stage tricks in favor of a simple setup that placed the focus squarely on the music. As with its studio albums, the band used strong dynamic contrast to keep the crowd engaged and the show moving along. Each song had its own peaks and valleys, and with each upswing in volume and tempo the crowd became visibly more active and engaged.

Photo by James Biagiotti

Photo by James Biagiotti

Though the band was still promoting its most recent record, last year’s Why Are You OK, songs off of the group’s first two records, 2006’s Everything All the Time and 2007’s Cease to Begin, dominated the setlist. These were the tracks that received the most avid response from the crowd, many of whom seemed to be devoted fans.

A few songs into the show, Bridwell took time to speak to the audience, putting on a white trucker hat and telling the South Florida crowd “We’re feeling for y’all with all that storm stuff, and we hope you’re doing alright down here. Nothing but the best for you.”

The most interesting parts of the set came when the band occasionally lapsed into rocker excess, as with standout cut “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands,” which was a pleasant upswing in the middle of the show.

After closing the main set with “Is There a Ghost,” the encore brought a one-two punch of “The Funeral” and “The General Specific,” which produced a jovial ending for the 90-minute performance and seemed to validate the decision to stay late for many fans.

While Band of Horses tried admirably to maintain the attention of the crowd throughout the evening, the considerably thinner headcount by the start of the encore spoke volumes for the mindset of the audience. It was getting late on a Sunday night, and while it may have been fun, for many attendees it wasn’t worth getting stuck in traffic on the way out.

James Biagiotti is a native of Boca Raton and music obsessive who is currently studying journalism and working as a guitar salesman. When he’s not attending or reviewing concerts in South Florida, he’s probably either playing and recording music or watching the Miami Dolphins.
jack-johnson-775x515

Jack Johnson Plays Upbeat, Memorable Show in West Palm Beach

jack-johnson-775x515

True to his music, Jack Johnson’s performance at Coral Sky Amphitheatre was exactly how I pictured it: playful and laid-back. Although the outdoor venue was packed with Johnson fans and enthusiasts, the atmosphere was akin to a small, intimate house party gathering. Everyone showed up in ponchos and rain boots due to some pretty soggy weather, but by the time Jack and his band came on stage, it was like his Hawaiian blood transformed the space into a bonfire on the beach.

Twinkling mason jars filled with colorful pieces of plastic collected from the ocean (a haunting yet beautiful illustration of modern pollution) swayed breezily in strands overhead. People swayed from side to side, nodding in tune to the beats and singing along softly.

The scenery made for a chill vibe throughout the show. Photo by Shayna Tanen.

The scenery made for a chill vibe throughout the show. Photo by Shayna Tanen.

Jack opened the show with “Sitting, Wishing, Waiting,” skipping the usual bold spotlight for softer stage lights. He quickly segued into “I Won’t Back Down,” in tribute to the late Tom Petty, followed by hits “Taylor,” “Staple It Together,” and “You and Your Heart.” The show was a combination of classic throwbacks intermixed with new hits from his July 2017 album, “All the Light About It Too.” Jack treats concertgoers like close friends, laughing and sharing stories about his college days and his kids. One especially sweet story went like this: His son was misbehaving so Jack said he’d grow a monkey tail with an eyeball at the end if he didn’t stop. His kid was delighted by the prospect, and pretended he had a monkey tail, looking at his dad and saying “You look good!” The story segued into, what else, “If I Had Eyes.” Jack even jokingly pretending to push fellow band member and instrumentalist Zach Gill off the stage.

Gill, for his part, is a great sport, and there’s a genuine friendship between the two musicians that runs way deeper than music. And Gill is an amazingly gifted pianist. He played some killer solos on “Flake,” “Big Sur,” and “Wasting Time,” to name a few. But he’s also excellent on the accordion and the melodica, a blow-organ harmonica with a keyboard attachment, which he played vibrantly. He was best when he was standing on his piano, blurting out notes on the melodica. It looked wildly fun.

It's always fun when musicians stand on their instruments. Photo by Shayna Tanen.

It’s always fun when musicians stand on their instruments. Photo by Shayna Tanen.

Jack saved “Banana Pancakes,” till the show’s nearing end, and the crowd responded in thankful applause. For the encore, Jack came back solo, opening with “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” a nod to our homegrown singer Jimmy Buffet, then rounding it out with four more songs—some quite uh, emotion-evoking—including a silly one about getting stoned with Willie Nelson. All in all, it was the perfect ending to a long day at the office, and the perfect starter to the almost weekend. Aloha.

Set List:

Sitting, Wishing, Waiting

I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty cover)

Taylor Staple It Together

You and Your Heart

Monsoon

Flake

The Horizon Has Been Defeated

Badfish/BossDJ

Inaudible Melodies

You Can’t Control It

My Mind Is for Sale

Breakdown

Big Sur

You Don’t Know How It Feels (Tom Petty cover)

If I Had Eyes

Good People

I Got You

Belle/Bananas Pancakes

Shot Reverse Shot

Wasting Time

Bubble Toes/The Joker

 

Encore:

A Pirate Looks at Forty

Do You Remember

Willie Got Me Stoned

Angel

Better Together

Allison Lewis is the associate editor at Boca Raton Magazine and a native St. Louisan. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. In her spare time, Allison enjoys cooking, playing Ultimate frisbee, reading, traveling and watching sports.
Justin-Brice-Guariglia2

The Art of Climate Change, Stunningly Explored at the Norton

For most of us, climate change is an abstract concern—an accumulation of hopeless data we can’t see, smell or hear, and can only occasionally, and debatably, feel (read: Hurricane Irma). So perhaps it makes sense that an abstract artist would produce the most illuminating visualization of global warming’s impact on Earth’s natural resources.

That artist is innovative photographer Justin Brice Guariglia, who flew over Greenland with a contingent of NASA scientists seven times during 2015 and 2016. The resulting images—of arctic voids and industrial landscapes alike—form the basis for “Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene,” now on display at the Norton Museum. (“Anthropocene” is the proposed era of geologic time in which we currently live, with “anthropo” referring to changes caused by human activity.)

EarthWorksimage

These photographs, printed on an ultra-archival process Guariglia himself pioneered, are stunningly beautiful objects on its own. Guariglia’s work conjures the terror and intensity of the early abstract expressionist painters more than anything in the traditional photographic realm.

But their collective implication is of a clarion call unheeded, of the last desperate gasps of a dying planet unsentimentally presented for observation by its very killers. It’s just about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in an art museum.

For this monumental show to settle in, it’s best to take things slow. If you follow this one-room show clockwise, you’ll start with its most frenzied works and progress to its more despairing selections. “Obur I,” one of many photographs taken over industrial mining sites, is an ominous blur of furious topography—created, like so many of these works, by integrating elements of painting. He coats his shots in platinum gold acrylic pigment and mineral-based gesso. These materials are deployed as much for their commentary as their aesthetics; three of his “Landscape Studies” are awash in 22-karat gold leaf, one of the products mined from this mutilated region for our pleasure, resulting in tempestuous images of a world in flux that are also partial diagnoses of its current state.

Another “Landscape Study,” this one pointedly lacquered in pewter leaf, resembles a broken mirror, a straightforward if effective metaphor. His images of the Arctic Ocean and Baffin Bay, however, were taken after the breakage. Once-mighty glaciers have been reduced to glacial dust—specks of white on a dark surface that suggests deep space more than the North Pole. These aren’t icy masses anymore; they’re simply detritus.

Justin-Brice-Guariglia2

Finally, you arrive at Guariglia’s extreme close-ups of ice sheets, many of them ballooned in size. The four-panel “Akunnaaaq I” looks like the most inhospitable planet in a science-fiction film. But even this is dwarfed by “Jacobshavn I,” depicting a landmass pockmarked and cratered by carbon dioxide emissions. It’s a nine-panel wake-up call too massively scaled to ignore.

At least, that should be the response. The reality is, on the day I visited, most museumgoers breezed in and out of the gallery without reading the wall text. As with the issue of confronting climate change, the urgency is lost on too many of us.

“Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene” runs through Jan. 7 at Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Admission is free. Additionally, Guariglia will be discussing his work and the exhibition at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at the museum, at no cost. Call 561/832-5196 or visit norton.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty Brings the Big Easy to Fort Lauderdale

On Friday and Saturday night, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, along with opening act Dumpstaphunk, brought New Orleans with them to South Florida as they took over Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale for a two-night stand of funk, rock and jazz music.

Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, has been performing in jazz ensembles since he was 4 years old. Over the past 25 years he’s built a reputation as one of the most talented brass musicians in the world, and has performed with a staggering lineup of artists, from Green Day and U2 to the Foo Fighters. Since 2009 he’s led his own band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and showcased his unique hybrid of rock and jazz all over the world.

Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti

Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti

Considering the reputation Andrews has, it’s no surprise that he’d bring along a group of bona fide New Orleans legends with him on tour. When opening act Dumpstaphunk took the stage at 9:45 each night, the group brought with them a unique blend of funk and jam music that was a thrill to watch. The musicianship of each individual player shined, with all seven members of the group receiving a solo at one point or another. Standouts included Tony Hall, who seamlessly transitioned from guitar to five-string bass both nights while also sharing vocal duties; and members of the famous Neville family, Ivan and Ian, on keys and guitar, respectively.

When Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the stage each night at 11:15, the group had a tough act to follow but still lived up to the challenge.

Andrews may be promoting his new album and Blue Note debut­­­ Parking Lot Symphony, but these were unique shows in that nobody in the crowd was really concerned with which songs made the set list. Compositions blended together as the group joyously performed, and the crowd was just along for the ride. Each member of Orleans Avenue received a showcase over the course of both nights, and Andrews flaunted his prowess as both a bandleader and frontman as he kept the crowd fully engaged with sing-alongs and choreographed dances with his band.

Troy Andrews is a musician’s musician, switching between instruments (trombone, trumpet, drums, tambourine and lead vocals) throughout the set both nights, and showcasing techniques like circular breathing (playing a wind instrument continuously for an extended period of time without stopping to take a breath) that left the crowd awed whether they fully understood the difficulty of his feats or not.

The only notable difference in the set lists between the two shows was the inclusion of some memorable covers from both bands on night two. Dumpstaphunk got the led out with an extended cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” while Trombone Shorty found time to include a spirited cover of Green Day’s anthemic “Brain Stew” in his set.

Throughout both nights, which were rife with improvisation, one of the most fun things to see was the excitement of the band members as they watched each other solo. Andrews kept a fixed concentration on whichever member of his band was being featured, and couldn’t hide his pleasure when watching them each enjoy their individual moment in the spotlight.

Neither group strayed from their New Orleans culture throughout the two-night stand, and in both sets Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought their own version of Mardi Gras to South Florida by playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and tossing T-shirts and branded beads into the crowd.

Dumpstaphunk

Dumpstaphunk

When Andrews closed the second show with “Hurricane Season,” he didn’t bother to address the relevance of the topic. He let the music speak for itself, not talking to the crowd other than to introduce the band and make sure the fans were still “partying out there.”

While the crowd was much more packed on Saturday than Friday, both nights brought a friendly and inclusive group of people who enjoyed the music together. Many concertgoers were either from New Orleans or shared a deep personal connection with the city. I spoke to a fan named Griffin who was the first of many to speak as if on a first-name basis with Trombone Shorty. He referred to the artist as “Troy” in conversation and filled me in on the history of the jazz legends in the Andrews and Neville families of New Orleans.

Another fan, who introduced himself as “Horacio Horn Blower,” brought a trumpet to the show in a backpack and told me that he hoped to have the opportunity to jam with the band, which predictably never came to fruition. These encounters showed me that I was dealing with something unique from most of the concerts that I attend in South Florida. These bands didn’t just bring their songs with them—they brought their heritage as well.

James Biagiotti is a native of Boca Raton and music obsessive who is currently studying journalism and working as a guitar salesman. When he’s not attending or reviewing concerts in South Florida, he’s probably either playing and recording music or watching the Miami Dolphins.
16-05-010_RitR_War_00044.CR2

Movie Review: J.D. Salinger Biopic “Rebel in the Rye”

J.D. Salinger was famously reticent, if not outwardly opposed, to his work receiving the Silver Screen treatment. Filmmaker Danny Strong’s passion project “Rebel in the Rye,” a new biopic and about the great writer, serves as a prime validation of Salinger’s apprehension of Hollywood.

16-05-010_RitR_War_00044.CR2

Strong frames his narrative around Salinger’s (a brooding Nicholas Hoult) platonic love-hate relationship with his Columbia literature professor and lifelong champion Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). It begins in 1944, with Salinger penning an apologia to Burnett and asserting that “Holden Caulfield is dead.” On cue, the story flits back to 1939, with an arrogant Salinger preparing to enroll in Columbia, bed the first girl he approaches and easily publish his early scribblings, viewing himself as an arbiter of authenticity in a world of phonies.

The story proceeds with due diligence through the major markers of Salinger’s life: His humbling months of instruction and first taste of literary success, in the pages of Burnett’s Story magazine; his conceiving Catcher in the Rye while on the front lines of Normandy, while nearly freezing to death; his battle-scarred return to the home front, suffering from PTSD and depression; his drift into Buddhism; his anointment into the top ranks of the New York literati and his subsequent retreat into a country hermitage.

They’re all compelling constituent parts, or else they should have been, were it not from Strong’s relentlessly ordinary approach. As a compact information delivery service for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read its biographical source material, J.D. Salinger: A Life, “Rebel in the Rye” serves a base function. And the scenes with Spacey have a definitive crackle—and even, when Burnett’s relationship with Salinger is on the outs, a palpable ache. For his part, Hoult convincingly evolves from boy to man over the course of his character’s belated coming-of-age progression.

16-05-03_RitR_Party_Vet_Bedroom_00554.CR2

But make no mistake: “Rebel in the Rye” is a disappointing example of an iconoclastic voice neutered by a pedestrian treatment. This is a film of clichéd rejection-letter montages, and images of inspired typewriting scored by triumphant string music. It’s head-slappingly literal in its depiction of Salinger transferring real-life experiences to the page, and supporting characters, such as his almost comically disapproving father Sol (Victor Garber), are absent dimension and nuance. It doesn’t convey the complexities of a difficult life so much as reduce it to signposts, gracelessly trundling from one period to the next.

Some audiences will accept its transparent story devices and flavorless direction. But the real Salinger—to say nothing of Holden Caulfield—would certainly reject its oppressive sentiment. And if the man himself wouldn’t be pleased with the product, what good is it, really?

“Rebel in the Rye” opens today, Sept. 29, at Living Room Theaters in Boca Raton, Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
160117677f37384med

Concert Review: Foster the People at Fillmore Miami Beach

160117677f37384med

By James Biagiotti

Six years ago, when Foster the People’s debut album Torches was released, the group seemed to be on a rapid rise to superstardom. The single “Pumped Up Kicks” became a massive crossover hit in 2011 and catapulted Mark Foster’s newly formed band to prominence and a record deal. By the time the Los Angeles based indie-pop band reached the stage of the Fillmore Miami Beach on Wednesday night, the group was three albums deep into its career and seemed to be running in place.

The group has followed a unique track since its initial success with “Pumped Up Kicks,” delving into psychedelia for its sophomore album Supermodel before experimenting with a more electronic sound for this year’s Sacred Hearts Club, its weakest offering to date.

Though Foster’s band may not be headlining festivals and arenas like many would have expected at this point in his career, it has certainly developed a strong and fervent fan base. When the group brought its Sacred Hearts Club tour to South Florida on Wednesday night, it performed to a packed house filled with attendees of all ages.

The night’s opener, L.A. based garage rock group Cherry Glazerr, was a pleasant surprise, bucking the crowd’s expectations of indie-pop in favor of a noisey sound that was closer to grunge than to anything by Foster the People. The group had the volume cranked up as loud as I’ve ever heard it at the Fillmore for its 30-minute set, which included standout tracks “Had Ten Dollaz” and “Told You I’d Be with the Guys.” Frontwoman Clementine Creevey was a blast to watch on stage, and seemed to relish the opportunity to perform to such a large crowd.

Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr

With fans’ ears still ringing from Cherry Glazerr, Foster the People took the stage at 9:15, opening with “Pay the Man,” the first track off of Sacred Hearts Club. The six-piece band at first featured two drummers, two keyboardists, a guitarist, and frontman Mark Foster on vocals. Throughout the night, the rhythm section backing Foster bounced from one instrument to another during transitions between songs.

Make no mistake, Foster the People is Mark Foster’s group, as evidenced by his position as the only musician at the front of the stage, with the rest of the group performing behind him. The stage setup featured a massive neon sign that read “Sacred Hearts Club” on the wall behind the band, which changed colors and flashed along with an elaborate light show throughout the evening.

The Fillmore, which is usually known for its superior sound quality, struggled with the transition from the cacophonous opening set to the lush pop sensibilities of the headlining act, resulting in muddled sound throughout the night. Vocals could often barely be discerned, and lead guitar and piano lines got lost in the mix, failing to speak out over the rest of the instruments.

The large crowd reacted with fervor towards tracks from the group’s first record, Torches, and seemed to only tolerate the tracks from Sacred Hearts Club, many of which fell flat when juxtaposed next to the band’s earlier hits.

The group found time for a few notable inclusions in the two-hour set, like covers of New Order’s “Blue Monday” and the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” as well as the live debut of “I Love My Friends” from Sacred Hearts Club.

Standout tracks from the headlining set included “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon,” which proved to be the heaviest song by the main act, and the obligatory inclusion of “Pumped Up Kicks,” which was preceded by a brief speech from Foster addressing the current political climate.

“Don’t worry about the small things,” Foster told the crowd. “Love each other. Life is hard enough already, and love will always be greater than politics.”

The band closed the main set with “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy,” which felt like an embarrassing misfire, before an encore that featured fan-favorite tracks “Houdini” and “Call It What You Want” to end the night on a positive note.

Though Mark Foster exuded positive energy throughout the set and successfully kept the crowd animated and involved, he couldn’t overcome the poor audio quality and disappointing material from Sacred Hearts Club to put together a truly great show. After a fun but not quite satisfying two-hour set, it was clear why Foster the People’s career trajectory has stalled out.

SET LIST

1) Pay the Man

2) Helena Beat

3) Life on the Nickel

4) Doing It for the Money

5) Pseudologia Fantastica

6) Harden the Paint

7) Warrant (with New Order’s “Blue Monday” postlude)

8) Are You What You Want to Be?

9) Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)

10) Lotus Eater

11) Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover)

12) Goats in Trees

13) Coming of Age

14) I Love My Friends (live debut)

15) Sit Next To Me

16) Miss You

17) A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon

18) Pumped Up Kicks

19) Loyal Like Sid & Nancy

ENCORE

20) Houdini

21) Broken Jaw

22) Call It What You Want

8648FFF750569F5A9DA415688A07D18F

Theatre Review: David Mamet’s Prescient, Brutal “Oleanna”

Before there were trigger warnings and safe spaces and all the other Twitter-trending muzzles introduced to American college campuses, there was “Oleanna.” Examining the build-up and fallout of a P.C. college student’s damning allegations against a professor, David Mamet’s prescient 1992 drama diagnosed a problem that, in the pop-cultural sphere, nary existed. It was revelatory then and even more persuasive now, as teachers with opinions or approaches that deviate from the current generation’s herd wisdom are routinely blacklisted. Twenty-five years on, as evidenced by Evening Star’s perceptive new production, the play’s faults are the same but it cuts deeper.

dscn3480

John (Todd Bruno) is a soon-to-be-tenured professor at a college in Anywhere, U.S.A. He has agreed to take a meeting in his office with a student, Carol (Sara Elizabeth Grant), who has been struggling with his course material, and whose latest report could cost her a passing grade.

In their initial meeting, John’s attention is compromised. He’s in the process of closing a deal on a new house—his reward for the forthcoming tenure—and piercing telephone calls regarding the sale interrupt the dialogue at key junctures (Director Rosalie Grant also handled the shrill brrriiing! of the early-‘90s landline, and it’s right on point.)

If you’ve seen a previous production of “Oleanna”—or, perhaps, even if you haven’t—you’ll see exactly where John, in his handling of Carol’s objections, seals his fate. Bruno portrays him as genuine about helping his student succeed, without a hint of untoward innuendo, but the character’s phraseology is regrettable. “I like you,” he says, multiple times, when asked why he’s willing to provide her with extra attention and one-on-one meetings outside of class. He shares an off-color joke about sex to prove a point. His phone conversations with his wife and realtor plant a minefield of potentially misconstrued diction—“I’m with a student,” “As soon as I get off…”

It’s during these lines that Sara Grant begins to infuse Carol with wiles and cunning, suggesting that she may be more than a confused, self-lacerating damsel in need of further instruction from the Great Man behind the desk. Sly smiles creep along her face as she jots down perceived insinuations and slights in a notebook—each of them ammunition in a battle John doesn’t know is being waged.

If John is guilty of anything, it’s diarrhea of the mouth. He speaks in patronizing pretzels, and you could argue that “Oleanna” constitutes Mamet’s attack on both of these archetypes—Carol for her cruel manipulations, and John for his gaseous condescension. He’s Charlie Rose in the famous Sarah Palin interview; she’s a femme fatale spinning a web and waiting for her victim to fall in.

8648FFF750569F5A9DA415688A07D18F

If “Oleanna” occasionally grates, it’s on the playwright. This Mametspeak, arch and jazzlike, is some of the least naturalistic in his canon. Occasionally, his characters take on the verbal sputtering of broken lawnmowers, and you might want to scream, “just finish a damn sentence already!”

But both actors do yeoman’s work on his thorniest phrasings, and they connect deeply with Mamet’s more cogent, direct passages in the second and third acts. Rosalie Grant subtly guides them through a 180-degree reversal of roles from the play’s opening to its brutally effective climax. Just as Sara Grant evolves from doe-eyed ingénue to something approaching a P.C. dominatrix—“Venus in Fur,” another two-hander about power and sexual politics, owes something of a debt to “Oleanna”—Bruno conveys a deft transformation from a comfortable authority figure to a cowed puppy. If you’re on his side, which is where I would imagine most audience members and Mamet himself firmly stands, it’s effectively infuriating to watch.

Ardean Landhuis’s office setting, which includes lightless window panels and a couple of shelves of academic books, is just functional enough, though it lacks both the character-defining details and architectural luxuries that a professor of 20-plus-years would have accumulated. Myria Jean Baum’s costume design is well chosen to reflect the characters’ personalities and power dynamic in each scene, from Bruno’s Mr. Rogers sweater in the first act to Grant’s colorful, liberated attire in the final act.

As an outspoken post-9-11 conservative, Mamet’s personal politics have become odious to many theatergoers, which may explain why he’s been produced less often in recent years. But this durable attack on P.C. policing cuts across ideological lines, appealing to both the Bill Mahers and the Tucker Carlsons—a salve of mutual outrage in an otherwise divided country.

“Oleanna” runs through Oct. 8 at Evening Star Productions at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $30. Call 561/447-8829 or visit eveningstarproductions.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
MI0004161562

Concert Review: Young the Giant in Miami

Written by James Biagiotti

Almost exactly six years after its first show in Miami, Young the Giant returned to Miami’s Bayfront Park Amphitheater Saturday Night with something to prove.

“The first time we played Miami was 2011, on this stage,” frontman Sameer Gadhia told the crowd. “We were opening for Incubus. We loved this city. It was a big goal of ours to come back here and headline our own show.”

MI0004161562

Young the Giant returned to Miami to play their own show six years after headlining there for Incubus.

I was at that show six years ago, and wouldn’t have predicted that this five-piece group from Irvine, California would make it back to achieve that goal. Young the Giant has come a long way since then, however, and this seems to be a band that operates best with a chip on its shoulder.

Far from critical darlings, the group has nonetheless built a devoted following since the release of its debut record in 2010, through constant touring and a pleasantly inoffensive, if not revolutionary, trio of albums with a penchant for earworm melodies.

Solidifying Bayfront Park’s growing reputation as a destination for team-up summer concerts, Young the Giant brought along fellow alternative radio mainstays Joywave and Cold War Kids for the lone South Florida stop on the Home of the Strange tour.

After a lackluster opening set by Rochester, New York’s Joywave, who performed to a crowd that could generously be estimated at a quarter of the venue’s capacity, fans continued to trickle into Bayfront Park. When Cold War Kids took the stage around sundown, the crowd was noticeably larger but still nowhere near packed. The five-piece indie rock group from Long Beach, California has built up a small but dedicated following since forming in 2004, but on Saturday night couldn’t seem to overcome muddled sound and an overall lack of enthusiasm for its set. By the time Cold War Kids left the stage, the venue had filled up nicely despite the lack of a sellout crowd. (The fact that another alt-rock radio mainstay, Arcade Fire, was playing just eight miles away, in Coral Gables, might have contributed to the turnout.)

Before Young the Giant took the stage just after 9, the introduction over the PA left nobody questioning whether the group would shy away from any discussion of patriotism that its album ignites. The band took the stage after a faux-radio mashup of U.S.A.-themed tracks, from Green Day’s “American Idiot” and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” to Kendrick Lamar’s inflammatory “XXX.”

The Home of the Strange tour lived up to its timely patriotic billing from the jump, the headline set beginning with album-opener “Amerika,” a track inspired by the posthumously published Franz Kafka novel of the same name.

Gadhia, clad in a yellow jumpsuit, seemed intent on showing off his dexterity as a frontman, and didn’t stop moving all night. When he wasn’t a dancing silhouette in front of the band’s large triangular screen, he was playing guitar or one of the dozen or so instruments enveloping his mic stand.

Though Gadhia stole the show and earned the rapt attention of most fans in attendance, the rest of the group performed admirably, with nary a mistake to be heard throughout the set.

One of the many musically impressive moments of the night came midway through the main set, when the band gathered together on the right side of the stage and invoked their popular “In The Open” YouTube series for acoustic versions of “Strings” and “Firelight.”

Along with many fan-favorite older tracks, the band’s set showcased many songs from its recent record, which incorporates a dash of electronic dance music into its usual indie/alternative-rock sound. “Titus Was Born” began as a slow burn that blossomed into a dynamic pop song, and encore opener “Jungle Youth” brought a bombastic beat that got the crowd even more fired up.

The show never seemed to lull, and ended on a strong note, with the crowd singing along to jubilant renditions of the band’s most recent single “Silvertongue,” as well as its first-ever single and biggest hit, “My Body.”

Young the Giant has come a long way since the first time I saw the band six years ago, and as I spoke to concertgoers on the way to the exit, longtime fans and first-time listeners alike seemed to agree: For this band, the sky is the limit.

SET LIST

Amerika

Something to Believe In

I Got

Anagram

Titus Was Born

Mr. Know-It-All

It’s About Time

Cough Syrup

Strings (“In the Open” Version)

Firelight (“In the Open” Version)

Nothing’s Over

Mind Over Matter

Repeat

Apartment

Home of the Strange

ENCORE

Jungle Youth

Silvertongue

My Body