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Rock ‘n Roll Ghost Picks 2013’s Top 10 Albums

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I can’t say that 2013 was a particularly great year for music. At least not for me. I connected to very little of what was released and outright hated the vast majority of what was popular or was critically-acclaimed (I still can’t believe anyone likes Vampire Weekend or that no one called bullshit on Arcade Fire’s collection of dance-ish turds, let alone thinks that they put out the best album of the year).

Of course there’s a ridiculous number of albums I have spotted on year end lists that I plan on getting to, but there’s not enough time to give them their due for this list’s publishing.

So, in the immortal words of Otis Day, hit it! 

kanye-west-yeezus10. Kanye WestYeezus – 2013 may be known more as the year Kanye lost his god damn mind for good, and Yeezus suffered for it commercially. In all honesty, the Jesus comparisons in the title alone are hard to stomach. But this is a crazy, powerful wallop of an album – not entirely great, but never short of captivating for its brazenness and for its reach. I can’t say I even like the album as a whole, but its parts that fire straight make up for the ones that veer off into crazy town. I can’t abide that “Bound 2″ video, either – but gotta give it up for SNL’s Waking Up with Kimye. A note to Kanye: Get your head out of your ass (and Kim’s ass, too).

 

howtodestroyangels.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo09. How To Destroy Angels – Welcome To OblivionTrent Reznor released two albums this year, but this project’s first full-length was much more satisfying thant Nine Inch Nails‘ “comeback” for me. Reznor, along with wife Mariqueen Maandig (singing lead), frequent collaborator Atticus Ross and the band’s art director, Rob Sheridan was a weird ride. This was one of the most disturbing sounding albums I’ve listened to with any frequency in quite a while (there’s another one, stranger than this, that made this list). I’m hoping that Reznor doesn’t forget about this group once NIN finishes their huge international tour.

 

David-Bowie-The-Next-Day08. David Bowie – The Next Day – Dropped out of nowhere as if by the Gods themselves, Bowie’s first album in about a decade was an immediate and clean attack. Though sounding a bit weaker of voice than he did the last time we heard him, The Next Day was nothing short of confident, even strident, though I could have used more of the title track’s raucousness at times.  It’s by no means a perfect album, but it’s probably the strongest Bowie album since Earthling and, as a Bowie fan, I’m just happy there’s some more music.

The-TerrorTheFlamingLips07. The Flaming Lips – The Terror – I can imagine that this wackadoo album from the Oklahoma freak rockers shed many of the “Do You Realize?” fans for good. I mean, this is the Lips’ modern day equivalent of Pink Floyd‘s Zabriskie Point. There’s nothing festival friendly on here, just a lot of skronk, scary sounds and general craziness. And somehow I loved all of it. It scares the hell out of me every time I listen to it and considering that it elicited that strong of a reaction and kept me coming back has to say something. Talking to Forbes, Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd basically agree with the interviewer that they wanted the album to be disturbing and unrewarding. At this point I haven’t a clue just where they’ll go next. And I love it!

 innocents-cover-web_106. Moby – Innocents – There’s not much to distinguish Moby‘s latest release with most of his post-Play output, it’s very familiar, indeed. Yet, in that familiarity there is something so beautifully comfortable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an artist returning to a template over and over again as long as it doesn’t feel as if they’re going through the motions. This is a gorgeous collection of songs – an album that, on its release I had on repeat about ten times. Moby‘s not changing up his game much here, but he’s digging in deeper and delivering a heartfelt statement, especially on the below cut, “Almost Home” featuring Damien Jurado on vocals.

 516dd06dec14a.image05. Futurebirds – Baba Yaga – This Athens, GA band’s debut full-length, Hampton’s Lullaby, was one of my top five favorites in 2010 and their follow-up is almost as amazing. These guys are really laid back, everything’s steeped in this incredible reverb and it’s all delivered in this way that makes you want to live inside of the music. I don’t know how vague that last statement is to some, but others will understand what I’m getting at. All I know is that I haven’t seen them live yet and I need to remedy that the next time that they’re in Chicago.

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04. The Wild Feathers – The Wild Feathers – Hands down one of the best debut releases I’ve heard in a long while. Caught this Austin, TX band by chance performing “The Ceiling” on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and was hooked instantly. This is roots-rock done perfectly. Three guys singing, which brings to mind The Band, the whole band performing that good, clean, bar-rockin’ country sound. I love how they kick into “American,” the album’s second track, the swinging from the hip ease of “I Can Have You,” and the easy way that “The Ceiling” unspools. Eager to hear more from these guys.

sky-ferreira-night-time-400x40003. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time – This full-length debut from the 21-year old phenom delivers on all of the promise of her singles and EPs. Ferreira is a dazzler, an amazing musical stylist that blends the best of pop/alternative/new wave/R&B’s past and filters it through her worldview. “24 Hours” feels like you’re floating in a disco bubble, “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)” is propulsive and angsty, and “Heavy Metal Heart” is a pounding number that is filled with a longing desire. Outdoing Miley (the NSFW album cover not shown in full to the right) at her own game, Ferreira deserves the same level of attention from the media and music audiences.

lorde-pure-heroine-41002. Lorde – Pure Heroine – Lorde’s success is at once a surprise and somehow not at the same time. It takes someone very unique to cut through the crap and find love from multiple genres and this New Zealander burned slow before starting a fire. Expect the copycats to flood the market in 2014. Combining a meld of hip-hop beats, alt-rock/riot grrl sensibilities and mystical folk sensibilities, Lorde has the music world in the palm of her hand. Her song “Royals” answers to the beat of the very things she sings against (something Spin.com stupidly tried to assign as racism in their “Hall of Shame”), creating an interesting juxtaposition. It’s hard to know how success will change Lorde’s humble perspective, but as long as she stays true to herself she can go beyond this incredible high water mark of a debut.

090413-qotsa01. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork – Like 2012’s best album, this is the one I listened to over and over again like some sort of mental patient.  After the 50th listen I knew there would be nothing better released in 2013. Josh Homme and his crew made the only pure rock record of the year and the only rock record worth a damn. QOTSA brought that sexy swagger to …Like Clockwork, something seemingly no one bothers to do anymore (never mind hardly anyone rocking, did everybody in rock bands all collectively get neutered?) Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Elton John, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan and Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and more make appearances here and it’s still a band effort despite the large ensemble. It’s a tight 46 minutes, getting out before overstaying its welcome. The group ditched the majors for Matador, losing none of their bite in the process and not letting more freedom go to their heads. If anything, they reigned that shit in, making a much tighter record than they have in a long while. And the damn album has liner notes written by Anthony Bourdain fer chrissakes! How cool is that? (“Whatever kind of strange and terrible mutation slouched out of the irradiated California wasteland in 1996, it’s evidently still around. It lives. It breathes. It can’t be stopped.”) This is dangerous, this is sexual, this is rock and roll with a pulse. This isn’t a band playing nice and asking if it’s okay to say something or saying it and then apologizing. This is rock ‘n roll, my friends. Everyone who claims to be in a rock band needs to hear this album and figure out just what in the hell they’re doing wrong. Because Queens of the Stone Age are doing everything right on …Like Clockwork.

2012’s Top 10:

01. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

02. School of Seven Bells – Ghostory

03. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania

04. Jack White – Blunderbuss

05. Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls

06. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

07. Beach House – Bloom

08. Sera Cahoone – Deer Creek Canyon

09. Tame Impala – Lonerism

10. Purity Ring – Shrines

2011’s Top 5:

1. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

2. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

3. The Black Keys – El Camino

4. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

5. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

2010’s Top 10:

01. The Roots – How I Got Over

02. Futurebirds – Hampton’s Lullaby

03. Hole – Nobody’s Daughter

04. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

05. Beach House – Teen Dream

06. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

07. The Black Keys – Brothers

08. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

09. Massive Attach – Heligoland

10. Neil Young – Le Noise

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Film Review: 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight)

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by Pouya G. Asadi

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12-years-a-slave-posterThere comes a time when a director reaches deep down in his unconscious mind and surfaces back up with a story that’s worth more than a hundred years. In the case of visual artist/filmmaker Steve McQueen, the director who reached deep down for a heartfelt story that resonated with history by way of the dolorous epic story of Solomon Northrup in 12 Years A Slave.

While reading the autobiography of Northrup, McQueen found himself asking “why have I heard of Anne Frank but never heard of Northrup?” It’s a feasible and extraordinary question to ask ourselves. The story of Northrup is one of national heartache and survivorship. Northrup was a free African American man with a family in the state of New York. His story goes on to show the actual physical evil that is inside all of us. Northrup was essentially kidnapped and sold to slavery in the Antebellum South. McQueen and his filmmaking team transport the audience straight in the middle of the Antebellum South. The depiction of the horrors of slavery and the absolute ridiculous backwards lifestyles of some of the slave-owners in those times is haunting; and the film portrays this in grandiose fashion. Every sin committed by these slave-owners can be heard physically reverberating throughout the audience. McQueen and his actors do an extraordinary job of showcasing each emotion that Northrup emits. Highlighting the hardest part of his life and the insane torture he endures all for the sake of cruelty. An awful element of the human condition that we can all learn a little more about thanks to McQueen and his film.

12 Years A Slave  Website

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Film Review: Ender’s Game (Summit Entertainment)

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 by Pouya G. Asadi

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enders-gameEnder’s Game has transformed from being a world best-selling novel into being a hot number one film at the box office. Oscar-winning writer/director Gavin Hood has given new life to author Orson Scott Card‘s epic tale of a space-age boy commander. The story of Ender’s Game is essentially one of a boy growing up too fast. The world of Ender is one which is in the not too distant future. The writings of Scott Card are in my opinion the most realistic science-fiction scenarios that are popular today. Mix that in with an Oscar-winning filmmaker and you’ve got an actual recipe for success. The cast of the film is undeniable and each are perfect in their own right. Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Abigail Breslin come together to help tell a story of human empowerment and the ultimate power of youth. Ender has been chosen to be a child soldier whose ultimate goal is to command an entire army. The trials and tribulations that Ender endures throughout his training at Battle School are dazzling and epic. Which leads me to mention how the live action mixed with occasional animations are executed in a pristine manner throughout Ender’s Game. There a reason why Scott Card has shot down every other filmmaker’s attempt to adapt Ender’s Game for the big screen. The wait was worth the while for this insane show of technology meets cinema. Whether or not you have read the book, the journey that one goes on with the film Ender’s Game is one that will be forever remembered as a sci-fi classic.

Official Ender’s Game Website

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Comedy/Radio Interview: Mike Bocchetti – The Artie Lange Show

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mqdefaultComedian Mike Bocchetti is a true late-in-life success story.  Bocchetti’s been a comedian since the late 80s, finding peaks and valleys (two runs on NBC’s comedy reality show competition, Last Comic Standing – 2003 and 2006) until finally landing a dream job as the announcer of The Artie Lange Show.

Televised on DirecTV (Audience Channel 239), The Artie Lange Show is on radio coast-to-coast (local radio stations, SiriusXM, as well as on the internet) from 10 P.M. until 1 A.M. EST, Monday through Friday.  Bocchetti began his job as announcer on September 7th, 2012, back when comedian Nick DiPaolo was co-hosting with Lange (DiPaolo was ousted by DirecTV over Christmas break last year).

Bocchetti, who everyone who knows him says is the nicest guy ever, often takes the brunt of host Lange’s sarcasm and lacerating humor.  It’s all in good fun, of course, and Bocchetti plays up the lovable doofus for all its worth.  It’s reality dialed up to “11”, with Bocchetti playing a few steps below his real self.

phym_MikeBocchettiNickandArtieNow Bocchetti makes appearances on the Opie & Anthony show (also on SiriusXM), is working on live-action content for AdultSwim.com, and just booked an episode on Louis C.K.‘s hit FX show, Louie.  The funny thing about the Louie job is that when I interviewed him one evening last week, Bocchetti was vague about the job, saying he signed a confidentiality agreement and couldn’t mention it.  3 hours later on The Artie Lange Show it took less than 60 seconds of grilling by Lange for him to spill the beans.

His fat superhero show, Tubbyman, debuts November 11th on Blip.tv.  In it, Bocchetti plays the anti-bullying superhero Tubbyman (see the trailer below), who fights against one of the biggest social topics of the modern era.

Bocchetti’s warm, genuineness comes through even when speaking to him over the phone.  “It’s great, you’re from Chicago, that’s where Dan (Falato, The Artie Lange Show‘s producer) is from, Chicago.  I like to tease Dan a lot, but I love him.  I gotta come to Chicago myself.  I was there in 2001 for the Chicago Comedy Festival and had a great time.  I was there before 9/11.”

Below is my interview with Mike Bocchetti.  It’s probably longer than some you’ll see, but since there aren’t very many interviews with Mike out there for people to read, I felt it was important to give him a lot of space to reveal some background on him, as well as to overload it video clips for people who don’t know how awesome he is on The Artie Lange Show a chance to see that.

Mike Bocchetti will be appearing at the Valley Forge Casino Resort on November 7th and November 8th (get your tickets by clicking the link on each date – Promo code THANKYOU for $10 off tickets).

photo (34)Rock ‘nRoll Ghost: What’s it like to be able to work steadily now?  How important is the Artie Lange show to you?

Mike Bocchetti: It’s very important to me.  I’m on TV for 14 months now.  It’s helped me so much with auditions and a fan base.  People gift me stuff – everything from football jerseys to food in the mail.  It’s surreal.

Food in the mail?

Mike Bocchetti: Somebody sent us provolone.

How much provolone did somebody send?

Mike Bocchetti: Like a 5 pound thing.

Such a random thing to send in the mail.

Mike Bocchetti: I know!  I’m not eating any food that was sent.  I was alive when the Tylenol thing happened to those poor people.

When did you get your start in comedy?

Mike Bocchetti: I started comedy originally in 1989. I dabbled and thought I’d be a millionaire right away. A lot of people think that and don’t realize what goes in this business.  I came back in ’92 and I’ve been going strong ever since.

What got you out of it?

Mike Bocchetti: In the beginning it was kind of frustrating, ya know, I thought it would happen fast, ya know.  When you’re in your twenties you expect things quick sometimes.

When I first started I was very influenced by Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay.  I was just as dirty as they were.  I was kind of like a knock-off of Dice.  I wore a black leather jacket and smoked a lot, trying to be like him.  My friend, the late, great Seth Schultz told me the key to comedy is to be yourself.  Now I’m a lot different.  I’m not that dirty.  I’m very self deprecating.  I’m not political or anything, I just like to make fun of myself and occasionally other people here and there.

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What would you say was your first…I don’t know if “break” is the right word, but what was the first time you thought you were on the right path?

Mike Bocchetti: The first time I started realizing things were good, was back in 1995, it was my first TV appearance on Showtime.  Louis C.K. had put me in a film he did that was on Howie Mandel‘s show.  I was thinking ‘oh wow, this is the ticket.’   It was my first TV credit thanks to Louis. After that it took a long time.  It took about…(counts years)…another 8 years to do anything.

What was the TV show?

Mike Bocchetti: It was Sunny Skies. I was in it, Todd Barry was in it and Rick Shapiro was in it and that was Louis’ first directing debut, I think.

Are you a regular on the comedy circuit out there?

Mike Bocchetti: I tour when I can with Artie and other people.  I was just on Opie and Anthony for the second time.  I’m going back very soon.  They actually stayed an extra hour with me.  I was like, ‘Woah!’   That blew my mind.  Like I said, I’m going to be at the Valley Forge Casino in PA November 7th and 8th.  And then I got a show in Brooklyn at Union Hall with Dave Hill.  I got some really good stuff going on.  You know how you gotta keep running and running.  It’s worth every minute, ya know?  That’s why I love writing, too, because you gotta take a chance and not be afraid of anything.

When was the first time you met Artie?  How did that come about?

Mike Bocchetti: Oh wow.  Actually, after Last Comic Standing in 2003, I actually met Sal (Governale) from the Howard Stern Show.  I really didn’t realize who he was because I didn’t listen to Howard for a little bit at that time.  He said to me, ‘Hey man, I seen you on the show.  I loved you. We want to tour with you.’  He called me the next day and John Melendez came down to see me and then I started touring with them, with Nick and then I met Artie…

Nick DiPaolo?

Mike Bocchetti: Yeah.  And then I met Artie a couple of months later through them.  Over the years I toured with Richard (Christy) and Sal and became friends with Artie.  I talked to him occasionally, every few months or whatever.  Then I didn’t hear from him in awhile, he had his problems, I, ya know reached out to him, ya know, I talked to his family a lot and everything, ya know, and we’ve been friends forever.  Then he called me last year to be the announcer and it’s just been incredibly mind-blowing and I’m super blessed since that day.


Why were you chosen to be the announcer you think?

Mike Bocchetti: I didn’t really expect anything.  I had been on the show as a guest and had a lot of fun with them.  I stayed in contact with Dan (Falato) here and there and everybody, ya know.  I knew they were going to launch in September so I didn’t bother them – I figured they had enough people annoying them.  I have a lot of friends who are known, but I just don’t ask them for stuff.  They have enough people hassling them.

Then I just waited.  And then Artie called me the day before or that day.  He goes, ‘Our show is launching on DirecTV, me and Nick want you to come in as our announcer. We’re going to call you ‘Well Fed McMahon‘ – because of how fat I am. I went on the show every night for two or three weeks and they decided to hire me after two or three weeks.

Believe it or not, I want to share a secret with you, I don’t have DirecTV.  I have FIOS.  It’s like a New York thing.  They all just want to give us a high cable bill.

What was the feeling like for you when Nick left?

Mike Bocchetti: I love Nick, tremendously.  I still talk to him.  He’s a friend to me forever.

But how did you deal with his absence on the show?

Mike Bocchetti: It was kind of different at first.  It felt different.  It’s like taking a character away from a TV show, the chemistry changes.  I hope to work with him again.

You went through this process where Nick left, and then Artie was hosting solo, you had to go to the Super Bowl, and then you were looking for a co-host.  How was that process for you, finding who fit best with the team and then the decision to go with Jon Ritchie?

Mike Bocchetti: That was kinda weird, because they tried a whole bunch of people out.  Some people were good, some people were okay.  It’s so hard to be a host to begin with.  I’m a sports fan, but I’m a vintage sports fan.  When I met Jon Ritchie, I like Ritchie because he’s just a regular guy from Pennsylvania, ya know what I mean?  He played football for years.  My best analogy of him is Jon is like a gentle giant.  He’s the type of guy who gives people the benefit of the doubt all of the time.  I love people like that.

How is the camaraderie now with everyone?  How’s the feeling in the studio?

Mike Bocchetti: It’s good.  Me and Dan battle on the air a lot.  It’s just part of the show.  Everybody gets heckled and busts each other’s chops.  People are a lot younger than me on the show.  Most people could be my kids if I had any kids, ya know they’re young like that.  It’s good for me because it keeps me young with them.  We always have a great time and we’re very close with each other really.

Do you guys get together at all after work?

Mike Bocchetti: The younger people do because they drink.  I’ve been sober since ’97.  We’ve hung out.  I haven’t really hung out with them that much, but they do.  I basically go back to Staten Island and get ready for the next day.  I just don’t drink really and it’s kind of awkward for me.

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Can you talk to me about how you got the role in The Family?

Mike Bocchetti: The funny thing is I couldn’t get my script because my computer wasn’t working.  Two weeks later I had a call back.  I was originally up for a role that my friend Jimmy Palumbo played.  Luc Besson‘s office said they liked me and they wanted to put me in the film somehow.  I wound up playing a Hassidic Jewish guy being held up by Robert DeNiro.  To work with him is incredible.  I seen him on the set that morning and my heart stopped.  I didn’t talk to him, it’s not professional.  And then he starts laughing for some reason, so I start laughing. He says, “Hey man, the director better not catch us.”  Then we started talking for a little while.  He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with.  Very quiet, great sense of humor, and a great gentleman.

 

Mike Bocchetti Website

Mike Bocchetti Twitter

The Artie Lange Show

 

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Book Review: Artie Lange – Crash and Burn (Touchstone)

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letterman celebs 240809I’ve known Artie Lange since 2006.  Getting to interview him back then to promote his film Beer League was a personal score for me since I’ve been a huge Howard Stern Show fan for 20+ years now and Artie was one of the show’s co-hosts at that time.  Artie’s a real blue collar guy who made it big but never lost that salt of the Earth sensibility.  He can afford to fly first class and lives a very comfortable life, but still defines himself as a regular guy and is able to identify with the regular guys and gals who come to his stand-up shows, listen to his sports-comedy radio show on DirecTV, and buy his books.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost’s 2012 interview with Artie Lange

Lange’s newest tome is Crash and Burn, co-authored with the esteemed Anthony Bozza (a co-author of the stars, having worked with Tommy Lee, Slash, as well as Courtney Love‘s forthcoming book and Lange’s previous work, Too Fat To Fish), and is in stores today, October 29th.

If Too Fat To Fish was a melting pot of heart, humor, and personal revelations with some dark turns, Crash and Burn is almost all about the dark night of the soul.  Lange draws mostly on the darkest period of his life, the period around the release of Too Fat To Fish to the present.  Fans will know that Lange’s addiction to opiates (heroin, pills, as well as Subutex – which is used to treat opiate addiction and a drug that Lange single-handedly put on the map) eventually led to a suicide attempt so horrifying, and written about in such stunning, graphic detail in Crash and Burn that I won’t reveal it here.

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From there Lange went through several stints in rehab and mental institutions, as well as long periods of time spent lying in bed above his mother’s garage (the home Lange bought for her) until finally finding a way out of his deep depression to return to comedy.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost’s 2008 interview with Artie Lange

Suffice it to say that, as someone who, like many of his fans, feels a deep personal connection to Lange, reading Crash and Burn is heartbreaking to read.  Lange has gone to great lengths over the years to be as honest as possible about his personal demons, his addictions, his desires, his dreams, his heartbreak, his bouts of depression and his insecurities.  All of these revelations about himself endears himself to those who listen to him, with those listeners who are addicted of personal interest in return to Lange.  When someone calls his radio show saying they are in the grips of addiction, Lange will take as much time as possible to assess the problem and wish them well while imploring them to seek help.

Crash and Burn may be the ultimate anti-drugs/alcohol tool ever written.  The details of Lange’s addiction, the preparation needed to have enough drugs to get through a day or weekend, the scheming to get drugs, to hide them from loved ones, the withdrawal, the loss of friends, the dissolution of relationships, the strain his addiction puts on his mother and sister (who both deserve some sort of sainthood)…not to mention the guilt and depression that comes from it to put him in the head space to attempt to take his life, is put into such stark detail I can’t imagine anyone reading Crash and Burn and wanting to go down that path.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost’s 2006 interview with Artie Lange Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

artie-lange5Lange sometimes tries too hard to make light of certain situations when the reader will want him to push even further to reach more truth in parts of Crash and Burn.  It’s not that Lange isn’t honest, or even brutally so.  But there is a point where it seems as if he knows how dark Crash and Burn is and attempts to lighten the mood for the reader with jokes that take away from that honesty.  But where that genial wisecracking worked in the far less haunting Too Fat To Fish, with Crash and Burn‘s starkness, it often feels a bit forced.  What I feel is that there’s another layer of truth that is either too difficult for Lange to admit to in print or that he simply chooses to keep that for himself.  Perhaps because revealing all would be giving too much to the public and that he needs to hold on to something.  Part of me worries that, if he is holding back, that he’s not holding onto it completely, that all has been revealed – whether to a therapist, a sponsor, his sister, his mother, his closest friends, or his fiance Adrienne.  Because if there’s one thing none of us want, is for something to pull him back into the type of despair that nearly took him away from us on January 2nd, 2010.  I’m very happy he’s alive, happy, healthy and doing The Artie Lange Show, a really awesome show for DirecTV.  The fact that I listen to it every night and I’m not a sports fan (honestly, it’s the ultimate non-sports fan’s sports show) is a testament to Artie’s talent (along with a little help from co-host Jon Ritchie and announcer Mike Bocchetti).

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Love ya, Artie.  Keep on the right path and continue to be good to yourself, brother.

Purchase Crash and Burn

Artie Lange Website

Artie Lange Show Website

Artie Lange Twitter

 

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Film Review: Gravity (Warner Bros.)

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by Pouya G. Asadi

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MV5BNjE5MzYwMzYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTk4MTk0OQ@@._V1._SX640_SY947_Stanley Kubrick is smiling in his grave.  That’s right; the late and great Kubrick is smiling in his grave.  Why? Well because there is finally a film that is as visually stunning as any of Kubrick’s own.  This film is Gravity, and it’s by the wunderkind, Alfonso Cuaron.  We haven’t seen a film by Cuaron for almost half a decade, that’s because he’s been busy perfecting this space-age masterpiece.

Gravity follows a medical engineer and an astronaut team while they perform routine maintenance on an American space station.  The scariest enemy of all is mankind, and that is exactly where the danger comes from in this marvelous film.  The cinematography in this film alone is well worth the trip to the cinema.  Cuaron’s lifelong creative partner Emmanuel Lubezki helms the camerawork yet again. There are moments in the film where the camera takes a life of its own.  There are points when the camera is floating through zero-gravity while capturing incredible vistas.

It seems as if Cuaron and Lubezki will never stop creating masterpiece films. Their past collaborations have proven to make a mark in cinematic history (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men). With the addition of Gravity, Cuaron and his team have reached the pinnacle of their careers.  How much better can 3D-cinema get?

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Gravity Website

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Film Review: Enough Said (FOX Searchlight)

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by Pouya G. Asadi

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movies-enough-saidThere comes a time when all typecasting of certain actors runs into an end.  There comes a time when new-coming directors finally make a film that’s their big break.  The time is now and that film is Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said.  The film takes place in present-day Southern California and stars the late and great James Gandolfini with the likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus right beside him.  Also, a little supporting help from the magnificent Catherine Keener doesn’t hurt this real-life drama.

The story levitates around middle-aged love, and the outbreak of marital idiosyncratic behaviors that each partner endures. Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a 40-something masseuse with some of the most obnoxious clientele ever.  A typical day in the life of Eva is pretty much hell; whether it’s the foul odor from her 10 o’clock client or the incessant chatterbox 0f her noon customer.  It isn’t until Albert (Gandolfini) abruptly enters her life that Eva takes a second look at her life and its romantic options.  The cinematography from gifted Xavier Perez Grobet shows a very innocent, intimate and childlike view of these middle-aged strangers.  At times it’s almost like we’re watching a very intellectual chick flick but with Xavier’s fine photography and Holofcener’s gritty humor, the film pulls through to execute a legitimate learning experience for its audience.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is the fact that Gandolfini is playing the complete opposite of any character he’s ever approached. Albert is a quiet and stoic type of character and I think audiences will learn a lot about Gandolfini as an actor in his final performance. It’s also a bit refreshing to see Louis-Dreyfus playing a lovable blue-collar loser as well.  With “Enough Said,” we learn a little more about ourselves and the limits of our personal and marital tolerance.

Enough Said Website

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Join Mercadito Oct. 1 for Best of Tacos for Strength

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Tomorrow night (October 1), Mercadito will host the Best of Tacos for Strength dinner at Double A (which is below Mercadito) at 6:30 PM.  Voting from fans was tallied and the resulting winning tacos from Giuseppe Tentori (BOKA, GT Fish & Oyster), Rodelio Aglibot (E +O), Julian Medina (Toloache), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia), and Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s) will be presented along with other courses and beverage pairings for $55.  Medina, Zimmerman and Aglibot will be in attendance.  Call Mercadito for reservations at 312-329-9555.  Share Our Strength will receive 10% of the proceeds from the dinner.

 

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Share Our Strength

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Chicago Stop of James Beard Foundation’s Taste America

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RIchard Blais

I scored a last minute spot at the Chicago stop of Taste America from the James Beard Foundation last Friday night. It was definitely a special evening, and that’s based on the food alone.

Taste America was held at Union Station, which was great for me as I live in the northern suburbs and it cut my traveling once I arrived at the station down to just about nothing.

Starting out attendees were greeted with specialty cocktails from The Violet Hour, a table of oysters, a table filled with wonderful cheeses courtesy of Pastoral, as well as another table loaded down with terrines, pates, and sliced meats from Rob Levitt of The Butcher and Larder.  Levitt’s ham and pecan terrine was especially delightful, but loved the lardo he brought as well.

I was seated with a local writer, Vivian Yip Keller (founder & co-editor of Chicago Food Whores), a Spanish couple who own a business in the Dominican Republic and were in town visiting (and who were eager to get restaurant recommendations), as well as a group of the great people putting on the event.

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The spread of meats, pates and terrines from Rob Levitt of The Butcher and Larder.

ABC 7 Chicago‘s Steve Dolinsky, the Hungry Hound, was on hand to emcee the evening, which kicked things off with an amuse by JBF All-Star, Chef Richard Blais (of Atlanta’s Flip Burger and The Spence, as well as the winner of Top Chef All-Stars).  Chef Blais made oysters with horseradish pearls, which, after having straight up oysters before the start of the dinner, didn’t wow as much as it could have if I hadn’t.

Chef Blais also handled the first course, a stellar ivory char poached in duck fat, apples and onions.  Discarding the skin, this was a spectacular piece of fish – poaching it in duck fat really seemed to do the trick.

Next up was Paul Virant‘s (Vie, Perennial Virant) who delivered the evening’s best course, walleye pike toast, chow chow, arugula, piperade.  Most of my table had never tried walleye and were wowed by Virant’s dish.  What it made me want is to go to one of his restaurants very soon.

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Batting third was Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Bar Toma) with gnocchi di zucca con guanciale.  A creamy and rich dish that, god forgive me, reminded me of the best mac ‘n cheese ever made.  It’s weird praise, but that’s what I got.

Rounding out the savory part of the menu was Chris Pandel‘s (The Bristol, Balena) miso corned tri-tip, fork-crushed heirloom potato, beef dashi, crispy tendon.  For whatever reason, despite the Asian influence and ingredients, this dish reminded me of something my grandmother made.

Dessert was apricot tarte tatin, salted caramel sauce, chocolate paint from Gale Gand (Tru).  This was followed up by little chocolates that featured ingredients from the savory menu.  The most unusual was the mashed potato with bacon.  The one that worked the best was the sweet corn and the buttermilk with dill was nice until the dill overpowered things a bit.  These were made with a whimsical spirit by Patrick Fahy (Sixteen) and managed to provoke a lot of discussion at the table.

Afterward, at Night Bites, a DJ began spinning tunes and guests sampled small bites from more of Chicago’s best chefs.  Telegraph‘s Johnny Anderes, The Lobby‘s Lee Wolen, Tavernita‘s Ryan Poli, Carriage House‘s Mark Steuer, and TWO‘s Tom Van Lente were among the chefs cooking to end the evening.

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The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America: Local Flavor from Coast to Coast is presented by Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Signature.  Chase Preferred offers members access to many other great opportunities like this one.

Also, restaurants across the country are participating in the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Education Drive.  For every dish purchased at one of the participating restaurants, $1 will be donated to the charity.  Chase Sapphire Preferred with double the amount raised nationally, up to $100,000.  To find out more information, visit the James Beard Foundation’s site here.

 

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James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Upcoming Events

September 27 and 28

Washington D.C. / Las Vegas

October 4 and 5

Philadelphia / San Francisco

October 11 and 12

New York City / Los Angeles

October 18 and 19

Boston / Phoenix

Official James Beard Foundation’s Taste America

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Chef Chris Pandel wins Allegrini’s 2013 Cook-off for a Cause

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Chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena) and Marilisa Allegrini
Chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena) and Marilisa Allegrini

Chef Chris Pandel (Balena, The Bristol) recently won $3,000 for his designated charity Spence Farm Foundation at Allegrini Winery’s 2013 Cook-off for a Cause.  Pandel competed against heavy hitter Chefs Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi, Slurping Turtle) and Ryan Poli (Tavernita, Barcito, Little Market Brasserie).

Pandel’s winning dish was an amazing cavatelli with duck sugo, Yagihashi did a fantastic squab dish, and Poli presented a perfectly made veal breast.  The goal was to see who made the dish that paired the best with the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre wine.

Though all dishes were exemplary, there was something about Pandel’s that stood out the most when taking the wine into consideration.  And though it was an astonishing 97 degrees outside the day of the event, his dish also gave a peek into what was coming with the impending (and now upon us) fall season.

“I am delighted that my dish was chosen as the favorite among such an incredibly talented panel of Chicago chefs,” said Pandel. “It is also an honor and privilege to be able to donate $3,000 to the Spence Farm Foundation as part of the award on behalf of Allegrini wine.”

Chef Yagihashi took second place with $2,000 going to his charity Imerman Angels.   I had the pleasure of spending most of the event with the organization’s founder, Jonny Imerman, whose story is truly remarkable.

Chef Poli took third place with $1,000 going to his charity Pilot Light.

The Allegrini 2013 Cook-off for a Cause was judged by new Check Please! host Catherine De Orio, master mixologist Adam Seger and was held at Centered Chef here in Chicago.

Official Allegrini Website

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Film Interview: Eugenio Derbez – Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate / Pantelion)

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Eugenio Derbez and Loreto Peralta star in Instructions Not Included
Eugenio Derbez and Loreto Peralta star in Instructions Not Included

Eugenio Derbez‘s latest film, Instructions Not Included, which cost $5.5 million to make, is bi-lingual (Spanish and English) and took twelve years to develop before it reached theaters last month, has managed to be one of the biggest box office success stories of the year in its first three weeks of release. So far, Derbez’s film about a womanizer who sees his life turned upside down when a former paramour drops off the daughter he had no idea existed, has earned $35 million at the domestic box office. The film just opened in Mexico this past weekend, earning $11.6 million.

I spoke with Derbez the week after the film hauled in its surprising $10 million opening over the Labor Day weekend. He was excited about the film expanding into more cities and theaters its second week of release. See the full conversation below.

MV5BMTUyNjI3ODI0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTQ1NTY5OQ@@._V1._SX509_SY755_Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: The success of the film seems to have taken everyone by surprise. What’s your take on how well it’s done?

Eugenio Derbez: I’m as surprised as you are. Nobody has the success formula, especially in show business. I think that what happened is that the story connects really, really well.  It’s a love story between a dad and his daughter and how his life changes completely.  The story connects with the audience and the word of mouth is going really well.

There was a slow build up and I found it interesting that the film seemed to start building before its release.  This felt like a throwback to the family films of the 1970s. It’s a smart and honest film, but isn’t afraid to be silly and wear its heart on its sleeve.
Eugenio Derbez: Exactly.  You got it.  I was not afraid to do a lot of things that filmmakers don’t do.  It’s a different formula to make people laugh.  At the same time it has moments that may make you emotional.  It’s a combination of all these things that have made the film successful.
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MV5BMTU4MDMwOTc2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTc4MTY5OQ@@._V1._SX640_SY893_Also, the Hispanic market isn’t as sold to as specifically as this film was.  It’s a family film that people can go with their kids and still enjoy themselves.  What prompted you to make this story?  What was the hook in you to keep you coming back to this subject?
Eugenio Derbez: I fell in love with Life Is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni.  I said I would love to do something like this.  A film with a lot of comedy, but also with a lot of heart.  When we started writing the film we put some elements, like the kid.  In the beginning it was going to be a boy, not a girl.  But we didn’t find a good option for the boy, so we made the character a girl.  We saw Life is Beautiful, we saw Cinema Paradiso, we saw The Champ with…remember that film?
Oh yeah, with Jon Voight and…
Eugenio Derbez: …and Ricky Schroeder.  We really studied what kind of film we wanted to develop.  And thinking of a vehicle for me to crossover into the US market.  That’s why we start out in Acapulco and we end up in LA and use both languages.  It was really planned in these twelve years.
Oh wow!  That long?!
Eugenio Derbez: We really worked twelve years on it to reach this beautiful script.
Was it just a matter of fine tuning the script or finding the finances to film it?
Eugenio Derbez: The principal reason that we started it twelve years later was budget.  But at the same time that we were trying to raise money we were writing and re-writing because we had time.  Whenever I could I would give the script to a director or someone in show business to read it and they’d give notes.  After so many years I think we got a very strong script.
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MV5BMjIxNDI0NTEyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc4MTY5OQ@@._V1._SX640_SY960_How do you feel about going from the initial, what was it, four hundred screens, to broadening it this weekend?
Eugenio Derbez: I’m excited but at the same time scared.  They’re going really wide.  We’re doubling the amount of theaters from 347 to 717.  And we’re reaching 45 cities in the US.  We’re getting broader and broader.
Are you starting to think about what you’re next project is going to be to write and direct.
Eugenio Derbez: Yes.  I have a couple of ideas.  I just received an offer a month ago to be the director instead of an actor.  I’m very happy, because I’ve been an actor my whole life.  I’m excited.
You’ve obviously entertained a lot of success in a certain market – are you excited about expanding outward and getting to reach more people?
Eugenio Derbez: Oh yeah.  Hollywood is a dream for any filmmaker. When you’re a filmmaker, you’re goal is Hollywood.  At the same time I don’t want to dream too much because I need to keep my feet on the ground.  Right now I’m living here in Mexico City and working here in Hollywood would mean to leave my family, my home, everything there. I really have to put it in balance.
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How popular have you gotten in the past five or six days?  Has your phone been ringing off the hook?
Eugenio Derbez: I’ve been telling everyone that my life has changed in the last five, six days. Everyone is calling me.  I just received a call from Rob Schneider yesterday.  From Adam Sandler – I also received a gift from him.  My agents at William Morris.  All the Mexican actors and directors – Diego Luna, Demian Bichir.  It’s weird.  I still don’t get it.  It’s like I’m somebody else, someone new.
Even though you’ve been working for quite awhile now.
Eugenio Derbez: Yes.  But the last five days are crazy and so different from my normal life.
You mentioned Demian – he’s somebody who has been working for some time now and just came to American audiences out of nowhere.  Have you seen his work on The Bridge?
Eugenio Derbez: Yeah, he’s amazing.  He’s a great actor.
Yes, he’s brilliant on that show.
Eugenio Derbez: He’s one of our prized actors in Mexico.
What most are you looking forward to?
Eugenio Derbez: I think that after this film I really fell in love with directing.  I would love to direct more films.  Maybe acting and directing, but especially I fell in love with directing.  I would love to give a little twist to my career and focus more on directing than acting.
I thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck.
Eugenio Derbez: Thank you for your time and for helping us spread the word.
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Rock ‘n Roll Ghost Loses 1st Annual Taco Wars at Amigos of Pintxo at Barcito

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Yep. Even though I hate to admit it, my taco did not win last night at Amigos of Pintxo at Barcito‘s 1st Annual Taco Wars.  I certainly felt that my “Porkin’ Around Taco” (crispy pork belly, pineapple, chipotle crema, cotija cheese) was the best there, hands down, and credit most of that to Tavernita/Barcito Executive Chef Ryan Poli (I simply submitted my ideas for tacos and he and his staff executed them).

For $25, proceeds of which benefitted Pilot Light, guests got to eat as many tacos as they wanted.  The ones the jam packed crowd liked the most were:

#3 – Sarah Spain (ESPN 1000 Anchor/Host Reporter) – Porky’s Delight (pork belly, watermelon salsa, queso fresco, crispy shallots)

#2 – Sara Gasbarra (founder of Verdura) – This Little Piggy Went To the Market (slow roasted pork and mojo de ajo)

#1 – Kelly Rizzo (Eat, Travel, Rock) – The Rizzo Siciliano (porchetta, broccoli rabe, provolone, Italian croutons)

 Oh well. I’m hoping that this is just the first in a long line of this type of thing.  For those of you in positions of power for food competitions by novice cooks who happen to be food writers, or those that need a judge for a food competition, I’m available.  Get in touch.

Check out which chefs are coming up in future installments of Amigos of Pintxo below.

AUGUST 26th
Tippling Bros. (MERCADITO)
Sheerin Bros (TRENCHERMEN)

SEPTEMBER 9th
Rick Gresh (DAVID BURKE’S PRIMEHOUSE)
Cleetus Friedman (FOUNTAINHEAD)

SEPTEMBER 23rd
Paul Fehribach (BIG JONES)
Cary Taylor (THE SOUTHERN)

   Barcito Website

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Live Review: Lollapalooza Recap 2 (Chicago, IL)

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Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age (photo by Cambria Harkey)

by Cory Leeper

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Cat Power
Cat Power (photo by Will Rice)

Giant screens are pulsating giant, red circles into my eyes. I am fixated upon the alien coliseum with its elaborate lasers and lights. At this point I’m yelling, “I’m the king of being!”

I don’t know how or why, but I’m at Knife Party, a dub-step dance-orgy. My enthrallment, the plutonic joy of attending a rock concert, has been warped. I ask the red head sitting at curb — wearing a tight, turquoise top — to dance but she is waiting for friends as the excuse goes.

I drive past the outskirts of the crowd into the dancing array. Yes, now I loose myself. My ego is being propped up by the union of dancing bodies.

But this is day three, the very tail-end of my experience.

Although I managed to see Father John Misty play a rambunctious pre-show at Lincoln Hall, I missed the first day including Queens of the Stone Age. My only regret. At least I had seen them perform in 2006. It was a smart choice to showcase the loud, heavy rock of Queens given the overwhelming indie, mellow lineup.

Day two, August 3rd, barely making the Metra train going from Grayslake, a desolate rural suburbs to Chicago Union station. This is in itself is an experience. At each stop I watch the red carpet event unfold. The girls board the train. My God. Sunshine blondes, fiery redheads, blistering brunettes and black-haired beauties.

By the time I arrive at Lollapalooza, I find an unexpected surprise: a band called Shovels and Rope. Performing garage-rock with a country twist, the group solidifies my faith in the two-piece. With elements of the White Stripes and Two Gallants, they play fuzz-twanged guitar riffs with a solid backbeat. What I found the most interesting is that singer Cary Ann Hearst switches with drummer Michael Trent on the last few songs. There is an interesting dynamic at play between these two artist. I appreciate artists who are not afraid to conquer multiple instruments.

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Phoenix (photo by Mark Wright)

On the recommendation of a girl, I decide to stick around for Ben Howard, a mellow Brit rocker on acoustic. Howard closes his eyes and let’s his soulful voice flow. As he sings “Only Love”, a well-timed plane flies by with a huge banner for Trojan: “Can’t wait to get it on!”

I head back toward the media tent and try to interview a few volunteers but they are not allowed to comment, so I decide to walk into the open bar behind the Bud Light Stage.

I finish my drinks and buy a six dollar Bud Light Lime on my way to the kid‘s stage. Arriving, I notice there’s a Hip Hop and Yoga station next to each other. I watch the Tumblers do mad air-somersaults and flips over each other.

The National
The National (photo by Dave Mead)

Afterward, The Blisters, Spencer Tweedy’s band, ‘pay their dues’ at the kid’s stage. They play with a a lot of energy and finished with a slower song that builds itself into a high volume climax.

4:20-5:00pm, I take a nap on a hill while listening Local Natives. Not bad. Good music for a nap.

Around 5:00pm I scratch my head and walk to the media tent for happy hour (5-7pm). I order two Budweisers and two sweet tea and vodkas. I’m grateful for a high tolerance because I’ve been on a liquid diet since 10:30 am.

I meet a media friend, Tate Gregor, who is covering fashion for Vice Magazine. Gregor won a contest at NYU. Taking advantage of happy hour, we get to talking about everything from The Strokes attending private school, to the cost of New York cigarettes, to the legalization of weed.

We became inspired on a separate quest to find pot on our way to The Postal Service, their last concert together. I notice the sun dip below buildings in a long, slow goodbye.

It is night and I watch Jenny Lewis on stage with Ben Gibbard. Both the mix and performance of The Postal Service is very loyal to the album, which must have been in an effort to appease fans. The soft purple stage lights scan the crowd and grab the skyline.

10:30pm, the night is over and the crowd spills onto Michigan Avenue. I decide to talk to two strangers after the show. Although the details are fuzzy, I must have been flirting. My notes which were less impaired than I say that “I don’t know what she [Alison Hamm] is talking about, she doesn’t look old at all. She is one hot woman.” Hamm, 29, says her favorite part of the night was when The National lead singer, Matt Berninger, who apparently threw down his microphone. Her friend Beth Kondrat poked fun at Alison for carrying coppertone baby sunscreen.

I continue down the street toward three girls trying to hail a cab. I abuse the power of journalism and tell them I’m doing a story on really hot girls in Chicago. I tell them I’m really shy because I’ve never interviewed a “trifecta of sexiness.” We joke around for a bit. Two of the girls, Erica and Carly Spellman (sisters ?), agree that the worse part of the night was the mud, though they looked spotless and very pretty.

The Postal Service
The Postal Service (photo by Matt Ellis)

Day two, August 4th, again I barely make the train. This time I am extremely hung-over and had to run a mile and half to catch the 1:00pm to Chicago. My black shirt, blue blazer and jeans are drenched in sweat when I stumble on the train.

I blindly go toward the Lake Shore stage and see Lianne Las Havas perform. Like a goddess with dark flowing curls and a dark mysterious complexion, the singer seduced me in her cool omniscient eyeball T-shirt. Her voice, a cross-pollination of Ella Fitzgerald and Norah Jones, helped me mellow-out and refocus. Although the full-band had a lounge-jazz vibe, I preferred Las Havas alone on guitar.

I’m lonely; I decide to interview a gorgeous chick sitting by herself on the hill. Allie Kratowicz is sporting a leopard top, taped-up sandals and fierce red-lipstick. Kratowicz who is a long time Chicago resident said that her highlight was seeing The Killers second row but admits it was both “creepy and funny” when a strange man decided to record her and her friends dancing as opposed to capturing the main act.

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles (photo by Matt Ellis)

Shortly after Tegan and Sara perform at the Bud Light stage. The crowd includes a loyal group sing-a-long fans and it is good to scream “I just want back in your head/” among strangers. Jokingly, the band makes reference to 2005 when Sara had a heatstroke and had to leave stage. They joked that is was their “comeback” show.

Afterward I made my way toward the Grove, a secluded area with a circle of odd-shaped trees. There is a projected image of a neon yellow, red dashboard on the stage. I notice fans holding various objects: a stuffed panda on a stick, a sign that read “Christ $ave$”, a plastic arm. Yes, this was the right place.

I ask three gentlemen for a a few puffs of a joint. And before I can make sense of my self Wavves appear. The band performs their pop-punk anthems while staying true to their crushing lo-fi sound. The abrasive mid-tone bass, the driving rhythm guitars.

After the show, I meet longtime fan, Brandy, (who did not want to give out her last name) says, “it was better to hear them outdoors than indoors. There was less reverb and they played more upbeat songs.” I carefully watch her drink her large thermos of white wine.

She goes on to say that her favorite moment was watching Queens of the Stone Age in front where she could hear every lyric and watch the deaf translator perform amazing dances.

After 7 minutes of talking, Brandy is a little more, than tipsy but nonetheless, we hang out and watch . At some point I try to get her to drink water and even confiscate her newly purchased beer.

Brandy grabs my arm and tells me how sweet and how cute I am as I lead her back toward her friends. She makes her way to Phoenix and I go toward The Cure.

Dada Life
Dada Life (photo by Will Rice)

Seeing the king of Goth was a defining moment. It was a very cathartic moment to see the massive crowd sing along to their discography. Robert Smith, still rocking his disheveled hair, now resembles a gremlin in his old age. His voice is spot on more than 30 years later.

I left half-way and caught Knife Party. Perhaps, two days of not eating, sleeping little and booze have corrupted my mind, but I’m having a some sort of epiphany about music and life. I discovered something crucial about not only self but all people and looking back at my notes…

Fuck, I should have written it down.

Alone and exhausted physically and emotionally, I sit waiting for an extremely delayed train.

I stare out the train window and long for the femme fatale; its many stages, its changing role year after year, its elusive hold on the youth. I’ll keep coming back to you, Lollapalooza.

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(photo by Jenny Reece)

Lollapalooza

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Live Review: Lollapalooza Recap 1 (Chicago, IL)

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Nine In Nails (photo by Dave Mead)

by Jennifer Wagner

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2 Chainz
2 Chainz (photo by Will Rice)

Lollapalooza 2013 was a thoroughly smashing musical experience, one that took place in perfect weather before a record crowd of 300,000. The huge anchors, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, and The Cure, shone through with incredible performances, however some of the best sounds of the festival came from the lesser-known acts.

The big guys delivered. They sorta had to. There’s a lot of pressure on the weight-bearers of the festival to perform exceptionally well or be subjected to harsh scrutiny. People expect more from these guys; fans have such fond familiarity with a moment in time connected to the music, they naturally want to relive that moment, to have it sound just as they remember it, served up live.

With the smaller artists that are still developing a fan base, those fond moments have generally not yet occurred. Many people who popped in on their sets did so not because they had any familiarity with their music but because they were killing time, waiting for one of their favorite big acts to play. It seems to be easier to impress as a lesser-known band, but also easier to be disappointed by a hugely famous one.

New Order certainly did not disappoint. They came out with one of the best performances of the festival, a set loaded with hits: “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “True Faith,” and an amazing extended version of “Blue Monday,” It was a surprisingly young audience, heavily adorned, naturally, with the older hardcore fans.

On Friday evening, Nine Inch Nails absolutely killed it.  Trent Reznor still has gorgeous pipes; all that instrumental film scoring has not interfered with his ability to blow it up live. Early in the set they shredded through “March of the Pigs,” “Wish,” “Terrible Lie,” “Head Like a Hole”, and “The Hand That Feeds.” The energy that poured off the stage and saturated the frenzied crowd was raw, incredibly powerful, and frankly a bit arousing. It was the best show of the weekend, brilliantly ended with the poignant “Hurt.”

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The Cure (photo by Matt Ellis)

The Cure treated us to a 26 song, two hour set on a beautiful Sunday evening. They dove right into “Lovesong,” which got the crowd happily on board for the rest of the show. Robert Smith sounded so, so good. He was a little puffy and his hair was wonderfully crazy, and with his bold makeup he kind of looked how one would imagine a goth hoarder might look, caught at home unawares in a black moo-moo, somehow nervous and sleepy at the same time. You want to sit down with him, sipping tea in kimonos or something. They rolled out “Just Like Heaven,” and “Friday I’m in Love” during the first hour as well, and finished with a six-song encore featuring “Close to Me” and “Boys Don’t Cry.”

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey (photo by Will Rice)

Of the lesser knowns, L.A.’s Local Natives put on a particularly engaging show of their “new-fangled folk.” They endeared the audience with more than just perfect three-part harmonies like in their ethereal hit “Airplanes.” They prowled the stage in confident strides registering somewhere between a sashay and a swagger, projected a general sense of fun and ease, and simply put on a big, professional performance rife with seemingly endless energy and mustachioed grins.

Houndmouth took the BMI stage Friday and treated festival goers to a knee slapping, danceable show; an almost spiritual stomp of their custom mix of rock, bluegrass, and country gospel harmonies.

Australia’s Atlas Genius showed have truly captured that 80’s groove with their carefully crafted indie-pop.

Brooklyn’s Theophilus London was absolutely relaxed and confident from the second he took the stage. The Trinidadian native’s voice is incredibly smooth, and it’s a pleasure to watch him get down. The genres he covered reached from mellow R&B to electro to fast rap in a flash, here and there dusted with a little post-punk.

Folk duo Shovels and Rope set the bar very high early on Saturday. The husband wife team were a lot of fun; adding a tasty helping of good ole honky tonk-rock to the weekend. They have a good time. The multi-talented Cary Ann Hearst belted with a soulfulness akin to Janis Joplin, played the drums with her left hand and keyboards with her right, all while sporting a Dorothy-esque gingham dress.

Jordan Cook a.k.a. Reignwolf set the crowd off with a guitar, a kickdrum, and a huge attitude. This skinny little rock boy had heads banging on a sunny Saturday afternoon, wailing away on that guitar. He looks sorta too puny to belt the big howly way he does, but that amazing sound comes out and captivates.

Steve Aoki
Steve Aoki (photo by Jack Edinger)

Chile’s Astro has an infectiously cheery, danceable, fresh sound. André Nusser‘s vocals are alluring and unusual, curiously high-pitched at times, incorporating animal sounds here and there. One is simply compelled to shake it to some their fun, electro-pop songs like “Panda” and “Columbo” from the self-titled album.

Chicago’s Wild Belle cooled things down with their crisp white suits and Natalie Bergman’s languid alto.

Exposure to the songs of Jake Bugg, the sleepy-eyed 19 year old London godsend, will immediately improve the listener. He zapped us with “Lightening Bolt, a stompable good time nod to Paul Simon, then courageously took on a cover of “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black),” done so carefully and tenderly as to produce a tear or two among listeners.

Another British songwriter, Alex Clare, had a lot of fun doing his set on the Bud Light stage. He announced with an endearing, self deprecating giggle that it was the biggest crowd he’d played for before diving into his breakout hit “Too Close” and a respectable cover of “When Doves Cry.”

The Mowgli‘s, an 8-piece alt rock band from Southern California, played a mellow yet danceable set including fan favorite “San Francisco,” but really won everyone over with the harmonious and playful “Emily.”

Canadian twins Tegan and Sara made a magnificent comeback from their Lollapalooza 2005 fiasco in which Sara passed out from heat stroke . The super cute twins played to a huge crowd, including hits “Closer” and “Walking With A Ghost.” They somehow accomplish being simultaneously shoe-gazey and poppy in a uniquely appealing way.

And then there were The Vaccines whose fast, fun, three-chord rock like “Wreckin” Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” can be suddenly juxtaposed with songs that are soulful and complex, as in the introspective “Wetsuit.” They are very versatile and confidently showed that off on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

Hugged by the Chicago skyline on a perfect August weekend, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, and The Cure gave the people exactly what they craved at Lollapalooza this year. However, there is some amazing up and coming talent making the ranks into the mainstream, and this year’s festival proved it. At Lollapalooza, these talented artists get to take advantage of an atypically large audience, many of whom have no preconceptions, whereas it’s an uphill battle for the big acts, who must strive to meet the high expectations of their fans, expectations created from fond connections with their music in moments past. Eric Church actually says it best in his hit “Springsteen,” a song he performed at Lollapalooza this year: “Funny how a melody sounds like a memory.”

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photo by Ashley Garman

Lollapalooza

 

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Single Day Tickets Available for the 2013 Hideout Block Party / A.V. Fest September 6th & 7th

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Single-day tickets for this year’s Hideout Block Party (the 17th year) / A.V. Fest are now on sale.  Tickets for Friday’s lineup (Neko Case, Mavis Staples, Trampled By Turtles and Nude Beach) are $35.  Tickets for Saturday’s lineup (Young the Giant, The Hold Steady, Superchunk, The Walkmen, The Both – Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, Jon Langford, Girl Group Chicago featuring The Revelettes, and Vision Celestial Guitarkestra) are $40.   Check out the full day by day lineup below.  There are still a very limited number of $60 two-day passes available as well.  To purchase tickets click this link now.

A portion of every ticket sold will benefit a variety of Chicago charities, including Rock For Kids and Literacy Works. Single-day tickets will go on sale later this summer, and the daily schedule will be announced at a later date also.  There will be food, drinks, a kids area, a bike valet and more.  Lagunitas beer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are sponsoring the event.

Hideout Block Party / A.V. Fest

Friday, Sept. 6:
• Neko Case
• Mavis Staples
• Trampled By Turtles
• Nude Beach

Saturday, Sept. 7:
• Young The Giant
• The Hold Steady
• Superchunk
• The Walkmen
• The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo)
• Jon Langford
• Girl Group Chicago (featuring The Revelettes)
• Vision Celestial Guitarkestra

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