Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More Pumpkin Spice Latte news

Such a compelling topic to me that it begs for an update.

7-11 have chosen a strange way to hook their marketing wagon to the Presidential election by way of the "second quadrennial 7-Election™ Presidential Coffee Cup Poll."

When you buy a 20 oz. coffee, you can choose between the Bush cup, the Kerry cup, or the undecided-third party candidate-leave me alone plain cup. When you go to pay for it, the clerk scans the cup where your "vote" gets sent on to somewhere to get tallied. It's all explained here. Weird.

In my quest for more Pumpkin Spice Latte (who secret incredient clearly makes me crave more then fortnightly), I've gone to multiple 7-11s across town. Interestingly (not really), one store near the university campus had nothing but Kerry cups, while a store in a more conservative area of town had Bush cups covering up the Kerry ones.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

How does Trey Parker do it?

How has Trey Parker maintained the high quality of South Park so long? Whenever I think the show has plateaued, along comes a "Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery" or a "Scott Tenorman Must Die".

This season, the killer ep for me is "Good Times With Weapons". It's not just the perfect anime look and last minute crack at the public conniption fit over Janet Jackson's Superbowl show (Quoth my roommate, "Relax everyone, it's just a boob."), the theme song has captivated me for weeks. A spot-on parody of anime music, complete with bad English tossed in among Japanese lyrics, it lodges itself firmly in your skull.

By accident, I discovered the lyrics are written out phonetically in the closed captioning whereupon I transcribed and started learning them. I suspected the Japanese was not gibberish and confirmed it with a quick online search. Go here and read them for yourself at the bottom of the page unless you are, somehow, not a fan of juvenile dick jokes.

Urge to record a cover as a Christmas present rising.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Austin City Limits 2004

Just a few impressions from Austin City Limits 2004, notable for the scorching heat and the disproportionately huge crowds on Saturday (something like 75,000 people). The organizers should really limit sales better, but I suppose they wanted to cash in on the swell of people for the Pixies.

- Neko Case played her usual mix of originals and covers. Not a prolific song writer by her own admission, she remains an impressive song interpreter. Even in 100°+ heat (that's 38°+ for everyone who's not from the US), she can still raise goosebumps with the soaring notes of "Furnace Room Lullaby," especially the acapella ending that spellbinds every audience I've been in.

Two great quotes from Neko:
"Hey there's Beatle Bob! It's a festival officially now."
"There's literally a vulture circling over there. That's the sign my time is over. Huh, that's never happened to me before."
Neko Case site

- Witnessed the smallest navel I've ever seen. Roughly 3/8" long at it's widest point and so shallow as to be a mere indentation. My first thought was, "Navel reduction plastic surgery?!" No photo, sorry.

- I coined a new word.

Chatterchairs - music festival-goers who set up chairs blocking access to the stage and then talk nonstop through the band's set. See also total bastards.

- Cat Power was pretty decent. For those of you that don't know, Cat Power usually is just Chan Marshall singing accompanying herself rather starkly on guitar or piano. She has a been a reputation for repeatedly abandoning songs halfway through and ending her shows with a whispered apology for how "badly" she's just performed. While these behaviors have mightily peeved some, many others find this to be a proof of a fragile artistic soul. Frankly, it's kinda schticky. When she minimizes it, she can be be incredibly riveting. She's got a voice and affect that's curious and hypnotic.

At ACL, she opened her set with a cover of "Sinnerman," which I'm familiar with through Nina Simone's version. The trick to successful covers is to either copy the original well and capture the spark, or transcend the original so as to reshape the way the audience comes at it. I'm thinking of Lyle Lovett's cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man". He turns that well known song of a woman citing wifely duty to a cuckolded man begging for fidelity. Chan Marshall worked the trick on "Sinnerman" by transforming Nina Simone's strident declaration into a desperate plea. Later in the set she did her thing to "Satisfaction." Where the Stones version is strutting declaration, and Devo's a frantic explanation, Cat Power's is resigned defeat. She just has the one way with her covers, slow them down, strip out the instrumentation, and sadly sing the words, but it works.

Anyway, at ACL she played every almost everything through to the end and only ended her set five minutes early, a fairly good reading on the Cat Power pretentiometer. It was rather comical to hear her apologize for her set, then set about packing up her guitar while the audience clapped and called for more song. See Chan? They like you.

- Broken Social Scene are a supergroup of sorts with most members playing in other Toronto-area bands (Stars and Metric being two). Their shows at SXSW 2004 garnered good press and they seem to be gathering a following. All in all a fun rock show, though noting in particular stood out for me.
Full of energy and lots of guitars (at one point six arrayed across the stage), the singer did remind the audience that, "You have a choice coming up soon. Make the right one. Only you can save the world, America." Which must have been directed at the minority non-Texans in the audience as this is by far the safest state for Bush, even taking into account the supa-Democratic environs of the capital Austin. And yes, we love our little progressive oasis in the political desert of Texas that gets regularly attacked when Congress is in session.

- Despite somewhat lackluster energy, the Pixies were incredible. It's hard to view the show objectively when the band in question has been in my top 5 for the last 14 years and I never got to see them live back in the day. So Joey could have played while lying on his back while goat placenta was rubbed into his scalp and I still would have loved it.
A profoundly strange moment came during the show when I realized that the drunk and/or stoned fratboys in full "uniform" (frat party t-shirt, ragged basball cap with radically curved brim, khaki or blue shorts) behind me knew the words, even the Spanish ones. Now that's a bit odd for a band with no radio or MTV hit that broke up when these kids were we'll say 8 years old. Nevertheless, hooray for them and it was lovely to be in the middle of big crowd singing selected lyrics lustily.
I look forward to seeing the Pixies again in Houston and Dallas in a couple weeks.

OK, I'm bored of writing about ACL Fest and you gave up reading this a while ago so, the mustard blend at Texadelphia is like crack to me and I was quite put out when it was denied to me at their food booth. Saracens!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

David Byrne/Sam Phillips show

Thanks to my generous friend Amy, I was able to attend this show that was quite pricey.

Sam Phillips opened and blew me away. I was familiar with her work, but something about the material, or the band, or the setting got the goosebumps up. She's got a beautiful voice, a wry lyrical sensibility, and great hooks, but the stellar instrumentation put it over the top. Keyboard/organist, Stroh violinist, and an incredibly inventive drummer/percussionist, along with Phillips' on guitar, were just fantastic.

I don't remember the drummer's name, but damn. He has a fairly traditional kit, aside from a big-in-diameter-yet-small-in-depth bass drum, with a few interesting add-ons. A tiny hi-hat, a shaker attached to his ankle, some sort of modified snare, and a variety of strikers (bundled sticks, mallets, brushes) gave him an enlarged pallet of sounds with which to work. One song ended with him grinding a stick along the edge of a cymbal for a door hinge squawk effect. It was clear from the audience applause when he was introduced that his contributions were greatly appreciated.

David Byrne was wonderful too, creating a rich sound backed by drummer, bassist, percussionist, and the Tosca Strings. Electrons out to violist Ames Asbell who sang back-up too! Surprisingly, he didn't play much from his new record, but instead relied heavily on his previous record and Talking Heads songs. The audience (from the look of it, they were mostly college and post-college kids during TK's heyday) ate it up. I got a big, unironic grin seeing 45 yr old white guys arrhythmically dancing to "Road to Nowhere".

Two oldie stand-outs for me were "I Zimbra" and "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)". Huge favorites of mine with beautiful arrangements taking advantage of the strings (3 violins, 1 viola, 2 cellos) without ever being schmaltzy. At the end of the show we found out that local composer Stephen Barber did the arrangements. Kudos to him. Byrne's been playing a number of TK songs for years and it was great to hear arrangements that were fresh without completely deconstructing the songs. Barber's original work is definitely worth checking out.

Over the last few tours, Byrne has mostly eliminated material from his early solo albums while increasing the number of TK's songs. Not sure what to make of that.

Many encore songs finishing with "Un di Felice, Eterea" from Verdi's "La Traviata" sung pretty well from a guy that used to just have a strangled yelp way back in '77.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Oxygen Network is proving to be a reliable source of interesting BBC programming. Upon a recommendation, I Tivoed Nighty Night this past weekend and found myself paralyzed with laughter at 3 AM. So very dark, so very funny. Julia Davis (Jill Farrell) is a genius. She has created a thoroughly despicable character that nevertheless I love. Jill is manipulative, slutty, selfish, truly sociopathic, and hilarious. No boundaries. Everything she does is straight from the id.

I caught episode 5 of 6, but it looks like Oxygen is going to rerun the entire series over starting in a couple weeks. These will reside on my Tivo for a long time. BBC2 will air a Christmas special and a second series in 2005. I hope Oxygen picks these up too.

Show site:
Lasso the Moon

"I have a lust for life and a flexible spine." -Jill

Late to the 7-11 Pumpkin Spice Latte party

So I was all het up to proclaim the fakey goodness that is the 7-11 Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I see that it's been noted all over the web. Nevertheless, it is unnatural and delicious. I will probably drink at least one a week for awhile.

NB: If you get one, be sure to taste it before buying. My roommate was annoyed to discover that the Pumpkin Spice was missing and she had merely a regular latte, but only after she was home.

This brings up the point that the Pumpkin Spice fluid/pack/cartridge is loaded into the machine separately. Now I need to find out who is the supplier for 7-11 Pumpkin Spice. I would just send them an email, but of course they want all your info (address, phone number, demographics) and that ain't happening. Though of course it could result in coupons for free Pumpkin Spice lattes. Hmm...