Monday, November 30, 2009

More Community Arts News - Kresge Info Session Dec 7

(piggy-backing off of the "CAID Radio" post below - here's more news on community arts)

For literary and performing artists in the metropolitan Detroit area, applications for the Kresge Arts Fellowship 2010 are due at the end of this coming February - that's $25,000 for 18 potential artists throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb.

An information session for those interested in applying will be Dec. 7th at the College for Creative Studies, starting at 7pm

RSVPs are encouraged.

Essentially, head over to Kresge's page for all the info you need. Be you playwright, sound-artist/experimenter, choreographer, or even art critic....

12-7 CCS

Radio Killed The Video Star; CAID Radio; Dec 5 - Scrummage Records; 'Expose Yourself to Art'

It would behoove you to head over to the always reliable and often heartening Detroit Today - to listen to Craig Fahle, a reporter focused on our community, talk about this:

"A local low power AM radio station and the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit have teamed up to help introduce Detroit-area kids to reporting on their community. CAID Director Aaron Timlin and Steven Cherry- founder of AM 1610, join us to discuss."

There's numerous dimensions to this forthcoming concert/celebration, Dec 5th - at the CAID (5141 Rosa Parks Blvd) - so let's go down the list...

As something similar to an apprenticeship - aspiring high-school-age reporters of Detroit and Hamtramck will be able to learn about radio journalism and production - with the help of a 5-month after-school program provided by Hamtramck's AM 1610 ("The Station") in collaboration with the CAID - hosted at the Ladybug Studios (down Hubbard in SW Detroit). In an age of inane 24-hour-news networks cycling and cycling often harmfully arranged and misleading dribble as plucked and pulled by Newscorp or General Electric - the CAID and The Station are spurring a grassroots movement to help shape the future of journalism.

The program, dubbed "Expose Yourself to Art" - will focus on covering the local arts scene from various angles - reported and produced by 9th--12th graders.

Now that you know the cause - come celebrate the kick-off of "CAID Radio," with up-and-coming bands all sprouting from the Scrummage circle / Scrummage Records: ManNiKin (go to their page, listen to "Linger") / Telephone Callers (short on time? listen to "Give Up // Critical Thinking") / Coup d'etatas (the Pavement-fan in me suggests "Serengeti Nightmare") - who will all be joined by DJs BLK_OUT and Snag Toof

We have a fine show at the CAID; the burgeoning Ladybug Studios; grassroots work towards the salvaging of journalism and the promotion of community arts; a showcase of fine and refreshing newer bands, thanks to the equally notable and locally-grown Scrummage Records; DJs blasting a varity of house and techno; and the eventual strengthening, thanks to the young talent-to-be-trained, of Hamtramck based AM 1610.

Dec 5 - CAID
more info:

CAID - AM 1610

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Interview: Secret Twins

Interview with The Secret Twins - as featured in this month's Current Magazine
more info: Secret Twins - Current Magazine
Dina Bankole is a subtle soul up on that stage;, her skinny frame gripping that striking, white flying-V, eye-lids half lowered as her angelic voice coos and soars into the mic. During the day she’s helping Toyota with Japanese translations and sporadically contributing to Ann Arbor folkster Nathan K, but lately she’s been singing her own songs on a regular basis at an increasing amount of live performances for her new band, the Secret Twins. “This is what I want to do; I’m living life the way I want to.”

Bankole, 27, was raised in Jackson, MI and currently calls Ypsilanti home. She admits that Jackson’s “kind of a weird place,” with a definite small town vibe, but that she enjoyed it – attending Catholic school and finding her lifelong joy, singing, through the choirs there and in high school.

With Ann Arbor based drummer Tim Thomas, the pair are Secret Twins, an up-and-coming indie-rock band, heavy on melody, angular rhythms and spats of rougher punk-edge spunk. As Bankole rattles off influences, I can’t help but harp on the middle ground her music forges between the acerbic/endearing noisey-rock of Sebadoh and the intricately dressed forceful indie/folk of Feist.

After high school, Bankole went over to Connecticut, studying Japanese at Yale. While over there, her friend Lucas helped her obtain her first guitar, and soon started taking some lessons, learning the tabs to some tunes by favorites like the Pixies and Nada Surf. When she returned to Jackson in 2007, she was able find a job so she could settle in Washtenaw, eventually writing her own songs and performing solo. Lucas would accompany her in early 2009, backing her up in April at the Totally Awesome Fest in Ypsilanti. After the Dreamland Theatre show, this tall lanky guy came up exclaiming, almost demanding, to be her drummer – this was Thomas and the rest is history.

“I really wanted the chance to see what I could do for her on drums,” said Thomas, who also grew up in a small town, Fremont, MI eventually coming to the Arbor-Ypsi area for school and work. “I knew (Lucas) was living in Dayton at the time, so I knew he wasn’t gonna be there, so it wasn’t really stealing her. She took me up on it and I didn’t know her at all, so it was weird, but we just started playing together and got to know each other.”

Timmy has played most of his life; he drummed in a band of close friends through the end of high school and a bit after, helping further his experience and giving him a taste of band-life. He currently drums for three bands, including BoyWife, Invader and Mouthfinger.

Musician Jim Cherewick, a friend of and occasional jammer with Bankole, took notice of her melodious rough and regal folk style and helped her get a spot on the Totally Awesome Fest – which could be where we use the cliché: “and she hasn’t looked back since.” Secret Twins established itself at that show, briefly featuring recordings Bankole made with Lucas and appearing on WCBN. They caught the eyes and ears of Detroit fans when they performed at the F*cking Awesome Fest in August, at the Majestic Theatre complex – attracting a large crowd and decent blog buzz.

Even Stuart Murdoch of Scottish baroque-pop legends Belle & Sebastian even took notice of her strikingly beautiful voice when Bankole won an online contest to contribute vocals to said-songwriter’s recent film score project, God Help The Girl.

Future plans include a proper full length recording, hopefully a tour and a handful of local shows.

See them in Lansing at (Scene) Metroscape on 12/12 with Joshua Barton & You and Yourn.

photos: Keith McArthur

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Month's Notice - Mittenfest IV

Last year, Mittenfest really came into it's own - with three days and upwards to thirty bands. The flow of each night was great, the performances ranged from poignant, to rollicking, intimate to baffling - and it all retained a very cozy escape from the bitter-bastardly-winter-weather, inside the Elbow Room of Ypsilanti, which can often capture the ambience of a spilled-out basement party.

Brandon Zwagerman (former Ann-Arborite/current New Yorker/permanent MI-enthusiast) is keeping the tradition alive - with a 4th night and more bands (line up below). Proceeds go to benefit vital tutoring program 826 Michigan - for info on tickets, wristbands, what-have-you, head over to the main Mittenfest site, here

New Year's Eve weekend -

Nights and Bands

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Doors 4 p.m. $9. 18+

5:00-5:30 HALLWAY – Ypsilanti, MI

5:50-6:20 STARGRAZER – Lansing, MI

6:40-7:10 THIS IS DEER COUNTRY – Houghton, MI

7:30-8:00 ELLE AND THE FONTS – Detroit, MI

8:20-8:50 ANNIE PALMER – Ypsilanti, MI

9:10-9:40 THE FERDY MAYNE – Ypsilanti, MI

10:00-10:30 ELECTRIC FIRE BABIES – Detroit, MI

10:50-11:20 WHITE PINES – Akron, OH

11:40-12:10 CHRIS BATHGATE – Ann Arbor, MI

12:30-1:00 MATT JONES & THE RECONSTRUCTION – Ypsilanti, MI


Friday, January 1, 2010

Doors 4 p.m. $7. 18+

5:00-5:30 TIMOTHY MONGER – Ann Arbor, MI

5:50-6:20 GHOST HEART – Grand Rapids, MI

6:40-7:10 FIELDS OF INDUSTRY – Lansing, MI

7:30-8:00 GHOSTLADY – Ann Arbor, MI

8:20-8:50 THE JULIETS – Ypsilanti, MI

9:10-9:40 PRUSSIA – Detroit, MI

10:00-10:30 SILVERGHOST – Detroit, MI

10:50-11:20 LIGHTNING LOVE – Ann Arbor, MI

11:40-12:10 CHAMPIONS OF BREAKFAST – Detroit, MI

12:30-1:00 GREAT LAKES MYTH SOCIETY – Ann Arbor, MI


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Doors 4 p.m. $7. 18+

5:00-5:30 NATHAN K. – Ypsilanti, MI

5:50-6:20 ETHAN MILNER – Ann Arbor, MI

6:40-7:10 SPITTING NICKELS – Detroit, MI

7:30-8:00 GREGORY MCINTOSH – Ypsilanti, MI

8:20-8:50 BLACK JAKE & THE CARNIES – Ypsilanti, MI

9:10-9:40 JIM ROLL – Ann Arbor, MI

10:00-10:30 FRIENDLY FOES – Detroit, MI

10:50-11:20 DRUNKEN BARN DANCE – New York, NY

11:40-12:10 CHILD BITE – Detroit, MI

12:30-1:00 THE HIGH STRUNG – Detroit, MI


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Doors 4 p.m. $7. 18+

5:00-5:30 WHISKEY BOTTLE – New York, NY

5:50-6:20 ALEX GREINER – Brooklyn, NY

6:40-7:10 LANDFILL MOUNTAIN BOYS – Ann Arbor, MI

7:30-8:00 SMALL HOUSES – Lansing, MI

8:20-8:50 PHOTOGRAPHERS – Traverse City, MI

9:10-9:40 ANNA ASH – Oakland, CA

10:00-10:30 SECRET TWINS – Ann Arbor, MI

10:50-11:20 MISTY LYN & THE BIG BEAUTIFUL – Ann Arbor, MI

11:40-12:10 FRED THOMAS – Ypsilanti, MI

12:30-1:00 FRONTIER RUCKUS – Lansing, MI


Child Bite's Knight still not stopping, getting mellow, vibey - 12 / 1

Shawn Knight (left), with his band of metal-clanged, groove-heavy, shout-sprinkled noise-poppers, Child Bite, continued to tour on the material from 08's myth-rock romp Fantastic Gusts of Blood; they grew their face fuzz and drove all the way to Ancorage AK to compete in the World Bear and Mustache competition (and, tour/perform their way out there via a slowly failing van); they released three 7" records, split with three respective bands while doing more shows; and, most recently, while continuing to work here and there throughout the year on various art projects, Knight also did some recent screen-printing poster work for the Jesus Lizard, Russian Circles -and- Melt Banana (the latter shares a bill with Child Bite, tonight, 11/28, at the Pike Room).
With all that leaving even this writer a bit out of breath, Knight is continuing to dabble in further arts, of the recorded and performance variety - via Junger Witt - a "more mellow and vibey" affair, with a circulating cast of players joining Knight here and there for shows. The project will be recording with Zoos of Beriln's Collin Dupuis the night before their performance on December 1 - at the Pike Room, in Pontiac - and will subsequently perform those to-be-recorded songs. Joining Knight is Brandon Moss (from Wildcatting/Bars of Gold) on drums and Ryan and Stefan ("from the Detroit jazz scene") on upright bass and sax respectively.
They'll join CJ Boyd in opening for longtime Child Bite allys, Stationary Odyssey, their shredded acrobatic noise-pop brothers from Indiana.
Dec 1 - Pike Room

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Have It All

"Here's 3 cheers and thanks for family...(and friends)"

Eddie Baranek belts out a poignant and personal ballad on the latest batch of songs from the rejuvenated Sights - and it's a song you'll likely hear at their Thanksgiving eve show at the Magic Stick (info below).

Thanks. It's that time of year - and while Hallmark and cable television and Disney and all sorts of other dubious, faceless money-counting media demons would like to manipulate holiday cheer into profitability - let's not cast it aside...the thankfulness, I mean, just becuase we're conditioned to see it as cheesy. I'm all for cynicism, but...after I heard that Sights song, I started warming up to feeling that thankful feeling...I'll stop this before it turns to a rant -

Thanks for reading - thanks for the music, thanks for uh...heh, being a friend.

As Harry Tuttle says, "We're all in it together..."


Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview: Electric Lions Soundwave Experiment - Thanksgiving Eve show at Donovan's Pub features: Solar Temple Club / Oblisk / Rue Moor Counts

Update: As a recent Real D story goes to press (and, potentially after the deadline) The Electric Lions Soundwave Experiment, the quartet featured in this interview, are no longer on the bill for the show to which readers are directed – on 11 / 25 at Donovan’s Pub.

The band stll has a story to be told - as they finish up work on their 2nd LP for a 2010 release - and it also would deserve mention that it's members make up 80% of The Glass Orphans, the house-band for Theatre Bizarre's Wonderland burlesque/variety show - on new year's even weekend at Hastings Street Ballroom.

So, before we go forward, this writer thought it’d be good for you to keep in mind the other bands on that bill (at Donovan’s) – as it still stands as a strong sampling for the psychedelic scene, here in Detroit.

Solar Temple Cult is a new project featuring members of the Friends of Dennis Wilson (Tony, Sam, Brian & Brandon). Where as FODW (pictured above) explored the more scorched desert landscape vibe, the rough and tumble solidarity of bikers rolling along long stretches of undulating highway off into the oblivion of cerebral stretches and surreal revelation – Solar Temple Cult is less of a surf-toned rock thing and more of a darker, atmospheric take on shoegaze – with a fresh dressing of psychedelia, and also seeing frontman Tony move back onto the same line as the band as he picks up a guitar and explores new terrains as a vocalist/songwriter.

Oblisk, meanwhile, is working on new songs for the eventual follow-up to Weather Patterns, which will be their 3rd proper LP. The band feels as though their starting with a clean slate, after some line-up shifts through the first recordings, with these latest writings coming together with a set line-up. Singer/guitarist Asim Akhtar indicated these tunes to be their most experimental yet, being guided by the ethereal, hypnotic heartbeats of trip/hop - ala Beta Band or Massive Attack. Simultaneously, they're still the ultra-fuzzed, hard-driving psyche/shoegaze rockers that you've seen perform through '09 - in fact, on some new songs they're pushing it even further. The end result: the beat is leading them on...and hopefully, as Akhtar has indicated to be a major goal for a year now, the beat leads them to an eventual European tour.

The Rue Moor Counts are a quartet formerly known as The BirdDogs, and they've recently finished recording their 2nd proper full length - for an early '10 release. Singer/guitarist Rob Buxton thought the name change appropriate after a line-up shift and a venturing into both a bigger, more textured sound - and the general palette-cleansing they went through with a recent 7", to grow away from past sound's tendency towards bluesy-flavored rock. Buxton expects many listeners to be surprised and appreciative of this more straight-up rock n roll/loosely-psychedelic record.

In the meantime - back to the
Electric Lions Soundwave Experiment interview with singer/guitarist Rabeah Ltief.

The Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment know, that with their swirling, bending tones, thickly layered fuzzed out tapestries and overall head-swimming sway, that the word “psychedelic” will inevitably get thrown on them.

And why not, since the quintet (singer/guitarist Rabeah Ltief, keyboardist Hussian Berro, guitarist Mike Latcha, bassist Paul “Pookie” Grech and drummer) are all certainly appreciators of that grimy, hard driving garage rock sound, dented and fried with the smoky swirl of lava-lamp trip-outs. But Ltief believes it’s deeper, or at least more nuanced than that – that now, with fellow psych rockers like the bluesy Rue Moor Counts, the space-rock of Solar Temple Cult (formerly Friends of Dennis Wilson) and the shoegaze onslaught atmospherics of Oblisk – continuing whatever tradition of “psychedelic music” simply means a shared philosophy that reveres the beauty of tone and the power of volume.

“There is an advantage in volume,” said Ltief, who believes in the “sonic value” of music. He counts off all three bands named above, who, with ELSE, all share a bill on Thanksgiving Eve at Donovan’s Pub in Detroit, and notes they all love “to play loud” and immerse themselves “in this soundwave circle. All these bands, have an infatuation with, just, sound.”

Ltief, along with Latcha, are finishing up the final touches on the band’s 2nd full length album.

Their first record (from spring 08) came out when the band was known as The Electric Lions and had more of a bluesy, garage rock sound, with a bit of surfy sunny slides and a hint of a pop-hook. But lately, said Ltief, “…it’s not about that, those 60’s riffs or whatever. It’s gotten to the point where it’s pure experimentation…” He notes particular inspiration from the musicality of Rue Moor Counts latest forays into whole other realms of bluesy psychedelia.

For their follow-up, under a new moniker and embracing a more expanded, darker, atmospheric sound, Ltief said that, “it can sound evil, but it’s very rich, the sounds are really there.” I remark on his use of the word “evil.”

“For me to be moved by music, there has to be a sadness of some type, or catharsis; whether it’s nostalgic sadness or whatever. It’s important for the listener to get that feeling inside them. It’s something I have a hard time putting into words…”

Which is fine, cuz the man can let his guitar do the talking for him. The tones are striking, the solos—which intertwine with the academically trained shreds of Latcha, are devastating, and the warmth and rhythm given by the accoutrements of Berro and Grech make for an arresting plume of throbbing tones and charged reverb.

The chemistry of Latcha, Berro and Grech, not only as musical partners to Ltief, but as musketeer-esque band of buddies, seems a heartwarming rumination for Ltief, considering it as close as he’s been to “musical nirvana” with a group.

Ltief said he has been forever changed by the experience of working with his band and songwriter/poet Drew Bardo in scoring the soundtrack to last year’s Theatre Bizarre-produced burlesque-tinged interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. He and Bardo reached what were, for Ltief, new atmospheric, particularly cerebral depths in songwriting, with the “house band” that is now known as The Glass Orphans.

Obviously with the follow-up (hopefully out in spring), there comes the stress of pushing for a label. At the end of the day, Ltief said that they’re “happy enough to have a good show;” particularly while sharing the stage with their friends.

(STC, Oblisk, ELSE photos: mr Trever Long)

Random Notes (Carjack - Stationary Odyssey)

An early Happy Thanskgiving -
Know Your Pilgrims

Random Notes:

Carjack has put up round 3 (of 4) in his month long release of free digital downloads - a series of more-or-less EP-sized packages - this week, after clearing the back catalog of old b-side goodies, he gets around to presenting a collection of material mostly found in his live sets. More info at the band site.

12 / 1 - at the Crofoot - see noisey-metaley indie rock collective Stationary Odyssey (pictured below in a photo I couldn't help but revel in showing the week-of-Thanksgiving) along with local art-rocker Shawn Knight (of Child Bite) perform as Junger Witt (potentially alongside members of Wildcatting and notable players from the Detroit jazz scene), with experimental folkist CJ Boyd.


But then, more immediately after Thanksgiving - 11/28 - at the Magic Bag - the Satin Peaches welcome back founding member Jesse Shepher Bates, of the world-population-sized JSB Squad - joined by The Muggs and Woodward

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ann Arbor Rock n Roll Revival - 12/18 - with Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson / Mazinga / irRationals

Just a week before Christmas - Chris Taylor (of SE Michigan space-punk instituion, Mazinga) is joining with Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson (pictured above, of Detroit's legendary proto-punk rock revolution, the MC5) to bring you an early present - Ann Arbor's Rock n Roll Revival - at the Blind Pig.

Taylor (pictured-side, with Mazinga) put together the innaugeral "Ann Arbor Rock n Roll Revival" nearly 8 years ago, to the day. The original featured Powertrane, Deniz Tek and Ron Asheton, reuniting the latter two for the first time in 20 years. The Paybacks, a still-at-that-point-up-and-coming rock band, opened that show and the show wound up setting an attendance record (that would hold until Spring 04). The 2nd show was booked for April of 02 and a year or so after that, the third Rock n Roll Revival welcomed Mitch Ryder to the bill.

This time around, "Folks should expect a killer old-school Rock n Roll show," said Taylor - whose unwavering support of local music (be it classic or conemtporary) is highly commendable. "Hiawatha Bailey will be joining us on stage to perform a tribute to our late friend, Ron Asheton. We'll also have maximum-cosmic-rock (with Mazinga) opening the show, as well as Scott Morgan performing Rationals songs with the irRationals, a group that features Detroit garage rock stars Matthew Smith (of Outrageous Cherry) on guitar, Jim Diamond (of Ghetto Recorders) on bass and Dave Shettler (of SSM) on drums." Deniz Tek will also perform.

12 / 18 - The Blind Pig - 9:30 pm $10 (advance tix available)

Mazinga -10

Gorevette - 10:45

Scott Morgan & the IrRationals - 11:30

Machine Gun Thompson / Deniz Tek / Scott Morgan - 12:15

Friday, November 20, 2009

Titanic Thanksgiving and afterwards - the Recital (farewell show)

I was talking to Eric Allen last night, about various things, work, writing, old PBS documentaries on doo-wop and working on music...

It always inevitably drifts towards - so....what shows are coming up?

And that's always an ominous question, the week of Thanksgiving -

He initially referred to The Sights / The Beggars / SSM / The Barrettes 11 / 25 at the Magic Stick - (a show celebrating the return from the 2-year-quasi-hiatus of Eddie Baranek's most main project and their vamp up for a tour and eventual album release next year.

I said, then, of course, the alternate titan-esque line up would be The Readies / Lee Marvin Computer Arm / Silverghost / Terrible Twos / Johnny Ill Band 11 / 25 at PJs Lager House - (as Terrible Twos return to the local stage in what feels like a while, the Readies get welcomed back from their recent Brazil stint and Silverghost vamps up for their forthcoming EP combo release).

Then again, if you want something else - try the psyche-night - over at Donovan's Pub - with Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment / Oblisk / Solar Temple Cult (formerly Friends of Dennis Wilson) / The Rue Moor Counts (formerly the Birddogs).


Anyway, after you're all stuffed with beer, wine, tryptophan and stinging with awkward silences from your segregation to the kiddie table - we can look forward to calmer waters (less drunks out on the road) and get back to the more traditional, less-titanic-battle of shows on the weekends:

Like, for example, coming to see the final performance of local indie rockers The Recital, -part of the Suburban Sprawl collective, the band will release their third EP (and fourth/final proper release) via the Michigan label and, upon the tenth anniversary of their last show, they'll hang it up, as a band...

Helping bid them farewell, as they release The Succulent Leftovers EP - will be Thunderbirds Are Now! and Zoos of Berlin - at the Majestic Cafe - on 12 / 4

Fare thee well Recital....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts before Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox

The (Potential) Religious Overtones of Wes Anderson movies – or – How I Can Suddenly Twist One of my Main Sources of Joy into Something Repellently Churchy


Wes Anderson’s nasally Texas-tinged voice came over the radio this morning. The Rushmore director was giving an interview for his sixth film, the forthcoming Fantastic Mr. Fox. And it got me thinking – cliché as it is for a white, middle-class, thrift-shopping, NPR-listening, dry-wit-revering, hipster-in-denial, to be a cheerleader/drunk-on-the-kool-aid for Wes Anderson movies – it moved me to start heavily unpacking the themes that revolve, however subtly, throughout each of his films – regardless if it’s a masturbatory act from a purely cinestete perspective.

Anderson’s films are often given admiring brushes by the media (or blurbed critical quotes) centering around the quirkiness; on a surface level, one can enjoy the quirky comedic impact of Bill Murray in a suit, swatting a basketball away from grade schoolers while talking on a cell phone, or the uncomfortable conversation shared between the Wilson brothers while cuts back and forth reveal disturbing, yet somehow funny paintings of four-wheeler marauders, or the juvenile slap-filled wrestling match between grown men on a train as they somehow profess love for each other while also attacking each other with mace.

But look deeper, as I dorkily have…and one of the biggest things you’ll take away from Anderson’s stories is that the recently turned 40 screenwriter, producer and director seems to have some deep daddy issues.

As Steve Zissou puts it, bluntly, to his possible-son, Ned, “…I hate fathers and I never wanted to be one.”


But while it’s not my intention to root around Anderson’s personal life in a gossipy manner (as I see no suggestion that he came from a broken home) – I’d instead like to posit, especially considering the strong influence of Hinduism on his most recent release, the Darjeeling Limited, that these recurrent “father figure” themes stand as an overarching religious implication – sort of a Christ-like path – not in the sense of a healer, or a preacher, but…at the end of the day, a confused son, looking up to the heavens for guidance, for comfort, for encouragement, for answers. (Who has more nuanced daddy-issues, at the end of the day, that Jeezy Creezy). In our youth, where or who do we direct all of our questions, be it how electricity works, or why the sky is blue or why leaves fall or whatever… It is always to our parents.

As Palahniuk opined through Fight Club, to paraphrase, Christian American males see their fathers as a model for god.

Let’s take a look at the father situation throughout his films.

We can start with Dignan, from Bottle Rocket; most of the trouble that Dignan gets himself (and his friend Anthony) into are caused by his risky (and heavily naïve) relationship to Mr. Henry. While both Anthony and Bob can see that this guy may be okay on the surface, they still don’t seem to be as enamored with him as Dignan – perhaps because their friend sees the shifty elder as an idyllic father figure – continually providing the encouragement and arm around the shoulder support that perhaps was lacking in his life, while also balancing it with a charade of good natured joking around (that can also fill in as an older-brother replacement). Mr. Henry is eventually revealed to be a clever criminal specializing in grand larceny, who has taken advantage of the clearly disturbed and malleable will of Dignan.

It’s also interesting to note that there are no parents present in Bottle Rocket, even though they are sporadically referenced. We see scenes of these mid-20 something characters apparently acknowledging that they should be acting like grown-ups, be it through Bob’s attempted assertiveness towards his brother Future Man or from Anthony trying to embrace his older-brother role to his grade-school sister to no avail. While a parent-less movie would go unnoticed otherwise, there are references – Anthony and Dignan “practice” their burglary on Anthony’s absent parent’s house; Bob constantly refers to his “folks” and how they are away, and Dignan, in turn, never brings up his family. All we have to look to, is Mr. Henry – the epitome of deception, or a lesson-learned.

Rushmore tells the tale of an over-stretched, over-achieving, tactless young playwright prodigy who parades about like a 30-something haughty literati lobbing vocabulary he may not be yet equipped to use and finding out that even he is not immune to the youthful trance of puppy love. It is also about a boy who hasn’t yet come to terms with his feelings about his own father, who has been raising him for sometime as a widower: a lower-middle class, blue collar barber, wrinkled and silvertopped, using old colloquialisms and shows an endearing, cute goofiness –

What Max may not be ready to admit is that he is embarrassed by his father (he lies about his profession) and that he is drawn to another father figure – Herman Blume, a joyless, fatalistic millionaire who may not garner any affection, specifically, from Max, but may send confusing signals to the boy that he belongs with a more upper class influence for a father, however bitter the rich man may be…

Royal Tenenbaums
is the dysfunctional family named for the central character and patriarch – so the daddy thing is pretty obvious.

This is a redemption story and revolves around the three siblings and their personal regards for their father: Chaz was often treated coldly, however unintentionally by Royal, piquing in a never-forgiven bee-bee gun-shot wound, so the highly stressed, overzealous widower and father of two embraces a retaliatory cold-shoulder stance, purposely showing no emotion when Royal announces his “terminal” illness. Margot, as Royal constantly notes upon her introduction, is adopted, and thus has, similarly, a colder relationship to him but not intentionally; they are more like strangers, or more so, like co-workers who don’t know quite what to say to each other – their sharing of affection is strained by awkwardness – and so, just like her romantic feelings for her adopted brother Richie, she is confused about how to react to Royal’s looming death. Richie is, essentially, the favorite son (he is the only one invited to the dog fights), and represents not only Royal’s best hope for redemption (he is the only one who holds hope for the ol’ cad, “pops”) but also assumes an heroic role for just keeping the family together – he is more delicate to his mother than Chaz and also extends relentless unconditional love to his track-suited bro. (Perhaps a foreboding commentary on hope, if this character does in fact represent it, is that he attempts suicide…but survives). The trio each represent a range of emotions often felt from offspring to father, from anger, to indifference/confusion, to undying dedication, two extreme poles and the middle ground.

The Life Aquatic
is equally father-focused as Tenenbaums, focusing on the perfect strangers relationship of once-renowned/but-recently-fallen celebrity/oceanographer Steve Zissou to Air Kentucky co-pilot Ned Plimpton, the 30-year-old offspring of a woman Zissou had relations with…30-and-a-half-years ago, give or take… This is where we enter the thematic realm of reincarnation (which plays a big role in Darjeeling later). Steve is the captain of the Belafonte research vessel and star/leader of a documentary film “crew” or “pack of strays” who have been making films for more than a dozen years (but flopping for nine consecutive) and we open when they seem to hit rock bottom – Zissou’s best friend is eaten by a mysterious new species during filming – leading him to opportunistically title this tragedy “part one” as a teaser cliff-hanger so that he can better sell/build-up his next project, however uninspired he may be to write it and however-deranged his intentions of killing the beast as a means of venting/exorcising what he knows deep down is the onset of, more than mid-life crisis, a considerable depression.

Now, to be fair – this script was co-written with Noah Baumbach, a talent with considerably darker visions and gut-wrenchingly blunt dialogue later scraped out in Squid & the Whale… (and to take in that almost orchestral arrangement of awkward silences and shouting matches seems to indicate who took the wheel during most spats between Zissou and wife Eleanor). When Zissou admits later that “11 ½” was his favorite age – it’s telling that he may not have come to terms with his age. When asked if this is his last mission, he says, “I’m only 52…” and he attempts flirting (and even reaching in for a kiss) with a woman 20-years younger. This may explain his quiet panic at the arrival of Ned, a human bullet he’s been dodging for 20 years, from his boiler-plate cold response to prepubescent Ned’s letter making mention of his mother, to the out-of-sight-out-of-mind treatment of “an article about” him that also referenced Ned, to the quick escape he makes after finally meeting Ned up to the highest part of the ship to smoke a joint.

His defense mechanism seems to be recruitment; get him a red-cap, a speedo and correspondence documents and bring him on Team Zissou – then the quicker Steve can treat him in a more friend/brother manner – simultaneously avoiding fatherly responsibilities or having to talk about never acknowledging Ned’s existence. He goes from warning against making him look bad in front of a reporter, to outright decrying fatherhood, to offering him complimentary Zissou paraphernalia in a span of two minutes – seeming to be so thick and insensitive to the needs of Ned – who would give anything just for a father-son chat, a sharing of emotions. Ned, in turn, offers his inheritance to help his “possible” father, quickly dreams up a contribution/revamping of the Zissou insignia and, with good-intentions, offers suggestions for the ship’s course to his daydream-johnny father figure. It doesn’t help that Zissou is wasting his time with Ned by, almost deplorably, competing (in a very biting manner) with his son, for the affections of the reporter, Jane – who is, symbolically, pregnant.

The humbling of Steve is a five-step process: 1 - Eleanor agrees to help him only after he essentially begs her – winding up with the delusional/immature old man asking, in a tone of childish defeat/wonderment, “am I ever going to be good again? 2 – Ned’s punch to his mouth, during a heated, uncomfortable fight between “father” and “son.” 3- his falling down the stairs during a lightning-strike rescue mission, where he finally admits his age and pathos. 4-ultimately losing Ned’s inheritance to pirates. 5 – Ned urging him “to lead” …only leading to Ned’s death.

The key is step 3 – where Ned helps him off the floor, so that Zissou can admit, “for me to meet a guy like you…at this time in my life…” And he stops himself before crying (as it seems tears are ready to shake out at any point in the film…and finally do when they find the shark). But it finally becomes irrelevant whether or not Ned is his son – all that matters is that he met Ned, that Ned is a force that changed Zissou’s life – bringing the old man to admit at the end, “this is an adventure…” that, life itself, is an adventure enough.

Now, Jane is pregnant – and conveniently gives birth to a boy soon after Ned’s death – with the baby wearing Ned’s signature traffic-light-patched red cap. Connect the dots for reincarnation theme. That it is also revealed that Zissou “shoots blanks” in the virility department, lightly hints at an immaculate conception and thus Christ figure (Ned is also sacrificed) but that is probably reaching. As noted before – if there are religious implications, it is less a Christ-figure schematic in the traditional sense and more of a son-to-father inquisition – as a means of guidance to the answers of universal questions.


The Darjeeling Limited
finds three brothers, Francis, Peter and Jack, reunited for the first time in a year, having last seen each other at the hectic funeral for their father. Their rivalry/adversarial stances toward each other is evident in the way two will gossip/scheme about the other if one walks away from the group for even thirty seconds. The unspoken acknowledgement between the three of them seems to be that if they can find their wayward mother (now a nun in a mountain-set mission in India), rekindle their bond and get closure with her – that they can finally put their father to rest.

There is a subtle grudge match waging between the two older brothers, Francis and Peter, as heirs for stewardship of the family. Jack is tagged by Francis as “the lone wolf” and the youngest expresses his familial preferences during a fight, demanding “stop including me.” Not that he wants to abandon his family, per se, but he’d rather be left alone. Francis, who is scared, bruised and bandaged from an attempted suicide, seems rejuvenated with deluded sanctimony, tactlessly and awkwardly asking aloud, “did I…raise us?” which reveals his view of things – he is the leader, and he will take over fatherly duties. His obstacle is Peter – who throws two sticks in Francis’ craw by wearing “dad’s glasses” and then claiming that he (Peter) “was dad’s favorite.”

While Francis tries to baby his two brothers (even by ordering food for them), Peter is more preoccupied from fully engaging Francis, with thoughts of “real” fatherhood – with his pregnant wife back home. The 21st century (and very Andersonian) view/presentation of parenthood is expressed through Peter, when he admits that, with the way “our parents” were, he almost betted on he and his wife splitting before babies.

Death (their father’s) unites them on the train, but it takes the death of a young Indian boy to actually unite them as brothers. They leap into a river to rescue a (mirroring) trio of boys, each grabbing one. Peter, unknowingly seeing it as a test or competition, seems equally upset that one boy dies but that he is unable to rescue the one unofficially appointed as his responsibility. The funeral sends all three to reflect on the breakdown they had during their father’s funeral – where they hoard luggage, clothing and try to recover a dead car – all possessions (and somehow symbols of comfort) of their father.

Not long after the funeral of the Indian boy – Peter’s wife gives birth to a son back home. Connect the dots. Well, speaking of dots – it should be noted that when they board their second train in the final scenes of the film and are welcomed to their room by their stewardess, Peter has already mindfully applied to bindi-resembling red dot to his forehead (while the stewardess has to apply it to Jack and Francis) which could signify Peter’s enlightenment – and perhaps, one hopes, a sense of dedication to fatherhood, newly inspired by reflections on his father and the renewed bonds forged with his brothers.


So that leads us into The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which – is it a surprise, focuses on the relationship between a father and a son. While it should be noted that this is not Anderson’s story idea – my whole point is to keep all the ramblings above in mind when watching – and see what you can find in the portrayal of the familial relationship. Even if it is Roald Dahl’s book, it is still going to be Anderson’s interpretation.

Parenthood isn’t easy – that’s the first, and most obvious message acknowledged through Anderson’s relationships – but mostly, it is difficult to master. You are not your children’s friend, you are not their enemy, you are not their task master, you are not their guide, you are not their critic, you are not their inspiration, you are not the provider of answers and you are not the frustrated one who shrugs and admits that you don’t have the answers…

Well, you are not one or two of these things, you are not solely one…, you are all of these things. Anderson’s fathers seem trapped in maintaining maybe two or three of these roles.

For some parents, it is possible, that, through the tribulations of whatever life one has lead, you actually never get to know your children. And when they are 15 like Max or they are in their mid-30’s like Chazz, it can be a painful learning curve to try to get to know them, so late in the game. Some give up, like the mother in Darjeeling or some brought it on themselves like Zissou. For the child – it is a search for closure or a questioning of how to live – and they often look to their parents, however flawed they are –

As Zissou asks Ned, “Are you finding what you were looking for, out here with me?” Ironically, Zissou himself is the answer to the question in Ned’s case.

Sometimes what these children are looking for is just the parent’s presence, or as simple as Tenenbaum’s tear-jerking pat onto Chazz’s back at Tenenbaums’ end. For others, like the Darjeeling brothers, or the bereaved Zissou, the road will be harder. But the search will likely continue – throughout Anderson films to come…


(Ed. If you artsy, vehemently agnostic literate types out there are bugged out by me bringing religion into your Wes Anderson movie-lovin' – take heart in this: if we follow the “our fathers are our models for god” idea, then consider that when we read Zissou saying “I hate fathers…” Another weird bit of food for thought – Ned empathizes with Jane, because he was raised by a single mother – which risks projecting his mother upon her –and that gets really weird when Ned and Steve start essentially competing for her…)

More info on Fantastic Mr. Fox

CD Release - 11/21 - PJs Lager House: SugarSpell and Tone & Niche -with Big Livy

"Folk" music gets thrown around so much, like some tattered flimsy dog-chewed wind-blown, holey, tattered frisbee... But you all have synapses fire off in your head when I say it - syrupy toned vocals bleeding out visceral emotions of heartbreak and quiet joy over delicate acoustic guitars - And while you're likely to get that from all three of the acts on the bill at the Lager on 11/21 - they each have their own intricacies, from violins, to spacey guitars, to spoken-word.
SugarSpell and Tone & Niche will both be celebrating the release of respective recordings - for SugarSpell (Jeffree Paul St. John), Check Engine is his fourth proper release, while the Tone & Niche quartet will offer a double disc of "Live" recordings. Big Livy will join them.

More Carjack Songs

Carjack. (aka Lo-fi-Bri) is continuing his month-long 4th-birthday-celebration over at his new site - where, you can wreck up your monday morning routine of coffee and crossword puzzles at your cubicle with a new tradition of getting a new Carjack EP's worth of MP3's each week with a free download.

After posting the debut EP Boombox (from 03) last week - he's putting up some straggler bonus tracks from those recording days - essentially a much more atmospheric, spaced-out experimental side not seen in his often go-for-broke punk-leaning live shows.

I'll just mention this one last time and then leave you alone...


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Satin Peaches - 11/28 - Magic Bag - JSB Returns

(photo: Mike Milo)

...and so, the strange and gluttonous (yet still warm and fuzzy) holiday of Thanksgiving will come and pass...and we will all settle into a black-Friday-recovery, either from all the beer we scenesters guzzled on Thanksgiving’s eve, (supposedly the craziest bar night of the year), or from all the red wine you downed to better tolerate your family the following afternoon.

Saturday night should be enough time – by then, you’ll be ready for the
Satin Peaches. For one Peach, it is a home-coming on a few levels: singer/songwriter Jesse Shepherd-Bates (known recently for stints with Mick Bassett and his own project, the JSB Squad), is returning to the band he helped found more than four years ago.

The shaggy, stylish young chaps of indie-rock quartet
The Satin Peaches will be headlining the Magic Bag the Saturday after Thanksgiving (11/28), with seminal blues-rockers The Muggs, along with Woodward and Matt Black opening up. Not just a homecoming for J.S.B., but also a homecoming for the band after a few dates around the Midwest/rustbelt; and this is only part of the band’s extended “homecoming” after severing from Island records to re-root themselves back here at home, releasing their latest EP on the local Sleek Speek label. This Magic Bag set will likely feature lots of new material, stuff we’ll likely hear on a record in ’10.

Head over to their site or their myspace - apparently there's a press conference welcoming the "new" player back onto the team for the big game.

Friday, November 13, 2009

: "I think what happened on (We Wish You Well) was, we kind of came into our own as musicians, vocalists, writers. We had previously…well, it’s hard to do anything but compare yourself to your former self, but I was a guitarist, Bem was a vocalist, (Burgundy) played bass… LTD was always the drummer. And, our roles… the lines blurred completely. It wasn’t even role reversals, it was just, there were no roles."

Computer Perfection — the fuzzy-pop, prog-dashed, krautrock-revering musical project that the pair (both clad in sweaters with oxford collars peaking out) along with Corduroy’s wife, Bem, started after their last project, Pas/Cal started its slow descent into ostensible oblivion.

The band fizzled away and the trio descended into the basement to see what they could make… to find new roles… to get "uncomfortable." The result is their debut LP (out recently on Le Grande Magistery) titled We Wish You Well On Your Way To Hell.

Read the full interview at Tiny Mix Tapes

See Computer Perfection - 11/14 - at Northern Lights Lounge (New Center, Detroit)

Take in The Sights - 11 / 25 - Magic Stick

The Sights are back in action - the blues-driven soul/psyche-rock collective that soared along with all the other now "classic" "garage-bands" of Detroit ala 2000-02 - has gone through some changes - chief amongst them being membership - as it is still propelled by singer/songwriter Eddie Baranek, but now features Dave Lawson (of the Pop Project) on bass, Gordon Smith (of Divine Comedians) on guitar/keyboards, and Skip Denomme (on drums), thus ensuring that "the legacy marches on..."

This month, the band sees the release of its fourth LP, the intriguingly titled: Most of What Follows is True, fairly close to the 10th anniversary of The Sights first LP.

The big coming out party is this Thanksgiving-eve, 11/25 at the Magic Stick. Featured for this celebration are veteran garage-pop slingers SSM, with the always-charming Beggars - and the Barrettes.

In the meantime - the Sights hit the rustbelt - on tour...

Nov 20 Mac’s (Lansing, MI) w/ Dead Scene Radio, Flatfoot and Narc Out The Reds

Nov 25 Magic Stick (Detroit, MI) w/ SSM, the Beggars and the Barrettes

Dec 3 Bruar Falls (Brooklyn, NY)

Dec 4 Cake Shop (NY, NY) w/ The Figgs

Dec 5 Maxwell’s (Hoboken, NJ) w/ The Queers and the Leftovers

Dec 10 Beat Kitchen (Chicago, IL)

Dec 11 Birdy’s (Indianapolis, IN)

For songs and new videos - Sights' myspace - or Sights Army