Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Live music, Live theater, Live musical theater

When I started this blog it was to chronicle my experiences doing all the things I'd always wanted to do but, for whatever reason, had not done as much as I'd have liked. The main things that fall into that category are live music, live theater and travelling.

It occurs to me right now that I was able to combine all three last April. I went to Dublin with a friend of mine and we went to see Sweeny Todd (live musical theater). It was a really fantastic show and it was the first time I'd ever seen it, and I got to see the first ever Irish professional production of it.

This past weekend I saw the latest film version of it too and it's an interesting comparison. I think ultimately I preferred the stage version. I've finally come to the realization that I don't much care for Tim Burton's directorial style. Not that I even think it's bad, I can see the good things about it, I just don't personally like them.

Tim Burton films are very stylized and the style is, as my friend likes to say, very animated. The translation of that politeness is that his films are like cartoons and the characters are really caricatures. Johnny Depp, who, in non Tim Burton films, often exhibits an amazing range as an actor plays a fairly one dimensional Sweeny Todd. As I've seen Johnny Depp in a lot of films and am often impressed by his nuanced acting I can only assume this one dimensional characterization is a result of direction more than anything.

However, Helena Bohnam Carter and Ed Sanders give surprisingly layered performances given the style of the film. The kid is one of the few clearly sympathetic characters in the source material regardless of the skill of the actor or the choices of the director. He's been rescued from the work house only to be indentured to an abusive boss who is then murdered at which point he's taken in by kind hearted woman who bakes human meat into her meat pies and, well, you get the idea, he's had a hard life.

The character of Mrs Lovett though, is not so clearly sympathetic. In fact, in the stage version I saw she seemed pure evil and any horrible thing that befell her I felt was deserved. In that stage production Sweeny Todd was the sympathetic character. No mater how many eveil deeds he did I still felt sorry for him, felt like he'd been driven to his madness. In this film version I felt exactly the opposite. Helena Bonham Carter takes the role of Mrs Lovett and makes her into someone of great feeling. She's really quite spectacular in this role.

Could be another directorial choice, to portray Mrs Lovett as more sympathetic than Sweeny Todd, but I wonder. I wonder if she just went her own way with it. Her performance seems so out of place in the picture. The hair, and makeup, and set design, etc, all combine to create a certain feel that her emotional and layered performance doesn't seem to fit. Johnny Depp's single layered portrayal of Sweeny Todd is much more in line with the tone set by Burton and indicative of what I've now decided I don't like about Tim Burton movies.

Incidentally, on my crusade to see more live theater, I also saw Jersey Boys this past weekend which was brilliant, though as largely expositional as you'd expect a play with the tag line "ask four guys, you get four different answers" to be, and I've also been enjoying the new season at the Seattle Rep. On the live music front, the Dropkick Murphys are coming to town next month. And as for the travelling, I'm planning a trip back to Europe in May this year. Perhaps I should call those things my New Year resolutions. I don't generally make New Year Resolutions but for trying to keep in touch with my friends and family better (and I'm generally not even successful at that one). At least these promises to myself are ones that I know I can keep.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Culture Shocks

Lest you think I've gone into hibernation since returning from Europe you should know that in the last week and a half I've been to two plays and a Pogues show. The latter was pretty much the highlight.

I'll admit that going to the Pogues show seemed like more of a novelty in the beginning. Not that I don't love the Pogues, I'm a big fan, and I wouldn't spend fifty bucks on a ticket to their show just for the opportunity to possibly get puked on by Shane MacGowan. I do love the Pogues, but with everything you hear about Shane MacGowan's...um...stage presence, I wouldn't expect a lot from a live Pogues show. I'd expect it to be amazing just because it's always amazing to see one of your favorite bands live even if they don't put on the best show anymore.

The show, and MacGowan in particular, exceeded my expectations. At first, MacGowan lived down to his reputation. He came out on stage and seemed pretty out of it, kind of incoherent. He would sing a couple songs and then leave the stage for a song or two. About half way through the show though, he got a hold on it and he sang the remainder of the show almost coherently.

They did two encores and ended the show with Fiesta which is, I think, my favorite Pogues' song, and by that point MacGowan really shined. I have to say he did pretty good with Dirty Old Town too which is another of my favorites, but Fiesta was the show stopper in more ways than one.

While the Pogues show was the clear highlight I've also been enjoying the new season at the Seattle Repertory Theater as well. Last year I bought season tickets as part of my renewed interest in...life. I'd decided to see more concerts and plays and to travel more and that's what this blog has been all about. It's about my doing things I love ("for the thrill of it").

So, Twelfe Night was the first show of the season this year and I went to see it last weekend. While I love Shakespear and this production was great, that was last weekend and this weekend I saw Murderers (also at the Rep). Murderers is one of the funniest plays I've seen (and I've seen a lot of plays).

Murderers is staged in the Rep's Leo K Theater which is a bit smaller than the Rep's "main" stage, the Bagley Wright Theater. I definitely prefer seeing shows in smaller theaters (except for musicals) because there's a better audience energy. There's more of a give and take between the actors and audience in a smaller theater and this show especially relies on that because it is all monologue so the only people the actors can play off of are the audience members.

The show is still playing through November 4th so, if you live in Seattle, or are planning to visit this week, you should see this play, you won't be sorry.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Delayed reaction

I don't know why it's taken me this long to write something about the Supersuckers show at the Tractor Tavern. It was almost two weeks ago. Maybe because I'd seen them, and written about it, less than a week prior, or maybe because my attentions have been diverted to other creative endeavors the past couple weeks and I've now hit a giant snag there in the form of writers block that I can't seem to shake. Whatever the reason I didn't write about it before, I'm ready to write about it now.

You might think it odd that I'd go see the same band twice in a week. Die hard fans won't. People who saw both Pearl Jam shows at the Gorge, or all three Dave Matthews shows, or Dead Heads, but other people might. The Supersuckers put on almost the exact same set at the Tractor that they'd done a week before. So, what's the big attraction? Well, there's the charisma I talked about before of course. Even when the set is almost identical, it's still brilliant, and funny, and it still rocks more than most shows. Also, seeing the Supersuckers at the Tractor is like seeing Death Cab for Cutie at the Showbox or, I imagine, like seeing the Cubs play at Wrigley (and with all the times I've been to Chicago, and my feelings about baseball, you'd think I'd know first hand about that, but I don't); It's the home stage advantage. At least that's the feeling you get watching them there, like they've come home and they're really enjoying it.

Finally, the Tractor Tavern is simply a great place. I'd only been there one other time. It's an odd place. You walk in there and you think there's no way you'll be able to see the stage unless you push your way to the front of the crowd. I'm am most certainly not a push my way to the front of the crowd kind of girl. I like to find a seat, somewhere where I can actually see the stage. I know, it's not very rock and roll of me to want to sit down while I watch live music, but I am the way I am. The initial impression though, that you won't be able to see from anywhere other than right next to the stage, couldn't be more wrong. You can see the stage from everywhere.

You can't beat a great band at a great venue (with the home stage advantage). Viel SpaƟ!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cheese toast: The meaning of life.

I finally graduated from college yesterday. An event which, while thrilling, fills me with abject terror because it leaves me without a goal. So, instead of examining that I'm going to focus on the one thing I've really learned in the last 10 years.

Toaster ovens are far better than toasters. For some people it may seem obvious but others may be thinking, how big can the difference really be? It's just toast. Those people could not be more wrong.

Sure toast is just toast. That's all a regular toaster can make though. Your toaster oven, however, can make all sorts of things. Most things that you can bake in a regular oven you can also cook in a toaster oven, just in smaller quantities.

The two best things about the toaster over though are cheese toast and s'mores. I bet you didn't know that you could toast marshmallows in a toaster oven. All you need is parchment paper which will allow the marshmallows to toast on both sides while also keeping them from melting through the grate.

Cheese toast is self explanatory. I like to put mustard on mine. Sure, you can make toast in a regular toaster and put mustard and cheese on it after it's done, but the cheese won't get all melty and what's cheese toast that isn't melty.

Okay, maybe I've learned a few more things, both in college and in life, but the most important thing is the toaster oven principle.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I like it all man

I saw the Supersuckers last night. It was sort of culmination in some ways of the last 6 months of my life. Back in late December a friend of mine recommended the Supersuckers to me. Actually, it was someone I barely knew at the time, but I trusted his taste in music because I knew he was a Who fan. So, I checked out the Supersuckers and immediately loved them and made it my goal to see them live (also ensuring the status of said friend as the best person in the world to go to for music recommendations). I missed the chance to see them in Munich, but luckily they're a local band for me so another opportunity presented itself this weekend.

I went with one of my best friends and we couldn't help getting into a conversation afterwords about the importance of stage presence. Now, of course, I love the music on its own, but live it's just different. Some bands you love and then you see them live and it sort of falls flat. You still love the music but the band doesn't have any charisma. The Supersuckers are not one of those bands. Eddie Spaghetti has so much stage presence that it's like a joke at the expense of all other musicians...or at least the ones that have to play before him.

The stage presence conversation lead to discussion of musical genres. My friend asked what genre I'd put the Supersuckers in and I had trouble with that question. I said they're sort of punk, sort of country, sort of pop, sort of rockabilly. She called it "ironic rock" which is a great label, though I think their country is more ironic than their rock. They kind of defy genre, but not in the art housey incomprehensible way, in a different, yet equally specific way that I like a lot.

Regrettably, I forgot to bring my camera and consequently didn't get any pictures. So, you'll just have to trust me, it was a great show. They're playing another show this Friday. Hopefully I'll get some pictures at that one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

7 Wonders

There's a movement afoot to create a new 7 wonders of the world and apparently more than 45 million people have already voted. I like the idea of the New 7 Wonders and I even appreciate that anyone with an e-mail address can vote for them. The original 7 wonders had their titles conferred on them by academics in ancient times, only one is still standing, and there hasn't been much agreement on what should replace those wonders that have fallen, which means there hasn't really been a list of 7 wonders in well over a thousand years. It's about time there was a new list.

I do find it odd that one of the criteria for the new wonders is they have to have been built or discovered prior to 2000. That opens it up pretty wide, allowing for the inclusion of the Sydney Opera House (built in 1954) among the possible contenders. I'm not saying the Sydney Opera House isn't a fascinating piece of architecture, and I haven't seen it up close so maybe I shouldn't say anything, but it's not exactly awe inspiring. Also, included on the list of candidates are the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, which are, perhaps, slightly more awe inspiring than the Sydney Opera House, but not much.

I would think the candidates would be structures that are grand in scope and have been around for ages. For me the architecturally interesting factor is multiplied exponentially if it's old, perhaps ahead of it's time, perhaps spanning multiple architectural styles and time periods. Having an interesting, and long, history was the main criteria I used in deciding what to vote for. I see the appeal of the iconic, though less historically significant, but I don't think that's what the list is about.

The only two of these prospective new wonders that I've actually been to are Schloss Neuschwanstein and Alhambra. Neuschwanstein is beautiful and has a pretty interesting history, plus it's iconic (of course a lot of people aren't entirely sure Neuschwanstien isn't modeled after the Cinderella castle at Disneyland rather than the other way around), but it's not that old relative to a lot of the other monuments on the list of possible wonders. The day I went to Neuschwanstein was the highlight of my travels on a personal level but from a tourist perspective, Alhambra, was definitely the highlight of my 7 week sojourn in Europe. It's massive and has such a rich history, plus it's beautiful and has been around almost a millennium. So, all of this is designed to get you to go vote for the Alhambra and which ever 6 other wonders strike your fancy. Before you go though, check out some pictures of the incomparable Alhambra:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free Will Astrology

"It's about time you got the chance to be knocked on your ass by a flood of positive surprises and good feelings. I hope you're trusting enough to go with the tidal flow, even if it does temporarily render you a bit woozy. Naturally you'd like to know if this giddy surrender will land you in trouble. Is there any chance that you'll have to endure some karmic adjustment at a later date because of the fun you're having now? Here's my prediction: absolutely not. If anything, your enthusiastic cooperation with the free-form dazzle will shield you from any negative repercussions."

That's my horoscope for the week from Free Will Astrology. I don't know if you're familiar with Free Will Astrology but it's the horoscope column from Seattle's alternative weekly, the Stranger, which is now syndicated and has it's own website (www.freewillastrology.com). I've been reading these horoscopes off and on since I was 16 years old. In fact when I was 16 I was a big believer in them, often clipping them out of the Stranger and saving them. I'm less of a believer in astrology now than I was then but these particular horoscopes are usually funny so I still read them from time to time. They are weekly and their weeks always start on Thursday (presumably because that's the day the Stranger comes out and that's where they began).

So, on Tuesday I locked myself out of my apartment, not such a big deal as I have a roommate who said he'd be around when I got home from work. Then I managed to also lock myself out of my car when I got to work. The first was my own absent mindedness, the second was because the car key fell out of my pocket onto the floor of the car. Yesterday, I was in a car accident which was not my fault but for which I was ticketed anyway. Today, Thursday, is my birthday.

Supposing this horoscope is right that I'm about to receive a tidal wave of positive surprises I think I've already had a pre-emptive karmic adjustment for it.