Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Musicalia: Iron & Wine and Glen Hansard - Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX - 7/27/09

Holy shit.

That succinctly sums up what an experience this past evening's show was.

From the onset, Glen Hansard of The Frames, Swell Season, Once, and The Commitments fame held the audience breathless.

If you've never seen Hansard in any of his endeavors, you can't really know how great he is live. Here is a taste, and this is a slightly subdued version of a song that he performed tonight.

Now, he opened with "When Your Mind's Made Up" (a version with Marketa Irglova embedded here),

and I got chills and started to get choked up. I don't know what it is about that song for me, but it fucks my shit up.

Past the overwhelming raw emotion often on display while he's singing, Hansard has this innate affability in his on-stage persona that makes you feel like you're watching your best friend up there. In the middle of songs, he'd break out and ask the crowd to sing along, or he bridged a tune into "Where is My Mind?" seemingly off the cuff.

By the end of the show, I had tried to convince myself that he had bought Jackie and I drinks in Dublin. In just a short time on stage, he inserts himself into your past and makes it feel as though he is family.

This man is a nearly impossible act to follow.

But Sam Beam came up and after starting off with the capo a fret off, worked into a set including "Upward Over The Mountain" (which I think I've seen four different times four different ways)

"The Woman King", "He Lay in the Reins", and "The Trapeze Swinger" amongst many others.

Now I don't know if he ever plays songs exactly as they appear on the albums, if this

is any sort of indicator, but each time you see him it seems like you are being re-introduced to each of his songs.

His continued assertion as to his jerkdom only further endeared him to the crowd, and his admission that he kind of zones out whenever women talk about having children while performing for the Midwives Alliance of North America played very well, as his own wife is a midwife and was in the crowd. Comments about being goofy on stage and a sure-to-be-coming divorce followed shortly thereafter.

Perhaps the best thing about the show was that both men played acoustic, something each does less and less. Closing with a pseudo-duet of "Pancho and Lefty" certainly didn't hurt their cause either.

Now, here's to hoping that both sets of tonight's show end up on Played Last Night.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reading Rainbow: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella

My apologies for the false promises I made when I said that I would be able to turn more of my focus to this blog. There are extenuating circumstances, I assure you.

Regardless, here I am.

Now, for those of you not even remotely familiar with the genre of fantasy baseball fiction (and I mean fantasy in the literary genre sense of the word, not the fantasy sports sense of the word), W.P. Kinsella is the man who wrote the novel Shoeless Joe--which one of my favorite sports films Field of Dreams was based upon.

Maybe Field of Dreams rubs some the wrong way, but there is something about the quest of reconnecting to one's father through the glory that is baseball that strikes a chord with me. Introducing a supernatural element to the plot does not bother me in the least.

That last part was integral to my enjoyment of The Iowa Baseball Confederacy.

Given to me while working the counter* at Little City and talking baseball with Travis, I was actually looking forward to reading the book. Chronicling a man's quest to prove truthful some information that he and his deceased father preternaturally possess, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy features time travel, supernatural immortal Native Americans, a 2000+ inning exhibition baseball game between the 1908 Chicago Cubs and an amateur all-star team, and a flood of biblical proportions.

*I don't know about you, but it always feels like such a homework assignment when somebody hands me a book. When I look at the book initially, there is a hesitancy for me. And it's not like I am not open to reading books that people hand to me (as KRD** can attest to). It is just that there is this sense of obligation that I'd rather avoid when embarking on a book.

**Where the fuck have you been? It would appear that you have not been on the internets even more than myself.

Maybe you read that description, and you think to yourself, "That sounds fucking stupid."

If you don't, though, and love the spirit of Field of Dreams, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy is a worthy read.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Man on Film: The Proposal

First things first: When we headed out to the theaters, we were going to see Public Enemies.

Second things second: I was not very excited about seeing Public Enemies.
Third things third: The difference in my desire to see Public Enemies over The Proposal was nominal at best.

Fourth things fourth: Public Enemies was sold out*, and I was not too bent out of shape over it.

*Seriously? What the fuck? It's not even really supposed to be that good, and it opened on July 1st. I know it's a Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, but y'all be fucking crazy. I'd understand if it was The Hangover or something, but we're talking 'bout Public Enemies.

All right. The movie. It was all right, I guess. If you've seen one romantic comedy in the past twenty years, you've seen them all.

It was incredibly formulaic. Guy can't stand girl. Girl blackmails guy into marrying her to avoid getting deported. Hijinx ensue.

I think it is obvious why I went to this movie and didn't hate it. Ryan Reynolds is the bomb. Totally funny. Great comic timing. His delivery is always spot on. I like Ryan Reynolds about 15 times more than I dislike Sandra Bullock (which really isn't that much considering that I really like Ryan Reynolds), so at least it wasn't a completely wasted outing.

That being said, I do not recommend that anyone actually go out of their way to see this movie.

Now, as for the experience of seeing a mainstream rom-com in the theaters, I can't say that I've seen one since maybe American Sweethearts (holy shit was that awful...), but it was really bizarre being at the Alamo with a bunch of middle-aged people who laughed at totally odd times. Who are these people? A guy in the road behind us was cackling (literally sounded like a witch) at the weirdest times. Some lady started losing her shit during the predictable Betty White deathbed scene. The guy beside me and his wife made these bizarre comments occasionally. The guy on the other side of the Special Lady Friend made some comment to his wife about someone's Louis Vuitton gear.

What. The. Fuck?

Was I secretly in Columbus, OH?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Man on Film: Away We Go

Well, I'm back.

I successfully avoided the internet almost entirely for the past two weeks--a detoxification if you will.

I guess we'll see how my 70-hour-per-week work schedule and the acquisition of a PS3 affect my output from here on out.

But let's move past the apology.

The Special Lady Friend and I saw Away We Go on Thursday.

We both really liked it.

Perhaps it is that the subject matter spoke to us, as thirtysomethings (I'm less than a month away...) who have yet to carve out their niche in adulthood, but this film was pretty great.

Sam Mendes's last film, Revolutionary Road, looked less than appealing to me. As his first feature film since 2005's solid-if-not-amazing Jarhead, Revolutionary Road struck me from afar as a suburban melodramatic period piece pandering for Oscar nominations.

With that in the back of my head, I went into Away We Go with virtually no expectations. I had only a vague idea as to what the film was going to be about. I knew Minnie Riperton's daughter would be in it. I knew it had John Krasinski. I may or may not have known that Dave Eggers (who I have mixed feelings about) and wife wrote the screenplay.

So with the lack of expectations I had for the film, I have to say I was enamored with Away We Go.

Krasinski and Rudolph aptly embodied the malaise of the go-nowhere thirtysomethings who have fallen astray of the socially-ordained life path. As their unmarried-and-expecting couple strikes out to find their place in the world, hilarity, hijinx, and self-realization ensue. Mendes has for the fifth straight time, made a film entirely unlike every other in his filmography. This is at the very least a sign of a skilled director, as this is at least four of five films that has excelled in their respective genres.

To say I was surprised by the wit, heart, and understated nature of the film would be an understatement. Perhaps it was the Juno-esque ad campaign that set the sights so low, but Away We Go was not saddled with horribly unrealistic dialogue, a cast of caricatures, and an irritatingly indie-pastiche soundtrack. Enriched by a subtler soundtrack almost entirely consistent of Alexi Murdoch tunes, the soundtrack compliments the film without distracting. No performances stick out as being anything less than on point.

Maybe having read this reaction will set your expectations impossibly high, but I cannot intimate to you how utterly surprised and delighted I was by this film.
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