The Long Tail

fare thee well
Longevity is not exactly a feature of the Internet, so it’s especially nice when long-ago work suddenly resurfaces in unexpected places. This week brought not just one but two references to pieces I wrote decades ago — quite literally:

  1. At SmashCut, Nathan Smith watched Star Wars Wars: All Six Films At Once and quoted from my 2005 review of Revenge of the Sith.
  2. Jordan Hoffmann managed to sneak a reference to my 1995 (!) essay “The Fractals of Familiarity and Innovation: Robert Hunter and the Grateful Dead concert experience” into a Playboy article on the Fare Thee Well concerts. That’s right, a paper I wrote in grad school made it into Playboy. The wonders never cease.

Playing the Building

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Playing the BuildingPlaying the Building
(more photos)

David Byrne’s installation transforms the Battery Maritime Building into a giant musical instrument, but the mysterious noises that emanate from all corners of the delightfully dilapidated industrial space have more in common with a late-80s Grateful Dead mid-set midi-freakout than whatever usually goes by “music.” Waiting and sweating in line for my turn at the tubed-up, souped-up organ, I decided that I’d blow all the other dilettantes away by laying down some serious maritime funk — this building needed a groove, and I was the man to do it!

But once I got my fingers on the keys, which trigger sound events through “wind, vibration, striking,” it became clear why everybody plays the building in exactly the same languidly tripped-out way: varying response times from button-push to noise don’t allow for a rhythm to emerge. Good-bye, funk! The lag undercuts any sense of control, and with the next eager punter breathing down your neck, there isn’t time to figure out how to use the instrument’s constraints to its advantage. The ferry terminal’s temporary transformation may be successful, but the title of the piece is fraudulent: in Lower Manhattan, the building plays you! Next time, can we skip “Space” and set up a giant industrial drum circle instead?

June Tunes

A few bands I’ve been enjoying lately to drown out the jackhammers going berserk outside my window. More at muxtape.

Marco Benevento

Budos Band

Jackie Greene

MGMT

The Wood Brothers

Tocotronic

The KLF feat. Tammy Wynette

The Avett Brothers

and, for Bo Diddley, The Grateful Dead

Konsum: One More Saturday Night

ratdog.jpg

Fewer movies than usual because I’m working on several top secret plans for world domination, we’re still catching up with The Wire, and my obsession with Daniel Plainview shows no signs of abating. (Check out the new entries in the contest.) The notable exception was Etgar Keret’s Jellyfish, a sweet film that plays like minor-key Israeli version of Magnolia. I also tried to talk Marcy into watching Southland Tales, hoping that Richard Kelly’s sophomore disaster might improve upon second viewing. The answer was a resounding no — we didn’t make it past the 15-minute mark.

It’s been a good week for concerts, though. I never blogged about the March 19 benefit for Scotty Hard, a cause that brought all the champions of the downtown groove scene to the Highline Ballroom. My personal highlight was an outrageous and all-too-brief set by elusive dub god Bill Laswell, accompanied by Bernie Worrell. This weekend, Ratdog was back at the Beacon — unlike the Rolling Stones, they’re a band that actually belongs there. I missed Thursday’s sit-ins by Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes, and Steve Molitz, but witnessed Friday’s ups (Tomorrow Never Knows! Hard Rain!) and downs (ridiculous sound problems during The Weight), as well as Saturday’s just-about perfect four hours of rock’n roll heaven. And now you’ll have to excuse me while I retire to my favorite secure undisclosed location.

The Wire. Season 3. ****
There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007. *****
Jellyfish/Meduzot. Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, 2007. ***
Southland Tales. Richard Kelly, 2007. *

Ratdog
4/4/08 Beacon Theatre, New York NY

I: Jam > Playin’ in the Band > Tomorrow Never Knows > Tennessee Jed, Sitting in Limbo > West L.A. Fadeaway, Even So > October Queen > The Deep End > Big Railroad Blues
II: K.C. Moan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Weight, Eyes of the World, The River Song > Stuff > Dear Prudence > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
E: Casey Jones

4/5/08 Beacon Theatre, New York NY
I: Jam > Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Maggie’s Farm, Row Jimmy, Dark Star > Weather Report Suite > Let It Grow
II: You Win Again, City Girls, Victim or the Crime, Lazy River Road > Jack Straw > Dark Star > Stuff, Days Between > Two Djinn > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower
E: One More Saturday Night

U2 3D

I’ll take bubbly pop over self-righteous posturing any day, so we’ll lead this post off with the Pet Shop Boys’ brilliant cover of “Where the Streets Have No Name” (with a touch of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”)

With that out of the way, my review of U2 3D is now up at UGO: “You’ll thrill to the sight of a hundred thousand stoked fans! You’ll duck from under Bono’s flying sweat! You’ll read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — in 3D!”

U2 3D. Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, 2008. ***