To a child, Halloween is about ghoulish titillation. To a socially active man about town, it's more like a parade of ghoulish tits. At least it was in downtown this past weekend. Moreover, the sharp-edged spirit of spooky thrills was replaced with the numbed haze of boozed-up absurdity. And this time, I'm not referring to myself.
Back Booth was the scene for a spectacular example of said absurdity at the top of the holiday-but-not-really weekend. Watching Gasoline Heart frontman Louis DeFabrizio perform sauced is becoming an expected sight. This particular night, his soaring BAL resulted in protracted jabber and guitar-throwing histrionics early in the set. But that was jack compared to the drama that combusted during Drag the River's performance. If ever you needed justification to heed our weekly Selections, this was it, though it would've helped had we also promised the emotional pyro-technics that eventually transpired. Anyway, you know how you always hear about those famous blowups that bands have? Well, you haven't lived until you've seen one go down onstage.
Every band wants a crowd that's both in spirit and in the spirits. But it being singer/guitarist Jon Snodgrass' birthday, the players themselves met with waves of whiskey shots from fans. And apparently, drummer Dave Barker doesn't hold his liquor very well. First he threw a cup. Then he proceeded to loudly pack up his kit while the band was performing an acoustic number. But the fun really started when he got on the mic and rancorously announced midsong, "Jon Snodgrass just fired me." Then he threw one of his drums onto center stage. When he reached for the stack of cymbals, that's when my delight erupted, Little Miss Sunshine-style. It was the musician's version of the disgruntled wife flinging pots and pans. Glorious!
Smells like history
Speaking of glorious messes, I watched the DVD release of Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! (out next Tuesday), the self-conceived home video of Nirvana's explosion onto the pop-cultural landscape. Even though I'm still more than a touch bitter at the death of alternative music that their success precipitated, I've come to appreciate the brilliance of the band. But it's been a long and academic process. Had I seen their performance on Top of the Pops, in which Kurt Cobain Morrissey-crooned his way through "Smells Like Teen Spirit" while the band exaggerated the show's prerecorded ridiculousness with daffy gesticulations, perhaps I'd have understood right then and there. Instead, what I saw was my entire mall-hopping, suburbanite high-school experience painted in plaid flannel overnight.
The DVD's footage documents how they openly mocked the carnival of fame that surrounded them, and had I seen it from that point of view back then, it would've stoked my indie-minded sensibility. This updated version of the 1994 film features expanded footage and enhancements like 5.1 surround sound. But, most important, it's an absorbing chronicle of a philosophically underground band colliding uncomfortably with superstardom. Even if you've seen the original, it's a cogent reminder of Nirvana's brief but enduring legacy.
The pride is back
One local story I wish would follow the same path of unlikely success is that of hip-hop act Sol.illaquists of Sound. They stepped onto the big stage just over a month ago when their debut album under the Epitaph Records banner was released nationally. Not surprisingly, their tour-wrapping date last week at the Social, the first hometown show since the record dropped, sold out before the doors even opened. Seeing their hot-buttered performance is always a near-spiritual experience. But watching it in the context of their success was a moment of intense local pride.
For the last couple of weeks, the Sol.illaquists' As If We Existed has been in the top 10 on the CMJ hip-hop chart, AHEAD of the Roots. It's also worth mentioning that X:144 and SPS' debut (on local imprint Nonsense Records) has been holding down similar territory on the same charts. What makes this monumental, at least on a microcosmic level, is that it's a triumph for and by the organic side of this city's music culture.
The class in classical
Recently, the concertmaster of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Tamas Kocsis, was knighted in his native Hungary. Knighted! As if classical music needed any further separation from regular folk like us. The press release states that the honor doesn't entail any cash or land, so I'm not sure what it's good for. But still, what a totally sweet email@example.com