Monday, December 31, 2007

Record of the Year: Mobile

Swinging for the fences on every song, this Canadian band affects the style of their influences (U2, Oasis, The Killers) but makes them look silly in comparison. From the acoustic melancholy of "Dusting Down the Stars" to the hard-charging piano and orchestral swells of the poignant and dramatic "See Right Through Me," what it may lack in originality it makes up for in near-perfect execution.

From the Weekly Dig's best of 2007 list.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wednesday Events


Stick around long enough and pretty much everything will become fashionable. The ukulele, that oft-forgotten, four string step child of the guitar gets its moment in the sun tonight at the charmingly, but awkwardly titled Viva La Revel-UKE-tion! Davina Yannetty of The East Boston Make-Out Club brings fellow ukephiles Ian Schwartz, Sweet Soubrette, and Ed White together for rock, punk, comedy and more. Club Passim (47 Palmer St., Cambridge. MBTA: Red Line to Harvard) $8-10, 617-492-7679. 8p.m.


There’s no denying the power of French-Algerian artist Kader Attia’s new exhibit Momentum 9. (“Sleeping from Memory, 2007” pictured). The artist’s use of empty space, in this case body-shaped holes carved into a group of beds set up like a children’s dormitory, brings about a palpable sense of loss. Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave., Boston. MBTA: Silver Line to World Trade Center) $12. 617-478-3100.


8 Minute Dating
533 Washington St., Boston
MBTA: Green Line to Boylston
$35, 21+, 617-350-5555

Back when we were dating, it took us about two years to scrape together 8 measly dates. With 8 Minute Dating you can do it all in one night! And if you don’t meet someone you like, your next visit is free! We’re starting to sound like an infomercial over here.


Guillermo Sexo
Great Scott
1222 Comm. Ave., Boston
MBTA: Green B Line to
Harvard Ave.
$8, 18+, 617-566-9014

Shouty, jagged eclecticism from Boston’s Guillermo Sexo. With a lineup that includes some of Boston’s more interesting, if nominally-challenged, indie rockers Tristan Da Cunha, Piles, Anthems For Odyssey and Boo Radley Bruises Badly.

The Dig
Middle East Upstairs
472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Central
$xx, 18+, 617-864-EAST

No, it’s not a night of people sitting on stage reading the local alt-weekly, as entertaining as that sounds, it’s a performance from the dreamy, psychedelic indie rock band The Dig from New York City.


The Research Wrap
Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Ave., Boston
MBTA: Green E Line to Museum
$xx, all ages, 617-267-9300

We don’t remember much from science class in high school, except that it made our head feel funny when we tried to understand it. We’re older and wiser now, and less inclined to doodle on our desks, but The Research Wrap is a good way to learn how to make sense of the science behind the things we hear about every day in the news.

Wednesday Night Dharma Talks
Shambhala Meditation Center of Boston,
646 Brookline Ave., Brookline
MBTA: Green D Line to Brookline Village
Free, 617-734-1498

Learn the basics of working with meditation to effect change in your every day life at this weekly open house at the Shambhala Meditation Center. Experienced teachers lead lively discussions and lectures.

Third Annual Handmade Scarf Show
11a.m.-6 p.m
Dahlia Gallery
97M Union St., Newton
MBTA: Green D Line to Newton Center
free, 617-527-4456

Scarves aren’t only a fashion statement here in the icy tundra of Boston, they’re also a cold weather necessity. But just because you need them to keep icicles from forming on your neck doesn’t mean they aren’t often pieces of art. See the work of 25 textile artists from around the country utilizing innovative techniques, designs and materials.

Reuse-A-Shoe to Help Rebuild New Orleans
200 Newbury St., Boston
MBTA: Green Line to Hynes Convention Center
free, 617-267-3400

We’ve got a giant pile of old sneakers we just have never been able to part with. It’s not like we’re ever going to bring them out of retirement to win the big game again. So why not donate them to a good cause? Bring in your old athletic shoes to Niketown today and help bring sports opportunities back to children in New Orleans. The shoes will be recycled to produce materials for basketball courts and more.

Beyond the Book Exhibit
Honan-Allston Branch Library
300 North Harvard St., Allston
free, 617-787-6313

Ipods and HD TVs are nice and all, but they really can’t compare with the magic of a simple old analog book. This exhibit is a tribute to all things wonderful about those dogged artifacts people used to carry around with them before computers, with hand made, hand printed and altered books on display. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, it seems.

Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust
Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Ave., Boston
MBTA: Green E Line to Museum
$8-9, , 617-267-9300

This fascinating documentary explores the myriad, shifting responses to the holocaust from Hollywood through the past century, and considers what, if any, ethical responsibility filmmakers have when depicting such horrific, real life events

Celtics vs. Houston Rockets
TD Banknorth Garden
100 Legends Way, Boston
MBTA: Orange Line to North Station
$10-176.50, all ages, 617-931-2000

Welcome KG and the boys back from a west coast jaunt as they return to the Garden for a big match up -- and we do mean big, like 7 ft 6 in big-- versus Yao Ming and the Rockets.

New Year's Events

Boston's spacey dance rockers Campaign for Real Time anchor THE dance throw down of New Year's Eve. Basstown, the popular club party presents a night jam packed with hottt-ness with sets from resident DJs Die Young and Etan, Michael Potvin of Campaign for Real Time, and a performance by electro-pop band Provocateur. Expect a genre (and globe) -spanning night of music, says Etan. "Whether it's from Baltimore or Detroit or Berlin or Paris or Memphis, I'm pretty sure it all flies at Basstown." 21+. 9p.m. $15. Great Scott, 1222 Comm. Ave., Allston. 617.566.9014.

If you plan on seeing a concert on New Year's Eve, one of the drawbacks of making plans can be settling on just one type of music you want to be the soundtrack for your entire big night. Let's say you're into jazz, but your friends are looking for a funky dance party. And maybe your boyfriend likes more of a hip hop or reggae vibe. New York City's Soulive cover all that ground, and everything in between. The band, who've collaborated with everyone from Chaka Khan to Dave Matthews and Talib Kweli, kick off the year with a groove-filled party. 18+.
8p.m. $22.50. The Paradise, 967 Comm. Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Guilty Pleasures: Leftovers

So, how was my Christmas? Oh, good. I saw the family, had a few laughs, sang Christmas carols around the piano, ate 10,000 calories of cheese and meat every day for a week. You know, the usual. I learned a few timely lessons as well. For example, did you know there is nothing better on God's green earth than turkey with stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes? Well, nothing except for that exact same meal left out on a counter overnight, cold, congealed, and eaten standing up over the kitchen sink. That, my friends, is Fat Man's Nirvana. Sadly during this time of the year it's an all too frequent pleasure of mine. Seasonal holiday disorder really means our gradual recognition that we are simply incapable of resisting that second plate of leftovers. Or the third. Or that little nibble from the fridge right before bed. It's a reminder that we're all still cavemen underneath, never knowing where our next meal is going to come from, even when we've already got it in our hands. It may help then, during this holiday season, to cast our thoughts to those less fortunate than us: the people who only have food enough to sustain them. You know, the skinny people with self control. Man, how I hate them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday Events


If you’ve noticed a conspicuous lack of rock in your day to day life of late, it may because one of Boston’s best bands, Taxpayer, have been incognito of late. The band’s latest release, a split EP with the also face-smashingly awesome Dear Leader, continues apace with their brash brand of chilly anthemic rock. They perform a benefit tonight for longtime TT’s bartender Jeanne, recently diagnosed with cancer. TT the Bear’s. (10 Brookline St., Cambridge. MBTA: Red Line to Central) 18+. $15. 617-492-BEAR. 9p.m.


Remember back in school when you used to be able to cut corners by renting the movie version of the book you were supposed to have read the night before? Good thing you probably were never assigned War and Peace, Tolstoy’s classic doorstopper, because the film itself is of epic proportions as well, running 484 minutes. Filmed in Russia in 1968 for an outrageous $100 million budget, with one battle scene utilizing 120,000 extras, Sergei Bondarchuk’s adaptation makes for a classic film as well. Showing in four parts. Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave., Boston. MBTA: Green E Line to Museum) MFA members, seniors, and students $6; general admission $7. Pass for Parts 1–4: $20, $25. 617-267-9300.


Disney on Ice Presents: Finding Nemo
TD Bank North Garden
100 Legends Way, Boston
MBTA: Orange or Green Line to North Station
$17-72, 617-624-1000

Join Nemo and the whole gang from, uh, the ocean… Who are we kidding, we sort of skipped this movie. But the kids are obviously going to go bonkers for it, so get them tickets if you know what’s good for you. Those little tyrants.

Great and Secret Comedy Show
Improv Boston
1253 Cambridge St., Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Central
$7, $5 students and seniors, 617-576-1253

With sketches, video and a variety of “wacky” characters, this award-winning series hosted by Renata Tutko is getting a little less secret, if not less great, every time we write about it.

Midway Café
3496 Washington St., Jamaica Plain
MBTA: Orange Line to Green
$5, 21+, 617-524-9038

It’s ladies night at the Midway, (voted best lesbian bar and best karaoke night in other local publications) and that means it’s time for Queeraoke, a campy twist on boring old regular karaoke (wigs and boas provided).


Laser U2
Museum of Science
Science Park, Boston
MBTA: Green Line to Science Park
$7 children, $8 seniors, $9 adults, 617-723-2500

Blast off to a magical land of vaguely Christian hand-wringing and uplifting spiritual do-goodery when the MOS sets the music of the biggest rock band in the world to a spectacular display of lights. Don’t forget to take off those sunglasses first, rockstar.

Latin Jazz Night
Wally’s Café
427 Mass Ave., Boston
MBTA: Orange Line to Mass Ave.
Free, 21+, 617-424-1408

Catch any number of future stars from area music schools as well as well known veteran performers at this venerable Boston institution featuring live music seven nights a week. Shake that thing at Latin Jazz night tonight.

Mary Lou Lord
Plough and Stars
912 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Central
$5, 21+, 617-576-0032

One of the better interpreters of songs on the Boston folk indie scene for many years now, Mary Lou Lord appears for a rare performance tonight. “I Figured You Out” still makes us cry (almost) every time.


Donate Used Handbags
Luna Boston
205 Newbury St., Boston.
MBTA: Green Line to Copley
Free, 866-910-3900

Bring in a used handbag to the stylish boutique tonight and get 10% of your purchase off for each item donated. (Limit of 30%). The used bags will go to Dress for Success, a group supporting low income women. Wine will be served.

Learn Tai Chi
Boston Healing Tao
440 Somerville Ave, Somerville
MBTA: Red Line to Porter Square
$25 for one class, 781-570-9694

Learn how to awaken the healing energy that lives within all of us with a course in the 108 movement classical Yang style Long Form. New cycles of classes start in the new year, but drop ins are welcome so stop by to see what you’re getting yourself into here.


Poetic Escape
The Good Life
28 Kingston St., Boston
MBTA: Red Line to Downtown Crossing
Free, 21+, 617-451-2622

Live beats, live poets and live slam at Poetic Escape. DJ SoulBack, jazz band Sol' Melodiq
and local poets hold it down all night.

Santaland Diaries
New Repertory Theater
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street, Watertown
$30 adults, $10 students, 617-923-8487

This adaptation of David Sedaris’ hilariously cranky Christmas story about working as an elf at Macy’s has become a holiday favorite for malcontents and misanthropes alike. Regular people too.

Creative Writing Group
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St., Boston
MBTA: Green Line to Copley
Free, 617-536-5400

Face it, your short stories and poems are probably really bad. And the only way they’re going to get any better is by workshopping them with other people and getting constructive feedback. Stop by the creative writing group every Thursday and get to work!

Originally published in the Boston Metro

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday Events

Men Are From Caves, Women Are From Slightly Different Caves
I know we’ve covered this “differences between men and women” thing about a million times already, but it just never gets old does it? Defending the Caveman, the hit Broadway production starring Michael Van Osch as the caveman returns to Boston tonight. With rave reviews throughout the country, the show takes a look at the things that have made the two genders different throughout history. Who knows, maybe men aren’t such Neanderthals after all. (Fat chance). 8p.m. Through Jan 5. $24.75- 49.50. Stuart Street Playhouse, 200 Stuart St., Boston. 800-447-7400.

Ugly Never Sounded So Good
Perhaps the only thing more depressing than listening to a downtrodden set from the guy most famous for singing “inside you're ugly, you're ugly like me. I can see through you, see to the real you” on his band Staind’s smash 2001 hit “Outside” would be losing all your money at the blackjack table right before the set. So, try not to do that. We’ve always had a soft spot for Aaron Lewis’ brand of townie power ballads and an even bigger weakness for gambling, so this intimate acoustic performance sounds perfect. 7:30p.m. Through Jan 6 (no shows Jan 1-2). $65. Mohegan Sun, The Cabaret Theater, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT. 617-931-2000.

Bah, Humbug!
All this good holiday cheer stuff got you feeling a little grumpy? If the continued annual popularity of The Santaland Diaries is any indication, you’re probably not the only Grinch out there. Revisit the hilarious story of Crumpet the sarcastic Elf in an adaptation of humorist David Sedaris’ beloved anti-holiday story about his days working as an elf at Macy’s. 10p.m. Through Jan 1. $30 adults, $10 students. New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. 617-923-8487.

The only thing that could possibly make your favorite Disney princesses even more magical than they already are would be to see them whirling around on ice skates! Guess what kids? Now you can. Join Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Mulan in the enchanted world of Disney On Ice Presents: Princess Classics. Just don’t get too wrapped up in that whole princess ideal thing, ok kids? Odds are it’s not going to work out that way, so, you know, stay in school. 7p.m. Through Dec 30. $15-55. Dunkin Donuts Center, 1 Lasalle Square, Providence, RI. 617-931-2000.

For a long time it seemed you had to keep your obsessive love of the Wizard of Oz a secret. Not the case anymore. Tonight you have the opportunity to really let loose at the Wizard of Oz Sing-Along, a truly interactive showing of the beloved film. Sing along with Dorothy and the gang with an audience full of like-minded costumed fans and take part in a costume contest and all sorts of other good natured (but a little weird) audience interaction. 10:30a.m. Today and tomorrow. $12 adults, $8 children and seniors. Regent Theater, 7 Medford St., Arlington. 781-646-4849.

Learning how to see the things we look at every day with a creative eye is easier said than done. Fortunately there are people out there doing the ground work for us, because, you know, art is hard. PhotoWalks organizer Saba Alhadi says that her guided photography tours give people a chance to “explore Boston on historic walking tours that reveal creative photography tips for capturing amazing pictures of Beacon Hill, Back Bay or the Freedom Trail.” All ages and skill levels welcome. Reservations required. Tours operating year round. $25 adults, $12 children. 617-851-2273.

When we first heard about this show we were going to make a similar joke about two of Boston’s best bands from the late nineties reuniting this weekend, but they already beat us to it with the title “Party Like it’s 1999.” Thanks a lot. The Sheila Divine and Orbit reunite for two nights only. Man, those were the good old days. 18+. Fri and Sat. $18. The Paradise, 967 Comm. Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000.

It would be interesting to see some sort of study on what percentage of rock front men eventually embark on a solo career when they start to feel hampered by creative differences or what have you (aka get sick of the drummer‘s drinking). We’re guessing it’s roughly 100%. Anthony Green, who the kids may recognize from his day job as the helium-voiced singer for the passionate, emotive indie rockers Circa Survive, or for his guest spots with bands like The Receiving End of Sirens, dusts off the old acoustic tonight for a solo set with Long Island screamers Envy on the Coast. Boston’s eclectic The Dear Hunter and the melodramatic Days Away open. All ages. 7p.m. $12. Harpers Ferry, 158 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617-254-9743.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day Events

Everyone knows the refrain from the classic Christmas song, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” but how many of you have actually every tried eating them? Not us. Sort of makes us feel like Christmas frauds, in a way. Although we certainly have the “Jack Frost nipping at our nose…” part down pat. Stop by the Barking Crab this week (not open today, however) to try this holiday staple. Chef Guara Pimenta is offering a complimentary tasting of chestnuts drizzled in a caramel Kirsch sauce to diners. If that doesn’t warm you up enough, sit by the fireplace and enjoy grilled swordfish or any of the other seafood delights. The Barking Crab Restaurant, 88 Sleeper St., Boston. 617-426-2722.

Bright Nights at Forest Park offers a number of different ways to tour New England’s largest holiday lighting display: take a bus tour with a large group, drive through in the comfort of your own car, or reserve a horse drawn wagon ride. (Hint to those of you who dropped the ball on a romantic Christmas present: Two person sweetheart wagon rides also available). Thousands upon thousands of lights make up the numerous imaginary worlds in the 2.5 mile display, from Dr. Seuss Land, Jurassic World, Toy Land, the Victorian Village, and more. Open nightly through January 1. Sun-Thurs 6p.m.-9p.m. and Fri-Sat 6p.m.-11p.m. For Cars: $15 weekdays, $18 weekends and holidays, $13 advance tickets; For Mini Buses (17 to 30 passengers): $70; For Buses (31+ passengers): $150. Forest Park, Sumner Ave., Springfield. 413-733-3800.

Closer to Boston, ZooLights at the Stone Zoo offers a chance to take in a true winter wonderland by foot. Stroll through a display of dazzling holiday lights populated by real live animals like reindeer, foxes, a bald eagle, lynx and more. On Monday The Golden Tones, a senior citizen choral group, caps off ZooLights holiday season with a musical performance. Running through December 30 (closed Christmas). 5-9p.m. $4. Stone Zoo, 149 Pond St., Stoneham, MA. 781-438-5100.

Nothing says Christmas quite like a jazz brunch. Well, maybe if Santa Clause himself showed up. Oh right, they’ve got that too! Christmas and jazz music, a gourmet buffet, and a chance to get your picture taken with Santa and his elves (provided he got all his work done last inght) make this a great family holiday opportunity. Especially for parents who are a little tired from doing a certain something all night and don’t want to get up early to cook. Call for reservations. 10:30a.m.-4p.m. $65.00 adults; $32.50 for children ages 5 to 12; free for children under 4. The Langham Hotel, 250 Franklin St., Boston. 617-956-8751.

Perhaps you aren’t celebrating Christmas this year. Or, you know, ever. Today is your chance to do a good mitzvah with Project Ezra, a Christmas Day volunteer program coordinated by The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. Every year thousands of Jewish volunteers from local synagogues spend the day staffing shelters and soup kitchens, nursing homes and hospitals. If you’re interested in volunteering today, contact 617-244-6506.

Do kids still get ice skates for Christmas anymore? Let’s assume they do, for the sake of argument. So, now you’re going to need someplace to try them out. And since we’re deathly afraid of setting foot on a frozen lake or pond, the safest bet is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. Maybe you got coal in the old stocking instead like we usually do. No problem. The popular seasonal attraction offers cheap skate rental as well. With all the snow on the ground, and the lovely lights of the park, this is practically the ideal holiday backdrop for falling on your butt. Open Tues-Thurs, 10a,m,-9p.m.; Mon 10a.m.-5p.m.; Fri - Sat 10a.m.-10p.m. (XX Open Christmas?????) Admission $4; free for children under 13. Boston Common. 617-635-2120.

Put down the newspaper and step away from the easy chair. Stop reading this column looking for things to do. Your family is right over there in the other room., and last we checked there is no price of admission or start time for them. (Unless you count all the money you blew on presents this year.) You’ll thank us for the nudge in the right direction. Maybe not today, but someday.

If the 23rd annual Festival of Trees sounds like the ideal museum exhibit to everything that’s great about the holidays, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. With 200 trees decorated in every imaginable way, and exhibits and workshops dedicated to this year’s theme “On the Move”, including toy trains, and antique sleds, ice skates and more from the museum’s collection, there should be a little something here to satisfy all of those leftover holiday fantasies. Throughout the week museum-goers can also take part in art-making workshops like Rockets in Flight (Fri 1. - 3 p.m.), giving you the opportunity to build your own rocket and learn about the science behind it and Great Skate Create (Thu 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., $40) where you’ll get a skateboard and a set of paints to design it however you like. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm., Sun 12-5p.m. Through Dec 31. $9 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6 ages 3 to 18. Berkshire Museum, 39 South Street, Pittsfield. 413-443-7171.

Standing around in a crowd for First Night is fine and dandy, but getting in on the action sounds a little more exciting. This year First Night is looking for volunteers to assist with a number of different aspects of the big festival. Ushers will assist with crowd control, procession marshals will help stage the First Night Grand Procession and Puppet Captains will work with the Back Alley Puppet Theatre. In return for their participation, volunteers will receive a First Night vest, a First Night button and a $40 food and transport stipend. Don’t just watch First Night this year, make it happen. Contact 617 542-1399, ext. 25 to get involved.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Planes Mistaken for Stars

Ten years of kicking ass can take its toll on anyone. Just ask Denver’s Planes Mistaken for Stars, who hit Boston for the last time ever this week. A decade of sweaty, heaving, scorched-earth hardcore bombast on tracks like Crooked Mile, from their blistering 2006 release Mercy has finally put the nail in the cult band’s coffin. Well, that and all the other crap that comes from being in a band. Metro spoke with drummer Mike Ricketts on the phone.

Was their a final straw for the band, or just a gradual accumulation of things?

A little bit of both. The gradual accumulation of being on the road for years. We all have lives at home. Our singer Gared just had his second baby. A couple of things came to a head at once. We were playing with the idea of stopping. Our record label, Abacus, went under, and there was some contention about what we would do for our next record. We all sat down and talked about it, and I gave it a kick in the ass. My mother has been sick, so I’m moving back home to Illionois. We had a good run, but we wanted to stop on a good note. We didn’t want to kill it.

What will you miss most about this band?

Oh man, the rock. The raw energy. It will be hard to replace that in other bands. The chemistry was unique in a way. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a band where I’ll feel the raw energy I get from these guys.

You’ve all got new projects in the works?

Gared is doing a project called Hawks and Doves that’s like a collaboration effort with musicians we’ve met over the years on the road. Chuck (French, guitar) and Neil (Keener, bass) have a band that’s been around for years rocking and touring called Git Some. I’m going to move back home and try to start something, but I don’t want to tour my ass off anymore.

Has playing and touring in such a high energy band taken a toll on you physically over the years?

To some extent. But it’s also shaped me. We play with such energy every night we’ve become stronger. I’m a more confident drummer, and my stamina is better. It’s easier to play for an hour on stage now than it was years ago. But it’s exhausting touring. Someone is always sick, you never know where you’ll sleep. There are certain parts I’ll miss dearly. The excitement. There is always something new on the horizon when you’re on the road. I’m not gonna miss the tensions though, and the other bullshit of being on the road. There’s a give and take.

What’s changed most about the musical landscape since you started?

We never wanted to market ourselves to anybody. We wanted people to respect us as a band as people more than like our music in a way. It’s more important to have integrity than write music the masses want to listen to. We never made a conscious attempt to go a long with how the scene has changed, but it’s inevitable playing shows. You have to interact with people.

Did you see bands come along after Planes doing a similar type of thing and was that annoying or a compliment?

Any time I’ve heard bands that sound like us… it’s hard, being inside of a band to know what you sound like… but I always thought of it as a compliment. Especially when they would come up to us and tell us how we influenced them. All musicians do is rip people off and regurgitate it in the own way anyway.

You’ve got a reputation for being scary dudes. You guys hard asses?
[Laughs] I can see how it can be intimidating, especially to younger audiences. We’re big, hairy dudes who like to flail about and sweat and spit on the crowd. But there’s nothing better for us than to talk to people. But we’re not hard asses! We’re all sweethearts who like to have a good time and tear shit up.

The band bounced around geographically over the years. Did you ever find a place where you felt settled?

We started in Peoria, then moved to Denver early in our career. For sure we felt at home in Denver. There was always a vibrant music scene with a plethora of bands and friends supportive of each other. And there was never a lack of good musicians. They welcomed us there with open arms. There was no pretension. We couldn’t have picked a more accepting music scene.

How will you know you’ve played your last rock n roll show ever?

I’m never gonna put down my sticks, dude. I can rearrange my priorities, but even if I’m by myself. I plan on being the big fat fifty five year old drummer in a blues band. I’m never gonna stop.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Ben Lee

It seems like just yesterday that we were listening to Ben Lee and his teenage band Noise Addict. He seemed oddly precocious even then. In the intervening 12 years or so, he's released a slate of increasingly "well-crafted" pop rock records as a solo artist, collaborated with some of the best songwriters in the biz, and earned a dedicated following throughout the world. His latest release, Ripe, is a wry but heartfelt throwback to the days when image meant a lot less, and the hook was everything. Metro spoke to Lee on the phone from tour in Cincinnati.

You're from Australia, but for some reason I perceive you as this quintessential New York City artist.

I lived there for six years. I live in LA now. I was always in love with America, and I wanted to find out what was going on in the country. Living in New York helped me meet young, crazy, creative, beautiful people, many of which were on drugs, which is what you want when you move there. NYC played the right role for me. A lot of pivotal things happened when I was there. It's hard to say though what influence gegraphy plays on your music. Sometimes your physical surroundings influence you, and sometimes your influenced by wanting to escape your physical surroundings.

You're 28 now, but I remember listening to your band Noise Addict when you were 16. I know I've changed a lot since then. What's the biggest difference for you now?

Probably the hair on my testicles! It's never been about music being an extension of my life. It's never been about being a prodigal musician. It's about honestly documenting what I was doing at the time. Being real. Each record is a different document of the emotional, spiritual and physiological state I was in at the time. It's not like one change, more a continuing arc in my development.

Do you feel as if you've "matured" musically, or is there a still lot left for you to learn?

When I started it was still a hobby. I had fantasies of going to university and becoming an actual respectable member of society. Since Breathing Tornadoes (1999) I felt I'd become a professional musician, which is a pretty big change. Music used to be just for me, or a way to meet girls, you know what I mean? Selfish. But before Awake is the New Sleep (2005) music became an expression of my desire to add something to the world.

Do you think you've added anything to the world?

It's a process. A way of feeling, of going to sleep at night knowing you've done your best. There is no achievement to define it, it's a day to day effort. My audience feels like my music adds something to their life. And there seems to be more and more people buying my records. There seems to be a need for it. It's not like oxygen or something though. You can live without music, but it feeds the soul.

Your songs are often described as "intelligent pop" or "well-crafted pop". What does that even mean, and how is it different from just regular pop?

Well, I would never describe it like that. I don't know. In a way it means I've failed as a pop artist. You shouldn't have to put another adjective before the word pop. Whether it's me, or the Pet Shop Boys or Aimee Mann or something, people who have respect for pop music and don't use it to condescend to the audience. A lot of people who call themselves pop musicians don't love the form, and don't love the people who love the form. It's more a marketing term. If you're a populist at heart, if you believe in the power of being a collective together…that's what you call someone concerned with the craft.

You've done lot of collaborations on this record: Mandy Moore Good Charlotte, Rooney…

I like it. It loosens up the process. In the studio it brings in a degree of unpredictability. As a solo artist you can get stuck in your ways. My vision of pop is that it should be inclusive, not snobby. Good hearted. Each of the people I worked with brought different visions. People look at a lot of collaborations I do and say "Ben Folds, Mandy Moore, Nickle Creek! What type of tribe do we put this person in?" I'm not part of a tribe. For me, if you want in, you're in. That's the only password you need to get into this club. I like artists like John Lennon or Bob Marley who worked with mass culture and made music for everybody.

Working with Ben Folds must have been cool.

With Ben Folds I would go in wanting to learn something, and then we'd end up teaching him something. And someone you won't expect to teach you something will. Honestly, Mandy really did. She's still in a sort of space of proving herself as a songwriter, and on a few dates with her some of them weren't well attended. I went back one night thinking I would give her sort of a pep talk and she said "Honestly, I already feel like a success. I'm playing my own songs." That was very enlightened, the earnestness with which she was pursuing her own vision.

Is it just me or does this record seem a little more sexual than what I expect from you?

I think so. I wanted to make a record with a lot of sex, but not dirty. Playful. All the playfulness is lost now, everything is so dramatic like "I wanna fuck you up against the wall in the club" or whatever. That's not how my friends talk about sex. I wanted to make something more real, to talk about it as a real thing with multiple levels.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Wednesday Picks

Sound the Alarm
On their latest record, The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi, Boston rockers The Receiving End of Sirens have broadened their sonic horizons with dense layers of sonic pedal meddling and experimental flourishes that buoy the rising and crashing of their heartrending emo pop. But no amount of studio mess-about can obscure the longing of the dual vocalist’s passionate harmonizing, the messy center at the heart of the band’s music. They perform tonight. Boston’s blissfully hazy and disquieting charmers Retrosleeper open. 6p.m. $14 adv., $15 dos. The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. 800-477-6849.

The Man
There’s not too much we have in common with our parents, aside from dad’s sick sense of humor and mom’s sentimentality. But Van Morrison…now there’s a guy that transcends it all. You won’t find many other musicians capable of spanning generational boundaries like that. With decades of classic songs to choose from, it’s hard to say what the infamously irascible performer will play. May we humbly request “Domino” and “Cleaning Windows.” 7p.m. $78-$203. Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St # 2, Providence, RI. 401-421-2997. [Luke O’Neil]

No Place Like an Art Gallery
The closest we’ve come to being inspired by the Wizard of Oz was the time we tried that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. synch-up trick back in college. Maybe that’s why we’re not creative artists. At “Ozspirations: New Art Inspired by the Wizard of Oz” 30 artists have employed a variety of mediums to channel the spirit of the classic film into their work. With video, sculpture, painting and more, Oz’s iconic images and universal themes come to life. Running through Friday. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. The New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University, 75 Arlington St., Boston. 617-573-8785.

We have this theory that the stars in the night sky are really just little holes poked in a vast dark canopy that covers the earth and protects us from a race of alien super beings intent on destroying us. We’ll have to bring that up at Public Observatory Night at the Coit Observatory. Wednesday nights, weather permitting, (call ahead to confirm) you’ll have an opportunity to view the vast universe through telescopes and learn something about astronomy. Makes you feel sort of small, doesn’t it? 7:30p.m. Free. Coit Observatory at Boston University, 725 Comm. Ave., Boston. 617-353-2630.

The Sexy Santa Lingerie Show at The Place brings two of our favorite things in the world together every Wednesday, namely Christmas and beautiful women. Listen to music, mingle and drink cocktails while models show off the latest fashions from Kiss Me Lingerie. It’s all in the name of good holiday cheer, or something. Maybe you’ll get some stocking stuffer ideas. Santa never looked so good. 10p.m. Free. The Place, 2 Broad St., Boston. 617-523-2081.

The Detroit Pistons are pretty good, sure, and no one wants to celebrate a loss by the home team, but the way the Celtics are winning of late, it’s pretty safe to plan your post game party ahead of time. May we suggest the Boston Celtics Post Game Party at The Harp? You’ll have the chance to meet the Celtics dancers (probably a lot more charming than Paul Pierce anyway) and a rotating cast of former Celtics players. 10p.m. The Harp, 85 Causeway St., Boston. 617-742-1010.

Our founding fathers may not have had this night specifically in mind when they wrote the Constitution, but I think it’s fair to say that given a little more time to hash out the details they would have all agreed that free pizza with beer should be inalienable right of all Americans. Crossroads does their patriotic duty with this genius promotion. Buy a pitcher of beer for $8, get a pizza. It’s a simple, but brilliant economic theory. Crossroads Irish Pub, 495 Beacon St., Boston. 617-262-7371.

Now that the annual ice age has descended upon us, it’s time to find out who the most dedicated runners are out there. We’ll be the first to admit we’ve hung up the sneakers for the winter. See you in a couple months, out-of-doors! But those of you looking for a good reason to stay motivated, or for a group to help you push yourselves harder, should check out the weekly running club at Niketown. Runners and walkers of all levels are encouraged to come by and join the group for 3, 5 and 7 mile runs. 6:30p.m. Free. Niketown , 200 Newbury St., Boston. 617-267-3400.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday Picks

Calculated Metal Chaos
Let’s hope you’ve kept your rocking out muscles in shape so far this year, because just watching the chaotic precision of New Jersey metal-hyphenates Dillinger Escape Plan on stage can be a workout itself. The band, known as much for the complexity of their time signatures and rhythmic innovations as the screaming intensity of their scorching hard core punk metal, have just released their latest record, Ire Works. They perform tonight. 18+. 9p.m. $15. Middle East Downstairs, 480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-3278.

Take My Mom…Please
You might recognize comedian Judy Gold from her numerous standup appearances, or from films like The Aristocrats, or you may know her Emmy Award winning writing for The Rosie O’Donnell Show. Even more of you may recognize the material from her new show 25 Questions For A Jewish Mother from something called real, every day life. A Jewish mother (and daughter) herself, Gold and playwright Kate Moira Ryan spent five years traveling the country interviewing all manner of Jewish mothers to find out what, exactly, is their deal. They turned the results into a moving, funny performance. 7:30p.m. $15-50. Running through Dec 31. Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-266-0800.

Seeing Boston for the First Time, Again
Even for those of us who’ve spent decades in Boston, there are still countless hidden spaces in the city, sometimes right in front of us, that we will never see. Whether it’s because we’re zooming by in our cars, or shuffling along the sidewalk with our heads down, it’s easy to take for granted the beauty, and sometimes ugliness, that surrounds us. In Boston Views, printmaker Sidney Hurwitz and photographer Lance Keimig set their sights on both the iconic and the mundane of Boston’s past and present. Running through Jan 5. 10:00a.m. - 5:30p.m. Pepper Gallery, 38 Newbury St., Boston. 617-236-4497.

Taking in a reading of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic A Christmas Carol at the Omni Parker House, the very space where it debuted in America in 1867, sounds delightful enough. But hearing it read in the dulcet, stentorian and mellifluous tones of your favorite WBUR on air personalities like Robin Young, Tom Ashbrook, Bob Oakes, David Boeri, Bill Littlefield and Delores Handy-Brown is like a neatly wrapped little Christmas present for NPR junkies. Proceeds of the performance go to Rosie’s Place. 7p.m. $35. Omni Parker House Hotel, 60 School St., Boston. 617-318-0232.

Acoustic Brazil exposes kids to the variety of Brazil’s music styles, and gives them the chance to be part of a Carnaval rhythm section. Better to let them spend all that energy on a percussion instrument than on the furniture at home, right? 10:30a.m. Free. Boston Public Library, Lower Mills, 27 Richmond St., Dorchester. 617-298-7841.

Seeing may be believing, but a lot of the time we can’t believe what we see. In “Mind Games And Optical Illusions” at the Museum of Science, volunteers take part in a performance that shows us how easily we can be tricked. Come “see the world the way it really isn't,” they say. That sounds like a typical Saturday night for us, but we’re intrigued all the same. (Or are we?) 11a.m. Free with museum admission, $14-17. Museum of Science, 1 Science Park, Boston. 617-723-2500.

We’ve always thought that New England in the winter is beautiful. The only drawback is that pesky little matter of the freezing temperatures getting in the way of our enjoyment. That’s where Club Ice comes in. Tonight the Hyatt Regency Boston’s Grand Ballroom will become an idealized winter wonderland (albeit one with sleek design lines and models in weird costumes) for their annual gala to benefit The Ellie Fund, a breast cancer charity. Tickets will get you fancy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, gift bags, and a chance to win a number of great prizes. Throw in dancing to the World Premier Band, and you’ll realize that while winter doesn’t always have to be cold, it can still be cool. 5:30-10:30p.m. $40. Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1 Avenue de Lafayette, Boston. 617-912-1234.

There’s something so incongruous about a swelling orchestral movement floating under the
guttural screams, double bass drum assault and harmonized guitar soloing of a blistering death metal track, but when it comes in half way through “Lines From An Epitaph” by Burn in Silence, it completely pulls the song together. The Boston band, who don’t seem afraid of a little singing when it’s called for, perform tonight. 18+. 9p.m. $10. Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston. 617-566-9014.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Guilty Pleausres: Snow Storms

Everyone knows the apocalypse, when it comes, is going to be sweet. Just look at movies like "I Am Legend." You get to speed around empty cities in awesome cars and take whatever you want. Although I suppose that whole massive human death toll, and the inevitability of some sort of zombie-vampires terrorizing the night thing is kind of a bummer, but whatever. In the meantime we're all going to have to settle for the type of snow storms we've had this past week to give us a taste of what complete societal breakdown is like. Cars buried in the snow, people walking down the middle of the street, runs on the grocery store, everyone holed up in survival bunkers, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Everything you thought you knew goes out the window, and previously reasonable humans begin hoarding parking spots like mutant gladiators with spiked football helmets protecting a dwindling fuel supply. Plus the nearly unlivable conditions make even the most mundane everyday events into some sort of survivalist scenario. I feel like Bear Grylls traversing an icy tundra every time I climb my driveway: "Watch as Adventure Dude moves with caution across the deadly sheet of ice, going where only an elite group of Sherpas has ever gone before . . . his mailbox!"

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Murder By Death

Murder By Death are coming to town soon, so I thought I'd revisit this old article I wrote about them for the Weekly Dig back in 2006

...My brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder — there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters — and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "House of Usher."

It's easy to imagine the riotous villainy and hand wringing disquietude of the characters in a Murder by Death song populating Edgar Allan Poe's dim chambers and gnarled wood. In fact songwriter Adam Turla directly echoes the theme of the "The Fall of the House of Usher" on "Steam Rising" a song toward the end of the guilt-saturated album. "Black coal is filling up our homes. It seeps though the window cracks it slips through the floorboards...honey pack your bags and go, there is steam rising from the belly of the beat. There is hell on earth. There are demons beneath the sheets." Haunted by a dark cello, funereal drums and little else, the song is chilling in its detail of disintegration. It's one of the lighter songs on the new album In Bocca al Lupo, Turla said. "Near the end of the record I wanted to do songs -- not necessarily positive -- but I was looking for songs that didn't quite fit the bill. 'Steam Rising' is more about the presence of evil in our lives in general. Like in "The Fall of the House of Usher", the idea being the house as symbol for ourselves, and it starts to fall apart because of the people surrounding it.

Since nearly every other song touches on murder, death, violence and criminal suffering, perhaps the evil in our lives in general is as good a thematic summation of the Indiana band's thesis as any. Turla calls it the "idea of mistakes or sins. The characters are all people who have committed an act they regret or have affected others in a negative way."

"And in some cases the stories are about the people that have been affected by others. It's about causality and the repercussions of the actions we commit."

Many of
Turla's characters are full of remorse. On "Raw Deal" a man in the gallows moans a lament for his sins over a minimal dirge strum and ghostly drum beat: "I preyed on my own people,took everything that they had. I laughed at their helplessness I left them for dead. now I'm tugging on this line but I can never gain any ground, and for the selfishness I displayed there is a punishment that I've found." The music is as foreboding as the lyrics, and it matches the shame and regret note for note. On the "Big Sleep" the band recreates the sounds and feeling of the last moments in the electric chair: "When they flip the switch, please do not stay. I couldn't bear for you to remember me like this." And on "Dead Men and Sinners" a beleaguered ship's crew "with icicles in their beards" toast to their impending doom with a foreboding sea shanty sing along. In other cases they have no regret, like "Sometimes the Line Walks You." "That song is a monologue, a man talking himself up. I guess he's murdered a lot of people, I never decided. But he's done some awful things. Brutal. He is one of the characters that doesn't care what he's done. I try to cover the spectrum of different takes on guilt."

The Johnny Cash reference in the song's title is apt. Turla's low rasp and eye for detail calls to mind the man in black throughout. In fact Turla comes off like a Cash with a degree in English Lit.
"My dad was an art dealer," Turla told me in reference to his own aesthetic sensibility. "He wrote a book on Dante's Inferno. Salvador Dali painted water colors for sections of Heaven and Hell. That was something I looked over as I was writing about sin. Books about guilt are a normal part of life. Whether it's the new Testament or a Buddhist text, or Crime and Punishment. I tried to keep the album literary, but wanted it to be more like a horror novel. I don't like gore, but I love Hitchcock movies that are about the supernatural. "Someone called us 'American Gothic' recently, and that's totally it. In the original sense, not, like 'Oh, I'm so spooky!"

"I like the words and imagery that come with turn of the century America," said Turla, who studied English and Religion in college. And in that sense the Decemberists seem another likely comparison. The top hat and petticoat costumes in their promo photos help too. a
Although Turla's antiquated tales are far more sinister, and even when the music rises to a rollicking stomp or a demon-summoning cacophony at sea, it's all tempered by the constant references to suffering. There are no hand maidens and sea captains falling in love here. Only dark men and darker deeds.

"My intention wasn't to bring everyone down, but to make people think about the things they do," Turla said. "And I wanted to end the album on a positive note, so the last line is "There is still time to start again."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Barcode: Church

Most contemporary drink lists strive for some sort of thematic consistency. But whether they are arranged geographically or seasonally, or paired with a culinary design, the unifying theme is usually just under the surface, revealing itself as you drink your way through.

At Church (69 Kilmarnock St., Boston. 617-236-7600. the list is a bit more overt, and - true to its name - a bit more brash. The Seven Deadly Sins cocktail list wears its intentions on its menu sleeve, as it were, tempting drinkers with a trip through some of our favorite vices. But instead of acting them out, in this case we get to drink them in, and the result is appropriately hedonistic. If anything, Greed (below, center; Hendricks Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, diced cucumber, white pepper, salted cucumber $10) made us greedy for another drink. The heavy nose of cucumber and rose from the gin combined with the sweetness of the liqueur contrasted perfectly with the salt and pepper of the garnish for a poignant vegetable flavor. More please.

After drinking Lust (below, left; cognac, Spanish brandy, lavender honey simple syrup, chocolate port , garnished with lavender$10), we can certainly see where it gets its name; it's not quite an aphrodisiac, but close enough to do the job. It's rare that the first thing you'll note in any version of a Sidecar is the bouquet, but here it's upfront before you even sip, and worth savoring, lingering over like the moment before a kiss.

Gluttony (banana rum, white chocolate liqueur, Thai coconut milk, fresh ripped mint, cocoa-dusted mint sprig $10), our particular vice of choice, happened to appeal to our sense of overindulgence. Eating dessert takes too much time, doesn't it? Better to drink it down in sweet, milky gulps. Similar in consistency and presentation, the Eggknot (Sazerac 6 year Rye, The Knot Irish whiskey, nutmeg and clove simple syrup, eggnog, shaved nutmeg, ) is a welcome seasonal addendum to the list. The relatively light house-made eggnog produces a rare eggnog drink that won't sit heavy in your stomach. And with so many vices weighing us down this holiday season, it's good to have a drink that won't do the same.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Hives

The Black and White Album
With their impeccably crafted garage pop, Sweden’s The Hives have always hewed close to the jagged edge of chaos, with tightly wound verses giving way to explosive choruses of buzz saw power chords and screaming vocal shrapnel. It makes sense then that “Tick Tick Boom,” lead track off their uneven new album, adheres to that formula in style and lyrical content. “I’ve done it before, and I can do it some more, so what you waiting for?” boasts Howlin' Pelle Almqvist. Well…more songs that sound like this. But one can hardly fault the veteran band for shifting gears some ten years in. For a singer whose hoarse-throated exuberance normally ranges all the way from merely crackling to blistered scorching, Almqvist employs a few different arrows from the vocal quiver on songs like “Won’t Be Long” and “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” On the former, a detached baritone cuts the usual vampy pop stomp down to more manageable levels of garage hedonism, while the latter finds a smoother R&B croon that matches the disco funk guitar of Pharrell Williams production cameo. Not exactly different enough to make this The Hives’ White Album, but for once things aren’t literally so black and white.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday Events

The Underground Is a Dying Breed
If you’re anything like us, seeing late nineties bands like Hot Rod Circuit call it quits doesn’t just mean the loss of a favored band… it means we’re getting old. It may also mean that punk is dead too. Gonna have to double check on that one. The fiercely passionate New Haven band who unwittingly played a part in laying down the blueprint for most of the commercial pop emo bands you hate right now with albums like If It's Cool with You It's Cool with Me, hits Boston for the last time tonight. 18+. 7:30p.m. $12. Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-3278.


Talking Smack
For fans of pro wrestling in Boston, consider tonight your Superbowl double-header when two of the most popular sports entertainment programs on TV come to town. Perhaps the only wholesome venue left for young men to ogle muscle bound superheroes in tiny underwear, the melodrama of the WWE’s Smackdown and Extreme Championship Wrestling make your mother’s day time soaps look like Chekhov. And that’s why we love it. 6:30p.m. $22.50-72.50. TD Bank North Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston. 617-931-2000. [Luke O’Neil]

Charity on Ice
Back in our day we didn’t have Disney stars on ice, or great animated films like Finding Nemo. We didn’t even have ice. We had to skate on dirt. Wasn’t pretty. But good news for all the kids out there because Disney is teaming up with Toys for Tots for a feel good, charity fun time happy event that’s just like in the movies! Although probably fewer wise-cracking animals. Everyone gets to skate with some of their favorite Disney characters today, but the first 100 kids to donate a toy get two tickets to Disney on Ice presents Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo at the TD Bank North Garden. 3p.m. Free. Frog Pond, Boston Common.

There are two things that basically everyone wants to be able to do: cook, and work for themselves. Tonight’s your chance to combine those two with a class from the Boston Center for Adult Education called Catering as a Small Business. Learn what it takes to get your own catering business off the ground, including hiring help, managing the local laws and raising capital from instructor Madonna Berry, a chef/instructor at Newbury College who’s worked at a number of great restaurants, including Maison Robert in Boston. Easy as pie. 6p.m. $48 members, $52, non-members. Boston Center for Adult Education, 5 Comm. Ave., Boston. 617-267-4430.

Anyone can learn to play the guitar or the piano. That’s boring. Original thinkers like you want something a little more exotic, like the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo for example. Often used in ceremonial rituals in northern Australia, the didgeridoo is thought to be one of the oldest known wind instruments. But more importantly it makes a really awesome droning sound. New School of Music faculty member and didgeridoo veteran Daniel Orlansky shows you how its done tonight. Beginners welcome, and no, you don’t need to have your own didgeridoo to come. 6:30p.m. $30. New School of Music, 25 Lowell St., Cambridge. 617-492-8105

When it was published ten years ago, author Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent was widely praised for giving a voice to Dinah, a previously unheard from character in Genesis. Diamant’s imaginative depiction of Dinah’s life, particularly surrounding the practices of the titular tent and its relation to female sexuality, is regarded as something of a feminist retelling of a generally male dominated story. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of her bestseller Diamant will be interviewed by author Judy Bolton-Fasman of the Jewish Advocate. 7p.m. Free. Reservations required. Newtonville Books, 296 Walnut St., Newton. 617-244-6619.

Boston journo and big time felinophile, Clea Simon reads at the Brookline Booksmith tonight. Author of the books Cattery Row and Mew is for Murder, Simon’s latest Cries and Whiskers continues in her tradition of the feline mystery novel. What is that? We’re not exactly sure, but we’re guessing it’s a lot like a regular mystery, only more fur balls. Sounds scary (we’re allergic). Joining her is Karen Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mystery series, who reads from her latest, Dead of the Day.7p.m. Free. Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St. Brookline. 617-566-6660.

Cheeses have been leaving us a bit cold lately. Especially mushy cheeses and goat and sheep cheeses. No thanks. But we may have to rethink all that. Perhaps we just weren’t tasting them in the right context. Cheese Night at L’Espalier, an event curated by Fromager and mâitre d’ Louis Risoli, gives diners a chance to learn more about something we all eat, but often take for granted. Eat a great meal constructed around the cheeses of the week at a communal table designed for maximum cheesy socializing. 7p.m. $68. Reservations recommended. L’Espalier, 30 Gloucester Street, Boston. 617-262-3023.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Lust of the draw

Anti-Art School Cabaret wants you to get more out of drawing nudies

Forget everything you thought you knew about art school life drawing classes. Well, almost everything. That modicum of artistic talent might come in handy at Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Cabaret Life Drawing Class, although, says organizer Aliza Shapiro, it’s by no means required. Instead, all you’ll need “is an interest in getting started or getting better.” The event, half performance art and half class, with franchises in more than 50 cities throughout the world, takes place monthly at Great Scott.

How does this differ from regular drawing class?

When you’re in art school, you get a lot of experience drawing models who are naked. They’re usually bored and uninspired, and there is this fifth wall thing where you don’t engage with them and they don’t engage with you. They’re naked “others.” You’re a student, you’re stressed out and trying to produce so you can get critiqued at the end of class. Usually you don’t engage with the other students, even. I hear this from a lot of people, and it was my personal experience. ... We encourage talking between the model and the artists. I ask leading questions and engage in some dialogue. ... The audience/artists cheer for the models and great poses, and also there is tipping involved. ... There are breaks for folks to get a drink at the bar or food, and we listen to music.

So, it is more of a fun environment than a studious one?
Oh, totally fun. I mean, people are making serious drawings, some with a lot of skill, but we’re having fun doing it. Most folks can talk, draw and listen to music at the same time. We’ve got some photos of drawings up at if you want to see proof! There are some really gorgeous sketches.

Anything special planned for this Sunday?
Max and Will, our (rare male) models ... have some fabulous costumes arranged: Santa and elf, boxer and “waterboy,” cop and criminal. The models are encouraged to come up with concepts and wacky costumes that slowly get peeled off.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Freeloading: Sea Wolf

"Winter Windows"
The expansion and collapse of the sinister accordion that propels this orchestral indie pop track mimics the weary heartbeat of its narrator, and the reluctant sense of wonder that carries the haunting melody from darkness to light, then back again.
Listen here.

Guilty Pleasures: Internet Message Boards

There are few things in the world that you can read as an adult that unequivocally make you dumber by the end. Maybe Harry Potter novels. (Just kidding!) Even reading the back of the shampoo bottle in the bathroom conveys at least some modicum of information. But the proliferation of internet message boards -- and the ungodly amount of time I spend on them -- has not only made me officially stupid, it has also completely ruined the concept of discourse in America. In theory stopping by a message board after you've seen a film, or watched a sporting contest or something interesting in politics has happened is supposed to edify your understanding of that event. It's supposed to provide a perspective you might not have considered from people all over the world. But in reality what it boils down to are gems like this: "Thjis WAS thu worse movie evah!!11 and ne1 who liked it sux.", "Looks like Belli-CHEAT paid off the refs again, Boston losers!", or "Hillary Clinton and the dumbocrats hate America!" Not exactly Dostoevsky here. And yet checking out what other people have to say online is something I do automatically, and will probably continue to do forever until everyone has the internet implanted in our inevitable cyborg face masks. But maybe I am wrong. Perhaps nothing has actually changed. It's not like before the internet average people were holding forth eloquently on philosophy, or even speaking in complete sentences. Maybe all my beloved, addictive message boards have done is reveal to us who we really are? And like most people, I too really like looking at myself in the mirror. Even when it's not pretty.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Guilty Pleasures: Will Smith

Remember when movie stars kept their dysfunctions to themselves? I don't. But I'm told there was a time when families would gather round the AM transistor after a long day of working the fields and take in news items about the (relatively) graceful exploits of Hollywood stars. Today, we have a choice between alcoholic teenagers and pedantic do-gooder liberals. It's a polarizing landscape. Except for one man: international superstar Will Smith, who as far as I know has never embarrassed himself, and the rest of us, by acting like a childish buffoon (except on film). Smith, who appears in the forthcoming film adaptation of "I Am Legend," Richard Matheson's terrific vampire dystopia, is a bit of a paradox. He has to be the only celebrity in the world who is universally admired while simultaneously serving as a guilty pleasure 100 percent of the time. Think about it. Do you know any avowed Will Smith fans? No, you don't. But guess what, we all love him. He. Simply. Persists. So why does he qualify as a guilty pleasure? Because he is a grade A, no questions asked, certified cornball. Come on! "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"? The guy who coined the phrase "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"? That smirk? Those cigars? You just don't get a free pass for that stuff. How then are we supposed to take this ham seriously? Perhaps it's lowering our standards to admire someone for not regularly falling drunk out of his SUV on camera, but it will have to suffice for now. We need Will Smith. He may just be our savior, the only link to a glorious, star-studded, completely made-up past.

Originally puvlished in the Boston Globe.

Freeloading: The Veronicas

"Hook Me Up"
This fluffy dance rocker from the cutest Australia twin sister combo since…ever is like a comprehensive history of contemporary pop lyrical clichés in two minutes. Collect them all and win! But the throb of the bass and the dark synths and husky harmonies almost make lyrical depth seem irrelevant. Watch the video here.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Freeloading: Lil' Mama

"G-Slide (Tour Bus)"
The sheer variety of vocal deliveries on display here, from the schoolgirl singsong, to the rapid fire rhyming club rat come-ons, smooth hype-man boasts and vocoder house divaisms make this worth the price of admission alone (free). So borrowing the melody from "The Wheels On the Bus" is like running up the score. Listen here.

Originally published in the Boson Globe.