Saturday, June 28, 2008

Barcode: Croma

Purees, fresh ingredients, and fruit garnishes are the most effective way to make a specialty cocktail list work. Flavored liqueurs and vodkas are fun to play with, and definitely add some punch, but without fruit, vegetables, and herbs you're basically drinking a chemistry experiment. It can be hard to strike the right balance, of course, but it's something that the people at Croma, the upscale pizzeria on Newbury Street, seem conscious of. "We feature fresh ingredients in our cocktails, and I think that sets us apart from the typical bar that uses premixed cocktail mixers," said owner Mike Gregorio.

The Forbidden Passion (Smirnoff Passion Fruit Vodka, Blueberry Schnapps, pureed strawberries, Zardetto prosecco, strawberry garnish; $10), one of Croma's more popular drinks, gets its deep, dark red color and thick consistency from the strawberries. It looks like it's made from actual food. In fact, it seems like the product of pressing and stomping the fruits, like something you'd see in wine-making. The prosecco topper buoys the fruit along on a cascade of bubbles.

The Green Dragon (Stoli Ohranj Vodka, Cointreau, pureed mango, fresh orange juice, Midori, kiwi; $11), with its striking two-tone layers of melon and sun-kissed mango, is another fine use of puree. The Dragon is an abstract painting of a martini; its taste develops depending on the depth of your sip.

The Japanese Plum Ginger (Pearl Plum vodka, red wine, ginger, simple syrup, lime juice; $11) doesn't use purees, but it has organic textures of dark fruit from the merlot (red wines in cocktails aside from sangria should catch on) and spice from the fresh ginger coating the glass. Like many of Croma's cocktails, it drinks like something that actually came from the earth.

Croma, 269 Newbury St., Boston. 617-247-3200. cromaboston.com

Boston Globe

Friday, June 27, 2008

Skunk

Dancing machines

Skunk invents robo-art

Since the dawn of time, kids have longed for one thing: badass robots to come to life and be their friends. Until science figures that one out, we’ll settle for imagining adventures with the metallic sculptures by Somerville artist Skunk, many of which are made from discarded bicycle parts. Our inner child spoke with the artist about how totally awesome his work is.

Some of your metallic robot sculptures are exactly the type of thing I would have gone crazy for as a kid. Is that what you’re going for: Harnessing boys’ inherent destructive imagination?
I am hoping that people see the constructiveness in my work. Creating something out of garbage isn’t necessarily difficult, but to create something out of garbage that no longer resembles garbage embraces the very essence of constructiveness. ... I suppose some of my
robots have a mean look in their eyes, but most of them are programmed to dance, not destroy.

You say you want to blur the line between art and toys. Where does that desire come from? Do you feel like adults aren’t encouraged to indulge their playful sides?
Many adults are too self-conscious to play freely. ... Kids make forts out of dining room chairs and blankets, time machines out of refrigerator boxes, and superhero outfits out of bed sheets. My youngest friends remind me of what I’ve forgotten whenever I talk with them. People forget that kids aren’t people-in-training, they are as much of a person as any adult, and they have a lot to offer as genuine friends. But I’d say the biggest motivation for mixing art and toys is a selfish reason. I love making things that are fun!

A lot of them have evident personalities. Do you construct them with stories in mind? Do you have back stories and names for each of them?
All of the bots have a name and serial number, engraved somewhere near the back of the foot. As far as the stories and adventures go, my bots are born the day they are made, so the stories are yet to come with the new owners. I imagine them as robotic orphans looking for good homes.

Boston Metro

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Warlocks

Zombies, death, feedback, drones and positivity

On Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, the latest from experimental LA boot-gazers The Warlocks, the band has built itself a haunted medieval castle of noise; all gnarled, creeping ivy-lined towers of paranoia and mad alchemy where the damp of dread seeps through the cracks in the cobblestones. In the distance, elongated drones and horizon-wide chord changes expand while heavy-foot death march beats, gusts of amplified fuzz and incessant feedback siren-bursts spattered by low-mixed, affected vocals humming just beneath the surface hint at a sort of existential purgatory. In short, this is some dark shit. Plot-spoiling song titles like "Valley of Death," "Death, I Hear You Walking" and "Zombies Like Lovers" don't really help matters, either.

But then again, you can't really think too long about death without recognizing the opposite side of the coin. Paradoxically, much of the heavy-hearted music Warlock Bobby Hecksher and his rotating cast of dreamers make invokes the mundane joys and minor nothingness of living, breathing existence. Life is, after all, nothing if not predictable. It's a familiarity echoed in the droning repetitions of songs like the 11-minute "Moving Mountains," a reminder that moving yourself through the world on its own can be a Sisyphusian chore. That song in particular calls to mind the breathtaking beauty of Air's work on The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, although in this case, it might have worked better in a film called The Virgin Sacrifice.

"Yeah, it's a dark disjointed album," says Hecksher, on the phone from middle-of-nothing Utah. "It's kind of like one fucked-up art piece, the whole thing." 'He mentions working on the album for a long time (although they recorded it in only two days. How the ... ?) "So many things had happened ... I felt really fucked over by a lot of friends, by a lot of people. I'm always writing no matter what though, no matter what mood I'm in. I just tried to pick the songs that had the most meaning for me for this one. I just wanted to make a really broken, disjointed album." That description works both thematically, in the doom-and-gloom sense of broken-down spaces and the far-removed dark corners his songs populate, but also literally in the way the pieces fit together. "To me, it's a really fragmented album—like, it feels incomplete. It feels like it's leaving the listener for dead. That's what I want people to sort of feel," he says, laughing.

But there's plenty of room for alternate interpretations, of course. "I heard some guy when I was in San Diego last week tell me, 'Man, this is like a weird Pet Sounds.' And I was, like, 'Man, I never thought of it like that.' And he said, 'I don't mean it's like perfect harmonies and everything, but it feels like it's conceptually positive.' So the listeners interpret what they take from it."

Weekly Dig

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ketman

Ketman ‘Bring Da Ruckus’ with ‘El Toro’

Boston’s Ketman have been punching out their esoteric, thrashy indie-punk for years on a series of self-released EPs, but this week finally sees the release of their first full length album, “El Toro.” It’s a nonstop rush of throttling riffs and genre-tripping excursions. Multi-instrumentalist Joe Marrett says of the variety, “There are so many cool sounds out there and tricks to try and pull out of your sleeve, you never know how many chances you’re going to get to throw your ideas into the mix.”

Eric Penna (who switches off guitar bass and keys with Marrett) says the range of styles is not a conscious decision. “We’ve tried to remain tasteful and focus foremost on the songs, sometimes letting the ideas follow their own path without limiting the possibilities.”

From the mariachi of “El Toro”, to the countryish “Oubliette” to blistering indie punk throughout, where did you get such a broad palate?
Penna: I like music that mixes conventions of assorted styles. ... There’s so much music out there and the pa-late is so wide. It’s sad to see people not using them to break down more genre walls. I love it when people get it right, though. Tarantino does a good job of juggling stylistic conventions. The soundtracks to his mo-vies succeed in the same way.

It seems like your songs verge uneasily towards the edge of chaos.
Marrett: I kind of like things a little unhinged. You should see our house. … I like to think about the immortal words of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Bring Da Ruckus” before we play.
Penna: When we really nail a set, it’s pretty exhilarating. The set as a whole can build a lot of its own momentum and sometimes I find myself trying to catch up to it.

You mentioned you think this record flows together as a whole as opposed to the more prevalent song oriented-approach.
Penna: I like the way this album is a bit like channel surfing through different genres. Like hearing Mission of Burma and Hank Williams follow each other on a jukebox.

There seems to be something very much rooted in ’90s indie rock here. Is that a time period you take a lot of cues from?
Marrett: I certainly stole a lot of records from my older sister Cassie as an impressionable youth in the ’90s, but I wouldn’t say we actively try to sound like we boarded a time machine from that era. Maybe we take some cues from some of the same sources as those bands took cues from.

Tuesday Events

ROCK
Over a series of three well-received records, fans of Burning Brides, the Philadelphia by way of LA power trio, have come to expect a few things: sick riffs, stoned grooves and hard-hitting drums. They shouldn’t be disappointed with the band’s latest, “Anhedonia,” their second self-released effort after the usual record label ups and downs and a flirtation with the majors on V2. It’s a brooding, bubbling cauldron of rousing, melodic rock anthems and grinding guitars. The band perform tonight. 18+. 9 p.m. $10. Middle East Upstairs, 480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-3278. mideastclub.com

LECTURE
From his early work in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era to his classes on civil liberties at Boston University, not to mention his most famous book A People’s History of the United States and onto his speaking out against the use of force in the current Iraq fiasco, historian, political scientist and scourge of fascist, warmongering villains everywhere Howard Zinn has always given a voice to the less powerful. Tonight he lends himself to another group often ignored by history, the homeless. He’ll give a lecture titled "What a Great Society Looks Like." in a benefit for Spare Change News, the Cambridge newspaper dedicated to homelessness concerns. 7:30 p.m. $10- $25 (income sensitive admission, pay what you can.) Old South Church, 645 Boylston St., Boston. 617-497-1595. brownpapertickets.com

COCKTAILS
Bartenders and magicians have a lot in common, mostly in the many ways they can surprise you and make your brain hurt. Both are also usually reluctant to reveal the tricks of their trade, but tonight at Upstairs on the Square they throw caution, and professional secrecy, to the wind with “How to Win Friends and Influence People: i.e., How to Make the Perfect Summer Cocktail.” Bar Manager Augusto Lino will walk you through the steps of mixing a few perfect summer cocktails like the mojito, Pimm’s cup, mint julep, caipirinha and the Aprile. Small plates from the restaurant’s menu, liked “Hot Dates” (marcona almond stuffed dates wrapped with bacon), will be served. 6:30 p.m. $48 (includes cocktails, recipes and hors d’oeuvres). Upstairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge. 617-864-1933. upstairsonthesquare.com

Boston Globe

Izza Kizza

"Walk the Dawg"

The Georgia MC makes it clap on this double-dutch rhyme taking its hook from Shirley Ellis's "The Clapping Song." Izza's drawling flow and absurdist sense of humor go toe to toe here with a sultry cameo from Missy Elliott.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Barcode: Johnnie's on the Side

It's something of a cliche in culinary circles for chefs and bartenders to explain that they want their creations to "tell a story." But at Johnnie's on the Side, a casual fine-dining restaurant in Boston's West End, they've taken that expression quite literally. In keeping with their thematically explosive retro-fitted shrine to sports and pop culture, the cocktail menu itself provides something of a history lesson. "We're trying to be part of the rebirth of the West End," said bar manager Nick Schedler. "We're going for an old-timey feel."

If bargoers don't get that from the old city street markers and neon store signs, there's plenty of opportunity to drink in the nostalgia - literally - with classic cocktails like the Ward 8 (Michter's American Whiskey, citrus juices, house made grenadine, $9), which the menu explains is a tribute to the old Boston politician Martin Lomasney. It's strong and sour, like any good city pol should be.

The Hendrick's Club Cocktail (muddled orange, Hendrick's gin, Citronge, lime juice, bitters, simple syrup, $11) a highly drinkable, off-kilter match of fruit and veggies, is Johnnie's take on the classic Pegu Club cocktail, named in part for a Boston political group in the late 1800s.

The Pineapple Punch (Cruzan pineapple rum, Myer's dark rum, almond liqueur, pineapple and lime juices, $9) takes its name from the local boxing hero Wesley "Pineapple" Stevenson. One more of these summery-sweet and nutty concoctions and we'd be ready to go a few rounds in the ring ourselves.

It would probably take a lot more to get us in the performing mood a la the Naked I (Triple 8 vanilla vodka, Mozart white chocolate liqueur, white Crème de Cacao, raspberry liqueur, $11), named for the infamous, um, gentleman's club in the Combat Zone.

Johnnie's on the Side, 138 Portland St., Boston. 617-227-1588. johnniesontheside.com

Boston Globe

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hangin' With: Ming Tsai

The celebrity chef hits the links, and the Cheese Nips, in Concord

A chef, a professional golfer, and a banker walk into a country club. Sounds like the premise for a particularly bad joke, but on a recent weekday morning it was all too real. Not that there wasn't plenty of comedy on hand, most of which was provided by celebrity chef Ming Tsai, who spent the morning at the gorgeous Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord cracking wise with golf pro Jay Haas.

By the time they got to the back nine, Tsai, who owns Blue Ginger in Wellesley, was feeling good. "I'm playing well so far," he said, eating from a bag of Cheese Nips and drinking a diet Snapple (what did you expect, tuna poke and foie gras-shiitake shumai?).

Bob Gallery, president of Bank of America Massachusetts, and a few friends rounded out the group, here to promote the upcoming Bank of America Championship being held this weekend at Nashawtuc. Tsai will be taking part in the Tastes of the Tour, a gourmet food and fine wine aspect of the event.

Tsai is every bit as charming as we've come to expect from his TV appearances, including his WGBH show, "Simply Ming." He's quite trim and athletic, particularly by chef standards, and has been playing golf for about five years. "I'm so addicted now," said Tsai, explaining "most chefs are compulsive." It works well for his schedule, too, since he's usually free in the mornings.

The literally picture-perfect day was something straight out of a golf cliché. Birds chirped in the tall trees lining the meticulously landscaped course - turns out they aren't piped-in sound effects for television. (We could have easily fallen asleep on the couch at home watching ourselves on the course, but the imminent danger of deadly golf balls flying overhead was incentive to stay alert. At one point we wandered into the path of a shot and had to duck for cover.)

"The hardest thing I've ever done is hitting a first shot off the tee on the first hole at a tournament," said Tsai, a man whose experience in kitchens, one might imagine, has provided no shortage of drama and danger. "It's terrifying." In his first big tournament, he found himself playing with Annika Sorenstam and Deepak Chopra. The pressure was on. "It was like my wedding day," he said. "I was fine until the bells started ringing, then my stomach literally dropped." It took him three times to get the ball to rest on the tee. Then he thought to himself, "What would Deepak think?" and some form of serenity took over. Meanwhile, Sorenstam hit him up for cooking tips. "I just wanted to talk to her about golf!"

Heading into the sand bunker on the 10th hole to work out an errant drive, the chef cut a striking figure in crisp black pants and a dark blue polo shirt. "Sand is like making pastries," he said. "There's not a lot of margin of error. You have to be precise." He played the ball well, landing it about 10 feet from the pin. Haas was doing more harassing than coaching, according to Tsai. "But those Southern boys will give it to you," he said. "For the record though, it's totally deserved."

"I've got the needle out today," said Haas.

"Yeah, well I have my entire knife set!" countered Tsai, before pausing over the tee.

Another well struck ball. "He's a much better player than I am a chef," said Haas. "Actually, I wouldn't even call myself a chef. I'm more of a cook. That's like a hack, right?"

Meanwhile Gallery stroked a perfect shot for birdie. The group erupted. Tsai himself was elated as he drove his cart to the green: "That's the thing about golf. That's as good as any pro can hit. I'm not ever going to be able to go out and tackle Tedy Bruschi . . . . But to hole out from 60 yards . . ." He must have been intoxicated with glee, at one point driving right into a low-hanging pine branch along the path.

"Bob, you're gonna be telling that one to your kids," Tsai said.

"Even a blind squirrel comes upon an acorn once in a while," said Gallery. (Perhaps this would have been a good time to ask him about the fees on our checking account.)

Later on, Tsai narrowly averted a close call with some dangerously positioned photographers. Were they making him nervous? "Well, I'm zero for zero killing someone on a golf course," he said. "I want to keep it that way. " It was a bit hard to concentrate with the clicking of the cameras, he admitted after Haas out-drove him by a good margin. "Not that that's my excuse!"

"Mine's way up here," chided Haas from further down the fairway.

"Yeah," Tsai said, "well let's see how he cuts a cucumber."

Boston Globe

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Ting Tings

Shut up and let them go

The Ting Tings insist they are ‘not cool kids,’ they just love playing pop music

The latest winners in Apple’s trend-setting commercial series, Manchester electro duo The Ting Tings, sent kids everywhere racing to their computers screaming, “OMFG that song rulz” with just a taste of their sassy disco pop smash “Shut Up and Let Me Go.” It may be the best track the Apple company has thrust into the spotlight yet.

“It’s definitely put us in front of a wider audience,” says singer and guitarist Katie White, who thinks it’s not even the best song on the album.

“I love that song, and I love playing it live,” she says of her music with Jules De Martino. “But I think we have stronger songs.”

That honor belongs to the No. 1 U.K. single “That’s Not My Name,” a surprisingly sensitive and defiant hip-hop and hand clapping pop hybrid.

Both tracks provide the backbone for the band’s high energy shows, where dancing, White says, is highly encouraged.

“It’s so easy to go to a show, just stand at the back and nod your head, but it’s the people at the front who always make the gig good, because they give the band that energy. It’s probably those 10 people who make the gig good.”

NME, the indie taste-making U.K. music mag, recently called them the most exciting band in the country. (Then again, they say that about every band.) All the same, White was a bit surprised.

“We never thought of ourselves as an NME band or not an NME band. We just sort of went somewhere in the middle,” she says. “By accident we wrote pop songs, but we did it from an indie perspective because we had no money!”

White’s self-deprecating attitude comes through on the title of the band’s record, “We Started Nothing,” which just happens to have gone to No. 1 in the U.K. Perhaps it’s an effort to avoid taking themselves too seriously?

“We’re very passionate about what we do. It really skyrocketed for us,” she says.

“We think we’re a pop band. We’re not cool kids, where everything needs to be cool, and have cool haircuts,” she says wryly. “If you’re a musician and you’re creative and you want to say something, you tend to make ‘indie-sounding’ music, you know, five guys with guitars … but if you’re a pop band you tend to be like four girls, sort of manufactured, 10 writers, all sparkle and polish,” she notes.  Even though Ting Tings’ gritty sound came about out of a tight budget, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “We love pop music, so we just wrote pop song ... they were really scruffy because we did it ourselves.”

They didn’t intend on forming the band in the first place, she says, having already gone through the big label pressure cooker once.

“We’d been in this band before. That went horribly wrong. We’d been signed and dropped before we even got our record out. We’d pretty much sort of let go of that feeling of being successful, thinking, ‘What are we gonna do with our lives?’” For now anyway, it seems like that’s not so much of a problem anymore.

Boston Metro

South End Garden Tour

Green day

South End garden tour reveals leafy treasures

You may be familiar with open studio tours, where creative types around the city open their doors to the public and give us a peek into their work spaces. The South End Garden Tour, which takes place this Saturday at 10 a.m., works much the same way, but it offers a glimpse at all the creativity and hard work residents put into their gardens - and reshapes our sense of urban space. With everything from small plots to public parks, the gardens on display are as diverse as the people who create them. Here, a preview of three. - LUKE O'NEIL

PAULA ROBINSON AND PAUL DEARE
The lush terrace garden behind their home serves both utilitarian and aesthetic purposes for Paul Deare and Paula Robinson. Although they've only been in their home for two years, the garden itself has been in Deare's family for more than 80. A towering Bing cherry tree, with its full, low-hanging branches, was planted by Deare's uncle 75 years ago, he says. Back then, the family used to eat the fruits and vegetables they grew, and it's a tradition Robinson has kept alive. They've planted some 15 herbs, 13 types of vegetables, and five fruit trees - everything from chamomile to sugar pumpkins. But even more important, they say, is that the garden is a removed, romantic getaway. "This is our place of respite and quiet regeneration," Robinson explains.

JAMIE AND REBECCA LEVINE
The sense of pastoral transformation is strong in the elegant, basement-level garden behind the home of Jamie and Rebecca Levine. "You don't really connect with what's going on out on the street when you're down here," Jamie says. It helps that the long, well-groomed space is nestled between a large stone foundation and tall wooden fence along a street side, and a formidable, densely ivy-lined brick wall of an adjacent Baptist church on the other. Aside from the movement of restless birds flitting through the trees, it's got the tranquil stillness of a relaxing resort. Except, of course, during the boisterous Sunday masses next door, he says. "It's very private back here. It's a great place for eating meals or spending time with the kids." The Levines' garden, which is connected to, but maintained separately from two other neighboring plots, gets a lot of cover from an old dogwood and a draping crab apple tree that stand at either corner. A smaller birch tree, jasmine bushes, and a tidy Japanese maple surround the brick and slate patio, while meticulously pruned espaliered apple trees line one wall. "The former owner had a lot of formal clipped box hedges," says Jamie. "We prefer things to be a bit messier."

CHRIS DEBORD
When you're putting together your ideal garden space it helps to be handy with a few tools. That's certainly true for South End resident Chris DeBord, whose uncanny taste and eye for found objects give his space a unique charm and eclectic feel. At once a garden and a funky folk-art collection, the space features a chunk timber bench under a climbing white hydrangea, headless iron statues, cobblestones and homemade trellises, African masks, a stone bird feeder, and an iron Moravian star, along with hibiscus, lavender, and rose bushes. His construction background inspires him to "plant things that last," DeBord says, which is fitting since his garden will live on in celluloid history as a setting for the upcoming Kate Hudson, Dane Cook film "My Best Friend's Girl." "It's like a house," DeBord explains of his gardening philosophy. "You have a solid structure of what it is, then you come in and inhabit it. You make the space livable."

The South End Garden Tour is Saturday at 10 a.m., and begins at the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library, 685 Tremont St. Tickets are $17 in advance, or $20 the day of. For details, visit southendgarden tour.org or call the South End/ Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust at 617-347-0999.

Boston Globe

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

"Glue Girls"
Namesake aside, this Missouri outfit manage to pinpoint the exact musical antithesis of Russian chill and gloom with their well-mannered, shimmering, scarf-rock pop; all wispy harmonies and guitar chimes warm enough to thaw the heart of even the most hardened politicians.

Hear it at myspace.com/boris


Boston Globe

Rooney

The crown of California rock kings rotates from band to band every few years, but for a while now it’s rested firmly on the shaggy heads of Los Angeles’ Rooney. Their latest, “Calling the World” continues in the vein of their spiritual forefathers the Beach Boys and Cheap Trick with soothing, piano-driven, new wave pop and sunny, anthemic rock choruses. The band, who’ve supported everyone from Weezer and The Strokes to Fergie find their center somewhere in the midst of that wide swath of indie cool and mainstream pop appeal. They perform tonight. All ages. 7:30 p.m. $15. Middle East Downstairs, 480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-3278. mideastclub.com


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Barcode: Bottoms up, it's organic

"The organic movement has moved past a trend," said Litty Mathew of California's Modern Spirits, makers of Tru Organic Vodka, over organic cosmos last week. "It's here to stay." She's right. Spend a few minutes perusing menus around town; organic items have made it into our eating and drinking consciousness.

Our conscience, it seems, is exactly what spirit makers like Mathew are shooting for. "It's about personal health" she said, "but not so much the user as about the land." In Tru (which you'll find at Mantra and Toro), every ingredient is certified organic, with no genetic modifications or synthetic chemical pesticides.

Matt Lambo of Nantucket vodka Triple Eight, which is made from organic corn (and available at Cambridge Common and Franklin Cafe), concurs. "The use of organic ingredients means we are supporting farmers who choose to grow their crops naturally. This way we know we are not contributing to the use of pesticides and chemicals, which can harm the land and the ecosystems." All of which is great to know, because polluting ourselves is fine, but the earth . . .

At Persephone in Fort Point, which features local, sustainable food, organic alcohol is a logical progression. "We use organic products here not only for the taste, but, more importantly, because it's the right thing to do," says beverage director Chris Graeff. "With the organic label being attached to more and more consumables, it's especially great to be able to further encourage the ever-important 'green' mind-set through something as seemingly unassuming as an after-work martini."

There are a variety of organic beverages to choose from on the menu here, from Square One Vodka to Siempre Azul Tequila, both of which, like Tru Vodka, were imperceptibly different price- and taste-wise, although noticeably cleaner and smoother, than the brands we're used to, Which is great for sustaining the earth, or whatever, but also for sustaining a decent hangover-free buzz.


Boston Globe

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Events

ROCK
We spend a lot of time here making fun of bands of a certain age for dusting off the old bones for never-ending reunion tours, so it's only fair when an old favorite of ours comes through town we'd do the same. The only problem there is that R.E.M. never really went away, and they're still releasing gorgeous, pleading, stadium-sized power-pop like "Supernatural Superserious" from their latest "Accelerate." Sometimes life isn't fair. They perform tonight with the downtrodden, dystopian, indie screamers Modest Mouse. The Comcast Center, 885 South Main St., Mansfield. $25-$75. 617-931-2000. ticketmaster.com

CHOIR
We really can’t think of anything more appropriate for Pride Week than 150 gay men singing the music of ABBA. Tonight the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus takes us back to a simpler time for a tribute to the greatest, cheesiest, disco pop act of the seventies. “Only a gay chorus can unlock the secrets of some of ABBA’s greatest hits,” boasts the BGMC. “’Does Your Mother Know,’ ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, and of course, ‘Dancing Queen.’” Twenty ABBA classics, plus their musical deconstruction of “Mamma Mia!” called “Daddy Diva.” Tonight, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 7 p.m. $15 - $45. Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St, Boston. 800-233-3123. maj.org

MUSICAL
We have this rare medical condition (the doctor calls it “good taste”) that’s prevented us from watching “American Idol.” But we’re told it’s some sort of singing-based reality show competition. Ayla Brown, a Wrentham native and basketball player a Boston College, had a decent showing on the program apparently, finishing as a semi-finalist. She begins a run in the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this weekend alongside Eric Kunze as Joseph and a choir of 70 children in this production from the Reagle Players' 40th Anniversary Season. Tonight, 7:30 p.m. $35 - $46. Through June 21. The Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St., Waltham. 781-891-5600. reagleplayers.com

Boston Globe

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Elvis?

We heard "Hound Dog" on the radio the other day, and we were amazed at how raw and captivating Elvis still sounds some 50 years later. No doubt many of the performers at the 2008 Greater Boston Area Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and Festival this weekend share our enthusiasm. More than a dozen Elvis impersonators - sorry, tribute artists (including Leo Days and Jeff La Jess) - will compete for cash prizes and a spot in the August national competition sponsored by Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis. On Saturday night the festival pays tribute to the legend's fellow pioneer of rock with "The King and the Killer," a show starring Elvis (Donny Edwards) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Lance Lipinsky). Tonight the celebration kicks off with Velvet Elvis, a local Elvis tribute band. 8 p.m. $15-$20 (Sat $22.50-$37.50). The Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington. 781-646-4849. regenttheatre.com

Boston Globe


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sloan

Comes together

The traditional rock band, songwriting equilibrium usually breaks down into one of two situations. It's either a cult of personality, with one domineering figure holding the reins, or an uneasy alliance between guitarist and front man, each eyeing the other warily across the stage in a case of bitter one-upmanship. But it's the rare communal band that's blessed with four equal songwriters, like in the case of Canadian power pop heroes Sloan. It's probably just that balance that's led to such a long and fruitful career.

"I don't think any of us feel held back," explains guitarist and vocalist Patrick Pentland. "The rule is, essentially, you can do whatever you want. You just expect that everybody's putting their best foot forward. There isn't like a frustrated drummer or bass player; everyone gets to contribute what they want to contribute."

On Sloan's latest, Parallel Play, what Pentland contributes are songs like album opener "Believe In Me," a burning organ groove buoyed by the band's trademark gorgeous harmonies and a ripping guitar riff. "It's becoming more a four-solo-records-on-one-record thing right now," he says. "Everybody's comfortable with that."

Of course, that sort of thing only works out when everyone's carrying their weight. No such problem here. Jay Ferguson's "Cheap Champagne" is a mellow, psyched-out soft rocker and Chris Murphy chips in with "Living the Dream," a Rubber Soul-style acoustic stomp, while Andrew Scott's "Emergency 911" is a throttling, dirtied-up garage anthem.

It's a broader spectrum than casual fans of the band, often saddled with a Beatles-esque qualifier, might have expected. "I think people are just wearing their influences more on their sleeves," says Pentland. "There's a reggae song and, like, a Bob Dylan song, and I've got a Jesus and Mary Chain type-thing and a psychedelically organ type-thing. For me personally, I wasn't interested in really writing rock songs for this record. I wanted to do something that kind of covered what I listen to now as opposed to when I was 16. Sometimes songwriters say, 'I really like that song by Brian Jonestown Massacre and I'm gonna rip it off, but I'm gonna do it with a little bit of The Stones, or whatever, or The Beatles or a little bit of Love and Rockets or The Cure ... I can work from that perspective.'" It's a refreshingly candid admission that may just make Pentland the most honest musician one has ever interviewed.

Genre-tripping aside, Parallel Play still sounds unmistakably like Sloan. Which is what, exactly? "I used to say it was the way we sing, the harmonies," says Pentland. "That was the Sloan sound." There's a bit less of that come-together spirit here, however: "This one was a weird one to make because we tried to make it quickly. Two of us have new kids, so we didn't have a lot of time. People would come in with finished ideas and music and basically just whip it off as quickly as possible. There wasn't a lot of cross-pollination among members. I didn't really know what the other guys were doing. I would just kind of do my stuff and go home."

Moral of the story for infighting bands out there? Leave each other the fuck alone.


Weekly Dig

Wednesday Events

ROCK
For all the disheveled punk charms of The Pink Spiders, subtlety, apparently isn’t one of them. (The band are currently in the midst of their “Tapped Kegs, Spread Legs and Fertilized Eggs Tour.”) Expect dates on The Warped Tour this summer as well. The bratty Nashville band have released a couple of sweaty power-pop minded records in the past couple years, including their breakout “Teenage Graffiti” with it’s raucous new wave hand clap rock on songs like “Little Razorblade.” New tracks from their forthcoming “Sweat It Out” keep the party going with a mix of coarse themes and beautiful harmonies. Kids of Cambridge say goodbye to your faces, because they may get rocked off tonight. 18+. 9 p.m. $10. TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. 617-492-2327. ttthebears.com

FATHER’S DAY
If your dad is anything like every other dad we know, he really likes two things: Baseball and, uh, sitting down. With that in mind, Exotic Flowers, the Faneuil Hall greenhouse, has got a gift idea for you with their custom made, hand-crafted Batbenches. Designed by former Yankee Ron Kittle (maybe don’t tell him that part), these Batbenches and Batchairs (sounds like Batman’s living room) can be made in a variety of themes, from the 2007 World Champions Red Sox bench, to Harley Davidson black and orange or Notre Dame gold and navy. They’ve also got a variety of Father’s Day flower arrangements and gift packages like the “Poker Night” set or the “Barcalounger Bouquet.” See? Dad’s love to sit. Exotic Flowers, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston. 617-247-2000. exoticflowers.com

FATHER’S DAY
Did we mention that dad’s like baseball? They also like history too. Both subjects come together in poster prints like this image of the 1914 World Series between the Boston Braves and Philadelphia Athletics played at a still under construction Fenway Park (the print is 7.5 x 24 costs $50 or can be framed for $110). I-concepts, an outfit that calls themselves “your window into Boston’s past” have got plenty of unique pictures from the city’s sports history including cute and odd stuff like Ted Williams lighting Babe Ruth's cigar as well as special moments from all the pro and college teams in the area. They hold a sale today. 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston. 781-237-2889. i-concepts.org

Boston Globe


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Val Emmich

"Get On With It"
Those cheekbones, the pillowy lips . . . sorry, where were we? Right, the music. Emmich straddles the line between the lovelorn heartthrobbing of his gorgeous debut, "Slow Down Kid," and mature piano-pop rock crooning on this track from his latest, "Little Daggers."

Hear it at valemmich.com.

Boston Globe

Tuesday Events

ROCK
Focusing the swirling textures of early Brit shoe gaze with a more pop rock oriented approach briefly brought Oxford’s Swervedriver to the forefront of a movement that included thematically similar bands like Ride and My Bloody Valentine in the early nineties. Songs like the title track from 1995’s “Ejector Seat Reservation” exhibited a musical depth and experimental sonic palate with lush vocals and easily identifiable hooks, but never helped the band achieve the cross-over appeal of many of their peers. The band, who’ve reunited for the first time in nearly a decade, may have been inspired by the interest in like-minded younger bands like Silversun Pickups and Longwave (the latter open tonight’s show). 18 +. 7 p.m. $20. The Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000. ticketmaster.com

MUSIC
With an extraordinarily packed line up of workshops, performances, competitions and seminars, Guitar Fest 2008 is a cross cultural and cross genre exploration of the beauty of the guitar in its many guises. Highlights include festival founder and director, Boston’s Eliot Fisk, one of the most accomplished and internationally acclaimed classical guitarists, conducting classes alongside guitar greats from around the world and performing with fellow virtuosos like Spain’s Angel Romero. The duo play a concert of Spanish music on Saturday at 8 p.m., highlighting the series’ larger theme of West Meets East (Occidente y Oriente). Through June 15. $210 all access pass, $80 day pass, individual shows $10-$20, students $8. New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-585-1100. bostonguitarfest.org

ICE CREAM
When you’re a kid you basically have two fantasies. One is to be able to eat all the ice cream you want, all the time, forever. The other is…well, no, that’s all there really is. The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, along with its great charity work, has been making that dream a reality for twenty six years now. This week they turn Boston City Hall Plaza into the biggest ice cream parlor in the world with over forty flavors to sample from the likes of Brigham’s, Breyers, Garelick Farms and more. Kids may have to run that all you can eat thing by their parents first, but if they ask, tell them we said it’s ok . Tuesday though Thursday. 11:30 a.m. - 7 p.m., 8 p.m. on Wednesday. $8 adults, $4 children 3-9. scooperbowl.org

SALON
We’d consider going to this event and getting our nails did, but we wouldn’t want any of the people working at the salon to keel over and die from horror at the state of our cuticles. On the other hand, we do really like drinking margaritas, so it’s a tough call. Tonight the manicure stylists at the Carriage House Salon & Spa indulge both your hands and your liver with their Manicures & Margaritas night featuring refreshing summer cocktails from the Border Café. Getting your cuticles pushed in probably goes by a lot smoother with a few drinks in you. Proceeds go to benefit the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. $25. Carriage House Salon & Spa, 33 Church St., Cambridge. 617-868-7800. carriagehousesalon.com

COCKTAILS
Surely in this tumultuous political season we can cast aside our differences for a moment and agree on one thing: drinking vodka. That’s the premise behind Svedka Vodka’s “Join The Party” campaign. (Their platform? “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happy Hour,” “Make Cocktails Not War”). They team up with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group MassEquality tonight for a party called “Swing Voters Do Have More Fun.” Sample Svedka’s Cosmopolitician, Dirty Delegate, and Swing Voter cocktails (the puns are endless, it seems), and at least for a little while try to forget how much we hate one another. Free. RSVP required. 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Vox Populi, 755 Boylston St., Boston. 617-424-8300. massachusetts.yda.org

BOOKS
Normally when we hear the same old “Follow your dreams kids! Never give up!” patter from celebrities and star athletes or whoever, it smacks of -- how do you say this delicately -- cow manure. But there’s something that rings true about W. Hodding Carter and his unending quest to become an elite swimmer. After failing to qualify for the Olympics year after year, the swimmer and author decided to pick his quest back up again at the age of forty two. His book “Off the Deep End: The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis - And Qualify for the Olympics” is the story of a man -- we hate to say it -- never giving up, and following his dreams. He reads tonight. 7 p.m. Free. Porter Square Books, 25 White St., Cambridge. 617-491-2220. portersquarebooks.com

JAZZ
To put it bluntly, the famed trumpeter Arturo Sandoval really, really blows. Over the years the Cuban born musician and Dizzy Gillespie protégé has performed with everyone from Sinatra and Paul Anka, to Kenny G, Gloria Estefan and Alicia Keys. Although he’s known largely for his Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz style, he’s also an accomplished classical musician and pianist as well, having performed with John Williams and the Boston Pops and orchestras around the world. Sandoval plays with the Pops tonight and tomorrow. 8 p.m. $19 - $87. Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. 617-266-1492. bso.org

Boston Globe


Monday, June 9, 2008

Gregor Samsa

GREGOR SAMSA
Rest
post-life post-rock
***1/2
You'd expect a band with a such literarily charged name to be comfortable with the concept of Metamorphosis. Although the transformative process the nine disarming and beguiling songs on Rest most readily call to mind is not some nightmare of helplessness, but rather the more mundane horror of a movement from life to death. It's no less compelling for its universality. Tracks like "The Adolescent" ring out like the doorbell of some celestial house in the clouds. Warm angelic harmonies spread out and dissolve like rays of light through an overcast sky, and a plangent piano line slows to the beat of a dying heart before the song devolves into an ambience of background conversation -- a welcoming embrace. It's a record firmly rooted in the post-rock tradition, but with little bombast to counter the moments of disquiet. Bells, violins and the skyward ascension of hypnotic synths are underscored by the taut bass knell of a stirring cello. If God is selling ads about a vacation in the afterlife, he might want to check into licensing the rights to this one. (The Kora Records; www.thekorarecords.com)

Alternative Press

Monday Events

ROCK
Whether it's The Police or The Clash or any of the countless bands that have followed in their wake, UK rock bands have always had a better knack for incorporating the rhythms and syncopated musical flourishes of reggae into their rock music than their American counterparts. Maybe it's the whole island nation thing. So it goes for The Kooks. On "Konk," the latest from the young Brighton act, they continue to impress with a collection of breezy acoustic rockers with just the right touch of up-beat and up-stroke reggae-tinged pop rock hybrids. They perform tonight. 18+. 7 p.m. $20. The Paradise, 969 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000. ticketmaster.com

STYLE
Getting your hair cut is never cheap anywhere these days, (except for the place we go, aka our bathroom sink). As for making an appointment on Newbury Street? You practically have to save up for a month. But today in honor of breast cancer awareness Avanti Salon owner Steven Iacobacci is offering a special complimentary haircut for women who have had, or have scheduled a mammogram in 2008. Not to be corny, but it's both a good opportunity to save a few bucks, and more importantly a reminder to get checked as it may save your life. Call to make an appointment (proof of test required). 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Avanti Salon, 11 Newbury St., Boston. 617-267-4027. avantisalonboston.com

SPORTS
We've heard a lot of good excuses for leveling the bureaucratic monstrosity of Government Center, but turning it into a gold course is a stroke of genius that had never occurred to us. This week you can experience the next best thing when Citizens Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland partner with the PGA to bring a series of golf challenges to the area. Watch the US Open on a big screen, try your skills on putting greens, or take a shot at the simulated 16th hole of the Torrey Pines South course (the same one the big guys are playing on this week). Closest to the pin wins a trip to the 2008 Ryder Cup and gets to meet Jack Nicklaus. Local golf pros will also be on hand to help you with your game (trust us, you need it). Monday through Friday. 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Free. Government Center, City Hall Plaza, Boston.

FOOD
Normally their mission is to direct funds and awareness to things like education, healthcare and youth development in the Dominican Republic, but tonight the nonprofit charitable group ODRI's (Organizacion Dominicana de Recursos Internacionales) mission is to bring you a Taste of the Dominican Republic. An evening of authentic food, music, drinks and dancing (with meringue lessons for the more clumsily inclined amongst us), this event should not only help expose the people of Boston to the culture of the Caribbean island nation, but also help direct aid back to the kids there who need it. 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. $75, $125 per couple. The Hampshire House, 84 Beacon St., Boston. 978-373-6070. odrimission.org/events

MUSIC
Time to change the strings on the old acoustic and polish off the vocal chords, kid, cause you're gonna be a star! Well, relatively speaking. Tonight's your chance to show off what you've got at the Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge. Unlike almost every other boring old open mic night everywhere else where all the performers grumble about how much better they are the other losers on stage, at this one you get to prove it. Twelve acts of up to three people get two songs each to win over the judges and move on to the final round. The winner gets cash and a chance to perform at the grand finalists show featuring all of the previous weeks' winners. Tonight's your last shot, so don't blow it. 21+. 7:30 p.m. $3. Lizard Lounge, 1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. myspace.com/lizardloungemonday

FOOD
Seems like there have been a lot of "Taste of…" events lately; practically one for every neighborhood around. We just threw a Taste of the Far Back Reaches of the Kitchen Cabinet party at our house. Pretty poor turnout. Expect many more delicacies to choose from on Thursday at the 4th Annual Taste of Fort Point Channel. We all know there are plenty of office buildings and artists lofts over there, but now you can get a better idea of all the great restaurants in the neighborhood. Take a long lunch break, you'll need it. 12 p.m. - 1: 30 p.m. Children's Wharf Park (between Congress Street and Seaport Boulevard. 617-439-7700. friendsoffortpointchannel.org/taste.html


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday Events

FASHION
Nice shirts, how do they handle blood stains?
Normally when we think about the department store Nordstrom, bloody violence doesn’t come to mind. Not unless there’s a big sale in the shoe department or something. But today Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Kenny Florian, a Mass native, is making an appearance at the store to promote his new line of athletic wear One More Round. Just to be sure you don’t make him angry you’d better walk out of there with a stack of t-shirts. 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. Nordstrom at Burlington Mall, 75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington. 781-345-7800. nordstrom.com

PRIDE
It’s Boston Pride Week, and that means a packed schedule of parties and events to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender awareness. But mostly it just means the parties. Things get cooking today with Pride Day at Faneuil Hall featuring performers from all over the genre map. Ballet Folklórico Monte Albán de Verónica Robles, a traditional Latin American dance troupe take over the outdoor marketplace at 12:30 p.m., Cheryl B. Engelhardt performs a set of her resounding, mellow piano pop at 3 p.m. and Gays for Patsy a country and western dancing group throw down at 4 p.m. Will and Grace star Leslie Jordan will serve as the celebrity marshal for the day. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston. 617-262-9405. bostonpride.org

SPORTS
Put me in coach
The thing they never really tell you when you’re playing football as a kid is that you are probably never going to get the opportunity to play again as an adult. So don’t be surprised if you see a conspicuously bearded “kid” standing on the field today when the New England Patriots host a free a football clinic. Former Pats greats Steve Grogan, John Smith and Max Lane will run us, er, them through a series of skills sessions, followed by an NFL punt, pass and kick competition. Experienced and first time players ages 12-14 are welcome. 1 p.m. Free. Boston English High School, 144 Mcbride St., Jamaica Plain. 617-635-4920. cityofboston.gov/bcyf

VAUDEVILLE
We’ve always thought Howard Stern’s show had a lot in common with old Vaudeville, at least in its healthy appreciation of the, um, eclectically talented and its freak show tendencies. Frequent Stern guest Red Peters, the foul-mouthed comedy crooner behind such sophisticated classics as “You Promised The Moon (But I Preferred Uranus)” and host of his own program on Stern’s Sirius Radio channel, shares an appreciation for the strange. Tonight he’s culled together a menagerie of performers for “Oddville, an Evening of Nu-Vaudeville.” Flamenco guitarists, classically trained violinists, yo-yo performers, “the human knot,” comedians, tap dancers and more. 8:30 p.m. $35 advance., $45 doors. Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St. Boston. 617-824-8000. maj.org

DINING
We didn’t even know that there were 125 different types of chocolate. We’ve really been missing out. Now in its 19th season, the all you can eat chocolate bar on Saturdays in the Langham hotel continues its exercise in gourmet over-indulgence with mousses, truffles, donuts, cakes, crepes, cotton candy and a lot more. If you find someone passed out with his face in a pool of fondue, kindly wake us up, thanks. 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. $35 adults,$17.50 children under 12. The Langham, 250 Franklin St., Boston. 617-451-1900. boston.langhamhotels.com/dining/restaurants_boston.htm

COUNTRY
We were starting to compile a complete list of country superstar Tim McGraw’s accolades, (40 million albums sold, three Grammy’s, twenty six number one singles on the Billboard Country chart) and we got depressed, so let’s just leave it at that. Ok fine, he’s also married to the Faith Hill, one of the most gorgeous women in the world, and he even turned in few good acting performances in films like “Friday Night Lights,” one of our favorites. In short, Tim McGraw is a big, fat jerk. He performs tonight at the WKLB Country Music Festival. 7:30 p.m. $25 - $55. Tweeter Center, 885 South Main St., Mansfield. 617-931-2000. ticketmaster.com

FOOD/ART
We’re sure there will be plenty of beautiful works of art and craft-making at the 30th Annual Coolidge Corner Arts Festival today. With artists from all over New England showing and selling their work in a variety of mediums from ceramics to photography, it’s sure to be a feast for the eyes. And soul, or whatever. But the real feast comes from the 1st Annual Brookline Food Festival. With sampling booths from neighborhood favorites like Finale, The Upper Crust, Paris Creperie, Lineage and more, it’s art that you can eat. Arts Festival 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Free. Food Festival 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. $2 tasting tickets. The Devotion School, 345 Harvard St., Brookline. coolidgecornerartsfestival.org

ROCK
Like the inimitable screen legend from which they take their name, MeandJOANCOLLINS guitarist and vocalist Jen Grygiel told us recently, “we will likely get married at least four or five more times in our career.” But, she says “it's not every day you get a full-blown wedding in a dingy rock club.” The gender bending rock outfit, which she calls “glam rock and girl group inspired Brit pop. Kinda like Jarvis Cocker and Blondie fighting over a prom date with Joan Collins,” declare their unending (for now anyway) love with a show tonight. 21+. 11:45 p.m. $8. Abbey Lounge, 3 Beacon St., Somerville. 617-354-2334. abbeylounge.com

ART
If the festival in Brookline today only whets your appetite for more art, then plan a trip tomorrow to the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park’s Art in the Park Festival and Art Sale. There will be live music all day, food from local shops like Dylan & Pete’s Ice Cream and Herrera’s Burritos and art activities for the family. Try your hand at t-shirt painting or making a yarn bug. If you need inspiration for your future masterpiece, the museum will be open as well, so stop in and see how the pros do it. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 51 Sandy Pond Rd., Lincoln. 781-259-8355.
decordova.org


Boston Globe

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Barcode: The Courtside

With the increasing popularity of video games like Rock Band, one worries about the state of the nation's karaoke bars. One of the most beloved singing haunts around, the Courtside in Inman Square, doesn't seem to be in any danger, however - though it's only a matter of time before they develop waitresses for the Xbox.

The Courtside is separated into two rooms: business in front, party in the back - a sort of mullet of neighborhood bars. One room is a traditional sports pub setup. The other is furnished in a basement birthday party chic with drop tile ceilings, well-worn carpets, and dangling Christmas lights. In other words it's karaoke nirvana - polish and sheen being the natural adversaries of the ramshackle karaoke spirit.

The room was packed and boisterous on a recent Thursday when we joined a group of regular-going friends. One, just back from a year in Italy, made this his first stop. A group of girls had just finished squawking their way through "Sweet Caroline."

"Karaoke was made for young women," owner John Alberts said the next day on the phone. "They love to sing, like they love to dance at weddings." And we're so thankful for that.

A romance-minded crooner eased his way into an earnest Justin Timberlake groove while rival kickball gangs fresh from a game carried on alongside drunk college kids sweating beer and enacting bizarre mating rituals.

Before long a biker chick in short-shorts mangled a Guns N' Roses song. We contemplated singing a song and trying to enjoy karaoke (or anything) for once in our lives. Instead we sipped our beer and let waves of other people's giddy excitement wash over us and, for a while anyway, reveled in the contact high.

The Courtside, 291 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-547-4374. courtsidekaraoke.com

Boston Globe

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Events

GALLERY
In works like “Therefore & Because,” (shown above) painter Norman Laliberté draws from a variety of ancient cultural traditions while incorporating a seemingly childlike sense of wonder. There’s also a heady disconnect between the mathematical jottings and primitive-style depictions of animals and symbols. There’ll certainly be plenty to unpack at the aptly named “Therefore & Because: Decoding Norman Laliberté” an exhibit of the artist’s work. An opening reception will be held tonight. 6 p.m. - 8:30 pm. Montserrat College of Art's Main Gallery, 23 Essex Street, Beverly. 978.921.4242. www.montserrat.edu/galleries

COMEDY
Whether it's Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert with politics, or Bill Maher with religion, it's common knowledge that, for some inexplicable reason, comedians are the only ones taking on the tough questions right now. Add the ever irascible Lewis Black to that list. The sometime "Daily Show" screamer Black has written a new book titled "Me of Little Faith" that rips into the hypocrisies and absurdities of religion with his trademark vitriol. He appears tonight 6 p.m. $5. The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-566-6660. brooklinebooksmith.com

IMPROV
"Food Banks are facing a serious food shortage due to the increase in food prices and increased demand for their services caused by the downturn in the economy," says comedian Allan Telio, explaining his improv troupe, Kitsch In Sync's decision to throw a benefit for the Greater Boston Food Bank. Tonight at "Haha's for Hunger", he says, you can expect games, musical interludes and scenes inspired by the audience. "Similiar to the show ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ he says, "Minus the annoying Drew Carey." 8 p.m. $10 adults, $7 students. $1 off admission with two canned goods. All Proceeds from the show will be donated to the Greater Boston Food Bank. Puppet Showplace Theatre, 32 Station St., Brookline. 617-731-6400. kitschinsync.org

JAZZ
“Frank has always been one of my main musical influences,“ explains jazz singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli. “I love the way he transforms himself from song to song.” Pizzarelli, whose latest record, “Dear Mr. Sinatra” is a collection of songs made popular by Ol‘ Blue Eyes seems to have really taken that advice to heart, transforming himself from one performer to the next on a series of tribute albums to Nat ‘King’ Cole, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Beatles and now Sinatra. Although to us Pizarelli will always be that guy from the Foxwoods commercial. He performs tonight and tomorrow. 8 p.m., 10 p.m. $35, $25 with Sinatra garb. Scullers Jazz Club, 400 Soldiers Field Rd, Boston. 617-562-4111. scullersjazz.com

WELLNESS
We didn't realize there was any art to living. We always sort of thought of life as more of a sport in which everyone loses. But apparently with this course in Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing technique, you can master the Art of Living! "Health, energy, and happiness," it seems, are all "only a breath away!" Tue – Fri, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Sat – Sun 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. $375, $200 students and seniors. South Shore Conservatory, 1 Conservatory Dr., Hingham. 781 740-1916. secure.artofliving.org

DINING
There are a lot of good reasons to check out the upscale Italian restaurant Sage in Boston's South End… like hunger, for example. Thirst also comes to mind. But they've gone and made it all the more tempting to stop by this summer with a series of daily promotions beginning this week. Mondays' "Lunedi Cinema" will feature screenings of classic Italian films like "Ladri di Biciclette" and "Il Postino" at 7 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. stop in after work for free antipasto bar snacks. And on Wednesdays enjoy a make your own sundae treat, with Italian style toppings. Squisito! Sage, 1396 Washington St., Boston. 617-248-8814. sageboston.com

THEATER
Calling it a “freely translated and adapted” version of Georges Feydeau's “Tailleur Pour Dames,” the French playwright’s 1889 farce, Shakespeare and Company‘s “The Ladies Man” by Charles Morey, and directed by Kevin Coleman, is set in turn of the century Paris, and concerns the titular smooth customer and his absurd, comical relationship with an overbearing mother in law and a jealous young wife. Sounds like something men everywhere can relate to. Except us, of course. 8 p.m. $30 - $54. Founders Theatre, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. 413-637-1199. shakespeare.org

DINING
Our ideal clam chowder has so much pepper and crackers mixed into it that the whole thing sort of congeals into a blackened paste. Where’s our award? Recipes of a bit more sophistication will presumably be on display tomorrow for the 27th annual Great Chowder Cook-Off. Chefs from around the country, like five time winner Newport’s hometown chowder hero Chef EJ Harvey, founder of the Nantucket Chowder Co., will compete for $10,000 in prizes in categories like Best Clam and Best Creative chowder. But mostly it’s the glory they‘re after. Thick, clammy glory. Saturday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. $20, Children under 12 free. Newport Yachting Center 401-846-1600. newportfestivals.com

BEER
We’re a little worried about what’s going to happen when our favorite local beer teams up with some of the best local bands at the Harpoon Summer Session tonight and tomorrow. Setting up rock bands near a brewery is like inviting a vampire into your house -- you’re basically powerless to stop the ensuing chaos. Anyway, highlights from the packed lineup include the sludgy metal power of Clouds and the twisted psych-rock of Passion Pit tonight, and the gorgeous dream-pop melancholy of Retrosleeper and the synthy dance rock of Campaign For Real Time tomorrow. Fri, 5:30 p.m. Sat, 4 p.m. 21+. $15. Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Ave., Boston. 888-427-7666. harpoonbrewery.com

Boston Globe

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pennywise

Pennywise earn a ‘Reason to Believe’

Veteran So Cal punk band take a licking and keep ticking

INTERVIEW. Even a stopped watch is right twice a day. Not that there's ever been anything broken with the music of Pennywise, a band who've haven't strayed far from the muscular and melodic Southern California punk style they helped to popularize in the early '90s. It's just that as styles in popular culture shift year in and year out, the band might themselves falling in and out of favor while they themselves remain true to their roots, says bassist Randy Bradbury. This definitely seems to be an up year for the band, who've just released their ninth studio album “Reason to Believe” on long time home Epitaph in conjunction with MySpace Records. Offered in the first two weeks for free on the social networking site, the band logged some 400,000 downloads. Metro caught up with Bradbury on the road from Myrtle Beach.

You just released the new album for free through MySpace. That seems to be the new business model that's going to make sense for bands.
Well, it's the new business model that music fans want… they want to go get their music for free. And the Internet has opened up so many possibilities for that to happen. So we're just embracing the inevitable. It's worked way better than we could have imagined. We've always said most importantly we want to get our music out there to as many people as we can… Anyone that can relate to our music and is into it, we want them to be able to hear it….You just have to accept it. You're not selling CDs, you're not making as much money, but you're still doing what you love. We're really pleased with it.

Will more kids be at a show singing the new songs now?
Yeah, an unexpected plus to this is we do have more kids at shows singing a long to the new songs where before they wouldn't have known them. The shows are packed… We have a really loyal following anyways. We don't want to take it for granted, we've always been lucky to have a packed house.

You guys are a pretty prolific band. Does songwriting come easy to you?
Sometimes it comes easy. We just finished this album, but I've already been writing songs. Every song that you might like at that moment, you don't know what the rest of the guys are gonna like. We have different ways of writing, we write as a band, then write as individuals and bring them together and add what we can to them. You never know what's gonna stick. To write 60 songs, we're lucky we got this many we agreed on to put on the album, because the percentage is pretty low! For me, anyway. I've written hundreds and ended up with a handful on our records.

That's a pretty low batting average.
Yeah, but it just strengthens what you put out there. You might have 25 pairs of pants - I don't have that many - but there's only one or two that you're gonna put on. You gotta have options.

What's changed the most about the band since you first started?
Not a lot changes with us. That's a complaint that some people say, but here's the thing: When I was growing up, I liked bands like The Damned. They were putting out great punk rock music, but then at some point they turned goth and got weird and added keyboards and stuff like that. I took it personally. I was like 'this is my favorite band and they're not doing what I like anymore!' … We get criticized that all our songs sound the same, but if you played our songs back to back you could hear that the songs are different. Our biggest changes now are in production… Also we've obviously gotten a little older, so we're more cognizant of world issues. The songs used to sort of friendship oriented, but now we're expanding into more world themes.

Did you ever envision such a long run?
I couldn't have envisioned any run actually. When I got in the band in 1995, I thought we probably had about three years, maybe. Punk started getting popular back then, with bands like Green Day and The Offspring that were taking off. But nothing lasts. You can't have a scene that lasts for 15 years or more.

Apparently you can. What is it about the So Cal punk style that continues to resonate with kids everywhere?
We just play from the heart. We don't try to follow trends. And by doing that I think we connect with a core audience that relates to that. Not to be cliché, but if you're not faking it and being true to yourself, you're gonna have people that you can keep around for a long time. If you're just a fair-weather band that's just going along with the trends you're only gonna be popular till that trend is over. You never know though. But as long as I've got ears to hear and fingers to play my bass with, I'm gonna do this until I can't anymore. But I think there's gonna be someone there to come watch us play because we want to do it. But you know, the numbers go up and down. You're a little more popular one year, a little less the next. It's not really important.

You're playing the WBCN River Rave here. Do you like these radio festival type shows?
Radio has changed their style. We haven't changed ours. And they choose to play our music. And what that does, is it just exposes our music to more people … It's a different vibe. It's not like a sweaty club show. That's so much fun to do, but you get used to them. We have a great time at these shows. You've still got Pennywise fans in the audience, but it's a sign of the times that shows how far punk rock has come. Instead of punk rock changing and falling apart and doing something else, it pretty much has changed the landscape of music, where even corporate radio stations want to play it. It's kind of like a victory.

Boston Metro

Lansdowne

Combat rock

Lansdowne prepare to hit maximum effective range

INTERVIEW. Like the street with which they share a name, the band Lansdowne is an offbeat mix of underground style with big commercial ambitions. Not quite scruffy enough to be Bill’s Bar, but not yet Avalon either. Although with the type of giant breast-beating pop anthems they write, one imagines they have their eyes set on a Fenway-sized fan base. “I think we’re right in the middle, we’re more Axis,” says singer Jon Ricci. “It’s more of an all ages sound.” His band’s music certainly sets the stage for bigger things. On songs like “I’ll See You Again,” the extraordinarily earnest support-our-troops anthem they wrote for military personnel in the Middle East, Ricci plucks ripe, dangling melodic fruits from a flowering emo tree, hurling them like lovelorn missives into the crowd.

You have a polished commercial sound. Is that pop rock radio vibe what you’re going for?
I don’t know that we set out to do that, but it’s usually where it ends up. ... The drummer is from a hard rock band, and the bassist and guitarist came from screamo hard core bands ... This is my first band, so I was bringing in “oh, I listen to the radio!”

Have you been flying under the radar? I’d never heard of you until recently.
I’m kind of glad it wasn’t like “oh, look at this buzz band!” We took two years to get to where we are. We’ve definitely grown as band members, like a band of brothers. Now we have the foundation to leverage all the new stuff that’s coming at us.

What’s the deal with this whole military thing?
We were chosen to do a two week tour of the Middle East over the holidays. We did that with Armed Forces Entertainment. We did shows in Kurdistan, Afghanistan and Kuwait. We did a bunch of different bases. It was very heartwarming, and pretty incredible. We were honored to be there. One of my favorite moments [was when] a solider came up to me, this big brazen, weathered looking guy came up to me and said “Thank you so much. For an hour it felt like we were home again.” That’s kind of the impact we were going for. One of our goals is to make sure these guys don’t feel forgotten. It’s OK to give a little back to the people that are giving everything, sacrificing for your freedoms.

Boston Metro


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head

"Me Plus Yr Daughter"

A near perfect pastiche of kitschy 80's synth bass, Depeche Mode style keyboards, razor sharp disco guitar, handclaps and a sweaty, sexy chorus that's both ironic and surprisingly sincere, this electro party jam is the soundtrack to taking cell phone photos of yourself in the mirror.

myspace.com/natalieportmansshavedhead

Boston Globe

Tuesday Events

GALLERY
Everyone has to start somewhere. In that regard legendary art icons are just like us. Except for the genius and talent part. With "Andy Warhol, Early Work" you'll get a glimpse into some of Warhol's earlier experiments with reproduction, repetition and the transformation of the mundane into "art." Warhol once said "I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning." With many of these works it seems the exact opposite is true. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tue - Fri. 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Sat. Ends June 15. The Robert Lehman Art Center at Brooks School, 1160 Great Pond Ave., North Andover. 978-725-6232. lehmanartcenter.org

CLASSICAL
Until recently, some of you may have only known the name Leonard Bernstein as the only two words you could decipher in REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)." (OK, by some of you we mean us). But Bernstein was one of the most renowned American composers of the last century. The longtime music director of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein is perhaps best known for composing such beloved works as "West Side Story." Tonight the Boston Pops continues its series of concerts honoring the 90th anniversary of Bernstein's' birth. 8 p.m. $19.00 - $87.00. Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. 617.266.1492. bso.org

ROCK
Determined to beat the long odds stacked against them by an indifferent music industry, little known rockers T exploded out of nowhere in 2006 with "Steady as She Goes", a pop-minded garage rock hit. Score one for the little guys! The band's latest, "Consolers of the Lonely" continues apace with blistering guitar heroics on songs like "Salute Your Solution" and retro-leaning piano psychedelics like "The Switch and the Spur." Tonight the band perform… Wait a minute. Turns out the Raconteurs front man Jack White is in the White Stripes too… Ignore most of the above. 8 p.m. $25 - $35. Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave., Boston. 617-931-2000. ticketmaster.com

FILM
Now in it's 11th season, the Newport International Film Festival kicks off today. With over 100 screenings, including a number of US and international premiers, and a packed schedule of appearances and q+a's by the filmmakers themselves, there's something on tap for cineastes of all kinds. Some of the highlights include the documentary "Man On Wire," winner of the Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, about a death-defying high wire act between the World Trade Center towers in New York in 1974, and "The Wackness," with Ben Kingsley as a psychiatrist who forms a quirky relationship with a young pot dealing neighborhood kid. newportfilmfestival.com

CHARITY/SHOPPING
There's a really simple, and rather ingenious, plan at work on the website BiddingForGood. They take things you were probably already going to buy anyway and give the proceeds to a partner local charity. Everyone wins. "All of the proceeds for items sold go to support the particular charity," says Helen Stefan, of cMarket, the company behind the site. "So when someone buys field level tickets to the Red Sox, or theater tickets or dining certificates, they are helping to support cancer research, education, homelessness, animal welfare etc…" Right now you can bid on everything from a chance for your kids to work with the ball boys at a Celtics game, to a makeover from a celebrity stylist. Get shopping! biddingforgood.com

FASHION
Food and clothing come together on an evening for fashion plates (see what we did there?) when Da Vinci Ristorante holds a fashion show tonight featuring summer styles from Stil. Stil, the eccentric and funky local boutique specializes in Scandinavian designers (like the work of the Danish Charlotte Eskildsen, pictured). Start the night off with complimentary Prosecco on Da Vinci's patio, then head inside for a three course, wine-paired Italian dinner ($50). Although with so many models around, you probably won't want to eat too much. A silent auction to benefit the low income housing charity Rogerson Communities will be held in conjunction. 6 p.m. Da Vinci Ristorante, 162 Columbus Ave., Boston. 617-350-0007. davinciboston.com

Boston Globe