The stretch of highway from the Nashville airport to Manchester, Tennessee — which, if you’ve ever, even once, even accidentally, heard a Phish song, you might recognize as the home of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — is, for the most part, as standard as they come. There are a couple of deviations: for one, instead of just your regular McDonald’s and Burger Kings, roadside Krystals and Chick-fil-As beckon as well. Oh, also: Say you think, at first, you’re listening to a radio station that’s soberly analyzing Middle Eastern geopolitics. What you’re actually hearing, it turns out, is a conversation about whether or not recent clashes in Damascus mean the biblically prophesied end of days are nigh. And they will break out the appropriate Book of Revelation verses to compare and contrast. Welcome to the South!
Before I actually arrive at the campgrounds, I get a phone call from a Bonnaroo rep: Would I like to check out rehearsals for a Superjam? If the term sounds familiar, it might be thanks to one of last year’s iterations, when Questlove lured beautiful recluse D’Angelo onto the Bonnaroo stage for an instantly legendary set of Hendrix and Zeppelin cuts. This year, Bonnaroo has put together its first hip-hop Superjam. On hand will be: RZA, Solange, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Schoolboy Q, Pharrell’s partner in crime Chad Hugo, and, serving as the spine of the operation, the long-serving funk band Lettuce. Of course, I answer "yes" immediately, turn the car back toward Nashville, and find — tucked between Civil War–era Fort Negley and the local Dianetics Center (“How does Scientology work? Come in and find out!”) — SIR Studios.
For its first two and a half days, the story at this weekend's Governors Ball was the weather. The New York festival, now in its third year, is the latest in the apparently never-ending string of events attempting to blossom into the East Coast Coachella. And while that sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea in theory, events on the ground generally conspire against us. And by "events on the ground" I mean it always rains, and it sucks. On Friday, things got so bad that Governors actually had to cut off the night early, choking the East River with waves of ferries chock full of would-be revelers — many clad in not much more than cut-off shorts, tank tops, ceremonial Indian headdresses, and a thin, nearly imperceptible layer of MDMA — angrily tweeting. I wasn't there, but the rain was torrential all night: In a different part of the city I witnessed an umbrella snap in half, then be spun into a fierce little mini-cyclone. Tragically, no one was quick enough to Vine it.
But by the next day the rains died down, and on Saturday and Sunday the event actually went off as planned — only, gorgeously, with every last stalk of grass on Randall's Island having been mulched into treacherous layers of thick, oozy mud. It wasn't exactly what the organizers had dreamed up (the Port-a-Potty zones were a particularly hellish kind of quicksand), but at least they stuck it out. Basically: We got to see Kanye last night, so all is good in the world.
Two months ago, I sat in a crowded banquet hall in Austin, Texas, as TMZ founder, managing editor, and TMZ on TV host Harvey Levin gave an impassioned, highly charismatic, completely unapologetic keynote about the invasive empire that he has steadily built since 2005. In the talk, aside from his speech and a few hints of what the future held (a TMZ Bus Tour in NYC), the standout takeaway was the demographic taking the microphone to ask Harvey very specific questions about TMZ. More often than not they were middle-aged women, probably in their late forties or early fifties. And with each question, there was a definite mix of delight in how little they knew (comparatively speaking) about the Internet, and genuine curiosity about what was happening within the pop culture landscape. It was a nice reminder that not everyone spends their entire day refreshing Twitter. Or having Twitter. Or knowing what Twitter is.
Two months later, however, TMZ made its way back into my life. Yesterday morning, I was confronted with one detail that I'd glossed over from Levin's March discussion.
If my understanding is correct, the phenomenon known as "TV Upfronts" are the time for networks to show off their success — compared to the competitors — as well as highlight all the great things that the future holds for said channel. Is that right, resident expert?
"Seems about right. Also, open bars. And Kanye concerts."
—Andy Greenwald, Grantland TV Critic
"Staging a Kanye West concert" was the way Cartoon Network holding Adult Swim showed off at their upfront, held last night in Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom.
While it was a good show, and every bit the spectacle that was expected (expectacle?), in retrospect it was an appropriate venue to highlight the full range of emotions, reactions, and realizations that a Kanye West fan goes through at a Kanye West show.
There is plenty of time to discuss Lil B's mystique, but first I have to address his shoes. See, Lil B has worn the same pair of Vans for too many years, and as such, his Vans have an impossible patina, like shoes you’d find on a rescue mission airboating through the Everglades. The toe box (or lack thereof) is barely holding onto its integrity. The outer canvas fabric has long since worn away, leaving only a thin strip of the inner fabric to maintain the guise of close-toed shoes. It’s truly a modern marvel. The Bay Area rapper has famously said he won’t stop wearing the shoes until he makes a million dollars. Lil B is nothing if not committed. And his unwavering conviction over the years, along with his quest to share his convictions with anyone willing to listen, is how he was able to command a legion of passionate followers to the Observatory, a quaint theater tucked inside an industrial park in Santa Ana, California.
Tomorrow, it'll be a year to the day that Adam Yauch passed away. This morning, at a park in Brooklyn just blocks from where Yauch grew up, his family and friends honored him in a very special way. The former Palmetto Playground — a tiny little slice of green tucked away from the honking trucks and screeching traffic of the BQE — will now, and forevermore, be known as Adam Yauch Park.
The ceremony took place at 11 a.m. this morning, with Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Yauch's parents in attendance. A program was handed out, which explained that Yauch "grew up in Brooklyn Heights, on State Street, and learned to ride a bicycle in this park that will now bear his name."
Last night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, better known as the people who give out the Oscars, hosted a cast reunion and screening of Wayne’s World. The official reason was to commemorate the movie’s 21st anniversary, which means that it’s now legally allowed to party. The subtext of the event, however, was that there isn’t any more resentment between the key players of this comedy classic.
Dreams grow big in Hollywood, but fall as quickly and easily as bowling pins. So it was on Monday afternoon when I decided to give a shot to my childhood fantasy of becoming a Universal Studios tour guide.
The call came Saturday afternoon, when Grantland editor Mark Lisanti forwarded me the announcement for an open casting call for guides. I looked at the information and took a deep breath before informing him that, yes, I would do this. With one caveat, however. This was to be no stunt report. If I got the job — when I got the job — I would kiss the fetid ranks of journalism good-bye forever and go off to fulfill my glamorous destiny: introducing tram-loads of tourists to the wonder of moviemaking.
It was May 2004. My closest childhood friend was graduating from high school in Montclair, New Jersey, and my mother and I made the trip up from Atlanta to watch him walk across the stage. It was my first trip up north, and I was excited but nervous. After the ceremony, picture-taking, and some family time, it became clear I was tagging along with Dean, the graduate, for the requisite postgraduation party.
While no stranger to a high school Bacardi Limón grinding session, the scene at this Jersey rager was markedly different from the ones I'd grown accustomed to back home. It was spring 2004 after all, and in Atlanta that meant one thing: the all-out radio assault of singles from the legendary The King of Crunk & BME Recordings Present: Trillville & Lil Scrappy. Between the Trillville side ("Neva Eva," "Get Some Crunk in Yo System," "Some Cut") and the Lil Scrappy side ("Head Bussa," "No Problem," "F.I.L.A. (Forever I Love Atlanta)"), one album managed to supply the entire soundtrack for the first quarter of the year.
These were not the songs played in Montclair that night.
On February 26, Roots drummer/Late Night with Jimmy Fallon point forward/NYU adjunct professor/self-anointed music snob Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson sent a cryptic tweet of "major" things to come on March 4.
something"s gonna happen major in about 6 days. Warning you now. you'll have like 3 mins to swipe CC. id follow @brooklynbowl if i were u.
"The melancholy of the blues and the immediacy of jazz his characters are hard-hearted and hardheaded, so I thought Women can do that." That was how critic and curator of the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series Elvis Mitchell wryly described David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross before introducing the conceit of last night's Live Read. Mamet's terse, rhythmic story tracks four real estate salesmen (and scam artists) desperately working through the night on the eve of a robbery. The Live Read, a semi-regular event at LACMA, is a quiet, clever, only-in-L.A. happening where the city's access to celebrity and artists is actually used for good. Here's the layout: Typically, Film Independent's artist-in-residence and director, Jason Reitman, reads the stage direction, a screen behind the cast projects scenes from the movie but with the characters erased from the mise-en-scčne, and the cast simply read from scripts placed in front of them on easels. Mitchell's idea, shepherded and executed by Reitman, was to subvert the sulking machismo and grandiloquent gutter talk of Mamet's characters with a gender swap. It basically worked in that way, but mostly because the cast Reitman assembled was a shockingly accurate rebuttal to the 1992 film adaptation directed by James Foley. Here was the lineup:
Since 2009, Grill ’Em All has been the dark lord of the Los Angeles gourmet food truck world. On January 19, they put their last truck on hiatus and opened a 50-seat restaurant nicknamed "Valhalla" in the Edwards Cinema Plaza in downtown Alhambra, the first non-mobile location to serve their heavy-metal hamburgers. Grill ’Em All is next to the Applebee’s, and two storefronts down from the Menchie’s frozen yogurtorium; to get a better sense of how it fits in with its new neighbors, know that on a recent Wednesday afternoon, the plaza-facing speakers at Applebee’s were playing “Best of You” by the Foo Fighters, while Menchie’s was piping out Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” At Grill ’Em All, it was “Into the Coven” from Mercyful Fate’s theatrically demonic debut, Melissa.
Waiting inside was Bobb Bruno, one half of the band Best Coast and an aficionado of both metal and L.A. gutbuster cuisine. He was dressed in his customary all-black wardrobe, his facial hair reliably wispy. Bruno’s been around the Los Angeles music scene for almost two decades — playing in and recording bands, and previously working as an assistant to producer/performer/film composer Jon Brion. There was a period last decade where Bruno would perform solo shows on a Roland SPD-S sampling drum pad while wearing a white bunny costume with a cartoonishly oversized head that he got at a department store in Japan.
When I got to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last night just minutes before showtime, the theater was nearly full. Every unoccupied seat was marked with a bag or coat, and for a few minutes, I thought I’d being spending my evening propped against the back wall. The crowd was here for the final installment in a series of immensely popular live reads organized by director Jason Reitman, of Up in the Air and Juno fame, and tonight’s film of choice was Ghostbusters, which just so happened to be directed by Reitman’s father, Ivan, so the fact that I thought I’d just roll in and plop down was probably my own fault. Eventually, though, I found a seat in the back row, and the lights went down, and everything was fine.
After a brief introduction, Reitman was the first one onstage, and the jokes about not fucking up his inheritance began. “Everyone wanted to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween,” he said. “But I was the only one with a real Ghostbusters gun.”
Lately I’ve been obsessed with the fact that in the next 10 years, a generation of iconic musical artists will either die off or be physically incapable of performing regularly. Like global warming, the end of classic rock as we know it seems obvious and yet too abstract to fully grasp. Mick Jagger’s waistline appears to be melting at an alarmingly accelerated rate, but what does this mean for us as a society? What impact will the decay of an industry, a way of life, a shared history, have on our future? It’s impossible to know for certain. All we can do is try to appreciate the fascinating changes that have been wrought on the entertainment climate in the meantime.
This is what brought me to my sisters’ former high school last Saturday night for a concert by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
"Do you have," the mother of two girls sitting next to me asks, while gesturing her hand vaguely forward, "kids there?"
"Huh?," I ask, a beer in one hand, a white-Cheddar bratwurst in the other.
"What ..." She pauses, then asks what she meant to ask in the first place — "What are you doing here?"
A bit hostile, maybe, but a fair question: I’m at the Barclays Center for last night's Justin Bieber concert, alone — well, temporarily, while my buddy finishes shooting photos; I don't quite have the stones to see Justin Bieber totally solo — and I have been avoiding eye contact so as to not accidentally creep anyone out, and so I get why this lady is now vetting me as a possible threat to her offspring. When I explain that I'm a "professional" doing a "job" she eases up, and by the time my buddy shows up she's downright chatty. She doesn't even really like Justin Bieber, she says, but her kids are obsessed. Don't get her wrong, she loves pop music, she just prefers One Direction. They're more melodic. Do I like Justin Bieber?