Saturday, May 28, 2016

Three days left to help make John D. Nilles' local genre-bending film Saving for the Day

Posted By on Sat, May 28, 2016 at 4:39 PM

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The idea behind Saving for the Day reminds me a little bit of a mix between A Christmas Carol, The Cloud Atlas And a “Twilight Zone” episode. Joe Bell, a penny-pinching hermit is saving and saving for when his life really begins. An old man known as The Clockmaker gives Joe a chest filled with treasure. When The Clockmaker locks the chest, Joe must go on a series of adventure to find the key.

Missoula director John D. Nilles has put in a lot of work for all the genre-hopping scenes. He also put together an all-star cast that includes local favorites Lily Gladstone, Jeff Medley, Nathan McTague, Christan Ackerman, James Caron and Andy Shirtliff. Today at Miscon, Nilles and Ackerman hosted an “American Zombie Idol” event in which they searched for a zombie star to complete the movie. Grand prize gets a hero zombie role and the second prize gets a background zombie role. Tomorrow, you can catch Nilles and Ackerman on an independent film panel for which they'll talk about movie-making tips, show clips from the film and participate in a Q&A. Sun. 3 to 3:50 pm.

The film is still raising funds for final shooting and post-production. You can check out the project and help fund it. They have three days to raise another $20,000. Rewards include DVDs, T-shirts and the chance to be a background zombie.
Check out the trailer here:


About Last Night: Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats at the Wilma

Posted By on Sat, May 28, 2016 at 4:21 PM

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Photos fromThursday's Yeasayer show at the Wilma

Posted By on Sat, May 28, 2016 at 3:22 PM

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Friday, May 20, 2016

American music: A review of the Violent Femmes show at the Wilma

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 12:56 PM

PHOTOS BY AMY DONOVAN
  • Photos by Amy Donovan

The Violent Femmes played the University Theater in April 1992—a big show back then, especially for the punk and "alt-rock" scene. Afterward, co-founder of and writer for the Indy Erik Cushman wrote what appears to be a fierce—and kind of hilarious—defense of the show against a negative review from UM's Kaiman:

"Sophistry, the ignoble art of specious reasoning being passed off as truth, depends completely on style and presentation for its plausibility. Hack editorializing, bumbled logic, crass misrepresentation and grievous factual errors undermine the intent of the lie…The Truth is that the Violent Femmes show in the University Theatre last Sunday night was a wonderful success … The acoustics were clear and sharp, the ambiance ranged from subtle backdrop to rowdy rock n roll light show... plenty of different age groups grooved together. There were slam dancers in the pit … the band members were sincerely happy to be in Missoula."

My recollection of the show is the same as Cushman's—it was electric. But, more importantly, I think his words reflect the kind of rabid, adoring fans the Violent Femmes have collected and kept over the years. Even at the 1992 show, the crowd was singing along. The fact that their return to Missoula last night—24 years later—for a sold-out show at the Wilma also included an equally exuberant audience says something about this band's cult power. Some of those songs I'd heard more recently—"Add it Up" and "Blister in the Sun"—but I hadn't heard "American Music" or "Kiss Off" in at least a decade, and I still knew the words:

"I take one one one cause you left me and
Two two two for my family and
Three three three for my heartache and
Four four four for my headaches and
Five five five for my lonely…" 

Let's start at the beginning. Opener Phoebe Bridgers stumbled over a Guided By Voices song before scrapping it for one of her originals. It would have been fun to hear some GBV, but fortunately her songs are amazing enough. Bridgers is a stellar singer, and once she got into the groove she had the audience's affection. "This is a love song about murder," she said smiling, introducing "Killer." Her sound evokes Bright Eyes and Whiskeytown, so it's no surprise she recently recorded on Ryan Adams' label, Pax-Am.

After her set, stagehands started hoisting instruments to the stage. My friends and I, one of whom had also been to the 1992 show, started counting. We saw 18 instruments up there, including a giant 7-foot-tall contrabass saxophone, several guitars, a xylophone and a Weber grill. Throughout the show, we'd see more—percussion instruments, a tiny guitar and a tiny saxophone—and it seemed like we lost count past 22. Some of the instruments were used only once, in one part of a song. That's how the Violent Femmes roll—they're weird like that.

Singer/guitarist Gordon Gano and bassist Brian Ritchie are the only original members, though John Sparrow hit the drums like he'd been playing with the band for years and not just months. For one song, I can't remember which one, his drumming style was a dead-ringer for Gene Krupa. 

The set-list was built for crowd-pleasing. The band started out with "Blister in the Sun" and ended their encore with "Add it Up," and everything in between jumped from old favorites to a few new ones. A couple of their newest tunes—"I Could Be Anything" and "Traveling Solves Everything"—felt more like something you'd find on KUFM's the Pea Green Boat, and with much less interesting lyrics than those children's songs. But others, like "Issues," which Ritchie claimed they'd just shot a video for in the dressing room of the Wilma, felt like old-school Femmes—loopy and a little dark. 

Just like years ago, the band did, in fact, seem happy to be there. At one point, they false started a song and Gano said with genuine awe, "I don't even remember the last time that happened." To which Ritchie replied, "I think we're getting a contact high up here."

The crowd, probably averaging 40-something, still seemed as bizarre as a Femmes crowd has always been. The mosh pit, featuring two or three mohawks, really got going during "Gimme the Car," a bonus track I'd forgotten about from the band's 1983 eponymous debut album. 
Gano's voice hasn't changed a bit, it's still nasally and whiny (in a good way), but I'd forgotten how rad Ritchie is on his big bass. He thumped and plucked brazenly, peacocking around on stage in a swagger. And his xylophone solo on "Add It Up"? Butter. What made them good is that they didn't change a thing. The only exception was the young horn player, Blaise Garza, who was two-years-old in 1992, but nevertheless had grown up to embrace the Femmes particular brand of dark folk-punk. It was a night of delirious sing-a-long fun. 

I'm not sure if the Femmes are just a beloved artifact of the early 1990s for those of us who were there, or if they are timeless. Whatever the case, the streets outside after the show were full of happy, sweaty people still singing, "Why can't I get just one kiss? Why can't I get just one kiss." And since then, those contagious lines haven't left my head.

Photographer Amy Donovan was in the crowd. Check out her photos of Phoebe Bridgers and Violent Femmes here:
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PHOTOS BY AMY DONOVAN
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Let the Clueless Hear Candy #1: Ira Ironstrings - Music for People with $3.98 (Plus Tax, If Any)

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 10:24 AM

Every month, I pick a record from Ear Candy’s used section based on the cover alone. Some audiophiles refer to this practice as “Johnny’s Chancers.” I then review the record. This is Let the Clueless Hear Candy.


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Friday, May 13, 2016

Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" airs some familiar Montana people, places on Sunday

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 12:34 PM

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Anthony Bourdain's award-winning CNN travel show, "Parts Unknown," traveled to Butte, Livingston and some surrounding areas late last year. That episode, which also features some of the last footage of author and poet Jim Harrison, premieres Sunday night. 

Bourdain has long been a fan of Harrison — and, by extension, Montana. His previous show, "No Reservations," visited the state about seven years ago and remains in reruns a worthy love letter to Big Sky Country. This weekend's episode looks to be more of the same, if not even more special considering Harrison's recent death. 

"You may be the most cynical, born and bred, citified lefty like me — instinctively skeptical of big concepts like 'patriotism', relatively foreign to hunting culture, unused to wide open spaces, but spend any length of time traveling around Montana and you will understand what all that 'purple mountains majesty' is all about, you’ll soon be wrapping yourself in the flag and yelling, 'America, fuck yeah!' with an absolute and non-ironic sincerity that will take you by surprise," Bourdain wrote in advance of the episode. "You will understand why and what people fought and died for — or at least perceived themselves to be fighting and dying for when, either defending Native American hunting grounds against Custer, or 'defending America' against foreign aggressors — and you will be stunned, stunned and silenced by the breathtaking, magnificent beauty of Montana’s wide open spaces."

He goes on — "And when you look up at the night skies over Montana, it’s hard not to think that we can’t be alone on this rock, that there isn’t something else out there or up there, in charge of this whole crazy ass enterprise." — before ending up writing about the one thing that's always been, for him, one of Montana's main attractions. 

We show you a lot of beautiful spaces and very nice people in this episode, but its beating heart, and the principal reason I’ve always come to Montana is Jim Harrison, the poet, author and great American-a hero of mine — and millions of others around the world.

Harrison — and his fishing guide, Dan Lahren, who spoke with the Indy after his friend passed away — feature prominently in the episode. You can see a short clip below. It airs in Montana at 7 p.m. on Sunday night, and re-airs again at 10 p.m. In the meantime, it's worth reading his full essay about Harrison and Montana right here



About last night: Turkuaz at the Top Hat

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 12:31 PM

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Turkuaz's Dave Brandwein talks modern funk, King Arthur and digital madness

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 11:48 AM

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Brooklyn “powerfunk” band Turkuaz takes a modern approach to classic funk sound.
They have a few songs titles that seem apt to the genre—“Doktor Jazz,” for instance—but also unexpected titles such as “European Festivity Nightmare” and “Murder Face.” The 9-piece band tours constantly and has already been through Missoula twice. In anticipation of their return to the Top Hat tonight, we spoke with frontman Dave Brandwein about the modern funk band's style.

Tell me about how Digitonium is different from your other albums.
Dave Brandwein: It was an attempt to go for a more futuristic funk kind of hi-fi digital sound, and it’s a lot more synth-y than what we’d done. In the past, we were more organic or even more ’60s and ’70s-style funk. Digitonium is more of the 1980s-style funk with a futuristic twist on it. I borrowed the word from the movie The Sword and the Stone, actually. I thought it was such a curious word to be in this old cartoon from the ’60s about midievil times—it sounds so futuristic to me—so we kind of used that as concept to build the album around.
We also went into the studio without most of the material written this time around, which is a unique experience for us that yielded awesome results. We were able to write while we were recording, which made for keeping things really fresh and exciting and collaborative. It was definitely a new experience and our favorite one yet.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
DB: I personally grew up listening to mostly classic rock: Stones, Beatles, Floyd, Zeppelin—things like that. And I kind of transitioned into some Steely Dan and some jazz and then came out the other end on the funk spectrum. But there being nine people in the band, so if you asked each person, they would have their own very different set of answers, which is one of the perks of having a large band. There are so many influences coming together, different sensibilities, different musical backgrounds that all contribute to the sound. But I think my classic rock influences our lyrics and vocals, which makes it different than a lot of funk.

Yeah, a lot of funk is purely feel-good music. It’s just about dancing. But your songs actually have some underlying tension and storylines.
DB: That’s part of the thing I like. For James Brown it made sense. He was inventing and cultivating a new style of music and he wanted to talk about the funk and the groove. But for us it seems a little disingenuous to do that, so I try to get creative and more abstract with lyrical ideas, make more story lines and reference things that actually happened to us in our lives. I like to let the music speak for itself and the lyrics say something totally different.

What’s “Lift it Up” about?
DB: Like I mentioned, the title, Digitonium, is borrowed form The Sword and the Stone and, actually, if you look at the lyrics throughout a lot of the record it’s pretty topical to that movie and the legend of King Arthur. That theme continues throughout the album. That song is sort of about finding who the future king is. It’s about the old king dying and about who can lift the sword out of the ground, basically.

Is that a metaphor or are you just into the story of King Arthur?
DB: We actually created a metaphor for Digitonium and how it sounds like a future word. I created this world referred to as “Computer World”—pretty blatant to our times, obviously—and so you see Computer World throughout the record, too. It’s an analogy to our modern struggle, like the idea of lifting the sword and being able to break the code and discover your own personality and reality amongst all this digital madness that surrounds us. And it goes along with the more literal King Arthur legend that’s described throughout the album. And of course a good amount of the album is just pure nonsense, as well. Not every word means something.

What do you think about the digital madness right now?
DB: The world is changing and that’s hard. I find myself a slave to it sometimes, not taking in what’s around me and forgetting to have the kind of experiences that I remember when I was kid, before everyone looked at their phones all the time and everything was about social media. I remember when people would actually have to call each other and be on time and learn how to break awkward silences. That doesn’t happen any more. I think getting back to that human interaction is an important thing. I don’t always succeed, but I try to remind myself everyday.

What’s the origin story of Turkuaz?
DB: Most of us met at school in Boston, at Berklee [College of Music], and then moved to Brooklyn shortly after and formed the existing lineup that we have now. We started touring in 2012, doing about 180 shows a year. And we’ve been doing that ever since. Being on the road over 200 days a year, we’ve become a tight bunch. All of us are really good friends.

With so much touring, can you narrow down some of your favorite shows?
DB: It’s always fun for us to play Brooklyn Bowl, which is kind of our home venue. We just did a three night run there to kick off this tour. We sold out Friday and Saturday and that send off was really amazing. We had some great festivals we’ve done over the years—High Sierra Music Festival in California and the Catskill Chill Festival in upstate New York where we did some really cool cover sets, like Sly and the Family Stone and Studio 54. Honestly, we’ve had great shows at the Top Hat. We’ve been there twice and each time has been really awesome.

You do a lot with costumes and choreography, too, right?
DB: Each band member has their own designated color and that manifests itself in the form of a few different outfits. We have suits, members-only jackets, jumpsuits and sometimes we’ll just wear T-shirts and jeans if we’re feeling a little more casual. But it’s always color coordinated. There’s definitely some stage choreography as well. A lot of the choreography happens because one person does something and we all get into it. We don’t have a choreographer or specifically rehearse a lot of stuff. It’s a pretty organic thing. It comes out of having fun. And that’s what happens. Andbecause of the color and choreography I’d say the shows are equally visual as they are a sonic experience.
Turkuaz plays the Top Hat Thu., May 12, along with The 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Photos from Saturday night's Dead Winter Carpenters and Local Yokel show at the Top Hat

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 6:19 PM

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Photos from Saturday night's Death Cab for Cutie concert at the Adams Center

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 6:18 PM

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