Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pro Run Ep 6: Attack of the Glamazons!

Let me start by saying that there is no excuse for my laziness in not blogging about the Brooke Shields episode. But in my defense, the episode was a ripoff of the Sarah Jessica Parker ep from last year, so just read that blog instead.

Well, I had mixed feelings about last night's show. It was fun to see Chris March (a.k.a. Harvey Fierstein) back for a visit, and 7' drag queens do make for intersting television, but if I were on the show, I'd be pissed. When will "the next great American designer" ever have to make giant women's superhero outfits? Luckily, this was a nice buffer episode that let the producers finally get rid of Daniel, so no harm, no foul.

**side note: I already can't wait for the reunion episode, when they will undoubtedly show the "Daniel pouting" montage**

A few random notes before we get to the designs:

  • at the beginning of the show, Heidi looked like Sandy Ollsen from Grease. I think I hear Broadway calling.

  • best drag queen name: Farrah Moans; worst drag queen name: Sweetie

  • Tim Gunn at Mood = 3rd grade teacher at state capital building field trip

Tim: "What do you say?"

entire cast: "Thank you, Mood!"

  • I almost hesitate to mention it, because it will only encourage Blayne, but I at least appreciated whichever cast member referred to themselves as "annoyedlicious"
  • Why was the fan poll of who people would rather see in drag so damn close? I thought for sure Tim would take at least 90% of the vote.

  • Are there drag kings?

Alright. On to the show:

Kenley - You play smart. This is safe enough to be in the middle of the pack. No need to try and knock one out of the park on a this dumb-ass challenge.

Blayne - For future reference, having your design called a terradactyl out of a gay Jurassic Park is not a compliment...even for a drag queen episode.

Joe - congrats on a win that will have no bearing on the rest of the show. That jumpsuit will look great when Pepto-Bismol launches its disco-superhero-indigestion-crime fighter mascot!

Stella - I'm starting to love you. Hopefully the producers will keep you around for entertainment's sake until the final three (you can be this season's Chris March).

Suede - your queen looked sort of like your older brother. And he bullied you like you were his little brother! How cute.

Daniel - No worries. You've got a short-wearing boyfriend waiting for you at home. Your lower lip and impeccable (yet absent) taste will be missed.

Terri - Those are some intense sleeves. And rarely does a drag queen show almost no skin. You've got Acid Betty whipped.

Jerell - Michael Kors seems to think this outfit looks normal. It makes me more worried about Kors than you. But you lose points for encouraging the collar pop craze that has plagues the 2000's.

Korto - You tapped into the secret of all drag queens: deep down, they always want to be Disney villians

Keith - You tapped into the secret of all drag queens: deep down, they never want to be a Disney guy-who-turns-into-dog

Leanne - You get ignored in almost every episode. But I applaud your origami/crumpled-paper-in-a-waste-basket design

My favorite design of this episode: Korto

My current top three: Kenley, Terri, Suede (he's losing ground

The next to go: I wish it was Blayne, but it'll probably be Keith.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pro Run Ep 4

Tanning gives you power?

Creating literal fashion?

The Beatles were from the 30's?

I think this was one of the first times that even Tim Gunn couldn't handle the idiocy of a contestant. And the mere fact that Blayne seems to be getting the most airtime this season is a testament to the uninteresting cast members. I couldn't help but think the producers asked Joe to throw a hissy fit. They probably saw that Daniel is teetering on the brink of an Andre meltdown, and needed someone to push him over the edge.

I enjoyed this challenge, because I watch the Olympics opening ceremonies to do two things: discover new countries (Nauru, Togo, Seychelles) and count how many countries incorporate berets into their color-coordinated wardrobe. I'm not quite sure why Apolo Ohno was selected to judge a competition when the challenge was women's wear, but I've got three theories:

(1) Amanda Beard wasn't available...or just hates clothing altogether
(2) Tim Gunn has a little crush (did you see his giddy little squeak when Ohno raced to a stop in front of him?)
(3) This is just another sign that Dancing With the Stars is taking over the world

I also liked this judge because it revealed how little the designers (other than Joe) know about athletics. I wonder why that is.

Here's the brickity-breakdown:

Blayne - When you said you wanted to design literally, did you think literally meant Speed Racer? And shame on you for encouraging Tim to say "holla at cha boy." SHAME ON YOU!

Daniel - I know you're missing on your boyfriend Wesley, but based on your inability to tell blue from purple and your teetering on the brink of emotional collapse, you'll probably reunite with him soon.

Jennifer - The Smithsonian cannot wait to hire you as their mannequin costumer. Good luck!

Jerell - The only thing more ridiculous that the outfit you made was the outfit you wore. Dude, next time, just google "athlete" instead of "Little House On the Prairie."

Joe- You win my vote, because I always support the person that actually considers the parameters of the challenge. It wouldn't be ridiculous to picture the actual Olympic team wearing this, though it is more of an actual competition outfit than a walking-around-the-track-as-fireworks-and-interpretive-dancers-go-nuts outfit. And everyone knows that Flo Jo already reached the pinacle of competition fashion (see pics at top of blog).

Keith - I know you Mormons love them, but giant collars and scarves will only weigh the athlete down.

Kelli - Your personality must be as boring as your designs, because the editors are giving you no love/air time.

Kenley - Nothing wrong with taking a challenge off when you have immunity. And don't listen to those other contestants making fun of your laugh. They're just jealous of your Betty Page bangs.

Korto- the goddess of a pretty good design (though the jacket seemed to be about 5 sizes too big)

Leanne - I think I liked this one when I watched the show, but now that I look at it, it reminds me of a flight attendant.

Stella - How embarrassing. The roller blading at the beginning of the episode confused you, and you thought the challenge was to create a roller derby uniform. Awkward.

Suede - Where were you this episode? Oh well. Runway fashion is obviously your thing, so just skating by is a win for you.

Terri - You made a jacket without breaking a sweat. That's a pretty clear sign that you may win this whole thing.

My favorite from this episode: Terri

My current Top Three: Kenley, Suede, Terri

The next to go: Daniel (Wesley, iron those Nazi shorts! Your boy is coming home!

On a final note, if you're disappointed with this season, you might want to check out Project Runway Philippines!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bad Idea Show Review: Wilco at the Lawn

Counting this past Monday, I've seen Wilco 3 times.

The first time, I was at X-Fest '97, the Indy Rock Alternative's summer festival. Wilco was the first band on the main stage, so they played at like 1:00 p.m. I had never heard of them, but immediately liked them. It was my 1st experience in discovering a band on my own. My friends weren't so enthusiastic. I think they all left during Wilco's 3rd song to check out Sugar Ray.

The 2nd time was in 2005, when Wilco donated their services for the Rock for Riley benefit concert. Between 1997 and then, I had become a bona fide Wilco nut bar. And when we scored 8th row seats, I knew we were in for a treat. The show that night ranks #2 on my all-time list. Nels Cline had recently jumped on board, Jeff Tweedy had recently jumped on the wagon, and they played for a ridiculously long time. I felt beat up afterward. It was awesome.

The 3rdtime was on Monday. Let's cut to the chase:


* Diverse set list - lots o' Summerteeth and lots o' dad rock (a.k.a. Sky Blue Sky). Even a couple new ones ("One Wing" and "Sunny Feeling"). Here's the rest of the set list:

  • Via Chicago
  • Side With The Seeds
  • You Are My Face
  • One Wing
  • Remember The Mountain Bed
  • Company In My Back
  • Handshake Drugs
  • Pot Kettle Black
  • Impossible Germany
  • Forget The Flowers
  • Jesus Etc.
  • Sunny Feeling
  • Walken
  • I'm The Man That Loves You
  • Spiders (Kidsmoke)
  • ----------Encore #1------------
  • Hate It Here
  • Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Shot In The Arm
  • Casino Queen
  • Hoodoo Voodoo
  • ---------Encore #2-----------
  • Monday
  • Outtasite (Outta Mind)

* Cool venue - this was my 1st trip to the Lawn, Indianapolis' downtown concert venue. Picture any outdoor amphitheater stuck in the middle of nowhere, shrink it to a 1/3 of its size, stick in the heart of downtown, and give everyone a folding chair! You've got the Lawn!

* Air Guitar guy - the dude next to us played air guitar for the entire show (well, not the entire show, for some reason, he didn't play the encores). He never stopped. He would mouth words, but not the words of the song. He didn't know those (he probably just repeated "watermelon cantaloupe"). And he even air clapped. At first, we thought this was due to his commitment to the art of air musicianship. Then we noticed that the dude next to him was recording a bootleg, and he probably didn't want to ruin it. A true professional.

*Indianapolis clapping - Tweedy fed us an obviously-patronizing but still excitedly-accepted compliment on our clapping during "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." He said we were better than his hometown Chicago. Take that, Kanye!


* Bugs - I guess when you put a concert venue next to a dirty river, on a humid summer day in the Midwest, you're bound to get bugs. I wasn't so much annoyed by the biting as I was by its effect on Jeff Tweedy. Between each song, he would make some bug joke. "Gnat King Cole." "I've eaten about 50 bugs. I'm full." Stuff like that.

* The dads - lots of dads in the audience. They must read Pitchfork. And while I love me some Sky Blue Sky, I was in the mood to rock and/or roll, not rock and/or sway.

Bad Idea Show Review: Radiohead at Deer Creek

"If you came to see Kid Rock, you're in the wrong place."

That's how Thom Yorke introduced himself Sunday night in Indianapolis, after skipping Indy on their tour routes of the last 13 years or so. We arrived in time to hear Grizzly Bear's last few songs, so I can't definitively say much about them. So on to the big dogs:

My fandom of Radiohead is a bit uneven. For me, their catalog seems to fit into the following categories:

albums I love to drive to (Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer)
albums I think the band was trying to see what they could get away with (Kid A, Amnesiac)
albums that are excellent background music for grading papers (Hail To the Theif, In Rainbows)

And going into the show, I had realistic expectations that I wouldn't hear much from the road trip era, and I'd probably get In Rainbows in its near entirety (though, this time, I had to pay for it). I wasn't far off. For a guy who completely respects (though I don't always understand) what Radiohead does as a great rock band that caters to themselves only, I am glad I took the opportunity to see them. Here's my abbreviated take on the show:


* The visual show - LED (which means earth-friendly, or something) light tubes imprisoned the band, and obscure camera angles showed the band throughout the show. At one point, Yorke looked into the camera and played with the audience, raising his eyebrow (sort of like The Rock). For someone who wasn't overtaken with emotion during "Morning Bell," the lights were entertaining on their own.

* Very little small talk - other than his Kid Rock joke, Yorke kept it to a brief "thanks" every 4 songs or so. At some point, he congratulated the crowd on the low number of cars in the parking lot (that's what they must do between encores...count cars).

* The road trip songs - they were few and far-between, but damn, they were great. "Just" and "Street Spirit" from The Bends, "Karma Police" and "Exit Music" from OK Computer.


* Deja vu - there were about 3 times that a song began, and I thought "Didn't they play this 30 minutes ago?" I never realized how many Radiohead songs start with light guitar noodling, thom Yorke crying into the mic, and herky-jerky techno drums.

* Radioheadheads - is that what you call devotees of this band? We were next to a father/son/uncle trio who proclaimed each song to be "unreal" and never got over the fact that "their hero was on stage." They also smoked a brick of weed. It was a night that changed their lives forever. And they were so enthralled, they had to call people during "National Anthem" to tell them.

Overall, it wasn't a gut-busting show, but it definitely grew my appreciation for Kid A leaps and bounds, and I hope that next time they come to Indy (in 2021), they'll throw some "Paranoid Android" my way (I couldn't not link to one of the greatest music videos of all time).

Here's the full set list:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bad Idea Show Review: Lollapalooza at Grant Park

Please tell me that isn't Cat Power murdering "Fortunate Son."

This was the first thought that entered my mind when I initially heard distinct sounds coming from Grant Park Friday. Thanks to getting stuck working downtown most of the day, I missed a big chunk of Friday bands, as I feared I would, and I entered hearing Cat Power ramble her way through a depressingly plodding cover of Creedence. Upon realizing that it was 5:30pm, I had no time to mess around. I entered the giant beast that is Grant Park (which had SOLD OUT somewhere between 75,000 and 80,000 tickets for night 1) and made my way to the south end, stopping to listen to Grizzly Bear on one of the smaller stages. Much like Fleet Foxes delivered at Pitchfork, Grizzly Bear had the layered harmonies pitch-perfect. They're a band whose tunes are clearly more suited to an intimate setting, but they delivered here, and the sound quality was remarkably clear for a festival setup, which gave me high hopes about the rest of the weekend.

From there, I moved down to the main south stage and met up with friends to watch Bloc Party. I LOVED the first Bloc Party album, and thought the second album was good as well, but the live show does nothing to enhance their music. It's rarely a good sign for a band when the drummer has the most stage presence, as was the case here. The bassist and guitarist barely moved, and for a band who has so much energy on their albums, you just didn't see it in the performance. It made me wish I had gone to see the Raconteurs instead, but on the plus side, I was already in place for Radiohead here on the same stage.

I had once heard that festivals are a great place to see bands you like, but an awful place to see bands you love. I can somewhat see the reasoning behind this logic after seeing Radiohead. The band sounded as good as they've ever been - every song of In Rainbows was played, with a decent mix of older stuff (including "The Bends" which made my jaw drop.) But I'm not really sure that Radiohead are a "festival" band. They've shown before that they could easily take the U2 (and now Coldplay) route and crank out mindless stadium-ready rock anthems one after another, but obviously they want to do something else and continually explore new directions. This aspect is one of the things that makes them my favorite band; it's also what makes them maddening to a large number of people, and I totally understand why that is. When 80,000 people are in attendance though, most fall in between these two demos. They're there to hear "Karma Police", and when instead they get an outstanding reworking of "The Gloaming" (maybe my least favorite track on Hail to the Thief, but a true highlight of the show) they tune out. The following pattern happened several times:
  • Radiohead play one of their more nuanced songs
  • Casual Lolla-goers who don't know the song start chatting amongst themselves
  • Radiohead fans start yelling "Shh!" at the casual fans (It's never a rock festival if you're not Shh-ing someone!)
  • Casual fans seem shocked that someone is telling them to be quiet
  • Everyone seems pissed
One person who was never pissed though, was this girl:
This chick climbed up a speaker tower 30 feet high during the 3rd song of the set and rocked out for most of the show. Every once in a while a security guard would venture halfway up the tower and then decide they weren't risking their ass to get this loon down. Seriously, it took them until the encore to get her off! She was fun. While I was shooting unreasonably snotty glares at people around me who dared to chat during "All I Need," there were several highlights. Fireworks started going off during an epic run through "Fake Plastic Trees," the crescendo of which had chills running through me. "Everything in It's Right Place" is quickly becoming a staple of their live show. It's drastically re-worked from the version recorded for Kid A and is turned into a flat out dance-rock song. As the final encore ended with a blistering rendition of "Idioteque," I left day 1 thinking that Radiohead were as excellent as I had hoped, but wishing that the rumored secret show at the Chicago Theatre hadn't been called off the night before.


By Friday, day 2 of Lolla had sold out as well. I can't remember ANY day of Lollapalooza selling out before, but the weather was not as hot as forecasted, which made the crowd more bearable. I arrived bright and early Saturday, strolling in the gate around Noon to see Margot and the Nuclear So and So's. Indy represent! I can't fully articulate how bizarre it was to see them play on this massive stage, but they sounded great, especially on "Skeleton Key." I'm on the fence about the newer material I've heard, but one can never be on the fence about the joy from watching Casey Tennis' percussion dances.

After Margot's quick set, I met some friends to watch The Ting Tings. Aside from finding couple songs charmingly disposable, I can't get into this duo, but they had a HUGE crowd there even playing so early, so maybe it's just me. One band I can get into, however, is Dr. Dog, who played as the Ting Tings wrapped. I'd only heard a couple of their songs before, but they had some heavy buzz, and they were fantastic. There's a heavy dose of The Band along with Beach Boys harmonies, and it all worked. Everything worked as well for The Gutter Twins. I can get behind pretty much everything Greg Dulli has done, but I never got into The Afghan Whigs until they broke up, and I was late jumping on board The Twilight Singers as well. Dulli and Mark Lanegan showcase a brooding disturbing swagger meant to be heard late at night in a smoke-filled room, but they sounded just as great at 3pm. I spent the walk over to the North stage debating the name of the alt-hit that Mark Lanegan had in the mid-90's when he was with Screaming Trees. The answer: "Nearly Lost You," which I mistakenly had pegged a Jesus Jones song. Upon being proven wrong by a feisty friend of a friend, I walked in shame toward the other side of the park.

We strolled through the merchandising aisle, which contained your standard festival fair along with this booth:
Wow - it's almost like he's a rock star or something! By the time the festival had ended on Sunday, I never quite found where the Official McCain store was on the premises.

While I was still coming to grips with my failures in Seattle grunge music trivia, the band providing the uplifting score was Explosions In The Sky. Like many people, I first heard EITS on the score for Friday Night Lights. The lack of a singer, alongside the layered arrangements make it sound like they're cranking out rock-based symphonic movements rather than standard songs. They were the best band of the day thus far - it's hard to crank out emotion without lyrics, but these guys left everything on the stage and it was exciting to watch. Under normal circumstances, they would have been difficult to follow, but Broken Social Scene was up to the challenge. I wrote in my preview that something about them hasn't translated for me on their albums, but it all clicked on the live show. While Feist was not in attendance, the other members held everything down. BSS ripped through an inspired set that made for the quickest hour of the day. And at one point five different people were playing guitars, which has to count for something, no? Good things were happening on this stage, and although everyone else I knew at Lolla (and probably 2/3 of the entire audience) was going to see Rage Against the Machine, I stayed to wait for Wilco. I was in a prime location 20 yards from the stage, and knew Wilco could be counted on for a solid night. I realized my expectations needed to be re-evaluated before a single note was played.

Look at those suits! Every member of the band had a different colored nudie suit. I am telling everyone who reads this blog - these suits are better than anything you will ever see on Project Runway. EVER. No Contest. Jeff Tweedy claimed that the band had spent the last month sewing their suits, and while I'm skeptical, no one could argue when Tweedy remarked, "Radiohead were awesome last night, but they haven't been doing any sewing. They're all about the 21st century and beyond."

As for the music, I realized that Wilco is a band I largely take for granted, probably because they seem to tour all the time. I initially wasn't that excited to see them since I'd seen them before, but they quickly reminded me why they're the best band in America. Everything they do is great. When I last saw them at Rock For Riley, Glenn Kotche's insane drumming stood out, but guitarist Nels Cline was the star tonight. His 2 1/2-minute solo during "Impossible Germany" pretty much had me losing my shit:

Bonus points to Wilco as well for playing literally up to 10pm, and not wasting time with a stupid encore break when the clock was ticking. (Radiohead did 2 encores Friday night, and while I understand the process behind it, they could have used the time spent leaving and returning twice to play another song. We're up against the clock here guys!)

One other note on Wilco - apparently this is some sort of regular occurrence at Lolla, but I never noticed until the Wilco set that there was a dancing woman just in front of the stage performing the lyrics via sign language. This baffled me - are there deaf people coming to Lollapalooza? Or deaf people viewing online? Who knows, but my favorite part of the sign language lady's repertoire was that when the band was jamming out, and there were no lyrics that needed to be signed, she would often play the air bass, which is perhaps the most underutilized of all air instruments.


I was skeptical that Sunday could live up to Saturday's highlights, and early on, that seemed to be the case. I arhrived around 1pm, met a friend, and headed down to catch The Whigs. On our way there, we stopped and checked out about 20 minutes of What Made Milwaukee Famous. Both bands were good, not great. The Whigs grew on me more as their set went on, but I had a feeling that perhaps I had a musical hangover from the night before, as neither band quite seemed to be doing it for me.

I did want to check out the stars of Paul Green's School of Rock who were playing at the Kidzapalooza stage. If anything could rip through my cynicism, it had to be kids covering classic rock anthems, right? Approaching the stage, I heard the kids tearing throw a faithful version of Steve Wonder's "Superstition," with the lead singer sounding remarkably familiar and grown up. Once I got close enough to see, I realized that not only was Perry Farrell singing with the School of Rock, but playing guitar with them was Slash! The drummer and bass player (each of whom were probably 12 years old) kept their cool remarkably well as the foursome ripped through "Knockin on Heaven's Door," "Mountain Song," and "Jane Says." ("This is a song about a girl who was very nice, but then got confused one day," Farrell explained to the kids.) It was an awesome scene. The kids were pumped, and Slash is better than Dave Navarro even during Jane's Addiction songs!

With renewed vigor, I made my way to see Iron and Wine and over the next 20 minutes, nearly passed out. I really like Iron and Wine's albums, but the set wasn't clicking for me today. The sun was in full force, and the mood just wasn't there for them in this particular setting. It really just made me sleepy and in need of a swift kick in the ass.

Right on cue, enter Flogging Molly.

Best band of the day in my opinion. Mix The Clash with The Pogues and add more booze, and this is what you get. Brilliant performance from these guys, and they provided the funniest stage banter of the day with the following exchange:
Singer Dave King: "This next song is about Oliver Cromwell."
Crowd: "BOOOOO!"
Yeah, suck on that Cromwell!

Re-energized after Molly's set, I hauled ass down to the other end of the park. (It should be mentioned that the two main stages are about a mile away from each other, which takes it's toll on tubby bastards like myself.) I made it down to catch most of Gnarls Barkley's set. The band was good, although a bit lacking in energy. Also, you could tell the pitfalls of being an assembled band who doesn't tour much as a group. Gaps between songs were frequent and overall the set just wasn't that tight. On the plus side though, Cee-Lo's voice is stunning in a live environment - the guy has better pipes than 90% of the singers at Lollapalooza. And Gnarls also did an outstanding cover of Radiohead's "Reckoner." I left there to see some of Girl Talk on one of the smaller stages, with an obscene crowd overflowing. Girl Talk is a weird live act. On one hand, I love the pop/hip-hop hybrids that the guy mashes up on his albums (The Elton John/Notorious BIG mash being the best). But it's not all that compelling to just see a guy hop around and play with a laptop. That said, the crowd was going nuts and the stage was FULL of people dancing their asses off, so even if the performance itself wasn't as good as the albums, the atmosphere didn't suffer. And there were some sweet Journey mashes, which always pleases me.

Things were winding down so I decided to again head to the north end and meet a friend. We picked a spot right inbetween the 2 main stages on the north end to watch The National first and then just turn around for Nine Inch Nails. The National have really grown on me. They opened for R.E.M. a couple months ago and were rock solid here once again. But I was all about Nine Inch Nails. I've been really excited to see them since they were announced, and I'm not exactly sure why, as I was never hugely . I really wished I could have seen Kanye West as well, but the moment that Trent Reznor literally sprinted on stage and launched into "1,000,000," I was validated in making the right call. I was surprised when "Closer" was unleashed just 30 minutes into the set. (A guy next to me had brought his son, who couldn't have been older than 6 years old. With the son sitting on his dad's shoulders, the dad offered a half-hearted "Cover your ears" to the kid before the chorus, but I doubt the effectiveness of his command.) About halfway through the set, Reznor spent about 20 minutes or so on tracks from the instrumental "Ghosts" set. This didn't go over all that well with most people around me. It spurred a reaction similar to that of Radiohead in similar circumstances on Friday, but I actually liked it. I think most people were expecting the pure nostalgia act they had seen with Rage the night before. The other benefit was that it gave people a chance to catch their breath, and eliminated the possibility of people getting crushed as they had the night before. The mellow mood didn't last, and the intensity ratcheted up with highlights of "Only," "The Hand That Feeds," "Head Like a Hole," and a haunting encore of "Hurt" that served as a perfect ending for a full weekend.

Top 5 Lolla '08 performances:
1. Wilco
2. Radiohead
3. Flogging Molly
4. Broken Social Scene
5. Nine Inch Nails