Friday, June 25, 2010

Hey mon: Reggae singer gets back to 'Roots'

The whole thing had a feeling of inevitability about it: Gary Shane, the man of a thousand musical identities but probably best known for his hit-making power pop band, The Detour, runs into Wade Dyce, the Jamaica-born reggae singer now living in Salem, who made his name with the band Cultural Roots right about the same time as Shane was scoring on the charts. They didn’t know each other — never heard of each other, in fact. They just bumped into each other in the hallways of North Shore Community College where, coincidently, they were both training for second careers as mental health professionals. They started talking about music. Then Dyce, to illustrate a point, started singing Jah Cure’s “Prison Walls (Reflections)” — “and he just floored me,” says Shane. The Ipswich resident says he got “a real education” in that college corridor that day, and a “burning yearning” for reggae — and he wanted more ... Read more here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bruising blogging from a Port punk

When Jeff Morris (yeah, that's the guy, second from the left) pulled up stakes last year, he left behind a two-decade deep, stylistically diverse musical legacy only hinted at in "Mutes in the Steeple," the Joshua Pritchard documentary focusing on the Newburyport indie music scene in the late '80s and '90s — from NPD, one of the city's first punk bands, and the Bruisers, who bashed their way out of regional obscurity with a punishing, as-hard-as-you-can-get street punk sound, to the surf-rock-with-an-edge sound of the Cadillac Hitmen, and the in-your-face improvisation instro trio Zuni Fetish Experiment, before finally returning to the song format with Death & Taxes, a straight-ahead rock outfit with no room for flash or showboating. Now Morris, who moved to Chicago last year after getting a day-job offer he could not refuse, begins telling the nasty little story on “Tattooed Hearts and Broken Promises,” his new blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reeling in the years with the Young Moderns

It’s like that old Reese’s commercial, except that instead of a collision of chocolate and peanut butter, it’s the somewhat accidental grouping of the Merrimack River Bluescruise and the spirit of Yankee Homecoming, but with a distinctly counter-cultural vibe to it, focusing on the Joan-and-Ra-era Fowle’s and the Canta Libre and Cluster School crowds. And if any of that rings a bell, you might remember this: “I feel like a vegetable, but I’m not growing much.” It’s from “Living in a Small Town,” an ode to Newburyport by The Young Moderns, the homegrown power-pop band. You might have heard them playing it in Market Square during Homecoming, or on WBCN, back in the day, when bands without a major record deal could get significant airplay. And, sorry to say, if true, you’re probably seasoned enough to have been targeted in a membership drive by the American Association of Retired Persons ‑ something that just happened to Mike Hoag, a formerly young member of The Young Moderns, and it’s freaking him out a little bit. “I still can’t believe it,” he says from his home in Florida. Mike and Mark Hoag, twin brothers on the not-so-fair side of 50, both of whom left the city about the same time for different parts of the country in 1990, are on the phone, talking about “Wasted Youth Cruise & Other Modern Adventures,” the opening salvo in the 20th-anniversary season of the popular Bluescruise series, which will put the Moderns in front of local audiences for the first time since the band, in a moment of frustration, decided to take a breather — “a break that lasted 30 years,” says Mark.

To read more, click here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Alan Bull: Little wheels keep on turning

Ever wonder how Alan Bull got started with that edgy, somewhat nostalgic and most definitely, emotionally charged truck series that, like it or not, more than anything, has come to define him over the past decade, despite the Port painter's diverse portfolio? The answer is obvious ... if you have a background in automotive forensic psychology: The big truck thing grew out of his childhood obsession with much smaller vehicles — those little Matchbox cars, to be precise. And, since we’re being so precise, we should make it clear for those of you with fuzzy memories that we are not talking about the much sexier Hot Wheels, which took the air out of the practical-but-kinda-frumpy Matchbox collection back during the Summer of Love when Mattel introduced its series of sports cars instead of, er, the cement and dump trucks favored by its English rival.They may have been stupid little boy toys, but, for many of a certain age, they are soaked in nostalgia, like the truck series — and, the artist says, "definitely the source of my fascination with the trucks. They started the whole thing rolling."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Godot: The wait's over

Funny thing about “Waiting for Godot” is that, despite the intense baggage that accompanies it, the seemingly unbearable intellectual burden and endless exegesis of the work and its possible meanings, there is, absurdly, a lot of humor, warmth, even humanity, in the play. It’s existential slapstick in the countryside, a place where humor — granted, dark humor — coexists with bleak clarity, absurdity and, of course, despair that accompanies life. A state of being some of us were coming to terms with not that long ago, when, unlike "Godot," rarely performed in exurbia, came and went, leaving us waiting like the hapless Estragon and Vladimir, making that scraggly old tree look pretty inviting. Think it's strung enough? If only it weren't such a bother. No, no, no — just getting carried away with the mood of the thing. And it is a moody thing. But unlike the play, where waiting gets you nothing but despair, if you're aware, this time it paid off: Less than two months after its short run as part of a spring fundraiser for Theater in the Open, “Godot” is back in town for three shows at the Firehouse. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Elinor Teele: Playing the 'Waiting' game

Elinor Teele thought she was finally done with old English literature years ago — and we are talking really, really old English literature, pre-Norman conquest, the language of Beowolf, which they call English, but barely resembles it — years ago, when she locked up the doctorate from the University of Cambridge, England. Her thesis was on the "Heroic Tradition in the Old English Riddles," a collection of evocative and bawdy — okay, let's just say dirty — poems in the so-called Exeter Book. But, as the Brits might say, there you go: The playwright, who had lived on three continents before returning to what had been the family's summer home in Annisquam, is at home, rifling through the old books and papers she thought she had "put away for all eternity" after her brain "all but imploded" from the sheer academic weight of her studies. But no. She's apparently not quite done with Seventh-Century England yet. She was happy to get away from the academic part of it, but the period "still fascinates me," she says. "Such incredible characters, such incredible stories ... " That's why she's writing a play set in that period. But that's not the point of this conversation. We're here to talk about "The Waiting Room," a new full-length play that gets its first spin around the literary block with a staged reading this weekend at the North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative.

Friday, June 4, 2010

TITO goes panto

They call it panto, a form that finds its roots in the ancient Commedia dell'Arte but is filtered through old-school British vaudeville and seasoned in the modern. But you probably could do just as well calling “Cinderella: A Pretty Princess Panto,” which Theater in the Open takes for a spin around the park this month, a pop culture Cuisinart. The show slices and dices all those beloved stories from your youth, mixing and matching their characters and whipping their stories into a thick theatrical broth that is seasoned with the buzz-buzz of news, real and pseudo, and following the trail no matter where it goes. It's both a new, original show and a pastiche. It features everyone’s favorite housecleaner, who always makes her curfew, no matter what; a dozen princesses, mostly dancing; a trio of troublemakers, Mavens of Misery — Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty," Ursula from "The Little Mermaid," and Cruella De Vil from "101 Dalmatians" — who are every bit as evil as those clowns from British Petroleum who are still busy fouling the Gulf and who take a few well-deserved b-slaps during the show. You add a little singing and buffoonery, as well as a little encouraged booing and hissing and stage direction from the audience and you’ve got a panto. Add a seven-foot giraffe made from, well, whatever you manage to get your hands on, and you've got yourself a Titopanto.