Sunday, September 26, 2010

Uz jsme doma and the mysterious Building 16

Had a feeling there might be trouble with this show: Uz jsme doma headlining a bill with Providence, R.I., heavies Bellows, Normal Love and Whore Paint at the mysterious, if blandly, named Building 16 — a venue with no phone number and no web presence, which kinda made us wonder if it actually existed. Trolling the web, we managed to find an email address. Fired off an email with a couple pertinent questions, like how the hell do we get tickets? To which we got an auto-response telling us not to take it personally, it's just that they get so overwhelmed with email at the mysterious Building 16 that they could not possibly be expected to answer. Yeah, that's just great. Miroslav Wanek, frontman for Uz jsme doma, didn't have much more information when we cornered him before the band's Wesleyan University gig the night before. We did manage to find an address. On the Cuneiform Records web site, no less: 95 Empire Street. Which put it, more or less, right around AS220, where we had seen Uz jsme doma play about a decade ago. Which would have made things easy. If it were the right address. It wasn't. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rocking chapel: Uz jsme doma at Wesleyan

Just back from the second stop on Uz jsme doma's US tour, their first since 2007, and I've gotta say, man, aren't the Wesleyan University kids just the coolest? And I'm not just saying that because I'm afraid the little bastards will give me another shiner. No, I wear those colors under my right eye as a badge of honor. It's the first time I've gotten a black eye from a college student since, well, since I was a college student all those years ago, before most of them,  probably all of them, were born. And it's certainly the first time I've ever gotten a black eye in church. It's also the first time I've seen Uz jsme doma play in a church — Memorial Chapel, a 19th-century Gothic Revival brownstone, one of the most prominent buildings on the Middletown, Conn., campus: Pews, pipe organ, everything but the preacher. And, just a half-hour before show time completely empty, except for the band and two jocks from WESU-FM, which sponsored the show. You could hear your footsteps echoing through the building. Staked out my position in the front row, er, pew — comfortable, cushioned. A pretty strange experience, though. I've never been "comfortable" watching a punk show. You're not supposed to be. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frame kicking out the jams for schools

Fans have been bugging Liz Frame for product for the past two years, ever since the Newburyport musician jump-started the career she had all but abandoned for marriage and motherhood and put together the Kickers — a tight, country-tinged acoustic act known for solid playing, tight harmonies and just plain looking good on stage. Not a bad problem to have, if you think about it, but frustrating if you can’t give the fans the answer they want. But the long dry stretch is just about over: The first official Liz Frame and the Kickers CD will be released next week, just in time for Music Matters — a Kicker-powered Oct. 2 Firehouse concert that will directly benefit music programs in the city's public schools. It's not the full-length Frame fans would like to see, but it's a nice taste of what the band does. It includes three originals and a cover — a haunting take on Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love," which strips all the groovy from the flower power classic to reveal a wold of hurt spinning in a subtext of sin.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brew Fest: More than great taste, less filling

The suds will be flowing next weekend in Carriagetown. Hundreds of brews, dozens of styles will be featured at the Amesbury Brew Fest on Sept. 25.  Which is a good thing. Because when you get hundreds of beer freaks together, the only thing you can count on is disagreements about what to order, about what's the best brew and, of course, what naturally flows from this, is why the other guy, even if he's your best friend, is completely wrong and obviously, unequivocally an idiot. You can't get anything approaching a semblance of a consensus — even when stating the obvious, the incontrovertible, like that all attempts at pilsner fall flat in comparison to Pilsner Urquell, the original and still the gold standard, other beer-drinkers being prone to making broad statements of fact and all. Hell, you can't even get an agreement among the musicians playing the festival, which is expected to bring upwards of 2,000 people to Amesbury Sports Park. The difference is style as much as taste. You've got guys like Seacoast regular Scott Barnett drawn to well-known, solid — if somewhat white-bread, performers like Newcastle or Sam Adams, especially seasonal varieties like Sammy Summer.  "Nothing like a long day at work and then going out thirsty as could be ... and showing up at a bar, noticing that they have Newcastle on tap," he says. Then you've got guys like Christoph Krey, frontman for McAlister Drive, the Boston-based rockers known for big-ass hooks and sweet harmonies. He's your classic beer nut, a near-fanatic. The kind of guy who, when you ask him about his favorite beer, will rattle off the top five — Abita Purple Haze, Tripel Karmeliet, Wachusett's Blueberry,  Mayflower Porter and Guinness — and for an encore, Shipyard Pumkinhead Ale. The top pick is a New Orleans brew, which, for those of us with any lingering memories of the '60s, is a name that probably over-promises what the experience will be. This choice, he admits, is probably a bit personal: When he was at Tulane and gigging around New Orleans, they always fed him free Abita products like Purple Haze. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pure Poe-etry with Theater in the Open

We all know that, for better or worse, pictures convey more information, more quickly than words ever will, but the Lydia See photo you see here, as powerful and creepy as it is, just barely scratches the surface of what will be happening at Maudslay State Park this weekend. It shows a line of cloaked specters. Only one face is visible. It’s blank, emotionless and appears to be covered with lesions. The image is from "Poe," a new Theater in the Open show — specifically the Master of the Macabre's short story "The Masque of the Red Death." What the picture doesn't show — and what word-slingers, even extremely long-winded ones like yours truly, can explain in far less than a thousand words — is the claustrophobic context of the piece: These figures, suffering from a plague-like disease, but who can be seen as a monstrous metaphor for any of the thousands of scary things out there in the world, will be surrounding the audience, as a narrator reads Poe's texts, creating the impression of being locked away in the relatively safe confines of the dauntless and sagacious Prince Prospero's castle, but for how long? The population has been halved already.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moss premiere just seconds away

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. In a moment, relatively speaking, we will begin our featured performance,  the world premiere of "Orange Hat and Grace," the new play by Newburyport playwright Greg Moss that kicks off the new season at Soho Rep. In this case, in a moment means roughly 12 hours — just enough time to get to the city and find a parking space. We understand it may seem to be stretching the meaning of the phrase "in a moment," especially if you're just tuning in, but we've been waiting in line through the spring and summer. Soho Rep, which made a huge splash last year with its critically acclaimed production of Sarah Kane’s “Blasted,” was supposed to bring out the play for a three-week run beginning last March, with artistic director Sarah Benson in the driver’s seat. Then came the "creative team availability issue" — long story, believe me — and “Orange Hat and Grace” got bumped from the lineup.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tip of the hat from Charles Van Eman

Busy guy, Charles Van Eman. He's flying up Route 95, trying to make a rehearsal for the Firehouse production of Mark Twain's “The Diaries of Adam and Eve" at the Firehouse. It's not quite clear whether it was a last-minute thing or whether it just got lost in the shuffle of his schedule. Doesn't really matter. He got the call, he made the rehearsal and, en route, was able to check off a scheduled press interview during the ride from his home in Middleton. Besides, the actor, whose credits over the past three decades include everything from a recurring role in the "The Colbys," the Dynasty spinoff, to his current gig as writer-director of "High Rise," a Melrose Place-like internet drama, had already accomplished the major task of the day: Making revisions to "Jack's Hat," a new play, which will be getting its first spin around the theatrical block soon, very soon, at the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative. There's still the second season of "High Rise" hanging over his head, of course. Lots of pressure there, too, seeing how the show has been upgraded from bite-size eight-minute episodes to a full half-hour, and has been picked up by Fox 5 in Atlanta, where the series is filmed. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Creepy, compelling take on 'The List'

If you check it twice, you'll find out that Port playwright Ron Pullins' "The List" has re-emerged, strangely naughty and nice, making the leap from an award-winning short play to a creepy-but-compelling two-minute video. It was one of five pieces selected for Project Y's "Confessionals," a fundraiser for the New York-based theater company. It's a monologue by a compulsive list-maker who has committed a terrible crime, the worst you can possibly imagine. Her list gives her strength and helps her prepare — to deaden herself — so she can emerge from this moment of ugly truth, broken but alive. The company just posted the video online. You can watch it here

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nope, there are three sure things in life

C'mon kids. We all knew it would come to this eventually. Long-distance relationships just don't last. So, when Jeff Morris blew town for Chicago last year, we knew what it meant — even if we never said it out loud. Morris came back from time to time over the past year, dusting off Death & Taxes, the ex-Bruiser's no-nonsense, straight-ahead rock trio, for another mad joyride. But, seriously, how long did anyone think he would deal with that 1,000-mile commute? Then came the blog, which had a nostalgic, summing-up quality about it. Then the news a couple of weeks ago that "bad luck, bad living & bad decisions," the much-anticipated follow-up to the Port band's debut "Tatooed Hearts & Broken Promises," had been shelved and, in a terse statement on the blog, that there were no plans to make another.  "Yeah, I just don't see being able to write/rehearse and record being 1,000 miles away," he says. "I thought we could do it, but it looks like that was wishful thinking." And now? Yup, that's the sound of the other shoe dropping. It's last call, Death & Taxes is kaput. They'll  play two farewell shows in September: The first on Sept. 24 at TT the Bear's, with Lenny Lashley, The Welch Boys and Wicked Whiskey; D&T will go on at midnight. The second at the Dover Brickhouse, one of the band's favorite haunts, on Sept. 25. After that, who knows? But don't hold your breath. Only three things are certain in life: Death, taxes and the death of Death & Taxes.