Thursday, May 28, 2009

The failure of failure

Cynthia Hopkins' The Success of Failure (or, The Failure of Success) at St. Ann's Warehouse, New York Post, May 28, 2009.

I know Hopkins has her fans. Let's just say I'm not one of them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mayhem in New York

Yesterday Mr. Night After Night and I attended Blackenedfest at Irving Plaza. Let's start with the disappointments. The minor one is that I missed Lair of the Minotaur because they played from 7:30pm to 7:50 and I arrived at something like 7:51. The major one is that Marduk cancelled at the last minute "due to unforeseen circumstances." And I had spent part of the day rehearsing my growlalong to "Panzer Division Marduk"! Seriously, I'd been really looking forward to finally catching the kvlt Swedes live and I was foiled again.

But Mayhem more than made up for it. I admit going mostly out of curiosity because I may have seen Emperor and Immortal, but it's Mayhem that's the alpha and omega of first-wave Norwegian black metal. The book Lords of Chaos? It's about them.

As it turns out, Mayhem was much more than a curio. The main asset was Attila Csihar, who replaced Maniac in 2004 and is a completely magnetic frontman. Clad in black monk-like robes, he emitted a volley of terrifying, barely human sounds that ranged from pig-like grunts to hellish shrieks. He also moved in an odd, stylized manner halfway between Martha Graham and kabuki. Couldn't be a more different vibe from Maniac's, and an improvement it was. Csihar was avant-garde from Hades.

Musically I felt as if I had stuck my head in an oil drum on which people repeatedly stomped. Drummer Hellhammer and bassist Necrobutcher, two original members, got huge applause from the crowd, while it took two tour guitarists, Morfeus and Silmaeth, to replace Blasphemer, who left the band last year. The whole thing was one massive gurgle, part buzzy and part grumbling. It was awesome.

Also awesome: the banners, the shrunken heads on spears, the fog, the strobes. In a word: the show!

Here's a short excerpt from our vantage point at the balcony. (Tip of the hat to Brooklyn Vegan's Paul Birman for the pic of Attila Csihar.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Old Hickory

Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Public Theater, New York Post, May 20, 2009.

At last, the life of President Andrew Jackson has been turned into a musical, and a good one it is!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Out of South Africa

Ian Bruce's Groundswell at the Acorn/Theatre Row, New York Post, May 19, 2009. (Tip of the hat once again to the Post's headline writers. These guys have earned their rep, believe me.)

Let's put Bruce's South Africa-set drama behind us, shall we? The important news is that there's only two days to go before Blackenedfest featuring Mayhem and Marduk! I'm still pondering my corpsepaint design. Suggestions?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Legal debacle

Vern Thiessen's A More Perfect Union at the East 13th Street Theater, New York Post, May 14, 2009.

Two Supreme Court clerks duke it out in the library. Dear god…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ukraine does it again

If Ukraine doesn't win Eurovision 2009, I'll eat my hat! Seriously, this song has it all: crazy inventive production, banging chorus, delirious lyrics, nutty video (though that won't help at the contest) and babes in skimpy outfits (which I trust will somehow pop up on the Moscow stage).

Added bonus: If Ukraine wins in Moscow, the Russians are going to freak out.

Electro schocks

In today's New York Post, I stray from the theater turf for something that won't surprise readers of this blog: a piece about four women doing the solo electro-thing.

I'm surprised the influence of Peaches on the new generation of women tinkering with Apple Logic hasn't been spelled out more. The likes of Little Boots, thecocknbullkid and VV Brown, whom I talked to for the piece, may not draw from Peaches' lyrical content, but they've sure borrowed a trick or two from her sound (mixed in with much more mainstream pop influences, to be sure).

I'll go see Peaches this Saturday night, when she plays Webster Hall, and on Monday may try to take a break from the Obies to drop by the Little Boots gig at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Of the four in the article, multi-instrumentalist VV Brown is the least electro. Here's her new single, and oh that chorus!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Ethan Coen's triptych Offices at the Atlantic, New York Post, May 11, 2009.

After Almost an Evening, Joel's brother is doing the solo thing again. Is it worth the effort, not to mention your hard-earned bucks?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cranked up

I had forgotten how good it feels to feel your innards melt, to get your eardrums pulverized. The rawk, it lives!

At least it did on Friday night, when my friend Mike took me to the Chrome Cranks reunion at Santos Party House. Now even though I followed the East Village/Lower East Side scum-noise scene pretty closely from the moment I moved to the NYC area in 1988, that band completely eluded me: I don't have any of their records and never saw them live. At least I had seen and heard the ferocious rhythm section in various other bands: drummer Bob Bert with Knoxville Girls, Bewitched and Action Swingers (not to mention late Pussy Galore and early Boss Hog, though I never caught him with Sonic Youth), bassist Jerry Teel with KG and Honeymoon Killers.

On Friday the time had come for my first encounter with the Cranks, 12 years after their last local show. As soon as the first song hit, I broke into a huge grin. A loud but sharp PA, a band in complete control of its sound, even a red strobe light: perfection.

As Mike put it elsewhere, there were quite a few bands doing the Chrome Cranks thing in the 90s, but there are close to none these days: intensely focused and controlled aggro rooted in a punk-blues groove.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of people putting on memorable rock shows these days, from Lightning Bolt to Monotonix, but they tend to go for a more spastic, all-over-the-place energy, whereas Chrome Cranks are rooted in songcraft and the aforementioned groove. They're playing Glasslands on Friday 15, and I may just go back for seconds.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A pound, give or take

The Propeller company's take on The Merchant of Venice at BAM, New York Post, May 8, 2009.

My third Shakespeare by these guys, and while it's not quite as good as The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, from two years ago, it still wham-bam entertainment.

Next stop on the Bard Express: Twelfth Night (africkingain) at the Delacorte in a few weeks.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Benny and Björn are back!

Benny and Björn have a new song! I listened to "Second Best to None" four times in a row after discovering it this morning. Thanks to the Dilettante's Special London Correspondent and the almighty Pop Justice for the tip.

I'm particularly excited because the singers all work at Stockholm's Hotel Rival (owned by Benny), where the Sheila and I had lunch last summer. In fact you can see the vid on the homepage of the hotel's website. It's the best corporate commercial EVER.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

On the radio

Sometime after 4pm today, I will discuss the Tony nominations and the New York Drama Critics Circle awards on All Things Considered. You can listen on WNYC (93.9 FM and AM 820) in New York, or on your local NPR affiliate, or on the web. And boy, is there a lot to talk about!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Oh Sherie

At last, Sherie Rene Scott gets a whole show to herself! I just loved Everyday Rapture (review in today's New York Post) and I hope it finds the audience it deserves. Scott is a musical-theater animal but projects a very different vibe than a Kristin Chenoweth, a Donna Murphy or even a Leslie Kritzer. She's well worth discovering if you aren't a fan yet.

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's a wrap

And we finally conclude the 2008-09 Broadway season with two shows: Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Dolly Parton's 9 t0 5. I like to think of them as one entity, Waiting from 9 to 5. Both reviews are in today's New York Post.

But just because Broadway is done for now doesn't mean I can rest: look out for Sherie Rene Scott's Everyday Rapture, Ethan Coen's Offices and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice next week.