Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Hate Terminal 5

New York has some truly phenomenal music venues -- from the small and scruffy (like Lit) to the best of  ballrooms (like Hammerstein) to the d.i.y. (like Monster Island Basement) to the artsy and imaginative (like Glasslands and Goodbye Blue Monday). But, bigger bands aren't going to perform at Spike Hill or Cake Shop, so where do bands that need a space smaller than a stadium but larger than anywhere on the Lower East Side end up performing these days? 

Well, ever since Terminal 5 opened in 2003 -- but mostly within the past few years -- bands like The Black Keys end up there. Unfortunately. This three-tiered venue is run by Bowery Presents, who seem to hold a monopoly over NYC concerts (they also run Webster Hall, Mercury Lounge, Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Wellmont Theater, and Bowery Ballroom). But, what's so bad about Terminal 5? I mean, I don't have a problem with the other venues I just mentioned, so why this one? Well, let me try to briefly explain in bullet point fashion.

1. As the above picture perfectly exemplifies, the space becomes entirely too crowded. Now, I have been to dozens and dozens of sold-out shows, and I have been in many a pit, but I don't usually feel as immobile and uncomfortably jam-packed as I do at Term-5, and I'm not even sure why that is. It might be because the occupancy number is exceptionally high. Or maybe because....

2. ....when you walk in, you travel down a long hall and then end up on the right side of the stage (rather than most venues, where you're facing the stage), which makes for an awkward and difficult time trying to move in and get a spot. If you happen to arrive on the late side, you're pretty much guaranteed to hit a major roadblock of people as you attempt to squeeze your way in. So you paid anywhere from 25-65 bucks, and now you can hardly see the stage. Also, if you are...

3. ...short like I am, you won't see much anyway. Again, this happens in other venues, but for some reason it's particularly bad at Term-5. Maybe the stage is too low?

4. If we're talking pure ambiance, Term-5 is totally uninspiring. It looks like a factory -- in a bad way, not in a hip Manchester way. And it has a disco ball. Which isn't a terrible thing in of itself, but when it comes with a banal, industrial atmosphere, it just feels sad. 

5. The people; o the people! I don't mean to sound like an elitist, but the people Term-5 attracts are, often enough, not your standard concert-goers. These are people who don't go to shows. These are kids whose parents drive down the West Side Highway to pick them up. These are bros and drunk teens and loud, obnoxious groups of friends who don't understand basic concert etiquette. So, not the kind of crowd you want to swap sweat with.

1. The upstairs bathrooms are private, red-lit, well-maintained and well-manned.

Is that it? Bathrooms? I guess so! Well, bathrooms are important. Worst bathroom has to go to Public Assembly (so gross). And Monster Island and Death by Audio could use improvements. Oh wait, silly me. Coney Island takes the cake. 

So, here's the dilemma. If I want to catch some fantastic bands, I have to suck it up and go to Terminal 5 because that's where they keep playing. Here's a running list of bands I have seen there so far (who can remember the order? these are not in order.)

1. The Black Keys -- not even close to the right venue to fit their sound or their persona. 
2. Mindless Self Indulgence -- the lamest of their shows I have seen (even Jimmy Urine made fun of his audience.)
3. The Faint -- also the worst show of theirs I have seen. 
4. Mogwai -- I could not see the band at all.
5. Avett Brothers -- okay, this show was good, but I still felt like the venue didn't suit them.
6. Justice -- this show was amazing, no complaints. Maybe Term-5 only works for electronica. Also, this was several years ago and my first Term-5 experience. 
7. Miike Snow -- this was one of the worst in my show-going career, and it prompted this blog post. Miike Snow was great, don't get me wrong. But Major Lazer came on before them and played for at least an hour, and that was just horrifically painful. The only reason I endured that hour of standing close to the stage among dancing, drunk 17-year-old girls was to see Santigold, who was supposed to perform. She came on stage for seriously one minute, "sang" a song I didn't even recognize, and left. That was it. And as for Major Lazer: "Throw your hands in the air!" NO. "Throw your shirt over your head!" NO. "Scream!" Hm...

Well, the moral of the story is I hate this venue. But, I am going there tonight because it won't stop me from seeing The Kills for the first time [update! -- scratch that; can't go after all], and also Foals and Freelance Whales on May 4. Wish me luck! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Union Square & the Bobs

Maybe it's just because we're such good friends, but Skater Bob cracks me up. In case you are confused, there are two Bobs and they are friends: Skater Bob and Normal Bob.  I will actually be featuring an interview with Skater Bob some time in the near future. Both Bobs appeared in The New York Times Metropolitan section just last year. For those fantastic articles...

click here for Skater Bob -- "A Letter Writer Whom Editors Enjoy"
click here for Normal Bob -- "Chronicling Oddballs in Union Square"

Now, as often happens in Union Square, Normal Bob films Skater Bob, and something bizarre goes down that pretty much only occurs in NYC. The two of them have a propensity for seeking out some of the strangest "amazing strangers" this city has to offer. But, this video presents just a little slice of good ol' Union Square. Nothing fancy, just a normal day for the regulars who "run the park."

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I love foreign films, especially the oddball European indie flick intended to shock, sans the sensationalism that accompanies many American films of a similar nature. Some Asian films (like Oldboy and Audition) provide shock value of a gory and sickening nature, but the European films I've seen often create the same reaction by way of a psychological complexity and overall minimalism: from having next to no score, to lingering on an image, to creating unsettling juxtapositions, to having events unfold in unexpected ways or otherwise ordinary settings. 

I'm thinking of some films like Benny's Video, Funny Games, Fat Girl, 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days, Let the Right One In, This Is England, Salo, and The Dreamers (among others), all of which counteract expectations and tackle subject matter or happenings generally considered taboo within American film. Taboos like children killing others, or others killing children, a thirteen-year-old's sexual urges, anal sex, illegal abortion, young relationships, racism, sadism, incest, etc. Not that these subjects aren't handled in some American films, but there's a certain starkness I've noticed in films from France, Germany, Romania and elsewhere in Europe -- a definite lack of true exhibitionism. Disturbing things seem to occur in these films because they need to change the characters, not because the director wants the audience to react to them (except for maybe The Dreamers, which is more American than not, despite its Italian director).

Since I am obviously a fan of these movies, I was excited to watch Dogtooth, a Greek film directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, released in 2009. It definitely lived up to my expectations in terms of being bizarre! Here's a general gist: two very twisted parents seek to protect their three children (two girls, one boy, we don't know any of their names) from all the various evils of society. This might have worked better when the kids were younger, but now they're full-grown adults, probably between seventeen and twenty. They don't go to school, watch TV, listen to the radio, read the paper; they don't have any way of knowing what the outside world holds. And why, you might ask, don't they just leave the family estate? Well, their father has convinced them that cats and other vicious beasts are waiting to tear them apart just beyond the fence of their property, so they don't dare set one foot onto the dirt road, and they practice barking like dogs in case they need to scare a beast away. Only the father has the ability to leave in his car; he works a normal job, but no one there knows what kind of life he actually leads. He has also told his children that they will only be strong enough to leave home when their "dogtooth" comes out. Until then, they spend their days playing games, swimming, earning stickers for winning, learning new words (their mother invents meanings for commonplace words, like 'excursion'), and fighting as if they were still little kids. They even think it's possible for their mother to give birth to a dog.

When we first enter into the world of this family, an outsider named Christina is brought into the home to fulfill the sexual urges of the son. She becomes an instigator of a series of events that end up changing the "tranquility" of this insulated life. Between Christina giving the eldest girl video tapes (in return for some "favors") that expose her to man-eating sharks and "She's a Maniac!" dancing, to the increasing sexual awareness between the siblings, to physical abuse on the part of the father, Dogtooth becomes more and more intense. We spend most of the film completely ingrained in this world, but also waiting for things to change -- instinctively, we know that something has to shake up the faux innocence because all of the conflict that comes from it isn't really conflict, it's just their way of life, and we're waiting for that BOOM to set us off on another path. The BOOM never really happens though, even in one particularly disturbing scene where it seems like it might.  Or, maybe the BOOM does happen, but we stop short just before knowing its full effects. By the film's end, I was left wanting  so much more. I definitely wouldn't put this film in my list of Best Movie Endings...but the lack of a definite ending didn't take away from how much I enjoyed getting sucked into the narrative, including those moments when I almost looked away.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Grandchildren & O'Death

Last night I caught another brilliant Grandchildren performance. I think I've seen these guys 16 times now; each more exhilarating and breathtaking than the last. Last night's show was at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory (my first time there, since it moved from Manhattan), but I've also caught Grandchildren in NYC at Cameo Gallery, Mercury Lounge, Blvd. (for a BRM event), Le Poisson Rouge, Pianos (3 week residency), Public Assembly, and Death by Audio; in Philly at Kung Fu Necktie and Johnny Brenda's; and in Austin at Club Primo, Club 1808, Beauty Bar, and the Green Owl Ranch. Obviously, I'm not sick of them yet ;)

These guys are touring pros, and they're opening for Peter Bjorn and John at the TLA in Philly on May 1st, and opening for Man Man in Virgina and North Carolina. A few months ago, they also performed an acoustic set for Big Ugly Yellow Couch, which is "an acoustic video session series run out of the Brooklyn apartment of writer Carlye Wisel and photographer/videographer Donald Rasmussen...stemming from the idea that phenomenal music can be stripped down to its core and remain just as impressive." Grandchildren graced that ugly couch and transformed their wild songs into something achingly beautiful. 

Last night, Grandchildren opened up for O'Death: an eclectic Brooklyn-based rock band combining folk, bluegrass, metal and punk with some Middle Eastern vibes to form mosh-happy songs. They played to a sold-out crowd of adoring fans who bounced around gleefully, threw up their hands, sang along, and requested an encore, even after a raucous finale of "Down to Rest," which also featured Grandchildren's Tris Palazzolo on trombone. They are touring in support of a brand new album called Outside (not to be confused with David Bowie's album outside...gotta love that one). Here's an older music video of theirs, directed by Benjamin Zeitlin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No.Alt. Photo Gallery

So, I have a job, and it has been harder for me to post! But, I will keep at it, no worries! And I have big plans for future updates. 

For right now, here I am promoting my very own website, ha! I love taking pictures of random things, and I just updated my Photo Gallery and will now share with you a couple of highlights, in hopes that you will be so inclined to sift through more. Notice that sidebar...yeah, the link is there too ;)

 other places.

 new york city.


 people i know.


captured (other photographers).
this one by elizabeth gordon-tennant


Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave

Music from Denmark, and the Nordic region in general (especially Sweden), has found its way into American ears for a good while now. The Raveonettes are Danish-bred but American-based, emblemizing the marriage of snowy Europe with rainy New York, as their music tends to feel slick and watery. Every two years since their debut album in 2003, The Raveonettes have been releasing new material and Raven in the Grave is their fifth studio album. The cool, hip, Jesus and Mary Chain sound for which they are known is still in wonderful shape on this record, as the pair continues to put their bountiful supply of guitar pedals to good use.

Some absolutely magical tracks appear on Raven in the Grave, a pretty apt title for the visuals they induce, though perhaps misleadingly dark. Even though they've nailed that '80s-goth vibe, some of the songs are actually sunshiney. One of the more unique aspects to The Raveonettes is that they're able to combine uplifting melodies with an eerie, Joy Division-esque musicality. Songs like "War in Heaven" and "Forget That You're Young" are swoon-worthy, as synths and guitars play to Sharin Foo's tender, whispery voice. We never lose our grip on the melody, or the two-part vocal harmonies for which the duo is also known. Even within the density of the fuzz, and even when the song spirals in on itself, we still return to the two singers and the well-balanced instruments they man.

A few songs fall a little flat for me, being too dainty and lullaby-esque, to the point of being boring. But the majority of the nine songs on Raven are so elegant, rich and whimsical that it (more or less) makes up for those few I found less interesting. "Apparitions" swirls and glides like the ghosts for which it's named. Beautiful and perhaps the most emotive (mostly due to Sune Rose Wagner's somewhat torturous vocals, and an explosion of sounds that almost swallows the bassline), I could listen to this song for far longer than its current four minutes. "Ignite Revised" feels beachy in tone and melody; maybe evoking a mystic night at the sea underneath a glowing moon. "Evil Seeds" takes us right to the grave of the album's title, building a fierce drumbeat between stark moments where the vocals stand nearly bare. Another favorite, this track feels like both a leather whip and a silky curtain, bridging the gap between dangerous and gentle.

I only wish the album ended with "Evil Seeds" rather than "My Time's Up," which goes back to the "too delicate" sound I mentioned before. The Raveonettes are at their strongest when they turn up the amps and push down the pedals, rather than tiptoeing their way through lyrics. Still, the album affirms that the band is creating their own definition of the shoe-gazey post-punk they adore, and Raven also proves that they still have a lot to offer and explore.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poem: "It's Ours" by Charles Bukowski

there is always that space there
just before they get to us
that space
that fine relaxer
the breather
while say
flopping on a bed
thinking of nothing
or say
pouring a glass of water from the
while entranced by

gentle pure

it's worth

centuries of


just to scratch your neck
while looking out the window at
a bare branch

that space
before they get to us
when they do
they won't
get it all

artist: Lee Wilde

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 5th

April 5th, man...both Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley died on this day. Both were born in 1967 in Washington, to parents who would divorce when they were around seven; both front men of important and influential '90s grunge bands; and both also poets whose pain and disillusionment came through in their lyrics, stage presence, and not-so-clandestine addictions.

In 1994, after taking three times the "recommended" dosing of heroin, Cobain shot himself. In 2002, after ingesting a speedball of coke and heroin, Staley, who had been secluding himself for some time, fatally overdosed. Both men were discovered several days (in Cobain's case three; in Staley's fourteen) after death, and both were mourned greatly by the public and the music industry at large. Perhaps neither thought they would become linked to the other in such an obvious way, but I think comparing the two artists doesn't merely rest on their joint deathdate, eight years apart.

And now to get personal: I remember when Layne Staley died, though I don't recall exactly what I did. I don't remember when Kurt Cobain died, but I recall what I did when he became a part of my life. Every April 5th, I listened to his music and sort of celebrated his soul (including Staley's after 2002.) I remember the 10th Anniversary of Cobain's death, when NYC's K-Rock (rip) played all of Roma without interruption, as well as other live Nirvana performances. I listened all night, lying on my floor. One of my professors was originally from Seattle, and she went back there for that April weekend. She bought a Seattle newspaper, with Kurt on the front page, and gave it to me during class. 

Trying to describe how important Cobain and Staley (but especially Cobain) have been to this person I've become would take way more effort than I dare put into without further ado, here are Cobain and Staley performing on MTV Unplugged. Both of these performances should be considered among the absolute highlights of their careers, especially since both artists were incredibly proud of their singing during these sets. I can think of no better musicians who expressed themselves, and all that inner turmoil, in such deeply raw and beautiful manners. It isn't "magic" though; it's sheer authenticity.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New York I Love You...

A video in honor of the very last LCD Soundsystem performance, held tonight in NYC. Not only do I absolutely love (and agree with) this song, but the video features my very favorite Muppet (taking Manhattan, I assume). Enjoy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Movie Endings

Alert alert! Please don't ruin these movies for yourselves, if you haven't seen them (I'll try not to give too much away where it really matters). Alas, here is a personal list of my very favorite endings...

1. Planet of the Apes (1968) - Charlton Heston bangs on the sand and cries, God damn you all to hell!! Without a drop of music leading into completely silent credits, this final scene literally takes your breath away, it's so fucking powerful. I declare it the best ending in all of movie history. And really, who saw that twist coming!?

2. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) - Sally, our "final girl," finally escapes the tortures of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family; she hops into the back of a pick-up truck just as Leatherface swings his chainsaw, in utter frustration, up toward the morning sun. Having survived her ordeal, Sally laughs hysterically, completely covered in blood.

3. Dancer in the Dark (2000) - One of the most gut-wrenching and painful endings I have ever encountered, and the reason why Bjork will never make another film. You probably shouldn't watch the following clip before watching the film... 

4. The Shining (1980) - After a suspenseful and surreal chase through the snow-covered maze outside the Overlook Hotel, young Danny finally escapes his psychotic, ax-wielding father. The next morning, we see Jack Nicholson frozen dead, forever stuck in the maze. Then, the camera zooms in on an old picture of people inside the Hotel's ballroom, and guess who stands among them!

5. The Wicker Man (1973) - Though the cult-ish lure of the songs, costumes, pagan ceremonies and  master-of-horror Christopher Lee are enough to draw one in, it's really worth making it through this quirky film for its ending. Let me just hint that it involves a giant wicker man, and a ritualistic burning. Wicked!

6. Lost in Translation (2003) - Two characters, both unhappy in their marriages, meet in foreign, florescent Tokyo and form an unlikely bond. Soon they must return to their own lives, and their own "loves." Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" perfectly accompanies this bittersweet scene; an absolutely perfect ending for an ambiguous "affair" that exists somewhere beyond the realities of everyday life.

7. Once (2006) - Here's another bittersweet ending involving love that never gets off the ground; or perhaps love versus "reality." After creating a magical record together, these two unnamed characters part ways, but the man buys the girl (too poor to afford one) a piano. As she plays it in her home, she stares out the window, remembering him. Can you tell I like realistic, non-melodramatic endings?

8. District 9 (2009) - So our main guy, for whom we are rooting, eventually succumbs to his "illness." The life he once lived in South Africa is destroyed, but not before he helps save the lives and fates of the creatures he now lives among. In the very end, he creates a flower for his wife, who can only suspect that he is the one who, somehow, keeps leaving them on her doorstep. 

9. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - Tense is a perfect way to describe this film, based on true life events. When Pacino exits the bank he's holding hostage and shouts "Attica! Attica!" with raised fists, you're completely on his side, even though he's a criminal. After a very long day and night, he and his partner Sal are finally getting what they want...or so they think. You can literally feel their sweat dripping down your face as you watch. 

10. Taxi Driver (1976) - I wrote about this for a film paper in college, so here we go: In the last scene, where Travis (De Niro) is back in his cab, he very quickly glances in his rear-view mirror. For about two seconds, he turns the rear-view mirror to face himself, and we see his reflection. His face is cast over with red light and he appears startled, but then everything seems normal again. For a split-second, he realizes once and for all that he is like everyone else; the violence and disgrace of the city through which he drives have manipulated him, too. For once, he is not looking at someone he can judge in the back seat, but only at himself.

OH WAIT, these go to eleven!
11. American Beauty (1999) - We know that Kevin Spacey's character is going to die, he warns of this from the beginning, but we don't know how. A brilliant and beautiful end to a brilliant and beautiful film.