It is another Monday night in San Diego. Another week of classes or work are ahead, and people are already asking, ""Is it Friday yet?""
At Java Joe's open mic night at 1956 Bacon Street in Ocean Beach, Monday nights are a lively mix of song and laughter. Wendy, the open mic's emcee, takes the stage and leads everyone in a rendition of the open mic theme song. The crowd knows the song well -- many of them come to Java Joe's every Monday night. They come in baseball caps and business suits, and play guitars, saxophones or flutes. One man even plays his homemade percussion instrument. Each night features a wide variety of performers, well worth the $3 cover charge.
There is a myth about open mic nights: that they are a sort of breeding ground for raw, unbridled talent. In most cases, this is not true. A usual open mic will have a handful of girls singing about ex-boyfriends and guys growling warped renditions of the blues. There are always one or two gems but for the most part it is painfully obvious why some people have record deals and other's don't.
At Java Joe's, there are more than just a few gems. Every performer is unique, and shockingly, they are very good. On Monday night (Oct. 9th) the line-up began with Matt Carone, who, after hearing a few jokes about his last name, claimed it was French for ""I don't give a shit."" Imagine his set as Bob Dylan as a Hell's Angel.
The dim lighting and intimate setting embraced all the performers who took the stage. Whether they made mistakes or stole the show, Wendy was never condescending or insulting. He complemented everyone and the crowd followed his lead.
Later in the evening, it was Johnny Love's turn. Johnny must have been a thespian in high school because his 10-minute set combined humor and camp with a rich voice and great songs. Unlike most open mics, Java Joe's allows dance, comedy and poetry. Any oddball talent is good enough for their stage, as long as it does not exceed the two-song/10-minute time limit.
So will any of the performers at open mic nights become the next Jewel? Maybe. Or, then again, probably not. After the last latte has been poured and the coffee filters have been emptied, everyone goes back to their day jobs. If you drive two hours north to Los Angeles on any given Wednesday (most open mics in L.A. are on Wednesday nights) you will find an entire calendar section of L.A. Weekly full of open mics from Common Grounds in the suburbs to Highland Grounds in the city. Anytime live music is played in Los Angeles, even if it is someone playing the xylophone, there is always the underlying hope that, somewhere out in the audience, there might be an A&R rep, and a waitress could become a rock star within a week. Is there any truth to this illusion? NO. In Ocean Beach, it's all about music that may never come out of your stereo but will still echo in your head.
In a time when decent entertainment is expensive and most concert tickets are over $40, Java Joe's is an affordable yet fun way to spend a Monday night -- especially since nobody cracks open the books until Wednesday anyway. The sign-ups begin at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information check out the Java Joe's Web site: http://javajoes.org, or call (619) 523-0356.
If life were a game of golf, then it is the perfect swing within everyone that helps play the game. ""The Legend of Bagger Vance"" tries to tie golf to life in similar fashion to other films such as ""The Natural"" and ""Field of Dreams."" Whereas those films have a strong plot with understandable characters, ""Bagger Vance"" has neither the depth of character nor mysticism that define a great sports movie.
Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) is in financial trouble as her deceased father leaves her with a debt-ridden but fabulous golf course in Savannah. In order to promote the course, Adele creates a golf tournament between two golf greats, but the local businessmen will not sponsor the tournament without a local player.
The only person that can fill that role is Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon), a former amateur champion who has lost his touch after returning from war. Not only has Junuh lost his passion for the game of golf, but he abandons his girl, Adele.
Junuh enters the tournament even though he has lost his swing. Practicing his broken swing late at night, Junuh encounters an unknown stranger by the name of Bagger Vance (Will Smith). Vance becomes not only his caddie, but also his spiritual guide.
Without any depth to the characters, it is uncertain why Junuh was traumatized from the war. Nor is there understanding of how Adele feels and responds when Junuh abandons her. Inexplicably, there is almost no animosity between Adele and Junuh, even though Junuh abandoned her. Instead, there are a lot of nice and overly pleasant scenes where everyone seems to get along with one another.
Considering Savannah is part of the deep South, it's awkward as to how Vance, a black man, can easily go anywhere he wants at an all-white golf course. Bagger plays quite a minor role, and his words of wisdom do not seem to resonate nor even motivate.
The entire film itself is a wild stretch of the imagination in terms of plausibility as everyone seems to rally around Junuh without much reason. The golf tournament is also an exaggeration, having shots and plays that would be rarely, if ever made, let alone being made over and over again in a small golf shootout. It is this exaggeration that leaves the film unsatisfying.
It is a disappointment considering the venerable Robert Redford (""The Natural,"" ""A River Runs Through It"") is the director. Although beautiful cinematography and gorgeous golf scenes that mark Redford's films are visible, the depth of the characters that define Redford's work is not apparent.
Although the film tries hard to relate its message of golf and that perfect swing with life, it tries too hard. The result is a film that is pleasant, but not fulfilling to the soul.
Trance star BT along with ambient-pop group Hooverphonic will perform at 4th & B at 8 p.m. Buy tickets from Ticketmaster at (619) 220-8497 for $15.
A.J. Croce, the talented son of Jim Croce, will play at the Belly Up Tavern. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets cost $7. Buy them through Ticketmaster by calling (619) 220-8497.
From Ashes Rise, Born Dead Icons, Blumdklaatt and Durga will perform at the Che Cafe just east of the UCSD Theatre District. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost only $5. Call (858) 534-2311 for more information.
Next to Sonic Youth or Fugazi, Unwound is the next most influential post-punk bands in the mid '90s. Check them out at the Che Cafe at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6. Call (858) 534-2311 for more information.
Bad Religion will perform at the Cox Arena. The show starts at 8 p.m. For ticket information call (619) 220-TIXS.
MTV comes to RIMAC for its MTV Campus Invasion Tour with Wyclef Jean headlining the show. Tickets will cost $23.50 with a valid student ID. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Head to the Box Office in the Price Center to buy tickets.
The Joe Marillo Jazz Quartet will jazz it up at the Lyceum Theatre (San Diego Reperatory Theatre) with classic Sinatra tunes. The show starts at noon. The concert is free and parking is validated.
Following their most eclectic album to date, ""Things Fall Apart,"" The Roots come to the Belly Up Tavern at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $35. Call Ticketmaster for tickets at (619) 220-8497.
The Dandy Warhols will perform at Canes Bar & Grill with their lush layers of distorted guitars and British-esque sound homegrown on our side of the Atlantic. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $10 through Ticketmaster. Call (619) 220-8497 for more information.
Jurassic 5 kick off the first of two shows at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Over the past six years J-5 has recaptured the positive vibe of hip-hop. Wednesday's and Thursday's shows start at 9 p.m. Call Ticketmaster at (619) 220-8497 for information.
Reservations are recomended for Kevyn Lettau's Brazilian jazz style at Dizzy's. There will be a show at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. and tickets cost $12. Call (858) 270-7467 for more information.
Sometimes an album cannot be analyzed too deeply because it will appear shallow and superficial. Such is the case for ""Like This,"" Crush Down's debut album. Its heavy guitar riffs and solid vocals make the album just bearable, but one listen to the lyrics is enough to make the listener cringe.
The title track is a well-crafted hard rock song, but its trivial meaning is made obvious with lines such as ""You leave me higher than a whore."" Another song sounds like a young adult romance novel, as lead singer Justin Raymond sings, ""Pain, it's a taker, when you're breakin' up and you know it's over."" It's almost as if the band is anticipating the negative response to its album, as Raymond sings, ""I'm so transparent ... and all the critics increase my dosage,"" in ""Patch.""
Raymond's elastic voice resembles Stone Temple Pilots' singer Scott Weiland's on some tracks, but the quality of Crush Down's music does not even come close to that of STP. This band does not have any trouble busting out energetic, distortion-filled tracks, but its lack of depth makes its music sound as hollow as bubblegum rock.
-- Brenda Xu
Black Eyed Peas
""Bridging the Gap""
All the great ones have a signature sound. The Black Eyed Peas return with a vengeance on their second album, ""Bridging the Gap,"" blazing out their unique mix of hip hop, trip hop, drum 'n' bass and jungle.
BEP's sophomore project flows with a stronger club beat, promoted by contributions by Gang Starr's DJ Premier and Wyclef Jean. But, apl.de.ap and will.i.am from BEP have been the dominant forces behind the rest of the album's boards. Funky breaks and old-school samples from party favorites line each track with a dance groove missing from their debut album, ""Bridging the Front.""
Their first commercial release, ""Weekend,"" evidences this dance push by capturing Debbie Deb's '80s smash ""Lookout Weekend.""
""On this album,"" will.i.am said, ""we intended the songs to be played in clubs because we club motherfuckers. We wanted that umph. When we toured our last time, a lot of our songs we played on tour didn't register live. The recorded version is different. On this album, every single song that's on it, when we play it, it's like the way it transforms on stage is energetic enough to play it live.""
BEP takes the hybridization of hip-hop to another level, blending in classical Spanish guitar licks with an all-star guest lineup, ranging from Jurassic 5's Chali 2na to pop/R&B sensation Macy Gray.
""Bridging the Gap"" rings true to its name by showcasing BEP's on-stage presence and flare, which seemed to have been missing from their debut. Look for this album to shoot mainstream hip-hop away from ""trailer trash"" rap back to its soulful, urban roots.
-- David Lee
Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water
Riding on an endless wave of rock/rap acts, Limp Bizkit is the best at keeping judges pleased with their raw intensity and blend of eclectic hip-hop. After two albums with this same formula, the band's newest ""Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"" tastes like everything they've cooked for us before.
This record slices with a sonic chainsaw that encourages heavy-knuckle moshing. Wes Borland's usual, bloody seven-string power chords adorn most of the tracks, and the trippy soundscaping of DJ Lethal form the driving beats, reminding you who you're listening to. Basically, if you didn't like Limp Bizkit before, you're not going to like them now.
Head-banging tracks like ""My Generation"" force their way through listeners' heads like a deafening tornado, while songs like the syrupy ""My Way"" helps even out the latter part of the album with its steady rhythmic bumps and Fred Durst's well-balanced rhymes.
Fans will rave about the band's somewhat offensive third outing, and once again, Limp Bizkit proves that they can still belt out hits that snarl like an untamed beast. Woodstock '01, anyone?
-- Randy Lie
""Bridging the Gap""
Behind Radiohead's ""Kid A,"" the second most anticipated album of the year has to be from those four Irish lads collectively known as U2. Their most recent release, titled ""All That You Can't Leave Behind,"" is a beautiful collection of songs that blend the classic ""Rattle & Hum"" of U2 and the technology of ""Pop.""
Since their first release, ""Boy,"" U2 have come a long way. Twenty-two years and over 100 million albums later, U2 remain one of the most enduring bands of our time. Even more remarkable is that no one has ever left U2 and no new member has ever joined. Guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen and the illustrious Bono have stayed together to release over 10 albums.
After successful albums such as ""October"" and ""War,"" U2 announced in 1984 that they would be working with producer and experimentalist Brian Eno and his protege Daniel Lanois for their fourth studio album. The result was ""The Unforgettable Fire,"" which gave the world the characteristic U2 anthems and included ""Pride (In The Name of Love).""
U2 soon followed with a string of unforgettable albums like, ""The Joshua Tree,"" ""Rattle & Hum,"" ""Achtung Baby"" and ""Zooropa."" Their political consciousness and the fire of their epic live performances propelled them into greatness. U2's ability to blend hummable melodies, striking lyrics and the soaring voice of Bono enabled them to push past basic pop music.
It was nearly four years after ""Zooropa"" and their groundbreaking Zoo TV tour that U2 released another album. Though ""Pop"" topped the charts, the music critics questioned whether U2 were pushing the envelope a bit too much with their electronica-tinged album.
""All That You Can't Leave Behind"" seems to bring together all of the qualities that made U2 what they are today. Thoughtful lyrics, cinematic arrangements and the unmistakable U2 riffs from The Edge are coupled with the smooth electronic beats and keyboards.
U2's first single and the first track off of their new album, ""Beautiful Day"" sets the tone for the rest of the recording with sleek electronic beats and a melody that could've been straight from any classic U2 album.
Though U2 seems to be pulling old tricks out their hat, one must not mistake U2's new album as a way to achieve quick commercial success. ""All That You Can't ..."" is merely one of the stops in the evolution of U2.
""Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"" is a track that could turn out to be one of U2's best songs. ""Stuck In a Moment ..."" offers a powerful chorus that you think is familiar but it is distinctively U2.
Songs like ""Kite"" and ""Wild Honey"" blend the slightly ambiguous lyrics of ""Pop"" yet they still retain the heart-tugging beauty of their early work. ""Peace on Earth"" brings back the socially conscious lyrics that led U2 to headline Amnesty International's Conspiracy of Hope Tour in 1986 and play a concert in the fragile political setting of Sarajevo.
U2 has come full circle with ""All That You Can't Leave Behind."" The band returns to a more simplistic sound that gives a glimpse of the classic hits of the past but the sound is filled out with modern day technology and the constantly evolving brilliance of U2.
This album takes everything U2 has been doing right these past two decades and places it into 50 minutes of sonic brilliance. ""All That You Can't Leave Behind"" can emerge as one of the best U2 albums of all time.
The latest release from long-standing metal act Crowbar, titled ""Equilibrium,"" returns to the New Orleans sound they started with. It is a sludgy Southern metal that helped form the sound of groups like Corrosion of Conformity and Eyehategod. Crowbar proves that they still have the might and whiskey-driven power they brought to the forefront of the not-so-underground scene.
The music is dark and moving, staying mostly at the slower tempos they love, but occasionally picking up the pace for a riff or two. At one point they totally change gears and delve into a gothic piano and rain track that is simple and beautiful. Using only clean vocals, Crowbar is far from sludge-core, and may not please those out for speed and distortion. Yet for any who enjoy good, heavy music, this is a safe bet.
-- Rinaldo Dorman
What: TGIF free concert
Where: Price Center Plaza
when: Friday, Nov. 3
Interestingly enough, Friday night's concert may prove to be the university's best of the year. This is one of those rare jewels in the rough that should restore some confidence in A.S. Programming for those tired of seeing, oh, say, Wyclef Jean or Black Eyed Peas for the umpteenth time. And the best part -- the show is free.
The concert will open up with a 30-minute session from select members of the DJs and Vinylphiles Club and will then jump into Lost at Last, an ""ethno/techno"" fusion group. The concert's location -- outdoors in the Price Center Plaza -- creates a perfect backdrop for the featured fire dancers, video projection effects and a supporting cast of musicians adorned with tribal body paints. It's eye candy for the masses, a mini-Burning Man pulsing in the heart of campus. With the snowballing tension between the Palestinians and Israelis abroad and in our backyard, the concert has been dedicated to a hope for peace between these two peoples. Boom. A concert with a message.
But it doesn't end with a couple of Beastie Boys calling for peace and then popping out five radio versions of ""Brass Monkey."" Lost at Last is one of those groups that is as interesting to read about as it is to listen to.
The band formed in Maui and debuted its self-titled album at a venue on the slopes of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot dormant volcano. The three founding members -- programmer and keyboardist Om, instrumentalist Deva Priyo and singer Jaya Lakshmi -- enjoyed sellout performances on the islands, but wanted to take their message to the mainland.
""It soon became clear that we needed to depart these peaceful shores, [so that] many more people could be part of the Lost at Last experience,"" said band manager Randy Niklason.
Lost at Last made a second home in Northern California as their eclectic electronic style appealed to San Franciscans. They eventually carved out a musical niche that they called ""planet hop."" But it takes a little more to pinpoint their unique sound.
The group takes a polar approach to its music, blending ""ancient"" influences (Sufi, Vedic Indian, Afro-Mediterranean, Gypsy and American Indian) with modern (Goa trance, rock, funk, ambient, folk) musical styles. On record, Lost at Last carries a patchwork of hypnotic beats, textured by Lakshmi's ethereal chanting and Priyo's synthesized strings.
Their live shows are touted as something different altogether, with hand and set drums pounding away in full ecstatic effect. Heavy on the down beats with enough rave-esque climaxes to put a porn star to shame, Lost at Last perform ritualistically and orchestrate the ebb and flow of the audience's energy.
With the supporting cast of fire dancers and projection screens geared for future flashbacks, the concert looks to be an intense night filled with techno-primitive fervor and festivity. Sun God should take notes.
* EJ, The Shy One -- His favorite color is fuscia. Goal: to be just like Jack, minus the round head.
* TK, The Exotic One, The Mystic -- ""I like a girl with a lot of flavor, like the Ultimate Cheeseburger. It's got lots of meat, lots of love, and lots of flavor. I like my girls to be saucy like that.""
* TJ, The Cute One, Pisces -- Goal: to record a solo album ""Me, Myself, and Meat & Cheese.""
* JT, The Tough One -- ""I came here to do two things: eat Ultimate Cheeseburgers, make some music and kick some butt. Right now I'm all out of -- wait a minute, that's three things. I never get that one right!""
* The Other EJ, The All-American, The Other One -- ""We're not like every boy band out there, we groove to the meat of a different drum.""
Just when we thought the wrath of boy bands had finally subsided, Jack in the Box restaurants have unleashed their secret weapon: the Meaty Cheesy Boys. These five make up a group of heavily moussed, hip-gyrating, lip-synching teen-age boy-toys intended to promote the company's most manly of sandwiches, the Ultimate Cheeseburger. Using musical groups and the ad-within-an-ad concept isn't new for Jack in the Box. The same technique was used for the Spicy Crispy Chicks, an ode to all-girl groups (e.g. Spice Girls), back in 1997. Although the Meaty Cheesy Boys are definitely a new breed, are they here for the long haul? Next to the antenna-balls, these boys are possibly the best thing to happen to Jack in the Box since its Mint Oreo milkshake.
The Meaty Cheesy Boys have every component of real teen icons, including their own Web site and fan base. At http://www.meatycheesyboys.com, which is dedicated to the boys and their music, fans can scope ""sold out"" dates for their 2000 concert tour. Also at the site is Teen Beat -- style profiles on EJ, TK, JT, The Other EJ and TJ, who all share the Ultimate Cheeseburger as their favorite food. An additional 30 fan sites have popped up over the Web, proving that teeny boppettes are still in need of hunky prepackaged love machines.
While advertising, public relations and an Internet campaign are nothing new for Jack in the Box, the MCB capitalized on this pop trend to such perfection that they landed an unheard-of guest appearance at the ""Billboard Awards"" in December, where the group crooned its collective love for all things meat and cheese -- probably much more enjoyable viewing than ""'NSync's HBO Special."" Area disc jockeys have recently flooded the company with requests for the Boys, in the flesh, as guests. The only interview the band was willing to give took place on ""founder"" Jack's very own call-in radio show, an ongoing format for the chain's radio efforts. Although, if you find yourself in need of a beefy dairy fix -- the official MCB Web site is offering MP3 downloads off the latest advertising campaign. It's completely understandable why these five boys have such an attentive following -- I became an instant fan after hearing the lyrics to their newest release, ""The Ultimate Cheese Burger (extended remix)"":
Girl, I know you're a vegetarian
But I won't eat tofu again
Give me the Ultimate Cheeseburger
I'm sure you'd understand
It would be better
If you ate more like a guy
If lyrics like that don't make you want to throw your panties on stage, I don't know what would. But I'm almost positive that the site of these fabulous five will have your heart melting like a slice of cheese; and with songs titled: ""Your Love's Melting Me, Baby"" and ""Put On Your Dancin' Meat,"" it's no coincidence that product sales have jumped 40 to 50 percent since the campaign began.
Hot and juicy boys singing about hot and juicy burgers -- the world is not a perfect place.
A few months ago I was fortunate enough to make a business trip to Austin, Texas, compliments of the Internet music company, I work for.
If there's anything that I learned in college, it's not to pass up a free meal -- or a free trip, for that matter. I had no idea when I got the job that promoting music and handing out flyers would end up taking me to one of the most interesting and tiring events of my college career, let alone supply me for one week with a killer hotel room, free food, open bar and nonstop amazing shows every night until 3 a.m.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Why in the hell would anyone want to go to Austin?
Contrary to popular belief, Austin has no cowboys, no rolling plains and not a single head of big hair. Austin hosts the biggest music conference in the nation. Put 7, 000 musicians and record moguls together and you have the music industry's nonstop party, better known as South by South West. For one week Austin hosts over 1,000 acts, showcasing the cream of the crop -- new up-and-coming bands from all over the world, and the best barbecue this side of the Mississippi.
So as I'm on my way to Texas, sitting between the CEO for Spin magazine and some indie musician sporting yellow leather pants, I'm wondering how I got here. I'm not a musician (well, other than singing in the shower) and I'm not up there on the industry's corporate ladder, but I do know my music.
I was overwhelmed by ""the industry's"" presence upon my arrival at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. There were bands performing at Gate 26 and in the airport's food court, right smack in front of Arby's. I wasn't even in the center of all the action and people were already throwing themselves onto anyone that looked capable of signing a record deal for them. This was definitely going to be a tiring trip: work hard, play hard.
This proved to be true the moment I entered my hotel lobby. A stack of 3,000 company flyers promoting a talent show were shoved into my arms and needed to be stuffed under hotel doors and placed in every club by midnight. The competition was so stiff and the rivalry so obnoxious that it threatened my enjoyment, my reason for being there in the first place -- the music. I was being stickered by 20 different Internet start-ups while watching a belligerent representative for College Broadcast streak across the stage screaming unidentifiable marketing slurs.
Since when did a music conference become a popularity contest? The countdown to my self-destruction started day one. Dot-com vs. dot-com, the battle of the industry had begun.
By day, South By South West took over the Austin Convention Center with a trade show exhibiting countless newborn Internet music sites. These were pretty much identical to one another, varying only in each one's choice of gimmicky give-aways. By the end of the fifth day I had so much free schwag, it was a miracle that American Airlines let me back onto the plane.
I have to admit, free loot was the only way for companies to single themselves out in the sea of 'Net start-ups. I scavenged everything from wind-up, fire-spitting Godzillas, guitar picks, shot glasses (on a string, no less), vintage band posters and, if I got up early enough, fresh waffles at the rockrgirl.com booth.
With over 500 different companies under one roof, it was surprising that so many were of no interest to me -- dare I say, wasted Internet space? Look, just because the Internet is the preferred marketing tool these days doesn't mean that everyone should put up a site. I mean, guitarpickcleaning.com? I just throw mine away and get a new one.
Aside from that, nothing happened during the day other than schmoozing one's way onto a guest list. Here's where the truth of Austin come out, where I divulge the misfortunes of South by South West's politics.
By night, South by South West doubled in population. It was like Disneyland -- shoulder to shoulder but without baby strollers. There were even more bars than those in Pacific Beach and the Gaslamp put together. In order even to be acknowledged as a person in Austin, you had to be sporting an $80 (limited access) wrist band or the VIP badge, at $300 a pop. To be quite honest, the wrist bands weren't even a solid guarantee. I saw a lot of angry wrist-band-wearers watching shows out on the street through the windows.
I began to discover that things were not as cut-throat as I thought. If you have the money, you are automatically given first priority. I'm not just talking about the passes -- even for the musicians trying to get signed, money and image was everything in Austin. Even if you were sporting the same VIP badge as the guy next to you, one of you will have priority over the other -- either it's because you look better in snakeskin pants or you're standing in line with Janeane Garofalo.
South by South West began to take its toll on me by day four. It might have been the fact that I was force-fed eight margaritas by the boys of Tenacious D the night before, or simply that I was disappointed in the principles of the music industry. Not only do boy bands and Britney Spears make me bitter, but the people who create these ""stars"" were everywhere, and they're 10 times worse, promoting money-hungry, gimmicky plots to change the way the world sees music. They walk about scouting out possible candidates that they can mold to their ""standard."" It's like a mass-cloning mission. Just thinking about them makes me bitter!
Upon my return home, I was cranky from being awake 48 hours straight, having boarded the plane at 5 a.m. after leaving a rave at 4 a.m. I was also cranky from dealing with one-too-many mainstream producers.
Again I ask: What is becoming of music? It's like they've forgotten that talent is an issue. A lot of the best bands at the conference were being considered only if they were willing to modify a few things. Modify what? Their image? It's a good thing I was there for the music, and I gladly reminded myself of that each night, so I could enjoy myself. With all frustration aside, Austin provided a great showcase of talent. My enjoyment of music has been rekindled.
With that in mind, let's talk about the bands and leave aside my disappointment for the industry and its standards. The scene is punishing me, but at least musicians are fighting back and creating original music. Here are my picks for the best up-and-coming musicians featured at South By South West:
At the Drive-In (El Paso, Texas): Energy. That's what comes to mind when I think of this band. Energy and passion. The lead singer not only falls to the floor with epileptic-like spasms, he bounces back and forth on the stage, frequently planting handstands on the drum set. The band is successful in getting the crowd involved with the show, sporting self-grown afros and tight T-shirts. They are the epitome of the emo scene and played an amazing 70-minute set. The club was tiny, but even from the back of the room you could get into the performance. Every song sounds different and is equally good. These guys are definitely one of my favorite bands of the moment, and I highly recommend buying one of their albums: ""In/Casino/Out,"" on Fearless Records; or ""Relationship of Command,"" on Grand Royal.
The Causey Way (Gainesville, Fla.): The stage was humorously set up as an altar to the lead singer, sporting candles, cheesy Sears portraits, flower bouquets and a keyboardist wearing a bicycle helmet. The five-piece band wore lab coats and nurse outfits, an almost a blinding sight under the blacklights. The singer has a very unique voice, half-speaking and half-singing. The words ""he's so purrrr-fect, he's so puuurrrrfect like a pussy cat"" are still stuck in my head. I was flashing back to all those '80s classic cult bands and how they had the unbelievable ability to make me an instant groupie. Check these guys out on the Riffage Web site, http://www.riffage.com.
Back Yard Babies (Stockholm, Sweden): Good old-fashioned punk is back, even if we have to import it from Sweden. I think I fell in love with them the moment I caught a glance of their 10-inch mohawks and spiked leather jackets. It was the same rush of excitement as when I bought my first Operation Ivy cassette in the '80s. Granted, I couldn't understand a word they were saying -- their music broke the language barrier and they were hilarious performers. Besides, it seems that swearing is the universal way to get a crowd cheering for you. I even recommend these guys after the experience of having the lead singer hock a loogie on me. Maybe that's the one thing that didn't translate well.
DeathRay (Sacramento): This band features two members from the well-known band Cake. I had no idea that '70s-style industrial britpop could come out of Sacramento. Nevertheless, the on-stage dancing won me over, along with the cheesy love-song lyrics and easy sing-along factor. I never thought dancing could be so sexy. Well, I know that Beck can do it, but the organ player? Amazing. They're a very entertaining bunch and sold out two shows during my stay in Austin.
The Mr. T Experience (Berkeley): These guys have been around for a while, but they're starting to make public appearances again. To put it simply, they play ""songs about chicks,"" and say so before each set. One of their best albums, ""Love is Dead,"" is a tribute to sucky failed attempts at love and relationships. This is the music we can all relate to. They are very poppy, ska-like, with lots of '60s rock 'n' roll back-up vocals, but differ with the blunt bitterness of rejection. Their comedy act and synchronized guitar swaying, similar to ZZ Top, is a show in itself and worth seeing. They use to play live all the time at Soma in San Diego, but since the 13-year-old hangout closed last year, I haven't seen much of them around.
Modest Mouse (Issaquah, Wash.): I've actually been following this band for the past three years, but this was the first time that I was able to see them live. It was one of the most unbelievable concert experiences of my lifetime. Modest Mouse are 10 times more amazing in person than they are on any of their five albums. I had no idea that so many different noises could come out of the same three instruments. Midway through the show, the lead singer lifted his guitar up to his mouth, where he used the pickup as a mic to distort his voice. I was a little concerned when he pulled out a bag of live crawdads and handed them out to the people in the front row. I think Modest Mouse could quite possibly be one of the more ingenious groups out there now.
In this new Hollywood flick, Brendan Fraser (""Blast from the Past"") plays a lonely, degenerate technical support advisor, Elliot Richards. He has absolutely no friends -- even his co-workers despise him. Though he has a good heart, the harder he tries, the more they push him away and make a mockery of him. All he wants is a girlfriend who will love him, but he has had a crush on a girl in the office for four years, and she does not even know he is alive.
One night Richards runs into the devil (Elizabeth Hurley, ""Austin Powers""), who is a sexy seductress, to his surprise. They make a typical deal -- his soul for seven wishes. Sure, Richards can make any little wish his heart desires, but the devil always knows how to undermine his wishes to make his life a living hell. Can being rich, powerful and in love be all that he has dreamed of, or is he forgetting to fill in some of the details?
Fraser does a great job interpreting the role of a socially inept fool, so guileless and considerate that he is a doormat. He displays hilarious reactions to the catastrophes that arise from each wish he makes.
Hurley also gives a surprisingly acceptable performance as a fierce, naughty and downright nasty Lucifer. The storyline and the situations are not surprisingly novel, but ""Bedazzled"" does have its moments.
One thing is for sure: The costumes and use of color in this film are fantastic, and you will not leave the theater without having had at least one laugh.
To many people, the thought of attending a modern theater and dance performance is synonymous with watching paint dry, minus the intoxicating fumes. It is precisely those people that should attend this weekend's world-premier of ""Phantom Bodies/Phantom Limbs.""
The show is the work of dancers/choreographers Jean Isaacs and Patricia Rincon, who are both on the faculty of the Department of Theater and Dance at UCSD. ""Phantom Bodies/Phantom Limbs"" will show this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Mandeville Auditorium.
""This is going to be a great show,"" Rincon said. ""It is very rich and very strong with the different arts blended together. It is not to be missed.""
""Phantom Bodies/Phantom Limbs"" combines the work of dancers, actors, musicians, directors, visual artists and designers to bring the audience on a thrilling journey through the concepts of dreams and death.
The show is divided into two sections. The first, ""Phantom Bodies,"" is the work of Rincon.
""I got a lot of my inspiration from dreams and death,"" Rincon said. ""I researched death in many cultures and how it was dealt with. The Day of the Dead in Mexico was one thing that caught my eye, along with the treatment of death in the Irish culture. I was fascinated with the ceremonies and the rites of passage.""
Using multiple art forms, she takes the audience on a journey through life, death and dreams, and hints at just how thin the line is between each.
""There is that feeling that people get where they are confused if they are in a dream or if it is real,"" Rincon said. ""There is a question of whether that line can be crossed.""
For those who are looking for something more than purely philosophical interpretation, Rincon's piece is not without its comedic moments.
""We also use some comedy in the piece,"" Rincon said. ""Life does have its funny moments. We do get more serious as the piece goes on, but it is poetic and not very heavy.""
Rincon's portion of the show will feature dancers from the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, including Carol Abney, Jessica Curiel, Deborah Lohse, Rommel Salveron, Shannon Snyder and Terry Wilson.
Isaacs' portion of the show, ""Phantom Limbs,"" explores a different aspect of the phantom theme. ""Phantom Limbs"" is based on the premise that when a person loses a limb, he can still feel it there. As with ""Phantom Bodies,"" Isaacs' piece deals with issues of death.
""Phantom Limbs"" also uses a combination of actors and dancers to convey its message.
The dance used in this piece is very experimental, according to Cameron Thrash, a UCSD graduate and dancer with Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater dancers.
""This is not at all a stereotypical dance performance,"" Thrash said. ""All of the movements were created by the choreographer and the dancer, working around the dancer's experiences. Instead of the choreographer just telling us what to do, we are using our own experiences. It makes it very personal.""
With the evening taking on personal meaning for the performers, it has some of them filled with butterflies.
""I'm anxious and apprehensive about this show because it's definitely a piece of something that nobody really knows about,"" Thrash said. ""It's going to be a huge show.""
Isaacs' portion of the show will feature her San Diego Dance Theater dancers, including Thrash, Elizabeth Lee, Alison Dietterle, Veronica Martin, Faith Jensen-Ismay, Todd Bennett and James Ellzy.
The dancers interact with the actors and use a mix of dance, movement, music and the spoken word to communicate the evening's thought-provoking theme.
Jim Winker, an actor in the performance as well as an instructor at the Department of Theater and Dance, is very fond of the idea of dancers working with the actors.
""There are a lot of troupes out there that do nothing but dance,"" Winker said. ""This is a whole different way of working. It is really fascinating to explore the different kinds of communication. I would like to do more of this in the future. It is very interesting.""
Rincon is also supportive of the mix of theater and dance.
""Dance is so wonderful in its nonverbal communication, but that only goes so far,"" Rincon said. ""The mix of speech goes further in communicating the overall theme. I have been working with actors and dancers for a while now and I absolutely want to continue working in this medium.""
In addition to the dancers, Winker and Charlie Oates are featured actors in the show. Steven Schick, a percussionist from UCSD, will also perform during the show. Les Waters appears in the show and is the director.
The sets for the show feature glass sculptures from Encinitas artist Joel Bloomberg and is designed by Dan Wiener of the La Jolla Playhouse. David Kesner works on the sound and mix production for the performance and Kathryn Gould is in charge of costume design.
As a supplement to ""Phantom Bodies/Phantom Limbs,"" there will be an art exhibit in Mandeville Auditorium featuring the work of Nathaniel Clark, a San Diego visual artist. Clark's images, which portray dreams in other-worldly ways, provided additional inspiration to both Rincon and Isaacs. The art will be available to view throughout the show.
The performance is made possible by funding from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, The California Arts Council and the John and Beverly Stauffer Foundation.
Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for UCSD faculty, staff and senior citizens, and $12 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the UCSD Box Office, at all Ticketmaster outlets and on the Web at http://www.ueo.ucsd.edu.
For further information on the show, call the University Events Office at (858) 534-4090.