Archive | August, 2009

At The Movies

31 Aug

District 9District 9– I went in to D9 with no idea what to expect, other than a few images I’d gleaned from the ads.  Actually, I tried to turn off the sound or look away from the ads, too, since I got the feeling that I didn’t want to know too much, anyway.  I was anticipating some sort of mind-bender, with a crazy twist that the mysterious ads were keeping from us, and what I got was a rock-em, sock-em action movie with cool guns and lots of great ultraviolence.  Okay, that’s cool, too!  It wasn’t the game-changer I had expected, but it was really intense, and a lot of fun to watch. Sort of  Children of Men meets The Fly meets Cloverfield meets Predator. Even cooler was that the whole time I was watching, I was convinced that the story was based on a graphic novel or a book or something, but it turns out, it was a wholly original Sci-Fi idea! Wow! How long has it been since one of those made its way into theaters?  The Matrix?

pointbreakPoint Break– The roommates and I have been going through our house’s (frankly, really impressive) VHS collection, watching old movies whenever we’re all around with nothing to do.  The most recent of these screenings was of Kathryn Bigelow-directed “Point Break,” which is about as awesome as you remember it.  What I didn’t remember about the movie was how gorgeously shot all of the surfing scenes are, and how much the film felt as much like an homage to the lifestyle, and to nature, as it did a cop movie.  I think that it’s almost entirely due to Bigelow’s influence – when I saw that she just directed the (by all accounts amazing) “The Hurt Locker,” it made me want to see it even more.

Miller's Crossing HatMiller’s Crossing– For a long time, I was the guy who said that this was my favorite Coen brothers movie (at least, until Yiddish Policemen’s Union comes out).  Re-watching it, I think that in the years since I last saw it, Lebowski has maybe edged it out a bit, only in that the Dude, Walter, and Donnie’s words are never far from my day to day life, and you gotta respect that.  However, Miller’s Crossing is just so effing good.  Especially after watching so much In Treatment, it’s a blast to see Gabriel Byrne in another role, and to see that the Coens clearly saw the same amazing leading-man qualities in him that many in Hollywood never did. That slow, climbing hero-shot in the end!  When was the last time a director practically made out with his leading man like that?  The whole film is so deliberately old-fashioned in tone and style, and the amazing way that Joel Coen gets those tracking shots make it feel fresh.  God, did I just write that?  What is this, an intro to film class?

the_final_destination_4The Final Destination 3-D– Timmy and I went and saw this on Saturday – full disclosure: we went expecting a pretty shitty movie.  And that is exactly what we got.  Man, the 3-D was fun and everything, but whatever spark of originality the Destination movies had is long gone. I’m fairly certain that they weren’t all always this bad – the first one had Ally Larter, and the dude from Candyman, and Stiffler, and that freak-out with the bus killing the chick… I just remember it being really fun to watch, dark and funny and a trip to realize that the slasher in this slasher film was Death itself. The second and third ones (though they kinda blend together in my mind) were also cool, with callbacks to the original, and some rad gross-out deaths.  This fourth one just felt phoned in, and they even had the balls to call it “THE Final Destination.”  Based on that title, was it too much to expect something awesome? There were a handful of cool gross-outs the whole time, and the script and pacing were so lame… I could go on, but whatever.  It was crappy.  If it comes out on DVD not in 3-D, it’s not even worth looking at.  Drag Me To Hell, even rated PG-13 and in normal 2-D, rocked this movie into next year.

NickNora_1lgNick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist– So, a year after this big music movie came out, I finally saw it.  Hmm.  I dunno, I have the sneaking suspicion that I just watched a 90-minute ad for a bunch of bands from Sony’s record labels.  The movie itself didn’t really… exist?  Though I’m actually willing to forgive a lot, since it sort of just floats along, with two really likable leads talking and flirting and being cutting and winning and sarcastic the whole time.  Sort of a lot like American Graffiti, which isn’t a bad thing, so much, and all of the songs features did sound very nice. Kind of a lot like Garden State, you know, depressed mopy indie dude meets weird, cool girl and they realize they’re meant to be while great bands that the director thinks You Should Know About play in the background. But I liked Garden State, too. I guess I’m more on the Stephanie Zacharek side than the Roger Ebert side.  Though the “sex” scene in the recording studio seemed kinda gratuitous.  What was that all about, exactly? Staying true to the source material or something?

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Wow, this was a pretty great summer for movies – Star Trek, Up, Drag Me To Hell, District 9… and I didn’t get to see Half-Blood Prince or Ponyo, either. Add to those earlier releases like Coraline, which I thought was bloody awesome, and Watchmen, which was also freakin’ sweet, and the year so far looks even better. I just saw Joe’s Low Resolution list of the best films of the year so far, which reminded me of even more movies I really want to see – The Brothers Bloom, In The Loop, Inglorious Basterds, Away we Go, The Hurt Locker, and Humpday, and damn! 2009′s been a pretty good year!

Drumming, Drumming, Drumming

28 Aug

Kirk Drums1Whew. It has been an exhausting week.  I’ve spent half of my time getting ready for the big show next Thursday, which is going to be… epic. I’ll write more about the band next week, but if you’re in the bay area, you should really, really be there!  The other half has been spent getting ready for the school year to begin at Urban – though I only teach there a few hours a week, this time of year is one of the most intense/rewarding for me, since I get to attend workshops with all of the other teachers, catch up with everyone, and basically act like a for-reals educator for a week.

The flip side is that I have been extraordinarily busy.  Like, so busy I can’t write blog posts, or watch TV, or hang out with people… or exercise or eat properly.  But, one thing that I have found time to do, among my comings and goings at Urban, is practice the drums almost every day.  And dudes, I’m getting pretty good!  Basically, I’m Dr. Worm.

The more I play, the more relaxed I am when I play, and there’s just something so right about how the drums feel when you’re all warmed up… wow.  I can’t wait to get my dad’s 60′s Ludwig kit out here and find a band to play with.  In the meantime, my practice routine focuses on two things – doing exercises out of Charles Dowd’s amazing A Funky Primer for the Rock Drummer, and playing along with my favorite drum-centric recordings. I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite tunes to play along to, in the order that I usually play them.

The Kirk Hamilton Drumming Workout

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51C6XB0EKXL._SS500_Belle and Sebastian – “The Blues are Still Blue,” “Funny Little Frog,” and “For The Price of a Cup of Tea,” all from The Life Pursuit. I love, love, love this album, and if years ago, you’d have told me that this band would put out an album so funky that it would be this much fun to drum along with, I’d have thought you were nuts.  But here it is – Richard Colburn has really worked it out, and all three of these tunes are a total blast to play along with, and are great warm-up tunes.

SteelyDan-TwoAgainstNature-FrontSteely Dan – “Janie Runaway” and “Gaslighting Abbie” from Two Against Nature.  Speaking of great warm-up tunes, Ricky Lawson is like a clock on this record, and plays with such a precise groove that it’s impossible not to feel it.  I really, really like this album, and these two tunes are my favorites.  Partly because of Chris Potter’s solo on “Janie Runaway”… never a bad thing to feel like you’re playing along with Chris Potter.

23569048_1The New Pornographers – “Use It” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” from Twin Cinema. The most drum-heavy of the band’s albums, these two tunes have a lot of really fun things going on, particularly the 12/8 in “Use It.”  Never not fun to play with, especially when I really work it out and nail the fills.  Kurt Dahle is super, super good at the drums, huh?  Really creative player.

[AllCDCovers]_spacehog_the_hogyssey_2001_retail_cd-frontSpacehog – “This is America,” and “A Real Waste of Food” from The Hoggessy, “Mungo City” from The Chinese Album. Jonny Cragg did some really creative work with this band, and all of the band’s tunes had a really fun sense of swing to them… “This is America” is a real work out, superfast rock up until the giant half-time coda… I usually hit this stuff once I’m pretty warmed up.

Queens Of The Stone Age - Songs For The DeafQueens of the Stone Age - “No One Knows,” “First it Giveth” “Song for the Dead,” from Songs for the Deaf. Now we’re cooking.  Dave Grohl’s playing is without a doubt my favorite part of this album, and the tunes are perfect to play along with, a great blend of repetition, creative soloing, and groove.  The intro on “Song for the Dead” is the first drum solo I’m transcribing, and when my right foot is warmed up, it’s pretty fun to keep up with his kick drum.  I haven’t figured out the tom rolls on the chorus of “First it Giveth,” but hey, there’s always room to grow.

Me'Shell Ndegeocello - Peace beyond passionMe’Shell NDegéocello - “Leviticus: F@ggot” and “N***erman” from Peace Beyond Passion. Okay, first off, let me say freaking thanks, Me’Shell – the two tunes that I play along with on your album forced me to almost write two words that have never been written on this blog before.  Sheesh.  I’ve edited them just so that google won’t direct any hate-speech searching people here (you should see some of the search strings that already wind up here) …but I digress. These two tunes groove so hard – Gene Lake, man.  They’re usually tunes I play at the end of a practice session to bring it down.  Getting even close to Gene’s pocket is something that would take a lifetime, but you gotta start somewhere… ye gods this record is good.

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So, those are my current favorite albums to play along with.  If any drummers out there have good suggestions for new records to try, I’d love to hear them!

If you’re heading to outside lands, have fun, and look for Switzer, who’s playing trumpet with a number of bands on all three days, or Dan A, who is interviewing Dave Matthews.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Have a great weekend, and keep next Thursday free!

Kirk Drums 2

Pretty.

Mad Men’d (Finally)

23 Aug

This week, I got a new computer, and with it, a version of Flash 10 that allows me to:

1) Read the flash charts on WordPress
2) Watch Hulu/YouTube videos full-screen
3) Stream audio from Myspace and Facebook music pages
4) Use the AMC Mad Men’d-erizer

And all at the same time. Hooray for functioning technology!

So, a week late, I created my very own Mad Men alter ego.  If I could travel back in time to 1953, then allow myself to age ten years, in 1963 I would look about like this:

Kirk Cosgrove

HA.  As if you even had to ask which Mad Men character I’d be. I’m so totally Ken Cosgrove, it’s ridiculous.

You’re going down, Campbell. If it’s any consolation, I’ll be super nice about it.

Adam Theis’s Hip-Hop Symphony, This Weekend @ Yoshi’s!

20 Aug

Adam Theis's Brass Bows and BeatsI am really stoked to go see ami d’trombone Adam Theis put on an encore performance of his bloody incredible “Brass Bows and Beats: A Hip-Hop Symphony” tonight at Yoshi’s SF!  I saw the premiere at the Palace of Fine Arts back and was totally and utterly blown away.  It should be so much fun to see it performed in a smaller space, and to be able to take all the people who didn’t get to see it last time!

It’s this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Yoshi’s in SF – there are two shows each night, one at 8 and one at 10. I highly recommend getting tickets in advance (which you can do through the Yoshi’s site here), since the show will most likely sell out.

If you want to be sold on going, check out my exuberant, (frankly, overwhelmed) reaction to the premiere, or check any of the show previews at KTVU, JamBase, The SF Examiner, and East Bay Express. You can also preview tracks from about-to-be-released recording of the symphony at the Jazz Mafia Website.

People. For real. GO TO THIS.  It’s more local talent than you may ever see on one stage again, but even more importantly, it’s an incredible amount of fun.

Adam's Hip Hop Symphony Photo by Bill Evans

The Amazing Camerawork of Mad Men

19 Aug

Mad Men Meeting 1“Sorry I’m late.  Did I miss anything?”

Mad Men Meeting 2“………………”

Mad Men Meeting 3“Oh.  It’s that meeting. Sorry about that.”

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HA. Man, I’m seriously, the shots they get on this show are just amazing.  As great as Mad Men is at writing and characterization, I think that half of the show’s appeal lies in the extraordinary framing of the shots and the incredible, still-life quality that the DPs manage to capture.  Each scene has a tangible, meditative air that’s super fun to watch.

Mad Men Bert's Office Framing

Nice.

Fun Tim Schafer-Related Things

18 Aug
Guybrush Threepwood

"My name is Guybrush Threepwood, and I want to be a pirate."

Game designer/writer Tim Schafer is enjoying a bit of a “That Hansel” moment these days – along with the re-release of his point and click adventure game classic “The Secret of Monkey Island” and the impending release of his seventh original IP, the Jack Black starring “Brutal Legend,” he’s already in the press quite a bit.

There’s more to it, however, but I know that a lot of y’all have no idea who the guy is, so let me explain him a little.  He’s, like, the Wes Anderson of games, or maybe the Robert Altman… he’s the closest thing that the world of gaming has to a true auteur.  Since he started making games for Lucasarts 20 years ago, he’s made only seven original games, but every single one of which is an incredibly polished gem of comedy, heart, and beautiful design.  From the Monkey Island pirates who swordfight with insults and witty retorts instead of their blades (“You Fight Like A Dairy Farmer!”  “How appropriate.  You fight like a cow.”) to a Dia de los Muertos- influenced tour through the afterlife, complete with beatnik accouterments and a killing jazz score (this would be the one and only Grim Fandango, possibly my favorite game ever made), Schafer’s games are far, FAR more than what people think of when they think of “video games.”

So, it was pretty dang cool when they re-released “Monkey Island,” on the iPhone!  It was actually released on a bunch of platforms, but the iPhone was the one that I have, so I got it there. From my trip to Minnesota until now, I’ve played it off and on, moving at a pretty rapid clip, since I already know how to solve the puzzles.  *Use* “chicken with a pulley in the middle” on “hanging cord.”

Guybrush and Elane Never Pay More Than 20 Bucks

"This experience has taught me something, Elaine."

After I negotiated the game to its classic conclusion (“Never pay more than 20 bucks on a computer game”), the credits rolled.  This re-released version was created by a new team and featured updated graphics and, even cooler, re-recorded audio.  The songs from the first one are, like, burned onto my eardrums (I know I’m supposed to be this jazz snob, but when I was 12, I would listen to the soundtrack to that game on my CD player over and over), so hearing new versions of the old MIDI tunes, performed by actual musicians, was really fun.

And the coolest thing of all was that, as I watched the credits roll, the contributing musicians rolled by, and I saw that Mike Olmos played all the trumpet parts!  Amazing!  Mike’s a player in the city that I know a little bit – he’s totally great, plays all over the place, runs the monday jam session at Grant and Green, plays with a bunch of Jazz Mafia bands, the CJO, etc.  I guess it shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise that, since they’re based here, Lucasarts would get San Francisco based musicians to play on their stuff, but all the same, I couldn’t get over how cool that was.  Mike got to play on the soundtrack to Monkey Island! My god, I might be the only musician in San Francisco who thinks it, but that just may be the Coolest. Gig. Ever.

Manny_Calavera_200_130341a

Seriously. Put this on a t-shirt, and it will suffice.

I heard that they’re going to also re-release Tim’s other games, and if they do, and someone who works on the games is out there, I will SO play on the soundtracks.  Flute, clarinet, saxophone, just say the word.  I’ll kill it, and I’ll do it for cheap.  Just give me, like, a Grim Fandango T-Shirt and a couple hundred bucks.

So, onward and upward for Tim Schafer.  His new game is a heavy-metal-themed brawler starring Jack Black, and I think it’s going to be, well, just as amazing as all of Scafer’s other games.  It will, at the very least, be hilariously funny, and feature a truly epic soundtrack. The complete track list actually just got leaked, then confirmed, and it is amazing. Anvil, Mastodon, Dokken and even Deathklok… plus lots of Sabbath and Judas Priest, naturally.  Some way or another, I’m gonna have to find a way to check this one out.

Saxophones! Jazz!

15 Aug

Lisa_on_saxLast week was a pretty outstanding week for me in terms of live saxophone music. On Tuesday, I hit up Coda on Duboce to see Spaceheater play, and on wednesday, my old friend Sam’s saxophonetastic indie-jazz band Blue Cranes at Blue Six in the mission.  It was exciting and energizing to hear so much great reed playing in such a short period of time, thought I’d share a bit about both bands.

Spaceheater at Coda

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Coda is a brand-new bar/restaurant/jazz club that is now hosting the temporarily-nomadic Jazz Mafia Tuesdays. It’s a really classy space, with high ceilings, brick walls, and a wide, open main room, onto which the main stage opens. They’ve only been open for a few weeks, so they’re still finding their groove – especially wrangling the sound in the room with the high ceilings and all the glass – but on the whole, so far, so good.

Spaceheater is a latin/dub/funk band led by saxophonist/flutist Evan Francis, and they are very cool.  Their personnel is rounded out by Marcus Stephens and Kasey Knudsen on tenor sax, Patrick “Pdub” Korte on drums, and Josh Hari on bass. They were also joined by a percussionist, but the two other names on their myspace site – Scott Thompson and Matt Lucas – are both famous comedians first (Thompson from Kids in the Hall and Lucas from Little Britain) and random singer/songwriters second (Thompson a guitarist from Michigan and Lucas a Christian pop singer).  Sigh.  There are too many people in this world, and not enough names.

Pdub Korte

Pdub

Anyhow, the band was tight as hell – not a surprise, considering that they’re getting rhythmic support from Pdub Korte, who also plays with several other Jazz Mafia bands, most notably the Shotgun Wedding Quintet. If you’ve ever seen one of these groups play (tell me you have!), you know – not exactly a shortage of groove going on.  I don’t know Josh, but I really dug his bass playing – he and Korte clearly play together quite a bit, and it shows.

One of the most fun things about watching this group (and other jazz groups that fall under the Jazz Mafia umbrella) is seeing how these great players shift themselves to play so many roles.  When Evan and Kasey played with the Nice Guy Trio last month, it was all modern chamber saxophone, open and vulnerable, but also remarkably free.  When they play with Spaceheater, it’s a much more relaxed approach, rooted in the floor and easy to listen to.

So, yeah, everyone sounded great.  Kasey and Marcus are bangin’ players, and the rhythm section, as I mentioned, was killing it. What really stands out to me about the band is Evan’s writing and playing – he’s got a really interesting approach to horn voicing and composition, all parallel lines and close harmonies, usually voiced by two tenors and a flute.  It looks like the group has involved tenor, trombone and flute in the past, and I could see that working from a similar place, voicing-wise.  As it stood, the reed-centric horn section really had flow, and on a few of the tunes, in particular, Evan’s arranging just worked. And what’s more, the guy is just a really cool dude, and a burning flutist (he tore it up at Adam Theis’s hip-hop symphony) and it’s totally fun to watch him play.  This is what I’m talking about:

Spaceheater plays all over the place – they’ve got a residency at Yoshi’s SF on the first tuesday of every month and it’s only $3! They’re out front, not onstage, and I bet that’s a great place to see them.

Blue Cranes at Bluesix

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Oh, man, this band.  Blue Cranes is an experimental sax-fronted quintet out of Portland.  And they rule.  Seriously.  Sam Howard, an old friend of mine from UMiami, subs on bass with them quite a bit, and has actually been down this way on tour before, but I hadn’t seen them until Wednesday night.  Before the show, I was asking him what they sound like, what the term “Indie Jazz,” which he’d used to explain their sound to me in the past, really meant.

“You know when Britney Spears shaved her head? It sounds like that.”

britney-shaving-2

So... pretty much like this?

Blue Cranes’ setup involves a fairly standard jazz rhythm section – upright bass, drum kit and keyboards (both standard piano sounds and a synthesizer) played by Sam, Ji Tanzer and Rebecca Sanborn, and fronted by Joe Cunningham (“Sly Pig”) and Reed Wallsmith on the tenor and alto saxes, respectively.

What is less than standard about the band is the music they play, and the way they play it.  Basically, they play inside, triumphant pop melodies mixed with free-jazz explorations.  It’s not the template of all of their tunes, but several times, I was struck at how effectively the band would pivot from a driving, lyrical section of ones and fours and fives straight into a wide-open free-blowing situation, bringing things sometimes to an utter standstill before building them back up.  It was incredibly well implemented, particularly on their second tune of the night, “Love, Love, Love,” (by Seattle composer Wayne Horvitz), which came down to an almost impossibly sparse improvisation by Sly Pig and the band before building its way back to a ferocious ending.  You can see a video of them performing the tune here:

What’s more, by adding Sanborn’s Hanne Hukkelberg-esque synth (or, if you prefer, Napoleon Dynamite-ish), they really do get a sort of “Indie” sound that, when combined with the strong saxophone melodies, makes for a listening experience that is quite unique.  Other highlights from the set included an inspired cover of Sufjan’s “Seven Swans,” a punk-rock tune that played like an exercise in rhythmic displacement (Drums and bass on two and four!  Now one and three!  Now two and four!  Now back!)  Sam mentioned to me that they’ve been doing a lot of shows with punk bands, and that when they do a lot of this material, it’s about 200% louder than it was at Bluesix.

Inside Bluesix

Inside Bluesix

Which is cool, but man, as much as I dug the playing, and the writing, perhaps the thing I enjoyed most of all was the dynamic contrast that Blue Cranes brought.  From the quietest whisper to the loudest, fullest saxophone roar, it was just so engaging to listen to music that displayed so much contrast.  A good deal of this owes to the great room – I’ve never been to Bluesix before, but it is an absolutely fantastic place to see live music.  It’s quite a bit like the Red Poppy, actually – a listening room/art gallery with a small wine bar and a close, warm vibe that encourages focused listening.  I have never been to a bar where Pig’s solo on “Love Love Love” would have been possible.

Bluesix is run by bassist/rennaissance man Joe Lewis, a big, super-nice guy who plays around town with a ton of groups.  His dedication to music, and to running a room where great, uncommon music is possible, really shows – I really loved the club, and hope to play there soon.

I am, of course, not really doing either of these groups justice with my writing, but I hope that by telling you a few of my thoughts and impressions that you’ll check them out.  Spaceheater plays all over the city and features really groovy writing and some amazing horn arrangements.  Blue Cranes comes to town not infrequently and are doing some of the most interesting, rewarding, and exciting acoustic jazz I’ve seen in a long time.  Check them out, support them, and go see ‘em live!

Blue Cranes

Murfins and Burgalinks

14 Aug

Well, this week has certainly been a wash for posting, huh?  Fortunately, everyone else on the internet isn’t busy dealing with promotion and practicing, and they’s a bunch of great stuff out there.  So, without further ado:

74lpdeluxe-6–Rest In Peace, Les– One of the great legends of the guitar has passed; as a guitarist, he was amazing, and as an inventor, he was responsible for many of the innovations that made rock ‘n roll possible.  I mean, the dude basically invented the electric guitar.  But if that’s not enough, he also developed multi-track recording, tape delay, phasing, and, like, the eighth note.  For real – not many people knew enough about him, but I really recommend reading either the retrospective on the Gibson site or, if you’re looking for something with a bit less corproate synergy, his Wikipedia entry.

–On The Edge of A White Paige– See what I did there?  Director Davis Guggenheim (who also worked on Deadwood) has made a documentary about Jack White, Jimmy Paige, and The Edge, that is, apparently, quite good.  Salon’s wonderful Stephanie Zacharek has a short write-up that has me really wanting to see the film.

–As Sheriff Bullock Goes, So Goes The Viewing Public– Timothy Olyphant is going to be in a new show on FX called “Lawman,” and though this trailer for it is about as cliched as it gets, it’s still pretty sweet to see the man don a cowboy hat and stare down a gun again.  My god, why won’t they just make the stupid Deadwood movies?  Why?  Anyway, this show has about a 70% chance of sucking, but I’ll be paying attention, cuz you never know.

–The Date Rape Scene in Sixteen Candles– You know, I always had this same thought about Sixteen Candles – “Why does this movie that everyone loves so much have a date-rape scene?” – so when I saw this post on Salon’s female-centric blog Broadsheet, I took a look.  Turns out, the post is actually a pretty interesting look at the conflict that John Hughes wrote into his films, and makes an interesting, if not wholly convincing, case for why that sort of violation boys-will-be-boys stuff worked, artistically.  I’m not so sure – that scene when the nerd checks out the passed out chicks underwear really skeeves me out.

504x_dementium–Scarier than Animal Crossing, Anyway– My buddy Andrew’s development studio Renegade Kid has a new game, Dementium 2, and it’s been voted scariest game cover of 2009.  Well, that’s not an official award or anything, but Kotaku certainly thinks it’s pretty freaky, and dude, I agree.  Sweet.  Considering that the platform is mostly devoted to cooking games, baby games, and games in which babies cook, who knows what “hand climbing from throat to grab face” will really do in terms of moving product, but it’s damn cool!

–Speaking of “Scary”– Sometimes it’s really fun to read a brutally scathing review of an awful movie that you’ll never see – such is the case with CHUD’s review of “The Collector,” a film which I barely remember being in theatres.  “The Collector is a retard.”  HA!

–Guitar Hero Doesn’t Get It– So, after all of the fawning press given to Harmonix’s recently announced Rock Band Network (a tiny percentage of which was given by me), it would appear that Activision is responding in kind by… making super-crappy their built-in music studio work better. Classic, Microsoft-level mistake – build yourself into a product that is inferior, then spend years polishing that turd while your competition changes the entire paradigm.  I’m sure that Activision will figure it out just in time for Harmonix to invent some other new idea and eat their lunch again.  Acti-fail.

bannerbox_hitchhiker--article_image–Sexy Texting Isn’t New– Oh, man, Nerds rejoice – and while you’re rejoicing, check out this list of the 7 sexiest text-based adventure games.  This takes me back, and I mean, back, to the very beginning.  Really, it starts out with the games I know – The Hitchhiker’s Guide game was amazing, and I hadn’t read the book, so I had no idea what the hell was even going on.  “You see nothing special about Trillian.”  I’ve never played any of the other games, but they’re worth reading through, just to remember what we all used to call a video game.

–Turning an LOL into an OMG– The latest version of Auto-Tune The News is up, and it’s pretty damn funny.  It doesn’t reach the incredible heights that episode six did, but all the same, it’s got some great moments.  Easy on all the notes, guys, and keep experimenting with genres outside of the shawtayee Kanye jam.  We can only hear the same R ‘n B riffing so many times before it starts to sound tired.  Try country, or work with house or electro for a while!  Seriously.  There’s a whole world of styles out there.

–Anyone Can Play Guitar– Radiohead’s recording some new material, which is cool, and they’re still pushing the internet as an album-busting, distribution-redefining, game-changing revolutionizer, which is cooler.  Their new single has leaked, and it’s pretty flippin’ cool - it’s nice to know that these guys will be out there, making music, for as long as they’re breathing.

–I Leave You With This– Have you seen “Simon’s Cat?”  Because dude, Simon’s cat is every cat.  He is the alpha cat, the omega cat. He is my sister’s cat, he is your cat.  This latest video is totally amazing, in particular the part immediately after the cat catches the fly.  If you’ve ever hung out with a cat, you’ll see what I’m talking about… it’s perfect:

Have a great weekend everybody!  I’ve got a backlog of things I want to talk about, and some great shows I saw this week, so if I have a couple of free hours, I’ll put that stuff together.  Enjoy the weather, and get thee to a yoga class. It’ll make you feel good, then kinda nauseous, then good again.

In Which A Flyer Is Created

13 Aug

Thanks to the amazing artistry of Conspiracy of Venus member Elisabeth Rene, we’ve now got a flyer for the Rickshaw show. The scan of the original doesn’t quite convey how cool the actual piece is (it’s mixed media, graphics from magazines mixed with cutout art), but it’s still pretty damn cool.  You can download a higher-res version here, should you so desire.

Rabbits_On_Venus_webSM

In Which A Press Release Is Written

12 Aug

I have not been able to post as much as I’d like, working as I’ve been on publicity for the huge show at the Rickshaw Stop in September.  I’ll be sharing the bill with Conspiracy of Venus and Blue Rabbit, and ye gods, I have never worked with people as energetic and dedicated to getting the word out as the leaders of those groups!  They are rocking it so hard! We are going to have a blast you guys – but don’t take it from me!  We put our heads together and banged out the following press release.  It’s pretty awesome.  Spread the word -

–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–

“Rabbits on Venus” at the Rickshaw Stop
On Thursday, September 3rd, Blue Rabbit, Kirk Hamilton, and Conspiracy of Venus will perform an all-ages night of jubilant, collaborative pop at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop.

Blue Rabbit Onstage 2San Francisco’s alternative indie rockers Blue Rabbit will enchant with their blend of indie pop, baroque elements, modern rhythms, and a hint of cabaret. Fronted by a dynamic trio of singers, grounded by drum and cello grooves, and adorned with the syncopated pulsing of a Celtic harp and violin, Blue Rabbit has been described as “The Andrews Sisters playing with Portishead,” or “Nick Cave songs with a touch of The Supremes.” The Bay Bridged calls their live show simply “mesmerizing”.  What’s more, Blue Rabbit’s set will be augmented by guest appearances by members of both opening bands.

Kirk1But before he takes his saxophone onstage with Blue Rabbit, SF-based multi-instrumentalist composer and songwriter Kirk Hamilton will perform with his own ten-piece ensemble. His first full-band show since the release his debut solo album, “The Exited Door,” Hamilton’s set will feature male and female vocalists (including Lindsay Garfield from SF’s Or, The Whale), brass, woodwinds, all manner of stringed instruments, mallets, and live looping, all in the service of theatrical pop music that Incendiary Magazine calls “so impeccably put together and so effortlessly charming that you’ll be willing to follow it wherever the hell it wants to take you.”

n57535757176_2683124_8676Kicking off the night will be SF’s own female a cappella choir Conspiracy of Venus, in their 2009-10 season-opener. After finishing last year’s season with an incredible, sold-out show at the Palace of Fine Arts in May, the 30-member group will kick-off this year by performing repertoire ranging from the cutting edge to the classic, with songs by Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. According to The Bay Bridged, “Conspiracy of Venus plays a role in the local music community that could hardly be dubbed unoriginal, by paying homage to respected musicians in a manner different than the local DJ’s Smiths night”. Later in the evening, Conspiracy of Venus will return to the stage, joining Blue Rabbit for a special collaboration years in the making.

Event Name: “Rabbits on Venus”
Location: The Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., SF CA 94102
Date: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
ALL AGES
Time: Doors at 8:00, Show at 9:00
Tickets: $10 at Door
Email: info@kirkhamilton.com

Band Websites:
http://myspace.com/bluerabbitmusic
http://myspace.com/kirkhamilton
http://myspace.com/conspiracyofvenus

On Facebook:
http://facebook.com/bluerabbitmusic
http://facebook.com/kirkhamiltonmusic
http://tinyurl.com/conspiracyofvenusfacebook

As if I really needed one more thing to maintain…

11 Aug

kirkhamiltonfacebook

I now have a Facebook Music Page. Now I can finally bother you about my shows on a social networking site that people actually use.

See, even I’m a fan:

Kirk is a fan of Kirk

And what’s more, I like it:

Kirk Likes That He is a Fan of Kirk

Oh, Monkey Washing A Cat…

11 Aug

Jon Stewart Monkey Washing Cat…is there no complex social issue you can’t cure?

(via)

Tornado Rider @ The Independent

8 Aug

Tornado Rider At The Independent 1Okay, okay.  Um.  ….Tornado Rider.  They’re… this band?  I saw them at… the… Independent.  Since there was a show. There. Um.  They’re from the Land Of Sneth?  So they play, Sneth Rock, yeah, I guess.  Wait a minute.  Okay, okay, there’s this cellist…  more of a cello goblin, really… their performance…. specified the focus of my egyptian paradise?

Crap. It’s been one paragraph, and so far, this isn’t going well.  Let’s start with the basics.

Last night, I hit the Independent to see their “Recession Buster” show, a cover-free night of music from local bands.  The main reason I went was to see Tornado Rider, a band that I’d heard quite a bit about. “Rushad is a madman!” “He is this guy!” “You’ve never seen cello playing like this!”  “He is also really weird!”  “His band is great!”  “He will probably do a flip off the stage!”  On all counts, Tornado Rider did not disappoint.

A bit of background – TR is a San-Fran based three-piece punk rock band with a twist:  Their singer and bandleader, Rushad Egglseton, plays the cello. And not just any cello, he plays the strapped-on, fully distorted, electric Sneth-rock cello. And he plays it hard. I’m seriously – he fuckin’ wails on that thing, plucking, bowing, beating the tones out until by the end of the set, his bow had suffered more hair loss than the back row at a Rogaine convention. (*clunk*)

Oh My God It's A Dinosaur!

OH MY GOD

So, we’re at the Indy, and the band sets up – the drums are all blinking green lights and the bassist is wearing a coonskin cap, and I’m thinking, “well this looks fun” and then Rushad comes out wearing his cello, a wireless mic, Umbros, and pretty much nothing else. Oookay. And he starts with the aforementioned going to town on his cello, screaming some crazy shit at us about the land of Sneth and words and other assorted Primus-infused Alice In Wonderland gobbledygook. And throughout the set, the intensity never drops, he’s just flying around the stage, doing mad high-kicks, rolling around on the floor, jumping into the audience, climbing up on tables, yelling about how he Is a Falcon, and Oh My God It’s A Dinosaur.

Woah.  It was impossible not to be drawn in by the whole thing, the (apparently actual) madness of the guy, his hilariously over-the-top songs and the strength of his cello playing – deviant solos with wild tone, sort of hard-rock guitar by-way-of the bowels of hell.  He simply would not let you stop paying attention to him for one second, pushing and pushing and pushing until the set ended with him on the floor, groaning out one last note from the instrument. Intense. Honestly, you gotta see for yourself:

So, okay, the dude is unhinged.  A maniac.  Truly, a “Cello Goblin.”  But while Rushad gets the lion’s share of the attention (and you can’t say the man doesn’t earn it), I want to talk for a bit about his rhythm section. Scott Manke plays drums and Graham Terry plays bass, and they both do a really good job supporting their wild lead singer. And I don’t just mean supporting him musically (though they did that quite ably – Terry’s bass playing, in particular, was really creative – great lines, man!) – I actually think that their mere presence offers a more important type of support, a vital counter to Rushad’s over-the-top antics.

Because as fun as it is to watch a guy who is so clearly off in his own crazy world (see e.g. “glicking the gunt of Nairobi into the fortress of Norwegian butt death”), it would get a little too intense if all of the band members were off in that world with him.  And by “a little too intense” I mean “really fucking weird and off-putting to the point of ruining the show.”

Tornado Rider Falcon at Independent

"Look! A Falcon!"

Instead, Manke and Terry come off as affable guys who are having a really great time rocking out with this madman, but are fully aware of the fact that they’re not actually emissaries of Sneth, sent here to yell over the mountains or whatever.  And because of this, they ground the show in our reality, giving the audience an on-stage presence that we can latch onto amid the leaping and the screaming and the Umbros, safe harbor in the storm for those in the crowd who have jobs to return to tomorrow. In America. On Planet Earth.

This is because Rushad’s antics and energy are both the thing that sells the show and the thing that could utterly derail it. Without the cello and the acrobatics, the hats and the table-dancing… if, say, Rushad were a touch less crazy and played exact same music on guitar, Tornado Rider would be a very good, very fun punk-rock band with weird, ironic songs about falcons and dinosaurs. And that’s it. And on the flip side, if the everyone in the band were 100% committed to the crazines in Eggleston’s head, to joining his acrobatic, bowed bacchanal, attending a Tornado Rider show would be akin to having tea with the Mad Hatter’s gallery of goons – fun for a bit before rapidly becoming wearisome and overstaying its welcome.

Fortunately, Tornado Rider has found a balance in its onstage energy, and it totally works.  When Graham goes over to Rushad to look off to the falcon in the distance, or when the two high-five before a tune, there’s a realness there that keeps the show from devolving into inanity.  Similarly, Manke’s drumming really worked for me, and he rocked the whole set with a focused, pleased grin on his face – he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as I know I would’ve been. With these anchors in place, we were free to enjoy Rushad’s playing as much as it deserved to be appreciated, because truly, the guy is one-of-a-kind, a talent the likes of which I’ve rarely, if ever, encountered.

So, yeah, here I am again, dancing about the architecture, putting up YouTube videos and whatever, but of all the bands I’ve tried to write about, this is the band that truly has to be seen to be believed. Rushad is a performer like no other, and his band is a blast to watch. Give Tornado Rider 45 minutes, and they will rock your face off and eat it.

It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.

Tornado Rider At The Inependent 2

Murfins and Burgalinks

7 Aug

Almost Famous Title Screen–How Movies Say Hello– The Movie Title Stills Collection (that is a real thing?) has put up a browsable database of notable title screens from movies throughout the decades.  It is totally awesome, and fascinating to see how title screens have changed over the years.  There used to be so much information!

–Rock Band, The Teacher’s Tool– Michael Abbott over at The Brainy Gamer has put a really interesting post about Rock Band as musical instructor.  My thoughts are down in the comments, but suffice to say, I think that the game is a fantastic teaching tool, and as it continues to evolve and grow ever-more nuanced, it will only get better.

Max Scribblenauts–Scribble, Scribble– Speaking of games, the other “endless possibilities” game that I’m mondo stoked for is 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts.  Over at Kotaku, Stephen Totilo took 16 attempts at a level before he beat it, and he documented each one. I’ve found game previews to be troubling before, giving away too much in advance and spoiling the experience, but Scribblenauts presents SO many possible solutions to a given problem that this article is just fascinating, nothing more.  Can’t wait for this one to launch.

–So You Think You Can (be a) Downer– Oh, boy, I’m going to find excuses to do lame “SYT” puns for the rest of eternity.  So, yay, Jeanine won! Vance at Tapeworthy is appropriately happy, as, I’m sure, are the rest of the Jeanine love-train. (It runs on the same tracks as the Hot Tamale Train.) However, Juliet Waters (she of the camera-related rage) is a bit of a crazy wet-blanket, and her post regarding the finale (though not the result) is pretty enjoyable, in a hateriffic sort of way.

–Live Every Week Like It’s…– Fuckin’ shark week, yo! GamesRadar has posted a hilarious compendium of the best video-game shark attacks of all time.  The videos are awesome, and dude – the winner, the Jaws Game?  Woah, that is a weird game.  I’ll confess, my favorite part of the whole article is where they talk about why, on earth, you would want to play as this dumb asshole:

jaws9--article_image

HAY GUYS

–Mostly, They Come At Night– Thanks again to MNPP, I found Stacie Ponder’s blog Final Girl, a truly awesome site dedicated to slasher/horror flicks from ago and today.  Highlighted post was this list of her favorite anonomyous zombie movie zombies, but really, the whole site is freakin’ sweet.  Check it.

Ferris Is The Walrus–RIP, John Hughes– Oh, sad, sad, sad. The man who made Ferris, a movie that is forever burned into my brain, the taped-from-TV VHS I watched every single time I stayed home sick from school is with us no longer.  Throwing Things has a bunch of reactions and thoughts, and I don’t have much to add.  As Nervo said to me last night, “These days, it feels like we’re watching the 80′s die right before our eyes.”

–RIP, Pauler– Well, it’s all but official - Paula Abdul won’t be returning to Idol next year.  I think that Randy and Kara shoulda gone first, but we’ve been over this.  Sepinwall concurs, and puts it quite well – this show needs a shakeup, man.  Also: please don’t get any Paula in my freakin’ SYTYCD.  Please!!

–Paper Music, Brain Music– Last, but certainly not least, is a wonderful little video that has been making its way around Facebook.  In it, Bobby McFerrin leads the audience through the pentatonic scale, teaching them a bit, and then letting their inner melodic compass take over.  It’s a small, simple, and absolutely beautiful demonstration of the universality of music.

Have a great weekend, folks – I’m off to see some shows, so I’ll probably write about ‘em tomorrow or Sunday.  If you’re in SF, don’t take this weather for granted – get out there and enjoy it!  Also, the Sun Goddess told me to tell you that tithing never goes out of style, so a percentage of your crops or your W-2 would be appreciated.

So I Think…

6 Aug

Jeanine Wins So You Think You Can Dance

…I called it! Congratulations, Jeanine; you’ve certainly been my favorite dancer for a while now.  Season 5 might not have been the best season ever, but you were one of my favorite contestants ever, so I guess it balanced out in the end.

Now, for posterity, everyone go back and watch her Top-8 solo one more time and tell me she’s not just the coolest.

Nigel, Mary, C, Mia, Debbie, Wade, Shane, Nap, Tabs, the rest of y’all – it’s been real, see you in the fall.

Oh, and Cat, this Friday at our usual spot?

You know the place. Bring sunscreen.

Jeanine-Mason-so-you-think-you-can-dance-7140043-1200-1448_320

So I Think This About Sums It Up

5 Aug

True Lies Tango vs. Jeanine 1

True Lies Tango vs. Jeanine 2

True Lies Tango vs. Jeanine 3

True Lies Tango vs. Jeanine 4

True Lies Tango vs. Jeanine 5

Happy Birthday To Murfins!

5 Aug

Birthday Murfin 2That’s right, folks – today, August 5th, marks Murfins and Burglars’ one-year anniversary. That’s 365 days in the highly lucrative world of full-contact professional blogging – from my very first post (the eerily appropriate discussion of “Modern Jackass”) to today, I’ve written about pretty much anything I could think to write about, and have had a flippin’ blast doing it.  I thought I’d assemble a list of my favorite posts from the past year, because hey, it’s my special day, and that’s what I want to do.

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door3–The Album That Was, Is, Will Always Be– Without a doubt, the thing I’m happiest with is the 7-part series I did on the creation of my first solo album, “The Exited Door.” I’m pretty damn happy with the album, too, for that matter. I think that at the time I wrote it, it was a great way to reflect on the work and the process, and gave me a great sense of closure on the record’s production.  Read it!  Buy one!  You’ll like it!

–Shows, Shows, Shows– I wrote a lot about shows, and my favorite posts concerned bands that I personally know and admire.  Blue Rabbit, Adam Theis’ incredible Hip-Hop Symphony, Pollux and The Gun and Doll Show

–I Don’t Mean To Be Creepy– …but there were so many people I wanted to be this past year. Some of my favorites included Daniel Fabricant, Mindy Kaling, Jeff Richmond, Russ Kleiner, and badass behind the scenes Julian Coryell.

Kirk Hamilton - Armelodica–A One-Man Band– I also had a great time illustrating my one-man band setup in two parts – part one, the general layout of my looping rig, and part two, a dissection of the “Armelodica,” my arm-mounted keyboard friend. Talking about the shows in which I’ve used this stuff was also a good way to process and reflect.

–Bad, Bad (truly bad) Poetry– Probably the most self-indulgent thing I do on this site, and that’s saying something.  The goodbye ode to my Xbox was, I thought, almost bordering on “Good Poetry,” though, well… it was about an Xbox.

–Teacher, Teacher– I haven’t written as much about teaching as I’d like to, but a couple of posts – one on writing and arranging for student ensembles, and one on substitute teaching, stick in my memory as having been really fun to write.

Hamlet Loves You, You–Things I Am Still Loving– It’s always fun to share a bit about things I am loving (though occasionally the double-entendric tone of the posts can get a little weird…)  I think my favorite of these, though, was written from the perspective of my sister’s cat, Hamlet.  Box, Box, Box.

–To The Movie Show– I wrote about a lot of movies, but I think one of my favorite posts was my Elfman-centric ode to Jack Skellington and the Contrabassoon.  Also, thoughts on Jason Segel’s character’s soulless pro-musician life in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” still ring true.

Lost - Biff!–The Cheapest of Laughs– I do love me some good TV, and I made no bones about it.  I wrote about a lot of shows, but without a doubt, my favorite post was this frame-by-frame reenactment of the greatest scene in Lost history.

–The Games People Play– I used to write about games more than I do now (I used to play games more than I do now), but I just don’t have the chops to really write substantive stuff about games, anyway.  The best writing I did on the subject concerned music in games, specifically a wildly optimistic discussion of the future of music gaming, and a really cool follow-up about the recent launch of the amazing-looking Rock Band Network.

–I’ve Got A Fang– I wrote quite a bit about various albums, but one of my favorite posts to put together was a list of my favorite They Might Be Giants Lyrics, if only because I got to re-read those lyrics a lot as I wrote the post.  There are, like, twenty more that I left off, but maybe I’ll do a part 2 sometime.

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So, there you have it. It’s been a hell of a year, and I’ve had a really good time. Though most of the following folks have no idea who the hell I even am, I’d like to take a minute and thank all the awesome writers and bloggers out there whose amazing sites inspired me to give this thing a go in the first place:  Bear McCreary, Andrew Bird and everyone else at Measure for Measure, Joe at LowRes, Mitch Krpata, JA at MNPP, Alan Sepinwall, Vance at Tapeworthy, Sonia at TheSoniaShow, Andrew Sullivan, Wing, Sars, Jacob and the rest of the folks at TWoP that was (and occasionally still is), Leigh Alexander, Beth Spotswood… and the list goes on.

Lastly, thank you all, so much, for taking the time to read my rambling randomness. I love you guys.

Okay, okay.  Moving right along…

Dude, MUNI Totally F’ed Up Your SUV

4 Aug

Yesterday, two F-line trains collided with an SUV on Market with a fairly spectacular result. My friend Youky took this picture on her way home:

F Train Crash By Youky

No one was killed, but several people were hospitalized, and everyone was pretty freaked out – I mean, can you imagine?  One minute, you’re chilling in your SUV, listening to Talk of the Nation and waiting to turn left, and the next A GIANT FUCKING TRAIN rear-ends you and slams you forward into ANOTHER GIANT FUCKING TRAIN.  Dude.  Emotional distress!  It’s one of those things that you can’t really imagine happening until it does, and then your reaction surprises the hell out of you.  Like, you make bird sounds and pass out or start talking to Jesus or something.

And this is the second time something like this has happened in only a couple weeks (not to mention other reports that have gone unexplained)?  Sheeit.  I’m usually one to defend MUNI operators from the scorn and frustration that is constantly heaped upon them, but damn, guys, maybe it’s time to step up the training and make your protocols more strict.

Some further thoughts on MUNI – pros, cons, etc:

Pro: My Phone tells me where to catch a bus, and when it’s coming, but Con: sometimes it’s lying, leaving me not only stranded, but feeling betrayed (notoriously with the 6 at the start of the line, and with the 43 anywhere).

muni_logo_4229Pro: MUNI has a really cool logo, but Con: the bus interiors are usually so marked up by sharpie-weilding middle-schoolers that the asthetics of my bus-riding experience are, on the whole, pretty negative.

Pro: 90% of the time, it works every time, bus drivers are totally attentive, stop when they should, and even wait a sec for me if I’m running to catch the bus, but Con: 10% of the time, they act as cruel arbiters of fate, leaving me in the dust, or worse, once  I’m aboard, ignoring my requests to get off and depositing me a mile and a half from where I requested a stop, groceries and saxophone in hand.  (It was the 44, the driver pulled onto Laguna Honda, it majorly sucked).

Con: They just raised the fare by 33%, but Pro: the monthly passes are pretty colors.

Pro: MUNI gets me from home to school (and downtown) really quickly, but Con: sometimes it kills people.

Hmm, pretty much a wash? Trending negative? I’m beginning to think that my rosy relationship with the 6 Parnassus is making me view MUNI much more favorably than I probably should – the fact that I never have to ride the trains, commute during rush hour, or deal with huge double-buses like the 38 or the 49 hopelessly skews my view of SF public transportation towards the positive. Maybe I’ll just get a bike and try to ride in the park as much as possible.  I don’t think that the buses go down there, so I’ll be safe.

My MUNI Passes

For all your online MUNI-related needs, I highly recommend checking out the outstanding MUNI Diaries.

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