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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Very First Super Bowl, 1967

Posted By on Sun, Feb 6, 2011 at 9:37 AM

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The Super Bowl hasn't meant much to me since the Niners' domination of the game in the 1980s. Yes, I was ten. Yes, it was the Bay Area team. And yes, the games often ended in thrilling, wiping-away-tears fashion. But there was something else, I think, about the "old" Superbowl. Every time I see TV footage from those games—Joe Montana! Dwight Clark! Jerry Rice! Roger Craig! Damn, it was beautiful—I'm amazed at the simplicity of the presentation. Barely any logos on the screen. Still the old "chalkboard" method of mapping games, by hand. The best halftime show ever. And certainly no CGI superimposed on the field.

This piece here in The Awl, by David Roth, is a throwback to an even more innocent big game: It's about watching a recording of the first ever Superbowl, played in 1967 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, footage of which until recently was thought not to exist. (Turns out it was sitting in an attic for 40 years.) Roth goes to the Paley Center for Media in New York, ventures down to the basement and watched the CBS broadcast of Superbowl I, which was played between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs in front of 61,000 people and 30,000 empty seats. Imagine: 30,000 empty seats at the Superbowl. But mostly it's Roth's descriptions of what the game looks like that get me:The laconic sportscasting style of the day—roughly half of the

play-by-play is comprised of ellipses, the color commentary is

colorless—added to the strangeness of this version of Super Bowl I. The

score and game clock, among other constants of the contemporary

televised football experience, surface only briefly and seemingly at

random. A vast shadow passes over the field when a blimp floats

overhead.Contrast that with what we're going to see today:This year's Super Bowl broadcast will be nearly 90 minutes longer than

the first one, padded by 30 minutes of artless technophiliac retardo-pop

at halftime—"In other Peas-related news: apl.de.ap has shaved 'XLV' into his scalp, and Taboo has a book coming out"—and

nearly 50 minutes of commercials. Super Bowl I's homemade-looking

yardage markers have been brought up to state of the neon-foam art; a

helpful yellow line will demarcate first downs; there will be that

fucking football robot, doing the things it does.Anyway, it's a good read, and a good primer to today's game. If you dare to watch the Super Bowl today, make sure to root for the Green Bay Packers, if for no other reason than they're the only non-profit, community-owned major sports team—owned by the 102,000 actual residents of Green Bay, WI instead of some corporate CEO. Make sure also to turn the thing off at halftime during the horrible Black Eyed Peas, who once played the Phoenix Theater in the late '90s and who now are The Most Corporate Band In America.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Burton Delivers with 'Alice in Wonderland'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 4:00 AM

By Morgan Carvajal

If you think you remember the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit or the disappearing Chesire Cat from Disney’s Classic Alice and Wonderland, get ready to see them in a new theatrical light. This once bright and cheerful film has found a new delightfully gloomy vision and tone with director Tim Burton. The 3D spectacle takes the boundaries of film to new levels of excellence and adventure, defining a new culture in movie watching.

After living a dull and disconnected life in the Victorian age, Alice, now 19, finds herself returning to the fantasy world from her childhood. She re-connects with old friends like Tweedledee and Tweedledum to help take down the Red Queen, and slay the Jabberwocky. This is a plot that doesn’t sound familiar to the 1951 animated version, but captures and persuades an audience into a new adventure.

This was my first 3D experience, and as a person who thought these effects would make me sick, I was delighted to be wrong. For one thing, I never felt like something was going jump from the screen and fall into my lap, a relief. Burton limits using this tool as an effect to make the audience feel like they are going to be injured by objects in Alice’s dream; he instead uses it as a way to give the film depth and beauty. Burton makes the world of Wonderland come alive, the colors, textures, and movement of each scene make each object – trees, flowers, and clouds – a part of the story.

The captivating dark tones and rich imagery in Burton’s Alice made me forget about the childhood memories of painting roses red, and reminded me of the excellence that can come from combining art with film. Johnny Depp delivers brilliance in his crazed and confused part as the Mad Hatter, and Alice Kingsleigh (played by Mia Wasikowska) becomes every girl’s idol when she plunges into the rabbit hole.

A Disney fanatic as a kid, I fell in love with this 20th century version of Wonderland. A spark of pleasure and happiness kept me smiling for the 45-minute drive home from the city on Tuesday night’s preview showing, and the fantasy left me wanting Tim Burton to re-create my other childhood favorites, like The Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid. Overall, this PG-rated film is a must-see that is emotionally satisfying and madly brilliant. With Alice and Wonderland, Burton delivered.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sonoma County Poet Laureate Named

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 4:00 AM

From the Sebastopol Center for the Arts press release:

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photo by Rob Catterton
Sonoma County’s Sixth Poet Laureate Chosen

The newly selected Sonoma County Poet Laureate for 2010-2011 is Gwynn O'Gara of Sebastopol. Gwynn is a lifetime poet, and has been a teacher for California Poets in the Schools since 1989. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, Winter at Green Haven, Word Temple Press 2008, Fixer Upper, dPress 2007, and Snake Woman Poems, Beatitude Press, 1983 as well as co-author of Fruit of Life, Poems of Passion and Politics, dPress 2006. Currently she is completing a full length poetry collection titled, House of the World. Gwynn O'Gara is also known as a writing teacher, most recently at the popular series, The Writer's Sampler sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and The Sitting Room in Cotati.

A resolution recognizing the Poet Laureate will be presented by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on December 15. The Poet Laureate Selection Committee chooses the Poet Laureate based on the nominees’ work, their demonstrated efforts in the community in the literary arts, and on statements from the nominees about the role of the Poet Laureate. The committee includes representatives from each of the five supervisorial districts, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, the Sonoma County Library, Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the previous Poet Laureates.

The Poet Laureate Selection Committee will hosting a reception honoring Gwynn, at the Sonoma County Library (3rd and E streets, Santa Rosa) on Friday, January 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm. The public is invited.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Win Tix! East Village Opera Company

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The East Village Opera Company puts a decidedly modern spin on classic operatic tropes by putting a full rock band onstage with an accompanying string quartet and just two singers. They appear on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Wells Fargo Center and we have a couple of tickets to give away. The Toronto Globe Mail wrote earlier this month: "What fresh hell is this? The nu-opera troupe . . . runs themes from Wagner's Ring Cycle through a Queenomatic, popaholic, trashophagic demolition machine, and comes up with the most radioactive remake I've ever heard. You've been warned."

You want tix.

Write to Leslie Kenhart by 3pm on Nov. 19. They appear that night at the Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Preshow discussion at 7pm; total rockage at 8pm. 707.527.1200, ext.204.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Handcar Regatta: Hell Yeah, Brother

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The bottom line is that I didn’t run into anyone at yesterday’s Handcar Regatta who was lukewarm about the absolutely awesome craziness going on all around them. No one said, “Oh, yeah, this is OK.” No one said, “I guess this is all right.”

No, everyone I talked to pretty much gushed gleefully that the Handcar Regatta is the most amazingly cool thing that Santa Rosa has seen in years and years. And you know what? It’s hard to argue with them.

All around Railroad Square, at any given time, some beautifully strange thing was happening, and it was often hard to decide what to watch. What about the music stage, where seven different bands hammered away on mandolins, harps, and xylophones for people dancing in bunny ears and kilts? Or the medicine man stage, where “Dr. Solar” performed cool tricks all day long? Or the enormous marching band that wandered through the crowd? Or the railroad tracks themselves, where every few minutes or so a bizarre mechanical contraption came hurtling down the tracks to wild applause?

There’s a great Bohemian article written by Gretchen, which you can read by clicking here, about the genesis of the Handcar Regatta; pay attention especially to the part where Spring Maxfield talks about how good ideas, hard work and cooperative support get the job done where official committees and feasibility studies can't. Almost everything great in Santa Rosa happens this way. Not only does a do-it-yourself method offer events like the Handcar Regatta an organic appeal, but if another great depression is indeed on the way, it'll be the way we'll have to do things for a while.

Ultimately, what I loved most about the Handcar Regatta was seeing so many creative and artistic people I know from different strains of our community all participating in the same event. There’s been a ripple of incredible creativity going on around here for some while now. The Handcar Regatta brought all the small ripples together and turned them, for one day at least, into a tidal wave. And no one left uninspired to do it again.

More photos below. See you next year!

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Monday, September 22, 2008

F*ck Section M, Revisited

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

For the September 10th issue of the Bohemian, I wrote an article about the background of Section M magazine, which covered the North Bay music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a former Section M staffer, I took pains to remain objective and not come off as as a nostalgia-drunk painter of sunny rainbows and pretty pink ponies.

But, thanks to a trio of letters to the editor from others who were once involved with Section M as well, I realized that my aimed-for objectivity came off to some as grumpy and regretful. In the article I characterized Section M as a "successful failure," which I do stand by, but I carelessly neglected to elaborate on what was successful about Section M. And I would like to do so now.Section M was fun to read. This is why I got involved with Section M in the first place. In 2000, I'd just moved to Sonoma County and ran across an issue at the Last Record Store. Some band called The Wunder Years was on the cover. Who were the Wunder Years, and who were these people so excited about some little band that they put out a publication dedicated to such music? The tone ranged from sprightly to snarky, but the passion the writers felt for their subjects, no matter how obscure, was palpable. You could live in Maine or Cyprus and have a blast reading Section M. Oh, and they layout was cool, too—edgy like a zine, but much more professional.There was nothing else like Section M. Even though it was not so long ago, back when Section M was around, there was not a vast network of blogs and websites where music fans could express themselves and learn more about the non-mainstream bands they loved. That made Section M exquisite and valuable, and it was treated as such by a fair chunk of its readership.

All of the things that may sound like criticisms--its inability to come out on schedule, the cheap ink that tainted your hands at the merest touch, the oftentimes esoteric choices of bands placed on the cover, the blatantly dysfuntional family atmoshpere endured and enjoyed by the staff members, the incessant ads of the band Unominame appearing in the buff, the indulgences taken by writers who related more about their efforts to procure an interview than the interview itself—were the things that made Section M great. They were also the things that kept it from being sustainable; if Section M had made money, an irretreivable hunk of its grit and appeal would have been lost. And so: Section M was a creative success, and a financial failure.

The few years I spent with Section M were some of the most intense and enriching of my life. Being with the paper was awesome, but not totally awesome, because sometimes it sucked. And nothing is worthwhile if it does not suck every now and then.

It was not my intention to sully the efforts that literally hundereds of volunteers and staffers put into Section M. I'd like to thank Dominic Davi, Kevin Jamieson, and Oona Risling-Sholl for taking the time to write to the Bohemian and round out the picture. Readers are welcome to disagree with my theories of why Section M isn't around today, but I am certainly not bitter about that period of my life.

These days I don't read too much about music—I find a lot of music criticism to be rote and predictable. Maybe I'm spoiled, but that's just fine with me. I have a trove of yellowing back issues of some dinky little defunct music magazine that I can read anytime I like.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Ice Cube – The Fillmore, San Francisco, August 26, 2008

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

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A full 20 years after Straight Outta Compton, actor, director and gangsta-rap sage Ice Cube can still make your body and mind rock. While it wasn’t a sold-out show, the Tuesday night crowd at the Fillmore thoroughly enjoyed the hour-long set surprisingly filled with just a few hits from Cube’s rich catalog.

An hour after his DJ got the crowd warmed up with songs like N.W.A.’s “Boyz N the Hood” and local favorite “Back to the Hotel” by N 2 Deep, Cube took the stage and launched into “I Got My Locs On” off his excellent new album Raw Footage, a great example of a “hard” rapper growing old gracefully that sees him still conquering big issues plaguing the African-American community and the nation in general. While his delivery is much more subdued than his early-1990s hey day, the rougher “Natural Born Killaz” followed & got the crowd hyped with its backing horror-movie squeal.

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Such went the perfectly paced show, with new and old songs alike receiving ample enthusiasm. After expressing condolences to former N.W.A. member/nemesis/then-collaborator-again Dr. Dre for his deceased son, Cube expressed defiance to those suggesting Cube, current star of children’s movies, quit the rap game. “Giving up the mic is like giving up my life,” he said before launching into “Check Yo Self,” the first of many line-for-line crowd sing-alongs of the evening.

With WC playing hype man the entire night (making a tight, focused onstage trio), the mediocre Westside Connection songs were inevitable but also well-received by children of the 90s in attendance, especially “Bow Down”, which sent a sea of westside hand signals in the air.

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The tribute to his previous group was undoubtedly the highlight of the night, with Dr. Dre’s opening line from N.W.A.’s debut kicking the show into overdrive: “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” Cube then ripped into his classic verse of “Straight Outta Compton” with as much ferocity as he did when the track introduced him to the world two decades ago. “Gangsta Gangsta” followed, and there’s truly nothing more strangely enjoyable than hearing a multi-racial, all-ages, co-ed crowd shouting “Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money” in unison.

The new song “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” followed as a perfect disclaimer and post-Bill O’Reilly reminder that Ice Cube’s “gangsta rap” is merely an observant art form – not an endorsement of violence. Back in the 90s when under fire for misogynistic and violent lyrics, Cube’s big-picture consciousness (comparable to Public Enemy) was unfortunately lost behind his black-clad bulldog persona. But people still haven't learned: “If I call you a nappy headed ho, ain't nothin' to it, gangsta rap made me do it,” he told the audience, “If I shoot up your college, ain't nothin' to it, gangsta rap made me do it.”

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After a few solo songs from WC (another surprisingly tolerated section of the show), Cube returned for back-to-back club hits “You Can Do It” and “We Be Clubbin”, a disappointment for me considering his landmark solo debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted went completely ignored.

But we did get a wonderfully faithful rendition of “It Was a Good Day,” perhaps the most understated and effective “life in the hood” portrayal ever recorded. Toward the end of the show, Cube took a moment to celebrate the beauty of nonviolent congregation for a genre sporadically plagued by violence. “We come in peace,” he told the crowd, "Give yourselves a round of applause.”

Photos and review by David Sason

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Setlist:

What Is a Pyroclastic Flow? / I Got My Locs On

Natural Born Killaz

?

Hello

Why We Thugs

Smoke Some Weed

Check Yo Self (Remix)

Bow Down (with WC)

The Gangsta, the Killer and the Dope Dealer (with WC)

Straight Outta Compton

Gangsta Gangsta

Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It

Song by WC alone

Song by WC alone

Song by WC alone

You Can Do It

We Be Clubbin’

It Was a Good Day

Bop Gun

Do Ya Thang

Can’t Hold Back (with WC)

Go to Church

Gangsta Nation

It Takes a Nation

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Taste3 2008

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Having just completed its third year, Taste3 remains a dynamite event high on the list of food and wine professionals with an interest in the arts. Founded by the dynamic Margrit Mondavi, above, and underwritten by the Robert Mondavi Winery, Taste3 is a three-day conference in line with the invitation-only TED conferences that sparkle the lives of such lucky thinkers as the Google staff.

Having just returned from this two-day glut of wonder (I had to regretfully cancel the July 17 "insider" guide of three Napa artist's studios with Margrit followed by lunch at Redd due to editorial demands for the Arcadia issue, publishing this year on July 23, and that's a real wah), it's difficult to know where to begin.Michael Amsler

Taste3 is designed to create a community among its 400 or so attendees, fomenting a culture about culture. As close readers of the Bohemian know, we're not too hepped about just sticking things in your mouth. "Yum" generally sums it up. It's sticking things in your mouth while sticking things in your brain that turns us on. Taste3, therefore, is one hell of a turn-on.

It's also a leveling event like no other. On the first full day of sessions, the lunch break found me mildly sitting at an empty table outside on the veranda by the Napa river at COPIA, the host venue founded by the Mondavi's, trying to eat like a lay-day and not the greedy wolf I truly am. A diminutive woman approached. "May I sit here?" she asked politely. Of course it was Margrit. "I would be honored," I said quickly, straightening up in my seat and brushing some stray lettuce from my chin. She nodded sweetly and arranged her belongings on a chair. And then Margrit Mondavi, without whom none of this would be possible, went off to stand in line at the buffet like everyone else to collect her lunch.

Twenty-four presenters spend 20 minutes each giving conference attendees a brisk run-down on their particular line of interest and expertise. They ranged from scientists to restaurant professionals to eonologists to photographers to writers.Urban farmer Novella Carpenter, who for three years contributed her "Rev" column to our paper before giving up the rigors of a weekly gig for better-paid work (her book was just accepted), labeled the first hive of bees she brought to her urban backyard just 10 blocks from downtown Oakland a "gateway" animal, prompting her eventually procure—and butcher—chickens, ducks, turkeys, cute little goats, bunnies and yes, two enormous hogs, whose severed heads floating in buckets she mischeviously featured to the audience's palpable shock. But she ate every bit of it all and meat—remember?—doesn't grow in the Safeway.Culinarycorps founder Christine Carroll talked about organizing her new "culanthropy" effort, started just in March 2007, to help those still so destitute in New Orleans and along the Gulf. Culinary Corps brings professional chefs to those who most need some succor and training and cheer and a dose of kindness in their lives. (Crazy-great sponsor prizes are awarded at the end of each Taste3 session and the fortunate soul who won a brand new stainless steel barbecue immediately donated it to Carroll's effort.) I have pages of notes and no energy to energize them tonight. Check back for something actually written next week when I can again write. . . .

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Police / Elvis Costello & the Imposters – Sleep Train Pavilion, July 16, 2008

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

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If someone were to emerge from a coma after 25 years under, they may have thought no time had passed considering the lineup at Concord’s Sleep Train Pavilion on Wednesday night. That is if they ignored the grey hair (or disappearance of hair) and the relative pudginess of The Police and Elvis Costello. Surprisingly, both veteran acts provided an effective time warp to the age of New Wave, bringing renewed energy to their respective classics.

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Starting a few minutes early, Elvis Costello& the Imposters (comprised of 2/3 of the Attractions, his most celebrated backing band) began with the amphitheatre only half full. But the band was as tight as ever and made the crowd grow fairly quick with a slick set mostly comprised of populous favorites and tracks off Momofuku, his excellent new record. “And I don’t mean that small Frisbee thing,” Costello proudly said of his initially vinyl-only release. “I’m talking about a big piece of plastic.”

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The up-tempo numbers went over well, especially “American Gangster Time” (which featured an incendiary organ solo by expert keyboardist/knob-fiddler Steve Nieve) and opener “Stella Hurt,” which seems largely influenced by Costello’s regular live cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” from last year. But with such a short set (barely an hour), Costello spent too much time on extended outros, stretching out “Turpentine” and the clap-along “Clown Strike” beyond their inherent charm.

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People naturally responded better to the hits, especially a faithful rendition of “Everyday I Write the Book” and a looser, more abrasive version of “Watching the Detectives,” which made scattered groups actually stand up and dance (It also whet our appetite for The Police’s reggae-inflected tunes). Of course everyone got up and went apeshit when a bearded, grizzled Sting strolled out during “Alison,” which seemed tailor-made for his whispery, near-jazzy vocal style. Costello kept the momentum going with high-energy closer “Peace, Love and Understanding.”

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I was convinced that Elvis Costello’s set would be the climax, not only because he and his band have been on fire this decade, but also because the Police were simply god-awful when I saw them last June at Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum. Only a few dates into their tour, in a gi-normous stadium best suited for a much louder catalogue of music, the power trio seemed sluggish and out of sync with each other and the audience (to whom Sting barely said shit). Compounding the problem were the Sting-ified song arrangements, showing the band to be completely oblivious that people who loved the Police may actually loathe Sting’s more subdued solo output. I know I do.

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Expectations were low for the Police, but what a difference a year (and probably reading reviews of their shows) made. Right from the opener “Message In A Bottle”, they exploded with energy all around the stage. Sting was as exuberant as his ever-youthful physique was, as were Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, who all went to town on the recently resurrected “Demolition Man”. They finally seem relaxed onstage again, with Sting serenading Copeland for his birthday, bigging up Northern California, and engaging in call-and-response throughout the night, which made the mediocre “Hole In My Life” a highlight of the show. The Sleep Train Pavilion also helped by being the ideal size for such a show: not too big that the lawn dwellers feel completely removed and not too small that the promoters & band think it unworthy of playing.

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In general, the songs were tighter, slightly faster than last year, and (thank God!) angular once again, with the signature Police twitch back in full force, making main set closer “Can’t Stand Losing You” pulse with ska magnificence. This made the Specials’ “Ghost Town” video that played in between sets seem less ridiculous. “Driven to Tears” was funky once again and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” jangled, while “When the World is Running Down” rocked in a way not heard since…the recording! And thankfully, Sting didn't avoid the high notes as much. Too bad they didn’t play “Synchronicity II” this time around.

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Their performance was so good, in fact, that I didn’t mind when they butchered “Roxanne” again with an extended quiet-storm middle section and unnecessary recorded backing vocals. Ironically, some of the biggest hits were not the most well-received, with “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” also suffering from a watered-down arrangement. The formerly ornate “Wrapped Around Your Finger” fared better, though, with Copeland’s astounding rhythmic talents on display as he wielded the xylophones and various cymbals n’ shit in a sparser rendition. And with a new, bouncy guitar lick courtesy of Summers, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” sounded gorgeous even without the piano.

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While the ticket prices were still exorbitant for a simple light show and video setup, and the Police’s set was criminally brief, concertgoers got a high-quality performance this time around. The Police’s enthusiasm and commitment to the material actually DESERVED the thousands singing each word of these now-classic rock gems. The Police tour has officially evolved from the most anticipated to the most improved.---Photos & review by David Sason

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The Police set list:

Message in a Bottle

Walking on the Moon

Demolition Man

Voices in My Head

When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Driven to Tears

Hole in My Life

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Wrapped Around Your Finger

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

Invisible Sun

Can’t Stand Losing You

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Roxanne

King of Pain

So Lonely

Every Breath You Take

Next to You

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Elvis Costello & the Imposters set list:

Stella Hurt

Pump It Up

Either Side Of The Same Town

Everyday I Write The Book

American Gangster Time

Clown Strike

Flutter & Wow

Turpentine

Watching The Detectives

Alison (with Sting)

(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?

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Friday, July 11, 2008

New Releases of Old Stuff: David Bowie, Sonic Youth

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 4:00 AM

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David Bowie - Live Santa Monica '72

Since we’re in the middle of the longest hiatus David Bowie has ever had, it’s a perfect time for the release of Live Santa Monica ‘72. This excellent live document is from his first-ever American tour, promoting his glam-rock classic The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Although Bowie’s flamboyant, kabuki alien image at the time helped transform him into an international icon, the music and the performances by this classic band lineup stand on their own.

Guitarist Mick Ronson is on fire throughout, anchoring the entire set with his relentless crunchy assault, especially forceful in a 10-minute “Width of a Circle.” Also fascinating is the relatively sparse rendition of “Space Oddity,” where Bowie hums and intones throughout in place of the familiar orchestral swells. Clumsy and gutsy at the same time.

What’s especially cool is how this long-popular bootleg retained its junkyard tarnish, complete with sound glitches, a sophomoric album cover, and DJ comments from the original KMET broadcast. In fact, they most likely just slapped the broadcast onto a CD and called it a day. While seemingly as despicable as blatant repackaging of the same albums every few years, EMI’s found a strange little niche that may extend their physical CD-selling days a little further.

While another live release from Bowie’s last tour as mere mortal may seem redundant, Live Santa Monica ’72 is a vast improvement over the Ziggy Stardust film soundtrack. Not only does the group sound hungrier and more energetic here, but we also get a different Velvet Underground cover (“I’m Waiting For the Man”) and rarely heard Hunky Dory classics “Queen Bitch” and “Andy Warhol,” each performed with the same youthfully nasal grit Bowie exhibited on his recorded albums. An early “Jean Genie” makes you wish for a later tour’s performance (especially the brilliant shock that was the Young Americans period), so let’s hope for similar releases, just like Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series.

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Sonic Youth - Hits Are For SquaresSonic Youth caught a lot of shit last year about their impending partnership with Starbucks. At their triumphant Berkeley show last year, in which they performed their masterwork Daydream Nation in its entirety, the subject even crept into the heckles. Bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon responded by reminding how much more evil their “normal” record company corporation was. Good point. And Starbucks Entertainment is actually a part of Universal Music Group, so…

No matter what your take on the subject, Hits Are For Squares is strangely enough the best Sonic Youth “best of” out there. It’s the only one besides Screaming Fields of Sonic Love, actually, but that one only went up through 1988, stopping just short of the DGC output that was actually above the radar for a while. Although only 16 tracks long, the set is a wonderful combination of known radio songs, gems from the 80s, and random album tracks long forgotten. Sonic Youth has released dozens and dozens of albums, I know. But in lieu of actual charting hits, their near-conventional, more structured tunes represented here are surely the most appealing to the casual, curious listener.

Although the idea sounded lame as hell at first, the great track listing is owed to the fans (famous ones) who picked the songs. A lot of them are obvious, like Mike D’s “100%”, Radiohead’s “Kool Thing”, and their cover of “Superstar” chosen by (who else?) Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody. But there are some charming surprises in the liner notes, like director Allison Anders poignant story about driving with her daughter while appreciating 2004’s “Stones” in silence. Best of all is Mike Watt’s annoyance that someone had already picked “Tuff Gnarl” off 1987’s Sister, a song he’s covered. “I wish I would’ve been asked earlier – does this mean I throw chingasos with [Dave] Eggers over first dibs?”

While it doesn’t include anything from their excellent Rather Ripped, Hits does feature a brand-new John Agnello-produced track. Recorded last winter, “Slow Revolution” is just as it sounds: a dreamy, down-tempo chime-guitar affair, where Kim Gordon’s muffled vocals (with only the title of the song ascertainable) have an ethereal Sigur Ros-like quality. (I can’t wait for their next album.)

No SY retrospective would be complete, of course, without a certain classic selected by Eddie Vedder. “I’m from Seattle, but fuck coffee,” he says in perfect irony. “Nothing gets you going like putting on ‘Teenage Riot’ at full volume…0 to 60, standing still.”---David Sason

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