Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #95 - The Panic in Needle Park (1971, dir. Jerry Schatzberg)

Let me say up front that the main reason for my recommending this film is because it was co-written by Joan Didion, and Didion is one of my idols. That’s not to say it’s not a good film. Quite the opposite. By all measures it’s terrific, a groundbreaking work. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, as was the director, Jerry Schatzberg, and the leading actress, Kitty Winn, won best actress. And rightly so. She plays Helen, a doe-eyed waif from Fort Wayne who’s trying find her way in the mean streets of New York City; a young woman who, in her search of love, is drawn into the downward spiral of addiction and street life. She looks as innocent as a church girl, and her demeanor is soft, almost meek, but at key moments her backbone stiffens and she shows a toughness that gives her character dimension and provides a moral force for a film that might otherwise be just another bummer-trip drug film.
The story begins with Helen receiving a back-alley abortion (this is pre-Roe vs. Wade) that lands her in the hospital. Her boyfriend, a self-absorbed artist, couldn’t care less, but when she’s sad and alone in the hospital she receives a surprise visit from a neighborhood guy named Bobby, played by Al Pacino in his breakout role. Bobby’s a sweet guy, funny and spontaneous: on their first date he steels a TV out of a parked van and together they sell it at a pawnshop and all the while she’s laughing, happy, smitten. The next day she wakes up to find him shooting heroin. He’s not an addict, he tells her; he’s just “chipping.” She’s met him right before his addiction plunges into destruction, when it’s still fun and he still believes he can pull it off, that he can use heroin regularly and live a somewhat normal, well-adjusted life. Of course, we know it won’t last, we know where their lives are heading, that bad times are just around the corner, but we remain captivated because the acting is so strong and the characters so well rounded. It’s in their eyes, in the moments when Bobby lets down his streetwise façade and shows his vulnerability and when Helen’s tender and naïve eyes harden into resolve and certainty. In a key scene Bobby asks her to go to Harlem to buy drugs for him and she squints at him and says, “This isn’t about the drugs. It’s to see how far I’ll go for you.” Bobby nods. “Well ok,” she says, and confidently reaches for the cash.
The film is groundbreaking for its portrayal of drug use. There are haunting close-ups of heroin being melted down in bottle caps, sucked into syringes and shot into bulging veins—images so stark and ghastly that the film received an X rating in many places and was banned for three years in England. The style here is gritty realism: the color palette gray, the soundtrack just the noise of the street, no music. But the heart of the story is love, a love that’s difficult to understand, given the circumstances, because there are no corny monologues to explain. Rather, it’s shown in the tender moments Bobby and Helen sometimes share, or when they break free from the bleakness of the city and find reason to laugh and smile—a stick ball game, an excursion to the country, or when they adopt a puppy. It’s these attempts at balance, at finding joy in life, that make the characters fully human and the story about something more than the age-old story of addictive downfall.
It’s here in this dance between happiness and misery where the film most appeals to my love of Joan Didion. For me, The Panic in Needle Park is a companion to Didion’s best essays—“Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” “The White Album,” “Los Angeles Notebook,” and the like, essays that captured a world that seemed to be going mad—America in the late 1960s—but that also seemed to always be striving for transcendence and, every once in a while, to actually find it. As with her classic prose, she brings her subjects to life and holds them at arms distance, without overt judgment, gives them room to move around and live and reveal who they are in ways so honest we can’t help but see ourselves in them.
            - Joe Miller

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 UMS Band Interviews #7

For everything you need to know about the UMS Click Here
Bonnie and the Beard 

Saturday July 26th 11:59 pm

Skylark Lounge



Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
Saturday night at midnight at the Skylark Lounge. 

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of you/your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
Seductive and vivacious boot-stomping gypsy rock that makes you sweat, pine for your lovers, toast the moment, and howl at the moon.

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
Probably Michael Jackson.

Do you have any advice for new bands?
Stay hungry. 

Have you planned out who you want to see at UMS this year? Who are some of your highlights?
One of the best things about UMS is having your must-see acts, but also drifting and discovering things you never knew you were thirsty for.

If you've been to UMS before, what three words would you use to describe it?
Hot, whiskey, hot

What has been your most memorable experience at UMS to date?
There are many... All of our friends we ended up seeing naked thanks to YouAMess. And that time a guy got part of his beard pulled out.

Any tips you'd like to give the novices for making the UMS experience even better?
Pace yourself, baby.

Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
Burritos the size of Bonnie's head at Illegal Pete's.

What is your favorite shop on South Broadway?
Ironwood. 

Who is your all time favorite Colorado band?
We're sweet on Nathaniel Ratliff & The Night Sweats and Devotchka. 

Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the UMS that you think people need to know?
Don't forget to hop in the baby pool & BBQ at some of the rad house shows/parties that go on during the day!


Von Stomper 

Sunday July 27th 7:00 pm

Gary Lee’s Motor Club and Grub



Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
7/2 gary lee's

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of you/your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
Von Stomper is a high energy 5 piece rock n' roll band that blends American roots, folk and blues music.  

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
The WWF wrestler theme song cd

What has been your favorite album of 2014 so far?
Small Town Heroes - Hurray for the Riff Raff

Do you have any advice for new bands?
play good music

Have you planned out who you want to see at UMS this year? Who are some of your highlights?
Mosey West


Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
Candy Bars at Twist & Shout or Steve's Snapping Dogs

What is your favorite shop on South Broadway?
I like the antique/record shop/coffee house

You're working the counter at Twist & Shout, and a customer is interested in expanding his music collection.  What three albums would you recommend?
Nina Simone - Nina Simone Sings the Blues
Dave van Ronk - Folksinger
John Hartford - Aeroplane

Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the UMS that you think people need to know?
Free your mind and the ass will follow 

 

Blake Brown 

Saturday July 26th 8:00 pm

Skylark Lounge



Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
Skylark Lounge at 8pm on Saturday, July 26th.

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of you/your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
Singer-songwriter, folk-americana intimate performance with some of Denver’s finest musicians.

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
The Beatles 1962-66 ( Red album) and The Beatles 1967-70 ( Blue Album). I was a kid and the songs were so attainable and easy to sing along to and memorize. I grew up in Texas and remember taking long, long road trips all over the state and listening to those albums front to back and back again.

What has been your favorite album of 2014 so far?
Beck - Morning Phase, The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream, Wovenhand - Refractory Obdurate.

Do you have any advice for new bands?
Stick with it. Create what you want and if you’re true to yourself and vision, people will recognize the authenticity.

Have you planned out who you want to see at UMS this year? Who are some of your highlights?
The best thing about UMS is getting got see your friends play all within a few days of each other. I’m excited to see Land Lines, Andy Thomas, Elin Palmer as well as Blonde Redhead.

If you've been to UMS before, what three words would you use to describe it?
Hot. Hot. Hot.

Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
I always love to duck into Sputnik for a quick bite and drink. It seems to hit the spot more than usual.

What is your favorite shop on South Broadway?
Iron Wood, Boss Vintage, Fancy Tiger

Who is your all time favorite Colorado band?
Wovenhand, Land Lines, Planes Mistaken For Stars (via Peoria,IL.)
 

GS3 

Sunday July 27th 8:00 pm

The Hornet



Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
8pm on Sunday July 27 at The Hornet (76 Broadway)

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of you/your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
We are not your typical indie/hip-hop/modern/post-jazz trio. It's different than what you are currently imagining.

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
It may have been Pearl Jam Ten, but it could have been a John Patitucci solo album.

What has been your favorite album of 2014 so far?
Tycho Awake

Do you have any advice for new bands?
What separates good bands from not so good bands is rhythm. Music style is a matter of opinion, but everyone in your band has to have good time, or opinion becomes secondary.

If you've been to UMS before, what three words would you use to describe it?
Exposure, peers, professionals.

What has been your most memorable experience at UMS to date?
Playing with the amazing Ayo Awosika a few years back.

Any tips you'd like to give the novices for making the UMS experience even better?
Be wary of sketchy "producers" offering you fame and fortune.

Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
Watercourse.

Who is your all time favorite Colorado band?
Earth, Wind, & Fire!

You're working the counter at Twist & Shout, and a customer is interested in expanding his music collection.  What three albums would you recommend?
Gregory Isaacs Slum In Dub
John Brown's Body JBB In Dub
Mint Condition Definition of a Band

Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the UMS that you think people need to know?
Support your local music scene!


  Dave Devine Relay

Friday, July 25th 8:00 pm

Eslinger Gallery



Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
Friday July 25th 8PM @ Eslingers

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of you/your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
Loud/Soft, Delicate/Rocking, Ambient/Prog McGee, No singing/Singable tunes

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
 Vinyl: Michael Jackson "Thriller" (1982)
Cassette: Yngwie Malmsteen "Rising Force" (1984)
CD: Led Zeppelin "Houses Of The Holy" (1986)


What has been your favorite album of 2014 so far?
Fennesz "Becs" 

Do you have any advice for new bands?
Play more, think less. Actually, I could use some advice. Maybe I shouldn't be doling any out.


Have you planned out who you want to see at UMS this year? Who are some of your highlights?
 I will wander down Broadway with my ears open, I'm sure something will lure me inside.

 If you've been to UMS before, what three words would you use to describe it? 
We Were Rejected (last year) 

What has been your most memorable experience at UMS to date? 
(see above)

Any tips you'd like to give the novices for making the UMS experience even better?
(see above)

Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
Sputnik: Corn. Dogs.

What is your favorite shop on South Broadway?
Divino


Who is your all time favorite Colorado band?
Anything David Eugene Edwards is doing: 16 Horsepower, Wovenhand, solo, etc.

You're working the counter at Twist & Shout, and a customer is interested in expanding his music collection. What three albums would you recommend?
John Coltrane "A Love Supreme"
Wire "154"
Scott Walker "Scott 4"

Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the UMS that you think people need to know?
I am also playing Friday July 25th at 6PM @ Eslingers with Clemente, and I'm on drums. I not very good, but I know what not to play.