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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

June CD Reviews

Brandon Rhyder
Head Above Water

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Brandon Rhyder live but his last studio release Conviction got worn out in my truck’s CD player. So, I was pretty pumped when Head Above Water got to my hands. His sound is lumped in with the Red Dirt and Americana scene. His music is what turns a lot of folks on to him, but the hidden gem of this singer is he’s a phenomenal songwriter, and he continues to impress with this release.

I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the first single, “Rock Angel” when I heard it on the radio. It sounded too commercial for the Rhyder I was familiar with. But… it’s grown on me (and apparently I’m one of the few that it bothered as it hit #1 on the Texas Music Charts in February and it’s still in the top 30).

The title track is a beautiful ballad about being saved. I don’t know if it’s what he intended, but to me it’s a very spiritual song about finding God and trusting Him with the essence of your very being.

“You Can Count On Me” is a great underdog love story. In contrast “Ultimate Deceiver” is about the end of a relationship. “I’ll Take You” seems like a nice follow up to 2005’s “Back Roads” off Conviction. And “Battery” is about visiting the old stomping ground.

My favorite track on Head Above Water is “You Burn Me.” The lyrical genius on this song is worth the price of the CD alone. It’s a bit of a rocker about a former love. “You can burn me with a simple single touch / I get confused and think I’ve never loved this much / and without warning, you come rolling in like gasoline. / That’s why there’s never nothing left of me. ‘Cause you burn me.”

The bonus track, “Queen Of My Roost” sounds like something that Guy Forsyth would release. It’s a ragtime-charged love song that rocks like a “flapper in a 1920s dress.”

Head Above Water was produced by Walt Wilkins. It boasts twelve tracks (and an awesome bonus track), beautiful CD packaging and a “Making of” DVD. I appreciate the lengths bands go through these days to get someone to actually buy a physical CD.

Visit http://www.brandonrhyder.com to see where he’s playing. – Sean Claes

TobyMac
Tonight
Forefront Records

Toby’s back, ladies and gentlemen! With his fourth album, Tonight, TobyMac, formerly of Christian rock legend dc Talk, once again kicks it into overdrive in an explosion of power and excitement. Tonight is distinctively and consistently TobyMac, but with a fresh blend of genres and a gentle remix of the usual Toby style. It’s hard to have a bad day when listening to this album; the beat is upbeat and infectiously happy.

Tonight opens with the booming titular track “Tonight” mixing Toby’s usual hip hop/pop blend with an edge of harder rock and featuring Skillet’s John Cooper for an inspired twist of power and raw energy. The explosion of energy slows down slightly for the hopeful “City on Our Knees,” but bounces right back to the top with “Showstopper.”

Along with the always incredible John Cooper, Tonight also features the talents of Matthew Theissen from Relient K on airy, piano-heavy, and reflective “Wonderin’” and Israel Houghton on the reggae rich “Break Open the Sky.” The contrast and yet familiar connection between the two songs and guest vocals only highlights Toby’s diverse talents and ability to harmonize genres together soothingly.

One of the great things about TobyMac is that he never seems to take himself too seriously. Case in point: “Funky Jesus Music” which is, well, funky. It’s also one of the most fun, party songs on the album. After the party’s over, “Get Back Up” and “Hold On” are the pick-me-up songs of the album with gentle soothing messages of hope and peace.

The best track on the album hands down is “Hey Devil” which blends 80s rock (a new and definitely stimulating direction for TobyMac) with empowering, take-charge lyrics about battling temptation and walking away from it: “Shuffled down the boulevard/ Cut me like a deck of cards/ I thought you had me/ You thought you had me.”

TobyMac’s Tonight is a wonderfully blended myriad of snappy lyrics, grooving beats, soulful vocals and an overflow of talent. Each song is sharply unique and tells an important part of the story, but with the same familiar TobyMac feel. - Rebekah Turmel

One-Eyed Doll

Break

Ever since I was turned on to One-Eyed Doll a few years ago by INsite’s Food Editor, Marsha Mann, I’ve loved seeing them live. It’s as much a theatrical experience as it is a rock show. One thing I’ve always been saddened by was the fact that their studio work really never stood up to the performances. With 2010’s Break One-Eyed Doll has finally turned in a studio recording that is as twisted, enchanting and real as their live show.

Break also introduces a new arrangement of One-Eyed Doll, from a two-piece guitar/drum set up to a three-member band. Kimberley Freemen (vocals/guitar) and PJ “Number Three” Evans (former drummer, now bass) are joined full-time by the album’s producer Jason Rufuss “Junior” Sewell (drums).

The first three tracks set the tone on the album. “Airplane Man” is an oddly radio-friendly offering that perked my ears up instantly. With “Beautiful Freak,” One-Eyed Doll proves just why they’ve gotten top honors as Austin’s Best Punk Band in the Austin Music Awards for the last two years. “Murder Ballad” is a disturbingly beautiful love song.

The guitar-driven kick-the-door-down One-Eyed Doll that people are accustomed to hearing doesn’t arrive on Break until the fourth song “See Jane Run.” Songs like the title track and “Suckerfish” also follow the band’s tried and true metal sound.

Of course, storytelling is always a big part of the live experience, and Break features a few personal journey songs. “Cinderblock” tells the story of a 10-year old girl essentially raising herself while dealing with an alcoholic father. And the live staple “New Orleans,” the true story of a boy dying in Freeman’s arms, has been captured well with a heartbeat-like rhythm behind it. Then there’s the dark “Murder Suicide.” The album ends with the six-minute epic ballad Resurrection.”

The song that is most out of place on the album is also the track that the album wouldn’t feel complete without. Anyone who’s seen OED live knows there’s a humor aspect to balance out the dark undercurrent that runs along most of Freeman’s lyrics. So, a tongue-in-cheek country song called “Redneck Love Song” provides the comic relief on Break.

The title song is my favorite track. It’s a fitting song as “Break” is about coming into your own. No longer being confined by what is expected. “And I gave you silence. I gave you everything. And I’ll break my silence. I’m breaking everything. “ I have to admit, Break is not what I thought I was getting into when I popped the CD in. It’s much, much more.

The production-work by Sewell is great. Long-time fans may object that this album is “too polished” but I think it’s a wonderful representation of this band’s body of work. It’s real. That’s probably the most important thing. The songs are honest and on Break he was able to provide a professional recording without compromising the integrity of the songs.

This could be the album that introduces the rest of the world to One-Eyed Doll. All the pieces are in place. It very likely could, well, break the band. Find out more about One-Eyed Doll by visiting their website at http://www.oneeyeddoll.com/.

SNAPLINE

Future Eyes

(Invisible Records)

Future Eyes, the brand new album from Beijing’s hottest electronic post-punk trio, Snapline, is nothing short of addictive. Cleaner and brighter than their 2007 release, Party Is Over, Pornstar, there’s a bit more emphasis on infectious melodies and textured vocals, over glorious noise. There’s still plenty of compelling sonic experimentation, but it’s subtler and more sophisticated, befitting a band now 5 years old. Though they’re clearly influenced by the late‘70s/early‘80s English bands, Joy Division and Fad Gadget, along with N.Y. pioneers, DNA and Sonic Youth, they could just as easily be compared to a contemporary band such as Radiohead, or a young Brooklyn outfit like These Are Powers - both driven by the same fearless approach.

The record is consistently intriguing throughout with cuts like the somber and mysterious ‘Flu’; an ominously beautiful ‘Part of Solution’; a minimalistic and mesmerizing ‘Sustaining’; and the surprisingly fun ‘Meeting Aliens Is Easy’ and ‘Hot Spot’. But my absolute favorites include the droning, repetitive and inevitably, majestic ‘Aphasia’, followed by the dystopic revelry of ‘From Another Side”. Like all great albums, it ends with an indelible cut, ‘Nothing Exposed’, which along with ‘Flu’ and ‘Aphasia’, offer some of the best examples of singer, Chen Xi’s poetic and evocative lyrics.

Chen Xi (the last name comes first in China) has a dark, soothing vocal style, with occasional fits of passionate wailing that reveal the real emotions behind the restraint. While his lyrics can be abstract and psychological, hinting at widespread social malaise, his live performances are urgent and frenetic, dancing around the mic stand like a tranced-out toddler, totally absorbed in the music and completely captivating. He’s also in charge of the drum machine, dropping to the floor at the end of each song to turn it off and then trigger the next beat. Minor chords, taut, wiry melodies, and artfully executed screeches & squalls are supplied by female shoe-gazer, Li Qing, who Rolling Stone cites as one of China’s major guitar innovators (she also plays drums for another of Beijing’s groundbreaking bands, Carsick Cars). Third member, Li Weisi (also a member of Carsick Cars), stoically holds everything together, with fluid, propulsive bass lines that lend additional melodic support. At a recent live show in Austin (part of the China Invasion Tour), he played the entire set with his back to the audience, perhaps out of shyness or a simple need to concentrate, but with Chen Xi commanding center stage, and Li Qing focused on her effects boxes, somehow it was rather provocative.

Although Snapline is signed to the Chinese label, Maybe Mars, which also owns and operates the Beijing underground music club, D-22, they have a special arrangement with Chicago-based producer and Invisible Records honcho, Martin Atkins (of PIL, Ministry, and Pigface fame). Atkins first saw the band in 2006, while exploring the Indie Music Scene in Beijing (check out the excellent 2010 compilation available from MaybeMars.com), and a solid producer/artist relationship has now been forged with two albums under their belt. On Future Eyes, he strips down the band’s sound, giving each element a clear presence, reinforces the lead vocals, adds several effective back-up parts, and bolsters the melodic instrument lines. He’s managed to create a more sonically balanced, radio-friendly product - without turning it into commercial sap. It’s a delicate balancing act that he pulls off masterfully. While it’s true the group is more volatile and exciting in person, any ‘good’ band always is. In this case, both versions are supremely satisfying. - Marsha Mann

Chasen
That Was Then, This Is Now
INO Records

Hey, would you change your mind today? / If I told you love, things would never be the same” Chasen croons comfortingly to lighthearted pop/rock piano accompaniment in “Leave You Alone” and a sense of peace skillfully blended with a catchy beat sweeps over the listener in a move that is characteristic of every track on That Was Then, This Is Now.

For those of you unlucky enough to not have heard of them, Chasen sounds like the happy marriage of Kutless and Sanctus Real, with an almost wistful, fond glance at Switchfoot. The band is headed up (and started) by Chasen Callahan of Greenville, South Carolina who after almost a decade of leading worship at his local church recruited Evan Silver, Aaron Lord and Jared Barber as full time band members. Shortly after releasing their first record independently, they were nabbed up by INO Records to produce their current album.

That Was Then, This is Now is an inspired mix of hope and harmony with a strong undercurrent of happiness. “Castaway” is anthem about finding a second chance. “Leave You Alone” and “Eyes of Rescue” are different takes on unwavering love and devotion. “Bullet” is a harder rock song that could almost be a battle cry. Chasen is unashamedly a Christian band, but with more subtle lyrics than most and without the whiny preachy feel as well.

The whole CD feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air or drinking a cold glass of water and rings with a true sincerity. Chasen genuinely believes in everything they’re singing; they believe in a hope forever after, in a love forever now. Chasen cares deeply about the words they sing, which lends an approachability and authenticity to the overall feel of the band and shows they’re doing so much more than lip service. Check them out at www.chasenmusic.com. . - Rebekah Turmel

Shelli Coe

A Girl Like Me

Big Beard Records

There are many different versions of country music. You’ve got the pop-princess version like Taylor Swift, the rock-country of Sugarland, the over-produced American Idol country, and every now and then all of the effects are stripped away and country music gets back to the basics. The latter is what you find on Shelli Coe’s latest A Girl Like Me.

In case her name doesn’t sounds familiar, concentrate on the last name. Yes, she’s the daughter of David Allen Coe, and although she doesn’t have the same outlaw-country sound of dear old’ dad, she has a firm grasp on the classic country sound. Songs about heartbreak. Songs about love. Songs about revenge. Songs about coming into your own.

With A Girl Like Me you get about 45 minutes of 2010-released classic country gold. Coe has a voice akin to Terri Clark, the kind that is a little bit lower then the bulk of female country singers out there. The kind of voice that says “I not only sing this song, but I lived it, and if you try me I’ll wipe the floor with you.”

There’s “Red Lights Flashing,” a jam about trying to let someone down… not so easily. “May Your Heart Rest In Pieces” explores the idea when the heartbreaker becomes the heartbreakee. Flip that last theme and you’ve got “Bryan’s Song.” She wears her heart on her sleeve in “I Love You.” Dean Seltzer joins Coe on a beautiful cover of “Please Come To Boston” originally recorded by Dave Loggins. Incidentally, David Allen Coe had a hit with this song in 1974.

In fact, she tips her hat to her dad in a few other places in this album. She’s got a rendition of the 1978 hit “If This Is Just A Game,” and the album closes with another DA Coe track, “Face To Face.” Both very impressive and keeping with the style Shelli Coe plays. She also has a little fun with one of her dad’s most memorable lines about a “perfect country and western song” on the ballad “Truly.”

My favorite track is the beautiful creeping “Falling At The Speed of Sound.” It’s a beautiful love song on A Girl Like Me. “I’m falling at the speed of sound / I’m so high I can’t see the ground. You’re voice is sweeter than any I’ve found / Falling at the speed of sound.”

From start to finish, I found A Girl Like Me to be a really good listen. Anyone who likes classic bar-room country music will enjoy this as well. For more information on Shelli Coe, visit shellicoe.com. She next plays on May 8 at Austin’s Scoot Inn. – Sean Claes

Lennon’s Song

We Love, We Learn, We Grow

Erick Bohorquez is the guitarist and vocalist for one of Austin’s premiere reggae/dub/Latin bands Don Chani. He is also a new father. Both of these facts are evident in his new project, a children’s release called We Love, We Learn, We Grow recorded under the moniker Lennon’s Song.

Love is the theme of this recording and the impetus of the project was the bath of his son Ishan Lennon (hence the name of the “band”). Musically, the album is carried by a reggae-infused acoustic guitar sound. This isn’t you’re typical kids album, it’s more like a view of the world using the eyes of a child.

We Love, We Learn, We Grow is a true one-man project. Bohorquez wrote composed, produced, mixed, and mastered it himself. He also is a pretty strong promotional machine (which makes sense as in his past life he was a Regional Manager of Marketing and Promotions at Island/Def Jam Records).

When I get an album like this, a side project that is a single persons vision, I usually take a deep breath before I listen because 90% of the time it’s a nice idea, but not fully realized. This one is different though. This is a really moving CD full of original tunes that are child oriented but not too simplistic. And bonus, the lyrics are well thought out and really moving.

Throughout the nine-song 26-minute album, I found myself smiling. The reggae “one love” idea is driven home well in the apropos-titled “Love.” The fun “Growing Up” talks about the excitement of new discovery. “Use You Imagination” bops along with a Bob Marley “Three Little Birds” feel to it. The beautiful dedication to Bohorquez’s son, “Lennon,” is another high point of an album full of great tunes. The instrumental “Wonderful” and “Breeze” are also well crafted.

The song that really gets me going is the fun “Summertime.” It is one of those audience participation songs where Bohorquez gets hands clapping and feet stomping. “Summertime is easy because school is out of session. It’s OK to play all day because life is one big lesson.” My kids are big fans of this track as well.

I hope that Lennon’s Song isn’t a one-off for Bohorquez. Although his full-time band is fantastic, the world needs more original kids songs that don’t make parents want to rip their hair out on the 100th listen. I can see this one being on heavy rotation at my house.

You can find Lennon’s Song in Austin at Picket Fences Baby & Maternity (1003 W 34th St) and Waterloo Records. Also check online at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/LennonsSong. Erick will be playing as Lennon’s Song in June at Lake Hills Montessori. – Sean Claes

Super Lite Bike

Away We Go

A band born from the melding of two local bands, Pocketful of Deng and The War Against Sleep, Super Lite Bike has taken a big risk. They’ve put together a concept album to serve up as their first effort. According to the bio, the songs on Away We Go describe “the story of a girl leaving the planet only to come back and realize that’s her home.”

I’ve got to say, this style of concept-ethereal-sonic-indie rock isn’t usually by bag. It’s got that sound that would be very appealing to the scene in Austin known as the “hipsters.” And, I’ve been told very poignantly that I am not in that crowd (thank you hairstylist at The Beauty Bar). All that aside, I’ve got to say, good music is good music.

The songs are all fully realized with sonic guitarwork and percussion providing the backdrop for the creeping lyrics of Patrick Husband. The entire outfit gives a Talking Heads-meets-Spoon-meets-Ghostland Observatory vibe.

Away We Go leads off with 2:30 minutes of sonic pleasure building up to the kick-off of the chanting “That’s A Lot Of Adhesive.” Carrying on is the organ-meets-guitar jam of “Raise the Colors” then it slows down for instrumental track “The Great Erie” that serves as the intro to the horn-infused “Something With the Spectrum.”

My favorite track on Here We Go has to be “Home.” It’s the seventh track and kind of serves as the epicenter of the journey. Its got a really interesting Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” type breakdown in the middle. “Can I get back to where I’m from? Will I get back everything I’ve known? Can I tell you everything I’ve learned? Will I ever find my way? ”

From there the story winds down with the very Spoon-esque mind-opening jam “Unbelievable Party!!! Cool” followed by the retrospective “See Change” and the 8-minute dream-finalizing “Let’s See A Jet Plane.”

Super Lite Bike will be releasing Away We Go on May 13 at The Parish. I’d be interested to see how this sound is pulled off live. It has got some really complex technical riffs and mood swings throughout. If they can capture live what they captured on Away We Go the release party will be an epic event not to be missed. I know the album is one that should be heard by anyone who appreciates good music… hipster or not.

For more information on Super Lite Bike, visit http://www.superlitebike.com. – Sean Claes

TXRD - Lonestar Rollergirls

The next 2 bouts for the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls are below.


On Saturday May 29, the southern beauties of TXRD will take on a pack of smoldering bombshells. The Cherry Bombs are on Cloud Nine from their too-close-to-call victory over the Putas Del Fuego last month, and the Rhinestone Cowgirls are more determined than ever after their defeat against the Hellcats. Will the Bombs’ winning streak continue into their third game of 2010, or will they be shut down Texas-style by the home-grown Rhinestones? Come on down and find out!

When: Saturday, May 29
Time: Doors at 6, bout at 7
Where: Palmer Events Center
Tickets: $15 at the door, $13 online or from one of our ticket vendors, or $10 from a rollergirl.








Sunday, May 23, 2010

INstant Hindsite - Trashy and the Kid CD Release

INstant Hindsite
Trashy and the Kid's CD release show @ Encore (611 Red River - http://encoreatx.com/).

with Killa Maul - a tribute to early Metallica featuring Jason McMaster, Exile, Bad Lovers. and The Jezebelles.

Photos By: Arnold Wells

Additional Photos by: Sean Claes

Trashy And The Kid










Exile





Bad Lovers




Killa Maul





The Jezebelles



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

INstant Hindsite - Snake Skin Prison

INsitant Hindsite
Snake Skin Prison at Red Eyed Fly 5/14/10

Band:
Matt Ballengee - Vocals/Guitar
Keith Ploeger - Bass
Marc Coronado - Drums

Website: http://www.snakeskinprison.com/

Photos by: Misty Meredith














Tech - Bose Speakers

Bose-Ohs! Are those speakers just a bunch of hype?



By Radames Pera – INsite Tech Editor

Another bubble must burst and I have the dubious honor, or at least obligation, to be the pin bearer. Ever since I started my professional life designing and intalling home theaters and sound systems, 99.9% of the time anyone has ever asked my opinion on a particular product, the sentence always goes like this: “What do you think of Bose?” No joke. I can almost see the “buh” sound forming before they get to the end of the question. “Wow. Bose again?” I asked inside my head, before making the more polite reply in the form of another question, “Oh, do you own a Bose system?”


Answers are either A: Yes, or B: No. If A, then I insert my standard respectful response A1 - no need to ruffle any feathers at this stage of the game, they’ve already made their purchase and are living with it for better or worse: “Bose is a very respected name in audio,” says I, “you must be getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.” If B, then I carefully go to response B1: “Well, Bose is really over-rated, and over-priced. A lot of other brands are better, and cost less,” adding, “What Bose is best at is marketing – they’ve rested on their laurels for decades, particularly with speakers.”

At this point people who fibbed with either “A” or “B” get all red in the face and try to argue about the quality and reputation Bose has and blah, blah, blah. In those cases, I smile politely and don’t repeat my opinion. But if they act surprised and pleased to hear something different than what they were expecting, I’ll elaborate a little further, depending on their interest level.

Its not that Bose doesn’t know how to make really good speakers, it’s just that most of the stuff they sell is crap - “cubes” as they call them, with paper speaker elements that are too tiny to deliver good sound, augmented by awful sounding subwoofers. This is the bulk of their business. Yes, they were the first company to popularize the notion that little speakers could sound like big ones by conveniently leaving the large subwoofer box out of the slick magazine ads, creating the impression that all the sound comes from tiny speakers.

While somewhat of a novelty when first introduced about 20 years ago, many Bose buyers were a bit heartbroken when they realized that no sound at all would come from the tiny cubes unless they found a place to put the relatively large bass box/amp somewhere in the room. And, that all wires had to run to that bass box first, from each speaker, not from the head unit (aka “tuner”) as is normally the case. Only then could it even come close to sounding like it did in the store.

But even in the late ‘80s when Bose introduced this concept, there were several small speakers already sold by companies like Jamo, ADS, Polk, and a couple of others that sounded pretty amazing without a clunky subwoofer attached.

To be fair, Bose released their first commercially (and acoustically) successful product, the 901 speaker in the late ‘60s and have been refining the“reflective” speaker concept ever since. They do make a great sounding (though quite expensive) professional line of sound reinforcement products that many musicians use and travel with, but their home entertainment line is outperfomed by many other lesser-known companies at considerably lower prices.

Their official slogan is “Better Sound Through Research”, though a more appropriate one, at least in consumer electronic circles might be, “The Illusion That Smaller is Better”. After all, they did singlehandedly convince the public that you didn’t have to have big speakers to have “big sound” and did help usher in an era where the husband got to have his home theater and the wife got to get rid of the monolithic speakers he’d dragged through life since college. That’s a success story right there.


Dubbed the Acoustimass Speaker, it used the aforementioned cubes which could be mounted high up on a wall to deliver reasonable sound when properly coupled with the weak bass sub. Oddly, the sub also doubled as the system amp, and while this proprietary approach allowed the tuner-preamp-CD player to remain very small, it rendered the system incompatible with most other brands of gear, hampering its expandability. Bose’s huge success with this gave rise to a host of popular brands offering their own all-in-one entertainment systems, also known as “Home Theater In a Box” (or HTIB).

Concurrently, Bose marketed the hell out of another over-priced product, the Wave Radio, which used a series of tubes (not like the internets!) to enhance bass response in a small-ish package. Buyers who forked out the dough got an oversized clock radio with pretty decent sound for a Master Bedroom or Kitchen application. Your Grandma might prefer it to a readily available (and way better sounding) boom box perched on her nightstand, but to me it always felt like Bose was trying to fleece older folks with those obsequious Paul Harvey Talk-Radio ads.

Perhaps Bose’s best innovation came with the evolution of the Acoustimass system in the mid ‘90s. Once again, they figured out a way to cram a Dolby Digital system – which included a preamp, AM/FM tuner, and DVD player into a curvy little silver chassis. This system came with a quintuple array of cubes, another weak subwoofer (again doubling as the amplifier) and best of all, an industry first: a remote control that didn’t require pointing at the equipment.

To this day, with any other piece of home entertainment equipment (except Sony’s PS3 game sytem) you still have to point the remote directly at the gear you want to control. The Bose remote uses RF (radio frequency technology) allowing power, volume, preset and track controls without pointing - even from another room. But once again the downside is it’s a Bose-proprietary thing - only their equipment can be controlled. Why big name manufacturers haven’t all gone to this is a mystery to me.
Luckily, there are a few third-party remotes that do RF with more flexibility than Bose ever had (see my tech column in the April Issue of INsite.)

In the end, Bose has gotten by a long time with a couple of fancy tricks - they aren’t really purveyors of quality. If you’re in the market for an HTIB, give ‘em a listen, then compare them to the more reasonably priced competition…you’re sure to get more bang-for-the-buck with another brand.

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Over the past 22 years, Radames has professionally designed and installed hundreds of fine home theaters and multi-room audio systems across America. Please address questions and comments to: rod@getitwired.com.

Chris Rock


EVERYBODY LOVES CHRIS

Even in an off-the-cuff interview, Chris Rock brings the funny

By B. Love

There are essentially two types of stand-up comedians: Those who work really hard at being funny, and those who just naturally ARE funny. Chris Rock, who was once named the Funniest Man in America by Entertainment Weekly and ranked #5 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time, definitely belongs in the latter group.

Whether riffing onstage or sitting down for an interview, Rock will keep you in stitches with his off-the-cuff improv skills, fearlessly tackling subjects ranging from the female anatomy (“Ugly hair is not a deal-breaker for men. An ugly ass, now that’s a different story!”) to Michael Jackson’s afterlife and the state of Black cinema. And with his critically acclaimed documentary, Good Hair, recently released on DVD and his latest film, Death At A Funeral, in theaters this month, the Brooklyn-bred 44-year-old certainly has a lot to talk about…

You mined stories from your childhood to great effect on Everybody Hates Chris. What were you like as a kid?

It’s weird, people would laugh when I got really mad and serious. I always had a way with words. To this day, 40% of my standup act is things I’ve said in heated discussions or arguments that people laughed at. I’d think, “I’ll use that one day,” but I was dead serious when I said it!

Growing up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, you were the first black kid in your school. What was that like?

It was horrible. But it gives you a total realistic view of the world that people from better places never have. You’ll never be let down, and people will never surprise you because the bar of expectations is set very low. So what, I’m going to sit here and talk about how I got treated like crap in school? (Laughs) It took me a few years, but I won!

Do you think you’d be as funny as you are today if you’d grown up in, say, Beverly Hills?

No, I’d suck! There’s nothing funny about growing up in Beverly Hills. But when you can’t afford to go to the movies or leave your neighborhood, making each other laugh is your only form of entertainment.

Good Hair dealt with the way people express themselves through their hair. Did you ever use your hair in that way when you were growing up?

Oh, I had everything! In New Jack City I had a jheri curl, I've had processed hair, used relaxers and whatever. Before the Obamas, the Jacksons were America’s black First Family. So whatever the Jacksons had in their hair, I would figure out a way to get it in my hair.

The way it’s described in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, relaxers sound like a torturous experience.

With my aunts and my mother, I'd smell these chemicals and hear screams and stuff, so I was familiar with it. But it's like any drug: "I'm not going to get hooked! It's not going to burn me!” I remember the first time, it was like when you're a kid and you touch an electrical socket and get shocked. It was like my head was on FIRE! That's what it's like. And you want to keep it in there long enough to get the hair straighter. It’s like, “Just hold on! Hold on! Hold on! Ten more minutes and I'll look white!”

Did being a smartass ever get you into trouble as a kid?

Nah, I knew when to keep my mouth shut just from being smaller than everybody. The bphysical dictates the mental, you know? Martin Luther King Jr. was non-violent, and he was 5’4” tall. Malcolm X was talking about “By any means necessary,” but he was over six feet tall and could whip your butt. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

You’re known for talking a lot of smack about other celebrities. Have you ever had any uncomfortable encounters with the people you mock in your act?

Yeah, I met Michael Jackson and he glared at me from across the room. I see Janet all the time and she still cuts me this mad look. If you told me as a kid that the Jacksons were going to kick my ass, I'd have thought you were crazy! But I've talked about Michael's hair a bunch of times. I did a joke when he was on trial about how if he went to jail, he couldn't maintain the perm, so it's gonna grow out and the naps will come in. I wonder if they have hair care products in heaven or hell? I think he does shows in Heaven and then they make him go to Hell. But he had so many perms, he's not going to burn in hell! “I'm used to this burn. You gotta put up the heat!” (Laughs) We're going to miss Michael. There was lots of good humor there.

You grew up in New York, but the film business is centered in Hollywood. Did you ever think about moving out there?

Nah, I've been fortunate. Right before I got on Saturday Night Live, I was scheduled to move to L.A. But then I got SNL and I said, "I think I'll stay." To me, L.A. is like the wild, wild West, where you go to town to get your supplies and go home. So I go to town to do a movie and then I go home. I try to live a normal life without photographers and stuff chasing me around, bugging my kids.

Did having kids change your approach to comedy at all?

Not really. Having kids has affected me like having kids affected Eminem, you know what I mean? Some people have kids and they become like born-again parents: "Everything's got to be different! I’ve got kids now! We're not going to talk like that around here anymore!” All their behavior changes because they hate themselves and who they were. I didn't really hate myself before I had kids, so I just had to make a few adjustments.

So many of the storylines on Everybody Hates Chris centered around the strict way your parents raised you. How is parenting different for you?

I think there's more that parents have to do these days. When I was a kid there were 12 television channels, and maybe there was one you had to make sure the kids weren't watching. Now there are 300 different channels and 250 of them are not appropriate for children. You’ve also got the Internet, so you have these images constantly coming at you. That's different, but otherwise raising kids is the same as it was 100 years ago. There's no such thing as "quality time" with your children: It's just time. You can't control the quality of the time you spend with your children, like, "We're going to do some good stuff today!" Good stuff happens at any moment every time you’re with your kids.

There’s certainly been some good stuff happening in your career in recent years. Can you talk about some of the positive and negative aspects of your success?

It’s kinda like going to a baseball game and having big breasts: You get attention wherever you go. The difference when you’re a guy is that generally people want money, whereas when you’re a girl they generally want to sleep with you. It depends on what you like. I’ve never been one to dwell on the negatives of fame. I like being famous, and I can’t imagine not being famous. I was not famous for most of my life… forget that! (Laughs)

Your new film, Death At A Funeral, seems like an odd choice for you. What was the attraction there?

That’s exactly why I did it! It’s a remake of a British movie starring me and Martin Lawrence as fighting brothers. We hate each other. Our dad dies and we find out he's gay at the funeral, where his lover tries to shake us down for money and jokes happen. It’s gonna be huge!

What do you think about the state of black cinema today?

They don't make as many movies directed squarely towards a black audience as they used to. When Spike Lee came out we had all these wannabe Spikes– John Singleton, Matty Rich, the Hughes brothers– and it appears that has dried up. There's a line in the movie I'm Gonna Get You Sucka: Keenan Ivory Wayans is trying to get a posse together to hunt down Mr. Big and he says, "Where's all the Revolutionaries?" Clarence Williams III looks him in the eye and goes, "They got government jobs." (Laughs) That's kind of what happened to black films. Those people are getting a lot of work on mainstream films, so you have less [black-oriented] stuff out there. I like what Tyler Perry's doing, how he's established a distinctive brand. Tyler Perry has a certain movie he makes, and it's great because it serves an underserved audience.

And you’ve got your own distinctive brand of comedy, one that many would argue is among the best of all-time.

Really? I'll take it, but I don't give it that much thought. It’s not good for you, you know what I mean? Derek Jeter can't be thinking about how he’s an iconic Yankee when he’s stepping up to bat. I'm happy more for my parents than for me: my family can really like enjoy stuff like that. Me, I have to work.

Do those kinds of accolades make you uncomfortable?

A little bit. But at the same time, I've been doing it a long time so it’s nice to have made some mark there.

Do you think that comedy is in better shape now than when you started?

It’s in much better shape. When I started there was no Comedy Central, and forget about being a black comic! It was superstar or bust: There was Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby; there was no room to be like the black Paul Reiser. You either had to be a superstar or you didn't work. Now there’s all sorts of levels of comedians, which is great.

A lot of comics don’t tour as much once they get older, but your Kill The Messenger Tour was one of your biggest to date. Is standup comedy still rewarding for you?

I still get a thrill from it and get paid handsomely for it. I’m fortunate because the road is bigger now than it was back in the day. Guys like Richard Pryor couldn’t play the whole world. That was always the problem with comedians, because musicians could play the whole world and they could make all this money. Part of it was just awareness and recognition, and part of it was the jokes just didn’t translate. But in the age of the Internet, the world is so small that I can play anywhere they speak English.

Think you’ll ever stop touring?

I don’t see that happening. If you see me not touring, I’ve got a LOT of money! (Laughs) It’s nice to be funny without all the accoutrements of film– the cameramen, the actors, the directors. It’s an instant connection with the audience. It’s as close as I’ll ever come to being an athlete, because it’s a live event where anything could happen. I have to think constantly while I’m on stage. The show could actually go bad, you know what I mean? I could lose! It’s hard to lose that big with a movie.

Sculpture in Glass - Bill Meek

Sculpture in Glass




The Mesmerizing art of Bill Meek

By Jo Anna Ordóñez

Driving the through the hill country this time of year is always an adventure and a discovery at every turn. Sparkling, formed and fractured pieces of glass hanging in the trees caught my eye as I drove through Wimberley and found the studio of Glass artist Bill Meek. Meek Studio and Gallery showcases the many works that Bill has created and his most recent works including trees, angels, tables and sculptural pieces that are not only amazing to look at but beautiful in their form.



Meek is a self-taught artist who over 30 years ago began putting his ideas together in fascinating ways and today his work is featured in galleries throughout Texas and the World. “I’m a carpenter and glass artists, so my tools are those of a carpenter, chisels, hammers, glue and more” said Bill. I was amazed at how beautiful each piece was in that it was a puzzle of many different pieces all placed just right to create a gorgeous work.


I found a small butterfly and Bill added, “my work focuses on the beauty and fragile aspects of life, those things we sometimes take for granted”.

Bill had the opportunity to travel the world and now calls Wimberley, Texas home with his wife Valerie. It seems he was always drawn to sculptures and knew that one day he would grow up to become a sculptor. “I’ve always made a living creating with my hands and work most days and into the night,” said Bill. He began his artistic career as a woodworker who tried to incorporate different ideas into his pieces. In the early 1980’s he moved to Houston and began working on with glass etchings and installations. Soon his love of three dimensional and sculptural pieces took over and he started experimenting with broken glass to create one of a kind pieces.


Bill is a glass artist that works in cold glass, not blown glass. He works the glass, grinds, carves, shapes and polishes it until it fits his vision for the work he is creating. I try to develop my own methods and style so that my look is distinctly my own” adds Bill. This gives Meek the freedom to create very large pieces. His work is in very high demand right now and some of his larger installations include a large glass and steel mobile towering above the lobby of the Wells Fargo Building in Houston and installations at the George Bush Presidential Library.


Bill said, “I am self-taught and have been blessed with having mentors who believed in, inspired, and challenged me. Over the decades, many of them have passed away and I find myself becoming a mentor to others through volunteering in the non profit Arts From The Heart organization in my hometown of Wimberley.”


Bills work can be found at Gallery on the Square (Wimberley, Texas) and at Artworks (Austin). You can visit Bill Meek at his studio and gallery on Ranch Road 12, two miles north of the Wimberley Square. For more information, call 512-847-6768 or visit www.meekgallery.com .

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JoAnna Ordóñez is a local glass artisan and owner of Vidriosa Glassworks. Her work can be found at The Lucky Lizard (412 East 6th Street), Things She Adores (2306 E. Cesar Chavez, Suite 101), The Oasis Gift Shop (Comanche Lane) The Old Mill Store (Wimberley Square) and Local Art Shows. Visit her online at www.4coolglass.com.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

INsite Style - May



Les Gens du Voyage
PHOTOGRAPHY: EDWARD VEROSKY
STYLIST: STEPHANIE FRAIDE
MODEL: CARRIE HINER-BERRY
WARDROBE: downSTAIRS Apparel, Austin



INsite Extras:



CATHERINE NICOLE EARRINGS
TURQUOISE BURST, $88
MOROCCAN STAR, $40








WRAP DRESS:
VBN'S SPRING '10 WRAP DRESS in WAVE, $80
FEATHER EARRINGS by ZARAH, $60





WHITE TEE VARIATION:
JEDIAH WHITE TEE - $36. RISING STARLET BLACK DENIM, $75.
b.e. STRANGE Buddah Necklace, $30. LONG KEY W/PYRITE, $60





JUMPSUIT:
COIN 1804 JUMPSUIT, $80. BELT, STYLISTS OWN
DREAMS JEWELRY NECKLACES VIRGIN MARY MULTI CHARM, $50. LONG KEY W/PYRITE, $60








DREAMS JEWELRY NECKLACE
VIRGIN MARY MULTI CHARM, $50
LONG KEY W/PYRITE, $60
b.e. STRANGE VIAL PENDANT, $30

Bonus Video: