A Slice of Fried Gold

The Catch Up Plan

Saturday, July 31, 2010
I think a lot of my problem with getting back into blogging is the fact that I feel like I just have so damn much to cover from the past couple months during my slacker days of writing. At least, that's what Sheri and I came up with while she was up visiting. So in lieu of going back through and posting every little thing I wanted to post about and beyond, I'm going to unveil a three step plan to getting back into blogging.

1) Catch up in pictures - One post, tons of pictures, all showing what I've been up to when I haven't been blogging

2) What music I've been digging - Not a list where I rank my favorite albums like usual...more of an aggregated list of what I've been digging in one place. Expect lots of awesome because I've been enjoying my fair share of new music recently.

3) What movies have caught my eye in 2010 and why - I haven't written much about movies this year except Inception and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (immediately preceding this post). Time to talk about what I've liked about in recent memory and to finally catch up on that.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I want to preface this review with an important note about myself as a reviewer. As a comic fan, my personal preference for comic movies is an entirely new take on a character/comic rather than a slavish recreation. I like to think of these films as another universe in which these characters exist, quite like All Star Superman is to Supes or Kingdom Come is to most of the DCU. Its a new sandbox for filmmakers to play in, which is why people like Christopher Nolan thrive while the Zack Snyder's of the world struggle.

With that said, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim is a whole different animal than previous comic movies: its a comic in which so much of its charm exists in its specificity. In the careful exactitudes and moments and comedic beats that he nails throughout the series.

Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) clearly understands this, as throughout this film he nails the important bits that make O'Malley's series so transcendant in its existence. Kim Pine's count offs as Sex Bob-omb prepares to launch into "Launchpad McQuack." The pure hilarity of drunk Wallace's recreation of Scott's side of their conversation ("there he is"). The stylistic story bubbles that revealed ratings and the ownership of belongings and things of that sort. Comeau + Crash and the Boys being included. The way Stacey Pilgrim always knows everything immediately (thanks to Wallace). These are the types of things that makes this book so damn amusing to its core, and in kind, make the film so delightful.

In a lot of ways, Wright takes even the comic to a new level with the way he stages fights. Sure, he takes some short cuts in these sequences (no Honest Ed's as Todd and Scott face off, and no robots much to Brandon's chagrin), but at the same time, these are places he has to take them. The film is sub two hours. The series is SIX BOOKS LONG. Cutting these fights down to their core not only allows Wright to focus on making them hugely entertaining and kinetic (good lord are these fights energetic), but also allows more time for story and character moments. In particular, I liked the way he spliced together the Todd Ingram fight (and the stunt casting of Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins as the Vegan Police - yes!), losing some of the core elements but still making it work in its own right.

The movie shines as Wright turns this film into a living, breathing video game, having fights culminate with the Smash Bros. "K.O." ringing through our ears and one-ups being a way of life (literally). It is an uncanny visual accomplishment by Wright, and something that is really an astounding achievement overall (bonus points for incorporating O'Malley's art into the movie also).

Yet, not everything worked for me. In fact, there were a few things that bothered me greatly.

Namely, I felt that the core women in the story (Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine, Envy Adams) were poorly developed. Sure, their development had to be cut to a degree to make the movie a manageable length, but without their backstory and their fleshed out relationships with Scott, the movie seems weightless at times. Kim Pine was just there often, being sardonic but never really acting as the stabilizing factor she always did in the books. Envy Adams was a bitch, but not a redeemable one really at all. She was just kind of there, and then she wasn't.

Ramona was perhaps the most criminal, as not only was she not given a ton to do nor was the relationship between her and Scott really real feeling, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead left me feeling colder than the way she broke up with Scott. To me, in the books it was easy to fall in love with Ramona. She's mysterious, vivacious, and often brilliant, but in the movie she was mostly lifeless. I found myself wanting more from her as a character, and without her pushing the plot along the end game just felt like...well, a game. At a certain point, it seemed like a freaking awesome version of a fighting game fully realized on the screen.

The book series was so phenomenal because the way it infused the stylistic genius of O'Malley with a tried and true plot strained through years of video gaming and indie rock, as well as infusing it with rich characters that layered true weight into an occasionally fluffy story. Wright got most of it right, but was found lacking by yours truly at times.

I have to give credit where credit is due though, a lot of the cast killed it. Michael Cera...well, there just couldn't be another Scott Pilgrim. He is the guy, and he was right from the very beginning. Casting Kieran Culkin did two things: truly brought Wallace to life as well as making me even more shocked that Culkin isn't a star. Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schartzman (unsurprisingly) stole the evil exes show in my book, and not just because they are the most famous...they also happened to be the most awesome (Routh in particular killed as Todd Ingram). Allison Pill was Kim Pine on screen, but she really didn't get a whole lot to do - I would have killed to have more with her.

Wasn't a huge fan of the casting jobs on Knives and Stephen Stills, but they were satisfactory, just not superb like most of the cast.

The music throughout was superb - I loved the Beck written, Broken Social Scene performed Sex Bob-omb tracks. I really dug The Clash at Demonhead in execution. They really made the music almost a character on its own, and I greatly appreciated how Wright worked throughout to make that such an important factor.

All in all, this movie was more successful than it wasn't. Was it enjoyable? Yes it was. I found myself to be incredibly pumped by many sequences, and I was enthralled throughout. However, there were things that nagged at me: the aforementioned weightlessness and some scenes (early ones, in particular) that were so aimed at the core audience that they almost felt choked out by the attempts to recreate the comic. It was a very entertaining movie and a damn fine adaptation, not to mention one of the most unique films I've ever seen. But it could have been so much more.

I do have to say Brandon and I went with someone who hadn't read the comics, and unlike the comic heavy group at the theater, he found most of the film to be utterly preposterous. More so than ever, I'm more than a little concerned about SP's chances at the box office - can a movie like this succeed financially? I have my doubts after seeing it for myself. It's a movie for the hardcore, and not many more, I fear.

We'll see if I'm wrong come August 13th.

Final Verdict: 7.8 - Buy (a ticket)

Doppleganger David

Friday, July 30, 2010

In the past year, the idea of having a doppleganger has somehow become a hot concept. You had Doppleganger Month on Facebook, the whole of the most recent season of How I Met Your Mother somehow being mostly about finding ones double, and an odd mix of other examples. Never did I think I would actually find mine.

But then I did.

Last night, as my friends and I crashed a Calista event (open bar and free food? Yes please) we managed to come across a person who looked fairly similar to me (I think I'm more attractive). I was very resistant of meeting him because I figured the world would explode if we came into contact, ending life as we know it for the rest of time, but when Amy forced the issue nothing happened. Thankfully.

With that said, he did turn out to be odd and sort of a creepster. He hit on my friend Cate and managed to make a group of people who normally is never awkward (i.e. Cate, Amy, Eric and myself) very awkward.

Still, I had to share photographic proof of this bizarre event with my readers. Enjoy, and let me know if you think he resembles me.

Another Article!

I had another article in the Play section of the Anchorage Daily News today, as I wrote the feature for the upcoming Cake concert. This meant I got to talk to the lead singer of one of my favorite bands and write about them in a way I never thought I'd be able to in the past. It was my favorite article yet, and I really think I'm getting better with each passing article.

Check it out here, and look for me to get back in the swing of things this weekend on the old blog.

Review: Inception

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In a summer filled with (even more) brainless action flicks and romantic comedies, getting a movie that even qualifies as good (save Toy Story 3) was beginning to seem like a lost cause.

That we finally get a movie that is not just high quality but also wildly inventive and completely unlike anything else we’ll see this summer (or anything else ever more than likely) is shocking, until you realize it’s virtuoso filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s handiwork. This past Friday, his new film Inception came out and it not only met the towering hype that preceded it but surpassed it.

The film begins with kings of extraction - the art of stealing from others dreams – Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) attempting to ransack the dreams of energy magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe). The genesis of this job stems from the comic prequel Inception: The Cobol Job, but the comic isn’t necessary as this film stands entirely on its own. This job goes poorly, and the whole of the film spins thusly from there. However, to go into the plot seems like it would just be a foolhardy task. This film in its two and a half hours of running time weaves many plot threads together while going into a level of depth (this word will have new meaning when you watch the film) that you just don’t see in blockbusters – if I wrote about the plot, I’d need probably at least 10,000 words.

Suffice it to say, you should just watch it.

But why should you watch it? Many have quickly drawn parallels from this film to The Matrix, and while I see bits of that, I think that’s an entirely unfair comparison. People find the need to compare one film with another incessantly because it is an easy way out, but to rely upon that convention would be unfair to the film: Inception is one that stands entirely on its own as a fiercely original and remarkably innovative spin on classic filmmaking. Not only that, but unlike other pioneering efforts, Nolan manages to ground these ideas with sheer perfection in storytelling.

The basic premise is a man that wants to get home, and the lengths that he’ll go to make that happen. Around that framework, Nolan expands and creates like he’s one of the dream architects from the film. In comics, many people say it’s the perfect artform because the sole hindrance on quality and innovation is the creator and his/her imagination. With full studio support after a stunning list of previous efforts behind him, Nolan becomes perhaps the first auteur to make a film of pure, unadultered imagination that works as unabashed spectacle as well. Whether you’re talking second level Arthur developing the kick to awaken his team knee deep in Inception (the job, not the movie), Ariadne’s (Ellen Page) first efforts as a dream architect, or the expansive third level showdown against a slew of winter commandoes, this movie is filled to the brim with well crafted action set pieces. It’s a massively entertaining film that is elegantly paced and ferociously intelligent.

Yet, all of these elements would be for naught if the players bringing them to life were not game. Thankfully Nolan pulled out all stops and assembled a veritable all star team of actors. You’ve got DiCaprio giving us a restrained and smoldering lead performance. There’s Gordon-Levitt taking a different turn on his formula as the unimaginative yet effective Arthur. When Page comes into the equation, she turns the story as a whole with her ever-evident intelligence and her charisma that acts as a bridge between the cast. With those three, you have a remarkable top three, but it goes far deeper than that.

For me, Tom Hardy as Eames stole every scene he was in. Exhibiting the same charm he has as a scoundrel in films like Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla, the screen crackles when he is on it. Recurring Nolan players Watanabe and Cillian Murphy give us nice spins on their norm, as Watanabe gives us an angel that always seems as if he could be the devil at any turn, and Murphy manages to take a more basic role as a mark and make it an emotionally resonant and well developed one. Everyone kills it in this movie.

I could just go on and on. Wally Pfister continues his beautiful symbiotic relationship with Nolan, as he continues to create an iconic look and feel to each of Nolan’s films with his cinematography. Hans Zimmer’s score is heavy and atmospheric, ever present but never really existing anywhere besides in the back of your brain (very similar to what he did with The Dark Knight). Everyone on the visual effects team…well, they did an incredible job at fully realizing Nolan’s imagination on the screen, and I bet each job they get after this will seem boring in comparison.

Long story short, Inception is definitely the best blockbuster film since The Dark Knight, and perhaps one of the greatest summer offerings ever. What Nolan does with this film is essentially throwing down the gauntlet to all other filmmakers, effectively telling them that just because they are making a big budget movie doesn’t mean that it has to be brainless or old hat. In a time where everything we get anymore are retreads, remakes, and ridiculous dreck, to experience a film like Inception is utterly refreshing and reinvigorating. It gives hope to this viewer that originality is still a possibility in a medium that I love that so often falls back on places they’ve already treaded.

I have to say though; it only makes sense that the two camps that have produced films that work as both entertainment and as art this summer have been Pixar and Nolan. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

To close this review, I have this line from /Film’s David Chen:

Buying a ticket for Inception is buying a ticket in support of high-quality, original filmmaking at big movie studios. It’s buying a ticket in support of the idea that a movie doesn’t have to be dumb to be popular, that it doesn’t have to cater to the lowest common denominator to make money.
Couldn't agree more. Make sure you catch this film.

Final Verdict: 9.5/10

The Weekend Edition

Sunday, July 11, 2010
Another weekend down, and one in preparation of a new adventure that I never expected to take. It was a good weekend, and one that was definitely better than the previous one (which was a tad dramatic for my taste). What went down?
  • Getting off work early, time for Frisbee Golf with Marc and Colver!
  • Filming 4 Color News & Brews with Brandon
  • Moose's Tooth with Darren, Cate and Eric
  • Downtown bars (and riding the bull!) with Eric, Cate, Lorna, Cassi and others
  • Hitting up Fire Island with Steph
  • 3rd/4th Place game in the World Cup at the Bear Tooth with Marc and Eric
  • Foosball like CRAZY!
  • Watching Colver and Joanne's softball team with Marc (free beer and burgers!)
  • Grilling and hanging out at Colver and Lorna's with a slew of people
  • World Cup final at my place with Marc, Eric and Colver (horrible game)
  • Frisbee Golf with Marc and Colver (again!)
  • Hula Hands!
  • Cake article writing!
  • Hanging out and watching movies!

Because this isn't necessarily worth a full article (and nothing really stands out as momentous enough to have its own big moment section down here), I figure I'll talk about movies.

Recently I signed up for Netflix on my Xbox 360, allowing me to instantly stream movies via Netflix on my TV...and it is freaking AWESOME.

I've been watching all kinds of movies lately on it, and massively disparate ones at that. In the past two weekends I've watched King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters, Ink, 2 Days in Paris, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 180 Degrees South and Zombieland, all without having to move or really do anything besides pressing a few buttons. There are tons of movies that I want to see on there that I haven't seen yet, and it instantaneously makes the whole Netflix paradigm worthwhile for me once again. Plus, with so many movies on there I've never heard of, I may find a new favorite purely by accident.

If you haven't tried it out (and I'm sure you have, because I'm behind on everything cool), I highly recommend it.

My Article is Up

Friday, July 9, 2010

My article is up at ADN.com and it's even currently on the front and center. I'm a featured writer, everyone! Yeah! Check it out and please notate the apparent mistake I made in the article that fleets of people have noticed already.


I'm in the Paper! (Again)

Thursday, July 8, 2010
It seems that my raw writing talent has struck the fancy of the Anchorage Daily News once again, as I'm writing not just one but TWO articles for them over the next month. The first one will be appearing in Friday's edition on the front page of the Play section (for non-Alaskans, this is the Entertainment section that appears every Friday) and is a profile of Alaskan musician Jared Woods. He's a heck of a nice guy and very talented as well, and it was a blast getting to know him. I'll link to this article tomorrow.

On top of that, I was offered the piece on Cake much to my delight. Cake is one of my all-time favorite bands, and one that I've connected with for a very long time. In fact, I'd say they're perhaps the most consistent band in my life. I like them as much today as I did when I first liked them.

This gave me the chance to have a phone conversation with lead singer John McCrea (!!), in which I got to speak to him specifically for the piece and took the opportunity to ask a couple questions I always wanted to ask. The guy was a gem, and it made me extremely happy to say "holy crap, I interviewed one of my favorite bands."

Considering I'm basically a big fraud who can't write at all, it's pretty cool that I've managed to interview so many artists of different mediums that I greatly respect over the past few years. Thank god none of them were in person, otherwise I likely would have had a panic attack and been breathing through a paper bag throughout the conversation. Turns out that is frowned upon.

That piece will be coming some time shortly before the show (if I was a betting man, I'd say July 30th), and hopefully I can do an okay job on that one too. No less, look for my name out there as I use the ADN as a launching pad for my dream career: traveling food writer. This is totally going to work. Traveling to the south of France to sample escargot, going to the far reaches of Thailand for the top curries in the world, and all the way to NYC to try the best in bagels...great. Now I'm hungry. This job is going to ruin me.


I'm sure that if you have a pulse, you've heard the deafening buzz about LeBron James and his free agency. Given that he is inarguably the most talented player in the NBA and so many teams have opened up cap space for him, it has been pretty much insanity through and through. Will it be Cleveland? New York? Chicago? Who will it be? We'll find out tonight on his TV special where he announces his intent (seriously), but according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, it looks like he'll be heading to Miami.

Much to the chagrin of Bill Simmons.

As Simmons points out, it is starting to seem like this has all been manufactured drama by the big three free agents: James, Dwyane Wade, and their far less talented and interesting counterpart Chris Bosh. It seems Wade and Bosh had been filming all of this for a documentary, and all of the action has played out like a bad reality series. The parallels are there, as Simmons points out, and I have to say if its true I'm pretty disgusted by it.

The weirdest thing about all of this is the fact that I honestly don't think a team of those three players and 9 scrubs will win an NBA championship. Odds on none of them getting hurt are low, and all of them are such nice guys that I don't think that I'd find it hard to believe that they'd have the killer instinct to dispatch other squads. Would they have a chance against the Lakers? I really don't think so.

It is all very disappointing to me as well, as I genuinely like LeBron and feel as if the place for him is Cleveland. I miss the days of yesteryear - supporting the team that supports you. Paying back fans with honor and with respect. If LeBron goes to Miami, it seems to me that he's sticking it to all of his faithful fans, and quickly becomes a villain in my mind.

The good news about all of this is it is a win win in a lot of ways. If he stays in Cleveland, he regains my respect. If he goes to Miami, I have a new team to root against. The question is, will the 2010-2011 Miami Heat become the new Evil Empire? According to Broussard (who is, in my opinion, a complete toolbox and wrong about 99% of the time), they will be. Here's hoping Broussard keeps to his pattern of being wrong about everything.

The Evolution of a Soccer Fan

It seems like with each passing World Cup I become a slightly bigger soccer fan. I've always been one to a certain degree, but this World Cup has been a definine one for me as I've been unbelievably into almost every match I've laid my eyes into. It wasn't just USA's inspiring and also disappointing run (these games were SO FUN to watch at Humpy's though), but I find myself quickly becoming a passionate supporter of whichever team I enjoy watching in any given match.

Whether it's watching the complete dismantling of Argentina by Germany or the quiet cool of Spain as they protect their lead against the same Germans, I find it intoxicating to observe these players working together in a synchronicity that you rarely see in American sports. Plays don't develop on the ball necessarily - every moving piece factors into each and every play, and it is a joy to watch some of the best creators out there like Thomas Müller, Wesley Sneijder or Xavi do what they do best - pick apart defenses and make it rain on dem hoes.

That's right.

I did bring up Müller intentionally. The only blemish on the Cup as a whole has been the rather shoddy reffing - no way in hell should Müller have missed the Spain match, and he easily could have turned the tide for the Germans. He was a catalyst throughout the Cup for them, and he's one of the best young stars in the game. It was a shame to have him out for that match.

With that said, the Cup ending is a truly sad event for me. I'll be paying more attention to the EPL and other leagues going forward, but the Cup has just been an unbelievably exciting time for me. It's going to culminate on Saturday and Sunday with two great matches, as Eric, myself and perhaps others will be watching it live on the Bear Tooth big screen. My take? Germany is going to walk all over Uruguay (I'm thinking 4-1, or something similar to the dismantling of Argentina), while I like the offensive pressure of Holland to overtake Spain and their "let's get a goal and protect" methodry 2-1.

Enjoy the games this weekend everyone!

"Let the Right One In" >>>>> "Let Me In"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I try not to judge a movie by its trailer too much. Often, films look way more awesome or way worse than they are based off the trailer. I tend to at least give them the benefit of the doubt until I see reviews.

But the trailer for Let Me In, the American remake of the absurdly good Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In is just ridiculous. It looks like it recaps a lot of the moments of the original, it seems to miss the point and the pace of its predecessor. I generally think remakes are a bad idea, especially when recent films that were remarkably fresh are concerned. This isn't just a movie that didn't need to be remade, it shouldn't be remade.

Yet here we are, with video proof of this remake that didn't need to happen. Le sigh...

The Weekend Edition (Version Kim.0)

Monday, June 28, 2010
My dear friend Kim came into town over the past weekend, which led this weekend to be extra ridiculous and extra packed as well as extra long. I took Friday off to hang out with her, much to her (and my) delight. What went down?
  • Breakfast at Middle Way with Kim
  • Hiking Flat Top with Kim
  • Lunch at Dish and making it rain golf balls at the driving range with Kim and Colver
  • Crazy times in Anchorage bars with Kim, Lorna, Colver, Amy, Justin, Eric, and Chris (AND GALLAGHER!)
  • Being saddened by the US Soccer team losing to Ghana in the knockout rounds at Humpy's
  • Knight and Day with Joanne and Kim (awesomely entertaining!)
  • Going to play Bingo with Colver, Joanne and Kim (ridiculous, but entertaining)
  • Hanging out with Joanne, watching movies and eating home made ice cream sandwiches
  • Talkeetna adventure with Colver, Lorna and Kim!
Over the past few years, a number of people have moved out of my life, but perhaps none have been sadder departures than Kim. Her move to Portland left me with one less partner-in-crime, as I could always rely on Kim to do pretty much damn near everything I wanted to do so long as I gave her a little warning. I mean, this weekend kind of showed that: a hike, bingo, road trips, delicious meals, a movie, and more. It was a fantastic weekend, even if Anchorage didn't give her much more than Portland had recently in the weather department. It was fantastic having her back.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that Friday night while at the bars, we hung out with Gallagher. As in THE Gallagher, of comedy and smashing watermelons fame. It was surreal, as he was just hanging out at the bar meeting people in downtown Anchorage. How weird is that? Just another odd highlight of a top weekend filled with all kinds of ridiculousness. Just the way I like it.

Burger Me

Travel Channel's Man vs. Food isn't a favorite show of mine, but when I watch it on the occasions that I do I'm instantly hooked. I mean, it's about food and food is pretty much my favorite thing on the planet, so there is a natural connection. Last season, Adam Richman came up to Alaska for a food challenge and to visit a few of our local dining establishments. Of course I went and watched the build up for the main challenge at Humpy's, but I had no idea what exactly he did for his other two meals.

Then the show premiered and I saw something glorious...a burger of destiny. This burger - the Seward's Folly - was from West Rib Pub & Grill in Talkeetna, and it was 4 pounds of pure, unadultered intensity. Two one pound caribou patties, a pound of ham, 12 strips of bacon, 12 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, fatass sauce (bacon, mayo, raspberry vinaigrette, sauerkraut), and three buns...this burger does not mess around.

Given that I pride myself on my eating prowess, Joanne, Eric, Darren, Cate and I ventured up to Talkeetna so I could try the burger. And I...got dominated. I made it through half of the burger and half the fries, but I just couldn't eat any more. To this day, I claim that it had nothing to do with me being full and everything to do with being completely done with the flavor. It wore me out and beat me down - it was just too much burger for me, but not in the way I thought it would be.

This past weekend with Kim in town, the two of us and Colver and Lorna went to Talkeetna just to hang out. While there, we had lunch at the same restaurant. This time I actually was able to order my burger instead of having to torturously work my way through it - I just got to enjoy it. It was a ridiculously delicious burger, but one that was mitigated in its awesomeness midway through by a horrible site: someone else going after the Seward's Folly.

I sat and watched as this man who looked like he had wandered in from the woods took the burger to pieces, eating everything but the middle bun and the fruit/veggies, and even taking down the fries. The waiter (who a month previously had jokingly shamed me) walked by him and simply stated "wow." This genuinely affected me, as the only thing that had consoled my defeat by the burger was that only one person had finished the burger previously. Then the wild woodsman came in and took me to pieces.

This just motivated me, as I now need to begin my vigorous training to get in game shape to take this burger out. It's going to happen!

The Weekend Edition (TGAASH2KX Edition)

Monday, June 21, 2010
I've gotten back to slacking at the good ol' blog, but I'm returning with another glorious entry in my "Weekend Edition" series in which I recap my life on the weekends. This weekend...was a particularly good one. I've discovered that I almost never have remotely bad ones, but this one? This one was a gem. Why is that?
  • Dinner at Bear Tooth with Gen and Eric (and eventually Colver and Joanne)
  • Buckaroo Club with Gen, Eric, Colver, Joanne, Amy, Olivia and JT - yeah!
  • Gathering the troops with Joanne
  • The meet up at Middle Way Cafe for The Great Alaska Awesome Scavenger Hunt 2010!
  • The Great Alaska Awesome Scavenger Hunt 2010! with Joanne, Steph and Gen
  • Father's Day BBQ at my parents
  • Toy Story 3 with my family - amazing!
  • Bike ride from my apartment to Point Woronzof - surprisingly exhausting
  • Catching Bravo's Work of Art with Amy

The highlight had to be The Great Alaska Awesome Scavenger Hunt 2010 (aka TGAASH2KX). The only reason I didn't mention this on my blog before was because of purely slackerness (a new word trademarked to me exclusively), but this was an event I had randomly came up with when wanting to sing karaoke as I drove along blaring music and singing along as per usual. Then, I proposed the idea to Joanne and we came up with a laundry list of activities for teams of 2 to do together. Thus...TGAASH2KX was born.

Eventually it expanded a bit, as our founding team became Joanne, Stephanie, Gen and myself. We ended up with four teams who had from noon until midnight to check as many things off on the list as humanly possible. This list included tiers of possible scoring activities, from things as simple as "take a picture with a police officer" to things as intense as "zipline from Flat Top to the Sheraton Hotel". Our team rocked the house and had an AMAZING day doing so. I couldn't possibly have had a better team, as we drove around singing along to glorious tunes, learning a lot about each other, and having the best day ever together. It was just..sublime.

Hopefully this ends up being the first of many of these events. We've already casually discussed what we'll do if we end up moving away from each other...getting back together for a new event yearly? Meeting at a new place? Who knows, but I do know that this event had to have been one of the best days ever.

I'll post videos of some of the more ridiculous events (getting naked in Chilkoot Charlie's Birdhouse and falling into Westchester Lagoon had to be the clubhouse leaders for "most ridiculous"), but trust me when I say it was one of the most ridiculous days ever.

At Home

Monday, June 14, 2010

As I may have mentioned on these pages before, Iceland's Sigur Rós (regardless of my inability to properly pronounce their name) have long been one of my favorite bands - if not my absolute favorite. All of their albums pack an incredible punch with me, heightening whatever emotions I'm feeling at any given moment no matter what. It doesn't matter what emotion it is, they have the amazing ability to fit anything I feel and make that emotion all the more textured and assured.

One of my favorite movies has to be the documentary about their travels through Iceland as they put together a free, unannounced tour through all parts of the country no matter how small. This journey in 2006 was one of uncertainty (as the band says in the film, they never knew if anyone would actually show up), but it ended up being a uniting point of pure positivity for a country that has seen troubling times befall them. This documentary is called Heima ("at home" in Icelandic) and is alternately the world's greatest advertisement for Iceland and perhaps my favorite performance/music film ever. I find myself being compelled to watch it on a nearly monthly basis (strangely almost always combined with Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, which makes sense from a Rob Gordon of High Fidelity organization sort of way as I purchased them on the same day), always finding new and enriching reasons to fall in love with it once again.

If you're a fan of Sigur Rós and you haven't seen it yet, shame on you. It's a beautiful film and something that should be experienced. If you aren't a fan of Sigur Rós, even bigger shame on you and I highly suggest you get on that right now because they are one of the most remarkably talented bands I've ever heard.

If you need convincing, watch the video above. It's from Heima and is of "Sé Lest", one of their standout tracks from 2005's remarkable album Takk...


Given that I've been outside a whole lot, it makes sense that I missed this. But really, I cannot believe this commercial exists.

I am also very glad that it exists.

Drinking from the World Cup

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I don't know what it is about it, but with every passing World Cup I become more and more excited about the event as a whole. Ever since 1996 I've been excited about it, but this year's event that is starting Friday morning in South Africa is generating the most from me yet. I'm not sure if it is the passing resemblance of a good team that Team USA has in 2010 (ranked 15th in the world!) or if it is just budding interest in soccer, but man, I am jacked.

This is of course being realized in simple things, like listening to podcasts about the World Cup, quickly distinguishing simple things like the difference between the best of the best and whether or not they're going to play (is Drogba in or out?! I have to know!), and playing more FIFA Soccer 2010 than I have since I purchased it online. I even reupped with my X-Box Live Gold account so I could go online and get absolutely annihilated by the people are actually talented at it. Alas, it is still strangely fun, and it just gets me more excited to see the range of players on Man U's roster who will get taken out by Team USA on Saturday morning (USA! USA!).

Given that I'm out at Cate's cabin Friday evening, you would think that I wouldn't be so buzzed about the USA/England match on Saturday morning, but that is where you're mistaken. That morning I'm going on radio silence and not even checking my phone until I get back and watch the DVR'd version with Eric and Amy. I want to take it all in as we deliver the worst defeat of the British since the Revolutionary War.

Here's hoping I'm note eating my words come 12:30 PM Alaska Standard Time.

In Your Face, Knee!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010
To follow up on my previous post about my injured knee, I met with the doctor finally to talk about its status and what he thinks I should do. Thankfully, he is a firm believer in the idea that he can fix everything arthroscopically and that I won't need to have microfracture surgery.

Yes, if you heard an epic sigh of relief at 9:30 AM Alaska Standard Time, that was me.

Basically what that means for me is instead of having a four to eight month recovery time and a reasonable chance of everything going awry, the doctor said I could be playing basketball again within a month of the procedure. In addition, I can keep hiking and doing everything I'm doing until September, at which point I can have my surgery and still leave the country for vacation in November as planned.

If it was physically possible for me to do it without pain, this is the point where I would be hammer dancing across my apartment.

The Weekend Edition

Monday, June 7, 2010
After a weekend that had even more awesome because of the extra day in its midst, it would have taken a lot to keep everything going as strong. Given that it's summer in Alaska and the world is my oyster though it was still a phenomenal time even with the slightly shorter weekend than the holiday provided. Why is that?
  • Party down! with Amy, Eric, Cate, and a ton more characters (see picture below)
  • Relaxed day chilling at Amy's watching movies
  • Get Him to the Greek with Colver and Lorna
  • Mexican night at Amy's!
  • Biscuits and Gravy with Cate and Darren (Bear Tooth ftw!)
  • Hiking False Falls Peak with Amy, Stephanie and Olivia (sliding down the mountain!)
  • Frisbee golf with Amy and Emily
  • Garden party with Amy, Puff Daddy, Cornershop, and a lot, lot more
  • Frisbee on the park strip

Another near perfect weekend in the books found me entertained from all types of things provided by the diversity Anchorage offers. While I frequently complain about Alaska during the winter, you rarely see me say anything negative about it in the summertime. Why is that?

Because it's freaking awesome.

Perpetual sunlight and warm weather. The ability to get on the water, get to the mountains, and do anything in between within the city. People that are constantly up for anything because they know winter is always around the corner. Really, you combine those things and you get one hell of a recipe for an awesome time.

Expect many, many more very positive Weekend Editions going forward, assuming we don't have a random snowpocalypse or something of that sort in the near future. *knocks on wood*

Broken Down

Friday, June 4, 2010

One of the things I didn't update my fair readers on in my month long absence from blogging was a health condition change. Generally speaking, I don't go to the doctor because I hate spending money to find out I'm a big hypochondriac. I always feel like that's my experience.

Me: Something is wrong with my knee.
Doctor: Ha. Nothing is wrong with your knee.
Me: Well crap...really?
Doctor: I don't know, I was counting your money, I didn't even look at it. Stop being a girl.

Needless to say, my opinion of Alaskan doctoring is not strong. However, after my last hypochondriac fest, I decided to go in and get an MRI on my continuously pained right knee. I haven't played basketball in 3 months (which is the longest I've taken off from basketball since...birth?) so I figured it was time to take care of business. The MRI revealed that I have a partially torn meniscus (which happen all of the time) and an osteochondral lesion (which happen...less often).

What does that mean for me? Well, let's think of this in basketball terms. I'm going to have to have Brandon Roy surgery (shave off part of my meniscus) AND Greg Oden surgery (microfracture surgery). For those that follow basketball, I'm sure you shuddered at the latter part because it is notoriously difficult to recover from. The good news is that from what I understand I can still do pretty much anything besides play basketball and I can wait until the end of the summer to have the surgery. This means I've been biking, hiking and enjoying the sun as much as humanly possible, and will continue to do so until it is medically impossible for me to.

Of course, I go into the doctor on June 7th for the real confirmation, so there's a chance he'll be like "you're an idiot" and tell me "surgery now or you're gonna die!" Crossing my fingers for not that, as Alaska in the summer is way more fun when I'm not walking around with an unintentional gangster limp.

The Weekend Edition (V. Memorial Day Weekend)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This is coming in late because it turns out Memorial Day Weekend is long, sun-filled, and crazy fun in Alaska circa 2010. It was a weekend that was filled to the brim with 80's dance films, POW camps, BBQ's, hiking, camping, and even a man named Dollface. What all went down this past weekend?
  • Sleeping through the Celtics/Magic on Friday at Colver's (turns out it didn't with a bang)
  • Intense foosball over at Colver's with Amy, Eric and Colver
  • Kick-Ass! (very entertaining, but not a great movie)
  • Camping adventure to Crescent Creek with Colver, Amy, Eric, Jason and Becca
  • Random biking adventures on the Coastal Trail solo style
  • Hiking towards Hidden Lake with Amy and Eric (as well as a bit of solo run around Wolverine)
  • Impromptu bad movie night while eating BBQ at Cate and Darren's (Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Flashdance)
  • Dinner party over at _ _ _ _ _'s place
  • Other randomness throughout
This weekend was important for many reasons. The biggest of those reasons had to be the fact that I finally escaped from a POW camp that I'd been in for years (see top of the page) and that Eric finally made the leap from "Padawan Learner" to full out "Jedi." Way to go Dollface!

Really though, it wasn't important, it was just a ton of fun. The greatness of Memorial Day Weekend is always multiplied by how sunny and warm it is out, and this weekend was sunny the whole time and warm as all get out. Memorial Day Weekend was a flawless victory of awesome. Amy's return upped the ante even more, leading to many outdoor ventures including a most triumphant camping trip to Crescent Creek and some outstanding hikes.

Her return combined with the beautiful summer has led me to also basically live outside, slowly but surely transitioning me into a skin tone that I can only describe as "Farmer's Adonis" (in my mind, Adonis was really tan. I am extremely tan, but only in a farmer's tan sort of way. Hence, Farmer's Adonis...it works, I swears it). This weekend was a superb representation of that, turning my strong tan into an intense, potentially-indicative-of-George-Hamilton-style-efforts one.

While this has led me to completely abandon my blog (my bad guys!), it's totally worth it as May was full of fantastic in every way, culminating in a ridiculously great Memorial Day Weekend. Here's hoping the rest of the summer matches up. One way or another, you'll be able to find out here, as The Weekend Edition is now back in action.

Happy Birthday Amy Steele!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today Amy Steele turns 26, much to the excitement of friends and family of Amy Steele (and less so to herself). While she may call me "Fat Mute" and nearly everything that comes from her mouth may come across as sarcastic, I still miss her musk when she's not around. Happy birthday Amy, and congrats on being old as all get out.

As far as the blog is concerned, May was a lost month, but I feel strongly in the idea that I'm going to get back into blogging now. I'm going to call it now - 30 posts, 30 days in June!

Top 5 Albums of April 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I'm going to make a bold attempt starting now at getting back in the swing of things in terms of blogging about things that aren't comic related (although that continues to go very well). I feel like I've been in a funk when it comes to the blogging business, but I'll be making my triumphant return assuming Alaska doesn't continue our freakishly good springtime weather. I'm resembling a tan person right now...I fear it.

No less, 2010 continues to be an awesome year for music, and April brought two of the best of the year so far. Well, it brought them to my hands...not to music stores. One you'll have to wait for, the other you can get whenever. But the rest of the month was pretty damn quality as well. Check out my five favorite from the month below.

Note: Lala is being shutdown on May 31st (boooo!) so I will not be including samples from each album here. Sadly.

1(a). LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

Why it's number one (a): This was my most anticipated album of 2010. James Murphy (aka the mastermind behind DFA and LCD Soundsystem) crafted what is probably one of my favorite two or three songs on his last album Sounds of Silver (the track is "All My Friends"), as well as a number of other tracks that continue to enthrall me to this day. That album finished just outside of the top ten on my "Best Albums of the 00's" list, and it continues to grow on me.

This album may lack the immediacy of tracks like "Friends" or "North American Scum", but there is a patience and a power that really blends what worked so well on the first two albums from LCD. You've got tracks like opener "Dance Yrself Clean" that builds slowly with just Murphy's voice and minimal instruments for over 3 minutes until it kicks into a rip roaring jam that almost requires fist pumping. Lead single "Drunk Girls" brings you in with a Licensed to Ill era Beastie Boys chorus, but really when you get down to it we've got a disco flashback track that dares you to not tap your toes.

While those two tracks are very, very good, and the rest that surround them are solid as well, there are two songs in particular that reflect what is so special about LCD as a music creating entity: "I Can Change" and "Pow Pow". "Change" is a very thoughtful and emotional song that still manages to exist as a crafty jam that makes you want to belt out the vocals along with Murphy. The ideas he shares are pretty traditional, but there is something to be said for his method of delivery that makes it work so well.

Then, you have "Pow Pow". This guy is a throwback to "Losing My Edge" off LCD's debut album. Not so much in the actual meaning (althoug he is calling out SOMEONE in this song, not just Michael Musto), but in the very fun sing-speak delivery and the NYC disco vibe. I have a rule as well that states that gang vocals are always fun, and when Murphy's backing band joins in on some moments, it really escalates the track. The whole thing is a track that accelerates through repetition, increasing the power of it until I quickly realize it's my favorite track on the album. On an album in which I find myself loving. So, yeah, you got that going for you "Pow Pow".

1(b). Delorean - Subiza

Why it's number one (b): Here's a text exchange between my friend Erik and I to explain why this album rules:

Erik: "Subiza by Delorean is such a fantastic sunny day album."

Me: "I know. I've been listening to it all day while biking. It's one of my absolute favorites this year."

Erik: "This year's Passion Pit! It's in my top three this year I'd say."

Me: "I think it's more Cut Copy ish. I call it Cut Copy 2K10."

Erik: "Mmmm I see that. Def has the heavy vocoder use of Passion Pit though."

Me: "True. Passion Pit x Cut Copy x 2010 = David Love."

Yeah. That sounds about right. If you like albums that make you want to dance, sing along, and drive with the windows down, this album is for you. If you hate fun, life, and good times...stay away. It's that simple.

3. The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

Why it's number three: My favorite parts of The Apples in Stereo's last full album New Magnetic Wonder were the seriously poppy tracks like "7 Stars" and "Sunddal Song", as they were so effortlessly sunny and full of life that they were irresistable to yours truly. So when I heard that they had come out with an album in which they fully embraced their Electric Light Orchestra tendencies and made an entire album of tracks like that, I found myself smiling ear to ear to the prospect.

Since I acquired that album, I've been spinning it on near constant rotation. Tracks like "No Vacation" (oh god that song is good), "Dance Floor", and "Hey Elevator" should make it on to everyone's summer mixtapes - they're perfect for sunny days and good times, but in an entirely different way than Delorean. More of a classic way.

Some Apples fans may be upset about the perceived simplification of their sound, but if you deny this record on the basis of a band trying to make a fun album that everyone could love, well...you're not much of a fan at all.

4. The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme

Why it's number four: This album is...not summer-y. Thanks for ruining the theme The Radio Dept.! You're a bunch of jerks! Morose ones at that.

But that's okay, because you make some really pretty music. Pretty and oddly hypnotic music that can be fun in its own right at times. The best example of that is "Heaven's On Fire", a track that starts out with a quote about rock and roll and how it is monopolized by big business, and then quickly jumps into a fun and glittering jam that sucks you in with some rather seductive bass lines. It's hard to explain, but easy to experience...once you get your first hit of it, it's hard to quit. They're like a Swedish drug kingpins, and their pharmaceutical of choice is excellent, dark pop tracks.

Consider myself hooked and enthused with The Radio Dept. It is a very unique and attractive album that is a nice change of pace for the days of rain this summer.

5. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Why it's number five: I have a horrible admission to make.

I've never really been a big Broken Social Scene fan.

They have some tracks I like. I like the members of the collective. I like the ideas they convey. I just haven't liked the execution and often find them...boring.

Yet their effort this year, an album called Forgiveness Rock Record, sort of snuck up on me. It did in two ways as I had no idea it was coming out (I should have known, given that they are playing at Sasquatch this year) and that it is just a damn good album with all of elements from the band meshing together to form a cohesive whole.

It is a diverse blend of all of the musicians that helps take this to the top of their discography, as well as a new found cohesion and pop-centric focus. This is bar none the most radio friendly collection of tracks I've heard from them, with songs like "All in All" and its pretty female vocals and bubbly synth backgrounds sending the track deep into your brain and "Texico Bitches" with its peppy rhythm driving the vocals to another level...these are not your...slightly older siblings Broken Social Scene.

Not only that, but this is a long record filled with an eclectic mix of genres touched. There really is a little something for everyone here, and it'd be a shame if you missed it like I almost did. If you weren't a BSS fan before, there is a more than decent chance you will be after this album.

Ra Ra Riot in Anchorage

Sunday, May 9, 2010

While I do have some major issues with the base setup of First Tap events at Bear Tooth in Anchorage, Alaska (the bulk of which came out in a discussion with my friend Stephanie), I'd be lying if I didn't say that they sometimes give us some pretty damn kickin' shows. This past Thursday was a particularly good example of that, as indie favorites Ra Ra Riot came into town and assailed Alaskan eyes and ears with the fun tunes and energetic live shows that have long been well known to those from the contiguous United States.

While the less said about the two opening acts, the better (a DJ who acts like he's god's gift to music named Alex the Lion that just knows how to press enter on a MacBook Pro, and The Smile Ease, a band who has no idea who they are), Ra Ra Riot had an air about them. They seemed like seasoned veterans who haven't lost their love for what they do yet. Sometimes a band can sound tight and good, but they clearly are going through the motions and not having a good time.

Definitely not the case for Ra Ra Riot.

They were smart in their setlist design, sticking to tracks that are more crowd pleasing and keeping the audience eating from their hands the whole time. The only real downer from the set was when the vocals went out at the beginning of "Can You Tell?" and I missed my favorite part of my favorite song. Besides that, it was all dancing and singalongs from yours truly, with a side of winking at their gorgeous string section. Hot!

If you get the opportunity, definitely check out Ra Ra Riot. They're a heck of a good time live, and they make some damn fine music too.

Vacation: Let's Wrap This Up!

Monday, May 3, 2010
Man, I've been slacking lately. Too much socializing, not enough blogging makes David a bad person at wrapping up vacation posts!

So I'm going to wrap up my vacation write ups with a greatest hits of the rest of the trip. It really was, in many ways, the perfect David vacation. Amazing live music, a baseball game, beaches, tons of sunlight, randomness, incredible food, and a great companion for all of it in Joanne. What more could I ask for?

Here's all of the awesome, bit by bit.

Randomness Highway: Some people when they go to and from places just accept roads as roads and as a means to an end. I'm often one of those people. And by often, I mean always - I'm an efficiency expert of traveling.

Joanne is...not one of those people. She stops and takes pictures of everything. She enjoys everything. She finds humor in everything. She makes me stop at...everything.

You'd think this would infuriate me and turn me into some sort of efficiency obsessed Hulk, but in reality, I loved it. Our trip back to San Diego from Coachella was a leisurely saunter, as we stopped from place to place taking random pictures that we noted that we needed to take on our drive up from San Diego originally. Sure, it made the drive way longer than it could have been. But time is meant to be spent on experiences, and lil' Miss Joanne reminded me of that. Thanks!

Eating Good in the Neighborhood: Whenever my parents go off in their yearly venture across the nation in their motorhome, I always tell them that they should make a map based around Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and stop at each and every place they come by that he's been to. Why? Because eating is awesome, especially when it comes with a side of delicious.

Subscribing to that theory, I made Joanne agree to let me go to Triple D sanctioned locations in San Diego, as we stopped by HoDad's in Ocean Beach and El Indio near the airport (conveniently so!). HoDad's happened to be right on the corner of Bacon St. and it was famed for its bacon cheeseburgers - it was destiny. As I told Joanne, "this is a burger of destiny." We got to that wonderfully kitschy restaraunt, sat down, ordered a beer, fries, onion rings, and a double cheeseburger with bacon (I AM ALL THAT IS MAN!), and then got down to business. When I took a bite out of this enormous burger, all I could taste was destiny. Destiny...thy name is bacon! It was a hell of a thing, and after I wiped it out of existence in precious minutes, I paid and told the restaraunt employee that I ate it in a matter of minutes.

He was shocked.

"It's kind of what I do."

Apparently most people can't even finish it. My bad!

El Indio was less exciting, as it turned out to be a long standing but not amazing Mexican restaraunt. Sure, everything was super legit and authentic, but most everything also didn't taste that great. In fact, their vaunted corn tortillas that Fieri went on and on about were kind of flavorless. The fish tacos were solid besides that, but I'd rather go to Bear Tooth any day of the week to be honest. Their salsas were good but unimpressive in comparison to their reputation, and as Joanne said, their chips were overly hard. It wasn't a terrible experience because it was pretty cheap, but it wasn't a milestone location by any means.

Newport Pizza was however, even if it didn't make it on Triple D. This beach bum down the street from HoDad's provided a Moose's Tooth Lite menu with cool pizza names like "The Hulk" or "Ron Jeremy." Needless to say, the latter was heavy in sausage. They also played fantastic music (Joanne and I had a blast singing along to every word of Girl Talk's Feed the Animals) and they had one of my favorite beers - Avery's Maharaja IPA - along with 62 billion other varieties of beers.

I do not overstate their beer selection.

Shopping: I HATE shopping. I cannot state that loudly enough. Shopping puts me into a trance like state and slowly kills me as a person.

However, I do really enjoy pawn, antique, vintage clothing, comic, and book shops, and that is pretty much all Ocean Beach and Encinitas had to offer.

I picked up a bunch of hard to find comics, Joanne picked up an antique coffee grinder, we found all kinds of random awesomeness and looked through epic postcard and record collections, and we just had a blast going to these random joints. Sure, most of their stuff was random crap. But it was ancient, second hand random crap that was often hilarious and nearly always awesome. I mean, look at the hat I'm wearing. Admittedly, no hat fits me right, but that hat REALLY doesn't fit me. C'est la vie.

Beachery: Joanne and I, being from Alaska, desperately craved sunlight when we went down to California. We hit up the beaches for napping, reading, sand castle making, and lots of relaxing, and it was pretty much amazing. This type of thing was completely necessary, as I recharged my solar batteries Wall-E style during these sessions.

Plus, we got to come up with sand castles and stories behind our castle making. As you may be able to see in my picture, my castle has a moat, cannon ramparts, and an olympic sized pool in front of it with a KRAKEN! It also says "Release the Kraken!" in the sand next to it. This remains to be the only thing of merit I have taken from Clash of the Titans.

Baseball!: On our last full day, I decided I had to attend a baseball game while I was in a real city. Of course, the real city happened to feature the once lowly San Diego Padres (not to mention punchless) as they faced off against the NL West leading San Francisco Giants. It wasn't a marquee pitching matchup, but I did mange to get awesome third baseline seats on the cheap. I did have to attend by myself because of other engagements and the game was kind of a snoozer (1-0, with the Padres winning when they only had one hit), but all in all I'm glad I went. It ended up being cool because two of the top ten plays from that night's Sportscenter were featured at my game. Yeah!

Coachella: Day Three

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My wrap up of the third day of Coachella is now here, and I'm sad to see it go just like I was to see the festival itself go. While I was significantly more broken because of my weak body after this festival in comparison to others, it was definitely the best festival I've ever been to musically speaking, and probably the most well arranged as well. Not to say the others weren't great, it's just to say Coachella was that ridiculously awesome. I really think it's an event that needs to be checked off in life like any other experience...went to Coachella...check. I've done that now, and it makes me very happy to say that. Before we get into the bands though, I wanted to talk about one other random thing from the weekend.

Arts and Crafts Tent: Joanne and I were EXTREMELY enthused with the arts and crafts tent. When you wander from the booze soaked campgrounds, past the techno tent, through the vendors, and to the other side of the roller skating rink, you get to a tent where people are drawing portraits of strangers, creating new apparel to wear, and designing their own zines (amongst other things). Sure, they play music, but really in a lot of ways it feels like an entirely different world than the one that surrounds it. It's people sitting around being creative and meeting each other and just having a wonderful time.

When Joanne and I went, we sat down to do portraits of each other. We followed the suggestions they had at the table, in which we interview each other to get a better feel of what to draw. Given that we were supposed to be strangers, I created an entirely different persona for Joanne. This didn't help, as I was sunburned, needed a shave, and was wearing glasses. Essentially I looked like a disgusting, nerdy yeti. Still, it was a damn good time, and it gave me an excuse to draw dragons, flying penguins, and a smiling sun in the background of Joanne's portrait.

After that we went to design our zines. This was also a good time, but I started feeling BAD around then, so I went back to take a nap while Joanne grew increasingly in love with the place to the point that she almost skipped half the day to hang out there. Thankfully they shut it down at 2, so in your face Joanne! You had to watch awesome music with me! HA!

Still, this was a very welcome change of pace to the music and party centric weekend we had been dealing with.

Bands Seen: Gorillaz, Deerhunter, Owen Pallett, Local Natives, Jonsi, Phoenix, Julian Casablancas, Mayer Hawthorne & The County, Plastikman, Thom Yorke, Yo La Tengo

Local Natives: This was the first band we caught on the final day, and one of the bands that I was most excited about from it as well. I've really been digging their new album Gorilla Manor, and they managed to nail all of the tracks I heard them play. They had a really tight sound that did what live music should do - take their recorded music and build on it. The fact that they took that and closed with a particularly rousing version of my favorite track by them (a song called "Sun Hands") really sealed the deal on this being a great performance, and even had Joanne asking about them (she'd never heard them before, so it was a pretty big deal).

I also enjoyed how humble they were, as they thanked the audience and shared their surprise that anyone would be watching them while Owen Pallett was playing. It was worth what we missed of Owen Pallett, even though...

Owen Pallett: (continued from Local Natives) Owen Pallett himself was awesome. Pallett is perhaps more well known as the string arranger for Arcade Fire or as Final Fantasy (his solo name before going by his own name), but to me, I was really excited just to see Pallett classic. I love Heartland, his solo album from this year, and to see him perform his dense tracks from that album with just an effects pedal and a violin often. He played a really nice mix of his collected works, but closing with my favorite track "Tryst with Mephistopheles" really made me love his set. Also, Joanne later told me that he was her third favorite set from the weekend. Given that she knew nothing about him before then, that's some great praise for the guy. Highly recommended.

Jonsi: This is the closest I've ever gotten to see Sigur Ros, so getting to see Jonsi was an astonishingly glorious moment for me. Sigur Ros is my favorite band, and to see their lead singer sing in his hauntingly gorgeous voice was enough to fill me with a mix of pure glee and sadness over never seeing Sigur Ros (or at least not yet). He performed tracks from his new album Go, and he and his band were fully ready to blow everyone away. They did not disappoint, especially for the stage spectacle (Jonsi and his drummer's costumes were hugely entertaining) and the versatility of the band (nearly everyone switched instruments at least once, sometimes in the middle of songs). It was quite the moment for me, and it made me about as happy as any artist did over the weekend.

One downer: we were checking out the merch tent later on when I saw Jonsi signing and talking to fans. It turns out you needed a special ticket to make this happen, even though I was five feet away and as excited as I've ever been to see someone. It was quite a bit of a bummer, but not the biggest bummer of the night. Oh lord no.

Phoenix: Holy crap.

Holy crap holy crap holy crap.

To say Joanne and I had a good time at Phoenix is the understatement of the festival. Joanne was adamant in saying that they were the best she saw all weekend, and I find it hard to disagree. They played a lot of material, they played it incredibly well, they had impeccable setlist design (I loved them starting with "Listzomania" and closing with "1901"), and they were just very charming guys. The audience was in a perpetual state of what would most likely be called euphoria, and from what I understand it was one of the largest audiences of the entire weekend (sorry Pavement!).

In a weekend of artists missing Coachella because of the Icelandic volcano, Phoenix was not one of them, but their light crew was. Their lighting was non-existent/plain, but it didn't matter - it just motivated them to rock even more. The whole place was an explosion of dancing and singing along up front, and lead singer Thomas Mars frequently came down to the crowd to sing directly for us all. As cool as light shows and videos and spectacle is, quite often a straight up awesome performance can be all it takes to really make an audience love you.

Phoenix is a band that demands that you love them, and I was blown away by their performance at Coachella 2010.

Yann Tiersen: This hurts to even talk about. Yann Tiersen was one of the artists I was most excited about, and I really could not wait to see him. The biggest problem was the fact that he was playing at the same time as Gorillaz, but I was willing to sacrifice some of their set to see him. I like him that much.

However, remember that volcano I just mentioned? It made Gary Numan cancel, opening up a set time that started around the ending of Phoenix and ending before Thom Yorke - aka the only gap we had the entire night. They moved Tiersen to that time slot but didn't announce it, and I wouldn't have even noticed it if it weren't for us walking by the Mojave Stage's schedule between Thom Yorke and Plastikman. I was pretty much inconsolable, and all Joanne could do is hug me.

I know this is a stupid thing to be super sad about, but it REALLY bummed me out.

Thom Yorke: Sadly enough, we didn't spend a lot of time watching Thom, but what we did see was really enjoyable. I heard him play my favorite tracks off his solo album The Eraser ("The Eraser" and "Black Swan") and we came back just in time to hear him play stripped down versions of Radiohead classics "Airbag" and "Everything In It's Right Place", so really, that's all I wanted to hear from him. Not that Thom isn't always good, especially with a unique backing band of Flea, Nigel Godrich, and more, but I'd seen Radiohead before and never had the opportunity to see Plastikman. Still, beautiful stuff from Thom, but that's what we've come to expect from the guy.

Plastikman: Joanne and I mostly wanted to go to this because of Lucy and Morgan recommending Plastikman throughout the weekend, and to see what exactly his performance specific iPhone app would do. It was our curiosity that drove us there, and it was a really interesting and intense performance. Plastikman (an electronic outfit, btw) was encircled by a cage of sorts that displayed his lightshow, and it was very hypnotic to watch. Paired with his miminalist and pulsing music, and it was downright entrancing. The iPhone app was...not as much. We didn't really understand it, as all it did was some bizarre counter that spouted gibberish to us.

Still, it was a worthy venture and something I'm glad we checked out if only for a little bit.

Gorillaz: My most anticiplated headliner. The band I'd been waiting all weekend to see. They were...good.

You can watch the video above and sense the excitement that was in the crowd. It was palpable throughout the beginning, and something that really got the audience buzzing. However, part of the way through the set while they were playing mostly Plastic Beach tracks (and slower ones at that), the audience started not paying attention and they started to lose them. People would leave, reactions would be compulsory (not because they wanted to), and when it came time for an encore cheer, the audience could barely muster an effort.

Which is a shame, because the spectacle of their show was grand (the videos were awesome, as you can see above), they sounded pretty much perfect, and they played a really nice mix of their music with a lot of cool guest stars (Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Little Dragon). I really enjoyed it, but the fact that almost the entire audience was dead while I was singing along to all of the big moments Damon Albarn was giving us (that guy was a gem, I have to add) was kind of disappointing. Part of that was their fault because of setlist design (they picked maybe the worst encore closer I've ever heard), but still, the audience clearly was there to party and they didn't get what they wanted.

It was a really nice performance, but something that was really hard to get into. The oddest thing was later I heard people saying things about how amazing their performance was when all we heard from people around us were complaints and all we saw were confused faces. From a band that to date has been a cartoon one, it's unsurprising I suppose. It's still a shame that they prove themselves as a remarkably legitimate band at this performance and are received with what amounts to global hipster indifference.

The Aftermath: The next morning we woke up bright and early to depart before everyone else woke up, and as we started gathering our things we heard something in the distance that sounded like a group of people shouting "too legit! too legit!" We of course had to investigate, especially considering it was right next to the coffee stand. As we got closer we noticed a huge group of people (pictured above) who randomly split into a circle, at which point one person split off and ran inside of that circle to high five everyone else. As he high fived people, they'd split off and follow him in the high five onslaught. It was hilarious.

We stood and watched for a bit and talked to security, who was absolutely delighted with what was happening. I asked how long they'd been doing this, and they responded with "all night in different places across the campsite. They don't really bother anyone, unless someone comes near, at which point they make them dance. I'd take a wide circle from them."

We laughed and went over to the coffee shop that was near them, when we heard the shouting of "DO A DANCE! DO A DANCE!" Apparently a pair of flies fell into their spider web, as two girls continued walking to their tent while dancing. Then as we were leaving, they actually stopped a car, encircled it, and shouted "DO A DANCE! DO A DANCE!" until the people got out and...did a dance. It was hilarious. It was quite the unifying partying moment, and I was proud to see it. Perfect way to end Coachella really, with dancing and a little bit of ridiculousness.

Coachella: Day Two

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day Two of Coachella started with no shower, lazing about the campsite, and having absolutely, astonishingly ridiculous conversations with Morgan, Lucy and Joanne while eating and drinking coffee. Here's a prime example: while we were discussing Justin Bieber and his relationship with Usher randomly, we managed to create a fictional pop star named Megatron Bieber-Raymond. His popularity would be entirely derived from Facebook, he would have hour long conversations with Usher, and he would (will?) be the closing act to Coachella 2011.

He's also Morgan.

Just to really seal the deal that this idea was fated and that we had to make it happen, while Joanne and I were perusing the arts and crafts tent (more on this later), we came across a newspaper that did just that. There was a copy of the LA Times that actually had Usher's face on it. I gleefully stole it from the tent and skipped back to show it to Morgan and Lucy.

Okay, there may not have been any skipping involved, but still...awesome!

Anyways, that just helped verify that Morgan and Lucy were perfect neighbors. Come on, as you can see to the left, they even shared food with me - delicious food like a mexican egg dish with avocado and Indian candy (smoked salmon with some brown sugar love) They really helped the weekend become all it could be, in a decidedly not army like way.

Fashionistas: Before I get into the music from the day, I have to note one thing Joanne and I went on and on about throughout the weekend: the fashion. Joanne and I are not the most fashionable people in the world, and the mixes of bizarre hair choices, animal hats, and interesting shirt choices (or in the Wolfman's case, poncho choices) surprised us early and often. In their eyes, we were extremely not fashionable. In our eyes, they looked ridiculous.

The apex of their self design based hilarity had to be the fleets of people wearing Indian headdresses while dancing and acting generally...authentic. In an entertaining way, mind you, but it was still bizarre to see hipsters dancing in circles with feathers flowing around their head.

Bands Seen: Muse, Tokyo Police Club, The xx, Hot Chip, Portugal. The Man, Old Crow Medicine Show, MGMT, Major Lazer, Girls, Beach House, Die Antwoord, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Camera Obscura

Portugal. The Man: Whenever I see Portugal. The Man, it's a treat. To see them with BY FAR the largest audience I've ever witnessed for a PTM show as well as perhaps the most raucous was a hell of a treat, and they really brought their A game. They played a nice mix of new and old material, threw in some covers (MGMT's "Weekend Wars" and a mini-cover of Ghostface Killah's "Kilo"), and still jammed without losing the crowd of potential PTM newbies. It was pretty damn solid work, but at this point I really expect nothing less from Alaska's favorite musical sons.

Beach House: There were a number of bands we saw this weekend that were a bit slower like Beach House is, and they managed to not make nearly the mark Beach House did. This is a band who performs near perfect renditions of their songs, beautifully hitting all of the high notes off their discography but especially the ones off this year's Teen Dream. Victoria LeGrand hit all of the notes she needed to and provided one of the more interesting stage presences of the weekend, looking like a tussled Joni Mitchell and dominating the stage like she might as well. A very nice performance.

The xx: Oh my...The xx. I love this band, as they took fourth place in my 2009 albums list and also my heart in their performance. When a band sounds so good that Jay Z and Beyonce show up to watch your set, you probably have a good idea that you're doing okay. This band sounded pretty damn flawless, especially given their somewhat recent downgrade from being a four piece to a three piece. They went through most of their self titled album, and even threw in a cover that seemingly is often played, given that the dude next to us was completely adamant that they would play it.

I have to note: we skipped Dirty Projectors to watch all of The xx and to have a good spot for Hot Chip. There are some things I regret (not) doing from the weekend, but that was most definitely not one of them.

Hot Chip: When listening to this band, it's hard for me to envision them being able to successfully pull off every aspect of their sound. Their tracks are often really robust and layered multi-instrumental jaunts that seem very difficult to recreate, but I guess that is why they are the professionals. Hot Chip weaved in and out of their discography, nailing oldies but goodies like "Ready for the Floor" (the set closer) and "Over and Over", while also taking us through the faster pieces from their new album One Life Stand.

These guys were geniuses of live performances, and one of my absolute favorites from the weekend. From the just absurdly tight sound they demonstrated, to the multi-instrumental genius they displayed (everyone in the band seemingly rotated instrument to instrument at will, with steel drums even being performed live), to the impeccable set design...I was just floored by them. Plus, they managed to exceed their recorded quality, taking a track like One Life Stand's closer "Take It In", which has immediately leapt from an album favorite to perhaps one of my favorite one or two tracks from 2010 to date.

In short, Hot Chip went from being a band I liked to a band I love. That's how you know it was a good live performance.

MGMT: As a person who only really likes part of their much loved debut Oracular Spectacular and someone who doesn't really enjoy Congratulations, I wasn't very excited for this. I figured to stay for a bit and then to roll to Major Lazer, but my faithful compatriot Joanne wanted to stay so she could catch "Kids", a track she completely and utterly adores. Given that she'd been such a trooper to date, I had to give her at least that.

Of course, MGMT didn't, as they managed to play for nearly an hour and not play their most popular track as well as the one track that the entire audience was clamoring for. They also managed to completely lose the audience any time they played a new track (if that isn't a review of it's quality, I don't know what it is), and their lead singer had perhaps the most awkward stage presence I've ever heard. I'd say I was disappointed if I didn't kind of expect it. To their fans though, they might as well have help up a middle finger while they walked off stage.

Major Lazer: I don't want to say anything besides Major Lazer is ridiculously awesome and only videos do justice. Also, one other thing.


Muse: Once upon a time, Muse was at the tip top of my "most anticipated live performances" list. A pretty mediocre album passed, and now I was a bit less excited, but the mere fact that they are such damn exceptional performers made it impossible to not be stoked still. By this point Joanne and I were broken people who could barely move, so we actually sat during this set. While it was a nice enough set, roaming through their discography ("Stockholm Syndrome" was definitely my favorite) much to the audience's delight, it didn't really have a serious hook for me as both a fan and as a viewer of live music. Nothing really jumped off the page to me.

Die Antwoord: Speaking of jumping off the page, when we met up with Morgan and Lucy for South Africa's Die Antwoord, we had no idea what to expect. We heard they spoke in Afrikaans, we heard they were weird, and we heard it should be really fun. Check, check and check.

Really, nothing can prepare you for Die Antwoord. It's an exercise in the pinnacle of absurdity, except with cool beats and strangely fun vocals. They are comprised of Yo-Landi Vi$$er (a tiny woman with a blonde mullet and a voice like a smurf), Ninja (he is obsessed with being a ninja), and DJ Hi-Tek (he isn't that interesting), and they are the oddest trio ever. One of their tracks is all about being a ninja, and about how Ninja is in fact a ninja, and he'll routinely say things like "I'm a ninja!" as Yo-Landi shouts behind him in smurfish "he's a ninja!" It was basically a bad movie night in music form, and it was pretty much amazing.

Added bonus: Ninja illustrates all of the drawings that go up on the screens during the set, and they are alternately the worst and most hilarious pictures ever. For full enjoyment, read the About section on their website. That's what we all did when we got back, because Die Antwoord practically demands it.

2ManyDJ's: We didn't actually watch this electronic outfit, much to the chagrin of the guy next to us who exclaimed that they were "brothers" and "the greatest house duo ever" because of that fact. We actually were just staying after Die Antwoord specifically to find out how many DJ's are too many.

Sadly, it turns out it was just two.