Tag Archives: the boston phoenix

On Of Montreal.

Photo by Eric Baumann for the Boston Phoenix

The Of Montreal show at the Paradise Tuesday night, the second of their two sold-out shows at that venue this week, wasn’t just a concert — it was an interpretive dance performance, an assemblage of trippy video installations, an excuse to parade a multitude of animal-head masks across the stage, and one giant homage to Flaming Lips–style stage antics. Of Montreal’s previous appearances in town, at Avalon and the Middle East downstairs, had merely hinted at their theatrical aptitude. At Avalon they’d incorporated video projections from the cover art for 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? At the Middle East, lead singer Kevin Barnes had donned a wedding dress and proposed to the audience.

This time, the Athens-based outfit brought along a hype man in a white tiger head and a team of ambiguous, unitarded dancers who transmorphed themselves with silver Buddha costumes, platinum-blond wigs, and plastic pig masks in a confusing series of skits. It was a spectacle, for sure, but it didn’t always work to the band’s advantage. At times, it felt like commotion meant to distract us from the weaker songs in the set, which consisted of tunes from Hissing Fauna and the band’s most recent release, Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl), with a few staples peppered in between. “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” and “Forecast Fascist Future,” both from 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, were highlights.

Read the full review I wrote for the Boston Phoenix here.

On Nazi looting and bad temp jobs.

In this week’s Boston Phoenix, I write about a new novel by Brookline Native, Sara Houghteling. Here’s an excerpt:

During World War II, Nazi plunderers focused their greedy eyes on Paris and began looting the city’s artwork — operating according to Hitler’s plan to open a massive, self-aggrandizing museum in Germany. Savvy employees at the Louvre emptied the museum and stashed its paintings in dark basements of the Parisian suburbs. So, the Nazis turned to Jewish art collectors and gallery owners, and used the Jeu de Paume Museum (formerly Napoleon III’s tennis courts) as a depository for their booty.

Rose Valland, a Louvre employee assigned to oversee the Jeu de Paume under the Nazis, kept a secret list of the paintings the Nazis had stolen, where they came from, and where in Germany they were being shipped. After the war, Valland worked to recover the lost artwork and, in the process, became a real-life heroine.

Houghteling is an excellent storyteller, and Pictures excellently weaves fact with fiction – the tragedy of Nazi art-looting, the heartbreak that often comes with early adulthood romances, the struggle for parental acceptance, and the complexities of the art-dealing world.

Houghteling has been a writer and a teacher for about a decade now, and had the time and room of one’s own, as they say, to write Pictures, her debut novel, by virtue of a Fulbright Scholarship, which she used to travel to Paris to research and write this novel. As I mentioned, though, she’s a Brookline native and a Harvard grad, and she freelanced a bit for the Phoenix back in the early naughts. Here’s a funny little piece of hers I stumbled across, detailing the various odd jobs she’s had to take in the process of pursuing her writing dream. Her method of excelling at a telemarketing job, in order to raise funds to travel to Prague for a writer’s workshop, is particulary hilarious:

Mostly I called Southern area codes, so I adopted the slow, syrupy drawl of my college roommate from Arkansas. My success rate crept upward. I changed my name to fit the customer’s business. For florist shops, I was Rose or Lilac. Ophelia dialed the bookstore crone, Prometheana called the fire station, and Mary Catherine rang up churches. Ginger and Candy, my porn-star alter egos and most successful saleswomen, phoned gas stations and hardware stores. These names inspired comments such as “You must be thirsty, Candy. Like a drink of me?” Or “I’m a very dirty man, Miss Ginger. I’d like it if you were dirty for me.”

Read the rest of this piece (and marvel at the Phoenix‘s old web design) here.


On Shepard Fairey

(Image from photos I took of Shepard Fairey’s visit to the Boston Phoenix offices)

In this week’s New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl comments on the storm of recent Shepard Fairey news, with some interesting points-of-view.

Fairey’s fight with the AP over whether the Obama photo he used for his famous “Hope” poster is downright stolen or covered by fair use laws, Schjeldahl says, is a “predictable legal snarl”:

“The general issue is an old story of our litigious republic. Appropriative artists, including David Salle, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, have been sued at intervals since Campbell’s soup went after Warhol, in 1962 (but then thought better of it). As an art maven, I’m for granting artists blanket liberty to play with any existing image…. and I’m bored by the kerfuffle’s rote recurrence, with its all but scripted lines for plaintiff and defendant alike.”

Fairey cites Warhol as one of his primary artistic influences – no surprise there – and it’s interesting that nearly 50 years after audiences struggled to consider images of soup cans as art, we’re still having trouble with the concept of blatant, purposely apparent borrowdness as a medium.

“Fairey’s stylistic borrowings from Russian Revolutionary, Soviet, and W.P.A. propaganda are often remarked upon,” Schjeldahl writes. “But borrowedness itself—studied anachronism—is his mode of seduction.”

Schjeldahl only makes a brief-yet-poignant mention of Fairey’s arrest, implying that the incident is only worth a few words – can you hear that, Boston.com commenters? – because the pro- versus anti-graffiti/street art argument has probably been around longer than Fairey himself. Street artsists exhibit their work in galleries often, and many have been arrested. Fairey just did it on a grander scale (at the ICA), and at a moment when the public (in Boston and elsewhere) happened to have all eyes on him.

“Boston’s I.C.A. has condoned a citywide smattering of street art by Fairey, as an extension of the show. That makes sense. So does the decision of the Boston police to arrest him for it, on his way to the show’s opening.”

Perhaps, much like Warhol did for pop artists, Fairey – as America’s best-known street artist at the moment (besides Banksy, whose anonymity lends him a separate and unique set of issues) – is creating a whole new set of inevitables for street artists making a foray into the museum and gallery world. Or maybe it’s just history repeating itself.

Video: Shepard Fairey in Cambridge


Photo by ICA
Boston.  Check out more of their photos from the event here.

When friends from the ICA phoned on Monday to alert me to the fact that Shepard Fairey was going to be wheatpasting in Harvard Square like, right then, the boss handed me a camera, and I dashed over there. Fairey’s got an exhibit going up at the ICA in February, and – let’s face it – a press release just can’t be the right way to spread the word for the former Andre the Giant posse-founding, Providence skater kid turned Obama-poster-designing street art luminary. He’s gotta spread the word, street-style! So, rather than battle the frozen, ice-covered disaster that is Boston in February, he got the ball rolling on that this week. (Keep an eye out: word is that he’ll been in town till Thursday, so watch for his artwork, coming soon to a blank wall near you.)

Along with Phoenix art critic Greg Cook and a few others, I was fortunate enough to hang with Fairey for the afternoon, while he pasted up two murals in Harvard Square – unfortunately I had to jet before he bolted over the Wall in Central Square, where friends told me he was careful not to disrupt the awesome, ongoing artwork happening there. Below, you’ll find interviews, and video footage of Fairey and his crew art-ifying the formerly plain, old red wall outside the Tannery, and a boarded up store across of the Harvard Square T-stop. (We have to note that the Tannery is directly across from Urban Outfitters, which carries Fairey’s Obey clothing line. Which means that fans could have watched him slap up artwork, DIY-style, and then walked across the street and bought his clothing. Is he living the dream? Or would the 19-year-old broke artist version of himself be groaning in disbelief?)

Semi-fame seems to be heading nowhere near the artist’s head, however. He chatted and handed stickers to anyone who approached him. He even gave a piece of his art (posters he was using for a wheatpasting collage) to an oblivious woman, who walked up to him and asked “Where can I get one of those posters?” then asked someone who that guy was as she walked away. (This was slightly annoying – I had had a friend salvage an unused Fairey piece, which was crumpled and discarded in a trash can, moments earlier). We won’t dwell, though.

Click here to see a video I shot of Fairey and crew hard at work (artwork) in Harvard Square.

God bless the Queen of Split Ends

Comic courtesy of Natalie Dee.

The Times Magazine, usually the highlight of my Sundays (especially when paired with coffee and/or the occasional Bloody Mary), has been sorta eh in terms of it’s music coverage lately. Last week’s profile of the freak folky sister duo Coco Rosie was fairly well-written (a tad breathless at the sisters’ involvement in Paris’s fashion community, perhaps), but seriously confusing, timing-wise. Nothing against Coco Rosie – I was a fan of the emotional weirdness of their last record (as I noted last year), and they’re artists and fashion icons, I get it, I get it, but so’s everyone else making music in Paris and Brooklyn. Why write about them now? The whole “freak folk” trend is years-old news, Coco Rosie’s latest record came out over a year ago, and I wouldn’t say there’s been any sort of Coco Rosie craze lately – not even a music blog or Pitchfork-propelled one. It looks like Fernanda Eberstadt just reaaaallly likes them, and somehow convinced an editor at the Times mag that that was enough to warrant a story. And that’s what blogs are for!

Then again, not more than a month ago they also printed Emily Gould’s entirely-too-long, rambling, self-obsessed, shoulda-been-a-LiveJournal-entry piece, so maybe they’re still coming to terms with the whole “difference between blogs and a respected news publication” thing.

Anyway, this week they’ve gone and totally redeemed themselves! First off, Deborah Solomon’s interview with Patti Smith is hilarious and totally intriguing. An excerpt:

You seem to cultivate a kind of wild-child mystique, even in your appearance. For instance, why don’t you use hair conditioner? I do use conditioner!

I’m surprised. You’re the queen of split ends. That’s very funny because I’ve just cut about eight inches off my hair because it was just too ratty-looking.”

The Queen of Split Ends? Damn Deborah! Way to just straight-up insult Patti Smith’s hair. Not everyone can have your shiny, bouncy, 100 percent split-end free locks. Elsewhere, Virginia Heffernan, the all-knowing voice of “adventures in digital culture” behind the Medium column – a weekly fav of ours – writes about enduring band presence on MySpace, despite the fact that most college kids have fled to the more stylish, application-filled Facebookland, with the main focus on Coldplay’s MySpace page:

“Mine is the 21,120,387th visit to Coldplay’s MySpace page. I am not greeted warmly. The British band — which is known for giant pop hits, a sheen of fakery and the marriage of its lead singer to Gwyneth Paltrow — does not exactly rush out to greet me. The page is rudimentary and indifferently decorated, like the apartment of four couchbound soccer addicts who barely look up when a girlfriend comes in.”

I love everything about that paragraph. Heffernan continues her dissection of “the world’s most insufferable band’s” MySpace page, with reference to Times music critic Jon Pareles’ infamous 2005 article, of course. Read the rest here.

Oh, and PS – I wrote a piece about drag kings. Maybe you saw me, dressed as a man, on the cover of the Phoenix this week. If not, check it out here.

Weezer releases new video, pwns YouTube

Via OTD:

Rick Astley may have seized YouTube for a day, but Weezer’s out to condense the whole damn thing into one music video. From the inbox:

“Today, Weezer unveiled the launch of their YouTube channel to coincide with the premier of  the band’s new music video ‘Pork And Beans’ on the homepage of YouTube. This is the first time a major label band has featured such a multitude of YouTube celebrities in their video, which include Tay Zonday (Chocolate Rain), Lauren Caitlin Upton (Junior Miss South Carolina), Judson Laipply (Evolution of Dance) being three of more than fifteen YouTube stars making cameos in the video.”

As reported a few weeks ago, “Pork and Beans” (and the rest of the Red Album) are no Blue Album, but the video’s fairly entertaining, in the schizophrenic way only a mash-up of YouTube favorites can be. They even managed to squeeze a “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” reference in there – that’s one of the pioneering viral Internet vids, in our opinion. And there’s no denying the sheer brilliance of a mustachioed Rivers Cuomo hugging Chris Crocker with tender reassurance, all “It’s okay, Chris, we’ll leave Britney alone now.” Those Weezer kids are tugging at our heartstrings, yo.

Here’s what Phoenix staffer Will Spitz had to say about it:

“Lauren Caitlin Upton on why Weezer have been unable to make a good record in the last ten years and what should be done about it:

‘I personally believe that Weezer are unable to do so because, uh, they don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, Foo Fighters and, uh, the Green Day, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the Rentals, uh, or, uh, should help Rivers Curomo and should help the Weezer, so they will be able to build up a half-decent collection of songs, for our children.'”**

** Note: Lauren Caitlin Upston did not actually say this. We totally made it up. But she would’ve said that, we think.