My 3 Favorite Apocalypse and Post-Apocalyptic Films: Coronavirus Edition

Hello fellow Coronavirus survivors. Has there been a better time to talk about the end of the world? In my life, I doubt it. So, as I figure many of you are home-locked and likely couch-locked, this is a great opportunity to share some of the more well- done and wonderfully created doomsday scenarios that have been portrayed in film. I’m not trying to play into the fear, just trying to show everyone how benign our situation is comparative to these movies. Not that COVID-19 is not incredibly serious. It’s just not a zombie apocalypse – yet. Fortunately, I don’t think the human race will meet the same fates as the characters in these movies.

These in particular did an incredible job creating the apocalyptic-style atmosphere – one of depravity, hopelessness, darkness, cold, and intensity. I think atmosphere and environment are the most important elements in building a proper doomsday setting. And while there have been plenty of films that touched on world-altering phenomenon (I think of Independence Day and 2012) – these films are actually of incredibly high quality from a viewing and rating perspective, for their emphasis on character development, ability to create genuine excitement and fear, and plot designs which bring you into their worlds and do not let go until the ending credits. These are less popcorn movies and more movies you will want to pay attention to, and will continue coming back to years later. At least, I do! Here is my list:

28 Days & 28 Weeks Later: These are the epitome of quality zombie movies for me, and they genuinely gave me nightmares for months. The idea of Rage zombies running at you at full speed constantly is frightening. But not only this, the film captures the feeling of hopelessness and desolation of the UK perfectly during a zombie apocalypse. Cillian Murphy (Inception, Peaky Blinders) stars brilliantly here, as do the supporting cast members. A differentiator for this film is you actually care about these characters throughout the movie. At times, you genuinely get fearful that you are going to catch the Rage disease portrayed in the film, almost in an ethereal way that transcends the screen. The fear of the characters is shown as true, uncompromising fear – and I think that made me connect strongly to the movie. As in, the reactions of the characters are exactly what I would have done (probably) in their situations. No cheesey lines, absurd action scenes – just genuine fear and a fight for survival. It is gritty, intense, eye-opening and actually intelligent – a deep look into the dangers of man and the lengths people will go to when depraved. 28 Days = 9/10, 28 weeks = 8/10

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): Without a doubt, one of the finest action films of the past decade. The plot focuses on Max, a wasteland drifter in a post nuclear-fallout world (very much Fallout:NV vibes here). It follows his exploits as he attempts to bring a group of maidens to safety while avoiding capture and certain death. The movie is filmed in such a fast-paced, energetic way that it is difficult to look away for even a moment. My friends and I are always glued to the film when it comes on. Tom Hardy’s character, Max, a man of few words, is a triumph of strength and perseverance. His counterpart, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is a bad-ass protagonist who is equally as skilled and cunning. Even with very limited backstories, you are addicted to the plight of these characters and those around them. The villains are creepy and evil looking (looking at you, Papa Joe) and genuinely frightening at times. This is non stop action in a post-apocalyptic wasteland nightmare, and it is one of my favorite films of the 2010s. 10/10

Children of Men: A different take on the end of days – this film brilliantly focuses on a future with rampant infertility. The idea: women cannot give birth anymore, and newborns are incredibly rare. Society is collapsing as the population grows older and older, seemingly unable to procreate any longer. The sense of impending doom and devastation is palpable in this film, and the post-modern society it creates is one not drastically technologically different from our own, which hits home for me when I see it. It is a realistic look at how society reacts under intense pressure, particularly the mob mentality and ability for humans to both be incredibly resilient and incredibly evil. Clive Owen stars as the story’s protagonist, and is a fantastic casting in the setting of the UK. Through all this devastation, it grips you hard and makes you think – and ultimately leaves you with a strange sense of peace and hopefulness. Such a great range of emotions. Very underrated film – definitely check this one out. 9.25/10

Winter EDM Review: Deadmau5 and Madeon

While I have some extra time at home given the current situation with COVID-19, I find myself with some extra time to work on getting this blog started. A part of this is catching up on the recent shows I’ve seen and documenting them in some way. I’ve been wanting to recap the two of these shows for awhile now, as both were outstanding in their own ways. These were two artists’ shows I’ve been meaning to get to for quite some time – as both were actually two of my earliest idols in the EDM scene. In other words, it was really their music that formed my early love of the genre.

The first was Madeon in December. House of Blues, Boston – a cool Tuesday night outside Fenway. Madeon’s body of work is one I’ve been into for quite some time. In fact, it might have been my first introduction to EDM when my longtime friend and neighbor, Jesse, was fresh off a Camp Bisco survival story and was telling me all I needed to know about the EDM scene. He first showed me some of Madeon’s early stuff, “Pop Culture” and “Icarus” – and I was blown away by the fresh, funky-tech sound the young Frenchman had put together. What has happened since then is a full evolution into a EDM superstar: a technically skilled, imaginative and colorful DJ who appeals to longtime EDM heads and newcomers alike.

This show paid homage to both his older work and most recent album, Miracle. First off, the lighting and set design was fantastic – visuals were very reminiscent of Porter’s Worlds Tour I saw many years ago in the same venue, but they were still very unique and provided wonderful, vibrant backdrops to Madeon’s new age tech-funk (or whatever the hell you want to call it). He used a lot of animations that reminded me of Miyazaki, actually. His set up on stage was simple – he had one deck, two keyboards and some percussion, nothing too crazy. But the amount of sound he put together was phenominal.

Miracle really is a masterpiece, in my opinion. I will say, I tend to stray from the more pop-oriented EDM albums many evolving artists have been mass-producing as of late, but this is an exception. Madeon himself said this was his finest creation – the result of many, many years of work and dedication. And it shows. Each song is a wonderfully vibrant and fun joyride through Madeon’s world: clever melodies, use of heavy and light synth textures throughout, well-placed vocal chops (many of which were his own) (like in No Fear No More and Dream Dream Dream). It is a short album, but incredibly satisfying and I think it appeals to a lot of different tastes, whether you are new or familiar to the genre. Madeon has this amazing ability to capture beautify and almost joy in his pieces that make him stand out from most others, in that he really does create his own world with his music. When you are listening to Madeon, it really only sounds like Madeon. Although many have taken from his talents and learned his ways, he is always distinctly that funky Frenchman with the droning intensity of Imperium (this was a surprise cameo in the show) and the party-going fun of Cut the Kid.

He frequently addressed the crowd and expressed his continued thanks for their support, it was very satisfying actually. He was energetic, smiling and upbeat the whole show, and I think you could really tell he built everything just the way he wanted it. It was a man comfortable in his environment, which in most instances makes for a hell of a show. He incorporated some remixes, blends and chops into his Miracle album, transitioning back and forth between some of his more popular works and the new album seamlessly, as if it had all been built out of the same framework. He kept the energy impressively high in the HOB for a Tuesday, which sometimes is an issue with those midweek shows. My balcony view came me a direct line of site to the crowd, stage and visuals, and I loved every minute. His music makes me feel funky, fun, and calmed all at the same time – something I find incredibly appealing when listening to him play. Would definitely go again. Concert Score: 9/10

Deadmau5 (I’ll refer to him here as Joel) is a legend. Love him or hate him, Joel is an absolute superstar, and for very good reason. The man practically invented mainstream progressive house, or rather – was able to bring it into the limelight of EDM culture in a way that put him, at many times in his career, at the forefront of the electronic music scene. His trademark Mouse head he wears during shows is iconic, and his brand is this image. Joel is very much a brand, and I definitely buy into it. It;’s not for everyone, that is for sure, but it certainly hits me in the right way and I have been continuing to come back to his albums time and time again over the years. Again, he was one of the first artists I got into with Madeon when starting my EDM music exploration back in high school. So seeing him here was a real treat.

His “Cube” tour is named as such because he literally sat within a gigantic, rotating cube pointed on its edge directly towards the crowd. The cube was covered with LED screens which coordinated to the music, and he had 10 or so large screens behind him on the stage as well. The visuals were outstanding and kept me moving – plenty of strobes, color, lazers and not any smoke. I hate smoke, honestly. It’s so corny.

One thing I love about Joel is his authenticity. The guy has been called a major dick, and he honestly can be sometimes. Guy has an ego larger than his Mouse head. But honestly, it’s deserved. He crushes everything he touches in the electronic world and otherwise. I think, like Madeon, I love him so much because he creates this incredible atmosphere with his music. Many artists have a great sound, but Joel has a great feel to it as well. His ability to create an emotional connection to his music, even with simple chord progressions and drawn-out buildups over the course of many minutes, he has the ability to make each song seem like a journey in itself. Almost like each tune transports you to some far away world in which you are suddenly the star of the movie, because these tracks create a whole plot in your head when you listen to them. His work is never too complex, but like an Italian mother’s cooking, Deadmau5 takes high quality ingredients, hand selected with upmost precision, and makes something beautifully simple yet wonderful with it. Every sample he chooses is incredible deliberate, and he enhances each note to the point where it couldn;’t have been produced any better – everything just works so well together in his songs. It’s like an Abelton orchestra, and he’s the conductor. He creates an incredible amount of intensity and tension with his music that hooks you like a good thriller – making you wait with bated breath for each oncoming progression, chord change and chorus. He’s not complicating things, and he honestly hasn’t changed his formula much since 2009, but it works. It works really damn well.

Take Strobe, for example, a classic of his (and maybe the best part of the show). This is a very etherial song, in that it uses long chord progressions and buildup to generate tension and a feeling of emotion that somehow touches your heartstrings in more ways than one. Two-thirds of the way through the song the synths come in and it really takes the whole thing home for me. It’s honestly an iconic piece of music. Or maybe a more recent piece, Saved, which is 8 minutes of what I would describe as calming adrenaline. While Ghosts n’ Stuff is one of his more famous pieces, he is also known for sure classics as Faxing Berlin, Raise Your Weapon, Some Chords, Sofi Needs a Ladder, and Avararita. I Remember and Beneath with Me are two pieces he did with Kaskade that are truly exceptional and emotionally charged, make sure to check them both out when you can. If you like Deadmau5 but can be turned off by his darker tones at times, Kaskade is much more mellow and vibey, in my opinion. Not better, just different.

The show itself was packed, and on a Friday no less (what could be better). The atmosphere was electric, Joel was jiving and pumping out new and old tracks, appealing to the young and old of the crowd – although you could tell the crowd was full of a bit older, more experienced EDM heads who have likely been following him for quite some time (that just seemed to be the vibe I got, still youthful, just slightly older than your average EDM show). Visuals were wild, he had me dancing the whole time, and everyone was happy. The man can move a crowd and get people INTO IT, and it really impressed me. When you’re in that environment, you are committed. And you want to commit, because other wise you’re missing something special. Deadmau5 creates special music. It’s simplicity paired with intricacy and deliberation, and it works. Concert Review: 8.5/10

Concert Review: Circles Around the Sun

I had the pleasure of attending a Circles show at the Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on Monday. I was definitely looking forward to this as I’ve been a big fan of their studio work and many of their songs have found their way onto my playlists. Started originally by the fantastic guitarist Neal Casal, who originally started the project during the Dead’s Fare Thee Well tour in 2015, actually spawned his project into a full-blown album producing and touring band. Casal passed away in 2019, and now the band is comprised of three core band members, Adam MacDougallMark Levy, and Dan Horne.

They have that sort of groovy, jazzy funk sound that brings in layers of Phish, the Dead, and Umphree’s McGee all at the same time. It was very fun to see this combination play out live in such an intimate venue. Thick, pounding bass lines carry most of their songs and get the whole crowd moving in unison, while subtle but prominent drumming keeps the jams afloat. I was really impressed by the keyboardist who was featured for solos on nearly every song, and utilized a synthesizer and multiple toned pianos in most jams. His sound was audible even when the rest of the band was in full cry, and the large majority of the time it was a welcome overtone to the jams.

They only played a handful of actual titled songs, but each song would carry on for 7-10 minutes at least, and they did a good job of quickly transitioning from one piece to the next so that one jam never felt dissociated from the show as a whole. They would occasionally get into spacey areas when the guitarist would hit his petals and add some reverb, the drums slowed and the bass lines lingered. At these times it definitely reminded me of Dead jams, particular with the Jerry-ish tone the guitarist was using – which I definitely think is part of their appeal. Thats when the keys would come in and sort of float you along through the jam. The lights were decent and added to the “jammy” vibe as I call it (you probably know what I mean), but nothing special on that side.

For $20 on a casual Monday, this was a lot of fun. Circles Around the Sun has some chops, and it showed with their ability to improvise and carry a steady, groovy, bass-heavy rhythm through their tunes without any vocals whatsoever. It was relaxing but funky, and definitely was reminiscent of some old jams I couldn’t exactly place. Gilbert’s Groove was a highlight. The Sinclair is an awesome, intimate venue that should be explored. Plus I think they have a nice bar attached to it. I really liked the setup on the balcony as well where we were situated (actually, directly centered facing the stage with no obstructions). Worth the price of admission, for sure. 8/10

Check em out:

I mean come on, this sounds exactly like Althea!

Winter 2019-2020 Concert Reviews: Mapache, Allah-Las, and Beach Fossils

I’m still catching up on a few shows I saw in late 2019 and early 2020, so in revisiting these I’m hoping to touch on what made them interesting or not so much.

Mapache came first as an opener for Allah-Las. It was one of those $15 midweek shows, so pretty hard to resist. We actually went to the show to see Mapache, really. If you don’t know them, and I’m sure many don’t, they are a duo of dueling guitarists named Sam and Clay out of Glendale, California. Their EP, “Lonesome LA Cowboy” captures them pretty well in a nutshell. What makes these guys special are their harmonies and complimentary playing.

This captures the Mapache sound very well, if you’re curious.

They actually many times play their acoustic guitars (strictly acoustic) in a syncopated fashion, which creates these two layers of sound on top of the vocals that forms a hefty and diverse rhythm to most of their songs. Vocally, they aren’t the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard, but they have an incredibly raw sound that just seems authentic. But when they sing together, the magic happens. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but they can carry a tune so well, and it’s a refreshing sound with the raw vocals and southwestern-style of guitar plucking that clearly brings in Spanish influences. I would almost describe it as an innocence that these dudes have onstage that ends up blowing you away with their talented guitar playing, because you aren’t expecting it. It’s a textured, melodic sound that is unique in today’s alternative scene, and it reminded me of flamenco music from Spain. Lots of sounds for two guitars and no backup instrumentals. My favorites by them are Like a Stone, In the Morning Light, Aquellos Ojos Verdes, and Lonesome LA Cowboy. Fun fact: Mapache in Spanish is actually raccoon.

We said hi to Clay after the show who was smoking outside with his buddy, and you could instantly tell he was a chill guy. Super nice and quiet. I will be looking for these fellas anytime they come to town, and you should too. I wouldn’t be surprised if they blow up soon… 10/10

Allah-Las was next. All-in-all, not bad. I have been listening to some of their songs for years now (Sacred Sands, No Warewolf, etc.) which capture this surfer, west-coast vibe that really puts you at ease. Definitely makes sense why they were paired with Mapache given the similarities. Their guitar playing was a bit of a letdown in terms of skill, but the real highlight here are their melodies, which generally are carrying the song. They are very good at creating this happy and mellow sound that can make you bob your head, or feel like you’re in a Tarantino movie (if that makes any sense). Highlight of the night was No Warewolf, which highlighted the bass guitarist (who was one of the best on stage). Not much range or dynamic changes in their rhythms, which can make you feel as though many songs sound the same. But if you’re looking for some relaxing beach music, you can do much worse than these guys. 7/10.

Beach Fossils are a band my girlfriend and I have been jamming to for some time now. This was the first stop on their tour, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. One one hand, they are just starting up again after (presumably) a hiatus, which can mean it takes a few songs to warm up. But also, you get to be the first one to see what kind of sound they will be creating on this tour. Furthermore, you capture some pretty special moments at times with the band in that the sound tends to be very authentic and raw, not tuned with the practice of several shows in the tour under their belt. I remember such a thing happening with John Mayer when we saw him at his second show of his tour. They are actually a three man band comprised of Payseur on vocals / guitar, Jack Doyle on bass and Tommy Davidson on rhythm guitar. They are in many ways a model band of the indie genre in this day and age, but in a very good way.

Great song from a great album.

They capture a similarly “chill” sound as Allah-Las, but with better musical chops. Here’s a good review for you: here. It started off right, they played This Year which is Sam’s favorite and one of mine as well. Very upbeat. Their lead singer, Dustin Payseur was the star of the show. Excellent if not subtle vocals were an excellent compliment to his relatively talented guitar playing. He looks like a more indie Justin Bieber, if that means anything – in the sense he has a very unique look with the messy blonde-white hair. Similar to Allah Las, they create excellent melodies and hooks with their songs.

I was expecting something more chill, but was pleasantly surprised with the energy of BF. They showed glimpses of grunge and thrash, with a hint of blues. They sounded better at times than in studio, which was also surprising given the results of a live showing of many bands in the genre now a-days. As in, most bands with the same shtick sound much, much better in studio. I was particularly impressed with their ability to play into the crowd. Every few songs there would be a special moment where all of the band members were smiling and the front row was headbanging, hard, and crowdsurfing was common. It was very cool to see at a show where I otherwise would have expected a much more vibey, chill atmosphere. Their rendition of “Sugar”, which is already one of my favorites, was particularly excellent. It highlighted their range musically in that they have the ability to bring in a darker, surfer-style guitar that has a harder edge to it than most but still captures the relaxed sound. This was amplified by their casual dress and slow movements along the stage in between songs which gave off a relaxed attitude that I think highlights the feeling they are trying to create. Both upbeat and chill at the same time, their songs are almost dreamy and I honestly thought it wouldn’t sound as good as it did in a louder environment. But they gave off a very positive sound that puts you in a good mood, and the energy they thrust into the crowd at Paradise was infectious. Some of the highlights were “Sugar”, “Down the Line”, “This Year”, “Sleep Apnea”, and their four-song encore which brought it home.

In summary, we had a great time at this midweek show. Relaxed enough to not seem like a force for a weeknight, but fun and energetic in a way that got us dancing and bobbing our heads the whole time. 9/10.

Winter 2019 Concert Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band

I’ll make this short. I love TTB. Derek Trucks is my favorite living guitarist currently along with Trey. Accompanied by a full band, complete with horns, drums, backup vocals, keys, and the lovely Susan Tedeschi (who deserves the stage in her own right – and has) – this is about as good a full musical experience as you’ll get in the WORLD today. I saw them for the seventh time in December of 2019.

Tedeschi does many things incredibly well. First off, they are the tightest band I’ve heard – as in their musical chops are top notch and they rarely miss a note. This comes with bringing technically skilled musicians to the stage and it shows. Each supporting player could clearly stand on their own based on skill alone. Second, they love improvisation. Trucks may be the greatest living guitarist today for a variety of reasons, one of which is his insane ability to use the slide to create raw emotion through his guitar playing. You feel like he is speaking to the crowd through these solos. He is equal parts Duane Allman and Elmore James, mixed with soul and jazz all in one package. He lets the others solo too, of course. You’ll get several trombone or trumpet solos a show, piano solos, drum solos, and Susan’s vocal and guitar solos as well. Furthermore, you never really know when its coming – they might start a song with a roaring, building drum solo, or a few soft notes from Trucks which eventually builds into something completely different from where it started. It keeps you on your toes and guarantees that each time you see them, you will be getting something a little different. It is this hunger for improvisation that keeps me coming back show after show to this band.

Susan and Derek’s chemistry is undeniable. Both were excellent musicians before they teamed up as a husband-and-wife super duo, but now it is even more apparent. They give each other the time to solo and hold the stage, while constantly respecting eachothers abilities and skills. Susan has one of the finest female rock voices in music today, with the ability to convey so much emotion and power through her singing. Trucks is the stoic companion who speaks through his guitar. And boy does he speak. He does truly disgusting things to the guitar that I still can’t comprehend the night after a show. But my point is – you can feel the love there. They are playing not only cause they love music, but because they love each-other. You need to see it to know what I mean. Thats a powerful thing you won’t find many other places in music today.

Third, they are FUN. Their music makes you want to get up and dance, sing along and party all night with them. While the crowd is usually comprised of 40 year olds and aging Allman Brothers fans, there by no means is a lack of excitement in the room. You can tell something special is always happening from the energy of the crowd, which in each time I have seen them roars with excitement at every song and set break. I find that those who have seen plenty of live music in their time really love this band, and it speaks to their ability to capture a sound that hits on many different genres from song to song. It keeps in interesting as they jump from their own tunes to covers and back again – you never really know what you’re going to get. And its those really good nights with TTB that remind me why life is good in the first place.

If you like blues, soul, and rock&roll – this is the band for you. It has it all and then some, and then a little more.

Winter 2019 Concert Review: White Denim

White Denim – Everything you want in a rock band.

Genre: Alternative Rock.

Composition: Guitar/Vocals, Drums, Bass, Keys.

Venue: Paradise Rock Club

White Denim is an alternative rock band based our of Austin, Texas (a place I really need to check out) who has been around since 2006. This show was a real treat, one of the shows you go into expecting good things and receiving much, much more. I got an invitation from my buddy Matt to see this band and I only knew a few of their songs, their studio stuff is excellent, but definitely felt much mellow-er than their live work. They have an ability to combine blues, rock and funk in a way that is unique and not often seen these days. I had a perfect view of the show, which at Paradise is hard not to have, stage right side of the band looking across and behind the band members. A lovely thing about this venue is the ability to feel the energy coming off the stage, which in many locations you are close enough to touch. It’s intimate experiences like this that make Paradise so fun, and the site for many famous rockers over the years.

This band has one of my favorite traits in a live show, continuous playing and the blending of one song into the next. It’s a hallmark of a group of very talent musicians, and it really speaks to their ability to work together and be “in sync” with one another musically. Not only that, but during these extended jam sessions they were constantly changing tone, key, rhythm and time signatures. Incredibly impressive playing all around, and you could tell these guys had been playing live together for quite some time. Their frontman, lead guitarist and vocalist James Petralli, is an absolute stud and the star of the show. Guy can hit a note vocally with a raucous tone that ranges from screeches (the good kind) to low, softer notes on their slow songs. His voice sounds notably better, in my opinion, live than it does in studio. More raw and less echoey. He can also shed wildly on guitar with precision on each note, breaking out in impressive solos throughout. Their bassist, Steve Terebecki, was vibing and headbanging with the crowd on each lick. And boy, did they feed off the crowd. Concertgoers, fired up for a Friday night (as they should be), were in awe of the talent on stage, and it honestly felt like most of us there were not expecting how good the show would be. These guys are very much musicians. Drummer Josh Block was going all out on drums and impressed me with his rapid playing all night, carrying the energy of the whole band forward even on pace with Petralli’s lead front-stage.

All-in-all, great show. The crowd was really into it and you could tell the band was feeling it too, James was smiling the whole night. Might I add, they played 30 songs!! What a performance. Some of the highlights: Sky Beaming –> Hallelujah –> Had 2 Know; Magazin (one of my favorites); Take It Easy; Pretty Green; Fine Slime.

All-in-all, fabulous show. Score: 9.5/10

Check out their albums: Corsicana Lemonade; Stiff; In Person

Concert Reviews: An Intro

Since I came to Boston, I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a bunch of different concert tickets. As I’ve said previously, Portland is not necessarily a hot spot for shows, so this has come as a wonderful surprise to me moving here. In the past four months, I have gone to a handful of shows and I’d like to share my thoughts on them a bit. Furthermore, as I go to more shows over the course of 2020, I will make it a goal to write at least a little bit about each one I see. This is as much a way to share the experience as it is a way for myself to record what I’ve seen for my own benefit.

As I have said before, music is a fundamental piece of who I am, and going to concerts is a big part of my life. What started as my ten-year-old self attending a Mudvayne concert in Portland has evolved into a full-blown obsession with live performances from electronic house to the jam-band likes of Phish, and everywhere in between. Look up Mudvayne – my friends and I were going through a HEAVY metal phase from 6th – 8th grade, which probably coincides with the incredible teenage angst that afflicts all of us at that age. But anyways…

For $30 (usually more but whatever) you can enjoy a night you will (probably) never forget, if only a small piece. Concerts are an ethereal experience, one which I find akin to a religious one. The lights, sounds, movements of the band and crowd, smells from the smoke and the bar, the dancing, the head bobbing, the venue – all of this swells up into a gargantuan mind-warp which puts me in a state of incredible ease for some reason.

I think what is so great about live music is it makes you live in the moment. Something all of us fail to do much of the time in our day and age. It makes you really focus on the moment, what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and sensing in general around you. When you’re in a venue listening to a show, whether because you paid $50+ to see the band or you’re their biggest fan, you are there at least for an hour. In these moments, it’s best to try and listen, to experience what is in front of you. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of your money and time, in my opinion. That’s not to say every show is for you. And believe me, I have walked out of a few earlier than I’d like to admit. Regardless, it is a privilege to be in attendance when a true artist is putting their craft out on display for the world to see. I consider it a fortunate occurrence.

I won’t try and get prophetic here, as I know many of you know what I mean, but my point is this: concerts are something to be cherished and enjoyed. The raw talent we get to be exposed to on stage, the individuals willing to put themselves out there, with all their vulnerabilities, and produce music despite what people might think – is truly incredible. Good or bad, talented or awful musically, everyone who get up on that stage is a treasure. This is because they do what the vast majority of us won’t ever do: publicly and unselfishly do what they love and share this love with others. It is this love that brings everyone at the show a little closer together, regardless of where you come from. We should remember that without these kinds of people, the world would be a very quiet, dark place indeed.

It makes me realize the potential humans have to bring people together. This is what I call a “shared experience”. A concert is a very personal experience as much as it is a group one. You are a part of a crowd, but you are also experiencing the music for yourself, alone. No one can hear the music for you. They can certainly share their ideas, and the sharing of ideas after the show is sometimes the best part – but you are still the one viewing it from your eyes, generating your own opinions and narratives. The best part though, is that everyone can walk away from a show feeling something incredibly similar or incredibly different. What is amazing to some could be horrible to another. Or something you find exciting could be boring to someone else. But in those times where you are sitting in a show, loving every minute and vibing out with your pal(s) or just yourself- that’s really what it’s all about. Sharing in the moment and living in that moment. I think that’s something we can all learn from the shows we see, if anything. To be present in what you are doing so you can get the full experience. Besides, you probably paid to be there. So why not, right?

The experience of live music continues to give me hope for the future, and I could write on this forever. More for another time, though. As long as we have live music, we will have shared experiences. And shared experiences mean the chance to experience something together, but individually. The whole point is living in the moment and enjoying life for what it really is. And in my opinion, life sounds much better with a soundtrack behind it.

A Super Bowl Rundown: Why James Bond is the Real Takeaway

Superbowl Halftime Shows aren’t really music. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s more of a showcase. And boy, was last night a showcase. As in, that was borderline pornographic. I have no doubt parents were horrified. But admittedly, it was a really, really good performance. Like the rest of my friends, I was pretty impressed with everything given their age and ability to groove. I see you, J Lo. Waiting for Tonight is undoubtably a banger. You’re wrong if you think otherwise.

But it makes my point, which is – halftime shows are for the masses, it’s entertainment. I’ve been told they used to be better, but what do I know. I’m there for the game, because it features the Pats most of the time this century. Kurt won’t be happy about that but it had to be said. For the record, my favorites of all time were Prince (obviously, playing Purple Rain in the first rain in probably Super Bowl History) and Tom Petty. I’m a sucker for the classics and tend to lean away from the Pop, mass-produced sounds that get cranked out regularly these days. But I digress.

This year though, it gave me time not caring about the game to win some money and, most importantly, pay attention to everything else. Namely James Bond, and the final installment of Daniel Craig’s tenure. If you didn’t see the ad, check out the trailer on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIhNsAtPbPI

So there’s a new James Bond movie coming out, and holy hell. No Time to Die indeed. Looks pretty electric. I am a die-hard fan, I will admit. My brother and I have been receiving box-sets of James Bond films since I was 6. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a master at James Bond Scene It. We watched the films religiously in car rides to games and the mountains on the weekends. We could quote most of the good ones. Why did we love these films? It was something the whole family enjoyed, providing a combination of action, adventure, drama (for mom), and comedy in a way that made you forget it was ever corny. Maybe was the combination of loving action films and a taste for the dramatic. But besides this admitted obsession, I will explain why James Bond films are incredible, regardless of the corniness.

It all started with Mr. Connery. Well, there was one before that but it sucked. Sean really kicked it off. And Sean Connery is the stud of all studs. He has this swagger and a kick-ass accent that really makes you swoon. Even as dudes we can acknowledge that talent. Goldfinger might be the best Bond ever, certainly the best villain and intro song. Seriously, look up the song it’s awesome. And a girl named Pussy-Galore was in the film. That is rightly absurd, but it works somehow. Not sure how they got away with that, though. Goldfinger as a villain was funny, cunning, and half-dangerous. In the way you actually respect him, but know he’s probably going down. “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Impressive cinematics, a highlight on Fort Knox and Kentucky Downs, a 1v1 golf-off for tens of thousands of dollars (which Bond wins casually), and Mr. Bond equipped with a Wather PPK to silence the bad guys. It’s god damn classic. Corny, indeed. But classic and timeless. I keep going back every year.

Roger Moore wasn’t the best. And I think its because he wasn’t good at conveying emotion. You never really got the sense he felt he was in danger, and that’s fine because its Bond. But it really takes the excitement out of the film for me most of the time. I was a big fan of a View to a Kill. Golden Gate bridge + blimp – if you’ve seen it you know what I mean. He certainly had his moments. Timothy Dalton was actually pretty good, he just was handed some lame scripts. License to Kill was great, though – a realistic villain (which doesn’t come often) in Sanchez, and a hard-nosed script that feels more like Scarface than your typical Bond cuisine. Variety is so important in these films. But Dalton really didn’t get the screen-time overall to get to know him enough. Pierce Brosnan had some amazing scenes, but often took himself too seriously. Regardless, definitely my #3 favorite. Goldeneye is easily one of the best Bond films ever, featuring Sean Bean as the rogue agent. Boromir is an excellent casting here, and he actually is so similar to Bond that it makes you question who is bad and who is good. As in, is MI6 actually the hero it claims to be? Morally ambiguous moments in these films build the intrigue. The World is Not Enough is also excellent for its wild plot, creepy villain in Robert Carlyle, bond girl excellence and my favorite intro song. Finally, Craig is excellent, and my favorite with Sean, partly because these films came out when I was old enough to appreciate them, but really because I love Craig as an actor. He embodies the cool, suave, and thrilling British secret-agent mentality in every way, but he brings out the humanity in the role in a way others at times failed to do. He manages to sneak in humor here and there, along with the uncanny ability to actually ACT like he is in danger. That vulnerability is often missing, and Craig manages to insert it in so well. It makes you feel like Bond may not be the invincible figure you had once thought, but rather much more a human being. It allows you to connect with him more, regardless of the fact I work in marketing and he’s a secret agent. I loved him in Layer Cake (check this out if you haven’t yet) and more recently in Knives Out, although the film was a 6 at best overall.

Incredible cinematography, insane clothing choices, Michael-Bay-esque (before Michael Bay was born) explosions and gunfights, and sex appeal. What more could you ask for? It’s one of the longest-running movies series, and for good reason. They spare no expense when it comes to these films and it is apparent and incredible at times.

Undoubtably, there have been a few duds in there. Thinking recently, Spectre was a disaster. Even though it had Christoph Waltz, one of the finest foreign actors working in cinema today (who has an Oscar record to show for it), the corniness far outweighed the intrigue. It had the stunts, the action, the cinematography that makes the series, but it lacks dearly in consistency. They focused too heavily on the “wow” factor that they forgot to focus on the character that brought us there in the first place: Mr. Bond. To be honest, it was a bond film that abandoned its core of being interesting in favor of attempted woo-ing. Craig is a perfect casting, and actually makes Bond seem human in his performances. But it doesn’t work here for a variety of reasons. Roger Ebert, who is my favorite movie reviewer, said it best: “At least when Tom Cruise offers similar defenses the “Mission: Impossible” movies (the latest of which has a plot not hugely different from this one’s, come to think of it) it’s meant to be ludicrous and frothy, not freighted with righteous woe.” The film takes itself way too seriously and forgets to add the air of intrigue that brings you through a Bond film and keeps you thinking about it for days to come. Die Another Day was similarly awful – particularly bad castings throughout.

Casino Royale is a 10/10 film for me. Daniel Craig’s first showing had me going from the first scene, jumping from crane to crane after a rogue bomber in Africa. This culminates in Bond shooting his way through and nearly blowing up an embassy, showcasing his abilities and disregard for the rules from the first take. It draws you in and keeps you there for its near two and a half-hour runtime. Eva Green as Vesper is as near perfect a casting as you’ll find, and she brings out an actual humanity in bond that really is unseen up until that point throughout the series. Bond always has this veil of masculinity that comes down when he falls for her. I’m not a romance type of guy, but it really works here. It made you actually care when she double-crossed him (sorry, spoiler but you should have seen this one already). It was a range of emotion. You have Bond almost dying from a poisoned drink mid-poker game to sailing on a boat in honeymoon-style in Venice. To that end, the cinematography is again, exceptional. Mads Mikkelson is likewise a perfect villain (and an exceptional actor): dangerous, intelligent, and unstable. The perfect fold to Bond in many ways. The film gives you exactly what Bond fans are looking for: a well-designed plot with a variety of locations to visit, carried by Craig’s stone-cold killer performance, and aided by perfect casting choices along the way.

I’ll list my top ten, in order:

  1. Casino Royale (10/10)
  2. Goldfinger (10/10)
  3. GoldenEye (10/10)
  4. Diamonds are Forever (9.5/10)
  5. Skyfall (9.5/10)
  6. SA View to a Kill (9/10)
  7. From Russia with Love (9/10)
  8. The Living Daylights (8.5/10)
  9. License to Kill (8.5/10)
  10. The World is Not Enough (8.5/10)

What is it about Bond movies that I love so much? I think because deep down a lot of us, myself included, want to be Mr. Bond. I’ve had fantasies since I was very young about taking down the bad guys, infiltrating Russian terrorist organizations, saving the class from attackers, you know what I mean. I’d imagine many young boys have similar thoughts when watching this content. Seeing a guy so invincible, irresistible (for the women), and so cunning walk out of gunfights like it’s nothing made you envy that life. Even though, the life of Bond is undoubtably stressful (lots of time away from home, people trying to kill you constantly, etc.) – no doubt a normal man would have died by the second film at best. But at age 10 you don’t really piece that together. All you know is the man is a total badass. And at that age, even people over 18 are cool. Imagine what some ambiguously aged, secret agent, super-hero looked like. Get the idea?

I’m not usually a fan of surreal action films. I don’t like corniness really. But when it’s classics like this, I can’t resist. It’s like Back to the Future, you know. It’s definitely cheesy at times, but it does it better than anyone else. And Bond undoubtably does spy action films better than anyone else.

Beats & Blockbusters: An Intro

Recently, Kurt and I have been wondering how to spend our free time. The two of us graduated Providence College (go Friars) in 2017 and have been working and living in New England ever since. We ran a radio show at PC, which in all honesty is not much of an achievement, but I think it made us realize the potential for sharing a love of music and ideas. And those Sunday hungover afternoons spent watching movies? We could talk about that too. We need a place to really get into what we enjoy. Namely Music and Film. Our hope is this can be a place where we pass some of that knowledge, insight, potential humor etc. to you, the people. We want to discuss the things we love, because why not? WordPress is free. And we have spare time. This could just be a guise for productivity but who cares honestly. So, let’s give it a go.

I used to live in Portland, and let me say the music scene here is, as expected, a major upgrade. Thats not to bag on Portland, which I love dearly, it’s just they don’t get the attention of major artists given its a city with a population of 50,000. To be honest, I don’t blame artists for not wanting to drive up there in the middle of the winter. Summer though? No excuse. It’s an absolute beauty up there. One thing I will say though, is that Portland packs its shows to the brim, every time. Local band or big name, you’ve got an audience. That always impressed me for such a small town.

So I am a Maine guy, and Kurt is from a town called Hebron, Connecticut. I’ll let him do his own intro, but Kurt is a lover of all things music and film, amongst many other things, and as such has been my partner in crime for everything musically related since early in college attending Big-Room EDM shows at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. We had many laughs, plenty of grooving, and a handful of friends joining us along the way. We’ve come a long way from the Hardwells of the world, but that love of music still prevails, even with the 9-5 lifestyle.

Why do we want to focus on Beats, or music? For one, it’s easy for us to talk about. Music is everywhere. Literally everywhere. It’s almost impossible to go a full day without hearing a song, in a store, in your iPod, whatever. A lot of it is garbage, that is for sure. But sometimes you find a gem. And it runs your life for a few days until you can get it out of your head. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s about hitting a weeknight concert for some band you’ve hardly heard of and having your mind blown away by a no-name guitarist. It’s being packed in at the House of Blues while DeadMau5 slowly rotates in a Cube thing blaring lights and sounds that would comatose an epileptic. And everything in between. Our concert adventures and musical digesting on a daily basis is worth sharing, we promise. And to be honest, it’s more fun to share than to keep it all to ourselves. That goes for most good things.

Why movies? Film has something for everyone. Old or young, rich or poor, dumb or smart; there is a movie out there for you. Horror, Drama, Comedy, War, Psychological Thriller, Action/Adventure and everything in between, somewhere in there you’ll find some hidden gold. There are a LOT of amazing movies out there, and there are too many bad ones. But what we want to focus on are the movies that make an impact on us, make us think differently or drive us to have a conversation with a friend the day after viewing. The kind of movie that sticks with you emotionally and keeps you coming back year after year. There is no doubt that movies are the penultimate escape, even if it is just for a few hours. And no doubt there is a special kind of feeling when you can have a great discussion with a friend about a movie you both loved, or hated. Doesn’t matter where you see it, who you see it with, or what the hell it was about, a good film changes who you are in some way, even if you don’t always notice it. We live for that. And that’s why I’m writing this paragraph.

Music and movies, I think we can cover plenty of ground on a weekly basis to fill a page or two. Wish us luck.