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:

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.