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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reader's Agenda Thu 8/1: Sunshine Daydream, Marc Maron, and Circles

Posted By on 08.01.13 at 06:06 AM

Marc Maron
  • Dmitri Von Klein
  • Marc Maron
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

The Grateful Dead's performance at the Old Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, Oregon, back in August 1972 has become the stuff of legend. We know this because it was captured on film in the cult concert doc Sunshine Daydream. It screens in theaters across the country today, care of Fathom Events. Deadheads coordinate accordingly.

Comedian Marc Maron, who flipped podcast fame into his own Drew Hunt-approved IFC sitcom, begins a four-day run at Mayne Stage tonight.

Srini Radhakrishna, formerly of Guilty Pleasures, the White Outs, France Has the Bomb, and Football, brings his latest band, Circles, to the Empty Bottle. "Radhakrishna glitzes up the bouncy, jagged, organ-backed garage of the first two tracks ('Constant Party' and 'Curses') with 60s beach-pop vocals. But the EP gets darker and noisier as it progresses," writes Kevin Warwick in Soundboard.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting down to business with Raja Gosnell, director of The Smurfs 2

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 02:47 PM

The Smurfs 2
  • The Smurfs 2
I haven't seen any of the films Raja Gosnell has directed, which include Big Momma's House, the live-action Scooby Doo adaptation and its sequel, and now The Smurfs 2. But when I received an offer to interview him last month, I jumped at the opportunity. I have, admittedly, very little knowledge of how big-budget family movies get made; in fact I tend not to think much at all about matters of filmmaking when considering the genre. This is due, in large part, to the marketing blitz that accompanies the release of any such film nowadays. I don't have kids, and I'm rarely obliged to review kids' movies for my job. Why bother seeing the Smurfs in a theater, I figure, when I see enough of them on bus advertisements, backpacks, and fast-food packaging?

I was curious to learn about the concerns a director faces when making a movie in this hypercommercial context. I was also curious to learn how a director of big-budget family films views himself: Is he a player in a large corporate enterprise or its guiding creative spirit? My impression of Gosnell is that he sees his role as falling somewhere between these two extremes. He frequently referred to directing as "my job" and was quick to grant credit to his collaborators (actors, screenwriters, the many computer animators) for the qualities he most liked in his films. He reminded me of the work colleagues whom my father, a chemical engineer for a large pharmaceutical company, would invite over for dinner when I was a boy: a team player who's well aware of his professional responsibilities, committed to upholding the company standards, polite, a good listener, and somewhat bland in his tastes. The ones who had children seemed to love being parents; their unflagging sense of duty made them well suited to it. I'm probably not the best person to decide whether these qualities make for good children's movies, so I won't get into that here. My conversation with Gosnell follows the jump.

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Have you engaged in a national conversation lately?

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 02:13 PM

Goya has his say on mental illness
Since President Obama delivered his remarks responding to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, there’s been talk about a national conversation on race. Let’s be clear about what Obama did and didn’t call for.

"There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race," he said. "I haven't seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy."

In short, he held out no hope for a conversation on race led by himself or any other elected official. As for conversations in smaller, private forums—well, he wasn’t optimistic about that idea either, but there was a bare "possibility" some might prove marginally beneficial. His bottom line: "at least" you can have a conversation with yourself.

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Soundcheck: Wrekmeister Harmonies' performance at the Bohemian National Cemetery

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 01:11 PM

Last month Chicago sound artist J.R. Robinson, aka Wrekmeister Harmonies, gathered a team of musicians to perform the lone track from his recently released You've Always Meant So Much to Me (Thrill Jockey), a 38-minute ambient composition inspired by black metal. Robinson found a perfect venue to play his haunting and beautiful music—the Bohemian National Cemetery in North Park—and to top things off the show fell on the very same night that the supermoon appeared in the sky. The idea of the concert sounded so great that we jumped at the opportunity to document it for our Soundcheck series, where we film local and touring musicians as they set up for performances around town, interview them about their work, and capture footage of their sets.

We met up with Robinson as his crew was setting up and found a quiet spot to discuss nature, the local music community, and admiring the Bohemian National Cemetery. Check out the interview as well as a condensed version of the performance in the video below. A special thanks goes out to Empty Bottle Presents and the folks who handled the sound setup for the evening—Matthew Hannigan, Kenny Rasmussen, and Elliot Dicks—for letting us film the show.

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Street View 111: If you're seeking style at Wicker Park Fest

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 12:37 PM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.


I'm a huge fan of Caylee's blog, If You Seek Style. She's the perfect mixture of girlie and cool—which is clearly illustrated in the shot above. Something supergirlie + something superboyish = something supercool. Love the way she rolled up those sleeves to show her delicate wrists and bold watch. Oh wait, delicate and bold? Back to the formula . . .

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12 O'Clock Track: "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja," wild Indian brass-band music from Jaipur Kawa

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 12:00 PM

Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
  • courtesy of Jonais Spenoy in association with Hameed Khan 'Kawa'
  • Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
I've had a thing for brass-band music ever since I first came across the manic sound of Balkan music in the Emir Kusturica film Underground, where the soundtrack included high-octane pumpers from the great Macedonian band led by Boban Markovic. Before long I learned that one of the few positive by-products of colonialism was that just about every part of the world had a brass-brand tradition, where local musical styles had been adapted to the military instruments left behind by occupiers. Brass-band music first surfaced in India in the 1750s, and some of the most exciting and mind-melting brass music has emerged from the Rajasthan area, commonly considered to be the origin of the world's Romani population. The Jaipur Kawa Brass Band hail from that region, and have become perhaps the best internationally known exponent of the tradition, touring the globe and making well-distributed recordings. Dance of the Cobra (Riverboat), their terrific new album arriving in U.S. stores on September 17, juggles Bollywood themes and traditional folk melodies, but despite the band's global cache, it remains a thrillingly raw, direct recording, with the pummeling percussion section laying down ferocious grooves for a thick array of trumpets, euphoniums, and trombones. Sinuous lines played on clarinets and saxophones snake through the din, and here and there contrasting instrumental colors are provided by accordion, jaw harp, bagpipes, and sarangi, among others. After the jump you can check out today's 12 O'Clock Track, the album opener "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja," a slice of martial grooviness that could almost fit in during halftime at a college football game.

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Did you read about Samuel Beckett, Cardinal Francis George, and an infamous checkpoint in Texas?

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 11:29 AM

Samuel Beckett remebered  by his publisher, John Calder
  • Courtesy Wikicommons
  • Samuel Beckett remembered by his publisher, John Calder
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

This reminiscence of Samuel Beckett by his publisher, John Calder? ("Walking along the Boulevard du Montparnasse one day, I commented that it was a fine day. He looked at the sky and replied 'So far.'") Tony Adler

• About China's visit-your-aging-parents law? Kate Schmidt

• This close look at the infamous "checkpoint of no return" in Texas that's snagged Snoop, Willie Nelson, and scores of other potheads? Mick Dumke

• That the long, strange saga of the cronut continues? Drew Hunt

• Cardinal Francis George's response to Pope Francis's comments on gays? Tony Adler

• About the "nearly finished time machine for sale" ads that have popped up all over town? Leor Galil

• That one bounced check can jeopardize your chances of getting another bank account? Aimee Levitt

• About the origins of the Northwest Tower building, aka the Coyote? Deanna Isaacs

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Ride the New Wavey with local rapper Kit

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 10:44 AM

Yesterday local rapper Keary Baldwin, aka Kit, dropped his debut mixtape, New Wavey. The 23-year-old says "new wavey" is a sound, specifically his sound. "I wanted to make 'new wavey' a whole thing where it's not rap or R&B," he says. "I want to make it its own genre." Baldwin's style sits somewhere in the gray area between hip-hop and R&B, in part because he spits so nonchalantly that his rapping sounds a little like he's singing, and when he sings it sounds a little he's rapping—his slightly raspy vocals come out pretty effortlessly throughout New Wavey, and at times he sounds so comfortable behind the microphone it almost sounds like he's having a conversation. "I'm kind of laid-back to the point," Baldwin says. "My music really reflects who I am as a person."

New Wavey is dark and subterranean; its songs are filled with spooky, pitched-down vocal samples, chilly, rattling drum patterns, and hazy ambient synths that sometimes hang in the air like a fog. The rapper found a great foil in Jeremiah Meece (aka Jeremiah Chrome of experimental production duo The-Drum), who produced the bulk of New Wavey. The-Drum also produced a couple tracks on the mixtape, and the group is part of a collection of friends (which also includes R&B vocal group Jody, who appear on the mixtape) Baldwin has made since moving to town last August. "Chicago is like my home now," he says. "The people here took me in and really supported me a lot."

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The Bridge is still under construction

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 08:39 AM

Diane Kruger and Demián Bichir in The Bridge
The Bridge, which premiered July 10 on the FX Network, is an adaptation of the 2011 Danish/Swedish series, Bron (or Broen), and is the brainchild of TV veterans Meredith Stiehm (NYPD Blue, Cold Case) and Elwood Reid (Undercovers, the Hawaii Five-O reboot). Diane Kruger, best known as the fraulein fatale from Inglourious Basterds, stars as Sonya Cross, an El Paso detective who has Asperger's. While dealing with the "blessing and curse," she rigidly adheres to the law, determined to follow every lead—which makes her an effective investigator. But she's painfully awkward when dealing with victims' families (she apologizes to a widower for failing to "exercise empathy").

Sonya meets her match or, at least, her temporary partner, at the U.S.-Mexico border. The body of a U.S. judge is discovered lying across the Bridge of the Americas, with one half in each country. Sonya wants the case, and muscles out Chihuahua homicide cop Detective Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir of Weeds and A Better Life). Marco is quickly established as one of the few good cops in Mexico (more on that later). When he bends the rules and allows an ambulance to drive through the crime scene carrying a heart-attack victim and the victim's wife, he makes a bad first impression on Sonya, thereby setting up their odd-couple dynamic. They eventually join forces to investigate the judge's murder, which may be connected to the hundreds of murders of young women in Mexican border towns over a dozen years.

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Gig poster of the week: Foxygen in the sky

Posted By on 07.31.13 at 07:32 AM

ARTIST: Alex Todaro
SHOW: Foxygen, Gauntlet Hair, and Gambles at Schubas on 7/19

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