Friday, November 30, 2012

Annual " I Love Rain" Post

MFW it rains
"Woke up to the sound of pouring rain (Skid Row, what?!?!)." No Really. It's raining outside. Here in Southern California, whenever the temperature drops below 70 degrees it's a big deal. When it rains, OMG forget about, the sky is literally falling one drop at a time.

I enjoy this weather though. I have today off and plan on sitting by the window blasting some rainy day jams to mark the occasion. Like this:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No Doubt @ The Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City Walk. 11/24/12.

Hella Good

No Doubt. The unofficial ambassadors of Southern California are back. I caught them on their "reunion" tour in 2009 and it was easily one of the best concert experiences I've ever had. After some satanic conjuring and Matrix style hacking (F5, F5) of the Live Nation site, we got our tickets and were headed to No Doubt's first show in years at the always awesome, Gibson Amphitheatre.

You have to understand how big of a deal No Doubt is for us Southern California folk. They were some goofy ska kids who grew up outside of Disney Land and turned into one of  biggest bands in the country. Their song "Don't Speak" was the most played song on American radio in 1996...and it wasn't even an official single! They have the quintessential drop dead gorgeous frontwoman who puts movie stars to shame. Their music, like SoCal itself, is an eclectic hodgepodge of just about everything, perfect for skating, moshing, dancing, surfing, smoking or sitting in traffic. The band is just rad as hell...and they're like us! Well, onto the show.

Night one of No Doubt's residency at the Gibson was sold out. The opening band we caught, Group Love, was cool but really, everyone was waiting for the main course you know? The second No Doubt took the stage the 6,000+ capacity crowd went nuts. The loud (and I mean LOUD) screams of excitement turned to silly smiles and wide eyed amazement once the band began playing "Push and Shove." Now I'm not a big fan of their new record. It sounds more like a pop/polished Gwen Stefani solo album than a solid band effort; and it initially left a bad taste in my mouth. Then I heard the new songs live. Holy balls they sounded great. Hidden under the lame studio trickery of the new album, there are some sweet ass songs there. "Settle Down," "One More Summer," "Sparkle," and the title track have been stuck in my head since I left the venue. 
Aside from being a ridiculously tight live band, capable of turning previous roadkill tracks into a feast for the ears, No Doubt also serve up some world class visuals onstage. While not as dazzling as the set from their last tour, the band still used the same massive display screen that projected film footage, photos and other crazy/hypnotic videos behind them as they rocked out onstage. The screen also doubled as a giant TV monitor for the audience, allowing us to see different members at different times as giant IMAX figures. Oh yeah, and everyone in the band has officially stopped aging. They're all in their 40's now but you wouldn't know it if wikipedia didn't tell you. Gwen is more beautiful than ever. Really. I was watching some of their old music videos on Youtube this weekend and 90's ska/punk Gwen was cute and all, but momma/fashion model Gwen takes the cake, no contest. Her voice has actually gotten stronger over the years as well.

That's the thing, No Doubt have become likes icons to a lot of their fans but they're really just a kick ass rock band. Tony and Adrian are one of the sickest rhythm sections around. Watching Tony leap onto Adrian's drum riser, and Adrian zone out during "Just A Girl," when he's in the pocket and simultaneously beating his snare to hell. Like I said, Gwen's voice was better than ever, and her energy level was insane. She's 43 and has two kids and danced jumped and sang for close to 2 hours while still looking gorgeous. I'm half her age and was tired walking from the car to the venue.

They ended the night with "Spiderwebs" and all was right with the world. Sure I wish they played a few different songs here and there ("Running" > "Simple Kind of Life") but I'd be content watching them play the phone book. No Doubt are back. Southern California is now brighter for it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Municipal Waste & Napalm Death @ The House of Blues, Hollywood. 11/14/12.

"Napalm Death! Napalm DEEEEEEEEEEATH!" I'll never forget those words. It was my first time seeing Napalm Death back in 2004. They were touring with Cannibal Corpse (my first time seeing them also) and playing the same House of Blues. I had already been to my fair share of shows before...then Napalm Death came out. This tiny Mexican dude in a ratty leather jacket and gloves, who looked and smelled like a drunken Oz retiree, spent the whole night screaming "Napaaalm Deeeeeeeeeeeath!" during the opening acts. When Napalm came out, the floor exploded with energy and this same dude who could barely stand earlier sprung to life and moshed his drunken heart out. He spent the rest of the night calling for songs they already played ("The Kiiiiiill!") and booked it as soon as Cannibal Corpse started playing because he realized that they, were no Napalm Death.

That's the Napalm Death effect. They are so rad live they make other awesome bands look like shit by comparison. They are, Napaaaalm DEEEEEEEEEEATH!

So, on to the show. We arrived early, but due to a unexpected lineup switch, we missed Exhumed. Same thing happened last time I was supposed to see them at Summer Slaughter. Bummer. I guess they swapped places with punk rock icons The Dwarves and went on earlier expected. The Dwarves were cool though. I forgot that Nick Oliveri (ex-Queens of the Stone Age/Kyuss) is their bass player so it was a nice surprise watching him onstage again.

During the Dwarves set, Barney from Napalm was chillin' by the bar, swamped by a handful of lovely ladies, watching their set and being cool as fuck. Taking pictures and chatting with fans, he was a totally polite and friendly dude. Then he went on stage and transformed into the rabid bulldog from hell vocalist we all know and love. Seriously, Barney Greenway has one of the gnarliest and distinctive voices in metal.
Napalm Death came out and laid waste to the joint. They played a lot of material off their new album Utilitarian which was to be expected. Even though I have some issues with the album's production, the songs were awesome live. "Everyday Pox," and Errors in the Signal" fit right alongside classics like "Suffer the Children" and "Human Garbage." Barney's kooky stage moves never get old, like he's dancing and exercising demons at the same time, and Mitch has some of the sickest backing vocals (those high screams of his pierce through everything in the audio mix) around. Danny's single foot blasts sounded a little sloppy at times, but who am I to talk shit? The dude's been blasting since I was in kindergarten! Also, Shane has the filthiest bass sound in history. That's a good thing though. "Napaaaaalm DEEEEEEATH!"

Municipal Waste had the arduous task of following Napalm onstage. Luckily, the Waste are a ridiculously fun live band and were able to hold their own against the British grind legends who preceded them. That was a bold move on Waste's part, taking a band like Napalm out on the road who are famous for stealing other band's thunder. I'm guessing it forced them to be firing on all cylinders every night. Municipal Waste might have been the headliner's of the evening but they played to a slightly smaller crowd than Napalm. It was a weeknight and a lot of the older grind fiends probably had work the next day and took off early. No matter, the Waste still had a legion of fans inside, the young ones with energy for days and love stage know. Tony's voice sounded a little hoarse when he talked in between songs but his vocals sounded fine, i.e., like a dude screaming his balls off after drinking a lot of red bull. Ryan and Phil hammed it up for the audience to everyone's delight as Dave "coolest drummer alive" Witte chilled behind the drum kit. Seriously, Dave was so relaxed playing drums all night, making Municipal Waste's thrash metal tunes look like child's play. I haven't heard their latest album but I couldn't help but lose it when they played the jams from The Art of Partying.  My favorite Waste album period. Also, kudos to the House of Blues security staff, for catching the army of crowd surfers during Municipal Wastes set. Really, that's a lot of sweaty dudes they put up with that night.

Born To Party

Friday, November 23, 2012

Movie Review: Flight

Despite what the commercials and marketing campaign might lead you to believe, Robert Zemeckis' latest film Flight is more an emotional roller coaster, than a literal/exciting one. I sat in amazement as three separate families abandoned ship during the first ten minutes of the film. Parents dragged their kids out by the arm as the children drank from their x-large tubs of soda and took one last glance at the screen. I don't see the big deal. I mean, if a kid's gotta see a naked woman doing drugs, it might as well be Nadine Velazquez on a giant screen right?

Since kid's love pilots and action flicks and middle aged mothers love Denzel, they must have thought Flight was fun for the whole family...despite the film's R rating. Well they were wrong. The first twenty-five minutes of the film aka, the place crash from hell sequence, is a total heart pounding dose of onscreen carnage. It's some of the scariest shit you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. But the rest of the movie, like the remaining two hours, is a serious take on addiction and personal relationships. It's an adult movie basically, with drugs, sex, nudity, cancer jokes and porn references abound.

I need a another line!
The best thing  Flight has going for it is Denzel Washington. I've never seen him in a role like this before. He's played a heroic slave (Glory), Malcom X,  a cop/soldier (Courage Under Fire, Crimson Tide, The Siege, Inside Man, Fallen, etc. etc.) and a villain (Training Day, American Gangster), but I've never seen him so exposed and vulnerable as here (except maybe Glory, that flogging scene...c'mon). His character in Flight, Capt. "Whip" Whitaker is a mess. He's a divorced drunk, who's family and very grasp on reality has slipped through his fingers. He spends his off time banging sexy flight attendants (thank you Zemeckis!), getting plastered then doing a few lines of cocaine to bring him back to speed before he's off to work...flying passenger planes. It's crazy but he just so happens to be like the best pilot in the universe who can pilot a rouge jet upside down all while nursing a hangover.

The film is about the investigation of the plane crash and about Whip battling his alcoholism before it destroys both his personal and professional life. Despite it's epic length, it's a pretty engrossing film. I wouldn't say entertaining, because who likes watching a drunk stumble around for over two hours. Zemeckis is still an ace at tugging at his audience's heartstrings, and crafts an awesome soundtrack for the movie as well. I wish there was more John Goodman and his wise ass drug dealer role (because he's basically paying homage to The Big Lebowski) but what are you gonna do? Overall I'd say Flight is a good movie, a solid makes you think type drama. Kudos to Denzel, quite the performance there sir.


Robert Zemeckis is back! Well, back to making people movies that is. Zemeckis spent the last decade cranking out CGI/motion capture flicks like The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. His last human movie, i.e., his last film I watched, was Cast Away...and that was in 2000!

For those of you who don't know, Zemeckis is the man behind the holy trinity of Back to the Future (The whole series!), Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump. These films basically defined my childhood and have earned Zemeckis a lifetime badge of honor/pass. He could start shooting 3D motion capture Nazi propaganda films and he'd still walk on water in my book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stage Diving: It's Raining Men

I've been going to metal shows for ten years now. In my younger days I'd always fight for a spot near the front of the stage. Right in front of the pit, where the band's sweat flies freely and stage divers crash land on a regular basis. A busted lip here, scrapes, bruises, sprained wrist, dislocated finger, broken glasses here and there, twas a small price to pay for having so much fun down in the front. I think this video encapsulates the sheer awesomeness of the underground metal concert, and the art of stage diving for all you normal folk out there:

Converge + The Weather Girls = GENIUS

Monday, November 19, 2012

Awesome Photo (11)

Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney and President Obama doing McKayla's famous: "not impressed" face at the White House.

The sixteen year old gymnast made headlines during this past summer's Olympic Games with her less than enthused reaction to winning the silver medal. The "not impressed" face is now her thing and getting Obama in on the action is priceless! I also think this photo is an indirect attack on Romney's campaign but maybe I'm just being silly.

McKayla and Female Obsession honoree Maria Menounos are also, not impressed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Movie Review: The Sessions

Like Argo, The Sessions is yet another film based on extraordinary true life events that seem too out there, too impossible to have really happened. But they did. If you are lucky enough to see this film, prepare to be awed, and inspired.

The film follows Mark O' Brien, a brilliant poet, journalist and polio victim who has been paralyzed from the neck down since childhood. He spends nearly twenty hours a day confined to an iron lung. He lives alone and is completely dependent on his team of caregivers to feed, bathe and transport him into the outside world. While he may be physically disabled, Mark's mind and will power are stronger than most anyone else. He "lives inside his head," and uses his mouth and a push stick to type and use the telephone to communicate his thoughts/ideas. Mark graduated from college and has a career in writing, accomplishing more than most "regular" people might ever do, but as his time on Earth winds down, he realizes that he's never known intimacy or love and decides to do something about it. He turns to Helen Hunt, a sexual therapist/surrogate to help him lose his virginity.

Yeah, kind of weird I know. Not as weird as when he describes his sexual habits with his hippie priest. That was odd, but funny...and moving. That's the thing. Mark is so fragile and vulnerable because of his condition, he's also past the life expectancy for polio victims, he literally has nothing to lose anymore and is just the most open and painfully honest dude around.

Major props to John Hawkes. He literally carries the film on his shoulders. He's a shoe in for a Best Actor nomination in my book. Hawkes has been a character actor for more than twenty years but after his performances in Winter's Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene and now The Sessions, I hope his career blows up into leading man status the way it should. Helen Hunt and William H. Macy (when is Macy NOT phenomenal?) are great as well. I sort of forgot Helen Hunt existed for the past decade, it's good to see her back, in fine acting...and physical form (she plays a sex surrogate, she's naked a lot and looks amazing). My favorite supporting character is that of Mark's collegiate caregiver Vera played by the wonderful Moon Bloodgood. She transforms from a frigid academic type to one of Mark's most caring friends and really impressed me with her performance. 

Great acting coupled with a truly powerful and inspiring message. I don't see how you can go wrong with The Sessions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Review: Argo

The Town was the first movie I reviewed here at Jim's Fear back in 2010. Although I really enjoyed the film, I was more stoked that it redeemed it's star/director, Ben Affleck, who had spent most of the 2000's pissing me off in really shitty roles . Well, if The Town was Affleck's great comeback, Argo appears poised to be his great victory. It's a hell of movie and has some serious Oscar hype behind it.

cheers: to my comeback...and 70's wardrobe
On paper, Argo sounds like it should have been a horrible movie. It's a period film that's also a historical/political drama, based on actual events that are so insanely far fetched, mostly everyone involved in the real life incident couldn't believe it either. But somehow, someway, Affleck pulls this thing off masterfully.

So the film revolves around the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. More than fifty Americans were taken hostage when members of the Iranian Revolution stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran. During the chaos, six Americans managed to escape and hide at the Canadian ambassador's residence. The film's plot centers on how the CIA tries to get those six unfortunate souls out of Iran without getting them discovered and or killed by the Revolutionary Guard. Affleck plays the CIA spymaster who proposes that the hidden American diplomats pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations in Iran. Argo is basically a movie about the development of a fake movie, where Americans pose as Canadians because they're trying to flee the the Iranians...all orchestrated by the CIA and some old Hollywood producers. Again, this sounds beyond retarded, but it actually happened and it worked!
crazy like a Fox
Despite all the craziness I just mentioned, Affleck has crafted a compelling, suspenseful and powerful film. The opening scene, the storming of the embassy sequence, sets the tone for the entire film. Mixing archival news footage with some awesome handheld camera work, Argo achieves an amazing sense of realism. The sets, props, wardrobe (viva those ugly late 70's get ups) and kick ass classic rock soundtrack (Aerosmith, Dire Straits...Van Halen!) made me feel like I'd time traveled back to the Carter years. Everyone in the cast did an amazing job, from the six hostages in exile who slowly start to go crazy, to Affeck's CIA and Hollywood homeboys who back him up throughout the film (Bryan Cranston and John Goodman are everything), even Affleck himself is pretty believable as the CIA's top extraction specialist. I just have a problem with him acting and directing his films. I know he's the director (and now, certifiably a great one at that) so when I see him on screen I imagine him directing himself in the same outfit and it just pulls me out of the movie. At least that's what happened in The Town...not as much during Argo.

That's probably because I was too busy sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time. Yes, I wasn't kidding when I said Argo was suspenseful. As a History geek, I pretty much already knew how the movie ended, yet I was hooked from start to finish. I kept marveling at how Affleck had me by the balls every time I fought the urge to use the restroom. It's really that suspenseful. Go see it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Converge/ Torche/ NAILS @ The Echoplex, Los Angeles. 10/28/12

We Are The Champions
Converge are easily one of the best live acts on the planet and one of my favorite bands of all time. I'd watch them perform the phone book in a basement (with more growls and d-beats than usual) if I could. Some of you might recall my last Converge story from this summer's FYF Fest. Well, my wounds had healed, sinuses cleared, and shoe laces tied extra tight. I was ready for another dose of Converge on their All We Love We Leave Behind Tour.

Talk about a lineup. This tour was siiiiiiick. Like "OMGZ" I need to sit down and catch my breath after reading the lineup. Torche, Kvelertak and NAILS. All three bands have released killer albums, all produced by Converge's Kurt Ballou, in the past few years. This overs the creme de le creme of metal, rock, hardcore/grind. Even the local opending act Dangers is ridiculous!

So we arrived early to catch Dangers because they impressed the hell out of me when they opened for The Dillinger Escape Plan back in January. This time I was familiar with their songs, and impressed by how tight and close to their album they sound live. Their singer Al is a madman on stage, jumping into the the crowd and running around the pit like a wild injun, jumping and crawling while shrieking at the top of his lungs...while barefoot. Can't wait to see these guys again.

Kvelertak was next. I really enjoyed their self titled debut album from 2010, and was looking forward to watching them rock out, but alas, I was starving. My girlfriend and I headed to the back of the venue (where you can't see jack) to get some pizza during Kvelertak's second song. The band sounded awesome from what I heard...but after a long day of work, we needed to eat. Sorry guys, next time.

Glad I ate, because NAILS was fucking exhausting. Imagine trying to work out with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1970s. NAILS mantra: "We came, we saw, we kicked it's ass!" This band is so heavy it's retarded. Really. I described their sound as "a monolithic slab of caveman brutality" when they opened for Dillinger in January (yeah, them and Dangers...go figure) and now I want to add, "violent" to said description. Something about this band makes causes me to speak in grunts and long for a 2x4 to smash over people's skulls. Their songs are short, fast and fucking awesome. The 2nd guitar player they added only made them sound heavier. I simply can't get enough NAILS.

was next and were totally a welcome change of pace. I think I might have turned into a total werewolf if the aggro streak didn't halt right there. Luckily, Torche is all about having fun. They played a lot of new stuff of their latest album Harmonicraft, and had a lot of little HD cameras set up on stage, leading me to believe they were filming for a new video or a TV performance in the future. Their newer stuff is poppy enough to get dudes and ladies alike to move and dare I say, even dance, near the front of the stage. Then their older material comes along and is so heavy it has heads banging throughout the venue. So glad Torche was on this bill. Kudos fellas.

Finally, the headliners and heavyweight champions of the underground metal/hardcore universe took the stage: Converge.

They opened with "Concubine" and the Echoplex exploded. I learned my lesson from my FYF. My girlfriend and I retreated to the outskirts of the floor, away from the pit, but still close enough for me to get some awesome videos. Since their superb new album, All We Love We Leave Behind, dropped in October, it was almost a given that Converge would be playing a lot of new songs. However, the band went online and asked fans what other songs they'd like to hear on this tour. The response was massive. EVERYONE had a thousand old song they wanted to see live. I was stoked they played "Heartless," one of my top choices!

Rare gems like the ultra dirge-y "You Fail Me" and from way back when "My Unsaid Everything," gave Converge's  old school fans a nice nod, while all the new jams from All We Love flat out slayed. "Trespasses" "Sadness Comes Home" "Glacial Place" "Empty On The Inside," etc etc. I've never been
more stoked to hear a band play new stuff in concert before.

The venue had lots of floor space, which gave the sold-out capacity crowd room to breathe. I think that's what kept the energy level relatively high throughout the night. People could take a step back and catch their breath before jumping into the pit for the next song. After a full night of ass-kickery, and a full day of beforehand, I was exhausted by the time Converge wrapped their hour and half set up with the always epic, "Last Light." After paying homage at the band's merch table (and getting a sweet ass Axe to Fall flag) I ran into Converge singer/visual artist/record owner and awesome human being Jacob Bannon outside. Dude looked drained. He was covered in sweat, his voice barely audible and was still chatting it up with fans outside. He may have gone through the ringer onstage, (and every night) but you know he'd do it again, to the delight of assholes like me, in a heartbeat...forever if he could pull it off.

That's why Converge rules folks. Check em' out next time they're in driving distance. And if you ever see NAILS, bring ear plugs and a baseball bat.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012

douche v. turd
It's election day here in the USA. I'm not impressed with either of the two candidates running for President. Romney is a corporate shill and Obama is hardly the agent of "change" he promised to be in 2008. Back then, anyone who wasn't George W. Bush would have done fine. Not so much these days. Obama is basically Bush Jr. in some regards also. Total bummer.

That's the problem with the American two party system. Democrats or Republicans, both groups are beholden to the corporate interests that REALLY run this country. I may share more ideological views with Democrats, but they're a bunch of passive aggressive pussies who will never get any real socioeconomic change done. Vote Republican? Are you fucking nuts? Really.

Too bad we don't live in a world where Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President, stands a chance of winning. I spent some time on Jill's website this past week looking over her stance on the issues and thought: THIS is the change we need in America. Check it out HERE.She won't win though. She doesn't stand a chance actually. Bummer. Major bummer. The American political system is broken. I'm tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils, between a douche and fucking turd. Choices like that, leave us with really no choice at all.

We need more choices on election day. REAL choices. Until that day comes, the sadly prophetic words of the late George Carlin with remain true:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fatty Boom Boom

Sorry. I had a new post lined up for today but I seriously cannot stop watching the new Die Antwoord video, for their song "Fatty Boom Boom." It's a fucking trip and super, super RAD

Love the shots @ Lady Gaga and all the other bland "pop" stars in the mural also =p