Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie Review: Her

Her is the most poignant and strangely inspirational film I've seen in some time. Spike Jonze's latest film is a lovelorn masterwork that will resonate with anyone who has ever used a smart phone and who still has blood pumping through their veins. In the not too distant future, society's struggles and hardships are quelled by the wonders of technology, but instead of standing together in triumph, people are isolated and miserable. The financial and economic woes that plagued mankind for millennia have given way to existential crises and the dissolution of intimacy. It's a frightening paradox and makes for a heartbreaking viewing experience.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a writer and hopeless romantic in the throes of a bitter divorce. He wonders the streets of futuristic Los Angeles completely immersed in the world of his personal computer (think: iPhone 50) like all the other blank faced automatons in the city. When Theodore purchases a new operating system with artificial intelligence, he quickly forms a bond with his OS, who names itself "Samantha," and begins to turn his life around. Phoenix's portrayal of poor Theodore is nothing short of amazing. Because this is a movie about a dude who's in love with a computer, Phoenix is alone for the majority of the film and does all the onscreen heavy lifting himself. He's melancholy and pathetic, he's joyful and hilarious, he's neurotic and vulnerable all at once. Scarlett Johansson provides Samantha's smokey voice and does a great job making a creepy omnipresent machine sound like something you'd want to wake up next to in the morning. Rooney Mara continues her streak of pants shitting-ly terrifying performances ( The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects) and Amy Adams is brilliant as Theodore's quirky friend and neighbor in a role that's a complete 180 from her character in American Hustle but she shines just as bright. 

Technically and thematically, Her is simply a gorgeous film to behold. The team Jonze assembled to bring his tragically sterile future world to life deserves all the praise they're receiving and more. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and costume designer Casey Storm create a cheerfully drab Apple Store/American Apparel looking society, devoid of dust, excitement, and denim. The film's inspirational music is brought to you by Arcade Fire and Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, and Phoenix delivers one of the most captivating performances of his career. All that, plus the deep philosophical themes Her touches upon, this film is just ridiculously good on so many levels it's not even funny. Speaking of funny, although heartbreaking and tragic, Her has several flat out hilarious scenes. Like side splitting laughter. So prepare your tear ducts, secure your funny bone, and say goodbye to your smart phone because you'll probably never look it the same way again after you see this movie. Her is without question, one of the best films 2013 has to offer.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: American Hustle

David O. Russell, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and now, American Hustle. This cinematic hat-trick of his is mind boggling. How this man keeps cranking these amazing films out in such rapid succession is awe inspiring. American Hustle continues Russell's awesome streak and reunites the casts from his last two films, throws Jeremy Renner and a wicked pompadour into the mix and lets the kinetic sparks fly.

While watching American Hustle, I couldn't help but compare it to another madcap shiester film set in the 1970's, Martin Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece, Goodfellas. Normally, comparing another film to Goodfellas would be a death sentence, but American Hustle is so dazzling, it often feels like a kindred spirit to Scorsese's mobster classic.

Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfield, a soft spoken con-artist who, along with his gorgeously manipulative partner in crime Sydney (Amy Adams), gleefully dupes people out of their money during the grimey landscape that was the post-Vietnam/Watergate America of the late 1970's. They run afoul of a zealous FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who plans to use the smooth talking duo to entrap politicians and other high profile figures to further his own career. That's the film in a nutshell. The con-men get conned by the feds, who force them to con other scam artists in a massive corruption ring, but they have to outwit the FBI in order to stay alive or the people who they are trying to con will...exhausted yet? This film's plot is like a carousel on ecstasy. The story is constantly spinning, with gorgeous lights, or in this case, amazing performances and Russell's brilliant direction, blinding you at every turn.

There's also some biting social commentary going on in American Hustle, highlighting the corruption within our nation's political and financial institutions and how the perversion of the American dream has created a perplexing role reversal between traditional heroes and villains. The message is there, blanketed by Bale's amazingly tactful performance, Adam's uber seductive screen presence, and the most glorious soundtrack of the year. David O. Russell strikes again, what else is there to say?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Review: 12 Years A Slave

There are great films and then, there are important films. Technically great films serve as a blueprint for Hollywood movie magic, while the important ones resonate in our collective consciousness for generations to come. Director Steve McQueen's latest film 12 Years A Slave, does both and is easily one of the best films of 2013.

First things first. 12 Years A Slave may be a great achievement in the pantheons of cinema...but that doesn't  mean it's an enjoyable movie. Based on a true story, McQueen's film is devoid of the glossy eyed sentimentality that permeates most historical biopics. 12 Years A Slave doesn't paint the antebellum South in simple shades of black and white or good and evil. Like real life, the film is swathed in complicated strokes of grey. Dark and muddled, but grey nonetheless. It would be fair to say that 95% of all characters depicted in this film are utterly despicable, but their reasoning and motivation for their actions, as vile and misguided as they may be with our 21st century hindsight, while not justified, are at least partially explained. This helps portray the film's many antagonists as human beings (albeit, extremely repulsive and ignorant) and not the cartoonish villains we've all seen before. In short, there is not an once of glamor or pageantry inside this film. 12 Years A Slave explores a painful chapter of American history rife with racism and bigotry and holds a mirror to our present "culture wars" and the seemingly never ending war with ignorance we wage as a society. This film does not glaze things over, instead it wallows in slavery's festering wound.

So yeah, now that you're an emotional wreck, let's talk about the movie. Steve McQueen has crafted another melancholy masterpiece here folks. If you thought 2011's Shame wasn't bleak enough, then you'll be astonished at the levels of woe and sorrow 12 Years A Slave reaches throughout it's duration. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man living in the New York who is tricked and kidnapped to the South. He is forced to assume the identity of a runaway slave and sold off to a plantation where he  begins a decade plus struggle to maintain his sanity/soul. Everyone in the film's all star cast is phenomenal. Most play horrible, horrible people, but do a damn fine job in the process. Really, if I wanted to highlight every fine performance I would end up copy and pasting the IMDB cast list. I'll just say that Paul Dano proves he's one of today's best character actors and Michael Fassbender is simply frightening in this film. The acting is amazing, the cinematography and costumes/set design  make the film feel like a documentary at times, it feels so painfully authentic you might want to jump through the screen and kick start the Civil War yourself.

I really can't say enough good things about this film. 12 Years A Slave is a beautiful and twisted movie that should be seen by as many people as possible. It shows how far we've come as a society and reminds us how much more work there is to be done. When the black coat of justice swoops in during the film's gut wrenching conclusion, you can almost hear the generations of souls ruined by the wrong side of history rejoicing. Powerful stuff and one of the best films of this, or any year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Not Fiction, It's Florida.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Ben Carrillo may have done a lot of questionable things in his life, but his debut student film It's Not Fiction, It's Florida, is not one of them. This short film is seven minutes of awesomeness. It's funny, thought provoking and features an amazing ensemble cast (especially that stud playing Cop #1). Who would have thought that a mere student film project would serve as a such a jarring indictment of modern American culture...either that or it just underscores how fucking crazy Florida really is. No...REALLY.

Is this film a work of genius? Has Ben found his true calling but more importantly, can he put the go-go dancing career behind him? Am I hyping this thing up because of my own involvement (Boom Operators Local 605 in the house)? Check out It's Not Fiction, It's Florida and decide for yourselves. I'm pretty sure you'll dig it...unless you're one of those raving loonies from the Sunshine State. If so, direct your ire at Ben. It's all his fault, I swear.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013

2013 marked another great year for metal and all its splintered genres. Although some promising acts disbanded, legends passed away, and some douche brought a lot of unwanted attention our way, 2013 was still a year full of celebration. There were great milestones and anniversaries, epic comebacks and most of all, slammin’ new albums for us depraved metal fans to enjoy. Trying to cram a year’s worth of stellar releases into a mere top 10 might seem like an act of lunacy…but that’s us alright, stupid like a fox. This is The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013...

Friday, December 6, 2013


artwork by Chris "SILLYPANTS" Castro

It's a cold winter night. After one too many games of beer pong, Alex flys down the open highway road. He's gotta piss you know? While switching through his favorite Pandora stations, he loses control of his vehicle and veers off the road. The gash on his head from slamming into the steering while isn't as bad as it looks. No serious damage to himself or his liability only insured car. Too bad he's too wasted to realize that.

Car door swings open. Alex falls out and stumbles to the ground.

Cold. It's freezing. I-I'm bleeding?

Oh God, I was in an accident! Drunk driver?
Wait, that was me. My bad. They don't call me the beer pong champ for nothing!

At least I had my seat belt...oh. Shit. I-I can't move my legs dawg. I'm getting colder. This fucking sucks. I don't think I'm gonna make it. Even if I did, Sarah's gonna be pissed. I told her I was working tonight. What should I do? I'm getting all woozy and shit. Sam. Sam!

After some struggle, he unlocks his phone and makes a call.

Sam answer your fucking phone dude. C'mon. Gotta text his ass now. Foo needs an iPhone already, this shit would be free. Cheap ass...


Sam dude I fuked up. hit tree after left ur pad. dyin man =/ Do me a solid bro log onto my emails & profiles let evryone know I'm dunskees. Dont let Sarah see my inbox! keep those nudes from Jenn tho. Cute AF huh? Thanks man. Later.

yo I forgoet the password! LOL. email is spartan06. ha. FB and Twitter are: gimmiefuel6969. haha. Metallica bro wut?! Cool man. lates. old myspace tho! Nah, that shits dead anyways.

So this it? End of the line. Man, my last pic on Instagram is that Subway from yesterday. I can't go out like that!

Opens camera app.

One last selfie. Dammit.

Turns on flash and takes another photo. Hashtags the following:

#dontdrinkanddrive #peaceout #RIP

This better get more "likes" than Sarah's cloud pictures. This is my LAST pic you know?

His phone buzzes.

What? Liked my status? I didn't post...

He glances at his mysterious new Facebook update that reads:

Alexander Owens is a lying piece of shit. Was supposed to at work but drunk text me instead. Fuck him an that slut still sending him nudes behind my back. YOU KNO WHO YOU R BITCH! Get some respect n get ur own man. wait nvm you can have him. Get HER to help fix your car. Were done. smh.

I text Sarah?!Shiiiiiiiiiiit. She's gonna kill me. Well, if I wasn't already dying here. Fuck. I'm so cold and I'm all wet now. At least I don't have to piss anymore. Wait...


Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Review: The Hunger Games- Catching Fire

This movie is as exciting as a hot chocolate from Starbucks. A warm beverage in a spiffy cup just like everyone else has, but lacking the other special ingredients those real drinks...well I don't know, fuck I don't even like coffee. Anyways, back to the movie.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire isn't a horrible film, it's just not very good either. There's action, drama, romance, you name it this movie tries to have it. That my friends, is the problem. This feels less like a film and more like a marketing decision (which we all know it was. C'mon you saw those Katniss popcorn bags?), a mass appeal hodgepodge of generic fluff meant to garner maximum profits at the box office. Mission accomplished dudes, Catching Fire has been kicking ass for the past two weeks. However, loads of profits does not a good film make.

It's no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence, *ahem* Academy Award winner for Best Actress *ahem* is the film's saving grace. She's beautiful and captivating and makes the best with such a sorry script. Also, with the weight of the franchise on her shoulders and the promise of residuals so vast they could fund the zaniest pet projects imaginable, Lawrence truly gives her all in Catching Fire. But then I remember that I've seen her kick ass in good movies also and that quickly becomes a moot point. The same is true for the rest of the cast. Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, fucking Philip Seymour Hoffman! Such a talented cast...squandered.

In short, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is the bleak dystopian future set action-drama we've all seen before, but dumbed down for post-Twilight America. Maybe if the film didn't take itself so seriously? The outlandish costumes look just as stupid as say, Demolition Man, but Stallone's mid 90's cult classic had no delusions of grandeur. I guess The Hunger Games is like Star Wars, but without the camp or moxy that made the original trilogy so endearing. Instead we get self serious drivel with bad CGI and set designs. Dear lord, it's like the Prequels all over again! The Hunger Games: Attack of the Clones.

Monday, November 25, 2013

CHVRCHES @ The Wiltern, Los Angeles. 11-18-13.

Youtube is a strange and wonderful place. Sometime last spring, while scouring the site for kvlt Scandinavian black metal, I stumbled across Chvrches: a Scottish synth pop trio that makes some of the sweetest/catchiest ear candy imaginable. All thanks to that misspelled "v." Like I said, Youtube is a strange and wonderful place.

Flash forward to the present. I've been hooked on Chvrches Recover EP and their recently released debut full length, The Bones of What You Believe like Tyrone Biggums searching for another hit. Something about the band's music conjures images of ethereal landscapes and neon lit pizza parties at Chuck E. Cheese's. Maybe it's the saccharine synthesizers that permeate their recordings? Maybe it's Lauren Mayberry's siren-esque voice, that retains both a childlike innocence and a nurturing Gaelic tone throughout, or maybe it's the misspelled "v" that does it? Either way, this is a far cry from the extreme metal nonsense I usually pollute my ears with and I love it.

Within the past year the band's popularity has grown by leaps and bounds. They went from playing small capacity clubs like The Echo and The Troubadour to selling out an evening at The Wiltern (w/ a capacity of over 1,800 people). Chvrches' single "The Mother We Share" has picked up serious airplay on radio stations and they've even made appearances on both Jimmy Fallon and Kimmel's late night TV shows. All this exposure meant the sold out crowd was beyond hyped for this relatively new band with less than an hour's worth of material in their catalog. Had the band not been awesome, things could have turned ugly.

Thankfully, Chvrches put on one hell of a show. They played their entire new album for the adoring crowd and supplied one of the coolest light shows I've seen since The Main Street Electrical Parade. Lauren's voice and odd, self aware dance moves along with her band mates' impassioned performances (bass, keyboards, backing vocals...and more odd dancing) kept the crowd hypnotized all night. People jumped and danced to upbeat jams like "Gun," "Lies," and "Lungs," then quickly fell under the trance of moody numbers like "Tether" "Night Sky" and "By The Throat." My favorite moment of the night was during "Recover," easily the peppiest pop song since since the Reagan administration, when the programed audio claps gave way to legit enthused hand clapping from the audience...twas awesome.

For an "electronic act" that predominantly relies on pushing buttons than shredding on traditional instruments, Chvrches put on one of the best concerts I've seen in a some time. Hell, even the opening electronic act, Basecamp, was good. Aside from the great tunes and an awe inspiring parade of lights, it should be noted that the show ran quickly and smooth as hell. No audio problems or hiccups and best of all, no waiting for instruments checks/tuning. Check out Chvrches next time they're in your neck of the woods. They got some great songs...and they're punctual. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Black Dahlia Murder & Skeletonwitch @ The Glass House, Pomona. 11-16-13.

A serious case of deja vu and nostalgia floods accompanied The Black Dahlia Murder when they stormed through The Glass House last week. Why you ask? Well you see...

Dahlia and Skeletonwitch both played The Glass House together in 2009 when they opened for Children of Bodom and nearly brought the walls down in the process. Also, I've been following TBDM since the beginning. I bought their debut album Unhallowed (RIP Tower Records) shortly after it's release, and caught them playing with Arch Enemy & Hate Eternal in fall far back that only ONE dude from that original show is still with the band. A decade later and The Black Dahlia Murder were headlining their own sold out gig at The Glass House. I've watched the venues grow in size (the Troubadour, the Roxy, the Key Club, House of Blues, Ozzfest,) and the endless stream of drummers shuffle in (Cory, Zach, Pierre Shannon, now Alan), observing every incarnation of the band, save for their formative years in Michigan. This show in Pomona felt like a strange circle of life moment, but with blast beats and sweaty mosh pits.

Thrashing newcomers Noisem where supposed to open the show but alas, they were involved in some kind of van accident in Northern California and didn't make it. This meant our early arrival was all for naught. Bummer. Fallujah is a band I've seen in passing a few times before, always catching their last song and thinking, "they're ok." What a shame, I finally manage to catch a full set from the band and I'm bored to tears. Don't get me wrong, everyone in the band are excellent musicians and had great energy onstage...but the songs were just a little too generic and sterile for my tastes.

Thankfully, Skeletonwitch were up next to save the day. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that Skeletonwitch do not disappoint live. Their high octane blend of thrash and black metal is equal parts pummeling, and down right infectious. The crowd response was so enthusiastic it almost seemed like Skeletonwitch were the night's headliners. The new songs off their just released album, Serpents Unleashed, fit right alongside longtime staples like "Upon Wings of Black" and "Beyond the Permafrost." Much fun was had watching the Skeletonwitch crew and their mops of shaggy hair work their magic over The Glass House.

As soon and Skeletonwitch left the stage and the huge banner with TBDM's logo became visible, it became crystal clear who the headliners were. As impressive as Skeletonwitch were (they stole the show IMO), The Black Dahlia Murder are less a touring band at this point than a heavy metal juggernaut.

It's strange, despite their numerous lineup changes over the years, the key to Dahlia's success is: consistency. They've basically toured nonstop for the past decade (so much so that I've lost count of how many times I've seen them) and have released new albums every two years like clockwork. This has enabled the band to remain fresh in the often fickle metal world, incorporating new and younger fans with every album cycle. Their sound hasn't changed too drastically since 2003, but they've somehow morphed into a seminal group for many a young metal fan, figure heads, like Slayer and Cannibal Corpse before them.

I shit you not, as I surveyed the crowd during TBDM's set, the number of kids singing song lyrics was astronomically high. Of course I've kept up with the band's newer material, 2011's Ritual grew on me overtime....I'm still getting into their new record Everblack, but the "old stuff" (Unhallowed, Miasma and Nocturnal) is what gets my tail wagging. The kids in attendance however, they knew and loved it all. The crowd was almost more interesting to watch than the band. Like I said before, at this stage in the game TBDM is a well oiled machine onstage. You know exactly what you're going to get watching them steamroll through songs at a live show. It's the equivalent of a tank crushing a row of Volkswagens. Did I miss Shannon Lucas behind the drums? Yes. Yes I did, but the new guy Alan held everything down on the kit just fine. The band played a lot of songs from their last three albums (aka the Ryan Knight era), which left no room for classics like "A Vulgar Picture" "Nocturnal" "or "Miasma," hell I'd have been stoked for "Black Valor" but alas, oh wells. New jams like "Goat of Departure" and "Raped In Hatred by Vines of Thorn" brought the excitement levels inside The Glass House to 1000%, so it's all good.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deftones @ The Greek Theatre. 11-1-13.

Deftones just spent the past few months opening for Avenged Sevenfold on some crappy arena tour across the USA. I say crappy because I wouldn't wish touring with Avenged Sevenfold upon my worst enemy. So the tour ends and Deftones rush back to California and play this awesome one off headlining show at The Greek Theatre. Just the band and five thousand or so friends hanging out together in the Hollywood hillside. Oh...and Glassjaw was opening. Cool right?

Unfortunately, traffic in Southern California is the 5th horseman of the Apocalypse. Journeying through the ungodly confines of the 5 fwy, then traversing through a Mt. Everest of parking lot congestion, we missed Glassjaw and damn near missed the beginning of the headliner's set as well. The only semi-good thing to come out of this traffic/parking nightmare, was seeing Serj and Shavo from System of a Down huddled under a tree outside the venue waiting for the rest of their band mates to show up (this was later confirmed by the power of the internetz). 

Thankfully, we made it to our seats moments before Deftones went into the opening notes of "Feiticeira," off White Pony. After months of playing a brief "best of" type set for non Deftones fans, Chino said it felt great playing whatever they wanted. That meant lots of rare treats like "Elite," "Lhabia," "Teenager," and "Bloody Cape," alongside a healthy dose of new cuts from 2012's Koi No Yokan. "Temptest" and "Romantic Dreams" sounded just as good, if not better (heavier and with crazy urgency) live than on the new record. Even after watching Chino play guitar all night with Palms this summer, it's still so odd watching him with a guitar in Deftones. I guess I'm just used to him jumping and swinging his microphone around.

photo boosted from: L.A. RECORD
Outdoor venues can be tricky, with sound levels fluctuating on the whims of a breezy night, but Deftones sounded great this evening at the Greek. Stephen's guitar was pummeling as ever during "Diamond Eyes," just as Abe's ghost notes and full on snare bashing were on display during "Passenger." We all know Chino is modern rock's crown prince of crooning/screaming, but Sergio Vega's backing vocals have become a crucial component to the Deftones live show. Not only is he a legendary bassist, but the dude can carry a tune. I couldn't believe it but Sergio basically made "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" his own.

A few bummers about Deftones' otherwise awesome show:
  • Curfew- the venue is nestled between the woodland expanse of Griffith Park, and very expensive residential homes. The wealthy neighbors don't take kindly to late night concerts in their backyard so the Deftones performance at the forest moon of Endor (Chino's words) was cut short by a few songs.
  • Layout-although a great sounding venue, if you aren't within the first few rows of the stage the band feels a bit far away. We were lucky enough to land seats with a birds eye view but still couldn't manage any decent photos or video =/
  • Parking- yeah I'm bitching about parking again. Really it's that fucking horrible trying to park here. We spent about the same amount of time in the car (arriving then trying to exit afterwards) as we did inside the venue watching Deftones play. Sheer insanity.
Small grievances aside, Deftones continued their reign of awesomeness with back to back album & concert victories. So thankful they played this show and didn't force me to buy an Avenged Sevenfold ticket. Thanks guys, I owe you one. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton @ The Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles. 10-30-13.

Danny Elfman, the musical genius and magic ginger behind more classic tunes than should be humanly possible took the stage last month for the first time in 18 years. Yes, the man behind Oingo Boingo, The Simpsons theme and one of the most popular film composers of all time came out of self imposed (concert) exile and shared the stage with The Hollywood Symphonic Orchestra and the Page L.A. Choir, performing music from his collaborations with director Tim Burton.

Think about that one folks. Burton and Elfman have been collaborating together for over 25 years. Just about every major film in Burton's career has been brought to life by Elfman's musical prowess. I think it's fair to say that Elfman's music is as important to those films as the actors themselves. When you close your eyes and think of the original Batman, do you not hear Elfman's epic score running pulsating through your head?

Burton's Joker
The orchestra and choir performed amazing renditions of Elfman's music throughout the evening. The crowd went ballistic (well as crazy as one can get in such a soulless venue like Nokia) during the scores from Burton classic's like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks and Batman & Batman Returns  You could literally feel the floor shake from the rumbling orchestra during the Batman medley, and a pin drop from the eerie silence from Mars Attacks awesome theremin intro. While the music pumped through the air one note at a time via the pros onstage, video clips and original concept art/sketches from each film were projected on giant screens for all to see. Despite the abundance of Johnny Depp and his silly faces, this gave the illusion that we were peeping behind the curtain so to speak, watching these beloved classics of cinema being constructed from the ground up. 

After a brief intermission the orchestra began the night's second act and most anticipated part of the evening. They led with the underwhelming scores from Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride and Dark Shadows (film's so blah the best music in the world couldn't save them) before playing the cutesy tunes from Frankenweenie , and the holy shit this is amazing combo of Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Scissorhands featured a gnarly violin solo that would have had Beetlejuice honk tonkin' in style, as well as the most powerful moments of the evening. The choir and orchestra working in tandem brought the melancholy and majesty of the film's "Ice Dance" scene to life, coupled with Winona Ryder's gorgeous mug on the was beautiful.

Then, it finally happened. They went into the Nightmare portion of the evening and everyone geeked the fuck out. The man himself, Danny Elfman finally took the stage and began singing Jack Skellington's parts from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Yes, the Pumpkin King performed live before my very eyes and it was the raddest thing I've ever seen. Elfman is such a passionate performer, he was physically reenacting Jack's movements as he sang to the point where he literally was Jack Skellington onstage. I'm curious if he's been singing "What's This?" in the shower for the past twenty years because the man did not miss a beat. Actress Catherine O' Hara, the original voice of Sally (also, Delia from Beetljuice and Kevin McCallister's mom in Home Alone) made a surprise appearance and sang "Sally's Song," for which she received a standing ovation from the sold out crowd. Elfman finished his run of songs from Nightmare and took a bow onstage before returning for a surprise rendition of Oogie Boogie's Song, which was extra amazing because even though he wrote the tune, Elfman didn't provide the singing voice for Oogie Boogie in the film, so no one had ever heard him perform it before.

To say that the final performance of Alice In Wonderland's score was anticlimactic would be an understatement. I spent most all of the final set thinking about the spectacular Nightmare and Scissorhands renditions from earlier. Would I have liked Elfman to speak more and interact with the orchestra like Clint Mansell did earlier this year? Yeah of course, but am I beyond stoked that Elfman decided to perform onstage with such world class musicians behind him? Yeah dude..yeah. All in all, this was an amazing night that I still can't believe took place. Danny Elfman, you rule the universe my friend.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: Thor- The Dark World

Christmas came early folks. Thor: The Dark World is everything my inner seven year old wanted to see and more. If you didn't already know, Thor Odinson has been my favorite comic book character for the last two decades. Watching the first Thor movie on the big screen was surreal. Sure, he spent half the film trapped in mortal form on Earth, but the Asgard scenes and the finale on the rainbow bridge were exquisite. Also, the fight between Thor and Hulk in Avengers remains the greatest thing I've ever experienced in life. srs bro.

So Thor 2 has more of Thor being Thor. He's learned from his experiences in Marvel's phase one films and is no longer seeking his father's approval and trying to earn his stripes. No, from the first moments of The Dark World he's established as Asgard's #1 ass kicker extraordinaire. He controls the elements, flys with mjolnir at breakneck speeds, dukes it out with super strong baddies, woos the ladies and lays the smack down across the nine realms. It's glorious.

Speaking of glorious. Loki is back. Yes, the coolest villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Thor's pesky brother (albeit, adopted) returns and once again, almost steals the entire film with his nefarious grin and treacherous schemes. He's like Hannibal Lecter and Health Ledger's Joker combined, but with better hair. Lady Sif has a slightly larger role than in the first film which is good because Jamie Alexander is gorgeous and I'd love to see them explore the love triangle between her, Jane and ol' Goldilocks himself, but alas, she had to go and damn near break her break back while filming the movie. I'm sure that nasty accident put a damper on her screen time. The Dark Elves are worthy successors in terms of villains but are still a bit underwhelming.They're as menacing as the Frost Giants from the first film, but seem more like disposable enemies ala the Putty Patrol from Power Rangers.

I guess my only gripe with Thor 2 is that it's not all that original. Some of the Dark Elf tech looks straight out of Prometheus, even their leader Malekith looks like an Engineer with a ponytail. Also, many of the films gags (and there are tons of them) although hilarious, feel a bit recycled. I'm guessing the Marvel/Disney overlords decided to play it safe with this one and expand upon the safest elements of Thor's mythos. There's more special effects, more interplay between the realms, more action, more comedy, more (February 2012 Female Obsession honoree) Natalie Portman & Kat Dennings, more more more of everything.

Deep down, I was hoping Thor: The Dark World didn't suck, because the last thing I wanted to do was sacrifice my cinephile street cred for my knee jerk comic book fanboy love at first sight reaction to Thor wrecking shit with his hammer. I mean, I saw how pathetic those Man of Steel defenders looked trying to vouch for such a horrible film. I didn't want to be that guy. Thankfully, Thor 2 is a wickedly fun movie. No it's not perfect and suffers from pacing issues as well as something I like to call, CGI overload, but overall it's a good action/adventure/comic book movie. It's the type of summer blockbuster we should have got earlier in the year. I mean, how serious can a film about a caped god who swings a magic hammer really be? Thor: The Dark World knows exactly what it is and continues the awesome intergalactic soap opera that is the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe....duh) in fine fashion. For Asgard!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass are a match made in heaven. The most beloved actor/human on the planet commands the audience's attention with another career defining performance (adding to the pile), while the journalist turned adrenaline junkie director sneaks up and hijacks the viewers emotions for the film's entire run time. A dazzling mix of sentiment and suspense that's equal parts entertaining, and exhausting.

Hanks stars as Captain Phillips, the head hancho of a U.S. cargo ship that gets hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The story is based on the true life events of the real Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, so no spoilers here...just old memories I guess. These ripped from the headlines/biopic films usually go two ways, either they stick to the source material and try to be extra dry and authentic, or head the opposite route and ham everything up with cringe worthy melodrama and get all Lifetime movie of the week on us. Thankfully, Captain Phillips does neither. Like I said before, it strikes a near perfect balance between realism and entertainment.

It seems like director Paul Greengrass does everything in his power to make the viewers knuckles turn white. The first act of the movie rolls through like a conveyer belt, jumping from one quick exposition scene to the next until, holy shit: "We're being invaded!" and then things really go into pants shitting high gear. The second act meanders a bit, what do you expect when you're stuck in a claustrophobic lifeboat on the high seas, but the top notch performances from Hanks and the first time actors cast as the Somali pirates keeps the film intact. Then there's third act, where the U.S. Navy finally gets involved and Hank's performance goes from great (as usual) to "he might just need a third Oscar" level.

I tried putting my own Millennial bias aside while watching Captain Philips but at this point it's almost impossible so I'll just come out and say it: Tom Hanks can do no wrong. For people of my generation, who grew up watching him dance in Big, curse in A League of Their Own and run like the wind in Forrest Gump, he's more than just an actor. He's been an AIDS victim (Philadelphia), an astronaut (Apollo 13), a war hero (Saving Private Ryan) and a Castaway (duh). He's the star of the Playtone galaxy (That Thing You Do) and Andy's favorite companion (Toy Story), the lovable everyman who just so happens to be the highest grossing movie star of all time. I think it's safe to say I've learned more life lessons from Tom Hank's movies than I have from real life "role models." Sometimes, I even read/ hear certain things in his voice. Watching Tom Hanks suffer through the final act of Captain Phillips felt like someone was strangling the embodiment of my childhood before my eyes. It was like the furnace scene in Toy Story 3 all over again. It should go without saying that Hanks is a phenomenal actor and even if his performance in Captain Phillips was lackluster (which it certainly is not), even if the man who won back to back Oscars in 93' & 94' decided to phone it in this time, I would have still been on the verge of tears.

In short, Captain Phillips aka The Tom Hanks show, is one hell of a ride. With Hanks and Greengrass in cahoots, the emotion and suspense levels are off the charts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stan Lee's Comikaze 2013

Even though I was stuck working on Halloween, the stars aligned for me in other ways last week, attending two awesome concerts, seeing what may well be the best film of the year, and attending the final day of Comikaze 2013 at the LA Convention Center. For those of you who don't know, Comikaze is the brain child of Stan "The Man" Lee, (cultural icon, national treasure and, ya know.. creator of just about every important Marvel Comics character ever) a geek culture convention that aims at capturing the pulse of the comic book/video game/sci-fi realms, unlike San Diego Comic Con which has become overrun by Twilight fans and corporate Hollywood types. *shakes fist*

Here's a visual rundown of Comikaze 2013: Day 3.
WARNING: Lots of awesome cosplay ahead:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dying Fetus & Exhumed @ The Whisky, Hollywood.

A dark cloud lingered over this otherwise festive evening of cranium smashing death metal, Devourment dropped off the tour just two weeks before the trek began. Bummer. Major bummer. This was to be my first time seeing the legendary kingpins of slam metal (think of the most ignorant, neanderthal riffs imaginable with farm animals grunting to hip hop infused rhythms...and you've got slam)...alas, one day my Devourment dreams will be fulfilled.

Thankfully, Waking the Cadaver served as a surprisingly competent slam surrogate. This was my first real exposure to the band, aside from the negative reputation they've earned online, and I gotta admit, I dug em'. I really did. The three songs I caught from the end of their set had my head bobbing and if I was wearing a hat, I'd have totally turned that shit sideways.

Exhumed was next. This was my fourth time seeing Exhumed in two years. That's crazy when you consider the band was on indefinite hiatus for most of the 00's. Well, they're baaaaack. The crowd inside the Whisky ate their thrashy-death metal jams right up, much like the kids who went ballistic when they opened for Suffocation earlier in the year.
I guess Exhumed should just open for every major underground metal act. Why not? It's like a circus when they play, rife with bloody costumes, chainsaws, oh yeah, and uber loud distorted guitars. Their new album Necrocracy is pretty solid, not as rad as 2011's All Guts, No Glory, or old songs like this one off Slaughtercult, but any Exhumed, is better than no Exhumed. Trust me. That seven year waiting game sucked.

And then...there was Dying Fetus. My love of the Fetus is well documented. No really, my twitter, instagram, letterboxd and PS3 network (what's up CoD fiends? come at me bro!) username is: ferocious_fetus.
Anyways, I missed their tour last winter because of bad luck, but I was ready to get my Fetus fix once again. They're still on the road supporting 2012's Reign Supreme, a sweet ass album that get's back to their slamming, mosh infused roots. Their set was a healthy mix of new-ish material (from their modern era as a power trio) and some awesome throwbacks to oldschool gems like "Killing on Adrenaline," "We Are Your Enemy," and "Beaten Into Submission." Totally unexpected, but totally welcomed.

The world famous Whisky A Go Go in a dump. Back in the glory days, when The Doors and The Ramones and Van Halen kept the name in the headlines maybe playing there meant something. Now, it's a crappy pay to play club with a dilapidated stage, shoddy equipment and all the appeal of a aging prostitute. Why Dying Fetus and other metal bands insist on playing these ancient venues is beyond me.

No Whisky in 2014. PLEASE.
I hope next time Fetus rolls through town they take a cue from Suffocation's playbook and book a show somewhere like The Vex (a large open floor warehouse venue) or even a Shakey's Pizza, fuck anywhere else! The mosh pit mayhem bands like Dying Fetus conjure from their audience is simply too much for such a cramped/diseased venue like this. When they ripped into the surprise encore of "Pissing in the Mainstream" I was stoked to hear such a killer oldschool jam off Destroy The Opposition, but just as excited to get the hell out of the Whisky and breathe some fresh air. Next time, please play a venue where your breakdowns and guitar harmonics can flourish unspoiled. Thanks fellas. 

Kylesa @ The Echoplex, Los Angeles. 10-14-13.

Kylesa are one of the most consistently awesome bands in the underground music scene. They throw sludge metal, psychedelic rock and DIY punk into a blender, and create some of the gnarliest music around. I've been following the band since their 2006 album Time Will Fuse it's Worth, and haven't been disappointed yet. They rolled through town earlier this month promoting their new record, Ultraviolet and put on another great show at the Echoplex.

Pinkish Black served as the main support act of the evening and proceeded to melt brains throughout the venue. They play an oddly compelling brand of dark wave/goth by way of doom metal. One guy on synths singing, one dude beating the shit out of his drums. That's it. Both band members are stationary and confined behind their respective instruments, but it's still the most hypnotizing shit imaginable. I was thoroughly impressed with this band's set and plan on keeping my eye on them for the foreseeable future.

Kylesa wasted no time once they took the stage, kicking things off into high gear with "Scapegoat" from Static Tensions. Thus began a long night of headbanging and trance like swaying from everyone in the audience.
I was a little surprised by the sparse crowd inside the Echoplex, this was reminiscent of their 2009 show at the nearly dilapidated Knitting Factory, not like their triumphant runs through The Troubadour, Glass House and Echoplex years prior. Scheduling the show on a Monday night, during a Dodger playoff game (when Los Angeles goes full bandwagon mode and apparently stops functioning) might have had something to do with it. Either way, Kylesa brought their "A" game regardless. They ripped through tracks off Ultraviolet and their last two albums, with "Hallow Severer" being the sole "old" jam in the set. The trippy light show, the band's dual drummers (yes, two of em'), Laura's mop of blonde hair dominating the stage, and Phillip's oh so cool skateboard-guitar/theremin rig, Kylesa's performance was a treat for senses. The band's staggering ability to jump through musical styles with ease boggles the mind. One second Laura's ethereal voice is floating above an LSD like jam session, the next, she's shrieking over the nastiest riff Tony Iommi forget to invent.
two drummers = 2x heavy
 Kylesa's musical palette is so diverse, any self respecting music fan will love something about this band (friends to metal heads, punks, hipsters, hippies, art students, stoners, classic rock zombies, you name it, they'll love it). Check out Kylesa, you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Movie Review: Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt strikes again folks. His new film Don Jon is a thoroughly entertaining romp, a bit on the raunchy/NSFW side, but enjoyable nonetheless. Some might find the film's crass subject matter tasteless (spoiler: it's about the interplay between relationships, sex and porn) but amidst a sea of mediocre films all trying to ape Judd Apatow comedies, Don Jon's abrasiveness is like a breath of fresh air. A ballsy, R-rated film, meant for adults that doesn't dilute it's vision for mass appeal dollars. This alone is enough reason to champion this flick.

Anyways, Levitt stars as Don Jon, a smug Jersey Shore type whose lady killer prowess is renowned far and wide. To say he simply "get's girls" would be an understatement. Through the power of montage, we learn that Jon slams different hot chicks (always between "8's and 10's") on a daily basis. But alas, Jon has a unnerving addiction to internet pornography that actually impedes his enjoyment of real sex. As the film goes on, you see just how fucked up Jon's situation is. He's not as depraved as poor ol' Fassy in Shame, but in the same league for sure. May 2012 Female Obsession inductee, Scarlett Johansson, plays his uptight, but drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, who doesn't take kindly to her new beau's addiction to smut. We watch as not only Jon's relationship begins to crumble, but his very outlook on life as well. Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, holy shit Tony Danza, deliver standout performances that help push Don Jon from simply "entertaining", to the realm of "pretty damn good."

chick flicks = girl porn
Ultimately, everything about Don Jon goes back to Levitt. The man pulls a triple threat as the film's writer, director and main star. His acting is solid, like usual, and his direction, with his frequent use of jump cuts and montages seems a little Goodfellas/Scorsesse-ish, but it's his writing talents that really shine throughout the film. The dialogue feels authentic, which undoubtedly helped the already talented cast deliver such great performances, and just the idea for the movie alone, taking the piss out of our fantastical views of sex and personal relationships, was brilliant. Kudos to JGL for crafting such a solid debut film, and the Tony Danza/ Angels in the Outfield nostalgia trip.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rundown on The Shutdown

It’s a cold fall morning. Your alarm rings to no avail. You should have been up five minutes ago. You need coffee. You gotta get ready for work. Shit, you need gas. Oh well. Fuck it. This bed is too warm. You’re just too, damn, comfy.

Uh oh. Getting a lil too warm. Search your feelings, you know it be true…you gotta piss.


Just a little longer. You have enough gas to make it. You’ll be fine.
Fuck--- light is creeping in from that busted window blind.

NO. You’re staying. You haven’t been this snug in ages. You can hold it. Just curl into a ball and forget about the yellow river of urine about to crest. 

(Stomach gurgles) 
Uh oh. That ain’t hunger. Your bowels are saying “sup bro?” You gotta take a shit.

(Loud gurgles)
A mad shit.

NO. Who cares? You’re calling in sick. Intestines be damned you can’t risk it. You’re just so fucking comfy right now it’s ridiculous.

(Insane squishy gurgle)
Well, that about settles it. Time to get up and…

NO! We’re calling in remember? We can’t afford to get up right now, we might never be this comfy again!

Look, I want to stay in bed as much as you do but, we gotta hit that toilet man. ASAP.

STAY! Call in. Do some laundry later, clean up…

OK. That’s it. We are not SHITTING THE BED. We're late for work. I'm not trying to get fired for lounging in bed, and dude...we got some napalm diarrhea over here. We’re getting out of bed: NOW.

B-But, we’re so comfy right now. Oh God. Well, we fought the good fight. We just didn’t win. Our days of being comfy are over.

Toilet seat lifts: explosion.

That’s basically how the 113th United States Congress handled the government shutdown earlier this month. The battle to defeat The Affordable Care Act/ObamaCARE ended long ago. It may be a flawed piece of legislation and already looks like its being implemented poorly, but it passed both houses of Congress, was reaffirmed with the last Presidential election…and was upheld by The Supreme Court. It’s over dude. It’s not going anywhere.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress (mainly House Republicans and deranged Senators like Ted Cruz) couldn’t be bothered to swallow the bitter pill of democracy/reality and realize that you can’t always get what you want and tried tying their continued fight against ObamaCare with the Federal Budget and Debt Ceiling negotiations in one last gasp of desperation/insanity. So they threw an ideological tantrum and held the government hostage for close to three weeks. Now funding the government is one of the most basic functions Congress performs. Humans need water and food to survive, the government needs Congress to appropriate funds to do stuff. It’s that simple. Republican members of the House were content with staying in their comfy beds of conservative ideology and ignore their basic duties to fund the government and ya know, not shit all over the place.

So what happened? Well, in the end, just one day prior to certain economic catastrophe, Congress was able to limp out of bed and reopen the government. Congratulations Congress, you’ve proved to be slightly more responsible than infants in not soiling yourselves. Kudos. Don’t get cocky though, I know potty training is a big deal, but you’ve still got a long road ahead.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coliseum @ The Satellite, Los Angeles. 10/6/13.

Coliseum is a foot stomping punk rock juggernaut/band from Louisville, Kentucky. They stormed through Los Angeles last week and put on a veritable rock & roll clinic. A "how to guide" for those about to rock. Pity, the venue was all but empty. For the few fortunate souls in attendance, it was plain to see that we were watching magic ( magic) unfold onstage.

The band, a power trio if there ever was one, played a shit ton of material off their new album, Sister Faith. This was great news for me seeing as how I fucking love this record. I discovered Coliseum with their 2007 release No Salvation, a blistering slice of metallic hardcore that shredded first and asked questions later. The band has gotten more loose and dare I say, groovier with each subsequent album that's followed. Sister Faith picks up where their previous record, House With a Curse, left off. It conjures dark and brooding vibes while sounding snappy and boasting some ass shaking tunes as well. The sparse crowd inside The Satellite stood in a trance while Coliseum delivered their punk rock sermon from the stage.

How those three dudes made so much noise is beyond me. Even with ear plugs, the band was loud. I mean LOUD. The ocean blue lights and swelling tide of noisy beatdowns coming from the PA resembled a perfect storm of rock fury onstage. Coliseum's rhythm section is so on point it's ridiculous. The bass and drums lock into place like a locomotive while frontman/guitarist Ryan Patterson stood howling in the navy blue shadows onstage. His brief statements in between songs, thanking everyone in attendance for their support and the satisfying authenticity of the DIY scene the band hails from, was a totally welcome change of pace from the egocentric rock star attitudes that exist within the music industry today. "Black Magic Punks," "Love Under Will," and "Bad Will" all slayed live, but "Late Night Trains" was my absolute highlight of the night. These songs are so solid and so catchy they almost scream out for recognition. Why this band isn't touring with Queens of The Stone Age boggles my mind. They seriously deserve it.

The crappy iPhone video I shot doesn't do Coliseum justice. That, and it's super distorted from being right up in front. Anyways, here's a live version of "Late Night Trains," off Sister Faith that should get your toes tapping in no time. Remember to check this band out when they roll through your neck of the woods ASAP.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

Watching Gravity is a humbling experience. Feelings of awe and sheer terror are bound to surge through your gut as director Alfonso Cuaron takes you on the most fucked up thrill ride imaginable, 372 miles above the Earth.

Despite it's jaw dropping special effects (and 3D shenanigans), Gravity is actually a surprisingly simple story. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts repairing the Hubble Space Telescope when a rogue wave of debris trashes their shuttle and seriously ruins their day/lives. This is basically what you see in the film's trailer. The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game between humans vs physics in the terrifying vacuum of space. Think Castaway or Life of Pi, but shipwrecked in space...and instead of drowning, you drift aimlessly through the endless cosmos, forever.

Clooney does a great job playing himself, but it's Bullock who literally carries the film on her shoulders. I've never been a huge Sandra Bullock fan before, but her performance in Gravity is amazing and is basically her best role since Demolition Man. While the cast is great (both of em...they're the only two actors with any screen time) it's director Alfonso Cuaron who ends up stealing the show. His last film, 2006's Children of Men was both a technically dazzling and poignant film, with layered characters and plot that had little focus on special effects. Gravity is the exact opposite, a simple story with almost stock characters but features some of the most insane special effects and cinematic pizazz ever put onscreen. The opening sequence above Earth's orbit is one continuous 17 minute shot and is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. Hats off to Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for expanding upon their already legendary camera work from Children of Men and taking it to a whole new level. The sparse use of music and sound throughout the film demonstrates the frightening silence of space and reaffirms one of the scariest elements of the entire film: just how small and insignificant we are in the universe.

On a lighter note, Cuaron should be commended for loading Gravity with nods to other space films. Ed Harris provides the voice of NASA's Houston control straight outta Apollo 13, alongside a slew of references to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. While Kubrick's film saw space travel and technology as a path to mankind's transcendence (via monoliths and star babies), Gravity is all about forgoing the hustle and bustle of our high tech world (dAt astronaut LYFE) and remembering it's the little things that make life worth living. It's existential rebirth by way of oxygen deprived claustrophobia. You know, the fun stuff.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Awesome Photo (16)

Yours truly and the girlfriend getting photobombed by a herd of wild Australians. We were in town for the Jimmy Eat World concert and decided to do some touristy stuff when...well you see.

Also, this was not all. I set the timer on my camera and ran back to check the shots: they bombed everyone. Cool dudes, or blokes rather.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jimmy Eat World @ The House of Blues, Las Vegas. 9-25-13.

Iron Maiden shirt? Confirmed for AWESOMENESS
My love of Jimmy Eat World is well documented on this here bloggy blog. Well, the band just released a rocking new album this past spring called Damage, their best work since 2004's Futures in my humble opinion, so I was uber excited to catch them on tour this fall. Of course life would find a way to interfere with my JEW dreams (get it? get it?) and I would be unable to attend their show at The Palladium in Hollywood. There's only one thing to do in situations like this: trek through the desert and see them in Vegas.

The House of Blues in Las Vegas is a weird venue. It's actually inside the Mandalay Bay casino so right off the bat, you know there's some kind of spacial limitations going on. The venue/musical hall is below the restaurant in a large hallowed out bat cave that somehow is actually bigger than the House of Blues Anaheim. Yeah, weird. I've seen Lamb of God demolish a near sold out house, and Mastodon perform to like a handful of people inside this same venue and tonight's Jimmy Eat World gig was a mix of the two. People tend to think of Las Vegas as some kind of huge metropolis but in reality, it's not that big of a town. The turn out was good but not as large as a show in LA.

The crowd filtered in as opening act Matt Pond (and friends) played some upbeat indie/folk rock. Not too shabby, it was hardly amazing either but I did enjoy a few of their songs. The loyal JEW fans, and a small group of Jersey Shore dudes visiting The Strip who must have gotten lost, waited eagerly for Jim and co. to take the stage. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long. Despite being in Sin City, this was a super early show and the band begin their headlining set around 8 pm!

Jimmy Eat World are such a solid band. I know, their music isn't overtly complex with crazy time signatures and jazz breaks thrown in but still, they're just really tight and locked in. I guess being a band for 20 years well do that to you. They played new stuff off Damage which sounded just as good as on the album but with Jim making some crazy faces and contorting his body around before your eyes, making it extra cool. We made our way to the very front of floor, about second row right before the stage. That would have never happened if we went to their gig at The Palladium. Watching the band crank out hit after hit ("Pain," "Big Casino," "Sweetness") from such proximity was almost surreal. Like my iPod merged with a 3D printer and brought them to life just for me. I'd say "Authority Song" and "23" were my favorite songs of the night. One being the very definition of good time pop-rock and the other, the most heartfelt shit you'll ever here. Good times with Jimmy Eat World. They do not disappoint live...ever.

FIDLAR @ The Observatory, Santa Ana. 9/19/13.

FIDLAR- an acronym for "Fuck it Dog Life's a Risk," also...a sweet ass punk rock band from Southern California. They released their self-titled debut album earlier this year and just embarked on a headlining tour across the country, playing an amazing homecoming gig at The Observatory in Santa Ana. Fidlar earned a wild reputation playing raucous house parties and dive venues throughout Southern California, so to sell out a larger established venue like The Observatory on their first headlining run is kind of a big deal.

The Orwells and Meat Market served as the main support acts for the evening. Their blend of sun drenched garage rock was popular with the boisterous crowd (mainly teens and 20somethings) who were dead set on dancing, jumping and crowd surfing all night, come hell or high water. I couldn't really get into their sets all that much however. Meat Market had some good songs hidden under the jumbled mess that was their live performance, and The Orwells...well, they're really young (fresh outta high school) and had lots of energy but they were basically the worst Strokes cover band I could ever imagine. These two acts blended into one large repetitive blur and were simply outclassed by the band that preceded them, a punk rock power duo of identical twin fashion models called, The Garden. Yes, you read that correctly.

The Garden consist of brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears. They play a high octane brand of spazzy punk rock with elements of 80's goth thrown in for maximum mind fuckery. When they aren't gallivanting around the fashion world, they're shredding faces off onstage. Never heard of these guys before this show but I was definitely blown away by their performance. Check em out:

and then...there was Fidlar.

Less than a year ago I figured they were just some random local band opening for The Hives. I was wrong. This band is blowing up big and I'm glad I caught on the Fidlar train when I did. Their surf/skate punk sound is raw and earnest, but with insanely contagious pop hooks and delivered with heavy metal like precision ala their former tour mates The Hives. The band ripped through tracks off their new album along with songs from various EPs and splits with manic energy but maintained a humbling sense of gratitude throughout. They could have literally played the phone book and the kids in the crowd would have went ballistic regardless (case in point: The Orwells) but Fidlar went onstage with something to prove.

They earned their new found headliner status and were not taking it for granted. "Stoked and Broke" along "West Coast" and the set ending shenanigans of "Cocaine" were easily my personal highlights of the night. Oh, and those Descendents and Nick Cave covers were fucking awesome.  Don't sleep on Fidlar folks. When they take over the world in a few years, you'll totally regret it.