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By Brian Carpenter on July 19, 2009 8:51 PM
Beat Circus CD release show tickets on sale Friday
I'm very excited to announce an epic bill
for our Boston CD release show. This show marks a reunion with our beloved REVEREND GLASSEYE (relocated from Boston to Austin two years ago) who will debuting a new band and playing new songs as well as some of the older material. In addition, the astounding 30-piece circus punk marching band from Chicago MUCCA
PAZZA, Boston supergroup KETMAN,
and singer/multi-instrumentalist/phenomenon LARKIN
GRIMM (Young God Records) all help us release our third full-length
Boy From Black Mountain (Cuneiform Records) on Friday September
11 at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge MA. And we've scheduled the cd release show 2 weeks in advance of the actual street date so you can get your hands on the album early!
Tickets go on sale Friday July 24th in person at the Middle
East Box Office (1-7pm every day) and at all Ticketmaster locations. Get
tickets soon as these are going to go quickly! More information on the SHOWS
By Brian Carpenter on July 19, 2009 7:24 AM
The Old, Weird America at DeCordova
Paran of Beat Circus recently told me about an exhibit at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln called "The Old, Weird America". Their website states it is "the first museum exhibition to explore the widespread resurgence of
folk imagery and mythic history in recent art from the United States." The title was borrowed from Greil Marcus' 1997 book about the influence of folk music on Bob Dylan and the Band's album "The Basement Tapes". Part of the exhibit showcased Harry Smith's "Anthology of Folk Music" with the original liner notes and a listening booth.
I found some of the works to be rather heavy-handed and preachy, unsubtle lashing out at the Iraq War and the religious right. Other pieces, such as Deborah Grant's acrylic on birch panel tiles "Where Good Darkies Go" were exceptional pieces of Americana storytelling.
Kara Walker's film "8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America" was showing in a dark room with a sign out front warning adults with children about "controversial themes and explicit subject matter". We brought Alexander along and this woman walking out turns to me as we're about to walk in, "This is *really* explicit". She seemed rather horrified by it. I'm often as interested in people's reactions to the work as I am the work itself. There was an elderly couple in there and about halfway through one of the films the man turns to the woman and says "I'm ready to go when you are". Much to his dismay, she says "I want to see the rest of it."
The film was in 8 parts. I didn't make it through all 8 parts as Alexander was getting restless, but I saw a challenging and thought-provoking comment on race stereotypes in America, all within Walker's surreal, dreamlike world of black cut-paper siluhouettes. It was cast in the spirit of dark Southern Gothic storytelling with late 1920s jazz such as King Oliver's "Call of the Freaks" playing throughout. Recently I'd been reading a lot about 1920s jazz and I couldn't help finding parallels between this and Leroi Jones's "Blues People: Negro Music in White America" as I was watching it.
For those in the Boston area, I'd recommend seeing the exhibit. It runs through September 7th; more information at the DeCordova website.
By Brian Carpenter on July 12, 2009 9:09 AM
The Fog of War
In 2003 Cambridge-based filmmaker Errol Morris released his film "The Fog of War", which turned out to be one of the most important documentaries of recent years, if only to shed light on the wars Robert McNamara helped orchestrate. This includes behind-the-scenes conversations about LeMay's firebombings of Japan, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. McNamara was the Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson and before that, served under Curtis LeMay during WWII. He died last week at the age of 93.
I found Morris's treatment of the material to be moving and informative and I keep coming back to this film. I saw this film in the theater on its release and some time later ran into Morris with his son at Rodney's Bookstore in Central Square. I wasn't sure it was him. But I approached him anyway and asked him "Are you Errol Morris?" He seemed genuinely surprised anyone would recognize him. I told him I had just seen the film and was really moved by it and thanked him for it.
I've been following Errol Morris's work ever since I saw "The Thin Blue Line". I was particularly intrigued by his "first-person" interview techniques and I asked him about the Interrotron, which is a camera he built specifically to allow his interview subjects to look directly at him while also looking directly into the camera lens, thus appearing to speak to the viewer directly. I was just trying to figure out how it worked because I had been interviewing people for a documentary of my own and trying to capture that. (As he explained, on films prior to the advent of the Interrotron, he sat as close to the lens as possible, even if he had to sit in front of the camera operator.)
At the time of the release of "The Fog of War" the U.S. was deep into the Iraq War with W. and everything McNamara was saying could just as easily been said about what we were going through in 2003. I watched the film again this weekend on DVD and found it to be just as exciting as it was then, which is remarkable for the fact that the only person featured is McNamara. But the editing of the archival footage combined with Philip Glass's incredible score and McNamara's accounts of what happened makes for a riveting documentary.
Morris won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for this film. Well deserved. Highly recommended.
A conversation with Robert McNamara and Errol Morris on "The Fog of War"
Op-Ed in last week's New York Times
By Brian Carpenter on July 5, 2009 5:34 PM
The cover illustration for Boy From Black Mountain is by the great Carson Ellis from Portland, Oregon. Carson is known for her illustrations for children's books such as The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Composer Is Dead and her artwork for The Decemberists. She and her husband Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) have a three-year old son Hank. Carson used the photograph of my grandparents' house pictured in the previous blog entry as inspiration for the house in the lower left corner. Boy From Black Mountain will be released September 29, 2009 in the US and Europe on Cuneiform Records.