I’m not sure that American Beauty is my favorite movie, but I’m pretty sure it has soaked deeper into my brain than any other. Certain images and episodes come to mind all the time — the fight over the beer that was about to spill on the couch, the “I want to look good naked” line, the phrase “Lawrence Welk shit” among them. The idea that comes up most, however, is the plastic bag thing — the scene in which we watch two characters watch a video of a plastic bag blowing in the wind. As he takes in his videographic handiwork, the creepy but ultimately awesome next door neighbor kid delivers the movie’s best line:
“Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I just can’t take it, and my heart is going to cave in.”
Later, Kevin Spacey tells us from beyond the grave that in situations like that, he’s learned (omniscience is quite handy) to let the beauty flow through him “like rain,” instead of trying to bottle it up. They’re talking about the sublime, which I wrote about just a few weeks ago, but they’re also talking about the part of human nature that makes us want to contain things. To corral them. To own them. Last Tuesday, I ran headfirst into this impulse thanks to the Punch Brothers show at the National.
Doesn’t matter how many times I do it, I never get sick of flipping through my dad’s records when I’m in Norfolk. He left behind one hell of a collection, as I’m sure I’ve told you before, and whenever I’m home seeing my mom, I thumb through the shelves of classical, jazz and folk titles waiting to be dusted off and put in active rotation in Richmond.
You’d think that after (more than) a few times through, I’d have picked out the stuff I wanted, leaving behind the stuff I didn’t want, but it doesn’t really work that way. Each time I take a spin through my dad’s collection, I’m a different person. I’ve almost always fallen for a classical piece that I flipped past the last time, I may have learned more about a jazz musician my dad liked or maybe I decided that the Kingston Trio is worth a shot after all. Because I’m different each time, the collection is different each time. Physically, it sits there gathering dust, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s constantly in flux.
I’ve got this kind of relative change on the brain because Nickel Creek’s new, hiatus-breaking album A Dotted Line just went up for a First Listen over at NPR.
My fingertips are still sore from that protracted Truckers recap I posted on Wednesday, but I wanted to sneak in a quick post about something I’ll be listening to over the weekend.
My iPhone’s been a real asshole lately. The battery life has tanked. It’s started shutting off unexpectedly in cold weather (“Oh, you’re trying to use Google Maps to navigate an unfamiliar city on foot in a snowstorm? Nap time, bitches!”). Speaking of naps, the sleep/wake button now requires an absurd amount of pressure, like a small and entirely un-fun version of that carnival game where you swing a sledgehammer to see how strong you are. Lately, its favorite trick has been refusing to send text messages or tweets for days at a time. Saturday — the day the Drive-By Truckers played at the National here in Richmond — happened to be one of those days. As a result, all my enthused mid-show exclamations went un-exclaimed.
In truth, it’s probably for the best. Looking back at the notes I took in my jerk phone’s Notes application, as well as the contents of my Twitter client’s drafts folder, I’m not sure my IPA-addled missives would have made much sense. All the same, I’d like to give a few of them a second chance and, since we’ve moved this party to the blogosphere, a little elaboration. We’ll call this Tweets That Never Were: Drive-By Truckers Edition.
Mark your calendars — on April 12, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra will paint the Altria Theater black (figuratively speaking, of course).
They’ll be partnering with Windborne Music for a “Music Of The Rolling Stones” program, complete with a full rock band, singer and a set list that, according to the Symphony’s website, contains “nearly all of the Stones’ number 1 hits.” I was curious about what went into a production like this, so I reached out to Windborne and talked with the company’s founder, Brent Havens. Arranging, conducting, and composing, Havens has developed nine of these symphonic rock programs (others include The Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd). He also composes for TV and film. He’s a busy dude.
We had a really interesting conversation, and you can read the highlights in this West End’s Best article.
I started writing YHT shortly after attending SXSW in 2011. Ironically, I wasn’t there for the music. I was part of a group of coworkers who attended the event’s Interactive wing, which wrapped up just as the music festival was getting ready to start in earnest. Boy, was walking through the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport on our last day painful. While we were sauntering toward our departure gate, people holding guitar cases were walking in the other direction, bringing the “two ships passing” metaphor to life in an exceedingly unwelcome way. I wanted to be on their boat! I even tried taking mental snapshots of their faces, thinking (either optimistically or naively) that they’d soon be famous as a result of their SXSW performance(s), and I wanted to be able to say “I saw [him/her/them] at the airport at SXSW!”
I’m whining, but the truth is that the Interactive conference was incredible.
I’ve been on an accidental movie chanteuse binge lately. Within the span of a little more than a month, I’ve posted about Karen O’s Oscar-nominated (and unfortunately Oscar-denied) “The Moon Song,” dusted off my dad’s copy of Doris Day’s Listen to Day while working from home, listened twice in a row to Leslie Uggams’ What’s an Uggams? (damn good record, right there), and last but certainly not least, fallen head over heels for a familiar recording I’d never given much thought to — Audrey Hepburn’s version of “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
What do backup dancers do? Backup dancers make the frontperson look good. They spice things up, they inject energy, they may display incredible talents, but it’s all done in the service of the star. In the video above, Hamilton Leithauser is the star — he takes the stage with a group of gals behind him, someone offstage tosses him the microphone, and off he goes. Lookin’ good. The video goes even further than that, because the first half has Leithauser hanging out in the dressing room before the dancers have even had a chance to slip on their sparkly outfits. Lookin’ meta good!
Could some of this frontman fourth wall breaking have to do with Leithauser’s situation vis-a-vis The Walkmen? With striking out on his own? Is some existential fat being chewed here? Maybe. But there’s another level I just love, and that level is Rostam Batmanglij.