Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Signature Win of the Trestman Era

I'm a superstitious sort when it comes to sports. If my team wins, I believe that whatever I was wearing for that win has somehow gained mystical power. I'll keep on wearing it until it fails me. Thus it was that after #DaBears surprising home loss to the Bills in the season opener that I did NOT again wear my brand-spanking new Brandon Marshall jersey for Sunday night's game at the 49ers as I had in Week 1.

No, for Week 2 Sunday Night Football it was back to the alternate orange Jay Cutler jersey (my home blue #54 having been retired indefinitely some time last year around Urlacher was spewing off about being treated "unfairly" by the Bears organization for them having the audacity to offer him an above-market value contract).

And so it was that sometime early in the second quarter, the Bears having gone down 17-0 and looking quite terrible doing it, that the the ol' #6 ended up off of my body and on the floor of my room. At that point, the game was, essentially and in my mind, O-V-E-R.

Except when it all of a sudden wasn't.

In a stunning 28-20 come-from-behind win, the Bears ruined the opening of San Francisco's sparkling new Levi Stadium and finally attained the signature win of the Marc Trestman era. They won in the Bay Area for the first time since 1985. They won with Jay Cutler emerging as a leader and demonstrating the physical and mental toughness that his critics have turned a blind eye to all these years. They won with their biggest weapons -- Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey -- being at the MOST 65% due to injuries. They won despite losing their heart and soul -- Charles Tillman -- to a reinjured tricep (likely ending his career). The won by being dominant on both lines in the second half. They won, simply, because they did not give. The season looked a lot brighter on Monday morning than it did on Monday, September 8.

#BearDown. Bring on the Jets.



Friday, August 1, 2014

PHISH @ Merriweather

A mere five days after seeing three nights in Chicago, PHISH showed up at my home venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion for two more nights. That's a lot of PHISH for the Genius!

Let me tell you, they are playing GREAT right now. It's hard for me to imagine that they've ever been any better than they are right now. I know everyone says the late 90s up to an including Big Cyprus was the band's heyday but, again, I can't imagine them not being at least as good now as they were then. They're simply crushing it, every night.

For this trip, we stayed at the lovely Red Roof Inn in Jessup, MD and what a scene it was! Tons of hippies doing hippie things. For example, our next door neighbor, EB, was a complete show, vaping hash oil and hopped up on acid (btw, from this weekend it seems as though acid has made a *major* comeback with the hippie set), getting his mind blown by my friend's #DinosaurTruther spiel. The dude told us a story of his house getting robbed and getting shot (for his drugs) and then not even caring if the shooter was ever caught because "The cops gave me a break on the drugs I had in the house." Absurd! Anyway, on to the shows...



SATURDAY (7/26)

SET ONE: Sample in a Jar, The Moma Dance, Wombat, Backwards Down the Number Line, Roggae, The Wedge, Wolfman's Brother, Nellie Kane, Lawn Boy, The Line, Stash, Suzy Greenberg

SET TWO: Carini, Ghost, Steam, The Mango Song, Sing Monica, Light, 2001, Harry Hood

ENCORE: Julius

We really lucked out this night. Two of us had pavilion seats and stubbed the other three of us down. Amazingly, the three seats that were not ours were never occupied the entire show! Like I said, lucky.

I'm usually not a fan of either Steam or Light but they killed every song, including these two. One of my buddies -- who we call a "Phish Snob" -- complained about them fucking up The Mango Song in Chicago (which, of course, I did not notice) but, to the extent they did, this one was perfect. The Hood was probably the highlight though.

SUNDAY (7/27)

SET ONE: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw it Again, Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

SET TWO: Wilson, Tweezer, Back on the Train, Tweezer, Back on the Train, Tweezer, Waiting All Night, Free, Tweezer, Simple, Tweezer, Free, Catapult, Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease, NICU, Hold Your Head Up, Jennifer Dances, Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

ENCORE: Boogie on Reggae Woman, Tweezer Reprise

In the lawn tonight...Storms held off all night until I was driving back to DC...Another stroke of luck!

Trey initially forgot the words to the last verse of Fee (performed with megaphone) but then did it out of order. When the song finished he said, laughingly, "The words might not have all been in the right order but they were all there!" Ha! Oh, that Trey.

Again, they were completely on their game. They love playing Saw it Again at MPP and who am I to complain about it?

The second set, with all the in-and-out of Tweezer was, quite simply, unreal. For Jennifer Dances, Trey and Fishman switched spots...


Trey requested Jennifer Dances, then Fishman didn't know the words but did the best he could. Then he ran around the stage like a crazy person. 

Then they handed things over to Paige for Been Around Awhile, which ended with the band doing a conga line around the stage, backstage, then back on the stage again. Another really cool moment:


Then, after the concert, oh man, NITROUS ISLAND! MPP has been notorious for its tough police presence but I guess they're lightening up. I saw just as many cops but they weren't doing anything. Right at the entrance to the back parking lot, down the hill from the venue, THREE tanks going at once. The "supply car" was parked right by me and they kept running the fresh tanks and bags of balloons from there. This went on for at least the hour we were waiting for traffic to clear and God knows how much longer after we escaped. Insanity!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Epic Chicago PHISH Weekend

Having just returned from three nights of PHISH at Chicago's First Merritt Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, I decided to take some time on PhantasyTour and figure out, once and for all, how many PHISH shows I've been to. A few of the were a little fuzzy as to whether I had gone or not (I had memories both ways).  Best I can tell I have gone to somewhere between 31 and 34 shows since 2003. Not too bad!

Anyway, here's a little bit about this past weekend's shows back in Sweet Home Chicago.

From phish.com
FRIDAY

What an absolutely amazing weekend of weather in Chicago. For mid-to late-July the temperatures -- upper-70s during the day, low-70s at night, is simply unheard of. Plenty of sun. Barely any clouds in the sky the entire time. Perfect.

For all three nights, my brother and I, and an assorted crew of people he knew (or friends of people he knew) had General Admission Floor tickets. I had never been to Northerly Island. It's in an amazing location, right on the Lake, by the Planetarium, Aquarium and Soldier Field. It's a bit weird, however, that the Floor and the Lawn are completely separate and that the Lawn is not at all elevated above Floor level. In other words, even with a Floor ticket, I could not get to the Lawn (nor could I even see it). 

For Night 1 it was my brother and I, one of his St. Louis buddies from IU and a few of that kid's friends. 

This is about where we were all three nights on the Floor:


Setlist

Set 1: 555 (new), Kill Devil Falls, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, Waiting All Night (new), Birds of a Feather, Halfway to the Moon (new), Sparkle, Sample in a Jar, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Stash, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Golden Age, The Mango Song, Sand, Piper, Halley's Comet, Wombat (new), Chalk Dust Torture, Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Julius

Set 2 was undeniably better than the first. The highlight of the night was definitely Mango, followed by Chalkdust, followed by Julius. Solid opening night to the weekend though.

SATURDAY

Same crew as Friday night, but with the additions of two others -- our neighbor from behind our house growing up and B-Rad's best friend from high school who is an absolutely ridiculous character and always entertaining.

Setlist

Set 1: The Moma Dance, Wolfman's Brother, Devotion to a Dream (new), 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Brian and Robert, Wingsuit (new), Tube, Free, Roggae, Heavy Things, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Carini, Waves, Fuego (new), Twist, Light, Twenty Years Later, Harry Hood, Cavern

Encore: Grind, Bug, Suzy Greenberg

Trey absolutely killed it all night. He was jumping up and down from the first riff during Moma Dance. Highlight was definitely the Hood.

SUNDAY

A friend of a friend of B-Rad, who we met during the New Year's run at MSG this past year was at all three shows and happens to have a boat in Chicago. He rented a slip right next to the venue and graciously invited us out on the boat with his crew Sunday before the show. What a view of the City from the Lake!


Setlist

Set 1: Gumbo, Runaway Jim, Tela, The Line (new), Scent of a Mule, Bathtub Gin, Silent in the Morning, Maze, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

Set 2: Down with Disease, Winterqueen (new), Theme from the Bottom, Mike's Song, The Wedge, Ghost, Weekapaug Groove, First Tube

Encore: Character Zero

Overall, just a great show. Trey shredded Tela. The Bathtub, Maze, Walls of the Cave, DWD and Character Zero were all very, very good.

********************

Just a completely superior weekend of music/hanging out. Perfect weather. Great music. B-Rad and I got along great the entire time. 

Mr. Fry was at Dogtopia and seemed to have his typically good time. He was quite tired when I picked him up!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Movies! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Apes on horseback brandishing machine guns? 

Apes on horseback brandishing machine guns!!! 

If that's not #America, I don't know what is!!!


Hollywood is hurting this summer. The 2014 box office is down something like 20% over last year. Even Transformers 4 has underwhelmed (though still wildly successful due to being the highest grossing movie in China ever). Hollywood needed a hit to prevent the summer from becoming a route and the Apes delivered to the tune of $78MM domestically (20th Century Fox had predicted $55-60MM) and more than $100MM worldwide.

The film is also highly reviewed (91% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience rated (A- on CinemaScore).  The one semi-bad review I've seen comes from FilmDrunk's reviewer but I have been finding myself disagreeing with the entire Uproxx family more and more.

Anyway, on to the movie -- CAUTION SPOILERS AHEAD

The opening credits trace the global spread of the Simian Flu that was created in the first movie. Basically, all of humanity was wiped out save a minuscule percentage that are genetically immune. 

From the credits, the first 15 or so minutes of the movie concentrate solely on the Ape Civilization that Caesar has created in the Muir Woods north of San Francisco since the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes

We start with a scene of a coordinated hunt between the males of the society. Caesar has taught them some form of sign language that he originally learned from James, James, James, JAMES FRANCO!  They have quite a nice treetop kind of town built, with the orangutan from the first movie, Maurice, leading the younglings in some rudimentary eduction system, built upon the premise that "Ape Not Kill Ape". Caesar has a son who would fit the "petulant teenager" stereotype of any human coming of age movie. Caesar has a best friend, Koba, who isn't quite as enlightened on the subject of humanity as Caesar is.

It's quite impressive what Caesar has done in the ten years -- we learn it has been "ten winters" in the woods with no human contact at all in the last two. Thus, the Apes think the humans are gone just at the moment they of course appear.

You see, Jason Clarke (Malcolm) and Gary Oldman (Dreyfus)have together built a survivor's village in the ruins of San Francisco. Problem is that they're only a few weeks away from running out of diesel fuel (their only source, naturally). There is, however, a dam in Ape Territory that they might be able to switch on, providing them with power and a way to possibly contact any other survivors in the outside world. So, Jason Clarke leads a team into Ape Territory (not knowing the apes are there) to try to find it. The team includes his son, new wife (Keri Russell/Ellie) and a a few others, including Hey It's That Guy nominee, Kirk Acevedo.


Hey, It's Me. You might remember me from such shows as
Band of Brother, Oz, Fringe and many, many others.
Of course, upon coming across two Apes, the humans freak out, Acevedo shoots one, mistrust ensues, yada yada yada, the humans return to San Francisco empty-handed.

From then on the movie essentially simplifies (some would say over simplifies) to Caesar/Malcolm = Good, trusting, want peace vs. Koba/Dreyfus = Bad, mistrustful, want war. That's pretty much it. 

Caesar leads the apes into town in a show of force to tell the humans, "Don't call us, we'll call you." Malcolm still goes back up to ApeTown anyway and somehow convinces Caesar to let them attempt to fix the damn. This does not sit well with Koba who does a little spying on the humans and finds out that Dreyfus has them sitting on an absolute fucking arsenal of guns, leading to further mistrust, etc.

Koba eventually schemes to shoot Caesar and blame it on the humans, leading him to take over in what is basically a secret coup, invade the armory and attack/imprison the humans. These action set pieces are extremely well done with flawless CGI and motion capture.  The leap in the Andy Serkis-led motion capture from even the first movie is simply amazing. And, as always, Serkis brings it.

Caesar, of course, despite appearances to the contrary, survives Koba's schemes and is found by Malcolm, et al., who nurse him back to health at his old James Franco pad, then leads his loyalists against Koba and his loyalists. They battle. Caesar obviously wins. The End.

TGS GRADE: Solid B

Randoms:

  • As per the usual, really good score by one of the masters, Michael Giacchino.
  • It was hard for me to watch Jason Clarke and not think of Dan, his Zero Dark Thirty character (for my money, both this and Django were better than the 2013 Best Picture winner, Argo).
  • Ditto Keri Russell her Elizabeth from The Americans (which, btw, is one of the best dramas on television. Season 2 really upped the quality and tension from Season 1. F/X is the HBO of basic cable).
  • Koba might be a bad egg but he's not stupid. His "I'm-a-Dumb-Funny-Chimp" routine he uses on the two human rubes to get their gun is brilliant and hilarious.
  • The movie ends with Caesar back in control and deciding to hunker down in SanFran to wait for whatever human attack is coming. Apparently additional footage was shot, but not included, whereby the apes on are on the Golden Gate Bridge with U.S. warships approaching in the distance. Would have preferred that
  • There was some "controversy" on the Right that this is a pro-gun control movie. Personally, I didn't get that at all. Neither did John Nolte over at BigHollywood so I think I'm in good company.
  • Next Movie Up: Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm intrigued. Could be God-awful but I trust Marvel at this point (despite this recent head-scratcher) and like Chris Pratt a lot. We shall see.
  • Pretty crappy trailers to include Weather: The Movie (aka "Into the Storm"), Sin City 2, some Denzel movie with the unfortunate title of The Equalizer. The one good one was for Ridley Scott's Moses movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings (starring the always awesome Cristian Bale):



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Idiot Box: Californication Bids "Adieu"


One of television's best and most memorable characters -- David Duchovy's Hank Moody -- bowed out with Californication's seventh season, and series, finale, a few weeks ago.  Really, in this day in age, it's remarkable that such a raunchy, un-PC show could last seven seasons, even if on premium cable (Showtime).

For those of you who haven't seen the show, Hank Moody is a professional writer, basically marooned in Los Angeles, a city he despises (especially compared to his one true home, NYC), to be closer to his daughter, Becca, and his baby momma and One True Love, Karen. Why aren't Hank and Karen married, you might ask? Well, good ol' Hank has a bit of a problem controlling his sexual urges. Simply, he can't. Not only that but his witty cynicism/sarcasm, not to mention supreme confidence with the ladies, basically makes for hot chicks throwing themselves at him 24/7. Tough to turn down conditions like that, wouldn't you think? So bottom line: despite being extremely intelligent and funny, with a line for every situation, Hank is also, which he admits himself, pretty much an asshole. On top of all that he boozes to great excess, loves pot and chain smokes cigarettes.

Thus, throughout the run of the series, Hank and Karen (played by the always-lovely Natascha McElhone) circle back towards each other repeatedly, coming just THIS close to finally getting back together for good, when some Hank fuckup, whether recent or not-so-recent, comes to light to much up everything, with Becca in the middle of it all.

[Aside: The BIGGEST of Hank's many, many fuckups, occurs in the series pilot but doesn't rear its ugly head until the end of Season 4 (I think?) just when it seems that Hank and Karen have gotten over all of his shit. Basically, a fetching young lass picks up Hank in a bookstore. A one-night stand ensues only for Hank to later realize that (1) this Mia chick is, wait for it...underage (!) and (2) the daughter of Karen's at-the-time fiancĂ©. #Awkward]

Around for all of these misadventures are the couple's best friends, Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcie Runkle (Pamela Aldon) (Charlie is also Hank's agent) -- two of the most sexually fucked up people around. Their misadventures are almost as entertaining as Hank's!

The seventh and last season has been the most "out there" of the series, with Becca gone backpacking through Europe and not seen until the penultimate episode and Hank writing for a network television show. In the course of writing for that show (executive produced by Rick Rath, with Michael Imperioli sporting some of the worst hair imaginable), Hank discovers that a one-night stand from long ago in the past (pre-Karen) resulted in a son, Levon. This baby momma? One still-bangin' Heather Graham.  At first I didn't like the Levon character but, much as he visibly grew on Hank, he also grew on me.

Cool hair Bro.
The final season, while entertaining as Californication usually is, actually suffered from the absence of Becca, which is strange in that I never really cared for the character. But it seemed as though Hank's misbehavior had stakes when she is around. Sure, Karen gets pissed at him but it always seemed inevitable that Karen would always forgive him, at least in time. Becca, though, there was always a real sense that he could fuck up just one time too many to ultimately lose Becca for good.

When Becca returns, she's engaged. This does not sit well with Hank until he finally figures his shit out. The episode ends with him making Karen swoon for him one final time (because of his writing, of course) and the two of them sitting next to each other on a plane back to NYC for Becca's wedding. We flash back to Hank and Becca through the seasons, to the tune of "Rocket Man" (the Hank Moody theme song, basically).

If you're looking for a TV show to binge upon, you could do worse than Californication. The seasons are a breeze to get through. You just have to be prepared for a lot of tits and ass and more raunchiness than you've seen on a show before. It's consistently funny, however, and you'll never not be rooting for Hank, despite his many, many, MANY fuckups.

Random:
  • This show had amazing recurring guest stars. Just a few: Judy Greer, Rob Lowe, Needlenose Ned Ryerson (Steven Tobolowski), Kathleen Turner, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, the RZA, Rick Springfield (as himself), one of my personal faves, Natalie Zea (Yes and Please!) and, of course, the introduction to the massive mammories of Eva Amurri (Susan Sarrandon's daughter).