Tag Archives: music

WBCN and The American Revolution

25 Apr

‘WBCN and The American Revolution’ tunes IFFB into rock history at weekend screening

 

The WBCN airstaff circa 1969 included Michael Ward, Steven Segal, J.J. Jackson, Al Perry, Sam Kopper, Jim Parry and Joe Rogers, aka Mississippi Harold Wilson. (Photo: David Bieber)

It’s been 10 years since WBCN, the radio station that defined rock ’n’ roll in Boston for more than four decades, went off the air. For anyone living in Boston before the Internet boom, ’BCN was as big a part of Hub life as the Celtics and the Red Sox – and now in a documentary by Bill Lichtenstein, “WBCN and The American Revolution,” the early days of the envelope-pushing radio station get their nostalgic due. The film plays this weekend as the Centerpiece Spotlight Documentary of the Independent Film Festival Boston.

The anniversary of the station’s demise wasn’t quite the impetus for the film, Lichtenstein said. “What drew me to the project, besides my roots, was that in the mid-2000s, in wake of 9/11 and Bush, there was a lot going on and people were not speaking up. John Kerry was running for president and Bruce Springsteen did a benefit concert and he was critiqued for being too political, and the same time, Napster started to bring back old songs and Bruce’s first interview at ’BCN showed up on the Internet,” Lichtenstein said. “I thought maybe I could go back and see what there was out there on ’BCN, because ’BCN had no archival footage.”

Lichtenstein, a Cambridge resident, began as a 14-year-old intern at the station in 1970, eventually becoming a DJ and newscaster. After leaving ’BCN, he worked at ABC in New York on news shows such as “20/20” and “Nightline.” Continue reading

Bike death at the Museum of Scince

10 Nov

 

A bicyclist died Friday after being hit by a dump truck at Museum Way and Monsignor O’Brien Highway, near the Museum of Science. (Image: Google)

A ripple of rage went through the bike community Friday when it was learned a 24-year-old cyclist and Cambridge resident was struck and killed by a dump truck at Museum Way and Monsignor O’Brien Highway, near the Museum of Science.

The truck was reportedly trying to make a turn onto Museum Way shortly before 8:15 a.m., with the cyclist on the right waiting to make the same turn. “When both the truck and bicyclist began to make their right turn, the bicyclist was struck by a tire of the truck,” according to state police.

The bicyclist was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from injuries from the incident, police said. The crash is under investigation and police are withholding the name of the victim until next of kin is notified. Boston student media identified the victim as Meng Jin, of Shanghai, who expected a graduate degree in economics next year.

The name of the truck driver, a 50-year-old man from Leicester, will not be released until the investigation determines if charges will be filed.

Last month dump truck driver Daniel Desroche, 54, of Methuen, was charged with negligent operation in connection with the crash that killed Cambridge’s Jie Zhao, 27, who was walking at Magazine Street and Putnam Avenue in the Cambridgeport neighborhood.

“This has to stop,” city councillor Quintin Zondervan said. “It is inexcusable that we continue to allow these dangerous trucks to operate on our city streets without requiring them to have guardrails, sensors, automatic braking, collision avoidance, backup cameras and all other technical and other safeguards to maximally reduce the chances of them running us over.” 

Heather Allen, a Cambridge mother of four children who ride, pointed to the dicey nature of the stretch of road, where cars exceed the speed limit regularly and bicyclists are intimidated from taking the full lane, despite being allowed by traffic signs. “It is unconscionable that the Charles River Dam road still lacks bicycle lanes,” Allen said. 

Bike advocate Jon Ramos of Somerville and Steve Bercu of Cambridge, who serves on the board of the Boston Cyclists Union, were more critical of state Department of Transportation oversight of the roadway, where safety improvements were promised for after the Longfellow Bridge was completed in the spring. “Where are the changes?” Ramos said, “How many deaths is it going to take to fix all of your known problem roadways?” Many in the cycling community shared that upset with the agency’s delay – one using the phrase “blood on their hands.”

The agency, through its communications department, said, “We express our sincere condolences to the family of the victim and will continue to work with key stakeholders to ensure ongoing pedestrian, cyclist and vehicular safety throughout this area and around the commonwealth.”

The agency’s plan for safety improvements – still on the books – is mostly for line striping; the Cambridge Bicycle Safety Group, citing an increasing number of fatalities since 2015, prefers protected bike lanes. Ramos said the solution that would have avoided the day’s tragedy was protected intersections.

Ricki and the Flash

10 Aug

‘Ricki and the Flash’: Rocker mom returns in drama choreographed by top doc talent

How much fun is “Ricki and the Flash”? It’s got a little bit of everything – sentimental schmaltz, family healing, trauma, small victories and a whole host of social skewering both on the subtle and not-so-subtle side, all punctuated or punctured as may be by paradox and flip sides (including a feminist-postured mom who voted for Bush twice). The film too is a film of two halves – generally not a good thing – but the man behind the lens, Jonathan Demme, has gone big (“Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia”), gone small (“Melvin and Howard”) and done the rock thing (“Stop Making Sense,” one of the top rock docs of all time) and has always been a master craftsman, always focusing on the human condition and character development. He knows how to connect with  his material and his audience, and the pairing with screenwriter Diablo Cody makes real sense, as the film is a clash of ideals within a familial unit, something she tackled and won much acclaim for with “Juno.”

080915i Ricki and the FlashIn a bold turn, Meryl Streep plays the Ricki of the film’s title, a middle-aged woman with half dreads and jingle-jangle jewelry since long ago leaving her family in middle America to become a rock star in California. She didn’t, mind you; she plays as the lead of a house band in a local roadhouse dive playing covers of classics and newer stuff such as Lady Gaga and Pink to draw in the younger set. By day she works at Total Foods, where she is reminded constantly to smile for the customers who have shopping bills bigger than her weekly salary (yes, it’s a dig on Whole Foods) and she’s just filed for Chapter 11.

The film gets lift when Ricki’s ex, Pete (Kevin Kline, in his third pairing with Streep) calls and requests her help – their daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, in a breakout performance) is depressed after going through a divorce and Maureen (Audra McDonald), Pete’s wife who raised the kids and is no fan of Ricki, is in Seattle dealing with a an ailing pop. There’s a lot of resentment toward Ricki, but there’s nothing like a stash of weed and a chance encounter with Julie’s ex and his new love interest to get things moving toward reconciliation. The razor-sharp, wily dialogue by Diablo Cody and crisp execution by the performers bring this to life with a genuine palatability that in the hands of anyone lesser would drift into the realm of hyperbolic insincerity.  Continue reading

Whiplash

22 Jan

J.K. Simmons (right) leaves behind his affable persona to play a hot-headed jazz chair who berates his musicians, most commonly Andrew (Miles Teller, left) in Whiplash

J.K. Simmons, the gummy affable bald guy who frequently crowds your TV in those semi-humorous Farmers University Insurance ads, has been a long-toiling character actor waiting for his thick slab of meat. In the interim, he has projected a similar amiable persona as the dad in the indie hit Juno and conjured up something a bit more cantankerous and angry as the news editor J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy. With Whiplash, Simmons finally gets his steak, and a hunk of Kobe at that.  Continue reading

Björk: Biophilia Live

13 Nov
A 50-year-old Björk gets celestial in the new concert film: Björk: Biophilia Live

Outlandish Icelandic performance artist Björk has long been a polarizing figure. When we think of the now-50-year-old musician, there are two things that cannot be denied. For one, the singer’s warbling high-pitched wails never fail to enchant. And two, she seems as youthful now as she did with the Sugarcubes nearly three decades ago.

Current generations may not remember the Cubes or even Björk’s foray into acting in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, for which she won best actress at Cannes in 2000. Perhaps more notable is the notorious swan dress she wore to the Oscars in 2001. That dress, a bellwether of the singer’s fashion sensibility, is a benign infraction compared to the strange frock she dons in her new concert film, Björk: Biophilia Live. It looks like melted and oozing human breasts fused together. Think of the raw garishness of Lady Gaga’s meat dress, and you’d be close to imagining Björk’s latest foray into fashion freakiness. In the concert flick, she also sports a dramatic orange wig, reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s ‘do in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Björk is a baroque caricature, but her appearance is no longer a distraction once a song begins.  Continue reading

Frank

6 Nov
Michael Fassbender plays an enigmatic band leader who wears a mask both on and off stage in Frank

Gimmicks get you gigs, or at least that’s the implied mantra for novelty acts like GWAR and KISS, where garish garnish generates spectacle, buzz, and ticket sales. The same might be said of Soronprfb, the band with the intentionally unpronounceable name in the movie Frank, where the lead singer wears a giant papier-mâché head bearing a blue-eyed boyish countenance. Soronprfb however doesn’t seek fame and fortune; they desire artistic respect and only produce work that reflects their values and integrity.

Just what those values are remains murky, but you can’t deny their commitment to this esoteric tenet. Playing to handfuls in random dives, eschewing promotion (social or otherwise), and lacking cash, might be setbacks and poor decisions to some, but for Soronprfb it’s a badge of honor and a starving artist rallying point. And when the time strikes to record a new album, the group turns-off, drops out, and cloisters away to a quaint lake-side lodge somewhere in the Irish north, where they resign to remain until the necessary inspiration descends and the new disc is pressed from their argumentative malaise.

Continue reading

Inside: Llewyn Davis

26 Dec

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: An impassioned troubadour with real couch jumping skills

By Tom Meek
December 20, 2013

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If there’s one thing about a Coen brothers movie, it’s never boring and usually a fresh spin on something that’s been dogeared and begging for a makeover. Sure, they’ve had some arguable miscues (”The Ladykillers” and “The Hudsucker Proxy”), but you have to admire the brothers for their panache, appetite and diversity. Their southwest thriller, “No Country for Old Men,” exceeded the vision of Cormack McCarthy’s laconic prose, “The Big Lebowski” become an instant cult staple and “Blood Simple” was a perfect Hitchcock homage without egregiously lifting. And of course there’s “Fargo,” perhaps the crowning jewel of the duo’s quirky repertoire. If the brothers Coen decided to step in and helm the next chapter of “The Expendables” franchise, even if addled by a script by series star Sylvester Stallone, I’d be the first in line to buy a ticket. You can’t go wrong. Whatever they do, it might not be your cup of tea, but it will stir your gray matter.

122013i Inside Llewyn DavisFor their latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Joel and Ethan have wound back the clock to bohemian New York circa 1960, as doo-wop fades, mixes with the passion of the beats and folds in with the rising folk rock movement. It’s a time of discovery preceding Vietnam, counterculture rebellion and free love, yet still rooted loosely in post-World War II morality. The film’s titular hero, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), is an idealist and a self-absorbed asshole who’s intermittently sympathetic. By trade he’s a merchant marine shipping out with a gunny sack for long hauls, but he’s also an impassioned troubadour, plucking gentle, heartfelt ballads about daily misery and eternal yearning.  Llewyn takes himself quite seriously, and he’s also quick to take a handout and has no qualms about bitting the hand that feeds.  Continue reading