Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ingredients for a great concert

I saw Jeff Tweedy in Lincoln this past Saturday. The venue was great - a restored theatre. The musician - well, he's Jeff Tweedy (enough said). The set list was acoustic. And it featured whatever the hell Tweedy wanted to play. He's been known to dip way back into his days with Uncle Tupelo. For the few solo dates this year, he's been hitting Mermaid Avenue - Volumes One and Two pretty heavily.

This amounted to a great recipe for a flawless show. The only things that could mar this show would be the inescapable technical glitches and - maybe one or two unruly audience members.

... or a few dozen.

I saw a show that could have easily placed in my Top Five Concerts of All-Time list quickly derail as drunken sorority-age girls yelled out "California Stars!" - repeatedly. Guys with backwards baseball hats raised their arms and yelled out as Tweedy played through painfully quiet numbers like "Someone Else's Song." I can see how excited fans may have a hard time calming themselves down for a show like this - but many other audience members talked to each other - about their jobs, their neighbors, their roommates - with Tweedy simply being in the background, like someone playing at a piano bar.

Tweedy got off some nice blasts. He suggested that he should change the format of the show to be more in the style of a campfire "since you all like to use your mouths so much," he quipped. Tweedy also made the general observation about why it was strange that people would pay $25 to see a show and talk to each other just like they were at a bar ... when there were dozens of bars in the area where they could talk for free.

I took my sister's dogs running this Sunday. The samoyed got unruly. He playfully barked and antagonized a few other dogs. He started humping one of the dogs. Fortunately, the hump-ee sank her teeth into his fur and dragged him down. It's the pack mentality. One dog gets out of line, there's a few dogs in the pack who correct the dog with the attitude. That pack mentality is sorely needed for concerts like the one that was damn near ruined this past Saturday.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reenergize - and galvanize

So, I started a new job and I had to quit my job as a freelance writer because of conflicts of interest. I was fine with that - and will dutifully obey. Still, it's hard not to want to be in the game during times like this. Specifically, the controversy over the publication of offensive political cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. The Philadelphia Inquirer was one of the only major U.S. newspapers to publish these comics. Their act deserves to be lauded by newspapers not only in the U.S., but across the world.

The Times Watch (whose usual agenda, I'm not a huge fan of) did a decent summation of the double-standard by most newspapers. It's ironic that newspapers, in general, felt free to publish controversial artwork including Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Chris Olfini's "The Holy Virgin Mary", because both pieces triggered protests. Their art became news. However, the protests did not spark the death and destruction caused by the comics produced in the Danish newspaper. As an editor, I may have not published the comics when they first came out because they were offensive. However, the protests and violence sparked by many fundamentalist Muslims have inadvertently made these comics a news item. Most readers want to know what would cause such an outrage. Not publishing these photos is doing a disservice to the general reading audience. I understand the offense that register with many Muslims because of these comics. But taking into account the offense of a segment of the population, I believe these photos need to be published to bring greater insight on this story.

The majority of the United States is Christian. Still, many news editors published the images of the "Piss Christ" because they were using sound journalism judgment. Many ran disclaimers that stated the images on such-and-such page may be offensive for readers. Editors constantly have to weigh not offending religious groups, but in general, if it's newsworthy, many editors publish possibly offensive material. It's sad that fewer mainstream newspapers other than the Philadelphia Inquirer owned up to their responsibility for providing news to readers.

On a side note, the late comic Bill Hicks would have loved this. It's irony in its truest form: A group protests the depiction of their group appearing to be bloodthirsty terrorists... by killing people and setting fire to embassies. File this right up there with pro-lifers murdering abortion doctors.