Peter, Bjorn, John, Rabbits And Ruffians
Yes, we do leave home. Jaded Insider popped out last night to New York's Bowery Ballroom to weigh in on some bands that blogs seem to be weighing in on. NYC band White Rabbits scored a coveted opening slot for headliners Peter, Bjorn and John the past few nights, and it's a shame that more people didn't show up for their set. They have a guy playing drums who sorta looked like Chris Elliott and a guy singing who sorta looked like Brandon Flowers' little brother. At least to us. They sounded like a hybrid of the Walkmen, the Stills and, when they brought out their sax player, Morphine. All of these are good things, and their piano-heavy, bluesy numbers were the best. Say Hey Records seems to have picked them up.
As people started filling up the club, slightly blog-buzzed band the Born Ruffians took the stage. They made us feel old because they didn't look a day over the ripe age of 16. And we, along with the rest of the crowd, were bored to death by this Toronto three piece. J.I. suggests they work on stage presence, songwriting and getting older. They played watered down Strokes-sounding songs, which made us try and think of names to call them. The best we came up with was "The Faux-kes." Hey, it was a long day.
So on to the Swedes everyone was here to see. P, B & J (as some fans shouted) have a mod thing going on; they look dapper, and the lead singer resembles Jimmy Fallon. Their shows are as energetic as they can be, for summer-time-happy Swede pop. Today, blogs like Brooklyn Vegan have been on fire about how mediocre this band was the past few nights. We here saw this coming; their album, "Writer's Block," gets a domestic release next week, and on the whole it is fine, despite garnering over the top positive reviews. It's average-sounding pop songs that are neither bad, nor amazing, and P,B & J played those average-sounding pops songs, averagely.
Idol Chatter: Really, How Many Times Can We Tolerate The Phrase 'Sweet Home Alabama'
But, AI, if you're you're going to tout the talent pool of Birmingham, Ala., would you mind showing us more of it? Apparently 20 contestants for "American Idol" were selected over the two days, but we only saw, what, four of them?
One Hollywooder was clearly going to be Jamie Lynn Ward, whose made-for-TV backstory seems so completely unreal, we don't know if we believe it or handle the truth: she lives with her grandmother because her father shot the poor girl's stepmother after catching her "in the act" of cheating on him, then shot himself, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. She put a little too much into the flourishes of her song, but otherwise, we might not ever be able to bring ourselves to disliker her lest we be sent directly to hell.
Another sent on the next round was Bernard. He sang "Rock With Me." We would like to rock with him. Katie, who would not live down the annoyingness of her own voice, made it on to the next round because Paula wanted to annoy Simon. She also clearly wanted to annoy us.
Since these audition rounds are meant to appeal to viewers who enjoy a particular brand of schadenfreude, we'll indulge in what it is we're supposed to be indulging: commenting on the stupid crap people wear. Our eyes glaze over at the multitude of girls in cotton+sequined tops and boys with shirts buttoned down to <here>. Wow, that Mormon chick sure did have some long hair. The chicken lady (see above) and She Of The Single Glove depressed us more than anything else. We get it, AI, fat people are funny.
Oh, but you know who else is funny? Chris. We'd like to go out for a drink with him, maybe play some skee ball or something. The dude was dry, down to earth and just gave us a Team Taylor-like feeling all over again. We hope his song selection at least improves ("Kissed By a Rose?" More like "Bored By a Song," knawwhatI'msayin'?) because his attitude is top notch, even though he kind of reminds us of Hurley from "Lost."
The Best Week Ever: Weeks 3-4
With all this Police reunion news, we fell a bit behind with "The White Rapper Show," but managed to pull it together. And all we can say is poor, poor G-Child. We at J.I. were saddened to see her leave at the end of week three. Despite not having anything remotely interesting to say or offer, she was kinda growing on us. You could start to tell she really wanted this "respect" and, when she proclaimed, "rapping is all she knows," it was disheartening to think this could be her only shot.
Brand Nubian made an appearance. It was barely insightful. The gang was then carted out to Long Island to participate in a mock game show, called "Affirmative Reaction." It was completely low-budget and utilized stock crowd footage, to make it appear that there was a real studio audience. JI was not fooled!
What's becoming a bit problematic, for J.I. and the (white) rappers during week 3, is that they aren't doing too much involving rapping. It might become hard for us to really discern (besides 100 Proof) who is really worthy of the $100,000 and "respect."
In week 2's recap, we had mentioned the mockery factor -- specifically the mocking of actual hip-hop culture, right in the "birth place." It seems that the producers realized that this would be noticed, and to level the playing field, really started to mock the white rappers this week. They had to write rhymes (to, again, avoid Stepping OFF!) about White Trash, White Power, White Guilt, etc.
Week 4 redeemed itself. It actually featured rappers doing rap stuff! I guess Serch made his point on "rap culture" the weeks prior, but it was the addition of hot producer to the stars Just Blaze helping the rappers out in the studio, and Kool Keith as guest judge! Yes, Black Elvis himself showed up, albeit tamed down, to see which track was "hot" in a club setting. A strip club setting.
White rapper "Jus Rhyme" seems to be headed down idiot road. Much of what came out his mouth, while trying to be thoughtful, just sounded dumb. Unfortunately, his team won, thus he was nixed from the elimination. Sadly, Serch told J.I. favorite 100 Proof to "step off."
• John Brown explaining that his "Ghetto Revival" company / project is actually positive. Who knew? John Brown cares.
• Persia has cried three out of the four weeks. Her "Far Rock" toughness is coming into question. She did provide a semi-decent vocal to her group's "track."
• Prince Paul as a game show host was slightly funny, and if J.I. had to pick a best part of this episode, this would be it. He's clearly having fun playing dress up.
• John Brown was heard to remark his opposing team's song sounded like "Track 29 of a mix tape." Ouch.
• Persia wore her crown again, something that's been absent since week 1, as well as something that is way too big for her head.
• 100 Proof was seen taking nips from a flask during the recording session.
• Sullee, the white rapper from Boston, is apparently "good with the ladies." We got hints of this when he was seen in bed with former white rapper Misfit, but our suspicions were confirmed when he told us.
Dustin Kensrue released his debut solo album, "Please Come Home," on Equal Vision in January. It's quiet and diffident, much like the man himself, with a whole world of heartache, religion, hope and nostalgia, hearkening Americana influences like Jackson Browne and Ryan Adams. It's an odd, unexpectedly pleasant release from a man who normally spends his time fronting screamo/hardcore/guilty-pleasure troupe Thrice.
Last week, Kensrue paid us a little visit in our
pit office to show off some of his songs, of which there are really only eight -- but, hey!, baby steps. His affected and growly, melodic voice put us at ease without putting us to sleep.
We decided to check him out at the Knitting Factory the next night for a little bit more goodness, and were rewarded to a full-band set. His lack of material was apparent, considering half the set list comprised of covers (see: "Round Here"), but that doesn't mean there's not enough marbles in play: Kensrue revealed that Thrice is planning a four-disc set for their next release, with each disc revolving around the loose theme of earth/wind/fire/water elements.
In an aside, Kensue's ability and willingness to share the struggles with his Christian faith in song is admirable and striking. Anberlin's Stephen Christian and Cold War Kids' Nathan Willett, who opened the show, were a good match, in their similar reputation and knack for honest reflection of their faith without beating it into ground.
After the show, and after the after party, Kensrue successfully managed to leave his Taylor acoustic guitar in the back of his cab. We all spent the better part of our meal on Mott Street trying to finagle it back on the phone with the taxi company, making the slap-your-hand-to-your-forehead motion many, many times. Miraculously, Kensrue got it back the next day before his flight left town.
Idol Chatter: New York, We Love You, But You're Bringing Us Down
Jaded Insider was hoping to make it through the season without mention of our most despised "Idol" contestant of all time (or at the very least, we were hoping to make it until the finale when it's only natural for former contestants to pop up and remind America that yes, they are in fact still alive, and yes, they have yet to hit it big), but we only made it to week two before the repulsive mug of Constantine Morouiouslouous crept back onto our screen.
The "Bohemian Rhapsody"-butchering Greek just happens to be a New York native, the location of last night's auditions. There was also a contestant from Greece by way of New Jersey, hence the connection. Ick.
Day one started out with Ian Benardo, as his shirt so proudly displayed, who was an eliminated contestant on "So You Think You Can Dance," and who, as we quickly discovered, can neither dance nor sing, contrary to what his two therapists might think. He defamed Hollywood as he stormed out of the audition room, stating that Tinsel Town is just "New Jersey with celebrities." We were left wondering how his pet chinchilla thing died.
Next was Sarah from Ohio, who lied to her unsupportive parents about traveling to the city. She sang Blondie's "Call Me," did an OK job but made it to Hollywood anyway, then called her dad to break the news only to have him ask, "Who is this?"
We're excited about the plot line to develop between Antonella and Amanda, the inseparable Paris and Nicole-like duo with less money and more talent. Simon's advice to Antonella, who sang better than her friend, was "When someone's down on the floor, kick them." This could be good, especially because we know they'll be wearing stilettos.
Day two in the Big Apple produced an even wackier batch of characters. Sadly, Simon missed the first half of the day due to a "singing hangover" (however we were later informed that the judges supposedly stayed out drinking til 3 a.m. Tisk, tisk). About 36 people sang Selena's "Dreaming of You," which was weird enough in and of itself, and there seemed to be an alarming number of folks sporting cowboy hats.
One of the Selena wannabes was Sarah Goldberg. That girl had some serious issues. She openly admitted she was tone deaf and not in the competition to sing, yet was damn certain they could transform her into the next "American Idol." We still can't tell if she was joking or what exactly her deal was, but in any case, she was really really strange.
Sarah didn't quite scare us as much as the "American Idol soldier" from Queens who lost 20 pounds and gained 800 plastic bracelets in order to look good for her performance. Why in the world did she make it to Hollywood? No, really, someone please explain this to us.
The 18-year-old brace-faced opera student from Manhattan was a bit perplexing, as well. She genre-hopped three times throughout her audition, but her whiskey-soaked vocals on Jeff Buckley's "Eternal Life" were spot-on.
As promised, the show concluded with Julie/Isadora getting off on stage to "Lady Marmalade." We'll let that one to your imagination. Next week: Two Cousin Its raid Birmingham! Beware!