Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Appleseed Cast Drops in at The Space

The Space in Hamden is really trying to make a name for itself by booking a band like the Appleseed Cast to fill it’s quant interior on what would normally be a boring Friday night in mid-April.

While the Appleseed Cast isn’t the first big name in the indie-rock realm to make a stop in the Hamden, Conn. hole in the wall, hell this isn’t even their first show here (they played nearly two years ago with New Jersey-based Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start to a packed house), but they remain to be a favorite of local booking mastermind “Manic” Mark Nussbaum.

Every time Appleseed Cast makes their return to Connecticut, they always remind listeners how heavy and intricate a guitar-forward post-rock band can sounds, especially after listening to their usual batch of opening acts that then to be stereotypical indie-rock acts that bring little more than long hair and skinny jeans to the stage (Sorry, An Horse and Moving Mountains, prove me wrong if you can).

Coming off an amazing well accepted album in Sagarmatha, the Appleseed Cast now have to prove their worth live, which shouldn’t be too difficult because the majority of their new tracks are heavy on the instrumentals and light on the lyrics.

"At first, we were just planning on doing an instrumental EP," says guitarist Chris Crisci. "I don't know why we wanted to do that, but that was in our head. Then, as we were working on it, we realized that it should be a full-length album. We still wanted to keep it pretty much instrumental, but there were some parts where it felt like it could benefit from some vocal lines and lyrics, so it developed that way.”

This new equation for Appleseed Cast’s music works well for the ever-changing lineup that has seen the band go through nearly a dozen members in the 10 years of existence. Right now the band is Chris Crisci and Aaron Pillar and the group that walks up on stage on April 17th in Hamden is yet to be determined. At it’s best, the band has 4 members on stage and that group created the most intense 45 minutes of music and welded so well it felt like hours when listening to it.

Aaron Pillar explains the band’s situation by saying, “Mark [Young] decided to go back to school. And he was getting older, and saw maybe what, you know—something we had talked about for years was, “I want to know where I’m at, I want to have a degree, I want to have something that I could have,” and I think he saw that the direction me and Chris were feeling about writing and then my music, it was going to be another couple years of being in the same boat. We talked for a long time, and it was just like—I’ve dabbled with the decision. It’s a hard decision to make.”

Sagarmatha recreates that oh so familiar sense when being played from front to back as loud as your speakers can handle, the only acceptable way to listen to the Appleseed Cast. This band needs to be played loud and to be honest, playing their tunes are medium volume serves them no justice at all.

Written words can only describe the Appleseed Cast to a certain extent before you just have to listen to them for yourself. 12 bucks is a fare price to pay to haved your thought of “emo” music changed forever and possibly your outlook on music in general. Oh, and don’t forget your earplugs, this is will prove to be your loudest concert ever.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Adventureland: Cheezy Without Tons of Cheap Laughs

A cheap laugh was the only expectation set prior to Friday night’s opening of Adventureland, the latest film written and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Arrested Development).

Based on the 85 second long trailer released in the months leading up to the official debut of the film, the average deduction was that the movie will be a feel-good story that has a twist in the plot and end up working out for everyone in the end. While some of these aspects remain true, the road Adventureland takes to get there is full of blind turns and sudden stops.

James Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) is a scrawny Pittsburgh native, fresh out of a private college with a literature degree, full of Ivy League aspirations and plans of a European trip to expand his knowledge and probably “find himself”. Oh, and lose his virginity, that’s key.

Not long into the movie, the crowd learns that Brennan’s father, played by Jack Gilpin, has been demoted at work (possibly due to his love of scotch) and the family is unable to foot the bill for his trip across the Atlantic. This leaves James in a tough spot.

With no graduation trip and Columbia grad school only a few months off, James is forced to find a job that can be performed by someone with absolutely no real-life work experience and he finds it at Adventureland, Pittsburgh’s local amusement park that looks and feels a lot like the 80s version of Lake Compounce or Riverside.

This local dump houses rickety roller coasters, shoddy rides and corn dogs. For one reason or another, the corn dog reappears throughout the movie in different scenes and is referenced over a dozen times. Maybe they were a bigger staple in the American diet in 1987?

Not long after beginning his stint at Adventureland, Brennan discovers he’s not the only well-read well-educated carnie working for next to nothing in the games sections.

James first meets Joel, a long, greasy haired, pipe smoking intellectual that finds himself stuck at Adventureland for no apparent reason, or one that’s not given throughout the film. Joel shows Brennan the ropes of getting by at the park and sums up the entire experience in a single line, “We are doing the work of pathetic lazy morons.”

Shortly after getting comfortable at his role in the horse race booth, James finds his love interest, the ultra-damaged, but interestingly attractive Em, played by Kristen Stewart fresh off her role on Twilight. Em is an NYU student that fully understands Brennan’s nerdy tendencies, over-thought words and awkward flirting.

If the movie was actually filmed in 1987, this would be John Cusack’s perfect girl. Book smarts and a killer record collection that directly correlates with the 80s indie heavy soundtrack makes Em standout as every nerd’s dream girl.

Problem with Em is her attraction to park maintenance man and general sleezeball Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds). Reynolds finds his new prey every season at the park and impresses his much younger and super naive girls with fake stories of playing with Lou Reed.

In reality, Connell is married to an aging disco owner and takes girls to his mother’s basement to have sex. The character is scummy to say the least, but for one reason or another, he continues to help Brennan at the park like an older brother.

Throughout the movie, Brennan’s past shines through with the character of Tommy Frigo, the friend everyone had in high school that never grew up and you ignored once you started college.
Frigo is pure gross out humor and ball punching. Even from his introduction in the movie, his sole role is to punch James Brennan in the balls. Cheap laugh success, but it gets played out after the third or forth time. He is the reason no one ever wants to go back to their hometown after college, cause he will always be there.

While most people expected Adventureland to be Superbad 2, Mottola created a coming of age flick that might be looked at in the future as this generation’s High Fidelity. A seemingly low budget film that contains a great story with tons of indie credibility is exactly what the public needs to combat the terribleness that is Fast and the Furious.