Flume and Chainsmokers Play Highline

By Blair Cannon

Image via Facebook

Image via Facebook

Flume and The Chainsmokers’ show at the Highline Ballroom last Monday night was, if anything more than a concert, a crystal clear reflection of our generation’s obsession with the popular and overrated culture of music festivals and fast-paced electronic dance music.

The ambiance could best be described as Coachella, if Coachella were uprooted and placed indoors. High school kids clad in tank tops of the neon variety, inexplicably wearing fake glasses (also neon), and almost all sporting snapbacks (a single bucket hat was lost among the crowd) sang along lyric by lyric to live remixes they’d clearly heard a million times.

The Chainsmokers, a New York City-turned-Calgary electronic DJ duo, opened the night feeding all the right lines and playing all the right cards with their very modern-age audience. Their notorious song “#SELFIE,” which was released in January of this year is a suffocating parody of the phenomenon dubbed selfie-ism, the incessant need to photograph oneself that becomes an epidemic at music festivals like this weekend’s Coachella.

Concert goers took periodic breaks from fist pumping and arm flapping to divulge in the obligatory selfie(s), typically with tongues purposefully stuck out or hands twisted into backwards peace signs over the face. The Chainsmokers even helped out by throwing cardboard frames with the infamous song title printed on them like frisbees into the Instagram prop-hungry crowd. I will admit that I was worried, to say the least, upon observing the middle-school dance ambiance and overly-hype yet diluted raver qualities that the crowd seemed to possess.

Nevertheless, Flume’s performance was in equal parts a success and a relief. The 22 year-old Australian DJ, fresh off the plane from Indio, charmed the crowd and took the vibes down a notch with his slower, more indie-inspired sounds.

He played all the crowd-pleasers, from “Holdin On” to “Left Alone” (which features Chet Faker), to “Insane” (which features Moon Holiday and Killer Mike), and the average age of the audience members seemed to surreptitiously go up. Flume’s set was true to the established tracks on his studio album, especially during the more popular songs, during which it would have been both difficult and disappointing to deviate a substantial amount. However, he did take some artistic liberty with the set, even though he primarily played it safe with his own music and established remixes—with the exception of his remix of “Tennis Court” by Lorde.

The up-and-coming DJ had the relatively typical graphics of an EDM artist, which ranged from intertwining silhouettes of cactus-esque plants to clouds of colored smoke—a significant shift from The Chainsmoker’s nonsensical dancing lobsters and lemon slices.

Flume’s set also provided the experience desired by the more interested and experienced concert goer, the type who goes to shows for the music, and maybe gets wasted in the process—not the other way around.

Blair Cannon is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com.

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Brit Concerts: Week of 4/14

By Brian Capuder

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This week’s concerts featured two British invasion artists—the no longer relevant Summer Camp at Mercury Lounge on Monday and the heating-up Dan Croll at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday.

The contrast in popularity was completely apparent as Summer Camp played at the much smaller Mercury Lounge and Dan Croll sold out the larger Bowery Ballroom. Croll had a larger North American tour than Summer Camp’s tiny four date tour. Summer Camp fell out of favor after releasing a very hyped album in 2011 called “Welcome to Condale”. It was diverse and combined 60s pop with dark 80s synth in a way that was very inventive. 2013 follow up “Summer Camp” had much less press and was much more forgettable. Dan Croll just released his debut album “Sweet Disarray” which contains several tracks that were number one singles on hypemachine. Given that Croll is where Summer Camp was a few years ago, it’ll be interesting to see if their careers end up in a similar place.

Summer Camp’s set on Monday was somewhat boring to watch. Summer Camp is comprised solely of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey (who are married). They have great onstage chemistry but the prerecorded backing tracks have most of the interesting parts of their songs so the live performance is bound to be lackluster.

The duo have funny banter and were definitely danceable but the lack of a performance meant concertgoers did not have anywhere to really occupy their eyes. Summer Camp was joined by the drummer of local band Lazer Cake (Robby Sinclair). Sinclair was a godsend to the performance as he was always entertaining to watch and had a look about him like he could not conceive of a better life than the one he was living. Sinclair became the focal point of the performance, and he’s not even in the band.

Dan Croll suffered from a similar lack of performance. Not to be misconstrued, many of the tracks Croll played sounded like they were straight off the album so they sounded great, but the set lacked energy. Part of this is the album which is full of music that is interesting, but starts to get boring if unchanged for a while. If Croll had more rock and less awkward synth on his tracks, they would almost sound similar to Vampire Weekend given their easy to spot similarity in African influences.

Certain songs stuck out over the others such as “Can You Hear Me?” which Croll described as the song his mother didn’t approve of (because it draws from sounds of rap music) which was a great change of pace in the middle of an all too similar sounding set. First song of the encore “From Nowhere” is easily Croll’s best, its danceable and catchy and had the crowd more involved than any of the other tracks.

If Dan Croll wants to avoid the irrelevant fate of Summer Camp, then he might want to step up his concert performances.

Brian Capuder is a contributing writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com.

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“Transcendence”: Interview with Director Wally Pfister

By Mohamed Hassan

via Collider

via Collider

Oscar-winning cinematographer and long time friend of Christopher Nolan, Wally Pfister, joins the rank of director with his directorial debut, “Transcendence”. “Transcendence” debates the question, “Do computers pose a threat if they are given the capacity to not only think but feel?” with cast members such as Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, and Morgan Freeman at the helm.

In a conference call with WSN, Pfister spoke about the process of filming “Transcendence” and making the transition from cinematographer to director.

“What you’ll find in life is that everything you do kind of contributes to what you do later on,” Pfister said.

Pfister spoke a little about what separates “Transcendence” from others films that explore artificial intelligence.

“We are talking about an actual human consciousness living in this machine rather than something completely artificial. So that makes it a little slightly different and I think that also sets off the emotional journal,” Pfister said.

“The idea is to question whether in fact this machine that sent in, if it contains the actual soul of this particular person.”

Pfister talked a little about the research he did in order to complete the film.

“I went to visit MIT and talk to professors in the field of nanotechnology and in neurobiologies and robotics, and even in the media lab to look at some of their projections and get ideas for of projections and hologram. I landed on two professors at Berkeley, one in neurobiology and the other one in nanotechnology who became the kind of full time consultants on the film and were involved in sort of every stage of vetting the science and the medical applications in the film.”

Pfister explained the process of transitioning from a cinematographer to his current roles as a new director and the challenges he faced along the way.

“I think I always had the goal, you know, of wanting to direct something myself. But you know, as I started to get more successful as a cinematographer, I started thinking about it more and, you know, you want to try different things in life,” he said.

“The greatest challenge was also one of the most enlightening, wonderful, fun things, which was directing actors and delving in the performance for the first time. As a director you are suddenly playing the role of psychologist for the first time whereas as a cinematographer, it’s just really about telling stories with images.”

Over his many years as a cinematographer, Pfister has worked with quite a few directors, notably Christopher Nolan, and has amassed a significant amount of box office successes including “Inception”, “Moneyball”, and “The Dark Knight”. Pfister reflected on what he learned from his experiences as a cinematographer.

“You know, you’ve learned a little bit from everybody and really, one of the great things about Christopher Nolan is his discipline on the set and you know, to observe somebody who really considers every minute of your set time to be precious is really something else,” he said.

Transcendence is filmed in a very unique way where the film’s statement is really embedded in its characters rather than the film itself and Pfister took some time to brief us on why it was shot in that way.

“There is no statement being made by the director and that’s what sort of important to me in this, is people look for statements, people also look for good guys and bad guys and there are no definite good guys and bad guys in this film,” he said.

“In terms of any statement, I think that it’s really the characters who make the statements and I think that what we see from the character of Evelyn is that her hope is that technology will be used for the betterment of mankind.”

Mohamed Hassan is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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Season One, Episode Six: “Snaring of the Sun”

By Zack Grullon

via SundanceTV

via SundanceTV

The cassette tapes. The death of Jean’s brother. The anger towards the Native Americans. The reoccurring motif of drowning. How does it all add up in the finale?

 

In an extended (and convenient) flashback in the beginning of the episode, it turns out that Harold was with Jean’s brother when the latter drowned in a lake. For almost twenty years, Jean thought it was Philip and his no-good Native American friends that did the heinous crime. Why Jean’s brother decided to swim into the lake is unclear. At first, you would think it is suicide, but he mentions about escaping in a cassette tape that was found at the scene of the crime of the missing NYU student.

 

Something else that is interesting was Philip’s relationship with Jean that sort of comes out of the blue. Not to mention how cheesy the episode displays it when Jean visits Philip and the two have a romantic walk through the fields. Then they make out passionately – enhanced by a 360 tracking shot around them. Then for some reason, when Jean tells Philip that she knew about how he was not involved with her brother’s death, Philip becomes angry because he feels that he would not have to had leave his home town that he loved so dearly. All of it is a little confusing, but perhaps more of this will come up in the next season.

 

Something else that caused confusion was to what degree Philip had to lay low after not delivering the drugs to a gang that threatened his life. Philip tells Junior to take a blind eye if anybody asks about him and gives Junior the gun for protection. However, Philip later visits the Jensen’s household to scare the younger daughter for no real apparent reason. Sloppy writing of this sort always seems to occur in season finales.

 

However, the real question is does the finale have a payoff? If harsh shootouts where certain people are conveniently present in certain areas is considered a strong ending, then maybe. Jack confronts Philip for ratting him out to the police, but how did Jack know that Philip would be at Marie’s place? The assumption would be that Jack was following Philip, but the episode really did not make it clear enough. And how was Junior there as well other than for the sole purpose to be someone to shoot Jack with the gun that Philip gave him earlier in the episode. That whole plot point felt rushed just to have Philip leave the picture, considering that the show is juggling more characters than it can handle at points.

 

In the final shootout with Philip and Harold against a bunch of gang members that Philip wronged, the show finally makes the promise that there will be more of Philip and Harold having to work together in a scenario that is worse than a Native American boy getting hit by a car. That sort of reluctant teamwork is something that the show runners should explore in the next season – if there is one.

Zack Grullon is a staff writer. Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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Roles That Could Have Been: “Lord of the Rings”

By Zack Grullon

via The Guardian

via The Guardian

“He is no longer an actor.”

Those were the words Sean Penn said about Nicolas Cage. Though it is a rather cold remark to a fellow actor (then again, it is Sean Penn we are talking about here), you cannot blame the man for making that statement. You see all of the recent terrible films Cage stars in just for the paycheck.

But then you remember that somewhere amongst all of the mounds of money or on that private island Cage bought for a girlfriend, there is an Oscar statue with his name on it. He may just be the only actor that went from winning a Best Actor Oscar for a small independent feature, “Leaving Las Vegas,” to doing a Michael Bay film, “The Rock.”

However, it seems that this weekend with “Joe,” the new film by David Gordon Green, Cage is taking a break from overacting next to CGI and obnoxious action. Reviews have noted that the film really demonstrates Cage’s acting chops that made him famous in his early career.

But is there a chance that Cage could have starred in a big-budget CGI-driven action film that would was actually, well…good?

Back in 2000, it seemed that may have been the case when Peter Jackson was casting actors for his epic “Lord of the Rings”trilogy. Apparently, Jackson offered Cage the role of Aragorn, eventually played by Viggo Mortensen in all three installments.

As mentioned before, “Lord of the Rings” is widely regarded as one of the few fantasy epics that actually had substance beyond its CGI spectacle. Cage had his own fantasy film released a few years ago that had the CGI spectacle, but no substance. It was “Season of the Witch,” a film that bombed at the box office.

What is interesting about this casting choice is that similar to last week’s post about Will Smith playing Captain America, “Lord of the Rings” really did not need a big name actor for the part. The fact that “Lord of the Rings” was finally receiving the live-action treatment was an incentive for most of the movie-going public to fly in droves to see the trilogy. Moreover, receiving critical acclaim and winning multiple Oscars helped the business out even more. Why did Peter Jackson need a name actor to play the part in the first place?

Cage does have strong acting chops, a style that the actor has self-entitled “nouveau shamanic,” if guided by a strong director. But he does not have the look of a character from a fantasy world. Casting for a role in a fantasy film is actually more difficult than one would think. The actor or actress in question has to embody a certain old-fashion image. In other words, they cannot have a modern look and Cage unfortunately falls into that category. Viggo Mortensen, though American, has that timeless look that can be used for an action hero in a fantasy film.

But the bigger question is how Cage’s career would have changed had he taken the role in “Lord of the Rings”? It is hard to say because a critically acclaimed success has not stop Cage from taking awful B-movies. Even though “Joe” is a breath of fresh air in Cage’s filmography, do not be surprised if the actor will go back to his typical B-movies afterwards to make some money.

Let’s come back full circle by ending on a quote from Cage that offers his perspective on selecting roles: “I try to pick and choose my material based on what I can do to challenge myself and make myself uncomfortable.” Sure you do, Cage. Sure you do.

Zack Grullon is a staff writer. Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

 

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Laura Mvula at MHOW

By Warren Wolfe
Image via Facebook

Image via Facebook

On Wednesday, April 9th, Laura Mvula brought her refreshing blend of genres to the stage of Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Born in Birmingham, UK, this songstress has been gaining a lot of ground since releasing her debut album “Sing to the Moon” last year, including two Brit Awards nominations and a coveted spot in this year’s lineup of Coachella.  This success is taking flight in her North American tour, where she has already played several sold-out shows in Canada and along the east coast.

Opening for Mvula was the Wisconsin-based band Phox, who featured eclectic blends of folk and ambient pop, vocal harmonies, and a distinct and airy lead vocalist.  Despite the lead singer proclaiming her sickness to the crowd, she was able to power through four songs until eventually losing her voice.  The crowd was extremely supportive even though she was unable to finish her last song.  Regardless, it is safe to say that interests were piqued by their performance.

By the time Mvula’s band had finished setting up (which took a very long time), a large crowd had settled into the venue.  With her band settled in, Laura entered and sat down at a keyboard to accompany herself.  An explosion of beautiful harmonies and strings from her song “Like the Morning Dew” began her set.  With harps, violin, cello, bass, drums, and several back-up singers supporting Mvula, the stunning arrangements of the studio album were immediately recreated.  They proceeded to play “Falling,” and then ”She,” a powerful anthem with a thumping refrain that echoed through the hall.  Leaving the keyboard behind momentarily, Laura got up to sing the title song, “Sing to the Moon” and then “Is There Anybody Out There?” encouraging the crowd to shout the pleading chorus with her.

At this point in the show she returned to the piano and played haunting acoustic versions of “Diamonds” and the hymnal “Father, Father,” with barely a sound coming from the crowd.

She had complete command of her audience – even though she apologized for “putting us to sleep,” it was simply our collective awe of her talent.  Regardless, she brought the crowd back to life for the end of the concert, playing the crowd-favorite and infectious song, “Green Garden” and creatively transitioning into an African chant.  She followed with “That’s Alright,” a bold take on old-school swinging soul music, and “Can’t Live With The World” a calm yet melancholy lullaby.  Closing with the speculative song, “I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be” and the euphoric track “Flying Without You” ended the show on a perfect note, only for her to defy this with the strident and confident “Make Me Lovely,” which cemented herself as a multifaceted and formidable artist and performer.

Overall, Laura Mvula was able to perfectly transfer the live-giving energy and beauty from her album to a fantastic performance.

Warren Wolfe is a contributing writer. Emal him at music@nyunews.com.

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LiV Warfield Erupts in B.B. King Blues Club

By Sean Hickey

via Amanda Saiewitz

via Amanda Saiewitz

There was an explosion this Sunday underneath Times Square. No one was hurt, but everyone in the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill felt the flames. That explosion was named LiV Warfield and was accompanied by her band, Blackbird, and the NPG Hornz.

Hot after a streak of TV performances on Jimmy Fallon, Arsenio, and David Letterman, leaving speechless hosts and blown away studio audiences, Warfield graced the Times Square underground club stage as part of her new tour promoting her sophomore album, “The Unexpected,” her first after a hiatus.

A member of Prince’s New Power Generation, Warfield definitely brought along that purple magic, performing her new album including her electrifying single, “Why Do You Lie?”, along with covers of Chaka Khan and possibly one of the best versions of Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy” ever performed, and that was by the backup singers.

Those backup singers, Saeeda Wright and Ashley Seamster, act as LiV’s girl power resource in the otherwise all male collective. Their ferocious attitude lends excitingly to the theatrics of the performance, whether that be small choreographed hip rolls or the little play put on during the encore in which one of the saxophonists tries to win LiV back with a desperate and mind blowing solo that sees him writhing on the ground in love for her while Wright and Seamster look out for their girl.

Warfield’s performance could not be complete without the NPG Hornz flanking her on the stage. The group of about ten horn players brings the fiery energy that puts LiV over the edge as one of the best live acts working today. The pure chemistry between LiV, Blackbird, and the NPG Hornz allows for improvised riffs, synchronized dancing, and theatricality without it seeming over-rehearsed. They just have so much fun on that stage, something that’s not so easy to find in musicians today.

The intimate venue allowed for that fun to mingle between Warfield and her fans on the dance floor as she flexed her arms when someone yelled out “I love your biceps,” and encouraged the two-steppers to get more soulful in their dancing, singing, “music’s supposed to make you want to move anyway you want to.”

While she may be categorized as an R&B singer, LiV follows in the footsteps of her mentor, Prince, and his other associates including Chaka Khan and, most recently, Janelle Monae as an artist who can seamlessly move throughout musical genres. Jazz, rock, funk, soul, blues, and R&B can be heard on “The Unexpected.”

Even within songs, the music will change, with an incredible head-banging guitar solo from Ryan Waters one second and a quiet, sexy falsetto the next. She made the audience want to cry, dance their hearts out, go to church, get a little nasty, fight for civil rights, and laugh at how desperate men can be all within one hour and a half show. LiV Warfield is truly a dynamic and talented entertainer.

Despite all of this talent and fanfare, LiV comes off as one of the most down to earth artists around, blushing at the praise from Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman on TV and staying after the show to meet her fans to take pictures and sign albums. Performances like hers show that live music has the potential to be not only soul saturating and electrifying but just really fun for everyone involved.

Sean Hickey is a contributing writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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