Music, Uncategorized

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Talk at a Folk Concert

Following up on your Monkey’s post from this weekend, in which he was gnashing his teeth over the overtalkative crowd that ruined an otherwise great performance by the Great Lake Swimmers at the Middle East in Cambridge Friday night.

1. It’s Rude: It’s rude to the performer who is trying to play his songs, and it is rude to the people in the audience who are trying to listen but can’t hear themselves think because you are jammering in the background. Even if you don’t like the music, have some sympathy for the musician as a person and the audience as your fellow man.

2. It’s an embarrassment to us as music fans. What does it say about us as a town (Boston/Cambridge) that we can’t stop talking long enough to listen to music? Your Monkey was embarrassed to be part of a crowd filled with immature jackasses who were too busy thinking about themselves to realize that they were ruining the night. We are the birthplace of the folk revival movement of the late 1950s, a proud tradition that includes Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Don’t lets ruin it with our selfishness.

3. It Makes You Look Like An Ass: You may be a perfectly nice person 98% of the time, but when I see you talking during a show my blood starts to boil and soon I hate everything about you. I hate the way you look and the way to stand and the way you hold your drink. I hate the way to talk and I hate the way you check your phone and I hate the people you are talking to.

4. It’s Bad for Business: I wouldn’t blame the Great Lake Swimmers if they didn’t want to come back to Boston to play here again. And I’m not sure I would go see them again in the same setting because the audience is just too distracting to have a good time. What does that mean for the next quiet acoustic singer-songwriter who rolls into town? Should they not even bother showing up here? Should I not get a ticket for the show because I don’t know if I’ll be able to hear the music?

5. There’s always a chance the Monkey could snap. Your Monkey is not a violent person. But he has to admit that his blood was boiling and his back was sweating and it took all of his self control not to turn around and start screaming at all of the people who wouldn’t shut up during the performance. It would not have been pleasant for anyone involved. And there may have been others like him in the crowd who were reaching the same level of frustration and aggravation. Just be nice and respectful and other people will treat you the same way.

So people, please. Tell your friends, your colleagues and your coworkers. Save your conversations for before or after the show. if you have to shout because the music is too loud, maybe it’s time to stop talking.

Thanks — that’s enough on this subject for now.


Great Lake Swimmers at the Middle East (or, let’s all talk through a concert!)

Your Monkey is feeling grumbly and scowly today after heading out to the Middle East in Cambridge last night to see the Great Lake Swimmers.

The musical performances were great to see, but the night was really ruined by a shamefully rude crowd who insisted on talking through the whole show.

What a bunch of jabberjaws.

Your Monkey’s heart was breaking for the performers in the Swimmers and opening act Wooden Birds. He would be surprised if either group could hear themselves think on stage.

Your Monkey also felt genuinely bad for all the nice, respectful people at the show who were trying to hear the music but could barely hear themselves think.

At least one person was bold enough to ask the crowd to quiet down, but it didn’t do any good.

Your Monkey was not expecting some kind of church-like silence during the show, but this chatter went above and beyond.

Seriously, people. Why are we paying $12 bucks for a show if we don’t even care enough to listen to what the band has to play?

What is wrong with us as a society if we can’t stop talking for an hour or so?

Are we so convinced of our own importance that we don’t care if we’re rude to the band and the other people in the crowd?

Or are we so self-absorbed that we just don’t notice?

Believe me, you’re not that interesting.

This Monkey certainly isn’t that interesting.

Nothing we have to say is that important that it can’t wait.


Despite the poor reception they got last night, the Great Lake Swimmers and the Wooden Birds managed to deliver great performances.

Here is a Great Lake Swimmers song for your enjoyment.

To get the roughly the same experience that this Monkey had last night, turn the television on, find Fox News and crank it up to full volume behind you before you play it.


The Cave Singers Crush It Live in Boston (Cambridge)

Your Monkey is still basking in the afterglow of one of the best nights of live music he has seen in a long time.

Four bands played at T.T. the Bear’s Place last Thursday (Sept. 17) and absolutely killed it live.

The Cave Singers, Lightning Dust, Mean Creek and Old Abram Brown played four taunt and memorable high energy sets that filled this small venue with amazing sound and made (at least) a couple of lifelong fans.

It’s rare to see a concert that features not one or two or three but four (!) high quality acts.

Your Monkey would be remiss if he did not thank them for a great show and try to spread the word. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?

Old Abram Brown

Opening act Old Abram Brown was a true revelation. This group from Nashua, New Hampshire is hardly out of high school (if they are at all) but they played a professional, polished and engaging opening set.  Carson Lund, their charismatic lead singer and keyboard player, reminded this Monkey of an even younger Zach Condon from Beirut, especially when he pulled out a trumpet to add some wavering horn riffs to songs like “Mountain Lions” and “Will Our Garden Grow.”

Here’s a link to the band’s myspace page. Play “Mountain Lions” already, will you?

Mean Creek:

Mean Creek was the second act of the night. This Boston band may have suffered a little bit from being the interim act between the openers (Old Abram Brown) and the more established acts (Lightning Dust and the Cave Singers). The crowd was just filling in while they were on stage.

But their uptempo blend of folk rock with male/female paired harmonies and excursions into shoegaze-style guitar sounds certainly worked well. Overall a tight band that is worth exploring further. Here is a link to their site.

Lightning Dust:

Regular readers of this blog (of which there are still regrettably none) will recognize that your Monkey is a big fan of this band, which is a side project of Black Mountain members Amber Webber and Joshua Wells.

Whereas Black Moutain is a crunchy, riff-heavy take on the psychedelic sound, Lightning Dust is a more folky and gothic. Webber’s voice is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting and compelling in rock music today, and she didn’t disappoint Thursday night. She  is just as good live as she is in the studio.

Webber tends to use a lot of vibrato when she sings, which can take a little while to get used to on record. Live and in person, however, her vibrato echoes off the walls and fills the room with an even larger, richer sound. It works great.

The new Lightning Dust album “Infinite Light” should be in consideration for best record of the year in this Monkey’s humble opinion. Here’s a link to the Lightning Dust site.

The Cave Singers:

Let’s set the stage for the Cave Singers, shall we? They were the headlining act for the show, but your Monkey had only barely heard of them before he bought his tickets. And he wasn’t too thrilled that they weren’t going to take the stage until midnight Thursday.

(Not the band’s fault by the way, the acts were scheduled to go on at one-hour intervals between nine and midnight).

Having been up late the night before, and having a relentlessly tiring day of grinding out copy the next day, the thought of being out until 1 am or later was not what your Monkey had in mind.

But he was curious. He had listened to a few Cave Singers songs, and while they didn’t leap out at him as amazing at first blush, they were growing on him.

So he decided to stay for the show.

And boy, was he glad he did.

It is hard to describe how good these guys are live. Their unique brand of upbeat, foot-stomping folk rock defies easy description. Let’s just say that they immediately captured the crowd with a melodic uptempo groove and delivered an amazing collection of songs. There was no lull in the set. In fact, each song seemed to build upon the last one to a triumphant finale.

If you love music and having a good time and dig on positive vibes (and all that good hippie stuff) then you should definitely check out the Cave Singers.

Sorry these words can’t do the performance more justice. I’m only a Monkey after all.

Here is a sampling of live Cave Singers for your entertainment. And here is a link to the band’s site.


This Monkey Has a Crush on Alela Diane

Dear Alela Diane:

You really are something else.

This humble Grumpy Monkey just happened to come across your 2006 album, “The Pirate’s Gospel”, on the emusic website while he was browsing through songs one day.

And he just happened to take a chance on the first two songs on the album; “Tired Feet” and “The Rifle.”

Wow, was he impressed.

You have done an excellent job of reinterpreting the traditional American/English folk song for a new generation.

Your work is distinguished by excellent songwriting, taunt fingerpicked guitar notes, a smooth voice and sweetly blended harmonies.

Your latest album, “To Be Still”, boasts an excellent first single in “White as Diamonds.” And your work with the Headless Heroes was recently featured on an All Songs Considered Podcast that one can find here.

And let’s be honest. You look a little bit like Jessica Biel, which isn’t exactly hurting your case with this bashful Monkey admirer.

But your Monkey is not a jealous Monkey. He is not greedy and overpossesive.  He does not want to hoard you in his ipod and on his computer like dragons used to hoard treasure and gold coins during medieval times.

Your Monkey wants to share you with the world.

Here is Alela Diane performing “Tired Feet.”


The Human Freak Show is Alive and Well (and showing on TLC and A&E)

Does anyone remember the good old days when TLC was known as “The Learning Channel” and the most provocative thing on A&E was a particularly saucy British-produced miniseries?

Those days are over, my friends. Now all one can find on these once proud channels are a never ending stream of “documentary” shows that are nothing more than modern updates of the old carnival freak show.

Instead of Crab Boy and the Bearded Lady, we now have super-procreators like John and Kate Plus 8 and the Duggar family of “18 and Counting.”

Instead of Wolf Boy we have TLC’s incredibly tasteful “I Have an Embarrassing Medical Condition.”

On A&E, there are shows like “Intervention,” “Obsessed”, and “Hoarders” that basically give us the chance to gawk up close at drug addicts and the mentally ill.

And let’s not forget some of the more nauseating reality shows starring Gene Simmons and Criss Angel. Seriously?

Your Monkey will admit that he has often gotten sucked into watching an episode of Intervention or John and Kate, and eagerly sought out Hoarders when he first learned it was coming on the air.

But the more he watched, the more he began to understand that this is exploitation in a pretty low form.

Do we really need watch (and listen to people talk about) every single minute aspect of their lives. Who cares if the Duggar family goes bowling? Your Monkey has been bowling and doesn’t feel the need to talk about it all that much. Bowling is bowling.

It’s all well and good for adults like John and Kate to make asses and tabloid fodder out of themselves. But what about those eight cute kids? Isn’t it enough exposure for them already?

The same goes for every addict and hoarder and person with an embarrassing medical condition. We’d like to think that we’re gaining sympathy and understanding by watching people with challenging lives.

But aren’t we really just poking at freaks with a stick?

Is this a scene from Todd Browning’s famously controversial film Freaks, or a preview for an upcoming TLC series? You be the judge.

Movies, Shameless self indulgence

The Grumpiest Monkey Trips Out on Altered States

This being the second in a series of movie reviews your humble Monkey is posting now that he has a little spare time to catch up on his netflix queue. There is no rhyme or reason to the series, just some stuff that he has always wanted to check out.

“Altered States” (1980)
Directed by Ken Russell
Starring William Hurt, Blair Brown, and a couple of bearded scientists

Altered States first piqued your Monkey’s interest for two reasons.

One, this 1980 film is based on a novel by the esteemed Paddy Chayefsky, the screenwriter behind such master works as the 1950’s film “Marty” (about a lovable sad sap who finally finds love) and the 1970’s classic “Network”.

Two, it involves hallucinatory drugs, isolation tanks, genetic regression, and other psychedelic issues that regular readers of this blog (of which there are none) will surely recognize as key interests.

Altered States tells the story of Edward Jessup, a brilliant, driven scientist (played by Hurt) who starts to experience strange sensations and hallucinations while experimenting with an isolation tank in his lab.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, an isolation tank is basically a large (sinister looking) black box that is filled with a small amount of heavily salted water. The subject shuts himself in the darkened tank and floats on the naturally buoyant salt water.

Floating in the dark, silent tank deprives the mind of physical sensations and thus the mind turns inward on itself. Many of those who have tried isolation tanks have reported hallucinations and strong psychedelic experiences. See your Monkey’s previous post on the isolation tank tripping done by Joe Rogan here.

Plus the film raises some interesting theoretical questions:

  • What if it is possible to see heaven and hell just by turning inward on ourselves?
  • What if there is some primitive brain that exists deep within our own brain that holds all the mysteries of millions of years of evolution?
  • What if it were possible to climb inside our nightmares simply by removing all other outside stimulus?

Heady questions, for sure. So given that Altered States seems to have been genetically engineered in a movie lab purely for your curious Monkey, does it work?

Umm. Not so much. It’s not really a bad viewing experience, but as a complete film that is supposed to tell a story it is pretty much a mess.

We’re not talking about nonsense in the context of far out ideas and trippy pre-cgi visuals, we’re talking about nonsense in the form bad editing, missing scenes and sloppy storytelling.

Does the movie take place in New York, Boston, or San Francisco? If it is Boston, how come it doesn’t look like Boston?

Also, how much time elapses between scenes?  A couple goes from agreeing to get married to having several kids to getting divorced to somehow being back together again, and none of us are sure why.

And how about these secondary characters? Who is the scientist that accompanies Jessup to South America? Who is the doctor who insists on yelling incomprehensibly in his thick Southern accent during the tests in the tank? Who is the woman that Jessup is sleeping with in the second half of the film?

Also, what exactly is Jessup the scientist up to in his lab? Other than knowing that he likes to track down and ingest weird native drugs and spend an unhealthy amount of time in an isolation tank, we’re not quite sure what Jessup wants to get out of all this mind surfing. Is it inner peace? Scientific glory? Something else?

If you’re looking for something that is mildly entertaining, happen to be nostalgic for the early 1980s science fiction, or just plain curious about the idea of isolation tanks, this movie might be worth exploring.

But for the curious film fan hoping that a science fiction tale that will challenge us and make us question our vision of reality or the ethics of scientific research, this one falls far short.

Oh well. Looks like your Monkey will pop back into his isolation tank and watch the movies in his mind’s eye until it’s time for another Netflix screening.

Here’s the trailer for Altered States. You’ll see what I mean. You just want it to be good. But alas:


The Grumpiest Monkey Gets Skinny With “The Machinist”

It’s movie day at Grumpy Monkey Manor. Nothing quite wraps up a peaceful, sunny and mild Labor Day Weekend like a grim and gritty suspense drama starring a super-emaciated Christian Bale.

The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside

Bale plays Trevor Resnick, an insomniac machine operator who is rapidly losing weight and living in an uncertain sleepless haze. When bad things start to happen, Resnick starts to question his version of reality.

It may be that Resnick is being menaced by Ivan, an aggressively bald southerner who works at the same machine plant.

It may be that Resnick is being set up by his coworkers after an unfortunate industrial accident leaves someone without an arm.

It may be that the psychotic ex-boyfriend of the prostitute he visits on a regular basis is setting him up.

Or it may be that Resnick is losing his mind along with massive amounts of weight.

This movie is perhaps most famous for the transformation that Bale underwent to play the emaciated Resnick. His wieght loss is shaking, haunting and unavoidable.

Bale’s transformation turns what is otherwise a pretty standard thriller ( a splash of “Memento” here, a touch of “Seven” there) into something that is a little more uneasy and unsettling. We know what Christian Bale looks like, and to see him to wan and thin really gets under our skin.

But overall the movie doesn’t quite get there. Director Brad Anderson has made better movies. The plot has some noir-ish twists and turns, but your Monkey would argue that the payoff at the end doesn’t meet the expectations that the film sets.

It’s not bad viewing overall, but nothing that really sticks your ribs. (Sorry but it had to be done).

As always, feel free to decide for yourself.

Your Monkey was going to post the trailer here for you to see, but too much of the film is given away there.

Why do film companies feel compelled to ruin their own product by giving away too many plot points up front?

A discussion for another day, perhaps.

Here is a link to the Rotten Tomatoes page for the Machinist, where you can read reviews from actual critcs.

Me thinks the 75% favorable is a little too generous. Perhaps Bale’s transformation helps to cover up what is an otherwise flimsy film.