Saturday, March 28, 2015

POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2015, 1:03 AM
Andrew Keen and Clive Thompson talk it out. (Dan DeLuca)

The most compelling SXSW Interactive talk I've caught so far was the cracker jack two-man tango on Sunday afternoon between authors Andrew Keen and Clive Thompson called 'Is the Internet the Answer?'

The title was a play on Keen's new book The Internet Is Not The Answer, which posits that the innovations that were alledgedly going to set us free have instead eliminated our jobs and turned us into digital prisoners. It paired Britisher Keen off with Canadian Thompson, who takes a more optimistic view, as his newest book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing The Way We Think For The Better, makes plain. 

In practice, however, it wasn't so much a point-counterpoint debate as an invigorating discussion about the often troubling places that the brave new world has brought us. 

POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2015, 5:27 PM
Paul Dano (left) and John Cusack (right) with Elizabeth Banks, as Brian Wilson ((Credit: Toronto Film Festival))

This year's SXSW music film lineup is big on troubled geniuses.

Brett Morgen's Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, which uses a trove of home movie footage to tell the tale of the Nirvana leader who ended his own life in 1994. More on that later this week.

On Sunday, Bill Pohlad's Brian Wilson movie Love & Mercy had its American premier. The movie takes a two-pronged approach to avoid standard biopic cliches in recounting the story of the Beach Boys leader. Paul Dano plays Wilson during the '60s period when the songwriter quit touring with his family band to listen - and reto the sounds in his head. And John Cusack plays the older Brian when he meets his Cadillac saleswoman future wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) while under the thumb of controlling crack pot psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy, played with evil panache and a demonic wig by Paul Giammati.


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2015, 1:12 AM
A still from 'Son Of The Congo.'

Technology, movies and music isn't enough to satisfy the all-encompassing beast that is SXSW. Last year, the confab started swallowing up sports, too, with the advent of SXSports, a "convergence" track between Film and Interactive that considers sports through a pop cultural lens. 

The jock quotient is ramped up this year with panels on "The 12 Month Sports Season," "The Athlete Slash Entrepreneur" and "Punch Drunk: Hockey Fighting At A Crossroads." There are also sport-connected movies at the film festival, including the Andy Samberg-starring tennis comedy 7 Days In Hell, Jerome Thelia's documentary Bounce: How The Ball Taught The World To Play Ball, and Sneakerheadz, David T. Friendly and Mick Partridge's highlight entertaining doc about athletic shoe obsessives.

On Friday, former Sixer and always opinionated TNT analyst Charles Barkley did a SXsports interview session with Sports Ilustrated's Richard Deitsch. It was called 'How To Remain Relevant In Today's Digital Age" even though Barkley is opposed to social media in all forms, calling it "a media spirited place" and saying he has no intention of joining Twitter and giving his haters the license to attack him: “I don’t want to give some of these losers the power.”


POSTED: Saturday, March 14, 2015, 3:43 PM
'Selma' director Ava DuVernay at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday March 14. ((Dan DeLuca))

On Saturday morning, Selma director Ava DuVernay gave a SXSW Film keynote address, and her upwardly mobile tale of moving from a movie industry publicist to directing a $20 million Best Picture-nominated Oprah-funded historically-significant 1960s Civil Rights drama went over big with the aspirant indie movie industry crowd. (One of the queries in the question and answer period was: 'Will you take a selfie with me?' She graciously obliged.) 

DuVernay gave an emotional speech, revealing she was the seventh choice to direct the then-stalled Selma project (It was like, 'Hey lady, will you direct this movie?') and at one point stopping to exclaim, "I've had the f----- most awesome year! I can't even describe it." 

The key to her success she said, was that she learned the lesson of "the intention of your attention." On her first feature length movie, the 2011 documentary, I Will Follow, she focused on specific box office goals. With 2012's Middle of Nowhere, which won a best director's prize at Sundance, she was intent on gaining approval film festivals. But with Selma, she said, her only intention was "to serve the story." 

POSTED: Thursday, March 5, 2015, 5:26 PM

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the third edition of The Dan and Dan Music Podcast, the bi-weekly show I'm doing with WXPN Music Director and drive-time deejay Dan Reed.

Topics under discussion this week include Kanye West, the Grateful Dead, Scarlett Johansson, Esme Haim, Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, the Firefly Music festival, global new music release day moving from Tuesday to Friday, the greatest Irish music ever recorded, and, most importantly, the role of the Music Critic in the digital music era.

Follow Dan and Dan at @ddmusicpodcast on Twitter and listen up at soundcloud.com/ddmusicpodcast. Or just push the play button below.


POSTED: Sunday, March 1, 2015, 10:29 AM
Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney at Union Transfer. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com)

Desperately loved bands break up and get back together all the time. What’s rare is when they come back at full strength, returning not only with skills intact and wisdom gained, but also the sense of urgency that made them so desperately loved in the first place.

Such is the case with Sleater-Kinney, the gloriously alive three piece rock and roll band of singer-guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss who played a bristling-with-energy show at Union Transfer on Saturday night. The band originally named for a road north of Olympia, Washington where they rehearsed in the mid-1990s - Sleater rhymes with “greater” - are back on the road after going separate ways following their 2005 album, The Woods.

All three women pursued rewarding projects in the interim. Tucker recorded two albums with an eponymous band while raising a family, Weiss played in indie pop duo Quasi, as well as with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks and Wild Flag. And Brownstein was one of the principals in that band, while also going on to comedic glory with Fred Armisen in the satirical cable series Portlandia.

POSTED: Friday, February 20, 2015, 11:26 AM

This week the curtain comes up on The Dan and Dan Music Podcast, a bi-weekly show I'm doing with Dan Reed, the music director and afternoon drive time host of WXPN (88.5-FM ).

Twice a month, Dan and I will get together to talk about the great pop music issues of the day, play some tunes, and argue or agree about what's good and what's bad. We'll chop it up about the state of the industry, interviews artists and insiders, talk about exciting stuff we've seen and heard, and what we're looking forward to.

There are two episodes up right now that can be clicked on at soundcloud.com/ddmusicpodcast. The first was a Grammy preview that you can listen to hear how bad our predictions were.


POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:33 AM
Drake. (Robb Cohen / Associated Press.)

Drake wins the expectation game with If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. The Thursday night surprise release - the same night of the week Beyonce and Azealia Banks dropped their out of the blue albums - was supposed to be a mixtape, a casually offhand sampling of new material given away for free as a stopgap before unleashing an official album, expected to be called Views From The 6, later this year. Instead, If You’re Reading This (Cash Money *** 1/2) feels like a fully thought out, cohesive piece of work, a 17 song display of the 28 year old Toronto emcee’s dexterity on the mic that benefits from the creative space allowed by not being under pressure to produce hits.

And while it may have been conceived as a mixtape, Drake is charging real money for it on iTunes, perhaps as a way to fulfill his contractual obligations to Cash Money, the label his mentor Lil Wayne is also at odds with. So let’s call it a real album. It certainly works as one in the artistic sense, though it gets off to a rough start “Legend,” a de riguer boast that’s the least interesting song on the record. From there, though the 28 year old rapper born Aubrey Drake Graham moves confidently and casually through one slinky, minimalist mood piece after another.

Many of those contain the numeral 6 in their title. That’s a reflection of Drake’s obsession with Toronto’s 416 area code. “6 Man” is of note because it begins with a reference to former Sixer and current Toronto Raptor Lou Williams and ends with Drake singing the Erykah Badu chorus to The Roots’ 1999 hit “You Got Me.” And “You & The 6” is a mother loving song which finds the emo rapper proclaiming “I can’t be out here being vulnerable mama!” - laughably, since Drake is always out there being vulnerable - and tenderly thanking her for working in tandem with those mean Canadian streets in giving him a quality upbringing: “You & the 6 raised me right.”

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