Sunday, July 30, 2023

Bloody Betty's 40th: rude and crude if that's the way you like it (I do, I do)

Just what the hell was that that they were eating, anyhow?

I think they were called the Graffenstyne Creature. There were two (living) women and a man and one very credible looking decomposed corpse of indeterminate gender (no penis attached that I noticed), which they spread out in the area in front of the stage and proceeded to disembowel and chew on the intestines of, which glistened in the lights. I am quite confident that none of it was real, but not because of how it looked -- it was, as I say, very credible. If it had SMELLED, however, the way that an amply decomposed (but freshly disemboweled) corpse doubtlessly would have... I may have gagged and run screaming. I gather from what I've read of Mishima's self-disembowlment that intestines don't smell that good when they're FRESH, even. 

Speaking of intestines, Danny from the Spores was in the house. You've heard his intestine story, right? As a younger man with a passion for homemade horror makeup and filmmaking, he was aware that you could go to slaughterhouses and get cow intestines and such for use in movies, which he did now and then, I gather. “The gig most people remember was when we played the York Theatre, and I brought them out and twirled them around my head like a lasso,” Danny reported proudly when I interviewed him some years ago for a punk magazine called Skyscraper. “Little did I know that out of these intestines, there was all this shit that was flying around, spattering the whole stage and the rest of the band and the crowd and everybody around. And we sang the song and I ended up throwing it into the crowd, and a lot of people thought it was fake - they thought it was just plastic - and they started booting it around the dance floor like a soccer ball, squeezing out all this blood and shit all over the place. It really stunk, because it was a couple of days old. The other bands refused to let us back down into the band room, because we stunk so bad -- we had it all over our clothes and everything. The whole theatre stunk!” 

So it is by deduction that I conclude that those were not REAL intestines the ladies were gnawing. Not sure what they were. They looked, uh, satisfyingly chewy. 

By the by, veterans of her BB Allin performances will know that Betty's fake poop does not smell like poop, either (BB did not surface last night, though the Fondlers got likened to GG by a friend). 

Oh, and Betty got spanked with some intestines. And by her Mom, too, later on (or maybe she was just smearing cake on Betty's ass? There's a bit of information overload at these shows. Let photos be my proof?). The emcees teased us for quite awhile about a surprise guest, but never would I have figured it would a parent. 

Betty initially refused to join her Mom onstage, so friends carried her, while her Mom speculated on mic about how Betty being a c-section baby (like me!) might have led her to a life of trying to compensate for the absence of birth gore (not her words; I paraphrase). It is very pleasing to know that Betty's Mom is prepared to collaborate in this insanity, even seemed to be enjoying herself. She's a strikingly beautiful and well-spoken woman -- a bit witchy, in the best of all possible ways -- who does not seem to be horrified or ashamed of her daughter, which is nice to know. Actually, she seems quite proud of her daughter. 

My wife's birthday party will be nothing like this, you realize?

I mean, *I* would be pretty goddamn proud to call Betty my daughter -- she's one of the most creative, daring, entertaining and original performers in Vancouver -- but I don't always think of parents as being that supportive of stuff like this. In its own way, her Mom's presence and participation was even more eye-opening than the stuff with the guts. We exchanged smiles on the sidewalk at the end of the night while I was walking back to the Skytrain and she was returning to the Cobalt, perhaps after a food run... I guess Betty's not the only remarkable one in the family!

I did not photograph opener Werewolf Wednesday but man, that guy could sing like Chris Cornell (even covering "Fell on Black Days") and the bluesy duet he did with Betty on the song dedicated to Ren (which I did not know) was really very beautiful... but I was trying to charge my phone, which had crapped out, so I could share some photos and videos later. 

The Imperial had a vastly expanded lineup from the last time I saw them, with Orchard on keys, fellow birthday boy Bert Man on drums, Frank from, I think, the Deadcats on second guitar (Scott of Big Top  and the Frinks on the main, of course) and Richard of Daddy Issues on bass (and Cam on vocals, with he and Scott being the only constant from my pre-COVID experience of them). They blew everyone way, even those of us who don't know or spend much time with R&B. I didn't take notes, but I did shoot video of "Shotgun" (I think musta been the title) and enjoyed their Staple Singers cover ("Respect Yourself"). I owe one to Scott, sometime. Hell of a guitarist, nice guy, and the bands he leads are very striking...

Oh, speaking of the Spores, Sandy Beach was on trumpet; not sure who the sax player was. Understand, I was not really taking detailed notes. 

There was also a sampling of burlesque. Was it Lord Heathen or Jack the Stripper who fussed with his wig and showed his ass? I have no clue. It was nice seeing men half-naked whose bodies did not look appreciably better than mine take the stage (nice nipples, though).

Tristan Risk, in silver face paint, swallowed a sword and lived to tell about it; seeing this done live is less "impressive" as performance than it is utterly fucking terrifying; you kind of want to shout, "You really don't need to on OUR behalf," but she woulda done it anyhow, I think. No blood got spilled that we could see. Fellow local burlesque star Rebel Valentine sang "Psycho Killer" and did a routine with a lit prop cigarette to "Rock 'n Roll Suicide." I would put more photos up but I fear that blogger will censor posts with her tits, which were, unlike Betty's penis and vagina, actually real.

I'm not sure that all the substances consumed onstage were legit last night, but I'm pretty sure at least some of the booze Rebel imbibed was, which left me kind of impressed that she didn't burn anyone's hair with the cigarette she was smoking. At least not that I could smell. 

As for the contents of that pipe Betty whips out, or that baggie...those are props, right? No one could casually consume such things onstage and still perform without a trace of intoxication, could they? The smell of the stuff in the pipe reminded me of the smell of the stuff in Betty's poo -- her prop poo, I guess I need to reiterate, which has a hint of patchouli as I recall, which I imagine her real poo does not -- but it's been awhile since I've smelled anything being smoked other than tobacco or weed. 

Maple Ridge reprobates The Fondlers -- that was Goony on bass in the devil mask! -- closed the night. I bought their record (limited to 200 numbered copies), checked out a few songs, but footsore and exhausted, escaped quite quickly, so I could at least get the last Skytrain home (excuses, excuses). They kicked off with one where they made a point of spelling out "fuck" as F-U-K in the chorus. I can see some wit to that but Betty is a hard act to follow...

Buncha people I know were there. We all had fun. Wasn't as packed as it should have been, maybe because it was expensive-ish to get in ($35) or maybe because since Betty booked the gig, stuff came to light on social media about the Cobalt that turned people off again, I dunno. Only the second show I've seen there since wendythirteen got ousted in 2009. The place has cleaned up nicely -- no shitwater smell, not even a spilled booze smell -- but the toilets need a lot more graffiti to feel like "home." 

You can't go home again, I have heard.  

But speaking of the toilets, some dude came in to piss next to me and made a point of standing at the urinal staring at me at a an angle, so I could get an eyeful of his cock if I wanted it. I did not want it. But at least it's a gender neutral washroom, so it's not just dudes who can be treated to such phenom!

I guess girls wouldn't be standing at the urinal, though Betty DID whip out a cock during "Love Gun", and she also had some sort of piss-blasting spritzer rigged in her panties, it seemed, soaking a guy named Diego, I think, in the face. 

She made comments about "your father's cock" before two songs, this time, only one of which was by KISS. I need to read her lyric sheet real bad. She also did what I think was a PJ Harvey song about MMIWG, getting the audience to shut up so she could speak from the stage about how indigenous women are 12 times more likely to go missing than non-indigenous women. That's a hell of a statistic. There were a few indigenous women in the audience last night, which was nice to see. I once had a First Nations girl come onto me in a VERY overt way on the sidewalk in front of the old Cobalt, grabbing my goatee and telling me she liked to fuck white chubby guys! It makes for a striking memory -- I don't get overtly come-onto very often (I've had more men try to show me their cock at urinals than strange women say point blank that they wanted to fuck) but there was a different female on my mind that night (like, someone I actually was pursuing a relationship with) so I respectfully declined. I thought of her fondly a bit (and of my former partner in Cobalt coverage, Femke, who one time walked to a corner store to buy kitchen lights to put in some of the burnt out fixtures above the old Cobes' stage; we could have used some of that last night). 

But to return to Betty, she also dedicated another supremely bluesy song to an absent Murray Acton ("I'm a bad bad girl," I believe was the chorus) and did a Weener Issues song, "It's Gonna Be a Long Night," which I had not expected and loved, having missed that Ween tribute. It really does sound like Motorhead! Daddy Issues ended on Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" (inviting 80's girls to the front) and Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick," though I was over in the corner charging my phone some more at that point and didn't see if she pulled enormous gluey strings of an undisclosed stretchy substance out of her crotch for that, THIS time. 

Betty changed costumes at least three times during the night, unless you count her disrobing onstage during the Daddy Issues set, which would be #4. Is Betty's flesh also a costume?

A case could be made. 

I had brought gig buddy Adam Kates to the event and kinda blew his mind, I think. He emailed me at 3am to ask, "Just wanted to know when you'll have your blog done, about the show we saw? Can you include my quote 'rude and crude if that's the way you like it' by me?

Yes, Adam, I can! And I do like it. There's something massively purgative to nights like last night -- a ton of bullshit is burned away, a ton of pretending-to-be-nice-so-we-don't-offend-anyone, the default mode of life in the real world, is replaced by pretending-to-be-AWFUL-so-we-offend-everyone. But the room was full of really good people (except maybe that guy who really wanted me to look at his cock) and no one got offended that I could see. Though I did get some of Betty's piss-blast on my face, bouncing off Diego's, and spattering the stage for the Fondlers to deal with. 

At least it didn't smell.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Greta Gerwig, Baghead and Barbie ("do you remember mumblecore?")

You don't hear the term mumblecore much these days. 

Wikipedia lists a continued stream of films identified with this, uh, "movement." Was it ever a movement, though? There were definitely commonalities to some of the films: low budgets, hand-held digital video cameras, an improvisatory, tender feeling to the dialogue, and a somewhat Cassavetean approach to character and emotion, which were vastly more important to the stories than plot. It was kind of an exciting phenomenon in film, between about 2002 and 2012, and there really did seem to be similarities between the films of Andrew Bujalski, Aaron Katz, Jay and Mark Duplass, and Joe Swanberg, who were the main names associated with it. By around 2010, it seemed kind of forgotten about, however, and I would imagine that the vast majority of Barbie enthusiasts associate no meaning with the term at all. 

Before I get to Greta Gerwig and at least one film recommendation, I'd like to speculate a bit about what happened to mumblecore. I think there are a few reasons that the term has disappeared from view; I'm going to speculate a bit, based on the assumptions that it really was a "thing" -- that it was fair at one point to classify these filmmakers together; and that the term is pretty much meaningless now. 

For one thing, I think cinema consumption changed considerably when video rental stores started dying. With the rise of streaming, a new generation of movie consumers came up who were less inclined towards categorization and less interested in "authors" or genre. In the age of the video rental store, you had physical objects that you had to find and locate SOMEWHERE, that you could pick up and examine, which lent to the question, "What kind of thing is this?" Eventually the stores had to put the boxes in some labelled category or other, but the all-important "new arrivals wall" was where you could really see the difference between the one-off rental items, the independent movies that stood alone on the shelf, and the bigger-budgeted Hollywood films that the rental store had gotten fifty copies of. Maybe around 2008, with a movie like Baghead, there would be as many as three copies on the shelf -- maybe the Duplass brothers were hitting it big enough that even Blockbuster was getting multiple copies -- but there was still an awareness that that lonely little one-to-three off was something different, something special, that it "belonged" somewhere special. I recall that some video rental stores would even group their one-to-three copy movies together, for awhile; I forget what they called it, but Blockbuster used to have a special area set aside for them in the New Arrivals, when they figured out that some people came in specifically to seek out those sorts of films. 

Now, when you look at films suggested by Netflix, it's much harder to "see" that difference. There are no physical copies visible, just a bunch of separate titles and images, not that visibly different from each other. They might still be grouped in broad categories - horror, comedy, action; but there is no way of gauging a film's popularity in terms of physical space, anymore: if the films on Netflix or Prime or AMC+ or what-have-you were given a physical embodiment and placed on a new arrivals wall, would there be fifty copies, all rented; ten copies, nine of which were rented, or would there be one copy, alone, waiting for a viewer who understood it? 

Those mumblecore movies were often of that last variety, of course. Very beguiling, for a certain type of movie lover (elitists, say, or at least people looking for something outside the mainstream). They promised something special, films that were significant enough that the chain store had to have them, but insignificant enough that they never got more than a small handful of copies.

Another thing that's changed is the way people search for films. You couldn't go to a video store and type "quirky, emotional and independent movies" into the resident video store geek, but you can do that quite easily with Google. You'll get, from those words, a host of IMDB lists ("Best Quirky indie Movies," with weirdly irregular capitalization; is the "i" in "indie" lowercase for a reason?) or feature articles with titles like "The 30 Best (Truly) Independent Films of the 21st Century," which contain several movies by filmmakers once described as "mumblecore" and also several films that were not, like Donnie Darko. If I could find my phone -- the fuckin' cat knocked it off the dresser this morning and my wife is still trying to sleep, which means I can only grope around on the floor for so long - I would type "Baghead" into it to see the adjectives that it provides (my desktop doesn't seem to do it but my Chrome app on my phone has actually started providing adjectives, like "tense, funny, and emotional," when I type in a movie title). And a lot of people simply didn't even BOTHER trying to classify films by genre, having moved beyond language at all to a point of trusting Netflix or whatever streaming service they used to put movies in a "recommended for you" queue, "If you liked ____ then you might like ____" kind of functions. Who needs words? That's how Erika does things, for the most part: she goes straight to the "recommended for you" queue and looks at the trailer to see if it looks interesting. Is there a genre or subgenre of movement of film associated with it? Is the filmmaker considered an auteur, grouped with other like filmmakers? Is the film a tiny independent movie or a relaitvely big-budgeted affair? The technology just doesn't lend itself to caring all that much. If it looks good, she watches it. Who needs to categorize it, or even describe it?

Clearly the cat agrees, he just typed:


A third thing happened with mumblecore: the filmmakers associated with it circa 2002-2008 became successful and started making more "mainstream" films which incorporated more elements of genre and had much higher production values. The last films I saw by Andrew Bujalski (Beeswax, 2009), Aaron Katz (Cold Weather, 2010) and the Duplass brothers (Jeff, Who Lives at Home, 2012, also the year of their last film as director) were all independent comedy-dramas that looked quite different from the films they had previously made; budget information isn't leaping to my fingers for a couple of those titles, but the Duplasses were working with $7.5 million on Jeff. And with the similarly-budgeted Cyrus, the Duplass' previous hit, their cast included John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and Cathleen Keener. Is the term "mumblecore" meaningful or useful in describing a movie like that, such that differentiates it from any other indy comedy of its time? I liked both of those Duplass movies -- more than I liked Cold Weather or Beeswax, in fact -- but I remember thinking, particularly with the later-phase Duplass brothers movies, that mumblecore was dead. It had simply been a springboard to bigger, but more conventional, moviemaking. 

No one told Wikipedia, which lists 26 mumblecore films as being made since 2012. I haven't heard of a single one of them. They also have a sub-subgenre the name for which is new to me, mumblegore, which groups together films by Ti West and Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg and such. Some of the films listed as "mumblegore" movies, like The Night House, I have seen, but the connection between that film and mumblecore seems... well, non-existent. It's an independent horror film, period. It's not cheap enough, not raw enough, not defiantly unpolished, and simply not fresh enough to be a mumblecore movie. There are more similarities between mumblecore and a film like You're Next, maybe, with its squabbling family members (including Joe Swanberg), but again, with a budget of a million dollars, relatively slick production values, and a mostly scripted feel to the dialogue -- only some of which was improvised -- it just seems like an independent horror film to me.   

Which brings me to Greta Gerwig and Baghead (that's the Wikipedia entry, but note that you can see the film for free on Tubi). With a production budget of a mere $60,000, it definitely does look and feel like a mumblecore movie, and is actually the third movie of the form that Gerwig was involved in, having previously worked with Joe Swanberg on LOL and Hannah Takes the Stairs, which she co-wrote. Around the same time as Baghead was released, she also co-directed, co-wrote, and co-starred with Swanberg in Nights and Weekends, her directorial debut. But I've seen none of those Swanberg films, and can't speak to them. I think you could make a pretty good case that Baghead is a film that straddles both the mumblecore and mumblegore movements, a low-budget, improvisatory-feeling horror comedy about a group of friends who set out to make a microbudgeted movie at a cabin in the woods and end up being menaced by a knife-wielding creep with a bag over his head -- who is scary, to be sure, but considerably less terrifying than the loneliness, embarrassment, miscommunication and mutual mis-perceptions of one another one finds among the characters. 

It is, obviously, fairly meta-level -- one might argue that that very self-consciousness, which sees the film having some fun at the expense of festival-circuit independent filmmaking, was in fact a sign that mumblecore was ending, with scenes of a filmmaker being asked only questions related to his film's tiny budget -- but there's also kind of painfully awkward portrait of millennials, savvy in some ways (able to make a movie with a camera they can carry in their pocket!) and utterly clueless in others. I wrote about the film when I first saw it, back in 2009, viewing the same former Rogers Video rental copy that I showed Erika last night, saying that if I had to describe it thematically, 

I'd say it was about how horror movies assist human communication, mediate complex emotions, and give voice to repressed and often incommunicable hostilities, fears, doubts, and worries on behalf of their audience members, strengthening social bonds and ironing out tensions. Like the best mumblecore films (Aaron Katz's Quiet City, say) there is an exquisite tenderness to its treatment of human emotion; there is also quite a bit of humour and a couple of effectively creepy passages.

Anyhow, for those people who are enthusing about Greta Gerwig's Barbie (or Little Women or Lady Bird, Gerwig's previous two solo ventures as director, none of which are identified as "mumblecore" movies), you might have fun with Baghead (you might also be startled that Gerwig has a nude scene, just past the 32 minute mark; if I wanted to be cynical -- having gotten my highest-ever count on a blog article on that fucking Quentin Tarantino foot festish thing I did, continuing to grow, now having passed 11,000 reads -- I would entitle this piece "Greta Gerwig nude scene" and watch the counter rise). 

Not entirely sure that that scene was necessary, actually (though Gerwig is actually exposing herself to the bag-headed stalker, thinking it is one of the two filmmakers in disguise, so it becomes quite scary). But she's great in the movie, agreeably dorky, both charming and awkward, bringing a bit of a Chloë Sevigny quality to her role. I liked her enough in this film that I was very keen to see Lady Bird, but confess that my single viewing of that didn't really make much of an impression, maybe because I was hoping it would BE a mumblecore movie.    

It wasn't, and in fact, I think we might as well just give up on that term now, unless we're talking about movies made in that window between 2002 and 2012. Maybe some of those Wikipedia movies I've never heard of would convince me that I'm wrong. But Gerwig was in a few of those "classic mumblecore" films, and one of them -- Baghead -- you can see for free. Barbie fans might take note? It's a really fun movie; Erika thought so too! 

I guess I'm going to see Barbie this weekend, but I wonder where I can see the movies Gerwig made with Joe Swanberg? They're not on Tubi. Hm...

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Freak Dream with Jo Passed, Dreckig, and Andromeda Monk, tonight at Green Auto Body - an Elliot Langford interview

Elliot Langford doesn't perform that often these days. I interviewed him about Freak Dream once before, for the Georgia Straight, and saw him several times with the Rebel Spell (I never caught the SSRIs, but I have spun their album). Tonight, Freak Dream will be performing at Green Auto Body, in East Van, as part of a four band bill. also with Jo Passed, Dreckig (from Portland), and Andromeda Monk; having run into him at Trooperfest a couple of weeks ago, I checked in with Elliot to see what was what, for a brief email interview, which follows. Basically, everything below is Elliot! (He wrote it so there is no need for me to stick my questions in, which is fine with me!). 

Elliot: Freak Dream is going to be doing our second show as a trio, guitar bass and drums, and there's also backing tracks for some songs from a computer. We're just trying to get the wheels going again after a few slow years. Basically we put out an album and toured a bunch in 2018/2019 and then in 2020 COVID happened, and Ryan had a kid, and then I went back to school. So it's just been this year we've gotten back into playing. We are so far playing stuff from the album from 2018 and the EP from before that, we have been doing some writing but aren't ready to play anything new live yet. 

So playing at the show is also Jo Passed. It's the solo project/band of my friend Jo Hirabayashi, we have been friends since high school and played in a few bands together (SSRIs / Sprïng). He put out a record on Sub Pop a few years ago. I am actually going to be playing with his band that evening playing guitar and keys.

Then there's also Dreckig who are friends from Portland. Papi Fimbres is an amazing drummer and a friend we have known for years and Dreckig is one of his many bands - this band is a duo of him and his wife Shana.

And opening the show is Andromeda Monk who is a musician who has done a ton from playing saxophone to bass and lately she has been doing noise/ ambient music and is going to open the show.

Allan again: that's it! That's the show, tonight at Green Auto Body. Wasn't the album release gig for Last Run at an autobody shop - 333, or whatever? I wonder what this space will be like! 

Cool poster...