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Rather than the Next Big Thing, these Sheffield teenagers are more like the Next Small Thing, slight in stature, with their stop-and-start post-punk careening forming a perfectly realized miniature universe of dance-floor harlots, working-class cheek and youthful hi-jinks.
A MARATHON WEAKEND PLANNER
Whether You’re in Austin Hitting the Clubs, in L.A. Getting Ready to 26 Miles or on the Couch Watching Wall-to-Wall One-and-Done Hoops, You Need to Be in Shape
If you didn’t know that SXSW is underway, you’re on the wrong website, cuz. As our loyal reader knows, it's spring break for the music biz—a time to pretend things aren’t as dismal as all the signs indicate—so drink up, and smoke ’em if’n you got ’em! Who knows whether you’ll still have your gig by next March. Hell, you can recover back at your desk on Monday…and Tuesday…and Wednesday. You should be yourself by Thursday, just in time to catch the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. March is always a very good month.
 
SOME SXSW BUZZ GIGS
Friday, Mar. 17th
7:00pm / The Little Willies @ Town Lake Stage at Auditorium Shores
10:00pm / Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders @ Austin Music Hall
Midnight / Arctic Monkeys @ La Zona Rosa (like you’re gonna get in)
1:00am / Neko Case @ Antone's
 
Saturday, Mar. 18th
8:00pm/The Southland @ Molotov Lounge
9:00pm / Morningwood @ La Zona Rosa
10:00pm / Tom Freund @ Copa
Midnight / Damone @ Red 7
Midnight / The Bell Rays @ The Continentel Club
 
Sunday, Mar. 19th
11:30pm / The Small Stars @ Emo's Main Room
TBA / Karaoke Apocalypse: The Dead Motley Sex Maidens @ Flamingo Cantina

FLOTSAM AND TRAKIN
1. The Sopranos (HBO): The sixth (and allegedly last) season of David Chase’s epic TV series doggedly refuses to jump the shark as it deals with the issue of finality and endings—how do you get out in one piece and intact, not just in body, for his beleaguered made men, but creatively, for the author, leaving his creation with a sense of closure? Seemingly hurtling into an inevitable showdown with his own past and uncertain future, James Gandolfini’s majestic Tony gobbles down sushi and enjoys a renewed relationship with Edie Falco’s ever-optimistic Carmela, now at least partially placated by the material benefits of her role as wife of the Don. The difficulty of a graceful exit is illustrated by a subplot in the opening episode, as a low-level runner tries to retire to Florida, only to end up dancing like a marionette from the bottom of a rope after hanging himself. Other indelible highlights: the “Who’s on First?” routine between Tony and Dominic Chianese’s increasingly feeble Uncle Junior as Tony digs up the backyard looking for a missing $40k Junior insists is buried there; Aida Turturro’s Janice telling Steve Schirripa’s Bobby Bacala he should’ve taken off that “fucking” conductor’s hat when Tony visits him while he’s playing with his model trains, and the look of bewilderment that follows; a character intoning “No good deed goes unpunished” just a few scenes before Uncle Junior plugs Tony and leaves him writhing on the floor trying to call 911, which is right where we left off. If this first episode is any indication, the final 19 are going to be a doozie. —Roy Trakin

2. The Arctic Monkeys live at the Music Box @ Henry Fonda Theater, Hollywood: No less than Rodney Bingenheimer, seated to next to me, stated the L.A. debut of these much-touted newcomers was akin to seeing Elton John at the Troubadour in 1970, and he should know because he was there. Of course, rather than the Next Big Thing, these Sheffield teenagers are more like the Next Small Thing, slight in stature, with their stop-and-start post-punk careening forming a perfectly realized miniature universe of dance-floor harlots, working-class cheek and youthful hi-jinks. Their snotty attitude comes out loud and clear in anti-elitist anthems such as “Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But...” and the rabid closing one-two punch of “Fake Tales of San Francisco” and “A Certain Romance,” as charismatic lead singer/guitarist Alex Turner challenges someone to “throw a punch at me” and backs it up with electric shocks of skeletal ska guitars. The guitar interplay between Turner and Jamie Cook is Feelies-like in its jittery collusion, while the stone-solid rhythm section of bassist Andy Nicholson and drummer Matt Helders keeps it hanging onto the road despite the steep curves. Young, fast and scientific, these hungry newcomers are reminiscent of the Clash crossed with the Streets, authentic in a way American rock can never quite be. To quote the original Monkees, I’m a believer. —RT

3. Matisyahu, Youth (Or Music/Epic): This one-time stoner Phish fan-turned-Hasidic reggae toaster has the potential to be the most important Jewish rock star since Bob Dylan, but I’m not quite ready to anoint him the next Bob Marley yet. The sheer novelty of his white boy reggae is overcome by his canny connection of the spiritual similarities between Rastafarianism and Hasidism—the belief in the imminent arrival of the messiah, the longing for homeland on Mt. Zion, the primacy of ritual, the correlation between music and spirituality, the dreads and the payeses and, of course, the second-class treatment of women. Turning those common chords into songs, the former Matthew Miller takes the biddy-biddy-bom in “Time of Your Life” and shows how it connects the syncopated rhythms of Jewish prayer known as davening, the lilt of Jamaican patois and the accented upbeat of the dancehall. And while there are moments where his major-label bow veers towards the conventional, as when he pays homage to the blue-eyed world beat of the Police with the “Message in a Bottle” S.O.S. of “Dispatch the Troops,” he also proves his musical acumen in “Jerusalem” by slyly quoting Matthew Wilder’s 1984 breakthrough, “Break My Stride,” a huge hit in Jamaica. It’s a rare glimpse of humor from the devout, often solemn, performer, who saves his exuberance for his performance, and perhaps the only thing keeping him from rock & roll greatness. In “WP,” he even gets personal, recounting his own background growing up in White Plains and unable to make the football team, with a mid-song rap that offers a tantalizing glimpse at his stylistic versatility. And when you throw in the Deadhead jam-band guitar riffs in “Ancient Lullaby” and the climactic studio version of “King Without a Crown,” it would appear Matisyahu has all his stylistic bases covered. Look out, Steven Spielberg. A new King of the Jews has arrived. —RT

4.
My Morning at Lew Wasserman’s: Speaking of Jewish rappers, Ice Berg called and said he was working with an electrician friend of his doing some wiring at the home of Edie Wasserman, the widow of Universal’s late Last Mogul, Lew Wasserman, who passed away in 2002 at the ripe age of 89 years old. The house is on Foothill Dr., four doors up from Sunset Blvd. in the heart of geographic Beverly Hills, but the residence at the top of the winding driveway is really the one-time epicenter of Hollywood power, the West Coast White House, a ’60s-style ranch that sits on prime real estate, the waterfalls, winding paths and requisite Koi pond in the rolling backyard, today being tended to by two rather slow-moving gardeners. Walking into the house puts one front and center into a true Louvre Museum of art, artifacts and keepsakes of a lifetime in show business. In Lew and Edie’s office, a picture of Steven Spielberg, sitting next to Lew as if awaiting penance, inscribed, “To Lew: I learned more about the movie business from you than anybody else.” I pick up a phone book on the coffee table and randomly flip to a page, where Lady Bird Johnson’s number and address are listed. The hallways are festooned with original Matisses, Cezanne sculptures are prominently displayed and a Picasso bullfight painting hangs on a wall, spotlighted as if from within. We walk across the carport to Lou’s personal screening room, as two giant vintage 1960 70-millimeter projectors loom in the projection room, which includes a toilet. Candy dishes are still kept filled by a Universal employee who stops by every day to restock them. A photo of Alfred Hitchcock wearing a bobby helmet and his traditional foreboding grimace is signed: “From the ‘London boy’ to the ‘Cleveland kid.’” A snapshot of Ronald Reagan and Lew at some picnic sits in a clear Mylar frame, with Ronnie inscribing what a grand day it was for a gathering. A photo book of Edie’s birthday features a shot of Dean Martin dancing with Janet Leigh, Dean and ex-wife Jeanie clowning with Lew, Hitchcock mugging for the cameras. I grab a few papers from the Universal Lew Wasserman note pad still sitting by the ’50s screening room controls. Like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Edie hasn’t touched a thing, keeping the place exactly as Lew left it three years ago, which was probably exactly how it looked since around 1964. Her red Mercedes with the “Edie 1” plates sits forlornly in the garage. Ice Berg’s boss shook his head and remarked how, when the 90-year-old widow does pass, grandson Casey, who lives down the street, will basically clean the place out, and who knows what will become of all that priceless memorabilia, a veritable who’s who in the corridors of power forged between the entertainment industry and the world of politics in the latter half of the 20th century. As Ice Berg bid me adieu from the front lawn, wearing a pair of oversized shades in tribute to Wasserman like he owned the place, I felt a rush of bittersweet nostalgia for an era irrevocably gone. —RT
 
5. All Dolled Up (Music Video Distribution): Veteran rock photographer Bob Gruen was with the New York Dolls practically from the start, and this compilation of grainy, black-and-white videos shot by him and partner Nadya Beck back in the group’s short-lived heyday make an excellent companion piece with the recent Arthur Kane documentary New York Doll. For those who wonder, 30 years later, what all the fuss was about, these casual performances from a variety of local clubs in New York and then in L.A. won’t necessarily convince the skeptic of how great and influential the band was, but the sheer panache and street style of David Johansen, Johnny Thunders and company can be spotted as the glam-rock that launched a thousand imitators, many of which achieved commercial success far beyond their inspirations’ short-circuited Too Much, Too Soon roller-coaster career. Dig the rare, early-’70s footage from Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, as groupies, led by the immortal Sable Starr, get the Dolls in their sights and won’t let go. There are some scenes of beer drinking and rather half-hearted partying, but not a hint of the stronger temptations that would eventually claim two of the band’s members, and it all comes across as a far more innocent time long ago and far away. —RT

6. Daniel Powter (Warner Bros.): A falsetto can be a dangerous thing in the wrong throat, but this young, piano-playing, British Columbia-based singer/songwriter hits all the right notes on his Mitchell Froom-produced debut, as he channels everyone from “Free Fallin’” Tom Petty (“Song 6”) to a young Rod Stewart (“Suspect”) and, most notably, Elton John, on “Bad Day,” which sounds like it could be an outtake from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Saving him from the tendency toward high-pitched James Blunt/Chris Martin twee in songs like “Lie,” which takes the innocence of Leo Sayer and crossbreeds it with the leering lasciviousness of Prince, is a tendency toward self-loathing, as in the pre-disco Bee Gees plaint of “Free Loop,” a knowingly sleazy invitation to swap partners; “Jimmy Gets High,” a highly theatrical set piece that wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway if it weren’t for its drug-soaked lyrics; and “Hollywood,” a sardonic Ray Davies-styled look at the underbelly of Tinseltown. —RT
 
7. Rock of Ages at the Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood: There’s nothing wrong with this jukebox musical celebrating the Sunset Strip hair band era of the ‘80s that a little stronger book couldn’t remedy, and it’s certainly hard to criticize a group of performers who dive into the material with such “let’s put on a show” enthusiasm, spilling over into the audience. And I certainly liked the idea of giving out free lighters so that the audience can flick their Bics at arena-rock guilty pleasures like Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” The trouble begins with the creaky plot, which revolves around some German developers who wish to close down the Whisky-a-Go-Go-like club run by a pony-tailed Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. And then it extends to the rendition of the songs themselves, which take liberties to the point of being unrecognizable, a problem if you want the audience to experience the kind of instant familiarity with the material they’re obviously aiming for. For a play that hinges on the choice of material, you have to wonder why the likes of Quarterflash’s “Harden Your Heart” or Damn Yankees’ “High Enough” were included over more familiar material, but apparently there were problems in securing rights. And the costumes feel all wrong, at least in comparison to the expertly realized parody of something like Metal School. With a top-flight production team, including noted video-turned-film director Marcus Siega and industry vet Janet Billig Rich, behind it, the ultimate destination for this musical is obviously Las Vegas, where all old rockers should find their final resting place. —RT
 
8. All We Are Saying (Showtime): Billed as a “Rosanna Arquette Experience,” this documentary, produced by longtime industry figure Freddy DeMann, features the actress interviewing a variety of musicians with her hand-held camcorder about their creative process, what inspires them to make music, how they deal with the business and integrating their personal and creative lives, among other topics. The subjects encompass legends like Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Burt Bacharach, Willie Nelson and Iggy Pop; new wavers like Patti Smith and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon; contempo hipsters like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Alison Goldfrapp, Shelby Lynne and Amanda Ghost; and mainstream pros like Sting, Mary J. Blige and Chili Peppers Flea and Anthony Kiedis. All either muse about their craft or kvetch about how the current bottom-line-oriented industry has put a clamp on their creativity. The thing that’s missing is actual musical performances (individual songs are only heard in bits and pieces) and any kind of sense of humor, though the act of musicians talking about music remains a riveting subject in spite of itself. The only real revelation occurs during Arquette’s chat with her ex, Peter Gabriel, who admits at one point to indulging in the rock lifestyle, while Rosanna sagely nods, “I know.”—RT

9. Gripe of the Week: I know that the national chain P.F. Chang is the Olive Garden of Chinese restaurants, but it does have atmosphere, so I wanted to take my parents there on a Monday night before they headed to the airport hotel to fly back to West Palm Beach the next morning. Why people wait on line for this place is beyond me, but when we told the hostess we needed a table for six, she said that a party was just finishing up. Of course, the group paid their bill and then proceeded to simply sit there, nursing their drinks, making calls on their cells, as we gave them the evil eye. Five, then 10, then 15 minutes go by, way past my mom’s usual 4:30 p.m. early-bird dinnertime, making me even more antsy. A request that a waiter begin to clean up the table is met with a stony, “We don’t do that here” as I simmered and contemplated a Larry David-style attack, though I ended up just staring and fuming. I ask you, is it right to sit and dawdle at one of only two or three tables that seat six patrons while people are lined up to get in? I never found the answer, as we headed for our cars and went across Ventura Blvd. to Yang Chow which, even though it had fluorescent lights and little ambience to speak of outside of the impassive Buddha propped by the cash register, at least could seat six without a wait. —RT

10. That Other L.A. Team: You see a lotta coverage of the deep and solid L.A. Clippers in this weekly section, and that’s as it should be, especially considering the present struggles of the Clips’ co-tenants at Staples Center. Earlier in the season, the Lakers big story was the resurgent Kobe Bryant, freed from the shackles of a criminal trial and an acrimonious relationship with former superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal and putting up jaw-dropping numbers. Kobe’s exploits made it possible for hardcore Lakers fans like myself to overlook his problematic supporting cast (to use Michael Jordan’s term), the one bright spot being much-traveled point guard Smush Parker, who found his game after bouncing around the last few years and made the starting lineup—a big improvement over last year’s starter, the boneheaded, and happily departed, Chucky Atkins. While Parker has been a pleasant surprise, the ridiculously talented former Clipper and ex-blunt smoker Lamar Odom has been a puzzlement, slow to take to the nuances of the triangle offense or to use his prodigious physical skills assertively. But in the last few games, some of them ugly losses (including Sunday’s stunningly lame performance against Seattle, which I’m sorry to say I attended), Lamar has started to find his game, to a tantalizing extent, causing me to wonder how good this team could be if he can keep up this string of triple-double-approaching performances and Kobe gets over his recent slump/funk and second-generation baller Luke Walton continues his run of playing smart and making shots. That’s a lot of ands, but it’s enough to make me keep watching—and hoping—through the dog days of the NBA regular season. At the same time, after watching Sacramento savior Ron Artest shut down Kobe and score 30 the other night, I can’t help but wonder how far the Lakers could go in the playoffs with that psycho, assuming he continues to take his meds. It’ll be fascinating to see how the trade that wasn’t made—Odom for Artest—plays out in the Pacific Division and beyond. The Lakers are at New Jersey Friday (5:30 on Channel 9) and Cleveland Sunday (10 on ABC). —Bud Scoppa

CALENDAR
Friday, March 17th
9:30am
Wisconsin vs. Arizona on CBS:
This is a really good matchup between eighth- and ninth-seeded teams. Arizona hasn’t impressed me yet, but I expect them to come out and play tough, considering they get their leading scorer Hasan Adams back, and also they have a really good freshman point guard in Marcus Williams, but in the end I believe Wisconsin is the smarter and better team and will end up with the win.

11:30am
Downtown Los Angeles St. Patrick's Day Parade @ West Fifth Street and Olive Street: This impressive show of Celtic and civic pride includes marching bands, the LAPD Motorcycle Drill Team (say what?!), a bevy of police and fire department units, and enough red fire trucks to make you almost forget that green is the color of the day.

11:50am
Oral Roberts vs. Memphis on CBS: Another game to keep your on. Yes, on paper it’s the #1 seed against the #16 seed but don’t sleep on Oral Roberts. Led by Junior forward Caleb Green who is averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds a game, I expect this game to be hotly contested, but in the end, Memphis is the more athletic team and should win.

1:00pm-7:00pm
Wizard World @ LA Convention Center: Even if you're not a comic book fan, if manga's not your thing or if action figures aren't your cup of tea, there's still plenty of interesting stuff going on at the Wizard World Convention. For starters, there's a Q & A with director Kevin Smith and panels devoted to upcoming summer blockbusters with key cast and crew members.

6:45pm
UAB vs. Kentucky on CBS: Look for UAB to pull the upset here, I just don’t thin Kentucky is that good end of discussion.

7:30pm
Sixers vs. Clippers @ Staples Center: The Clippers return home after getting embarrassed on national TV, losing to the first-place Suns by 31 points, and it wasn’t even that close! I expect a big effort from my guys as they look to jump right back on to the winning track.

Saturday, March 18th
10:00am-6:00pm
Wizard World continues @ LA Convention Center.

Sunday, March 19th
8:30am
Los Angeles Marathon @ Figueroa and 6th Street: Approximately 25,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes attempt to complete the 26.2-mile course, with a million or so spectators lining the route to cheer them on. In addition, thousands of cyclists, walkers and skaters participate in related events throughout the weekend.

11:00am-5:00pm
Wizard World concludes @ L.A. Convention Center.

JE-C’S NEW MOVIE RUNDOWN
V For Vendetta
Starring:
Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry and John Hurt
Synopsis:
in totalitarian Great Britain, a masked terrorist known only as V, who urges the citizenry to rally against their tyrannical government, rescues a young woman named Evey. As Evey learns more about her rebel rescuer she decides to join his cause.
Thoughts: I saw a preview for this movie awhile back, and ever since then the anticipation of opening night has been building. Unfortunately for me, I have to postpone seeing it until the day after opening night due to a Clippers game, but I will be seeing it Saturday night for sure. I am hoping this movie turns out to be as good as I think it can be.

She’s the Man
Starring:
Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, James Kirk and David Cross
Synopsis: While her twin brother, Sebastian plays hooky in London to get his band some gigs; Viola Johnson dresses up in his clothes so she can matriculate at his fancy boarding school, Illyria Prep. But things get complicated when Viola falls for Sebastian's roommate, Duke, who's got a crush on Olivia, who's really into Sebastian. Got that? Making matters worse for Viola, her bro's back from the city two days earlier than she planned.
Thoughts: You know, I don’t know if it’s my fiancé rubbing off on me or what, but I really want to see this movie. I think it looks hilarious!!!

Find Me Guilty
Starring: Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Annabella Sciorra and Richard Portnow
Synopsis:
In the slammer on a drug charge, Jackie won't rat out his mob pals in Jersey's Lucchesi crime family. But with prosecutor Sean Casey putting together an air-tight case of RICO charges, Jackie decides to ditch his lawyer and defend himself, despite his lack of law experience.
Thoughts: Not too sure about this movie. I want to see it because I think it has some potential to be entertaining, but there has been very little press, which makes me think it's a lemon.

Limited Release
Thank You for Smoking:
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy and Sam Elliott. This movie has a great cast and a very funny premise; could be a sleeper.
HITS LIST IS
IN THE MAIL
A not-so-subtle reminder to fill out that ballot. (10/15a)
NEAR TRUTHS: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
The lives behind live music. (10/14a)
HARVEY MASON JR.:
THE HITS INTERVIEW
The Grammy chief takes our call. (10/14a)
RAINMAKERS 2020: COMING SOON
It will rain again this fall--we guarantee it. (10/13a)
STEVIE WONDER PARTNERS WITH REPUBLIC
First music in 15 years. (10/14a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
HALLOWEEN IN QUARANTINE
Why not wear a mask indoors?
ELECTION 2020
What drugs will help us get there?
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