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What is it they say about defense winning championships? UCLA’s end-to-end tenacity will lead the Bruins to scratch out an ugly upset win over Florida 52-50.
WEAKEND PLANNER & THE MIRACLE OF FOUR...FINALLY
Here Comes a Saturday of Hoops and a Sunday of Practical Jokes... Don't Get Fooled Again
TRAKIN CARE OF BUSINESS:
BALLAZ, PLAYAZ, NERDZ AND PUTZES
1. Final Four:
You know, my fellow bracketologists, there is something aesthetically as well as mathematically pleasing about the way 64 becomes 32 becomes 16 becomes eight becomes four, etc. and this year’s edition of the NCAA Basketball tournament was as satisfying as ever, if unsurprising, mostly for its chalk finish, with two #1 seeds going up against a pair of #2s, leaving us with the most predictable Final Four in years. That said, the final three games are not easy to handicap, with any one of these four teams more than capable of taking home the whole enchilada. In the opener, I like the chances of Georgetown’s 7’2” goliath, Queens native Roy (nice name) Hibbert, to neutralize his opposite number, Ohio State’s Bill Russell-like freshman giant Greg Oden, giving G-town’s bullish forward Jeff Green, who has played his way into the NBA draft lottery this month, the edge up front. The question is whether the Hoyas can contain the Buckeyes’ clutch, sharp-shooting backcourt of Ron Lewis, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook. #1 seeded Ohio State has already dodged a couple of bullets in its overtime win against Xavier and falling behind by 20 vs. Tennessee, so here’s guessing the Buckeyes’ string of good luck will run out against the relentless pressure of the best Georgetown team since the ’80s heyday of John Thompson and Patrick Ewing, with the fitting irony that their sons are now coach and vital role player, respectively. It’s almost enough to make this perennial St. John’s fan sick to his stomach, but G-town will return to the Finals. There, they get to meet the winner from the rematch of last year’s championship final between Florida and UCLA, taken by the Gators, 73-57. Can the Bruins make up 16 points in 12 months? It’s certainly not unprecedented. I picked UCLA at the start of this tournament, and while this match-up doesn’t exactly favor Ben Howland’s defensive terrorists on paper, the game is played on the court, where the Bruins can suffocate an offense, and Florida’s isn’t unstoppable. Though UCLA’s front-line is long and vertical, it can’t hope to compete with the Gators’ twin terrors, Joakim Noah (son of tennis great Yannick) and Al Horford (another second generation baller as son of Tito), so All-American Arron Afflalo and underrated point guard Darren Collison will need to hit some long-range jumpers to draw out the Gators’ interior defenders. The keys for UCLA could well be Josh Shipp, a physical type who sat on the bench with an injury last year, and freshman backup point guard Russell Westbrook, who has stepped up several times this tournament. What is it they say about defense winning championships? UCLA’s end-to-end tenacity will lead the Bruins to scratch out an ugly upset win over Florida 52-50. Then they’ll take it all in a cross-country, Pac 10/Big East match-up vs. Georgetown that goes one or two overtimes, giving UCLA their first title since 1995, while supplying enough thrills to make up for a tournament that left us without a low-seed Cinderella to root for after the second round.

2. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic):
Does Isaac Brock have a death wish? Just last week, he cut himself on-stage while touring, and almost every one of these 14 new songs has a Sixth Sense-meets-Deadman punch line that lives up to the gloom-and-doomy album title. If, as the Knicks’ Micheal Ray Richardson once put it about his plummeting basketball team, “The ship be sinking,” on MM’s new album, it doesn’t much matter because all of us are already swimming with the fishes. Like fellow Pacific Northwesterners, the Decemberists, Brock and company’s latest has an ancient seafaring feel to it, jacked into the modern world with plenty of Pixies-styled angular hooks and rhythmic dipsy-doodles among the more pastoral songs like “Florida” and “Missed the Boat,” both distinguished by legendary Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, the ever-shifting collective’s newest member, as well as warmly inviting back-up vocals by The ShinsJames Mercer. Mastermind Brock lets the words cascade om waves of hit-and-miss images, but all are focused on the great beyond, whether it’s the fear of posthumous carbon-dating in “Parting of the Sensory,” the Wittgenstein-ian philosophical ruminations about meaning in “Fly Trapped in a Jar” or the industrial revolution grinding to a halt in “Steam Engenius.” Producer Dennis Herring, veteran of original I.R. S. twisted roots acts like Timbuk 3 as well as Camper van Beethoven, steers the ship through dangerously murky waters, never letting Brock stray far from shore with his gift for melodies, as in the epic, eight-minute-plus “Spitting Venom,” which starts as a country-folk lament but soon takes off for the deep, dark moonlit sea of “messed-up history.” “People as Places as People” is Brock’s nod to David Byrne’s whooping, art-funk yelp, while the closing “Invisible” ends with yet another watery metaphor: “We’ll get crushed by the ocean, but it will not get us wet.” At once despairing, yet indefatigable, Isaac Brock continues to wear that turmoil on his sleeve..and, lately his chest. Remarkably, enough of his fans relate to his fidgety angst to make him one of the few indie rockers who hasn’t had to compromise that vision to achieve commercial success.

3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver (DFA/Capitol): James Murphy is a Brooklyn-based boho version of Giorgio Moroder who creates dance music for fans of Eno’s work with David Bowie and the Talking Heads. He casts an ear towards downtown N.Y.’s fusion of avant-garde and disco, updating the late-’70s/early-’80s tradition of Michael Zilkha’s groundbreaking Ze Records (Christina, James Chance, Suicide), the Puerto Rican punk rhythms of ESG and art composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. “Time to Get Away” sounds like the Afro-pop melding of Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues, while the tongue-in-cheek first single, “North American Scum,” borrows the lyrical and musical themes of Bowie and Eno’s “I’m Afraid of Americans.” “Someone Great” takes the most melodic elements of Human League-style British synthpop, while “All My Friends” explores another of the 37-year-old’s favorite themes, that of boomer hipsters trying to relate to youth culture, with knowing lyrics like “We set controls for the heart of the sun—one of the ways that we show our age.” “Us v Them” places the Chambers Brothers’ anthemic “the time has come today” against a backdrop of multi-layered African-flavored funk that knowingly takes on the perennial dichotomies of rock vs. disco and mind vs. body (“All the clever people wanna tell you/That all the little people wanna dance [it’s true]”). “Watch the Tapes” is a bass-heavy, self-deprecating ode to the absurdities of choosing pop music as a career (“Hey, the rock writer told me to tell you: ‘Though you’re great and you’re brave/You still lack that which makes you a star’”), which echoes Murphy’s fascination with Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced Berlin albums. “Sound of Silver” also comments ruefully on trying to relive teenage angst with floating kalimbas and talking drums, while the closing “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is a tinkling cocktail piano ballad in which Murphy portrays the anti-Sinatra, coming down firmly on the new, squeaky-cleaned-up post-Giuliani Times Square as Disneyland Apple: “You’re safer and you’re wasting my time/Our records all show you were filthy but fine.” Despite his protest, it’s hard to imagine Murphy coming from anyplace else: his groundbreaking punk-disco is as Noo Yawk as CBGBs and Studio 54, and has managed to outlast both.

4. The Fratellis, Costello Music (Interscope): These Glaswegians, NME’s Best New Band of the Year and a Brit Award winner for Best Breakthough Act, are anything but gloomy, guilelessly chanting nonsense syllables like “wa ha ha ha,” “la la la la,” “wee hee hee” and the immortal “bara bap bara ra ra ra” over high-octane melodies that range from the Kinks cum Squeeze tale of lusting after a psychotic, middle-age fan with a murderous husband in “Henrietta” (“You can come live with us among the/Has-beens and the addicts”) to the Jimmy Reed blues skiffle, Caribbean rhythms and Nuggets-style power pop garage chorus of “Flathead,” now playing on an iTunes TV spot near you. But don’t blame this cheeky trio (who boast the same Italian last names, a la the Ramones) for selling out by aggressively hawking ringtones. Like the best British bands, the Fratellis take American rock & roll and sell it back to us in a stylish, if slightly retro, imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery chic, making it all sound effortless, with the Beatlesque “Whistle for the Choir” sporting a sweet Merseybeat feel that could have come straight off A Hard Day’s Night, sporting the irresistible payoff: “A girl like you is just irresistible.” There’s plenty of lusting after unavailable females in the glam sing-song “Chelsea Dagger” (“I believe when you’re dancing/Slowly sucking your sleeve/That all the boys get lonely after you leave”) and the Two-Tone reggae beat of “For the Girl” (“She was into the Stones when I was into the Roses”). The band’s admiration for the Clash by way of the Libertines comes through loud and clear in the martial strut and “White Riot” head rush of “Gutterati?” with its Bowie/T. Rex glam and self-deprecating admission, “Well, I may not have a big boy’s pistol, but I’ll help you any way I can.” There’s also the country twang of “Vince the Loveable Stoner,” which sounds like an outtake from Muswell Hillbillies, and the salacious, sing-along “Bang a Gong” refrain of “Baby Fratelli”: “And it’s alright she’ll be sucking fingers all night.” “Got Ma Nuts From a Hippy” goes from the call-and-response of “London Calling” to its final admission: “She made me cry, she made me cry/But it’s all right/It’s all right/It’s all right.” There’s no political import here, no o'erreaching goal beyond entertaining themselves, a throwback to the U.K. music hall tradition of pleasing a crowd by any means at your disposal. The Benny Hills of post-emo punk manage to distract us from life’s pains and inequities with pure pop pleasure… and isn’t that what the best rock is all about?

5. This American Life (Showtime): I’m not a fan of the jes’-folks, yarn-spinning NPR whimsy of Garrison Keiller nor have I ever really listened to Ira Glass, though I’ve certainly heard of him. Even if you aren’t tuned in to the Chicago-based radio host, this televised version of his narratives about the oddities and ironies of everyday existence in the U.S. of A. recalls growing up with a transistor radio under my pillow following the late-night tall (?) tales related by story-tellers like Long John Nebel and Jean Shepherd, the latter better known as narrator of the perennial A Christmas Story film, based on one of his own yarns. Glass has a similarly ingratiating style, introducing a series of two or three 10-minute documentaries on each half-hour episode based around a single theme, from behind a desk with a radio microphone set in the middle of a field or against a backdrop of snowy mountains. The first episode, about how sometimes our best-laid plans can go awry, is about an avant-garde improv group that specializes in spontaneous public displays turning up en masse at a New York club to make it “the best gig ever” for an oblivious rock band from Vermont known as Ghosts of Pasha, singing along with every word, jumping up and down, then leaving the building the moment the set ends. It’s an interesting psychological experiment now being played out on a big stage every week with Sanjaya on American Idol, but Glass zeroes in on the intimacy of how the geeky group reacts to the adulation, and then the realization they’ve been had. There are also stories about the clone of a pet bull that turns violent against its owner, a group of elder citizens making a 10-minute movie for Sundance, a young woman looking back on a wild youth while reading from her teenage diary, a photographer who takes pictures of a drowning woman and questions why he doesn't help her, a junior high boy who doesn’t believe in love and a 9/11 widow that becomes a stand-up comic. It’s kinda like a post-modern version of on the road with Charles Kuralt, and the stories are sometimes a little too whimsical, but they’re all done in a very artful, ironic Errol Morris style, featuring great Philip Glass-type music, with particular attention to how character manifests itself in all its eccentric humanity. Glass is an engaging host and interviewer, never too aggressive, but just curious enough about the human condition to draw you into these worlds, much like a Rod Serling presiding over reality’s version of the Twilight Zone American-style.

6. Richard Williams, Out of His Head (Omnibus Press): Seems hard to believe, but the frail, bewigged, wild-eyed Phil Spector you see on trial for murder was once astride the pop universe, “The First Tycoon of Teen,” as Tom Wolfe dubbed him in his groundbreaking 1964 profile for the International Herald Tribune, one of the first pieces of mythmaking disguised as rock journalism. The eccentric Fairfax High-by-way-of-Bronx Spector was creator of the now-legendary girl group Wall of Sound that first anticipated, then was ultimately crushed by, the British Invasion. Ironically, Spector ended up a beneficiary of his influence in the U.K. when he went on to produce the BeatlesLet It Be as well solo projects for John Lennon and George Harrison. Veteran rock critic Richard Williams’ landmark Spector bio was first published in 1972 (this updated edition was rushed out after Phil's 2003 arrest), when he was an assistant editor at Melody Maker, and it is one of the first pop books to take the music seriously, comparing the producer’s “Little Symphonies for the Kids” to composer Richard Wagner and pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Concentrating less on Spector’s flamboyance and more on what was actually in the grooves, the Brit crit is typically astute and scrupulous in his analysis, tracing the evolution of particular influences, such as the Latin-flavored baion rhythm, in the whole body of his work. Not that there aren’t some juicy anecdotes, including the book-opening blow-out between John and Yoko during the recording of “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” as well as the lovingly evoked terrain of colorful early music biz characters like George Goldner, Leiber & Stoller, Danny Davis, Don Kirschner, George “Shadow” Morton, Lester Sill and Lee Hazlewood. Williams' recounts of several stories depicting Spector threatening everyone from Stevie Wonder to Dee Dee Ramone by waving a gun in the air certainly can’t help his current case. The book tags Spector as perhaps America’s original counter-culturist, the first to grow his hair long, the first to turn the recording studio into his palette, the first to turn teen-pop into an artistic and commercial force, cramming an entire world view into a single three-minute mono track. Although his artistic heyday lasted less than four years, from the Crystals' “He’s a Rebel” in '62 to the classic Ike & Tina Turner version of “River Deep, Mountain High” (whose commercial flop sent him into early retirement), Spector remains an enigmatic, compelling figure. In Out of His Head, Williams establishes the template of the mad, self-destructive rock genius then proceeds to examine some of his lesser-known works in lucid detail, resulting in the biggest compliment you can pay a rock writer—he sends you back to listen to the records.

7. The Democrats: The news that Presidential candidate John Edwards’ wife Elizabeth has a recurrence of cancer throws the early race into turmoil. There’s no doubt in my mind public pressure will force Edwards out, leaving the field to Obama and Hillary, with Gore content to sit on the sidelines as a possible kingmaker. Only thing is, he doesn’t carry enough weight (or votes) to justify that position. No, fellow Dems, the real wild card in this race, or raza, as the case may be, is charismatic L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who brings something nobody else does, a hefty block of Latino voters which could just offset the strength of the Republicans in the Red States. And, according to those in the know at City Hall, it’s a lock Senor V will throw his support behind Hillary, seeing that many of the key people on his team are Clintonistas. Will that be enough to earn him a slot on Hill's ticket, you ask? How does Vice President Villaraigosa sound to you? Now there’s a team that can actually defeat whatever war horse the GOP throws its way. I’m already feeling better about the 2008 eleccion, I mean election, than I am about the Mets’ upcoming season.

8. Andy Dick, “Do Your Shows Always Suck?” (Oglio): Like fellow edgy comic, the late Andy Kaufman, Andy Dick has two personas, one as a cuddly, fey sitcom star, a post-modern Tony Randall, say, and the other as an avant-garde performance artist who pushes the boundaries between image and reality with jokes about rehab and homosexuality. Anyone named Dick has had a lifetime honing his heckler-handling skills, so this live set, recorded at a pair of college shows, showing his underrated ability as a bawdy raconteur, interspersed with ditties like his standard, “Little Brown Ring,” “Another Great Day for Drugs" and “Dip Your Cock in Vodka," the old-timey blues cure for STD. Single-handedly keeping the late-night talk shows and celebrity roasts alive with his no-holds-barred appearances (most recently groping Ivanka Trump on Jimmy Kimmel’s couch, then getting dragged off-stage by security), Dick is so self-deprecatingly honest, real and, yeah, vulnerable, you can’t help but love him.

9. www.insidecelebpics.com/: Ever wonder about the private life of a celebrity photographer? No, neither did we, but this new blog site from veteran snapper (and all-around life of the party) Jeff Kravitz is a great place to follow his adventures as the old boy manages to balance red carpet jockeying and criss-crossing the country to Bonnaroo, the Aspen Comedy Festival and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a healthy family life. Reading a few entries will make you wonder what you did wrong, as Kravitz' FilmMagic.com is acquired by major photo syndication service Getty Images when they purchase his parent company Wire Image, making the dude even richer and happier. If Kravitz thinks he can write, maybe I should start to take pictures, but his diary entries manage to put a human face on one of the biz’s true craftsman, equally at home with Kid Rock as he is his lovely wife and kids. He’ll be the first to tell you what a lucky guy he is.

10. Gripes of the Week: These are a few of my least favorite things: Being awakened by the sound of electric handsaws, motorized lawn blowers or barking dogs on Saturday morning before 8. Nicking my nose while shaving and trying to get it to stop bleeding while driving to work. Making the bed every day. The drop-offs on my Sirius radio in the middle of Howard Stern. When the Internet goes out. When the hot water runs out while taking a shower. Lefsetz on skiing. Dry, itchy skin, especially my own. Seeing myself on TV or hearing myself on the radio. When the person you’re IM’ing abruptly stops responding. A limp handshake. Any movie ad that uses quotes from Maxim’s Pete Hammond, Larry King or Wireless magazine’s Earl Dittman. Any movie that stars a guy in a fat suit. Not having one of the teams I root for in either the NBA or NHL playoffs. Hold music. Being surrounded by people on their BlackBerries. People saying the music business is over.

CALENDAR
Friday, March 30
th
Attention NASCAR fans! Judge Jackson, the rock band featuring our own J.J. Garcia, will be on the bill with Buckcherry, Army of Anyone and many more at this weekend’s Westside Motorcycle Expo, taking place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, Friday through Sunday. Festivities include custom builders and company displays, a Motocross Freestyle Expo and a Custom Bike Show. For more info, go to www.nitrosyndicate.com/.

7:30pm
Clippers vs. Sacramento @ Arco Arena on FSN Prime Ticket: The Clippers have not faired well at all in Sacto and are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Rockets. The Clippers pretty much control their own destiny—if they just win the games they are supposed to, they’ll clinch the eighth seed. L.A. will be looking to end their long losing streak to the Kings, who are still holding on to slim playoff hopes.

8:00pm
Cold War Kids @ Middle East Nightclub - Cambridge, MA

9:00pm
Hoodoo Gurus at House of Blues Anaheim
It takes a pretty special band to inspire me to drive to Anaheim on a Friday night. But I also drove to San Diego to see them on Tuesday, so indeed, a Hoodoo Gurus show is worth enduring hours of traffic and feeling my age (I'm older than your mom) the next morning. Fans of Australia's best band ever can expect to hear a wide range of material from the Hoodoo Gurus’ 25-year career, with emphasis on Stoneage Romeos and Mars Needs Guitars. I'll be front-and-center, yelling for "Like Wow, Wipeout," "Be My Guru" and "What's My Scene." You need to see this show —Ivana

Lilly Allen @ House of Blues San Diego

Saturday, March 31st
3:07pm
Ohio State vs. Georgetown on CBS: A battle of big men down low should make for a war, but in the end I think the Hoyas’ experience will win out.

5:47pm
UCLA vs. Florida on CBS: You can bet the Bruins will be well-prepared for this rematch of last year’s championship game. Nonetheless, although I’m a big time Bruins fan, I just don’t think they have enough talent to combat the Gators’ NBA-ready roster.

6:00pm
Madina Lake @ Crocodile Rock Café, Allentown, PA
Bullet For My Valentine @ Desert Breeze State Park, Las Vegas

8:00pm
Pete Yorn @ House of Blues - New Orleans, LA

9:00pm
Blue October @ House of Blues Sunset

Sunday, April 1st
APRIL FOOLS!!!
7:30pm
Sevendust with Red, Diecast , Invitro @ House of Blues Sunset

WEAKEND AND BEYOND
Looking for a nice Seder to call your own? Thanks to former colleague and Jew vivant Simon Glickman for the head’s-up on this Tuesday’s In Hagaddah da Vida Passover Seder, Feast and Happening at the Echo (1822 Sunset Blvd.). Celebrating a “psychedelic second night,” the evening will feature performances by “comedic mensch” Marc Maron, “sizzlin’ Jewess” Jill Soloway, “cabaret chanteuse” Abby Travis, inspirational authors Bev & Ronna and legendary, cross-dressing DJ Paul V as Elijah, billed as “not Jewish, but so talented,” hosted by “visionary” Amichai Lau-Lavie. Tickets are $75 per person and include all the afikomen you can hide. Order at www.inhaggadahdavida.eventbrite.com or visit them at www.myspace.com/heapingportion.

JE-C’S NEW-MOVIE RUNDOWN

Blades of Glory
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jenna Fischer, Craig T. Nelson
Synopsis:
Ferrell and Heder play two disgraced Olympic ice skaters who were banned from the sport because of drug usage but have found a way to sneak back into the competition.
Thoughts: Will Ferrell; is there really anything more that needs to be said?

Meet the Robinsons
Starring the voice talents of
: Angela Bassett, Spencer Fox, Adam West, Tom Selleck
Synopsis
: Twelve year-old Lewis, a born inventor, is also an orphan who desperately wants to find his birth family. A mysterious stranger, Wilbur Robinson, claims he can take Lewis to meet them. The only catch: They live in the far-flung future where Lewis meets an oddball group of characters who get him into all sorts of bizarre predicaments.
Thoughts: This movie seems like it could be a big hit, but is it opening at the wrong time? Competing with Ferrell at the box office is always a problem.

Hot New Music to check out:
Musiq Soulchild, LuvanMusiq:
Another classic from the gifted neo-soul artist. It’s been a while since I listened to Musiq, but hearing his new CD made me realize why I’ve long considered him to be one of the best neo-soul singers around. Unlike most of the records coming out these days, with one or two good songs and the rest filler, this a real album—every song is great. If you are a fan of the genre or of Musiq and have yet to listen to this new album, I suggest you pick it up—and if you aren’t completely satisfied, I’ll reimburse you out of my own pocket.





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