The Best Stand-up Comedy of 2013 (Frontier Psychiatrist, 12/20/13)
Tig Notaro – LIVE
This is a remarkable performance. First, know this set happened in 2012, but it received a full release this year, making it worthy of this list, and we make the rules, so, yeah. This set follows a particularly dark period for Notaro: she covers her near-fatal battle with Clostridium difficile, goes through a degrading break up, her mom dies, and, to top it all off, she recently received a breast cancer diagnosis. In alluding to these events, Notaro opens:
“It’s weird because with humor, tragedy + time = comedy. I am just at tragedy right now. That is where I am in the equation.”
This reveals itself only to be a half-truth, with Notaro finding genuine moments of humor while riffing on “funny cancer greeting cards” and dating with cancer in her signature dry and detached delivery. But there are also moments of vulnerability throughout, Notaro clearly working through grief, tragedy and loss onstage. In certain moments, the comedy and tragedy coalesce poignantly. In others they clash, no more so than at the beginning, the crowd applauding her entrance as she dryly states: “Thank you. Thank you. I have cancer. Thank you”.
The album is a series of peaks and (mostly) valleys, Notaro freely expressing her experience and her perspective on what it is to be alive. But at a certain point Notaro runs out of tragedy, ending her set with a brief, unassuming joke about a bee in rush hour traffic. The nonchalance and innocence is in stark contrast of the grim reality she paints through the set, setting off a cathartic chain-reaction. It’s one of those chilling, life-affirming moments usually reserved for Denzel Washington movies. In summary, this set is absolutely devastating. But, you know, hilarious too.
Read the rest of the review here: http://frontpsych.com/the-best-stand-up-comedy-of-2013/
American Excess: The Seduction of Royal Baths' Better Luck Next Time (Frontier Psychiatrist, 2/15/12)
In an effort to fortify my resume and to combat the boredom resulting from hours of watching British sitcoms on Netflix Instant, I recently joined a program at my school pairing international students with American guides. I was paired with a Chinese student, and like a good American, I have spent my time with her extolling the virtues of Mexican food and Chai lattes at restaurants and coffee shops around town. Naturally, at one point our conversation turned to music. She told me that she particularly likes American country music, her favorite artist being Taylor Swift. She then asked me why Americans like rock and roll so much, surprised that people who live such laid back lives would want to listen to such loud and boisterous music.
I had this question in the back of my mind as I listened through Royal Bath’s powerful new Better Luck Next Life, out now on Kanine Records. Royal Baths are the latest from the burgeoning Brooklyn via San Francisco psychedelic garage rock scene. It’s an album drenched in violent lust and strung out on speed. The scene is always a seedy one, evoking images of back alley drug deals and ravaged motel rooms. The subject matter is undeniably dark, as singer Jigmae Baer details vampiric sex scenes and murder fantasies with an icy detachment that makes the album feel that much steamier. On occasion, Cox’s withdrawn persona crumbles and the man sounds positively demonic. Think Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate without Keanu Reeves ruining everything.
Read the rest of the review here: http://frontpsych.com/american-excess-the-seduction-of-royal-baths-better-luck-next-life/
An Ode to Teenage Hormones: A Review of Every Time I Die's Ex-lives (Frontier Psychiatrist, 3/29/12)
When I was 19, I shamelessly picked up tickets with one of my good friends to the Milwaukee leg of the Taste of Chaos tour. Deftones were headlining, and as a teenager during the nu-metal era, I figured I owed it to the ganglier/angstier version of myself to see them live. The Eagles Club was permeated with a sort of carnival atmosphere, packed to the brim with suicide girls and pimply teens, a goth rainbow of bondage pants and Atreyu t-shirts. Fueled by six free energy drink shots, I decided to ignore the absurdity of it all and make the place my personal playground. As Story of the Year did an endless amount of unnecessary backflips, I entered a mosh pit and wreaked some serious havoc amongst the crowd of teenage girls. Other shows felt equally self-serious, bowing at the altar of teenage angst. MySpace heroes The Smashup featured my favorite lead singer of the day, performing a highly choreographed routine in which he repeatedly wrapped a microphone around his throat as though swinging from the gallows. Aiden looked straight out of a Hot Topic catalogue. As for Deftones, their set was more shit sandwich than shark sandwich.
However, I was blown away by Every Time I Die’s set. They were able to translate the shameless pandering into camp self-parody, rejoicing in youthful hedonism and rebellion with a wry smile. The songs abandon the typical verse chorus style, creating a mounting tension with dissonant half steps, repeating hardcore riffs and rapid-fire drum fills before the cathartic release of churning, half-time breakdowns. At the center of it all is lead singer Keith Buckley, who somehow manages to imbue his vocal-chord-shredding screams with a certain smarminess. The themes are purposely hackneyed and condense romantic rock and roll hedonism into one liner after one liner. Buckley toes a thin line between bravado and irony, recognizing the absurdity of a grown man pandering to children, a 30-year-old in a 16-year-old mosh pit, but going at it with winking abandon anyways.
Read the rest of the review here: