Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Side by Side Pros For Added Spice

Pros (Tony and Emma) on the left, Ingo and Kym on the right. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars.
This week on Dancing With the Stars, judge Len Goodman decided it would be a good thing to have two pros dancing side by side to each couple, so that the audience (and the contestants) could see how they are actually supposed to be dancing.
In some cases, this turned out well. In others, like the supremely self-conscious Ingo (and Kym), it was a disaster. I can totally understand. As an actor, you make your own choices on how to read a line. You put together 25 different actors, you’re probably going to get 25 different line readings. And each, in the craft of acting, would be fine. (Well, assuming they don’t botch it completely.)
So to have someone dancing side by side, and actually showing you the correct move (while you are executing the incorrect move) has got to be very intimidating. Ingo and Kym danced first, and it was disastrous. 
The set up was this. First the pro dancers would dance, then the competing couple AND the pros, then the competing couple by themselves (all within the same song). Which nicely made for longer dances, and also allowed the audience to know more clearly what to be looking for in the “celebrity” dancer.
When the part of the dance came where Ingo is side by side with a pro (which was last year's champ Tony Dovolani), Ingo crumbled. It was like a death knell to his positive spirit. So when he got around to dancing “his” part, he was barely walking through it. Very sad.
Others fared better. Some positively shone.
For example, my favorite dancers of the night, who are on the fast track to becoming my favorites to win this Mirror Ball: Val and Zendaya. They were blessed with Val's big brother Maks and Anna Trebunskaya. Their task? The Argentine tango.
They had two problems with this. First, Val had never before danced an Argentine tango. Second, Zendaya is 16, and she's having some problems with the whole "passion" aspect of the tango. Maks was great with teaching them the Argentine tango steps. Anna: "Teaching (Zendaya) to be a woman is harder."
Well, that's what they said in the opening package. Then you see the dance. Holy moly. Seriously one of the best Argentine tangos I've seen on this show.
Val Chmerskovskiy and Zendaya. Courtesy of ABC.
Just unbelievable dancing. And they were rewarded with the first 10s of this season. (From Carrie Ann and Bruno. Len was a holdout with a measly 9.) Really stunning stuff.
Another fun pairing was Maks and Anna with Jacoby and Karina. 
Anna Trebunskaya, Maksim Chmerskovskiy, Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff.
I'm not sure why Maks "left" the show, but I'm just really really glad he's back. He was really missed, and he really added a lot to this episode.
Jacoby and Karina are a couple who have to struggle with the height issue. Sometimes it looks funny. But sometimes, you get effects like this:
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff. "Look, ma, no hands!" :-0
Mark Ballas' stunning choreography continues to wow us week after week. I loved their dance this week, with Tony Dovolani and troupe pro Whitney Carson.

Whitney, Tony, Aly and Mark Ballas. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing with the Stars.
Aly got some tips on how to do the "women" stuff from Whitney. There are some things about presence that a man just can't teach.

But week after week, they are just fun to watch.

Aly R. and Mark Ballas have some fun on the dance floor.
And then we had this:

Andy Dick, aka "Ando," ziplines onto the stage.
Not as much fun, for my money, as when David Arquette ziplined onto the stage in one of his dances, but certainly not boring either. Week after week, Andy Dick surprises and amazes with how hard he works, and while he may not be the best dancer, he is consistent and tries very hard. That is what this show is supposed to be about. And that's why I keep voting for him and Sharna.

Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess. Doncha just love 'em?
Can't leave out my other favorite couple, Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough. Derek, if I haven't said it enough, is just a brilliant choreographer.

Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough.
We won't talk about the ones who ended up going home this week. Only to say that I love Cheryl Burke and am really glad she is no longer saddled with this particular partner. *sigh*

Hope you enjoyed this week. It was crazy.

Jacoby Jones doing his "dance."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coachella Weekend 1

Courtesy of Maryshaw16.
Surely by now all the dust is finally out of your mouth. And hair. And clothes.

All that lingers is the blissful memories of the music you witnessed over the first Coachella weekend?

First, a disclaimer. I didn't attend. But I'm doing what so many other social media mavens seem to be doing: commenting on the action as if I were there. After all, all weekend long, youtube and Coachella itself ran wonderful streams of the music playing. I watched much of those three days, and that's what I'm reporting on.

I also manned the social media desk, and monitored much Coachella activity, just to get a feel of what others were going through.

Just to show you that I'm not alone in all this, at least HALF of the photos that I perused on Twitter were people showing their fancy big TV setup on which they, too, were viewing the action at Coachella.

Let it be known that easily half of the music performed was not on the stream. Thus, I was not privy to the blissful music of LA favorite IO Echo, nor did I see the long-awaited reunion show of The Three O'Clock (though I did hear Sky Daniels wonderful interview with them on KCSN on Monday afternoon). I also was not privy to photos of the extremely sparse attendance of the Friday headliner, Stone Roses.

And, just like at the real Coachella, you cannot (physically cannot) see everything. Although some people described how they had three browser windows open, watching all three streams at once, I preferred to (as I would do if I were there) pick a band I liked and watch what they had to offer. So the following list is by no means comprehensive.

It smacks of Miche's preferential treatment, just seeking out bands I know I'm going to like, and ignoring those COUGHFranzFerdinandCOUGH I'm well over.

There were some surprises.

First, the WORST of the weekend's Coachella offerings.

Let me say this, Coachella itself keeps getting pricier and pricier. If you don't know this, you had to purchase all three days (not to mention the lodging to go with it), and the gas to drive out there. Coachella is no poor man's walk in the park. And for that money, you expect at least ONE headliner is going to knock your socks off. From what I've heard, the only thing knocked off was clothing that blew away in Sunday's wind and dust storms.

Here are the ones I perused that I just didn't like.

I tripped over Wu Tang Clan, whom many were raving about and which reportedly had huge crowds (hoping beyond hope for that ODB hologram which never appeared). But Wu Tang Clan is not my kind of music, so I didn't stay there long.

In the "boring me to tears" category, there was James Blake, Of Monsters and Men, Modest Mouse and The Postal Service, who commented that they weren't really a band. Sure seemed accurate. Worst offenders, though, were Polica.

Mister Shovel, at KCSN, has a real uncanny knack of always finding a band's hit song. KCSN, in fact, is playing a Polica song which is great. I love it. However, this band, in concert, was DREADFUL. No stage presence whatsoever. One of those bands who spend too much time in the studio and not enough on tour. BLECH. Hated it.

Even worse, though, was the return of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now, I admit. I'm more of a film and TV geek. I pretty much am clueless about band members and their names. I am. So I spent the first few songs wondering where the hell Dave Navarro was. I actually even looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently, he left the band in 1998. Well, that's when the poetry left then, cause man, they were really lacking whatever it was that made them great. I couldn't even watch more than a couple songs. AWFUL.

Thankfully, there were many more bands whom I either liked or truly loved. I put together a ranking of the Top 12, based both on music presented, and flexibility from their normal show to the venue. One must take in one's surroundings and work accordingly.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Metric, Grizzly Bear, Japandroids, Dinosaur Jr., Social Distortion, Cafe Tacvba, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO SEE: The XX, Janelle Monae, How to Destroy Angels, Eric someone that everyone was raving about, Blur, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dead Can Dance, Spiritualized

MIA: Lou Reed, who backed out

Without further ado:
Coachella's Top 12, Weekend 1

I love love love Sparks. They have been around forever, and I have loved them (no joke) since my cousin Julian first gave me one of their albums in 1968. I saw them again at a recent show in Los Angeles, and they were wonderful. For Coachella, they decided to strip down to just the two main masterminds. I am not sure about this decision. Or, for that matter, how well they play at Coachella in general. They are on this list because I love them. But I think the crowd that witnessed them pretty much left scratching their heads.

A band I love from listening to Mister Shovel's "City of Night" show on KCSN. They are local (to LA). And they are great. Really enjoyed their show. Check out their music, if you can.

Mister Shovel again alerted us to this incredible musical talent, another local native. Watching him was just a revelation. His music incredible. His full beard very en vogue at the moment. His songs, his lyrics just wondrous. Not to be missed anywhere he plays.

I actually first heard this band on Mister Shovel's side radio project, Radio Free Indie, then heard them again on City of Night and KCSN in general. Can't get their music out of my head, they were also very fun to watch. The term "catchy tune" was made for these guys.

8. ALT J
Now, pretty much the music I follow is the stuff Mister Shovel has played. That's pretty much it. And I don't recall him ever playing or mentioning Alt J. I'm not sure why I landed on him, but I did, and he was wonderful. Great music. I really want to check out more of his stuff. The crowd seemed to be really into him (and more aware of his music than I was).

Surely when people talk about this first weekend of Coachella, one of the big hits is/was Phoenix. Although many in the Twitterverse seemed to not know they are French, everyone seemed to really dig their vibe. And their surprise guest. (No, not Daft Punk, whom everyone was rumoring, but never happened.) Phoenix, a definite hit.

Hot Chip is one of those rare bands who play Coachella more than once. The first time I saw them, at Coachella a few years ago, I was blown away. This time, they were good, but not superb. But they are the kind of band that Coachella should have back year after year, they really fit the vibe.

This band was kind of a stumble upon thing. Started watching them in between other things, and they were so great I couldn't turn them off. Really enjoyed their music, their presentation, the lead female singer, all of it.

I know this is getting to be redundant, but I heard them first on Radio Free Indie, then on City of Night, then on KCSN. Loved every single song they played. Could be seen muttering, "Tame Impala. WOW," over and over, through their entire set. So freaking good it's painful.

Man, oh man. This band, I first heard on Mister Shovel's Check One Two program, on Indie 103.1 FM. I remember when they, one Christmas, decided they wanted to play an acoustic version of a new number they had for him. A little ditty called "Sometime Around Midnight." From that moment to this one, they've become huge rock stars, traveled and traversed the world a couple times or more. Sweet Anna Bulbrook now has this Parisian blonde tinge to her hair, always gorgeous. Lead singer Mikel has survived a couple of deaths of those close to him. And here we are, now, at Coachella.

This time around, they are gracing the main stage, not the Outdoor as they were last time. Unfortunately, they have a very early set time. They really should've been put on later. (You know how certain bands just lend themselves to a darkness? ATE is one such band, IMHO.) But there they were, in the bright sunlight, with Anna bouncing onto the bass player's shoulders.

Gosh, it was just so great to see them. They are fantastic. I have loved them every time I've seen them. This time is no different. And "Sometime Around Midnight" still makes me cry. Every time. LOVED them.

Now, you will notice (in my list of bands I hated and these bands I loved) that nowhere did I list Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, whom I also watched. Nick Cave, you see, had two bands at Coachella. Grinderman was Friday. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was Sunday.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was too much of a downer for me. I love them normally, and loved the parts of the video I was watching of his LA concert recently. But some of his music (this music) was just really dark. Not just sad and somber but kinda scary. I wasn't into it.

But Grinderman, which also walked the line of dark places, even seedy moments... was just better. Maybe it was just the "No P***y Blues" which spoke to me. I dunno. I just LOVED Grinderman.

The kids' choir and all the scary dark lyrics just didn't fit the location or the venue or the people there. So Grinderman gets on the list, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds don't.

The number one act to me is also a total shock to me. In fact, I was at the end of my evening, waiting for another band to start up on a channel, and I thought, eh. I guess I'll check them out for a minute. I watched every song. THEY WERE PHENOMENAL.

Phenomenal. Wait, wait, seriously, I first heard them on Mister Shovel's radio station in the 80s, called WLBS. They were so much of that time, that gnarly 80s time. I still have vinyl of them from that time. But what shocked me was how bloody current they sound today. Song after song after song. They sounded the most modern of anyone. They just stunned me with how great their music still is.

And their performance was also amazing. The lead singer was dancing the way we danced in the 80s, and truth to tell, the way I still dance now. It was very comforting. But it also fit this very modern music.

OMD just blew my mind. I still cannot get over how great they were. So for me, OMD were, far and away, the standout of the first weekend of Coachella.

Let's see who gets the prize next weekend!~ ;-)


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Favorite Year Is Not My Favorite Episode

The whole "What was the best year of your life?" question, in the context of Dancing With the Stars, can lead to really poignant, sublime moments and it can also lead to not much of anything. We had both in this evening's festivities.

Perhaps more than ever before, we had people doing dances "for" someone, and that someone was in the audience, or in one case, up onstage. I don't think I like this trend.

I was much more moved, for example, when Zendaya, in the previous week, did a dance for her grandmother, from her grandmother's time. (She was also present.)

But we had Jacoby Jones dancing for his child (who is barely old enough to know what's going on); Zendaya, so as not to top herself, was getting into full diva mode for Beyonce; Bachelor Sean, who's talked about in the tabloids as having a shouting match "romance" with winner Catherine when cameras aren't on, made full advantage of this "doing a dance for/to someone" concept, and kissed his "beloved" on camera during the dance. Yawn.

Andy Dick, in the night's most moving presentation, was dancing for his daughter (also present). Kellie Pickler danced for her husband, who happened to be up onstage, singing the song he had written that she danced to. For me, that all took away from the magic of the dance, since one is supposed to be passionate with one's partner, and Derek kinda looked second-fiddle.

But let's not quibble about the shaky reason they choose to build a night around. Let's just look at the dancing, shall we?

Derek and Kellie were, as always, sublime in their shapes and movements.

The sublime Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing With the Stars.
Mark and Aly did an amazing contemporary dance, which brought tears to my eyes with its poetry and beauty. When it's done right, it's stunning. Witness this:

Genius choreographer Mark Ballas and Aly the gymnast.
Val Chmerkovskiy, still cranking out the killer choreography, gave us this to a Beyonce tune.
Val Chmerkovskiy and Zendaya take on Beyonce, using his amazing choreography.
I am really rooting for Andy Dick. People get extra votes for sobriety and trying hard, in my book. Andy Dick is still trying really hard, and still got all my extra votes. (Hope he got yours, too.)
Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess. Courtesy of ABC/Dancing With the Stars.
One minor quibble was with the costumers. Most of the time, they do create great costumes. However, they seem to be having problems with Kym Johnson's dresses being too long and/or not coming off easily when they have a costume change thing. Cheryl Burke's outfit looked at times like it was going to overwhelm her.

Volumes of fabric threaten to swallow up Cheryl Burke.
Come on, people. They are DANCERS. We want to see their legs and feet! Please! And they don't need to trip over volumes of clothing. Very frustrating.

Gleb gets the award for "Most Clueless" this week. His partner passes out beneath him. "You OK?" he murmurs as she lies there, prone and unmoving.

But, in the final analysis, I prefer to remember the amazing dancing I've just seen, so I'll leave you with that.

Brilliant Mark Ballas does contemporary, with Aly the gymnast.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's Prom Night at Dancing with the Stars

This picture says it all:
Wynona Judd and Tony Dovolani. Courtesy of ABC.
Wow. There are some folks on this show (the one above thankfully we'll see no longer) who simply CANNOT dance. Like not even a little. And if I spoiled that result for you, sorry.

I'm still over here cheering. Man, I wanted her to go home so bad (her and DL Hughley both).

LOVE YOU, Cheryl, but seriously.... :-/
Wynona is just now on TV, talking about how she "faced her fears," and she's glad she did it. Here's the thing. I'm all about people facing their fears. That's a great thing. The other side of that, though, is that we have to watch it. If you KNOW you can't dance, why on EARTH would you get in front of millions of people trying to do so? That's not "facing your fears," that's just EGO. Get over it. Go take a dance class, quietly.

Why on EARTH would anyone want to make a laughing stock of themselves, under the guise of "facing their fears"? Nonsense. Cause you may feel "stronger," Wynona, but I sure lost a ton of respect for you for doing this.

Now you wanna see someone who's ACTUALLY facing their fears, look at Andy Dick on this show (or better yet, PLEASE vote for him).  He is scared shitless by doing this, but a part of him really needs to. So he's in the studio, hour after hour after hour, even though he knows/thinks he can't dance, but he's trying REALLY hard. Look at this.

Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess, working it. Yes, we think you both are sexy.
This is a man clearly out of his comfort zone, but really trying.

I sent tons of votes his way this week. I think he's awesome. I've only gained respect for him. I honestly think I move my body more walking to the kitchen to make a sandwich than Wynona did in any of her dances. Facing your fears? Shut up. I'm so glad she's gone.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. ABC's story is that this was, of course, Prom Night.

Parts of that were truly wonderful. Inspirational. Like this.

The inspirational Mark Ballas and Aly. 
And this:

Zendaya and Val, doing some stunning dancing.
Oh so beautiful.
Lots of waltzes (Viennese and otherwise) performed on this night, fitting, I suppose for Prom Night.

There were also a few examples of why "contemporary" might not be such a great idea to add. When done correctly (Val and Kelly; Val and Zendaya), it can be sublime and gut-wrenching. When done incorrectly (I'm looking at you, Victor and Lindsay), wow, it can be dreadful.
We also had a sexy dance where I swear I saw Jacoby grab Karina's boob. I have never, in any dance in any season, seen someone literally grab someone's boob like that. It was kinda bizarre (right at the beginning).

Speaking of bizarre, we also had this:

Peta Murgatroyd (whose excellent choreography made this dance fun) and Sean.
Cause, I guess, YMCA is performed at a lot of proms now?

Lastly, we had my favorite dance of the night. A stunning, fast and fun version of Footloose by Derek and Kellie, who continue to be my favorites overall.

Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler. Courtesy of ABC.