Kool Kat of the Week: Jeffrey Butzer Delivers A Lynchian Tour de Force with His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” Kicking Off Its Southeastern Summer Tour at The Earl

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

It’s been exactly half a decade since we shot the breeze with Atlanta’s own jack of all musical trades and film score junkie, Jeffrey Butzer (The Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists). So we caught up with him once again to get the scoop on his upcoming venture into the bizarre land of Lynch. His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” tours the southeast this summer with a killer kick-off at The Earl this Friday, June 2 at 9 pm, featuring the “Ladies in the Radiator” also known as Butzer (guitar); T.T. Mahony (synth/piano); Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss (rhythm section); Ben Davis (sax), Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (rotating vocalists). Club Silencio promises an unconventionally surreal evening sending you dangling head first into The Pink Room. And if you just can’t get enough Lynch-madness after the June 2 date, you can catch the tour at its stops at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL on June 23, at Saturn in Birmingham, AL on July 8, and at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens on July 15!

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey Butzer for a quick tête-à-tête about “Club Silencio,” his love affair with film scores and film in general, and what he and the Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists have been up to in the last five years. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Butzer, why not listen to a bit o’ Butzer and The Compartmentalizationalists’ “Mother’s Gray Dress.”

ATLRetro:  It’s been nearly half a decade since we spoke to you about the release of The Bicycle Eaters’ new 7-inch HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS. So much has happened since, and now you’re diving head first into David Lynch’s land of the bizarre with your newest musical escapade, CLUB SILENCIO: MUSIC FROM THE FEATURE FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH. What draws you to Lynch’s film scores?

Jeffrey Butzer: What I love about Lynch’s work is his element of surprise. The new TWIN PEAKS series is a great example of that. I love that every week I have no idea what I am getting into. Will it scare me or be hilarious?  …Who knows?

Your CLUB SILENCIO tour was originally slated for 2008, as a follow up to your BEAUTIFUL LOSERS: THE SONGS OF CAVE, WAITS AND COHEN and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS tours. Of course we have to know, what took so long and why now?

I am not sure? It wasn’t feeling right in 2008. I never could get in to the mindset to put it together. As Lynch would say, “The ideas weren’t coming.” I had a set list, which really hasn’t changed very much. But that was it. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a musician who was sort of pushing me to finally do it. Then Julee Cruise and I sort of discussed a mini tour, which neither of us could make happen but, at that point I was really into the idea again, and with the timing of the new TWIN PEAKS it was easy to get everyone motivated.

Can you tell our readers a little about “The Ladies in the Radiator” who will be performing with you on the CLUB SILENCIO tour?

Yes, my longtime collaborator T.T. Mahony is playing synth/piano, Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss are the rhythm section, Ben Davis (Purkenji Shift/Noot d’Noot) on Sax, Meghan Dowlen a.k.a. ”Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (Jarboe) are both singing on different dates. I am playing guitar. It is a really great band. I am really happy with all the arrangements.

Film scores are a big influence on your music, with the Bicycle Eaters and The Compartmentalizationalists, et al. It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians (past or present) or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but film’s scores tell a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

I am a film lover in general. I like when films have no music, like in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or films by my hero Luis Bunuel. But, I also like when music is almost like a main character in a movie, like THE MASTER or films by Fellini, for example. I am not sure how film music influences me exactly. I guess I like the abstract nature of creating feelings out of noises. Mood is my primary goal in the music that I create.

We see that you’ve composed several scores as well for films such as Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND (2011); HITORI (2014); GOOD GRIEF SUICIDE HOTLINE (2015); ABACUS, MY LOVE (2014); BIRDCATCHER (2006), etc. Do you prefer composing behind the scenes, or playing in front of a crowd? Pros and cons?

I enjoy both for different reasons. Making a score is really strange to me. I really never know what I am doing. I still do not have a method of working and I don’t write out music. Matt Steadman (producer, musician) and I normally meet and see what happens and eventually we come up with music we are happy with. Live shows are very thrilling for me. Something like Club Silencio is fun, because we get to have our own Lynchian spin on expectations. We created this as massive admirers and fans of Lynch and have put together the show we would want to see. I’m getting really obsessed with details like stage plot, lighting, clothing. We put a lot of thought in to these types of shows. We really want them to feel special and fun for people.

Which film score(s) influenced you the most before you began composing your own, and how did it influence you?

Nino Rota’s 8 ½, Michael Nyman/Peter Greenaway scores and the spaghetti westerns by Morricone and Luis Bacolov were all influential to me.

Who are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

In no particular order my favorites would be Nino Rota (8 ½); Angelo Badalamenti (most Lynch films); Ennio Morricone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/ THE GREAT SILENCE); Michael Nyman (A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS/ THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER); and Carter Burwell (FARGO/ BARTON FINK). However, it is difficult to speak about influence. As a musician I strive to not show my influences. I can say that when I sit down to write, music is the last thing on my mind. I am typically thinking about a story, sometimes my own, sometimes a book or film. Then, I try to musically paint a picture. I am very bad with narrative, which is probably why I am drawn to filmmakers like Lynch, who seems more concerned with mood.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be listening to right now–past or present, well-known or obscure?

1) Rowland S. Howard, the guitarist from The Birthday Party has a great, dark, and beautiful album called TEENAGE SNUFF FILM; 2) the singer Lhasa, especially her song Rising, and a song called “That Leaving Feeling she recorded with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks. She passed away a few years ago. Her voice is one of my favorite things; 3) Leonard Cohen’s underrated album NEW SKIIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY is an all time favorite of mine; 4) Emiliana Torrini’s version of “If You Go Away” has been in my steady rotation. I love Brel’s version of course, but hers in a wonderful modern take; and 5) Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family): Many now know of them from the theme from True Detective, but do yourself a favor and delve in to their world. Rennie’s books and paintings are so strange and vivid and their last album is one of their best. Rennie, as a writer is one of my biggest influences.

Back to the surreal. If you had to choose just one (I know it’s hard!), which Lynch film would be your absolute favorite?

I honestly cannot pick one. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is always in my top three. BLUE VELVET is the first one I fell in love with. INLAND EMPIRE is a misunderstood masterpiece. If you’ve only seen it once and are on the fence or don’t really like it, see it three more times. It is so dense it demands multiple viewings.

You’re taking this epic and eccentric beast on a trip across the equally bizarre south this summer after your gig at The Earl on June 2, with shows at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL (June 23); Saturn in Birmingham (July 8); and the Caledonia Lounge in Athens (July 15). What exciting things can folks expect when they come to one of your shows? And will this be the last of the tour, or will you be giving Atlanta an encore presentation in the near future?

If this goes well, we plan to make it a summer tradition. We are doing our best to make you feel like you are visiting the Pink Room/Black Lodge and deliver the best renditions of these iconoclastic songs as possible.

And last but not least, any other exciting plans in the future for Jeffrey Bützer? The Bicycle Eaters? The Compartmentalizationalists?

Bicycle Eaters have our first vocal full-length in the editing room as we speak…er, type. I’m also writing a play/screenplay entitled “Partialisms” that I plan to bring to a stage or screen in the near future.

All photos are courtesy of Jeffrey Butzer and used with permission.

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RETRO REVIEW: Giallo Magnifique: Dario Argento’s DEEP RED in Rare Italian Cut Screens Saturday at Buried Alive Film Festival

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2015 By:

Profondo_Rosso_posterBuried Alive Film Festival and Splatter Cinema Presents the rare Italian original cut of DEEP RED (1975); Dir. Dario Argento; Starring David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi; Saturday, November 14 @ 10:00 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 (or included with a $50 festival pass) here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

As part of the Buried Alive Film Festival, Splatter Cinema will be hosting a 40th anniversary screening at Synchronicity Theater of what is, quite simply, one of the greatest thrillers ever made: Dario Argento’s groundbreaking giallo DEEP RED. To miss this in its rare Italian original cut (22 minutes longer than the US version), would be to offend the very gods of cinema, so it would be best to play it safe and plan to attend.

From the late 1920s forward in Italy, a series of cheap paperback editions of murder mysteries featuring eye-catching artwork was issued by the publishing group Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. The success of these editions led to other publshers to also release mysteries under their own banners while imitating Mondadori’s cover designs. The common design element? The color yellow used as a background. As a result, over time all murder mysteries in Italy would come to be called “yellow.” Or, in Italian, giallo.

Mario Bava set in stone the tropes and archetypes of the cinematic giallo in the early 1960s with films such as THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. The wild success of these films—and their blending of brutal violence with stylish camerawork and set design, all set to equally stylish musical scores—led to a whole host of other filmmakers jumping on the giallo bandwagon and establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the Italian film industry. Antonio Margheriti, Umberto Lenzi, Riccardo Freda…all dipped their toes into the waters of the giallo and built careers off their early successes. But none of them took the genre to new extremes like one particular filmmaker: Dario Argento.

schultz-figueroa-web2Beginning with his “Animal Trilogy” (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, CAT O’ NINE TAILS and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), Argento took Bava’s sense of visual style to a whole other level. Deep focus, graceful camera movements, exquisitely detailed set design and carefully crafted compositions were the hallmarks of his aesthetic. His impossibly twisty plots and outstanding soundtracks worked hand-in-hand with his visual style and led him to be regarded as the Italian Hitchcock. But his work on the Animal Trilogy was merely a prelude to his masterpiece: DEEP RED (aka PROFONDO ROSSO).

Jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses a woman’s murder, and decides to investigate the case himself after realizing that a painting he saw in her apartment is now missing. Accompanied by reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), he tries to tie together the loose clues he has assembled and the one detail he cannot quite remember, while other women across the city are being murdered and he himself is targeted.

All of the elements are in play here. The black-gloved killer. The half-remembered detail. The outsider protagonist dismissed by the police as a troublemaker. The meddling reporter. The brutal violence. But Argento assembles these key tropes into something wholly new and original. Visually, Argento uses art in general, and painting in particular, as a recurring thematic element. Beyond a painting holding a key detail that is needed to solve the mystery, key plot points are revealed via artwork. Argento even gives us a life-size, live-action depiction of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks early on to establish the importance of the visual arts and their accompanying artifice in the film’s world. In a word, the visual style is audacious.

But not as audacious, perhaps, as the film’s musical score. After having worked with the celebrated Italian film composer Ennio Morricone on the Animal Trilogy, Argento wanted something contemporary. He initially turned to jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini for the film’s music, but was unhappy with the results. Instead, he decided to go in a progressive rock direction and eventually found kindred spirits in local band Goblin. Their remarkable score winds up being incredibly catchy, complex, sinister, subtle and bombastic—somehow all at the same time. Their music ended up being the perfect complement to Argento’s visuals, managing to capture the essence of one medium in another. The reception to their breakthrough work was so intense, and the pairing of group and filmmaker so perfect, that Goblin (or the band’s leader, Claudio Simonetti) would continue to work on-and-off with Argento through the decades up to his latest film, DRACULA 3D.

Argento would return to the giallo again several times over the course of his career, most notably in films like TENEBRE and OPERA, but none of his work within the genre comes close to this masterpiece. It’s nearly flawless. The only complaint that I have with it is that the humorous and romantic scenes between Hemmings and Nicolodi tend to dissipate the building tension felt throughout the film. But that is such a slight complaint in comparison to the riches on offer in this brutal but beautiful movie. To see it at all is a rare treat. To see it in its original Italian cut on the big screen is a thing that should not be missed by anyone interested in seeing a director firing on all cylinders, at the top of his game, regardless of genre.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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Kool Kat of the Week: SEX BBQ’s Kate Jan Gets Scandalous Turning Up the Heat With a Debut Album, SEX NOIR CITY, and a Saucy Shindig at the Drunken Unicorn

Posted on: Apr 1st, 2015 By:
sbbq live 003

Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Kate Jan, New York transplant and guitar slingin’ skateboarding badass punk rocker chick and her beloved debaucherous band and partners in crime, SEX BBQ [current lineup: Kate Jan (vocals/guitar); Steve LaBate (guitar); Rob Bellury (bass); Steve Brown (drums); and Steve Albertson (everything else)] will be shakin’ a tail feather this Saturday, April 4, at the Drunken Unicorn, with Young Rapids and MammaBear to boot! So, come on down and have a smut slingin’ hell-raisin’ ruckus with SEX BBQ at the Drunken Unicorn this Saturday at 9pm!

Kate, not your typical psych-punk space cowgirl, has been slingin’ her guitar and writing music since childhood, major influences including Riot Grrrl punk rockers, Bikini Kill, as well as the Breeders, ‘90s skate thrash punk and even Chuck Berry. In 2012, Kate voyaged to the southern underground to continue her Neuropsychology education and decided to add a little rockin’ debauchery to the mix! SEX BBQ formed shortly thereafter and have shared bills with Hospitality, Single Mothers, Beach Day, Little Tybee, Concord America, Belle & Sebastian and Warehouse, just to name a few. They’ve also been featured in several national music outlets [PunkNews.org; Under the Gun Review; Speakers in Code; and Magnet Magazine]. SEX BBQ’s first single “Locus of Control” b/w “Wake Up” was recorded by Ed Rawls and Justin McNeight (The Black Lips; The Coathangers; Those Darlins) in the summer of 2012, with both tracks appearing on their new album, SEX NOIR CITY, debuting this spring. The album’s nine new tracks, recorded by Damon Moon [Rrest; Iron Jayne] in East Atlanta, are chock full of surf riffs and garage punk elements, destined to satisfy the retro rockers in us all!

ATLRetro caught up with Kate for a quick interview about SEX BBQ’s debut album, SEX NOIR CITY; her New York City underground roots; and her take on the band being described as “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness!” And while you’re checking at our little Q&A with Kate, get an earful of SEX BBQ’s vintage, noir rock ‘n’ roll sound, here!

SEX BBQ  murder by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

ATLRetro: What a cool name for a band! Sex BBQ! Can you fill our readers in on the funky story behind the name and how you got together?

Kate Jan: Thanks! Steve L. and I started playing songs together in my apartment in Atl – we just started writing, playing and having fun. We gradually found Steve #2 (drums), Steve #3 (keys and percussion), Laura Palmer (vocals and organ) and Everett (bass) through friends. The extremely talented and creative Laura Palmer introduced the name SEX BBQ to our vernacular from a satirical guide to decoding your teen’s text lingo (SBBQ). After briefly entertaining and then ignoring the possibility that we’d be set aside as a joke band or a frat-rock dad-rock sextet, we embraced it as the best combination of all words ever. And so SEX BBQ was birthed.

As a skateboarding, guitar-slingin’ neuropsychologist and rockin’ New Yorker chick to boot, what brought you to The Dirty Dirty?

I came for a Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Emory after getting my PhD, and stayed for the medium bowl at the Old 4th Ward Skatepark.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

The band’s sound has been described as having a “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness,” which of course sounds like a helluva good time! How would you describe your sound and your live show?

That pretty much nails our sound. Thankfully we’ve got tapes and records now! Our live show is a party all around. We don’t mess around with stage banter but we play, dance and mingle while we sling those axes and sing our hearts out.

We see that you picked up a guitar pretty early on. Can you tell our readers a story about how you got started playing music?

I got two stories. My mother was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and played acoustic guitar. She played and sang for me. My Dad played piano and actually now plays church organ, which is kind of weird because we are Jewish. But, you know, when music calls it calls. When I was 6, I picked up a guitar and wrote her a song for Mother’s Day. It went something like “I Love You. You’re My Mom.”

I took a few lessons when I was 12 or so, and learned the basics, you know – songs by The Muffs, Seven Year Bitch and most of THE CROW (1994) soundtrack. After that, lying on my floor devouring mid-90s punk and – after Kurt Cobain died – listening to Nirvana day & night went hand in hand with writing my own songs.

Album cover by Steve AlbertsonYour top retro influences are listed as the B-52s, Bikini Kill, the Pixies, Pink Floyd, and even film composer, Morricone, famous for so much, including his Spaghetti Western film scores. What influenced you the most with regards to such a wide-variety of music makers?

It’s a collective list from our variety of band members. I don’t even know who Morricone is, and I always liked the Breeders WAY better than the Pixies. I cried when they broke up way back when. Like bawled.  My major influences are Bikini Kill, Blake Babies and all of 1990s’ skate and thrash punk and NY Hardcore. Recently, I’ve been heavily influenced by The Delmonas, Chuck Berry (at least I hope) and Grace Slick.

As a musician coming from New York, the metropolis of underground music, how would you rate Atlanta and its rockin’ underground music scene? And who are some of your favorite local bands?

My favorite Athens band is straight-up grit-dirty garage party rock trio Free Associates. They rock my world. In Atlanta I really dig Concord America, Todaythemoon, Tomorrowthesun and Jungol. I spent my teenage years going to CBGB, ABC No Rio and Tramps seeing bands like The Skabs, L.E.S. Stitches, Agnostic Front, Bouncing Souls and my friends’ bands. It was just way easier then – there was still punk and hardcore. I think all those clubs are closed now.  While living in Queens in the 2000s, I honestly couldn’t afford to go out. To be verrrrry honest, I spent lots of time writing electronic music on Reason in my tiny apartment. I was dating a hip-hop producer for awhile – shout out to Beatnik & K-Salaam – and got to go to shows and meet people like Talib Kweli, M1 from Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monch and Wordsworth. I almost bowled with Talib Kweli when Brooklyn Bowl first opened. I also hung out with a metal engineering crew and got to see and chill with Lamb of God and my favorite indulgence, nu metal stylies Killswitch Engage. If I had lived in Brooklyn it would have been different in terms of exploring underground/indie music, but holy rent!!

SEX BBQ sacrifice by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

If you could put together a dream line-up of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

Free Associates, Gun Party, Blake Babies, The Delmonas, Jefferson Airplane, Sick of it All, H2O and The Black Lips. Because they all have unique ways of playing energetic shows and they’re all really great. And the Descendents.

You’re touring in support of your debut album, SEX NOIR CITY. Can you tell our readers a little about it?

We haven’t released tour dates for this spring and summer. We are playing April 4th at the Drunken Unicorn and that’s all I can reveal now. Tehee!

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ shindig happening this Saturday at the Drunken Unicorn?

I could tell you, but then I’d have to involve you in our Master Plan and you might get in deep, deep shit. Seriously though, once, during a Drunken Unicorn show we created our own micro-economy by distributing SEX Bar-B-Bucks. It was the genesis of the sharing economy and our gateway to taking over the world. It was Everett and Laura Palmer’s idea. In sum, expect wizardry.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

What’s next for Kate Jan and Sex BBQ?

We are SO STOKED for our release of SEX NOIR CITY, and we will have tapes and a limited run of white vinyls with hand-painted jackets for sale. I think we are even more excited about the new music that we’ve been writing in the meantime. I have a jam space and recording studio in my basement so I think we’re going to record an LP there soon in a collaboration with Jones Maintenance Revue.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

Music and medicine are both great, but growing flowers and raising a puppy rock too.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: What does your wisest and oldest mentor say about SEX BBQ?
A:  My grandfather is 94, fought in the Royal Air Force as a pilot after escaping Poland, is wildly into classical music, and recently discovered the genius of Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones:  “Keep enjoying, Katie, the world of music, which adds a disproportionally large percentage to human happiness on this earth.”

SEX BBQ playing cards by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

 

All photos courtesy of SEX BBQ and used with permission.

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Space Invaders Hit Drive-Invasion 2013! The Starlight Drive-In Blasts Off With 1980s Sci-Fi Classics!

Posted on: Aug 29th, 2013 By:

The Starlight Drive-In presents Drive-Invasion 2013Starlight Drive-In; Sunday, Sep. 1; Gates open @ 10 a.m.; Admission $20 advance, $25 at door, children 3-9 $5; Advance tickets here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

The Official World Famous Drive-Invasion is upon us, and there’s a whole slew of hot bands from Memphis garage-thud legends The Oblivians to the one and only  MAN… OR ASTRO-MAN? being cooked up at the Starlight Drive-In for all of y’all Drive-Invaders! But let’s not overlook the great movies that will hit the screen as soon as the sun goes down. This year, there’s an action-packed lineup of 1980s sci-fi flicks that run the spectrum from wild and wacky to dark and gritty.

THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION; Dir. W.D. Richter; Starring Peter WellerEllen Barkin and John Lithgow; Trailer here.

Let me tell you a secret.

You may not know this, but our planet was invaded by Red Lectroids from th dimension. This realm had been occupied by clandestine Red Lectroids since October 31, 1938, when Dr. Emilio Lizardo—having been possessed by their leader Lord John Whorfin—brought them to Earth. Specifically, to Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. This was reported live as it happened by Orson Welles, but he was later pressured to claim that his broadcast was a work of fiction. From that day, they had been posing as humans and developing technology at Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems in order to take over this planet. Thankfully, we were protected by the Hong Kong Cavaliers under the leadership of physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, race car driver, rock star and comic book hero Buckaroo Banzai.

The efforts of Buckaroo Banzai and his crack team/backing band to our planet from the imminent threat of complete takeover by the Red Lectroids were documented by writer Earl Mac Rauch and director W.D. Richter in their 1984 docu-drama THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION. Rauch and Richter present the true-life tales of Banzai with the effortless charm and thrill-a-minute excitement of vehicles featuring pulp heroes like Doc Savage, or radio adventurers like Captain MidnightPeter Weller embodies the role of Banzai with a wry and drolly laconic air. Ellen Barkin is magnificently funny, smart and sexy as Penny Priddy, the twin sister of Banzai’s late wife. And John Lithgow is completely unhinged as Lizardo/Whorfin, sporting a wild red fright wig and speaking in a ridiculously over-the-top Italian accent. Supported by a stellar cast of veteran character actors (Clancy BrownJeff GoldblumChristopher LloydRobert ItoVincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya, among others), the film is nearly as wild, exciting, funny, fast and ridiculous as the real-life events they are based upon.

THE LAST STARFIGHTER; Dir. Nick Castle; Starring Lance GuestRobert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy; Trailer here.

THE LAST STARFIGHTER is essentially what every kid playing video games in the early 1980s dreamed would happen to them. Teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is a nowhere kid in a nowhere town, whose only real escape is in playing the Starfighter video game outside the diner where his mom works. One evening he manages to top the highest score on record, which gets the attention of the game’s inventor Centauri (Robert Preston). It’s revealed that Centauri is a disguised alien and that the game is a test to find people qualified to actually fight in an interstellar war between the Rylan Star League and the Ko-Dan Empire. And it’s up to Alex to save the Rylan home world and protect the universe from the Ko-Dan leader Xur.

As far as STAR WARS rip-offs go, this has long been a favorite. It’s directed with brisk energy by Nick Castle (who played Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN!), and features a spectacular mix of practical special effects and early CGI. Lance Guest does a great job in the role of the film’s ersatz Luke Skywalker, convincingly frustrated by his surroundings and dreaming of something bigger. And he’s bolstered by great performances from Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy. It may be a slight movie, but it’s a lot of fun.

THE THING; Dir. John Carpenter; Starring Kurt RussellWilford Brimley and Keith David; Trailer here.

Something from another world has crash-landed in the Antarctic. Something that can mimic any living thing. It’s already wiped out a Norwegian research station. Now it is inside the neighboring American compound, and it could be taking the place of any person—or persons—there. Who can you trust, when anyone could be…the Thing?

Many people consider this one of the greatest remakes ever made. I am not one of those people. To me, this isn’t a remake at all; this is simply a second adaptation of John W. Campbell’s novella WHO GOES THERE? The Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby 1951 film (there is disagreement over who actually directed) was a loose adaptation of Campbell’s story, jettisoning the entire “alien imitation and assimilation” aspect of the plot, and only focusing on the threat of an alien menacing an Arctic scientific outpost. While John Carpenter borrowed the title treatment from the Hawks/Nyby film, everything else is much more faithful to Campbell’s original tale.

Though it’s hard to find someone today who doesn’t love THE THING, this wasn’t the case in 1982. It received mixed-to-negative reviews upon release and was considered a flop, only barely breaking into the top 10 for three weeks and only taking in a third of its cost on its opening weekend. Critics and moviegoers seemed to prefer the “aliens are our best friends” approach of that year’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which came out just two weeks prior to THE THING. And the special effects of Rob Bottin—now seen as a landmark exercise in visual effects—were largely seen as unnecessarily grotesque and gory at the time, overshadowing the onscreen suspense.

It’s amazing how wrong people can be.

In the years since, a much-needed reappraisal of the film has taken place. It’s now regarded as one of John Carpenter’s finest works, second only perhaps to HALLOWEEN. The ensemble performances are excellent across the board. Kurt Russell makes a believably reluctant hero, questioning everyone even as he questions himself. And each supporting actor—from Wilford Brimley to Keith David, from Donald Moffatt to Richard Masur, and on down the line—creates a unique and memorable take on their character. Bottin’s bravura special effects are shocking and surreal, heightening the alien nature of the transformations on display and providing a sense of “anything goes” unexpectedness to the proceedings. And John Carpenter proves himself a master of onscreen composition, creating gorgeous tableaux with every shot. He keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, but never rushes things. And he ramps up suspense at every turn, continually making you question every person on the screen before you. Add on one of Ennio Morricone’s best scores, and there’s little more one can ask for.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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All Hail Bubba! Why You Should Swing Down to the Star Bar for the Best Rockabilly/Roots Family Reunion on the Planet Every Memorial Day Weekend

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

Spike Fullerton plays an early Bubbapalooza. Clipping courtesy of Spike Fullerton.

By Eve Wynne-Warren
Contributing Writer

Bubbapolooza is a celebration of American roots music held every Memorial Day weekend at the Star Community Bar in Little 5 Points. This year marks the 22nd year that friends, fans and family have gathered together to hear some of the best rockabilly, country and rock music around, and the line-up is mighty exciting. On Friday May 24 starting at 8 p.m., hear The Belmont Playboys, Hi-Test, Ghost Riders Car Club, Blacktop Rockets, AM Gold and Slim Chance & the Convicts. Then on Saturday May 25 with doors at 4 p.m. (music at 5), the roster includes an even bigger herd of ATLRetro Kool Kats such as Caroline & the Ramblers, Cletis & His City Cousins, and Grim Rooster, plus Nashville’s The Billygoats, with Jason Ringenberg (of Jason and the Scorchers), Ohio’s The Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition up from Missississippi, El Capitan & The Band With No Name (surf meets Ennio Morricone!) and McPherson Struts. And that’s not to mention a triad of surf bands – Kill, Baby, Kill, The Intoxicators and The Mystery Men? – downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge.

There used to be a bumper sticker adorning the rear of many an Atlanta vehicle that read, “The Star Bar, where things go Twang in the night.” The gracious booking agents who have worked the offices there over the years have, as any live venue does, varied the types of bands and shows offered since the doors opened on Halloween, 1991. However, few other Atlanta venues have been so inclined to offer as much Roots Americana as the Star. It’s not what you’d think of a swank place to “be seen”; it’s a Honky Tonk. People come there for the music. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that you didn’t have to be a certain age, race or one of the “beautiful people” to feel at home there…just love the music. That is the essence of Bubbapolooza, which was founded by Cabbagetown songwriter/guitarist Gregory Dean Smalley. Since Greg passed away from AIDS in the mid-1990s, every Bubba has been dedicated to him and the Boones Farm toast to his legacy is always an emotional moment. This year’s event also pays tribute to the memory of Earl Maddox, another Bubba godfather who passed away from cancer last year. Earl drummed for a slew of bands such as the Diggers, the Convicts and Gregory Dean and the Bubbamatics, and lately had been a character actor in movies. [Ed. note: read a companion story about Earl here and check out our 20th anniversary retrospective for some more history.].

This year ATLRetro decided to catch up with some Star Bar regular suspects, musicians and fans to give those “Bubba virgins” an idea of what it’s all about.

“My goal for this year’s booking of Bubbapalooza was to have a few more regional and national acts to go along with our great regulars and keep the spirit of the event alive,” says Bryan Malone, who does the booking for the Star Bar. “We have more touring acts this year than in the past few years. With Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jason Ringenberg and Jimbo Mathus, I feel we’ve done that.

One of the things that makes this event special is that it is a chance for some of the older fans to come out,” he adds. “Bubbapalooza is almost like a Star Bar family reunion. It’s the one time of year that we see faces and groups from the days of the club’s inception having a great time and enjoying great music.  It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “Happy Bubba” throughout the course of the weekend. This year as always, we donate a portion of the proceeds to the family of Gregory Dean Smalley who created Bubbapalooza. But this past year we lost an old friend when Earl Maddox passed, so we will also be doing something special in honor of him and his family. The whole thing is a family reunion with great friends and great music. There ain’t much else like it anywhere. Happy Bubba!”

Richard “Spike” Fullerton currently plays with Ghost Riders Car Club, on the Friday Bubba playlist, and in the first few Bubbas, with the HotPoint Rangers and later Kingsized, or so he thinks. “My memories are pretty dim,” Spike admits. “The first one, as I barely recall, was very much about humor and the feeling that Atlanta had a pretty good crop of young players in a genre that was on the way back. In the few years I’d been here the rockabilly/country scene had been evolving out of second rate clubs and into better venues. It felt like a sort of coming-out party that our music was vibrant enough to have a club to call our own. The Star Bar really became something vaguely akin to The Ace or Dingwalls in London, where our group just would naturally go there first and check who’s on the marquee later. I really feel fortunate to have had that moment in my musical career. One of my very first gigs back after work had kept me away was with the Ghost Riders Car Club at Bubbapalooza. It’s a very gratifying experience to come back to old friends in a familiar place, and find you’ve still got something to say to each other, musically and spiritually. I thoroughly enjoy the festival and what it has come to mean, to me anyway. I hope to play many more.”

I then asked drummer Mike Hammer to relate what might be his favorite year of playing the event. He said he had not been to every Bubba, but to most of them. “I became good friends with Greg Smalley back in those days,” Mike recalls. “My memory of a great gig was ‘94 or ’95, I think. [Ed. note: Mike was playing with Caroline and the Ramblers then]. The Lost Continentals were the next to last band, and the headliner was to be Scott Miller and his band, the Viceroys. At the last minute, we were told they could not make it for some reason, so we had the stage for the rest of the night. I think we even had Ben Friedman from Cigar Store [Indians] up with Amy Pike singing something. It turned into a wild show and the place was packed. I think it really pushed the Lost Continentals’ rep over the top here in town.”

The Billygoats play Bubbapalooza 20. Photo credit: Al Laipple.

I remember that. Those Bubba pickin’ party/encore sets are definitely some of my favorite memories. Mike will be at the drums with Cletis and the City Cousins on this year’s line-up. I asked Clete, who just may have been at every Bubbapolooza (even some only known to fans in an alternate universe), the same question. Alas there was a Braves game on and I got no reply. I will be sure to ask him in the middle of his set at the show.

Faylynn Owen, bartender at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, booked the bands for the Star Bar in the early years, and damned, if she didn’t do great job of it, too. I asked her what year stood out in her mind. Drive by Truckers is probably the most now famous band to play Bubba,” Faye Lynn says. “I don’t really have a favorite memory of Bubba. I loved them all.”

This year’s Bubbapolooza is headlined by the one and only Jason of Americana Roots Rock royalty Jason and the Scorchers, backed by The Billygoats, one of my all-time favorite Star Bar bands, also from Nashville. I asked them how many Bubbapoloozas they’d played. “I can only say that, even though I know that we played Bubba may more times than this, we only remember the last three – ’cause we were sober.”

There you have it. Come early; there’s real good Bar-B-Q on the patio courtesy of Slope’s BBQ. And try to plan on coming both nights; choosing which night to be there is too hard. Bryan Malone booked the line-up this year and I gotta give him extra credit for doing a fine job and setting the ticket price so it’s easy to come both nights ($10 Friday/ $15 Saturday). Wear something comfortable and think about cabbing there and home if you like to have a drink with your “Twang.” If you’ve been before, find me and give me a hug. If it’s new to you, come join the friends and family, and we’ll raise a toast together to Greg Smalley, Earl Maddox and George Jones. I bet you’ll come back next year.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & Nine Street Kitchen

Posted on: Dec 10th, 2012 By:

Nostalgic adults and kids will dig Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS.  This year, the duo will be presenting their holiday treat at The Earl Fri. Dec. 14 and Sat. Dec. 15 and performing a more family-friendly reprise at Nine Street Kitchen in Roswell Mon. Dec. 10 and Thurs. Dec. 20. All shows will start with an instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters and also feature surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and the Silent Knights.

As noted last year, the seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy. And he’s been collaborating with recent Kool Kat The Residents’ Molly Harvey lately, too. Frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste, who was our Kool Kat of the Week last March.

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about this year’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Tunes, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Are you surprised that so many adults are so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments do you get after your performances?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to playing Nine Street Kitchen, it sounds like it is going to turn into a great venue. And playing for children will be a blast. My 3-year-old son Francis is happy he can come out to “Dad’s Show.”

What can audiences expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at Nine Street Kitchen (in Roswell) to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much.

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures? 

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any more collaborations with Molly Harvey or new 2013 recordings you’d like to tell readers about? 

We have a vocal album on the way called collapsible with our new singer Cassi Costoulas and French singer Lionel Fondeville, as well as several other great guests: Brent Hinds, Don Chambers. Possibly Molly Harvey.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & The Earl Smith Strand

Posted on: Dec 16th, 2011 By:

Jeffrey Butzer channels Schroeder & Vince Guaraldi in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, his annual holiday show with TT Mahony.

Not just nostalgic adults, but kids, too, will get to enjoy Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS this year with the duo presenting it at two Earls – first at The Earl Fri. Dec. 16 and Sat. Dec. 17 (both 9 p.m.) and then at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta Tues. Dec. 20 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.). All shows will feature an opening instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters, and surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and Friends.

The seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are clearly a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. Inspired by melodic French musette, pieces on two albums SHE TRADED HER LEG (2006) and THE GARDEN OF SCISSORS (2009), both released by Lona Records, incorporate such eclectic instruments as accordions, bass drum, piano, glockenspiel and—perhaps inspired by a childhood admiration for Schroeder—toy piano. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy, the former suggesting that their opening set will be more than appropriate for a vintage art deco movie theatre like the Strand. He’s also down a film soundtracks (Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND), collaborated live with Molly Harvey of The Residents and has ventured lately into the world of live scoring to Buster Keaton’s THE BALLOONATIC. And frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste.

Today though, ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to chat about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, what to expect at The Earl and The Strand, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Toons, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Were you surprised that so many adults were so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments did you get after your performance?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to adjusting it for a sitting crowd at The Strand. We love the room. It is like a miniature Fox Theatre. And playing for children will be a blast. My 2-year-old son Francis dances every time he hears “Linus and Lucy.”

What audiences can expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at The Strand to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much. We do have a kid’s choir with us at the Strand!

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures?

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

Jeffrey Butzer. Photo credit: Melissa J. Butzer.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any 2012 gigs or recordings you’d like to tell readers about?

We almost all have children, so we’ve been laying low, only doing select shows. But we will have an official release for our new 7” at The Earl in March. I’m also working on a score for PETER PAN at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Then I have a solo record coming out named COLLAPSIBLE. Then off to play some dates inPoland.

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