John Cho in San Francisco and Sheryl Crow across cultures
This weekend, I ate a LOT and relaxed.
But with last week's busyness, I didn't get a chance to talk about how I listened to John Cho speak in San Francisco.
One thing he said really struck me. As a second-generation immigrant whose parents came from Korea, he described his parents as "cowboys," who came to the US for a better life, who came knowing nothing, not even the language of this future home. (Here's a link to more from his talk.)
And yet these rebels couldn't understand when their own children wanted to be rebels in paving their own frontiers that weren't as safe (jobs that weren't the doctor, engineer, or lawyer). This was an irony I never thought about.
This is an irony I go through every day.
As a fellow second-generation Asian American, I've struggled against a lot of expectations my parents tried to force on my life. Believe me, pop music critic, isn't one of the things immigrant parents can easily brag about.
So, in my first year as a critic, I took my mom to a concert, to Sheryl Crow - a performer who wasn't too loud, or too offensive. Before the show, I went through all the different genres on the radio - this is hip-hop, this is rock, this is country, and this is Sheryl Crow, so she could recognize the difference. Then I explained to her what a typical night would be like - what she could expect.
At the concert, my mom got into it and started pointing out potential people I could interview. She even got down with the music -- well, sort of.
And the only thing she wasn't really down with was Crow's outfit: some low-riding tight leather pants. My mom immediately forbade me from ever wearing pants like that.
I ended up writing the concert review about the uniqueness of the night, about bridging cultures and generations. (Here is a link to that story.) And the ironic thing is that Crow's public relations person at the time was someone like me, a second-generation Asian American who brought her mom to concerts in order for the mom to better understand what her daughter did for a living.
The pr person and I bonded over that.
Ever since that concert, I've continued bringing my parents to concerts, just so they understand me and my passion. Because of this, I've gone to some concerts I usually would never go to, like Yanni.
The animal who steals the show is a lemur king named Julian, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. (Comedian Cohen is best known as the blinged out hip-hop wanksta Ali G, who starred in Madonna's "Music" video.) Julian is hilarious and makes you want to get up to dance, and move-it-move-it.
As for this weekend, besides barbecuing, ch-check some clubbin'...
Grand Openingn of "Super Hyphy Sundays" WHERE: Los Robles, 1985 Cleveland Ave, next to Coddingtown Mall, Santa Rosa WHEN: Sunday night 5/29 TIX: 18+; email@example.com WHY: hip-hop, reggaeton, R&B, club classics
ABZOLUT's Super Memorial Day Bash WHERE: DNA Lounge, 316 11th St @ Harrison, SF map WHEN: Sunday night 5/29 TIX: free before 10:30 p.m.; $10 discount before 11 p.m.;RSVP; $5 presale tickets WHY: phat Memorial Day party
CrossRoads WHERE: Club Blush, 261 California Drive, Burlingame WHEN: Sunday night 5/29 TIX: 21+; if graduating, discount admission firstname.lastname@example.org WHY: Memorial mega event
I was the ONLY reporter allowed backstage, so here are some moments from the night, some actually quite funny:
I bopped D-Roc from the Ying Yang Twins in the grill while trying to record his interview backstage.
In the beginning I wasn't even sure if I could get a straight interview from him. He has spent much of the time making funny noises then hollering. But, after I asked him how he keeps his voice up - the rapper stopped and went into a genteel soft voice - and said it was herbal tea. (You can hear the whole interview online.)
One headliner (and you can guess who) brought marijuana plants onstage. Here's the line-up list.
While Snoop Dogg was performing, The Game came outside the backstage area and greeted folks. I stood next to him for a long time (he's younger and taller than I thought, maybe around 6 feet or so). Then I stuck my hand out and shook his hand. He has soft fingers. (Earlier when he was performing, he passed out a blunt to a member of the audience and told them to share.)
While watching Snoop, The Game jigged, and enjoyed two blond girls who grinded in front of him. When fans noticed him, there was a cell phone photographing frenzy. He later spotted a little girl in the stands - made a pouty face, reached out for hand and kissed it.
R&B singer Natalie had watched Star Wars the night before. The former Houston Rockets cheerleader watched the blockbuster in a San Jose theater shut down just for her.
Backstage in their dressing room while Snoop was performing, The Frontline and EA-Ski were beat. (Their room made up of painted white brick was pretty bare. It consisted of one table of fruit and drinks and a few metal fold out chairs.) The Frontline, made up of Left and Locksmith, didn't want to touch any of the fruit laid out on the table, citing that they didn't know who else had been in there and that the food had been laying out all night.
Jill Scott, the Mandarin Macbeth and Madagascar plus later Bomb, R. Kelly and Madagascar
Ch-check out my story today on Jill Scott. (Here's the link.) She was lovely to interview and made an interesting comment about the image of women in videogames like Tekken.
As for this last weekend, I checked out the Peking Opera version of Macbeth. I wasn't sure what to expect and only had their descriptions to go on - like the backdrop of Scotland was exchanged for the warring period of Ancient China.
But, I was thorougly impressed.
As a child, while others wanted to join the circus, I had a quirky dream of joining the Peking Opera. I have many a embarrasing photos of me striking an Opera pose. So, when I was in Beijing last summer, I caught a show. But somehow I liked this Macbeth revision much better. The costumes were brilliant.
There were changes to Macbeth however. The Opera version of Lady Macbeth was a much more sympathetic creature. This passage is completely missing:
Come you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. Stop up th'access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th'effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers (I.v 47-55).
And her miscarriage comes at the very end before her suicide, making you feel bad for her, not hate her for being an evil mastermind.
If you check in later, I'll preview some inside info on....
The virtual hip-hop group's gimmick this time around is that even cartoon bands can be destroyed by success.
You can feel their hardened soul through the whole album. It's sad. Their debut album hit, "Clint Eastwood," (link has video) had lines like "I'm happy, I'm feeling glad I got sunshine in a bag." But now, in their sophomore album in "Dirty Harry," they sing about "I need a gun to keep myself from harm/ The poor people are burning in the sun/No, they ain't got a chance."
It feels like success did harm them and kill their joy for music, which was the reason why I liked them in the first place. It's almost like this album was done for therapeutic reasons.
When I interviewed Danger Mouse after the Grey Album came out, he said that the mash-up was just an attempt to see what was possible, something to show his parents what he could do.
"I had no control over what happened," says Danger Mouse from his home in LA. "I tried to chill out and do the best I could. It was that serious. It was like a little art project, just a little guy in his bedroom that did something crazy."
The self-described loner said "I'm happiest when I'm broke. There are less expectations from people around you."
He aspired to be the "Woody Allen of hip-hop," and had a workaholic mentality, but said "people discovered me way to quickly."
Maybe it's his heavy heart that made its way into the Gorillaz album that changed their mood.
But, if you're looking for something way more light-hearted, check out Common's new album "Be." It's beautiful soulful hip-hop. And, like a line from his single "Faithful" is "for the people God moves."
Check back tomorrow when I'll be reviewing the new Common and Gorillaz albums. I liked both, but was a bit disappointed with the attitude change in Gorillaz. The Gorillaz cartoon crew sound like they have grown up, but have lost a lot of the happy naivete I loved them for the first time.
She was a pleasure to talk to, and so tiny, I felt like I would crush her when I hugged her.
Here's a pic of Natalie, the photographer (Joanne) and I:
She also was very punctual, unlike her label-mate Baby Bash. Their road manager Darryl Gooden joked that if Bash had an interview at 10, he would make sure to tell him it was at 9 - otherwise, Bash would just be getting up, eating cereal in his drawers.
If you look at the print version of the story, the photo inside on page 3C, Natalie is gazing into the mirror, holding up a cross necklace. That day, she wore two necklaces, one with three diamonds and the cross one.
I asked her what they symbolized. The diamond one was from a close friend. And, the cross one, she bought on her own.
"I wanted to make sure He's the reason for everything," she said.
So I asked if she would ever write Christian music. She said she was debating it, and had been afraid in the past about what implication it might bring. But, artists like Kanye West with the song "Jesus Walks" have really paved the way, she added.
In the future, she would like to do a more Christian song, that is "more personal as if I am talking about a loved one, to be more relatable, but I know it is about (she points up). And if anyone asked me about it, I would say, yes, I wrote it about God."
Ch-check out her concert Wednesday. I'll be backstage that night, and will be giving you details then!
Wild 94.9 Bomb Veinte WHERE: HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday TIX: $20-$80; (408) 998-8497, (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com
Truthfully, that girl has the most beautiful voice. If I was a guy I would have been smitten already!
She was getting over a cold that day, but wow, she was smokin'!
Ch-check out what to do this weekend...
Mango Kingz WHERE: Raging Waters, 2333 S White Rd., San Jose WHEN: Sat. all day 5/21 TIX: $40; Gabe @ (408) 590 - 4295 WHY: Drinks, prizes, games, barbecue lunch, plus entertainment with the Hawaiian boy band
Erasure WHERE: Tower Records, 119 Market St., 2280 Market St., San Francisco WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday 5/21 TIX: no cover WHY: They'll be signing records!
For the story I chatted with director Wu Hsing-Kuo as he rode from his lecture at San Francisco State to a local Chinese restaurant.
The man, probably in his 40s (he wouldn't say, only that he could play anyone from age 16 to 60) was really unassuming. While he played these extravagant characters, like Macbeth, in full makeup and colorful robes, that day, he was in all grey - a simple Henley T-shirt and slacks.
The director of many Peking Opera/Shakespeare fusions (including Hamlet and King Lear) was exceptionally humble, choosing his words carefully.
While, his wife, producer and choreographer Lin Hsiu-Wei, wore a furry black vest along with black leather pants and boots. She was more loose with her words, telling her perspective on how the whole production came to be - first asking college professors and scholars to help with the translation (they wouldn't do it, exclaiming, who are you to take on Shakespeare?) - and then turning to college students (coming out with a work so long, a whittled down version was 3 hours - the current one is 2)
Also, here's the info on the Wu's play coming to town:
Kingdom of Desire WHERE: California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday TIX: $29-$100; (408) 998-8497, (415) 421-8497, www.ticketmaster.com, www.dimensionarts.org IN: Mandarin, with English super titles ALSO: Gala fundraising dinner, 6-9 tonight; Marriott Hotel, 301 S. Market St., San Jose; $120; (408) 271-6500; (408) 655-2761
I interviewed her at a teleconference before her last tour, The Onyx Hotel. She came off as a bit of a ditz.
I asked: Your past pastor has denounced your recent activities, what is your response?
Her answer was like: What does he know? Religion is what causes wars.
Then, another reporter asked: If you were blind, and had only one hour to see, what would you do with this hour?
Her answer: That's my kind of question. I would spend it with my friends and family, eating strawberries with whipped cream.
That said, her latest single "Chaotic" is catchy. She always hooks you somehow.
Tonight, ch-check it out...
Lenny Kravitz, with Nikka Costa WHERE: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St., SF WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight 5/18 TIX: $45.50; ticketmaster.com WHY: Lenny Kravitz's drummer, Cindy Blackman, kicks butt. She puts her whole body energy into drumming and in doing so and inspires you to be a drummer. Also, Nikka Costa, the sultry rock star and goddaughter to none other than Frank Sinatra, is exceptional - you may just like her more than Lenny Kravitz.
I spoke with Jill Scott yesterday. She was a good sport, even though she had a bad case of food poisoning - bad fish - and got hives. I told her I hope the rest of the Bay Area food treats you better - she laughed.
What I liked about her is that she was grounded, "obedient" as she called it - and has a healthy sense of balance in her life.
She also gave me a good tip on writer's block - instead of trying to fight it, write something else, and come back.
More on her later - ch-check out the full Q&A next Wednesday.
First up, I watched "Unleashed." I really enjoyed this film, and not only because I'm a big fan of Jet Li's - I mean, I hated his movie, "The One." That was a big waste of his talent.
What was funny about "Unleashed" is that his character, a human attack dog, gave him the flexibility of not having to learn a lot of English - just like Arnold in "The Terminator" and the deficient language chip.
Second up, I watched a "Clone Wars" marathon. The animation version of Star Wars (this saga falls in between the second and third episode) is very impressive, so much so this version is what the first three episodes should have been. The characters are much more powerful. You see the hero quality in both Obi Wan and Anakin. And the clones have amazing weapons. Finally, the fight scenes are jaw dropping - one robotic Sith duels with three light sabers.
All three tapped into the fighter spirit in me. I took judo in college, but besides that - I have an grand-uncle who was a kungfu expert. He could do much of the Crouching Tiger-like stunts, and was one with the chi.
And on the other side of the family, I have another grand-uncle who was such a judo expert, his sparring partners tracked him down after class, and ganged up on him - killing him.
The first chapter is about a man and a woman having a tryst, only to have the husband come home and the lover hide in the woman's closet.
The second one is not out yet, but I've heard an MP3 - and like the ending of the first, it begs for the rest. I'll divulge a little detail - the woman's husband is a priest.
And for all you heading out to E3 or always wanted to go to E3, one of biggest showcases of videogames not out yet - the Mercury News has a new blog out on E3.
I've gone before, and let me tell you, it's mind boggling. There are models dressed like all kinds of videogame characters and movie screens where you can test out the games. And, the parties were amazing, don't let me start on the parties - Garbage and OutKast were there.
As for this weekend, ch-check it out:
Jimmy Eat World / Taking Back Sunday WHERE: Henry J Kaiser Arena, 10 Tenth Street, Oakland WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday 5/13 TIX: $25; ticketmaster.com WHY: Happy pop-punky ballads
Sweat/Suit Tour with Nelly, Fat Joe, T.I. that was supposed to be Saturday at the San Jose Event Center Arena was canceled.
Dave Chapelle in psych ward, Yahoo selling songs, and Bow Wow dating
Some news off the entertainment press:
Dave Chapelle reportedly checked into a psych ward in South Africa, halting production of the third season of his show on Comedy Central. Let's hope he gets well soon - his show was a conversation starter.
Yahoo is selling downloaded songs for 79 cents, competing head to head to Apple's 99 cents each. Already stocks are plummeting for Napster and RealNetwork. This calls to mind the price fight between Netflix and Blockbuster. Let's see who wins.
Ciara is not a dude - despite rumors, the crunk-stress is a lady, and is reportedly dating none other than Lil Bow Wow, I mean Bow Wow (he dropped the Lil).
I talked to the now 17-year-old when his voice was still crackin' at 15, coming off of his basketball comedy "Like Mike."
At that point he said: "I like ghetto girls. You know, the ones with blue or green hair, with names you can't pronounce."
George Lucas in San Francisco plus Wide Hive Records Present Scout
Tomorrow night, for you Sith aficionados out there unwilling to wait in line, the Force is coming to you - that is - if you're willing to fork out $500. George Lucas, himself, will host a benefit preview of the new Star Wars at the Metreon, as a fundraiser for the Koret Family House, which provides temporary housing for families with children with cancer. For more info, contact (415) 621-2255, or visit www.familyhouseinc.org.
And, over the weekend I hung out with some reporter friends. We commiserated over what stars that were challenging to interview.
On their list:
Lance Armstrong: wouldn't give my television producer friend the time of day. He didn't even look up at her for his 5 minute interview. She said that folks at Nike felt sorry for her that she had to talk to him
Wolfgang Puck: strong accent and a bad connection lead to an interview that was filled with one of Lil Jon's favorite statements: "WHAT?!?"
On my list:
LL Cool J: After I asked him what inspires him, he said, Do you know that I have ten albums and I'm a moviestar? I didn't have the heart to mention Rollerball.
Yesterday was freaky - I didn't know whether to wear sunglasses or open my umbrella, or both. I ended up doing both and felt equally, well, awkward.
Ch-check out today's paper! Here's the link. I have a story on mother rockers - Mamapalooza that is. It's a fun concert series born out of mothers' frustration over what mainstream music had to offer. They sing everything from sultry tunes, singer-songwriter ballads, to the pouty punk songs like "Pee Alone." (Here is a link to their concert listings.)
I dropped by 94.9'sCinco de Mayo party in downtown San Jose at The Vault. The music was crackin' and the place was beautiful - you should check it out when you have a chance.
Then, I went to the Maroon 5 concert. Despite the fact, the whole band showed up with bed hair, looking like they just woke up, they played like they were fully conscious. It was a sweet concert, and I especially liked the acapella rendition of their hit "This Love." (Here's my rapid review)
Besides that, I went over to the even rainier East Bay and played some pool at the very cool Broken Rack in Emeryville. It's right next to Kimball's East which featured live jazz that night.
Natalie in San Francisco and later San Jose, plus Maroon 5 at HP tonight
Yesterday I had the chance to interview and have lunch with an up-and-coming R&B singer Natalie. She was wonderfully humble and a pleasure to talk to. Instead of her road manager, San Jose native Darryl Gooden, getting drinks for lunch, she asked him first what he wanted. (She performs in a stellar line-up with The Game, Snoop, Baby Bash, etc. May 25th at the HP Pavilion.)
All kinds of industry insiders came to her showcase at Universal Records in San Francisco. Two were people I regularly listen to: Jose Melendez and Lesley Perez of KYLD-94.9 FM. Checking them out today at San Jose's club, Vault spinning the night away.
The two were really approachable and saw Natalie's music as having potential.
Melendez emphasized that music to him is not what's supposedly on the charts, but what the fans ground level think is hot - this includes what's shakin' in high schools.
So tonight, there's lot of great music to check out:
TWO SOLD OUT SHOWS
Maroon 5, The Thrills, Simon Dawes WHERE: HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose Mercury News WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday 5/5 TIX: sold out but here's a link to tix WHY: Maroon 5 skyrocketed from playing San Jose's Music in the Park to having a sold out show in HP.
Bruce Springsteen, acoustic style WHERE: The Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday 5/5 TIX: $75.50-$85.50; sold out but here's a link to tix WHY: He's not called "The Boss" for nothing.
To friends I've been joking, saying it took time and commitment, lots of lotion and finger exercises, but really - it took all of 15 minutes. Also, I forgot to put some lotion on.
The last time I hand modeled was for a past edition of the Food's Valentine section, where my hand, nails adorned in red, held a truffle to my mouth. You can't tell it's me. First of all I never wear bright red on my nails, and I don't usually wear lipstick.
As for tonight, ch-check it out:
Coldplay WHERE: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Street, SF WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday 5/4 TIX: sold out but here's a link to tix WHY: See if the new daddy still has it.
My favorite two characters were the galaxy president, Zaphod Beeblebrox, which Sam Rockwell played with a wacky glee (he's born in Daly City!), and the robot Marvin, voiced by Alan Rickman. He added a delicious depressive quality to it. I just wanted to squeeze the poor robot and tell him everything will be OK. So this weekend, I looked everywhere for his figurine, and couldn't find anything to my dismay.
Finally, I was seriously disappointed in Mos Def's role in the film as reporter Ford Prefect. He was one of the reasons that drew me to the movie, but except for the line, "Do you want a hug?" I wasn't really impressed. He could have been replaceable. But then I thought back on his past work - how he has a laidback cool-man quality about him - and how maybe he was so laidback in the film he was un-noticeable. Anybody have any other thoughts on him?
One of the first widespread graffiti writers who tagged (sprayed on signatures) was TAKI 183. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), according to this article, he has put down his cans to work at a legitimate business, a foreign car repair shop. The story is a bit old, but it's interesting how a guy who helped start this trend has denounced his whole past.
And, if you want to learn more about graffiti, here are other places to check it out. They frequently have urban art exhibits:
Basquiat: among the first of graffiti artists now considered a fine artist
Barry McGee: A San Francisco Mission district artist who has gained cross-over success.
Quality of Life: A graffiti documentary about an artist coming of age in the Mission District of San Francisco. Last year, it had its US premiere at Cinequest and won a jury award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
And, with this graffiti story, I've written about three of the four elements of hip-hop. Here are the other two: