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February 12, 1985 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-02-12

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 12, 1985 - Page 7

Femmes showFantastic

ly Hobey Echlin
WAS TALKING with one of the bounc-
ers backstage at the Violent Femmes
show at the Michigan Theater Saturday
night. We were discussing the obscure
places some now popular acts have
played. He told me how U2 played Har-
po's in Detroit on their Boy album tour.
And now they're in Joe Louis Arena. We
then traced the Femmes' Ann Arbor
stops over the past few years: Joe's, the
U-Club, and now a sold out Michigan
Theater. What next? Hopefully not a
whole lot bigger.
I guess that's one of the things I like
best about the Femmes: they're
probably not going to get too popular,
i.e. they won't sell out to the lusty dollar
signs of commercialism. Oh sure, I
know what you're saying: no band an-
swers to commercialization in directing
their artistry. But tell me chances for
seven-digit sales don't shelf most ex-
perimental ideas for the more com-
mercially accessible ones. The Fem-
mes are aloof to that noise.
They are doing just what they want to
do, having a good time and picking up a
few bucks on their way out of a well
done show. On top of that they're
playing music that they really enjoy.
Drawing heavily on poetry from high
school, Gordon Gano's music reflects a
genuine Christian and Gospel influence,
some country/western, and even some
Buddy Rich, one of his current
favorites. You gotta love it.
I spoke with Gordon about commer-
cialization and the discussion soon led
to the Hallowed Gound LP. He told me
how he was warned time and again that
the country/blues wasn't going to sell

with an audience geared for a dancier
sound, especially after the success of
"Ugly". Damn the executives, full
speed ahead.
And so Hallowed Ground came out
with modest success. Sure the dollar
signs weren't flashing too brightly, but
they definitely were on. The Femmes
are doing their own thing, love it or
leave it. And the fact that they're
selling out fairly large theaters all over
the place isn't so much proof that
they're becoming commercials giants
as it is that they're doing their own
thing, and if people dig it, fine.
And were they digging it.
Except for a few especially limp
audience members, such as this obese
blond with her Strummer mohawk and,
are you ready, a ball-point swastika on
her scalp, the crowd was almost too
receptive of the loudly clad Femmes.
It's kind of surprising, I thought. I
mean here's a band with an acoustic
bass and washtub drum kit, basing
much of their success on the simple
sound. Then they bring on two sax
players and a keyboard player with
blue hair.
But before you can get carried away
by the backup musicains, they're off
the stage and the Femmes reassert the
secularness of their sound with "Theme
and Variation", which offers a basic
chord theme with no variation. So
they're having fun, making you laugh,
and showing you their simple side.
And wait, a song later and they're
doing a big band number with all the
horns back out.
Follow that with a real bluesy "Con-
fessions" and you've gone from country
to dance-pop to thrash to big band back
to your basic blues. And all with an

acoustic bass and wash-tub drum as a
root. Oh, and don't forget the spiritual
hoedown of "Jesus Walking On the
Water", with organ and sax to boot,
placed right alongside a mock Heavy
Metal number featuring the backup
musicians in Spinal Tap form.
Amazing? Sure. Likely? No.
But what can you expect from the
band whose name started as a derisive
nickname, whose talent was discovered
by the Pretenders in Milwaukee where
they went from bar to concert hall
faster than you can say, "Cinderella
story", and whose new backup section
features the unlikely likes of former
Stooge Steve McKay and the original
keyboard player for the "Batman"
And what's more is the, shall we say,
impromptu manner in which the more
cliche Femmes tunes were done. No
trouble telling live from studio here.
"Ugly" ended in a, well, ugly shouting
match between mikes, while "Country
Death Song" featured some impressive
brushwork on drums by Victor De
Lorenzo, subtly desplaying his unique
talent by utilizing the corrugated base
of his washtub with the wrong end of the
brushes. After Gordon redefined
caesura with the break in the middle of
"Confessions", bass player Brian Rit-
chie was blowing a conch shell and the
blue-haired keyboard player was at it
with a messenger horn. Blues to mad-
ness in 4.2 seconds. "Kiss Off" ended
with similar winded insanity, boring
some as gimmicky, but to me, just an
extension of the Femmes' free-spirited
bar roots.
A note about the encore. Unorthodox
is the only word I can find except for
maybe novel. Beginning with Victor

Daily Photo by MATT PETR
Like a blister in the sun... Gordon Gano gives his all in a performance by the Violent Femmes last Saturday night at the
Michigan Theater.

DeLorenzo singing a la Julio Iglesias,
while the backup band carried on a
Pink Flamingo Lounge drivel, Brian
Ritchie then abruptly broke in with the
opening notes of "Blister In the Sun".
Followed by a spirited rendition of
"Batman", the Femmes echoed the en-
core of the Who's Pontiac stop in 1982.
Echo the Who?
I can't picture Victor setting up his
washtup in the Silverdome nor Gordon

scurrying the 30 yards offstage to blow
his nose. I just hope they don't play the
U2 home game and make the jump to
the Journey Arenas.
And when they ended with "Good
Feeling", I was hoping to God the
Femmes never have to play anything
too much bigger. They're not of the
Video Generation, there's more than
money out there for the Femmes. Suc-
cess with integrity seems to be their

key. Accessibility, as well. You can;
really talk to these guys. In fact, as I
left, Brian was talking to some people
on the main floor, and Gordon was
alternating between conversation and
blowing his nose. Somehow I just can't
picture it in any place bigger. Two
cheers for obscurity, and one for ins
tegrity, and, while you're at it, one
more for fun.

AACM provides an arena.
for innovative performance

Disney release fragmented, disappointing

By Byron L. Bull

By arwulf arwulf
C hicago.1965.
A group of musicians, under the
guidance of pianist Muhal Richard
Abrams and saxophonist/multi-
instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell,
formed the Association for the Ad-
vancement of Creative Musicians.
Their purpose was to gain control of
their own music, and to promote the
innovative ideas of emerging jazz

aforementioned Roscoe Mitchell,
reedman and multi-instrumentalist
Joseph Jarman, St. Louis trumpeter
Lester Bowie, the ominous Malaci
Favors, bass, and Nfamoudou Don
Moye, sound percussionist. These
five individuals comprise one of the
most dynamic and exciting musical
experiences to be found anywhere
They are masters of the art &
science of collective improvisation.
Usually covered with ancestral
robes, facial paint and anything else
that feels right (Bowie always
wears a white surgeon's coat), the
Ensemble operates on a stage
stacked with hundreds of instrumen-
ts, including a museum-load of
gongs, drums and bells, xylophones,
and nearly every reed instrument
The shared brilliance and eccen-
tricity, tempered with a marvelous
sense of humor, makes for a com-
pletely different performance every
time. Textures vary from clamoring
cacophony to carefully prescribed
periods of silence, and inevitabley a
steaming dose of rhythm & blues,
expertly warped to fit the occasion.
I first saw these beautiful lunatics
in September of 1972, at the legen-
dary Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz
Festival. Their performance then
stands as a masterpiece of live
music, and if you really look you
might find a copy of BAP-TIZUM, on
Atlantic records, which is their per-
formance at that festival in its en-
tirety. I think those bastards at
Atlantic have dropped it but you
might find a copy used.


musicians who might not be able to
secure recording and performing
contracts with established record
companies and concert promoters.
This was a milestone in the
development of creative im-
provised music in this century.
Reliance upon the whims of disin-
terested moguls of the recording in-
dustry has hindered and stifled jazz
since its inception. The music
should not be hampered by
marketing expectations or by the
preconceptions of stodgy
The primary manifestation of the
AACM is the Art Ensemble of
Chicago. This remarkable
organization consists of the

A s predictable and simplistic as many
of Walt Disney's animated
features were, many of them (Pinoc-
chio, Peter Pan) have an endearing
quality to them with their rich styling
and universally appealing (if terribly
contrived) sentimentality. But Fan-
tasia, Disney's lavish 1940 attempt at
an art-house film, is a miserable
failure, a technically dazzling but
soulless entrepreneural fiasco that's
far less imaginatively rendered and en-
tertaining than many of the studios
more modest traditional ventures.
That Fantasia fails is so odd because
its a project for which the studio
seemed to be so attuned. Disney, from
his early Silly Symphony shorts of the
1920's on through his trademark use of
rich (if saccharine) scores for his later
features, had always made music by
composers such as Beethoven and
Bach, acquired the collaborative genius
of conductor Leopold Stokowski
(leading his own Philadelphia Or-
chestra), and then let his pool of
animation directors run wild in en-
visioning the soundtrack.
The final product is certainly
technically superlative, and likely the
studio's most polished product.
Stylistically, Fantasia is the most
distinctive of Disney's films, and the
most painstakingly realized. But what
the film sorely lacks is any boldness of
idea, its images of centaurs and unicor-
ns cavorting about to the strains of
Beethovan's Pastoral Symphony or
Dinosaurs battling each other against
Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, are so
concetpually trivial it's annoying. Even
the gorgeously fantastical little pieces
that make up the Nutcracker Suite are,
for all their colorfulness and striking
composition, they're about as moving
as the animated graphics on a
television commercial. Watching Fan-
tasia is like looking at a demo reel of
what Disney's artisans could do but
never raise themselves to the task of
There's little wit or sense of magic
to Fantasia. The only two pieces that do
have any, Mickey Mouse as Dukas'
Sorcerer's Apprentice, or the ingenius
ballet parody of alligators and mon-
strously obese hippotomi blundering
about to Ponchielli's Dance Of The
Hours, are oddly enough the most
reminiscent of the conventional Disney
approach. The bulk of the other
segments are borishly stiff shoppieces,
stiff and inert.
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Beyond all that, there's a distinctly
condescending tone to the film. Disney
hired music critic Deems Taylor to host
short live action introductions to each
piece, and Taylor's patronizing com-
mentaries, which treat the audience as
if they were a bunch of plebians unable
to appreciate the classics on anything
but the most shallow level, may be a
crucial part of the reason why the
public shunned Fantasia upon its
release. In fact it wasn't until the late
sixites, when the film became an ac-
cidental hit when psychedelia was all
the craze, that it started earning money
for the studio.
This print, circulating to com-
memorate Fantasia's 45th anniversary,
is the truncated recut first released
three years ago. This version has the
narration between segments (sloppily)
edited out, and the original Stokowski
score scrapped for a newly recorded
digital recording. It's worth noting that
Irwin Kostel, the conductor whom
Disney Studios hired to lead a session
orchestra through a carbon copy per-
formance of the original score, has
openly criticized his own participation
in the project. It's easy to see why
because although the new soundtrack
is so much, well, louder than the
original, it's just so much less
sparkling, second there's a jilting
anachronism to this glaringly ultra-
modern sound blasting out over the
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Housing Division Resident Director
Position Available August 1, 1985
Undergraduate Female House
Application Forms Available
in the Housing Office, 1500 S.A.B.
A bachelor's degree or the equivalent is desirable.
Henderson House offers a co-operative living arrangement.
The 30 undergraduate women residents share the responsi-
bilities of cleaning the house and cooking meals by each
working five hours per week. The Resident Director super-
vises the work activities, orders food, is responsible for
building maintenance and acts as a liason between student
residents, Housing Division and University supporting or-
ganizations. Applicants are encouraged to make an appoint-
ment to visit the house by telephoning Maia Bergman at
4:00 P.M., MARCH 1, 1985

nostalgically quaint visuals.
As flawed as Fantasia was to begin
with, this hacked up version steals
away most of what little charm it did
have. The film is worth seeing if you

have an interest in film history, or an
appreciation for animation as it can no
longer be done, but most people will
probably find the experience disappoin-
ting and tiresome.


Guarneri String Quartet
commences a third decade

(Continued from Page 6)
All in all, the A minor Quartet opus
132 was the most brilliantly performed.
Their intonation was excellent on
ethereal chords as well as naked solos
by individual instruments. The third
movement was played with the deepest
feelings the musical directions in-
dicate. There is a mass-like solemnity
to this song, of recovery, and the Guar-
neri Quartet brought out all the
richness of every chord with sublime
reverence. The fourth movement finale
capped off the concert in an upbeat
fashion as the first violin had a rhap-
sodic recitative of extraordinary vir-
tuosity leading into a march of for-
midable energy, leaving very little else
Certainly nobody was disappointed
with the performance; the audience
responded with a; standing ovation.
Next to the Quartetto Italiano, the
Y AL ENT N E'S err

Guarneri is surely one of the finest
quartets in existence today. They
exhibit absolute command of all the
technical challenges of the music as
well as display a superior capacity to
interpret without excessive license. This
combination of talents makes them
ideally suited to undertake the com-
plete sixteen Beethoven String Quartets
and all of Rackham was glad for it.
Learn to live with someone
who's living with cancer.
Call us.

f~ T o HE RSMichigras
6p DIrE OF I4 t4RS
pF spring damCe
_ _ 6tOR5 R

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