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October 18, 1991 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-18

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ARTS

'The Michigan Daily

Friday, October 18, 1991

Page 8

Traveler goes truckin'
up the college charts

by Kenny Bell
K nown for sweat-drenched live
shows, harmonica playing, and
unique, upbeat songs, Blues Traveler
has emerged as one of the most ex-
plosively popular college bands in
the country. The four-member band
from New York City is a combina-
tion of much talent and much expe-
rience. Blues Traveler's self-titled
debut album sold over 160,000
copies on virtually word-of-mouth
alone, becoming a must for fans who
experienced one of their live shows.
The band's music is inflected with
blues, jazz, metal and, probably
most of all, just plain rock 'n' roll.
Drummer Brendan Hill says he
wasn't surprised by the success of
the first album at all. "We always
knew that those songs were good,
because those are the ones that
worked for us all along," says Hill.
"Those are the songs that did it for
us, and got us our contract with
A&M Records."
"But Anyway" became Blues
Traveler's trademark song, amazing
fans with lead singer John Popper's
singing and harmonica playing.

"Gina" also is a well-known tune;
the band jams at a fast pace at the
start of the song, slows down the
beat a little in the middle and then
gradually speeds up to a completely
different fast-beating tempo.
Blues Traveler's follow-up re-
lease, Travelers and Thieves, is
filled with more of the same type of
music that was in the first album.
"I actually think I like the second
album more, because everything
seems to stick together better," says
Hill.
Blues Traveler's best experience
might have been working with Sou-
thern-rock legend Gregg Allman, of
the Allman Brothers Band. Allman
sings backing vocals on the song
"Mountain Cry" along with
Popper. Hill, who wrote the song,
says that he was surprised that
Allman agreed to help out on the al-
bum.
"I wrote (Allman) a letter
asking if he would be interested in
working on a song together," Hill
explains. "It was really sort of a
gamble, because I didn't think that
he would agree. As it turned out, he
flew down and the experience was

great for us. We all had a lot of
fun."
Although Blues Traveler has ex-
perienced much success since its for-
mation just three years ago, the banc
still has not received the recog-
nition that it would like. Hill says
that Blues Traveler wanted to do a
video, but that it was just too costly
for the band's budget. However, he
remains confident that the banc
will someday break through intc
the pop arena.
"After we get more and more
popular, the record industries are
just going to have to accept us, just
like they did with Jane's Addictior
and Metallica," Hill says. "The
audience is there, so our expanding
will come natural, just like it did
with those bands."
Perhaps the driving force behind
Blues Traveler is lead vocalist Pop-
per. Although he looks a little sca-
rier than your average rock 'n' roll
lead singer, Popper is undoubtedly
an important figure in the band. He
wrote the lyrics and music for al-
most every song on the new album,
he gives the music that distinctive
harmonica sound, and he also has an
awesome singing voice. Popper stu-
died cello, piano, baritone
saxophone and guitar as a boy, and he
has played on albums with David
Sanborn and Terry Lynn Carrington.
As for the near future of the
band, Blues Traveler plans on
touring Europe this winter. Hill
says that he likes playing for
audiences that have, never heard
Blues Traveler before, because the
members of the band know that
they'll have to put on a great first
impression every time.
When asked what rock legend he
thinks Blues Traveler is most simi-
lar to, Hill responds, "I hate
comparing ourselves to anyone else,
because I think that we're
completely different than any other
band. Right now, we just love
playing our music to people, no
matter how many records we sell."

f
3
s

James Dean lookalikes Scott (Keanu Reaves) and Mike (River Phoenix) tour the country looking for emotional
fulfillment and a place to sleep. Their lives as street hustlers may not be too healthy, but have they got style.
Mike and Scott are hustln'*
down -that old ma "in drag

by Aaron Hamburger

My Own Private Idaho, the new film from
Drugstore Cowboy director Gus Van Sant, isn't your
typical Hol-lywood movie. There's no formula plot,
no characters we've seen a million times before and
(thankfully) no sweet, drippy musical score. Instead,
Van Sant offers us the story of a gay, narcoleptic
hustler, with a sub-plot lifted from Shakespeare's
Henry IV, and constant ima-ges of clouds streaking
across the sky and salmon swimming upstream, all to
the tune of "America the Beautiful." It takes a while
to adjust.
The movie begins (and ends) with a shot of River
Phoenix's character, Mike Waters, standing on a de-
serted highway in the middle of the-Idaho countryside,
telling us his philosophy about roads. Mike is a hustler
on the streets of Seattle who turns tricks with
depraved clients (many of them male) to support
himself. He suffers from narcolepsy, a condition which
causes Mike to suddenly fall asleep (to great comic
effect) whenever he feels anxiety or stress. "Some
hustler," remarks Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), Mike's
best friend, who often winds up scraping Mike off the
floor after one of his sleeping spells.
Scott,: whose charater is based on Prince Hal in.
Henry IV, is the son of the local mayor who becomes a
hustler in order to rebel against his rich father. Scott
lives on the street with Mike and other hustlers under
the loose leadership of an aging, perverted drug addict
named Bob (read: Falstaff, played by William
Richert). After a series of tangential escapades with
Bob and his band of not-so-merry men and women,
Mike and Scott go on a journey to Italy to find Mike's
_ mother.
For the first half-hour, Idaho sputters. The Shake-
spearean dialogue doesn't blend with Van Sant's
harshly realistic portrait of Seattle's grim streets.
Visually, Van Sant attacks the audience with odd, sur-
real images, some of which (such as a scene in which one
of Mike's clients dances like a twisted Gene Kelly) are
inspired by Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

It's as if Van Sant got so excited about finally getting
the finances to make this movie that he pulled out all
the stops in frenzied jubilation.
Van Sant (and the film) calms down considerably
when the hustlers journey to Italy. It is clear, however,
that Mike is looking for more than just his mother.
Mike wants to escape his cold, hostile environment
He's looking for a home, a family, love, but ultimately,
he wants to connect to something of value, something
untarnished.
Phoenix effectively shows Mike's grief and
desperation throughout the film, most notably in ar
affecting scene when Mike admits to Scott that he
loves him. Mike is desperate for love, but Phoenix
never plays his character for cheap sentiment; every
twinge of pain comes from reality.
Most of the other performers in the film are over-
shadowed by Phoenix's honest, revealing performance.,
Reeves tries hard (and, to his credit, does have to con-
tend with many of the incongruent Shakespearean
lines), but never really makes clear exactly how he
feels about Mike or what his motivation is in the
movie.
On the other hand, Richert, as Bob, manages to make
a vivid impression, swaggering on the screen like a
bloated Richard Burton strung out on drugs. Bob isn't
just a modern version of Falstaff, as Richert plays him,
but a real live loser, whose unrequited love for Scott
continually screws up his life.
Van Sant seems to be saying that we all live in our
own private worlds, dissatisfied with our lives like the
alienated hustlers, their lonely clients and the money-
grubbing rich who inhabit Idaho. In a way, My Own
Private Idaho isVan Sant's own A Clockwork Orange,.
an artist's unique, biting social commentary on a decay-
ing world. Unlike Kubrick's masterpiece, Idaho isn't;
cold at its core, thanks to Phoenix's sensitive perfor
mance. This Idaho is quite a trip.
MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO opens today at the Ann
Arbor 1&2.

BLUES TRAVELER plays tonight at
7 p.m. at St. Andrew's Hall with
WIDESPREAD PANIC. Tickets are
still available for $12,50 at Ticket-
Master, plus the evil service
charge.

The members of Blues Traveler (left to right, Chan Kinchla, Bobby
Sheehan, John Popper, Brendan Hill) are giants in their musical field, so it
is only appropriate that their lead singer resembles Andre the Giant.

Theater of Deaf perform Island

abroad, including China. The group
is made up of primarily deaf actors
who speak or sign their lines. Their
Treasure Island production uses
percussive instruments to empha-
size actions on stage for deaf audi-
ence members.
Several actors are veterans with
the NTD, performing in stage pro-
ductions, workshops and on a recent
television production of One More
Spring, for the Connecticut Learning
Channel. British Playwright Snoo
Wilson, once a dramaturg for the
Royal Shakespeare Company, has
written the adaptation of Robert
Louis Stevenson's novel.
Camille L. Jeter, a native of
Detroit who plays the lead role, Jim
Hawkins, has been interested in the
NTD since childhood. "I grew up in
a deaf family," she explains, "and
saw ( the NTD production of) The
Three Musketeers, and was fasci-
nated by them."
During college, she attended the
NTD's summer school program,
which is an intensive, four-week

theater program for the deaf which
trains the students in everything
from acting to scriptwriting. After
attending the summer school three
times, she was asked to join the
NTD and nerform in a national

Jeter
production
God.

of Children of a Lesser

Although the NTD consists of
mostly deaf actors, its audience is
primarily hearing. "If our audience
was mostly deaf, I'm not sure we
would have survived for twenty-
See ISLAND, Page 10

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