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December 13, 1994 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-12-13

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 10, 1994

Quirky songwriter Wally Pleasant makes the absurd sublime

BY ELLA de LEON
Wally Pleasant has played to an
audience in Jamaica. No joke.
"The first show I ever actually
played guitar at was when (my family
and I) went on vacation to Jamaica
when I was 15, and at the resort we
were at, there was a talent show. I
think I knew the 12-bar blues, and I
got together with the resort band and
played with them. I just remember
that I was so scared ... it was outside
and there were these huge bugs on the
stage, and I kept stepping on the bugs
while I was playing," he said.
Since that memorable debut, this
goofy, intelligent, guitar-playing,
singer-songwriter from East Lansing,
Michigan, has made three albums on
his own label, Miranda Records -
"Songs About Stuff," "Welcome to
Pleasantville" and this month's
"Houses of the Holy Moly." The first
two garnered praise from critics as
well as success on college radio
playlists, with quirky songs like "Lost
Weekend Las Vegas," "She's Ad-
dicted to Clothes" and the political "I
Hate Cops," written in the wake of the
L.A. riots.

Now Pleasant is prepping himself
to, as he sings in "Out on the Road,"
stare "at the world through (his) bug-
coated windshield" in order to pro-
mote his latest release. "I'm gonna be
going out in February, and then I
come back and go again, 'cause play-
ing live shows is areally good place to
get rid of all these CDs."
These days Pleasant's venues of
choice are coffeehouses and clubs
like the Ram's Horn in Maine. "Until
we got there, I thought it was a Ram's
Horn restaurant. It was really odd
because I was expecting this restau-
rant ... but it looked like Andy
Warhol's studio, with a big banana
hanging up."
For a change of scenery though,
Pleasant has scheduled a show at,
believe it or not, a fast food joint. "I
am doing a show atArby's this month.
It's in Hastings (Michigan), and they
told me that they have shows there. I
think they said it's bigger than a regu-
lar Arby's, so I'm looking forward to
that. And getting some free curly
fries."
It just goes to show that anything
can happen in Pleasantville. Like the

time Wally dislocated his shoulder
playing pool right before opening up
for Jonathan Richman. Then there's
the time he had the audience create
their own song, at that Ram's Horn
gig, no less. It's the way Wally oper-
ates. "It seems like there are a lot of
musicians that have that rock-star at-
titude, and my goal is to not look
down on anybody. Just be on the same
level as the audience, and that way
they can relate to me."
Onstage, Pleasant is engaging and
funny as he performs his intelligent
rhyming songs, and he doesn't hesi-
tate to turn things upside down. He
declared, "I like trying new things,
not just playing the song, but playing
the song differently each time. Some-
times I do that because I mess up.
Plenty of people can play instruments
better than I can, but the thing that I
feel good about is trying to perform,
not just playing the songs and looking
down at my shoes, but trying to enter-
tain people. If the attempt is there,
people will appreciate it."
Indeed, they have. "Songs About
Stuff 'and "Welcome to Pleasantville"
have sold 20,000 copies, total. And

the singer has built on his guitar skill
with each release. He volunteered,
"I'm getting better at playing guitar,
but as far as people that actually do
this for a living, I'm probably a little
bit below average. I've taken some
guitar lessons and learned about fin-
gerpicking and a fewjazz chords, and
that's fun. I think that's helped me in
songwriting."
Lyrics are definitely Pleasant's
forte. Who can resist lines like "And
she doesn't even know that she's
breaking my heart / she's in love
with a geek / Well, I'm 10 times
cooler and half as smart / she's in
love with a geek"? Of his three al-
bums, Pleasant said, "I think the
first one has better songs but the
second one has better recordings.
And this last one, I think I tried to
take what I learned and record the
songs as well as I could. I wanted it
to flow better."
So the Pleasant beat goes on.
Already, Wally has several new
projects lined up, one of which in-
volves establishing himself in the
realm of small-time MTV. He said
excitedly, "I'm going to try to make

a video, something really low-bud-
get, I guess. I've never really done
anything like that, but I think it'd be
kinda fun just to see what happens.
I'm going to maybe do a video for
'Alternateen,"' a track off his new
CD.
Then back to the recording stu-
dio, perhaps? Pleasant confided, "I
went to Goodwill, and I got this
idea. I don't know if this is going to
work, but I bought a bunch of gos-
pel records from the '50s and '60s
with real white-bread Tammy Faye
Bakker kind of people on them sing-
ing about Jesus, and it sounds really

cheesy. I was thinking that if I
could get a whole collection of songs
like this, and call it 'God's Greatest
Hits,' then that would be pretty
cool."
Citizens ofPleasantsvillecouldn't
agree more.
Check out WALLY PLEASANT on
Thursday, December 22 at the
Majestic in Detroit. It's an all ages
show; doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets
are $5 in advance at all
TicketMaster locations or at the
Majestic Cafe. Call (810) 645-6666
for tickets or (313) 833-9700 for
more information.

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THE CRANBERRIES
NO NEED TO ARGUE
THE NEW ALBUM FEATURING "ZOMBIE" AN
"ODE TO MY FAMILY"

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Not only does he know songwriting, but Wally Pleasant also knows his fish.
'A Christmas Carol' offers the
same old song but a new Scrooge

dw

By JENN MCKEE
There were no surprises in this
past weekend's production of "A
Christmas Carol," but then again, I
wasn't expecting any.
This notwithstanding, one daz-

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A
Christmas
Carol
Michigan Theater!
December 9, 1994
zling thing about "Christmas Carol"
was the performance of Prof. Philip
Kerr as Ebenezer Scrooge. Your eyes
couldn't leave him for long, no matter
what else was happening on stage.
Never before have I seen Scrooge
portrayed with such a wide range of
emotions; not just facial expressions,
but in every aspect of his appearance:
gait,gestures, movement, etc. He gave
the usually flat character depth and
complexity, thus challenging the au-
dience a little, as they are expecting
no more than watching Scrooge turn
from bad to good.
It was especially wonderful watch-
ing Scrooge get up on Christmas
morning after visits from the three
spirits. Kerr displayed refreshing alac-
rity and agility, jumping around the
stage clicking his heels. His airy move-
ments made the audience feel light as
well.
The downside of the production,
however, falls on the changing of the
set. It usually happened fairly

seamlessly, though once the set didn't
descend completely in time; the lights
came up, and the actors had to wait to
begin the scene.
Also, the rolling of some of the
heavier set pieces on and off the stage
was a bit loud, making it difficult to
hear the dialogue. Unfortunately, this
kind of little detail temporarily yanks
you out of the illusion.
There were several children in the
production, and they all did reason-
ably well. In general, the cast came
with impressive credentials, includ-
ing a woman who played a child char-
acter. Amy Frank, a University soci-
ology graduate, played Bob Cratchit's
daughter Belinda and the ghost of
Christmas Past. She portrayed the
giddy young Belinda exuberantly and
endearingly.
It's difficult to critique a pro-
duction of "Christmas Carol," espe-
cially when it's as conservatively
traditional as this one was. We all
know the story - it's the classic
tale of human catharsis and the spirit
of Christmas. More humor was in-
fused in this script than in others,
particularly the banter between
Scrooge and his servant and Kerr's
lively antics.
This production's purpose was
clearly to provide "family entertain-
ment." It was harmless; to pick it
apart would make me feel a humbug.
I may not have left the theater perma-
nently altered, as some critics believe
is the function of theater, but I did
forget my problems for a while, and I
left with a smile.
*God bless us, every one.
(I couldn't seem to end this with-
out saying it once.)

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woo
Continued from page 8
and wrong, moral and evil, as it does
with evil and less evil. This may be the
ultimate Woo film, the catapult from
which he was flung from underground
oddity to full-fledged cult hero.

movie typically features a properly
oiled and buffed one-man army strug-
gling to articulate crafty pans after
the extermination of the bad guy or a
maverick, anti-hero, law officer (to
be played by Bruce Willis), Woo's
action is more ground in reality.
Warnings should be heeded that
Woo's work is in Cantonese with

I

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