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February 20, 2002 - Image 5

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Bridget Jones' Diary
Last year's comedic hit star-
ring Renee Zellweger comes
to the Michigan League
today, free, 8 p.m.
michigandaily.com /arts

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RTS

WEDNESDAY
FEBRUARY 20, 2002

Fold the band: Ben goes solo
Sarcastic pimno man touring all by kis lonesome

By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
"I mean it's not fucking cool to be like Billy
Joel," laughs Ben Folds. "I sing out of tune all
the time, and I get shit wrong, and he doesn't."
A man stands at a piano plays his heart out
and everyone wants to say he's Billy Joel,
except for him. The problem with being a guy
in front of a piano in music now, a time when
metal and rap/metal are barely alive and kick-
ing yet somehow still dominating airwaves, are
the inevitable comparisons to piano composers
of yore. Folds narrates many of his songs in the
third person, with lyrical styling sharing simi-
larities with ex-Pavement frontman Stephen
Malkmus.
Folds formed and lead the ironically titular
group in 1994, sans guitarist, near the height of
over-commercialized guitar grunge. Ben Folds
Five released a self-titled independent effort
whose tin-pan alley indie-pop propagated a
major label bidding war. It was the band's fol-
low-up and Sony debut, Whatever and Ever
Amen that broke the band: The bitter "Brick,"
about a pair of teens sneaking off to have an
abortion, beamed out of top 40 and modern
rock radio towers alike. Whatever was a left-
field hit, selling over a million copies.
The band released a B-sides and outtakes LP
in 1998 before dropping their final album The
Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.
Reinhold portrayed a desperate band, beginning
to grow apart. Widely regarded as the strongest
of the Ben Folds Five catalog, the album was
met with praise and lukewarm sales. Messner
was a darker depiction and often a departure
from the upbeat piano pop for which the
band was known. Reinhold incorpo-
rated stringed arrangements and
even a quasi-experimental tune
in "Most Valuable Pos-
session" (the song was
an answering machine
recording of Folds'
father, with tweaked
musical back-
grounds and a
fatherly lecture on
the importance of
intellectual preserva-

tion). The record was far more commercially
inaccessible, especially to radio's fickle ears,
than the Five's previous efforts, and sales
slumped.
November of 2000 brought the unexpected
announcement of the Ben Folds Five's breakup.
While the band was unraveling during the sup-
port tour for Reinhold, anxiety, nervousness
and tension were high inside the
Five. Folds told the Michigan"
Daily, "During the time when the
band was breaking up, I had to go BEN
out and feel like I did when I was At M
playing a talent show in 12th Th
grade." After the Five disbanded, March 1
Folds began work on his second $2
solo record (his first, an avant-pop Clear,
album recorded under the moniker
Fear of Pop, came out in 1998).
Rockin 'the Suburbs hit shelves in September
of 2001, and Ben Folds was back, minus the
Five. The album most resembles the pop sensi-
bility of Whatever and Ever Amen, but the
recording is bigger, and the writing is better.
Songs like "Zak and Sara," "Fred Jones Part 2"
and "Carrying Cathy" continue the smarty-
pants third-person narration that Folds cultivat-
ed in the mid-'90s.
Suburbs is undoubt-
edly the slickest
recording Ben
Folds has
released, ''
either

F
zic
:ea
at
3
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by himself or with the Five. "The songs proba-
bly relate a little stronger," Folds said, "and in
a way, it's probably not as exciting because it is
so highly produced."
Part of Folds' reasoning for the resounding
pop sensibilty on Rockin' the Suburbs was the
lack of radio play the Five's final album
received. "I really felt like I'd written songs
before that should've been hits,
and I don't know why they
weren't. They weren't produced
OLDS the right way, we took too many
higan liberties with it, they weren't big
ater enough recordings and for some
7:30 p.m. reason, they weren't really flying
.50 at radio, and I thought they
'hannel should." When recording Rockin',
Folds took careful heed of produc-
er Ben Grosse's words: "I thought,
OK I'm going to listen to the advice of my
producer, and when something doesn't sound
big or large enough or pop enough, I'm gonna
make it that way,' because I don't want to take
a great song and have it wasted."
After a pair of successful tours last fall and
winter, Folds is hitting the road again. "It's my
first real solo tour; it's just going to be me, a
van and a piano." Folds' solo tour will be the
first time he's revisited the Five's material
during his regular set-list since the band's
break up. (Folds' encores during the two
fall tours consisted of him at the piano
playing audience requests.) He said, "With
the encore sets, I don't need a set-list,
because whatever someone wants to
hear, I can play it."
Listeners shouldn't expect to
hear a set-list strictly of songs off
Rockin '; rest assured, he'll be
playing all kinds of songs. "Any-
thing goes, unless its something
I really don't feel like I'm
inspired to play at that
moment, or its something that
really doesn't make sense at
the piano," he said.
And the all-too frequent
Billy Joel comparisons? "I
would like to be compared to
Randy Newman or Todd Rund-
gren. I dig what they do."

Drugs are bad, mmkay? Wait, no, they're cool. My bad.

Stripped down to
this: M. Doughty
and the small rock

By Keith N. Dusenberry
Daily Music Editor
"The bulk of my friends are, you
know, not rock stars," admits Mike
Doughty. The former Soul Coughing
frontman tends to cultivate a lower pro-

file these days as he tours
delivering his acoustic
"small rock." But his
shows are not just Soul
Coughing Unplugged.
There are the old-band
favorites, but also, "new
songs, all kinds of stuff"
that Doughty has been
perfecting since he
recorded his solo-demo-

the country

MIKE Dc
At The M
Tomorrow
$1
Clear C1

Touching 'Eleemosynary'

comes to Arena

By Marie Bernard
Daily Arts Writer
In a society so rich with language,
where every word implies several
meanings and every generation cre-
ates its own tongue, a mysterious
title like "Eleemosynary" seems to
infer a work that will unravel layers
upon layers of complexity. "You
know what I sometimes think of
Westbrook women?" says Echo, one
of the play's three characters. "That
no matter what we've done - no
matter how we've done it - we're
all three of us, in our way,
eleemosynary. E-L-E-E-M-O-S-Y-
N-A-R-Y: Charitable, the giving of
alms."
Beneath every definition is a sub-
text and that perpetrates through the

many levels of interaction in Lee
Blessing's play, which opens tomor-
row in the Arena Theatre. Blessing's
work investigates the
relationships between
three generations of
women. The youngest, ELEEM
Echo, is a finalist in the At the A
National Spelling Bee,
explaining the infusion
of interesting and unfa- Tomorrow
miliar English lan-7
guage. Her mother, Base
Artie, is a troubled

Sociological theorists have been
eternally debating the role of
women in society and how subordi-
nation has led to a

[OSYNARY
rena Theatre
w and Friday at
Sp.m.
ment Arts

perpetration and con-
fusion of gender roles
over the past several
decades. This play
looks at this issue
across three genera-
tions of intelligent
and headstrong
women. Through
monologues and short

characters he has created are bril-
liant, complicated and interesting -
and also very human. Their strug-
gles are pertinent to the kind of
identity-seeking and self-discovery
that so many people seem to be
striving for in college."
Lee Blessing, a notable contem-
porary poet, received the 1997 L.A.
Drama Critics Circle Award. He is
best-known for "A Walk in the
Woods" and "Cobb," each of which
received critical acclaim.
Rachel Chapman and Raquelle
Stiefler, both BTA students, play
Artie. Anika Solveig, BFA Perfor-
mance freshman, portrays Echo.
"My cast is brilliant and amazing,"
said Wright, herself a BA Theater
Senior. "I've learned a lot from
working with them."

come-self-released-album Skittish back
when Soul Coughing still existed.
Like that record, his live show is a
toned down affair. With Soul Cough-
ing's -bulky beat emphasis removed,
Doughty's songs take on a more reflec-
tively rhythmic quality. They are the
nuanced, jazzy free verse to Soul
Coughing's bombastic iambic pen-
tameter. But Doughty hasn't always
been such a laid back cat.
"I had a coke and sluts period ...
definitely," Doughty professes. Like
most fantasies about life as a "minor
rock celebrity" though, Doughty's
debauched drugs-and-groupies era
was, "never quite as good as you think
it's gonna be." And though he kicked
heroin a while back, Doughty still has-
n't given up on women. He has "no
girlfriend, but I like 'em - still like
the ladies."
Lately, though, he's been busy with
his music, "I've been pretty focused on
the songwriting,"he says, "Get up every
morning and do it." His current tour
reflects this, as Doughty continues to
embellish his solo setlist with new num-
bers. Lately enlisting studio help from a
bass player and "sort of old school '70s
session drummers," Doughty plans to
eventually, "make a record with a band
(but still) tour acoustically."
When not busy with these pursuits,
Doughty maintains, and occasionally
posts messages on, his website, super-
specialquestions.com.. Not one wor-

ried with how his electronically-
enhanced accessibility might damage
his rock star status, Doughty reasons
that, "In terms of like, the big rock
stars I know and hang out with, I
don't think any of them give a fuck.
And in terms of the big rock stars I
don't hang out with, you know, none
of them give a fuck in
the first place. And in
terms of the small-to-
)UGHTY medium rock stars I
agic Bag hang out with, I don't
think any of them are
at 8 p.m. aware."
2 Despite his lack of a
hannel record deal, some of
the music community
is aware of Doughty's potential as a
collaborator..Following successful
partnerships with electronic beat-
brewer BT and They Might Be
Giants' John Flansburgh, Doughty
remains open to future fusions. And
though he praises MTV news for
covering, "all kinds of bands that do
not have Fred Durst in them,"
Doughty says that if the red-hatted
one calls, he'll "consider it."
Such potential indiscretions aside,
Doughty's forecast looks promising.
Although when considering other
possible co-conspirators in his future
of small rock, Doughty laments, "I
definitely can't bring people back
from the dead ... that would be a
good thing." Should he ever tire of
the acoustic rock while on tour,
Doughty could always bring back
the big beats and bouncy bass -
maybe he could even revive the coke
and sluts for the ride.

genius and her grandmother,
Dorthea, is an eccentric and wise
woman. Many years ago, Artie had
left Dorthea to raise her daughter
when Artie chose to flee to Europe.
Now, Artie has returned in time for
the Spelling Bee.

scenes, this non-traditional piece of
theater unravels the mysteries of
womanhood, family and the human
spirit.
"Blessing is a very careful and
cohesive writer," said Rebecca
Wright, the show's director. "The

SamulNori visits Power Center

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By Janet Yang
Daily Arts Writer
Keep two things in mind when going
to see SamulNori tomorrow at the Power
Center: First of all, it will require com-
plete concentration. Secondly, consider
bringing some earplugs. Concentration
is required because the melodies can be
very intricate and you
don't want to miss a beat, uF
while the earplugs might
come in handy for those SAMU
of delicate hearing. At the Po
SamulNori consists of Thursda'
four musicians, each $16-30, ,
skilled with a different office at 7
Korean percussive instru- tic
ment. Changgo, kkwaeng- University N
gwari, puk and ching are
the sounds that will make up the
evening's fare, creating beautiful music,
something often difficult with percus-
sion instruments alone. The changgo is
an hourglass shaped two-sided drum,
while the kkwaenggwari is a smaller
gong and the puk is a barrel shaped
drum. The nonstop drumming and cym-

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nized movements among the performers,
as well as some verbal chants. A hat
with a whirling streamer on the top, a
traditional dancing accessory, is also
used by the performers to make designs
in the air with the flick of their heads.
And through all of this, they are still
playing their four instruments with the
same skill and mastery as seen in the
first half.
The origin of this
"farmer" music can be
.NoRI traced back to ancient
er Center times when Korean
tribesmen settled down
a U S ox and began farming. The
4-2538 for dance was believed to
ets have been performed in
isical Society May and October, in fes-
tivals to honor the Gods
to bring healthy crops. Later on, the
music evolved into the Korean tradition
of "namsadang," which involved folk
troupes that traveled around the country
to provide entertainment and spiritual
ceremonies. Some of these old traditions
can also be seen in the greetings and
chants of SamulNori, which often con-

SamulNori came together under the
direction of Kim Duk Soo, the group's
leader and master of the changgo. Kim's
father was a master of the bukgunori
drum and Kim inherited this skill from
his father. Thought to be a child prodigy
of the drums, Kim won several awards
as a child and continued on to join many
different artistic troupes.
The group actually maintains up to
30 performers, but only three at a time
may form a quartet with Kim during
the tour. Each of the performers are
selected and personally trained by Kim.
The group may change many times, but
it always features Kim at the helm.
SamulNori has toured the U.S. a few
times, mostly in New York, Los Ange-
les, Hawaii, Chicago and Boston. Inter-
nationally, the group has toured
Germany, Great Britain, Sweden,
Greece, Japan, China and Australia.
The group has also collaborated with
highly acclaimed musicians from
around the world with a variety of
music styles and also played at festivals
such as the Kool Jazz Festival,
WOMAD festival and the Han River

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Two Main Sessions:
May 22 to July 3 and
July 8 to August 1.6

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