January 13, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com
R TeStn Btilg
Courtesy o f A
"I'm a Phoenix, bitch."
Gritty cop show still
the best on television
at the Half-
at 9:30 p.m.
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
MICHIGAN BAND BRINGS ROCK'N'ROLL TO THE HALFASS
By Kimberly Chou
Daily Arts Writer
As the guitarist and vocalist for raucous garage band
the Hard Lessons, Agostino Visoc-
chi has lived through a variety of
shows and venues: His band has fit-
ted bills alongside fellow Detroiters
the White Stripes and the Von Bon-
dies, played sold-out clubs across
the country and opened last June's
annual anniversary fete for popular
At the Halfass
alt-rock radio station 89X.
"The 89X Birthday Bash was the biggest crowd we'd
ever played for - just thousands and thousands of kids,"
Visocchi said. "The gig went perfectly."
But they haven't played the Halfass.
The Hard Lessons will headline tonight at East Quad
Residence Hall's peculiarly dubbed basement venue.
This will be the rock trio's first time at the Halfass,
although the band frequents Ann Arbor's Blind Pig and
the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti.
"We'd heard about it," Visocchi said. "When I
went to Michigan State there was Common Ground
(MSU's Halfass equivalent) and I played there with
my old band."
The members of the Hard Lessons met at MSU.
Along with Visocchi, drummer Christophe "The Anvil"
Zajac-Denek and multi-instrumentalist Korin "Koko
Louise" Cox round out the group.
After eight hours of recording in Detroit followed
by several more rehearsing with side-project Mood
Elevator- "I'm filling in for Brendan Benson," Visoc-
chi said - he was affable and excited over the phone.
The frontman champions all-ages shows at student-
run venues like the Halfass.
"It's awesome," Visocchi said. "We play a place in
Flint - all-ages shows, they sell candy bars and soda
pop. The kids come out and they want to see live
rock'n'roll." He loves that young crowds show up for the
music, not just to get trashed and mess around.
Visocchi - who usually goes by Augie, and occa-
sionally Gin - uses the phrase "rock'n'roll" often. Not
just "rock," or "rock music," but the full term - it's a
precious comment that smells faintly of garage-grunge
overachievement (or perhaps just enthusiasm).
"We're proud to play rock'n'roll music," Visocchi
said. "We're influenced by everything. A lot of bands
say that, but with us, I really feel that it's true."
For the record, he counts Staxx, Volt and Motown
records as primary influences.
"We're also really influenced by (the classics),"
Visocchi said. "We do a cover of Neil Young's 'Hey Hey
My My' in our set. It's really fitting because (of the line)
'Rock'n'roll will never die.'"
The Hard Lessons hit the stage with a raw, sandpaper-
tough attitude, accentuated by Zajac-Denek's animalis-
tic drumming and sweetened by Cox's vocals. Their
style plays on the retro-rock revival of the early 2000s,
with imprints of their aforementioned R&B and classic
Though the band is a trio, Visocchi said people always
In their everyday patrols, the police
straddle the thin line between right and
Countless coP The Shield
explored this trope, FX
but none more suc-
cessfully and grippingly than FX's "The
Shield."In season four, embattled detective
Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis, "Fantastic
Four") must finally face the consequences
of his brutal brand of justice.
At the start of the season, Mackey
finds his career in shambles. His pre-
cious Strike Team has been disassem-
bled and he's under orders to dispense
justice by the book. Captain David Acev-
eda (Benito Martinez, "Million Dollar
Baby") has finally moved on to his post
at Los Angeles City Council, leaving a
gaping hole at the top of the Barn. While
Mackey isn't exactly sad to see Aceveda
go, his life is turned upside down by the
arrival of the new captain - and it's not
who everyone expects.
By going against the grain and shaking
up the status quo, season four challenges
viewers' preconceived notions about the
show and its characters.
Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH
Pounder, "Face/Off") could easily have
been selected as the new captain, since
she was Aceveda and the Chief's hand-
picked successor, and, as a plot device, it
might have provided enough of a spark
for most series. But "The Shield" took a
different route. The creators brought in
Glenn Close ("The Stepford Wives") to
play Monica Rawling, the new captain
- and she nearly steals the show from
Chiklis, which is no small feat.
The giant shake-up plays out well. All
the officers that viewers have come to
know and love must adjust to new roles
and relationships. But playing nice has
never been Mackey's strong suit, and it's
not long before he and Rawling come into
conflict. As bad as the internal struggles
of the Barn may be, they pale in compari-
son to the growing tensions in its patrol-
ling district of Farmington.
Another new cast member, Anthony
Anderson ("Hustle & Flow"), plays the
"reformed" gang member Antwon Mitch-
ell. Anderson turns in a surprisingly strong
performance as a man whose actions are
far less noble than they initially appear.
Season four takes the series and tips
it onto its head. Most of the friendships
and alliances in the Barn are completely
inverted. Mackey and his trusted partner,
Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins, "The
Bourne Identity"), find themselves at odds
over Shane's connections to Antwon.
Even the partnership between Claudette
and Dutch (Jay Karnes, "The Next Best
Thing") is put to the test when she thinks
he has an illicit agreement with the D.A.
There's a reason for the abundance of
buzz surrounding "The Shield." It's sim-
ply the most captivating cop show on tele-
vision. In fact, it's the best police drama
since "Homicide: Life On the Street"
ended its run in 1998.
The DVD set does this remarkable
season justice by providing insightful epi-
sode commentaries and riveting deleted
scenes. These extra features only augment
a show that's done what few other series
have accomplished: keeping a good thing
fresh and constantly improving.
comment on the amount of sound they produce for such
a stripped-down band.
The Hard Lessons played their first gig at a MSU Bat-
tle of the Bands three years ago - then billed as the Boll
Weevils - and they've played more than 200 shows
since. Even if you're not from metro Detroit, Visocchi
said, "Chances are we've played (your) state."
Between setting spring tour dates and recording
their upcoming album, the Hard Lessons check another
venue off their list tonight at the Halfass.
Special Features: ***
Mo zart to
By Jack Russo
Daily Arts Writer
Leif Ove Andsnes first came to Ann
Arbor in January 1997, collaborating
with the Detroit
tra. Back in town Leif Ove
tomorrow at 8 p.m. Andsnes
at Hill Audito- and the
rium, he is excited Norwegian
to arrive with the Chamber
ber Orchestra to Orchestra
bring what he calls Saturday at 8 p.m.
"the greatest trea- Tickets $10-$65
sure" - that is, the At Hill Auditorium
sounds of Mozart's
Andsnes, age 35, is a piano virtuoso who
works both as a soloist and with ensembles
around the world. Besides the Norwegian
Chamber Orchestra, this season brings
Andsnes in contact with the Philharmonic
orchestras of Tokyo, Berlin and Los Ange-
les, Danish National Symphony Orchestra
and Vienna's Musikverein.
Since his inaugural University Music
Society appearance in '97, he has worked
Innovative student musical 'Green
Eyes' mixes media at Duderstadt
By Aaron Kaczander
Daily Arts Writer
Courtesy of UMS
Leif Ove Andsnes will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at Hili Auditorium.
primarily with the Norwegian Chamber
Orchestra. He favors the NCO because it
is a project orchestra.
"This is not ... full-time," Andsnes
said. "Some members are freelance musi-
cians or have other jobs. We get together
eight times a year, so this is a highlight for
all the players."
Andsnes will direct and play in the
opening and ending pieces of the pro-
gram. The first, his personal favorite, is
Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat
Major, K. 449. Despite the piece's short
phrases, Andsnes said there are "still so
many things happening." He also said that
the last work of the program, Mozart's
piano concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K.
466, was Beethoven's favorite.
"It is the most dramatic concerto by
Mozart," he said. "Absolutely wonderful.
Restlessness and fright and innocent and
The program also includes Mozart's
Serenade in G Major, "Eine kleine Nach-
tmusik" and Beethoven's String Quartet,
Op. 135, arranged by Terje Tonnesen.
Andsnes has been recognized with
many prestigious awards, including three
Gramophone Awards. Recently, Vanity
Fair magazine included Andsnes as one
of its "Best of the Best" in January 2005.
Andsnes revels in the opportunity to
conduct and play simultaneously, both
for personal enjoyment and a sense of
historical nostalgia. "(It's) so fun playing
and leading at the same time," he said.
"The communication is so direct. This
is the way Mozart did ... he conducted
from the piano; there was no conductor
With Mozart's music to ignite their per-
formance, Andsnes and the spirited Nor-
wegian Chamber Orchestra should erupt
powerfully tomorrow at Hill. "I hope the
audience will experience what I experi-
ence playing with them (the NCO)," he
said. "There is so much energy and vital-
ity ... We smile when we're done."
The cast and crew of "Green Eyes" have plenty to celebrate.
The original show, conceived and writ-
ten by musical theater senior Brian Maz-
zaferri, culminates months of laboring Green Eyes
into a two-night stand of song, dance and Tonight and
technical wizardry. Tondgy and
There are soaring voices, impeccable Saturday at 7
dance routines, stunning special effects and 10 p.m.
and a troop of trained performers. Free
Everything that the Musical Theater and At the
Dance programs at the University strive Duderstadt Center
to teach is on display this weekend in the
Duderstadt Center Video and Performance Studio on North
Campus - and it's all done from the pockets and hearts of the
most dedicated people in the program.
This show was created, funded and produced entirely by
School of Music students. The production, though supported
by School of Music faculty, was funded by the small crew and
relies on volunteers, friends and former collaborators who*
together help Mazzaferri make his songs more tangible for a
"Green Eyes," a unique combination of two vocalists and
two dancers, follows the rise and fall of two young lovers'
"It really hits the emotional high points over the course of
the relationship," Mazzaferri said.
In addition to dance routines and vocal duets, some previ-
ously recorded dance numbers are projected onto the three
screens in the video studio, creating a visceral exercise in per-
The performers include senior vocalist Nick Blaemire,
senior dancer Melissa Bloch, sophomore vocalist Caitlin Smith
and sophomore dancer Alex Springer.
"The show's a real genre-crosser; it borrows elements of
dance, musical theater and pop music," Mazzaferri said. "It's
been really rewarding. The creative team, the performers, just
an amazing experience."
Mazzaferri has been a songwriter for four years and wrote
the "Green Eyes" melodies entirely on guitar. The challenge in
making the musical come to life was coordinating the nearly 15
Music students, since the show's rehearsals and planning had to
be implemented into many already-stuffed schedules.
Music senior and dance major Lizzie Leopold directed
"Green Eyes" and choreographed the dance-and-video projec-
"We had to rent an industrial fogger and cross our fingers,"
Leopold said. The fog machines are integrated with the video
projections to create an effect of lucid memory, and, ultimately,
undying love and devotion.
"The reason this is going to work is because everyone who
jumped into it totally owned what they're doing. These are the
best people in each field," Leopold said.
The song-and-dance routines are accompanied by a full
five-piece orchestra, arranged by senior musical theater student
Eli Zoller. Zoller helped Mazzaferri transition the music and
concepts a into full-blown show.
"You're worried about staying true to the songwriter's inten-
tions, but once Brian gave me the green light, his trust was the
most gratifying feeling," Zoller said.
"Here we are, a bunch of college students doing it on
our own - that's the scariest thing - but we're having a
lot of fun."
"Green Eyes" stands as a testament to the School of Music's
dedication to cultivating performers, and most importantly,
exemplifies the way a persistent group of friends can create a
show that's artistically original.
"It's a new, fresh work that delivers a message and has a
very clear artistic intent. Nowadays in the arts that's rare, and I
believe it's what should be valued," Zoller said.
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