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July 07, 2003 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2003-07-07

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 7, 2003
Free Wilco gig worth every cent i

By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Editor
There's smoke pouring off barbe-
ques all along West Grand Blvd., rising
up against Detroit's aging skyscrapers
in a vaguely post-apocalyptic, "Blade
Runner" sort-of way. An inadvertently
creepy reminder of '67 to stupid subur-
banite eyes.
But the streets are full of life once
more as a steady stream of people
crowd past the food venders from all
over Metro Detroit on Wednesday
evening. It's the first night of Tastefest,
D-town's annual Fourth of July week-
end of food and free-music festival.
Most folks seem content to fill their
faces and people watch, yet by 7 p.m.,
there's a select group of fans already
drifting away from the smells of ribs
and sweet corn.
They head for the Fisher's parking lot
where the main stage sits empty, wait-
ing for opening night's headliners,
Chicago's heroes of all-things-alt,
Wilco. It feels like a bit of a coup for
the festival's promoters to have landed
ihe critically-lauded band just before
they start a string of opening dates for
R.E.M's latest tour.
In fact whoever pieced together the
list of performers for Tastefest chose
their acts surprisingly well; college sta-
ples Rusted Root and Guster, Latin rock
kings Los Lobos and '70s organ jour-
neyman Billy Preston -all performed
over the holiday weekend, as well as
local favorites the Waxwings, the Dirt-
bombs and Carl Craig.
It's still sunny and steamy an hour
later when the men of Wilco hit the
stage, in what must be a rock 'n' roll
first, precisely at 8 p.m. Those who've
been waiting right up front feel a small
twinge of vindication for being so close.
A hefty crowd has fallen in behind them

Hi, Todd!
Egos, values clash in 'Rider'

The band that always looks like they just woke up.
for the free show. A small segment of freak-outs do little to endear Tweedy and
smart fans have taken refuge in a nearby Co. to the -outdoor festival audience,
parking garage which allows for a com- most of whom unfortunately aren't
pletely shaded, overhead view of the familiar enough with the band to let
stage. experimental feedback hold their atten-
While, it's still too light out for the tion for too long.
stage's video screen to be visible, the The band doesn't seem to mind losing
first half of Wilco's set doesn't stray far a few people here and there, pulling out
from last year's acclaimed Yankee Hotel ballads like YHF's tender closer "Reser-
Foxtrot with a few older favorites and vations" even as middle-aged guys in
new treats like the unreleased "Muzzle Hawaiian shirts start striking up loud
of Bees" thrown in for good measure. conversations or heading for the beer
Guitarist/singer Jeff Tweedy is tent. Wilco didn't seem to mind a bit,
plagued by sound problems early, but he playing not so much to the cross-section
takes it in stride. He grimaces when his of devoted indie kids spread throughout
mic keeps crapping out during the cho- the crowd but more for themselves.
rus of "I'm Always in Love," but the But Tweedy still knows when it was
frontman tells the crowd as the roadies time to pull out fist-pumping pop sing-
scramble to put on new cable that it alongs like "Heavy Metal Drummer"
"sounded kinda cool." and Being There's "Monday" to hook
It's this breezy attitude that seemed to everybody back in.'
define the whole of this night's perform- Surprisingly Wilco stayed onstage
ance. The fellas are comfortable, loose for the better part of two hours (most
and casually confident after well over a of Tastefest's performers were held to
year of touring behind YHE Neo-psy- abbreviated time slots). More than
chedelic jams and mini-noise-rock once it seemed like the show was over,
as the parking lots' lights are slowly
but systematically shut off during the
first encore, and after almost every
song, another few people started head-
ing for their cars.
But even as the lights fade, Wilco
seemed to be still in their own world,
diving deeper into their back catalogue
trnaX for old gems like the now appropriate
"California Stars" and the epic "Mis-
understood," when Tweedy does his
ocustomary studder of "I wanna thank
ya / For nothing / For nothing / Noth-
ing at all."

The success of Niki Caro's
"Whale Rider" may be attributed
almost entirely by the locale in
which the film is set. Filmed in the
coastal village of Whangara, New
Zealand, Caro's newest work
expresses not only the intense beau-
ty of the island, but the rich Maori
traditions that lay embedded deeply
within, as well.
Like the novel by New Zealander
Witi Ihimaera that it is based on,
"Whale Rider" gently portrays the
evolving traditions of a provincial
town as it looks forward to the future
and searches for a new leader.
"Whale Rider" begins violently
with a hallucinatory childbirth
sequence. Porourangi (Cliff Curtis)
watches in quiet desperation as his
wife struggles to
give birth to a set
of twins, a girl Whale Riderj
and a boy, who Atthe Michiganl
will someday Theater
become chief of Newmarket
his tribe. Koro,
(Rawiri Paratene) Porourangi's father
and leader of the tribe, waits anxious-
ly; thinking only of his next heir, his
dreams disintegrate when his daugh-
ter-in-law and newborn grandson die.
Koro callously implores about the
future of his tribe and immediately
disowns his infant granddaughter. In
angry defiance, Porourangi names
his daughter Pai, after the ancestral
founder of the tribe, Paikea, the
Whale Rider. Koro and Porourangi

clash often, as Porourangi leaves the
tribe behind for a new life and a new
set of values in Europe. The chem-
istry between Paratene and Curtis is
some of the film's most electrifying.
Years pass, and although Koro still
refuses to acknowledge Pai (Keisha
Castle-Hughes), now an adolescent,
as the natural inheritor of his tribe,
he has grown to love his strong-
willed but obedient granddaughter.
Paratene plays the role of the gruff-
well; contrasting him is Vicky
Haughton, who plays Pai's encourag-
ing grandmother, Flowers.
Still lacking a male heir, Koro
starts a "chieftain training school"
for young boys, hoping to single out
one of them as his successor. Values
clash as Pai, eager for the chance to
prove herself to her grandfather,
secretly trains for the position on her
own. Pai remains determined to-show
everyone, including herself, that she
can be the leader of her people.
The real core of the film, however,
is the triumph of a girl who dares to
challenge the archaic ways of an
entire people; Keisha Castle-Hughes
is exceptional in her heart-wrench-
ing performance as Pai, showing
remarkable emotional depth, ranging
from a scared young girl to a strong
and respectable leader.
While the film concludes pre-
dictably, it maintains its momentum
throughout with warm humor, lush
cinematography and engaging per-
formances by its players. Yet perhaps
the finest aspect of "Whale Rider" is
its capacity to provide an honest per-
spective on an ancient culture and its
struggles with changing values.


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