Thursday, November 11, 2004

Miscellaneous: Bad Night Out

We recently landed free tickets to one of those dinner-and-a-show extravaganzas. A five-course meal punctuated by circus acts, the kind of night meant to make every clock-puncher feel like a potentate along the lines of Genghis Khan or Steve Wynn. I generally don’t believe in mixing soup and acrobats. But the show had gotten good reviews, and it unfolds in a rare jewel box theater imported from Belgium. I wanted a look inside.

But first, I scoured those reviews for the two most dreaded words in the English language: audience participation.

It’s not that I have a problem with making a fool of myself in public. I’ve done it before and will shortly do so again, in front of my biggest audience yet. But it’s my decision to do so. I don’t want to be compelled into humiliation. Hands off, Tati. No ‘professional’ is needed to help me have a good time. I’m a mirth generator, thank you very much.

The reviews give no sign, but I should have known better. There’s always audience participation at a show like this. The first bit isn’t too bad – a poor schmoe pulled out of his chair for some awkward jitterbugging. But the second guy ends up shirtless. The audience is howling throughout. It’s part relief, part encouragement, and all unpleasant. I thought of Baudelaire: “When I hear laughter, I hear the roar of the wild beast.”

The next victim was the most obviously reluctant, which made his transformation into a drag queen even funnier to the crowd. I made my excuses and left before the main course was served. Maybe I’m a spoilsport, but I can’t stand that stuff. It’s the lowest rung on the show business ladder.

For what it’s worth, the theater was lovely.

Cable Catch-Up: DiG!

Ondi Timoner’s award-winning documentary debuts on the Sundance Channel while still in theatrical release. It’s worth seeing however you catch up with it.

The film profiles two up-and-coming West Coast rock bands in the midst of a friendly rivalry. The Dandy Warhols have one minor U.S. hit (“Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”) which leads to a massive career in Europe. By the end of the film, they’re headlining in front of 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the Brian Jonestown Massacre are destined for greatness. Just ask front man Anton Newcombe. He’s a real-life version of Jack Black’s character from SCHOOL OF ROCK, always talking revolution and how it’s all about the music. He’d be amusing if it weren’t for his chronic drug addiction and a family history of mental illness. In concert, he not only picks fights with fellow band members but his own fans. He’s a case study in self-destruction, yet he’s still out there performing. Maybe because he can’t do anything else.

A&R reps are quick to tout Newcombe as a genius, and his sound does presage the rise of the garage rock movement spearheaded by the White Stripes. But I have to say I like the Dandys better. Bear in mind I’m a total sellout.