In Telluride: Hot Club of San Francisco
The virtuoso guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt grew up in Belgian gypsy camps, and the gypsy influence never left him. He wasn’t the most reliable performer – he would occasionally miss a performance to take a walk by the beach, or to stay in bed all day – but his free-spirited, improvisatory acoustic guitar playing (all the more impressive given that he was missing two fingers) remains hugely influential. Reinhardt’s success was in a quintet called the Hot Club of France, to which the Hot Club of San Francisco, which plays Sunday night at the Palm, pays homage. HCSF is led by solo guitarist Paul Mehling. Just as Django made magic with violinist Stephane Grappelli, Mehling has two-time Grammy winner Evan Price as his musical muse, along with a swinging rhythm section. Mehling also has what he calls “a trick up my sleeve,” in the form of “Cinema Vivant,” several silent films that screen while the band plays. Why a trick? The combination of music-plus-movies “lets us get our feet in the door of venues where we would never normally be invited,” he says. The movies are whimsical and diverting – one from 1912 called The Cameraman’s Revenge, by Russian filmmaker (and stop-motion pioneer) Ladislaw Starewicz is a highly-creative take on a beetle’s marital troubles. There’s a historic precedent for concerts that mix live music and silent films in both Europe and the U.S., Mehling says, as the action sequences in these movies help young jazz musicians perfect their tempo. But while the addition of films are extremely popular with audiences as well as venue-managers and bookers, in the end, a performance from HCSF is really about the music, as it should be. Acoustic Guitar has called the group’s playing “intricate, scorching and often brilliant,” and the New York Times dubbed the tunes on the band’s 2009 Christmas album Hot Club Cool Yule “effortless successes.” Django would be proud. To get a taste of HCSF and see clips of the band in concert, visit hcsf.com. The band plays the Palm at 7 p.m.
Also in Telluride this weekend, a documentary about the Van Nuys recording studio Sound City, directed by rock musician Dave Grohl. Grohl is best known for his work as the drummer for Nirvana, and founder, guitarist and lead vocalist of the Foo Fighters. He first became acquainted with Sound City when Nirvana recorded “Nevermind” there. “We were just kids with nothing to lose,” he says in the film’s voiceover about that time. “We had no idea our lives were about to change forever.”
Over 100 gold and platinum albums were recorded at Sound City between 1969 and 2011, when the studio shut its doors. The place became associated with a particular analog sound, one that emanated from an increasingly-legendary Neve 8028 sound board. Over the years, as the sound board’s – and the studio’s – aura grew, artists including Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Metallica and many others flocked there to record. The sound was believed to be so pure that clients, including producer Rick Rubin, Tom Petty and Ry Cooder, eventually decreed that the walls must never be re-painted, lest the “freshening up” taint it. “When he was doing ‘Wildflowers,’ Tom Petty said, ‘Sound City smells like 40 years of sweat, pot smoke and cigarette smoke,’” studio manager Shivaun O’Brien once recalled. “So we started burning Nag Champa incense at Rick Rubin’s suggestion to get rid of the smell.”
The film is full of anecdotes about the heady good old days, when Acapulco Gold-fumes swirled, and a gold record was, seemingly, right around the corner. Fleetwood Mac recorded its self-titled album at Sound City in 1975. It turned out to be a Southern California soft-rock classic, and a blockbuster; the album sold five million copies in the U.S. alone, and produced the singles “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon,” and “Say You Love Me.” The band’s bassist, John McVie, had a few qualms about the sound the group was trying to achieve during the recording. “He said, ‘It’s a little far from the blues,’” Sound City studio engineer Keith Olsen relates. “I told him, ‘It’s a lot closer to the bank.’” Sound City screens at 6 p.m.
BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre in Montrose
Did you see the band fun. perform their song “Carry On” at the Grammys last weekend? They did it in a “rain” shower. Critics from MTV and E Online were salivating. Said one, “Yep, the ‘We Are Young’ band made it rain onstage while the room sang along to their catchy tune. Pretty impressive, eh?”
Well, yes. But if onstage thundershowers are the standard, BYU’s Contemporary Dance Theatre troupe has already mastered that bit, and more besides. In the troupe’s latest show, which they’ll perform at the Montrose Pavilion this weekend, their dance, “Rain,” will be a sopping event. The show is entitled The Thing About Love, and, just in time for Valentine’s Day, it’s about love in its many guises, from first love to mature love, and joy to heartbreak.
The troupe brings some impressive special effects to their performance, as well as rigorous training; two choreographers from Los Angeles-based Diavolo, a dance troupe known for its innovative athleticism, assisted with the especially technical sequences. (Diavolo recently performed at the Palm.) The show also includes an animated short film by Hollywood animator Ryan Woodward called “The Thought of You.” Woodward has worked on animation for The Avengers, Ironman Two, and most recently, Snow White and the Huntsman. He’s also a professor in BYU’s film department. On a ride back to Utah from Los Angeles, Woodward missed his family and felt a desire to express the yearning he felt being away from them. He approached BYU’s Kori Wakamatsu in BYU’s Department of Dance, who worked with four dancers to choreograph a set of movements, which Woodward then animated and turned into a love story “about the complexities of intimate relationships,” as he has put it. The film, set to the song “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies, has become an Internet sensation, and been viewed on You Tube over 3 million times. To see not only the film, but the dancers who helped inspire it in action, head to the Pavilion this Saturday. Tickets are $5, available at Adjewlation jewelry (across from Wal-Mart) or the Pavilion box office. Show starts at 7 p.m.
In Telluride: Hot Club of San Francisco