Photo: Ellen von Unwerth // Story: Stephen Becker with Art&Seek
Last night, a punk show nearly broke out at a rock concert.
A few songs into the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ nearly two-hour show, a full water bottle came flying out of the crowd onto the stage. A few minutes later, a second one was launched. RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis wasn’t having it. “I want to see that [expletive] after the show!” he yelled at someone on the security team.
Right on! I mean, it wasn’t exactly Nirvana at Trees, but for a brief moment there was a possibility that something unexpected might happen during what has become the tightly scripted shows performed by any band big enough to play the AAC. All those lights and video screens take a lot of coordination, and spontaneity is usually the opportunity cost.
Tuesday night’s show was no exception as the Chilis powered through nearly 30 years of hits. Aside from the bottle incident, Kiedis was all business with a cap pulled low over his eyes and that pesky shirt gone within minutes of the opener. When other frontmen – Dave Grohl, Bono – reach out to the back row, Kiedis and his bandmates gather in tight, projecting an us-against-you vibe. It’s nice to feel loved by rock’s more engaging frontmen, but it sometimes makes you think, “If the coolest guy in the room thinks I’m cool, how cool could he really be?” With Kiedis, there’s always a doubt over whether he even cares you’re there, which lends an air of mystery and appealing arrogance to the proceedings. When the band closed the ranks around Chad Smith’s drum kit for a thoroughly funky take on “I Like Dirt,” it was as if we were privy to a private jam happening in Flea’s garage.
This tour marks the band’s first with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced John Frusciante as the band recorded its most recent album, 2011’s I’m With You. Klinghoffer serviceably played faithful re-creations of the group’s songs, but it felt more like he was playing in a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band than the real thing. The few solo opportunities offered to him were mostly exercises in muddy feedback. It’s a thankless job replacing the great Frusciante, who played his guitar with wild abandon – as if it were a divining rod he was frantically trying to harness. Maybe it’s unfair to be compared with your predecessor, but the book on Frusciante was always that he was a Hendrix knockoff, so it happens to everyone.
Highlights of the show included the band’s now equally famous cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” an energetic, first-set closing run through “By the Way” and a lengthy percussion jam session that opened the encore. The show closed with the band’s two best songs – “Suck My Kiss” and “Give it Away” sandwiched around a cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.” As the final notes rang out, Flea took the mic for some heartfelt thanks and a rambling plea to the crowd to embrace all kinds of music. By the time he was done, Kiedis was long gone.
Maybe he’d found the infamous water-bottle thrower.
Heard of Sofar Sounds yet? It’s a movement of intimate concerts from a couch and so far they’ve had performances in more than 18 cities around the world. North Texas has a very active chapter and have so far hosted seven secret house concerts in the DFW area!
Here’s how it works: you sign up on the Sofar mailing list and get alerted to the next secret show. If the date works for you, simply log your name as someone who desires to attend. If and when your name is drawn, they’ll send you the address of the secret show and you’ll be on the list at the door. Sure, there’s some trust involved. You’re going to a stranger’s house and you don’t know who the artists will be! The reward though is awfully sweet - past artists have included Bobby Long (shown above), Seryn, Salim Nourallah, Air Review, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Doug Burr among many others.
These concerts are small and super intimate. Think 50 or so people in a private home. No clanging beer bottles, no noisy chit chat in the back. These shows are for actual music lovers who appreciate something beyond the typical music experience. Sounds like KXT listeners.
The next show is October 13. We know who the artists are and TRUST US - this show will be a treat. Sign up and check it out.
So…did ya see it? Did ya? I hope so. Something tells me that people will still be talking about this for months, only because it was 52 minutes of awesome with LED sprinkles on top.
But yeah, KXT was on hand to air the soundtrack for the VideoFest’s inaugural (and hopefully not the last) Expanded Cinema blowout on the exterior of the Omni Hotel. Here’s some photographic evidence of the event - including the loving nods to the late, great Candy Barr and Frankie 45 - shot from the parking lot of the Soco Lofts in downtown Dallas. Hell, it’s almost enough to make me want to move into the Soco Lofts so I can host a rooftop party next year. Until then, my fingers, eyes, arms and toes are crossed for a repeat performance.
Muchas, muchas gracias to Amber Sladovnik for capturing the Frankie 45 image so beautifully and for letting us use it!
SIMULCAST AIRS ON KXT 91.7 - WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26 at 8PM
By Jerome Weeks - The Dallas VideoFest will mark its 25th anniversary Wednesday in a very big way. It’ll use the 20-story lighting display on the outside of the Omni Hotel to project videos. They’ll be seen for miles. KERA’s Jerome Weeks rode with coordinators of the event as they looked for the best viewing spot.
It’s night along Riverfront Boulevard, and Bart Weiss is standing in the middle of the road. Weiss heads up the Dallas VideoFest. He’s scouting locations where the public might watch the artists’ videos, videos that’ll turn the Omni Hotel into a giant, experimental TV set.
Weiss: “This is to me is a kind of good distance. A little further, the images work a little bit better, but then the scale isn’t nearly as big. And that’s kind of the conundrum.”
The conundrum is caused by the Omni’s display system. It’s not a huge video screen like a Jumbotron. It’s made of long strings of LED lights that wrap around all four curvy sides of the building, one string for each of the hotel’s 20 stories. The LEDs change colors, turn on and off, acting like the pixels on a TV screen, forming moving images as they flicker.
But a high-def TV screen can have a million pixels. The Omni display has only 6,600 LEDs. Its image resolution is extremely low-res, easily blurred. If you’re standing too close — even three or four blocks away — you sometimes can’t make out the figures. Too far away, and the whole thing’s not very impressive.
[door slam] That’s why Weiss and video artist Carolyn Sortor [seat buckle noises] are driving around Oak Cliff in Weiss’ Mini Cooper trying to find a good site.
[traffic sounds, a chopper overhead, a woman laughing]
It’s a clear, breezy evening, and some of the video artists have gathered along a Jefferson Viaduct entrance ramp on the south side of the Trinity to watch a test-run of their work. Pat Anderson’s here. Anderson works for Matthews Southwest, the company that runs the Omni. He’s notan artist. “I actually work more in accounting than this [laughs].” Even so, he was put in charge of the LED screens. Currently, the system runs generic animation software or company logos from firms attending conventions at the Omni. (That’s the stipulation for what can go up there: If event-related, it needs to be a downtown event, a city event or one the Omni’s connected to. And, of course, no nudity, no politics, no advertisements.)
In practice, what all that means is slow-moving, abstract graphics and lettering with sharp, bright colors. In May, when Weiss first talked to Anderson about the anniversary project, Anderson realized he’d be running actual video footage for the first time.
Anderson; “We know what the system’s capable of but we’ve never had this kind of output before. So this is all a new learning experience. Which is really one of the reasons I wanted to work with these guys.”
Other cities (and stadiums) have giant video displays, like the ones in New York’s Times Square. The artist Jenny Holzer has had work shown there, but for the most part, such screens run commercial programs — or footage of sporting events. The VideoFest celebration – it’s called Expanded Cinema – has 14 artists taking over the external display of an entire building, bigger than any billboard. Plus, the videos have their own soundtracks, which’ll be simulcast over KXT-FM, 91.7
The Viaduct entrance ramp is actually a spot Anderson himself found months ago; he uses it for checking out the results of his work with the Omni. There, the artists watch and listen as a laptop plays their soundtracks (top image). One of the videos takes us back to the beginnings of digital displays: a super-sized game of Pong. Others — taking off on the imagery of TV ads and billboards — feature cascades of money and diamonds or colossal taglines and hrases (“Silence Exile Cunning”).
Different kinds of codes — Braille and Morse — appear in some, while images of eyes and eyeballs, seeing and being seen, pop up in others. Artist Rebecca Carter (with Mark Collop) fills the Omni’s surface with dozens of looming cat’s eyes staring out at us (bottom). She calls the video The Eyeballs from Outer Space, and it’s characteristic of the work’s part-spooky, part-playful nature that it’s backed by “Strangers in the Night”(“strangers in the night exchanging glances”).
For his work, artist Jeff Gibbons uses a loop of an old home video that captured his uninhibited, ‘happy dance’ at age 9 (above, left). Frank Campagna goes for bold colors and shapes: He sends images of apples, oranges and bananas slowly scrolling past, like the dream of a gargantuan fruit vendor.
The videos can seem eerie or whispy, particularly when seen at a distance without their soundtracks — silent ghosts flickering among the city towers. Even with their soundtracks, some videos fizzle, too easy or too inscrutable, perhaps not energized by the skyline-changing ambition of the project but inhibited by it. Others acknowledge the size and setting to play with a Hollywood-scale stardom – the ultimate CinemaScope projection. Artist Mike Morris [bluesy instrumental version of ‘Autumn Leaves’ starts] employs the pop-psychedelic outline of a dancing woman (below). It’s actually a rare bit of the city’s underground history being displayed. Morris explains he used the silhouette of Candy Barr, the infamous exotic dancer and porn star from Dallas in the 1950s who eventually served time for marijuana possession.
Morris: “I just thought it was appropriate to put her back on the surface of the city. Technically, the hotel is located only a few blocks from where the Colony Club was, where she danced.”
[car sounds] Back in the Mini Cooper –
Weiss: “All right, so our next place … is this lawn right here.”
– Weiss and Sortor find an open field at Jefferson and Colorado Boulevard that’s just what they need. If they can get the permissions, if they can get a generator to power audio speakers so people can hear the radio simulcast., if people will bring lawn chairs so they can sit.
Weiss: “I don’t know where we could park.”
Sortor: “This looks great. It could be awesome.”
Weiss: “All right.” [Hand brake clicks on, seat belt clicks open]
For Weiss, Expanded Cinema isn’t just an evening of video fireworks, a novelty event, an attention-getting stunt. It’s the future. He says older, pedestrian-friendly cities can be rich with street-level details and artistic touches. But like many post-war American cities, Dallas is a drive-by town, more freeway and suburban sprawl than urban grid and population density. It’s designed for quick impressions caught through a car window. So large-scale digital displays like this are a way artists could transform the city’s night-time architecture, make itrich with detail. Why leave it all to the neon signs for Denny’s and Citibank?
Weiss is even trying to swing a simultaneous response from Reunion Tower; the videos would make for a flashing rectangle in one corner of the skyline, the tower would be a glowing red circle.
Weiss: “Our real hope is if we can do this and then we could do other places where there are large screens, then I think the whole sense of landscape and how artists can intersect with that can really change.”
KXT brought The Walkmen in studio on Sept. 19 for a private performance for two lucky auction winners, who also received tickets to their show at the Granada, a copy of their latest album Heaven and a homemade cassette of the album on their very own Sony Walkman plus dinner at Sundown. Here are photos from the Walkmen’s studio appearance and their amazing performance at the Granada Theater. All photos by Jim Riddle.