Friday, October 29, 2010

What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?

The Scream reference notwithstanding, late October always finds me watching a marathon of Jason Voorhees hacking at camp counselors or Michael Myers dispatching babysitters.  Branching out this year, I put forth a few less overt examples of classic horror.

An oldie but a goodie, 1932's Freaks set the standard as far as plot and recurring characters for a number of monster movies and characters, from Frankenstein's monster to the Incredible Hulk.  Freaks stands out however, as having cast real life "monsters" as the titular freaks.  Notable circus performers, including a bearded lady, human skeleton, and Johnny Eck (better known as Johnny the Half-Man), were featured in the film, detailing the lives of circus performers and those among them.  As the plot goes on, the non-freaks are mischievous, scheming, and downright cruel, making what could have been exploitation of oddballs and the disabled into a deft commentary on our society.  Freaks was the original film to question who the real monsters are, a theme later done to self-referential perfection in later films such as Ruggero Deodato's mondo classic Cannibal Holocaust.  (Note: I debated directly embedding CH in this post, but decided against it due to its NC-17 nature.  It is available in full on Google Video, however.)  Linked below in its entirety (64 minutes), Freaks is still influential even 78 years later.

Of course the seasonal horror classics cannot go unmentioned.  Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, and April Fool's Day are all classic and archetypical examples of the holiday themed slasher.  It seems only Thanksgiving has been left out, but no longer, thanks to Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) and his trailer from Grindhouse for a would-be Thanksgiving themed horror film.  Unlike Machete and the aptly named Hobo with a Shotgun, no feature adaptation is in the works... yet.

The recent zombie infatuation, which reached it's zenith with the survival-horror/comedy Zombieland, essentially began in 2004 on the heels of a successful Dawn of the Dead remake and the zombie romantic-comedy (zom-rom-com) Shaun of the Dead.  In reality, there's been a zombie fixation since George Romero's 1968 debut Night of the Living Dead to this very day.

Romero's original film actually gave rise to two franchises, after a dispute with his co-writer, John Russo, over sequel plans.  Romero's story became a trilogy including Dawn and Day of the Dead respectively, the latter being a biting social commentary on the 80s, specifically Reaganites and the AIDS crisis.  Russo took a different tack, originating the zombie comedy formula put to good use in the later films.  His Return of the Living Dead, plagued by increasingly disparate, bizarre, and often poorly made sequels, still is a classic, featuring B-movie veteran Clu Gulager and scream queen Linnea Quigley in career defining roles.  The film moves along at a frenetic pace, with scares interspersed with laughs and spectacular visual effects, making a star out the films signature zombie "Tar Man" (shown above).  Return of the Living Dead is noteworthy for being the first zombie flick to have the walking dead moaning "BRAAAAINS", something that has been a staple of many films since.

Use the comments to tell us your favorite scary movie, or any honorable mentions that didn't make this post.  In any case, happy Friday and have a great Halloween.  We'll leave you with a cut from Tim's Burton's classic The Nightmare Before Christmas because, after all, this is Halloween.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vintage Vinyl 03 – Everybody’s Doin’ It Now

I hate country music.

Let me be specific.

I hate country music.

I hate country music that exists simply to be country.  Add a Southern drawl and twangy guitar to lyrics about jilted lovers and/or pickup trucks and you have any number of hit new singles.  If all else fails, just start singing about football.  It won’t help your career any, but at least you’ll be on TV once a week.

What I’m complaining about here is country pop, I suppose.  My argument against which is the uninspired homogeneity within that genre, and “pop” in general.  Do something interesting, different, new.  Don’t just settle into the radio pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.  Don’t just creatively subsist on what’s come before.  Even I if bothered to listen to a Top 40 country station, would I be able to tell anything about the artist other than (maybe) their gender?  I’ll get off my soapbox about what most country artists do wrong and get back to what some do right.

What’s right about country is when country stylings are applied to other genres, either subtly in the case of much acoustic/folk rock (Wilco, Arlo Guthrie, Railroad Earth) or more overtly in rockabilly and Southern rock from Johnny Cash to Lynyrd Skynyrd.  There’s even room for those fantastic eccentrics, music’s wild men like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy or Roky Erickson.  Somewhere in the middle is George Frayne, more popularly known as Commander Cody.

The Commander has been going strong for 40 years now, currently fronting The Commander Cody Band and getting his start at the helm of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.  I first experienced them on the Sirius station Deep Tracks, with their jaunty (and hilarious) cover of Tex Williams’ sardonic ode to nicotine, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)”.  After that I was hooked, discovering other classics like his signature tune “Hot Rod Lincoln” and the bluesy “Seeds and Stems (Again)”.  Their 1973 LP Country Casanova contained the Commander’s take on Tex Williams and nine other country love songs.  Whether the love in question is one girl, many girls, a smoke, or partying, they’re love songs nonetheless.

Clocking in at a brisk 28 minutes, the band rips through the album with not a weak tune in the bunch.  The title track sets a theme of hard living and hard loving for the rest of the album.  So does Side B’s lead-off track “Rock That Boogie”, showcasing the high musical IQ of both the Commander’s piano work and Bill Kirchen’s distinctive guitar.  There’s even a spiritual tune that does not lack in energy “Shall We Meet (Beyond the River)”.  This is almost jarring contrast to Side A’s ender, “Everybody’s Doin’ It”, a proclamation in favor of “dancin’ and truckin’” but also “swingin’ and fuckin’”.  The song (embedded below) was especially controversial in ’73, being a country tune with a full 24 uses of the word fuckin’ in 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

“I’ve been smokin’ ‘bout 25 years.  Ain’t dead yet.”  And neither is the Commander.  He’s still going strong, playing Connecticut venues such as Manchester’s The Hungry Tiger or Infinity Hall in Norfolk this past year alone.  Bill Kirchen, lead guitarist and vocalist of the Lost Planet Airmen still maintains a musical presence, having recently played theatre shows at Fairfield University and a more intimate club setting at New Haven’s CafĂ© Nine.  Even four decades later there is still ample opportunity to hear some of the great old stuff.  For the rest of you, you can always get brown-out drunk and check out Kenny Chesney or Brooks and Rich or whomever The Meadows can con people into paying $40 a ticket to see.  Everybody just might be doin’ it now, but for me?  I’ll stick to the classics.

Until next time,


Monday, October 25, 2010

Manic Productions 6-month Deal

Manic Productions announced a pretty sweet deal just last week - and you only have a limited time to get it: A 6-month pass to all Manic Productions shows for just $80.


Here's the most recent Manic Productions Facebook status about the deal from Saturday: 

We've done over 50 shows in the last 6 months including Deerhoof, Mates of State, Fucked Up, Defiance Ohio, Built To Spill, Titus Andronicus, With Honor, The Lemonheads, MONO, Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Ted Leo, Eyehategod and tons more. Only 8 more tickets are now left

We estimated how much going to every show just in the next five or six weeks would cost, and it would be at least $125. That's not including shows not announced or those past that. So that means you can save a lot of money if you're going to lots of shows between now and April. And this gives you a chance to go to some local shows you might not otherwise go to.

The deal only goes until all the tickets sell out - there were only 14 to begin with and 8 left as of Saturday - or until midnight on Halloween.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vintage Vinyl #2 - Deformed deer give horrible directions

Much like the recent Karate Kid remake having next to nothing to do with karate (Jackie Chan? Kung fu? The Freshest Prince? WTF?), our vintage vinyl posts will not necessarily be “vintage”.  Today’s entry harkens all the way back to April 2010.   I remember it like it was six months ago.  The Internal Tulips marvelously titled Mislead into a Field by a Deformed Deer grabbed us from the first time we heard it playing at Redscroll Records, Wallingford’s source for music not sold by Best Buy (  The ambient lo-fi production trickery was evident from a single listen, and we apparently weren’t the only ones interested, as it took several return trips to Redscroll to finally pick up the LP.  No matter the challenges in acquisition, we knew the album would be well worth the effort.

On the surface, the keyboard based songs with wisp-thin vocals throughout sound somewhat similar, though not to the point of redundancy.  The ethereal nature of many of the tracks give an impression of great distance, some light scratchiness to the vinyl record lends a certain classic feel, as though this isn’t a new record, but a beloved classic spun time and time again.  Closer listens bring forth a pattern to the ‘scratches’, revealing syncopated noises and rhythms that break up and often accentuate the ambient electro-folk. Such genre-bending sound makes the album difficult to classify, with country influences juxtaposed against minimalist piano work.  The Flaming Lips’ recent double album, Embryonic, was described by frontman Wayne Coyne as sounding “something like if John Lennon got together with Miles Davis and they discovered a supercomputer”.  I would not be far off in venturing that The Internal Tulips debut sounds something like if Brian Eno and Elliott Smith collaborated with a supercomputer.

The two sides of the record show different faces, musically.  Side A features the piano-based ambient tunes that drew us in to begin with.  Tracks like “Arlie” exhibit that aesthetic against multi-tracked vocals, bringing to mind the effects put to use on 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love”.  “Talking Hoshizaki Blues” blends into the album’s highlight “Mr. Baby” which best emphasizes the sound/feel of the LP with its chopped up drums/guitar spliced with dialogue samples and vocal harmonies.  Side B is a more eclectic cousin to Side A, with tracks such as “Long Thin Heart” showing a twangy, country vibe and ending on a high note with the lively, guitar-driven “We Breathe”.

The link below is the track we first heard that day in Redscroll Records, “Mr. Baby”.  Use the comments to let us know any other albums you’ve randomly/unexpectedly discovered.  We’ll be back with another Vintage Vinyl entry later this week (one that will actually be vintage).

Until next time,

Friday, October 15, 2010

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading”

Henry Youngman had it right, as certainly there is much more to fear within the pages of a book than can be contained in a bottle.  Greetings all, and happy Friday!  We’ve got two shows on the docket for this weekend, bringing more of a classic rock vibe to Merry Picnic as opposed to our obscure indie slant.

Roger Waters brings his updated version of The Wall to the Hartford Civic Center tonight (eat it, XL Insurance) complete with the requisite inflatables, animations, and, of course, the wall itself.  I’ll be attending with my Roger Waters devotee uncle and a few other relatives for what’s sure to be an epic night of nostalgia and likely a last chance to see Waters live (if there’s any truth to his rumored retirement).  Embedded below is a highlight from the film version of The Wall, “Goodbye Blue Sky”, which contains some of the darkest, yet most appropriate animations ever put to music.

Saturday sees the always-fantastic Tower of Power coming to Wolf’s Den at Mohegan Sun, meaning one of the best venues in Connecticut is featuring one of the best live acts around.  Did we mention it’s free?  Embedded below is the more upbeat, but no less political “Only So Much Oil in the Ground”, a staple of Tower of Power setlists.

We’ll be back soon with a new Vintage Vinyl post and reviews of this weekend’s shows.  Use the comments to tell us what you’re up to this weekend, especially tonight with the glut of shows around the region (Beach Fossils in Hartford, Love Language in New Haven, Belle & Sebastian in Boston, AND Shakedown in Plainville?? Bah).  Good luck making your decision, and get outside before the leaves disappear, I know we’ll be.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall "Stir Friday" - An Apple Cake

The cake when it's all done.
It's fall. That means it's time for apples, pumpkins and apple-flavored and pumpkin-flavored things. I've been perfecting this apple cake for just over two years now, and after making some changes, I think I've got it exactly where I want it. It's full of apples, moist and has a delicious streusel (kind of like a coffee cake) topping. It's perfect for a crisp fall day and goes great with a nice pumpkin beer or apple cider. Here's the recipe:

Cake Ingredients: 
2 eggs 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
3/4 cup white sugar 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
4 cups diced apple without peel

Streusel Ingredients and Directions:
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter. 
(Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. It may be easier to just mix it with your hands.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 9x13 inch cake pan. (Cooking spray is fine.)
2. Mix the dry ingredients - sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Beat vegetable oil and eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and vanilla and mix well. Stir in the diced apples. Pour batter into prepared pan. (Note: It's going to look like it's nothing but apples, but the cake will rise, I promise!)
3. Top with the streusel topping - use as much or as little as you would like. 
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. 

Yes, that slice of cake is paired with some apple cider in a Tom and Jerry jelly jar.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: We Are Scientists and The Octopus Project 10/9

The Octopus Project
Combining the We Are Scientists and The Octopus Project shows was the best idea ever. (Thanks, Manic Productions!) Because we just saw We Are Scientists last month at I Am Fest, we were actually going to choose The Octopus Project over We Are Scientists when they were originally going to play Cafe Nine, but this worked out perfectly. Both bands, plus Jerkagram from Bridgeport, put on a great show at Daniel Street in Milford on Saturday night - a  perfect match-up of headliners.

Jerkagram, a guitar-drum duo, had some interesting, inventive, purely instrumental rock and made for a cool opener. 

Yvonne Lambert from The Octopus Project playing the theremin.
The Octopus Project put on quite the show with neon-taped speakers, rotating lights and a neat projector show behind a cool polar-bear-ghost-Zorro-type thing next to the drums. They played some of their awesome songs from Hello, Avalanche and One Ten Hundred Thousand Million like "I Saw the Bright Shinies" and "The Adjustor" and rocked it with the very familiar "Truck." They combined Mac-produced music with live instrumentation - including a theremin! Before the last song, they said they were ending their "outerspace experience," which is a really good way to describe what we all just saw.

We Are Scientists
We Are Scientists were awesome as usual. Though this was a much smaller crowd than I Am Fest, I think it was a case of quality over quantity - I saw a lot of people singing along to every lyric. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, and how could they not?

Here is the We Are Scientists set list (which I was able to see from the side of the stage and copy):
You could see the setlist from where I was standing.
The Scene is Dead
I Don't Bite
Let's See It
Rules Don't Stop
Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
Nice Guys
Chick Lit
It's a Hit
The Great Escape
Break It Up
Jack & Ginger
After Hours


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stir Friday #1 - Where No Reuben Has Gone Before

“It’s something we do every Friday, guess what we call it?”
“Stir Friday?”
“Wow, that’s... much better.”
“I know. You can have it.”

            We’ve been chatting about doing a recipe column of sorts since our earliest inception, and we kick off today’s initial entry with a recipe that Huffington Post put up a while back.  The Reuben sandwich is a deli classic, the best way to showcase pastrami or corned beef on rye bread, but could those ingredients work as a dip?  Today, Merry Picnic takes a stab at making the Reuben a bit more portable, join us to see the results.

            The recipe is fairly straightforward, starting with a base of cream cheese and sour cream to which we’ll add the traditional Reuben fare.  See the recipe below, taken off HuffPo via the forums:

"Reuben Dip"

8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup of sour cream
1/2 lb. corned beef
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup sauerkraut
1 tbs. ketchup
2 tsp. brown mustard
2 tsp. diced onion
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature or soft enough to mix. Drain and rinse sauerkraut thoroughly. When getting corned beef from the deli, get it shaved to ease with chopping up. Add all ingredients in a bowl and blend thoroughly. Pour into a lightly greased baking dish and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more or until nice and brown on top. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with toasted rye or pumpernickel bread squares.

We’ll have updates tomorrow night when we cook for the UConn/Rutgers game.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oct. 15 - The day of choices. Beach Fossils vs. The Love Language

What are you doing to us, Oct. 15? You're worse than in July when we had to choose between The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse (The Flaming Lips won that time, duh), or September between I Am Fest and The Zombies (I Am Fest was a clear winner there, too)! This time, Oct. 15, you're a Friday, and we already have other plans, and now we have to choose between two awesome shows to end the night. What's a Connecticut fan to do?

Beach Fossils - from their MySpace page
First, I just found out today about Beach Fossils playing at the Arch Street Tavern in Hartford. Also in the lineup are local favorites M.T. Bearington and Ghostwaves. Beach Fossils was on our playlist a lot this summer, with their very surfer, dreamy indie pop sound. I can totally go for a little summer in the middle of October.

The show, a Hartford Party Starters Union event, starts at 9, and tickets are $8, or $5 if you have a Hartford Party Starters Union T-shirt (I should get one of those). Great bar specials as well - $2 pints and $6 pitchers.What an all-around incredible deal!

Here's the Facebook event link for Beach Fossils:!/event.php?eid=161860367173700

The Love Language - from their MySpace page
That same night, Manic Productions is bringing The Love Language to Lilly's Pad, upstairs from Toad's Place. Joining them are Pomegranates, The Woulda Coulda Shoudas, and Even Artichokes Have Hearts. We've been listening to a lot of The Love Language, whom Garrett described in his October events post as "Raleigh-based indie rockers ... who are currently on the rise after playing North Carolina’s inaugural Hopscotch Festival." He even said, "Their current LP, Libraries, is one of 2010’s best releases, making this a can’t miss show at Lilly’s Pad." The show starts at 7:30, and I was told The Love Language should be going on around 10:30. Tickets are $10, $8 in advance.

Here's the Facebook event page:!/event.php?eid=124228657629435

So maybe some of you understand our dilemma and heartbreak from having to choose. But wait, there's more to our tragic story!

Garrett's already going to see Roger Waters playing "The Wall" at the XL Center that very night. Also, I have a law fraternity thing at 7. Sooo we're probably going to try to make it to Beach Fossils after the first of our Friday night events (since Garrett will be in Hartford anyway, and for me, it's the later of the two shows). But New Haven's closer to Hamden, where I will be starting from.

Whichever you choose, you're sure to have a good time, so if you're making it to the show I'm missing, I'm jealous. And If you're going to see the one I end up going to, maybe I'll see you there!

- Freesia

Friday, October 1, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football??

Happy Friday, and as Hank Williams Jr. once said, “God, I wish I was as talented as my father”.  Anyways, we have a weekend of fun and football lined up for us and wanted to give you a couple tracks to see you through.

John Prine’s “Illegal Smile” is not only a country-folk gem, but also his signature tune.  His down on his luck yokel of a narrator reflects on the troubles in his life, and how the glass is always half-empty instead of full.  However, that glass can be refilled, and in the end you get the all important message that no matter how bad things get, you can still get plastered enough for everything to be alright.


Following up our Vintage Vinyl post with Miracle Legion, we thought we’d include Dinosaur Jr’s cover of “The Backyard” from Ciao, My Shining Star.  It fixes the incorrect (or early?) lyrics of the live at WESU version (the world was so big, the world’s collide? Bizarre) and adds the distorted guitar-driven sound that is a hallmark of Dinosaur Jr’s musical output.  The rest of the album makes it a must buy, featuring acts such as The National, Michael Stipe, Frank Turner, and the late Vic Chesnutt, all while never losing the feel of the Mark Mulcahy originals.

Tomorrow we're off to East Hartford for UConn's homecoming game against Vanderbilt.  What game are you most excited for this weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Until next time,