A trying year, as it was for many, meant a lot of head clearing at the movies and museums.
It’s worth mentioning, some of the best times I had this year were out-of-town and it’s important to appreciate our proximity to places like Portland, Providence, NYC, Philly and the rest of New England. There are seriously cheap bus and train options to all of these places, which you shouldn’t take for granted. Plus, going away and coming back tends to make people appreciate where they live.
Movies and Meandering at the MFA
One of my favorite places to catch a movie in town. Never crowded and a consistently strong selection of classic, foreign, independent and documentary film. The fact that it’s located in a huge art museum doesn’t hurt either. I love to get their monthly 3-film passes and arrive early to explore. At $27 a pass, it’s a very cheap way to be engaged all day (three times over).
One of my favorite series this year was of short and feature-length films by French comedic legend Pierre Étaix, think Chaplin set in early ‘60s France. Not as well known as he should be (due to legal disputes making his films unavailable from the ‘70s-2009) the designer turned circus acrobat/clown turned actor/director is a total treasure. His films are packed with style, wit and, most of all, charm. I caught The Suitor, Rupture, Yoyo, Happy Anniversary and his documentary Land of Milk and Honey but wish I could have seen the entire series.
I’d probably back any institution that annually screens a full Stanley Kubrick retrospective. One of the most versatile and truly groundbreaking directors to ever play the game, Kubrick brought comedy and authenticity to any genre he attempted.
I couldn’t miss seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen and neither should you. I also caught Lolita and Barry Lyndon, both for the first time. Lolita was definitely compromised by censorship, but it’s completely hilarious and tragic with unbelievable performances by Shelley Winters and Peter Sellers amongst others. I strategically caught the epic and innovative beauty of Barry Lyndon as a matinee, so I could give my full attention to the 3+ hours period piece.
There were a few exhibits that kept me coming early. My favorite was Terry Winters: The Structure of Things, an abstract expressionist printmaker based outta NYC since the ‘80s. I wasn’t familiar with him before this and am now mildly obsessed.
I also loved the exhibit Imogen Cunningham: In Focus, a well-rounded collection of the legendary American photographer’s work – from her portraiture to street photography to still lifes and multiple exposures.
Another standout was Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a 24 hour montage of thousands of film clips that feature, audibly or visually each minute of the day passing, in time.
Imogen Cunningham: In Focus @MFA
Some exhibits I loved that are still rolling into 2018 include The German Woodcut: 70s into 80s, Mark Rothko: Reflection and, perhaps the most deeply moving of the year for me, (Un)Expected Families. This last exhibit features photographs going back to the 19th century, all depicting various versions of families – from blood relations to the families we make for ourselves.
Best band in Boston this year came and went. A short lived collab between Nate Ventura (Pucker Up), Stone Filipczak (Slendermen, Designer, Spy in the Sky), Sam Rogich (Porch Sam, Designer) and Dana DeMaglia up front on vocals. This group fucking ripped and every show was a blast to be at. Meticulous musicianship meets pure instincts and a very real sense of play. The group split in September, as members moved out of state, but they were a bittersweet reminder of the kind of shows you could find weekly in Boston only 4 or 5 years ago. Sigh.
I tried to catch all the Haag shows I could because I knew it was fleeting… a fun project for friends kinda in limbo with their other groups, mostly. There are some Haag recordings that haven’t surfaced yet and I could see them do another tour if all members end up on the same coast again. Here’s hoping.
I am at least 5 years deep into a very real love affair with Jamaica Pond. Just a mile away from home, I grab my headphones and take a lap whenever I can; it has never done me wrong. Each season offers a different experience and my walks there are a constant reminder that nothing is ever exactly the same, even from one day to the next.
When the weather allows it, I have a couple nooks I go to for reading. It’s pretty lovely and it’s a couple blocks away from the heart of Centre Street & South Street for amenities and civilization.
Most played music walking around this year was Bob Dylan and the Band live in Oakland ’74, Olivia Neutron-John, Pucker Up, Wu Tang Clan, GZA’s Liquid Swords, Miles Davis, Edith Piaf and Lauryn Hill…depending on my mood.
Lydia Lunch @Elks Lodge
What a total and complete badass. I met Lydia Lunch first at her show in July at the Elks Lodge with (NE) Patriots and Doomsday Student, then again when she played as Brutal Measures with Weasel Walter in October.
She’s got the spark of a truly present mind and the frenetic energy of a woman who will probably never cum enough in her lifetime. Quick witted, tough and tender. She cut me a crazy deal on both her books and really disarmed me with her motherly affection, holding my hand at one point… I love when people aren’t what you expect.
I ripped through those books and found myself dizzied by the circumstances of her life and her ability to walk away and live on her own terms. A true hustler and legendary scenester, Lydia’s unapologetic fuck-you attitude, love of sex and completely reckless pursuit of all that is fun and exciting is refreshing and empowering.
Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-between @MET Museum (NYC)
One of the most incredible exhibits I have ever seen – from the layout to the concepts to the emotional yet architectural designs of the clothes themselves. For all those who don’t believe fashion is a form of art: Wake up! The way we dress is the most immediate form of self-expression out there and for some, a completely integral part of their identity. Rei Kawakubo has been exploring these ideas and bringing them to the forefront of fashion for over 40 years with her label Comme des Garçons.
At 74 years-old, the Japanese, avant-garde visionary still seems to look at her business as a personal art project – from the clothing to the graphic design to the interior design of her shops. This exhibit is no exception, as she was heavy handed in every aspect of the show which included 140 pieces spanning her career. Every piece still feels as fresh and as relevant as ever.
BTW, I spent less than $20 roundtrip on the bus and the MET is free (pay what you want).
John Waters @Coolidge & Brookline Booksmith
Always a straight shooter, John Waters charmed with his usual crude, quick wit and candor at this talk and book signing of Make Trouble. His clearly custom-made printed, baby pink Issey Miyake suit fit like a dream and confirmed him as the badass breadth of fresh air he truly is. He discussed his longtime attempts at getting in the college speech racket (as it pays very well), the ease of writing books instead of making movies and the hypocrisy of crowdsourcing projects when you own multiple homes.
Théâtre de la Ville’s production of Albert Camus’ The State of Siege @Arts Emerson
While the actual play is one of writer Albert Camus’ weaker works, production-wise this was the best play I saw this year. French avant-garde director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota succeeds in creating a dangerous, stylish and surreal world infested with right-wing extremism, bureaucracy and fear. I will say, it was difficult to take in the storyline and visuals all at once, as the play was in French with English subtitles. But a compelling cast, transformative costumes and incredible lighting design made me grateful to have seen the Paris company, Théâtre de la Ville, at work.
It is worth mentioning that there were a number of plays I was extremely interested in seeing but I couldn’t rationalize the $55-75 tickets. Pretty frustrating when I keep hearing the same tired discussions of how we need to get more young people to the theatre.
It actually makes me sad when I think of what theatre could be if it were more relevant and accessible to creatives in related fields. But most people don’t know where to find the good stuff and couldn’t afford it even if they did.
Regardless, Arts Emerson tends to bring the best touring shows to town and always offer a bunch of $20 seats, that tend to go quickly.
RIP Jeanne Moreau / Elevator to the Gallows @Film Forum (NYC)
On July 31st, I woke up to find out that both Jeanne Moreau, one of my favorite actresses and Sam Shepard, one of my favorite playwrights had just passed away. Each meant a lot to me in various ways but when I was a teenager, Moreau presented an entirely different type of woman than I was used to seeing on the screen. She was cool, enigmatic, sexy, and smart without falling into the usual tropes when playing love interests.
She worked with (and dated half of) the best directors, including François Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Louis Malle, Jacques Demy, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, and Michaelangelo Antonioni. An Aquarian woman of never-ending interests, she surrounded herself with amazing artists and thinkers, including fashion designer Pierre Cardin, musician Miles Davis, writers Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, and Henry Miller. Beyond acting, she had a career as a singer and dabbled in writing and directing.
Just following her death, I caught a screening of Elevator to the Gallows (1958) on a rainy day at Film Forum, one of my favorite theaters in NYC. This noir drenched, French thriller was Louis Malle’s first film and one of the best I saw this year, with a seductive score by my main man Miles Davis and a nail-biting plot line.
I would highly recommend either of François Truffaut’s films The Bride Wore Black (1968) or Jules et Jim (1962) as an intro to Jeanne. (Avoid the trailer to the Bride Wore Black! It ruins the entire mystery of the movie.)
NEW ZINELAND 2017 @Elks Lodge
New Zineland is a free, all ages zine fest I put together every year as SEEK + FIND Boston, with more than 50 self-publishers, free workshops and all day zine making for kids and adults. It is my favorite event to organize and a blast to attend. I love getting tuned into where other people’s heads are and can’t think of a better environment than one where people are creating and sharing their work. Highlights include some fearless readings from Brookline High School’s Manhater Gazette and a killer bookbinding workshop by Jake Rochford.
Look out for my 3rd annual New Zineland coming up April 21st + 22nd 2018! | www.NewZineland.com
Local Documentarian Frederick Wiseman @MFA + the Brattle Theater
I am so grateful to have been introduced to the films of Frederick Wiseman this year…a prolific documentarian based outta Boston who has been putting his razor sharp mind and eye on one institution after another since his directorial debut, Titicut Follies, in 1967. His first documentary captured the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, and due to the shocking access he was given to shoot, ended up being banned from release until 1991 because it was just too real. Since then he has directed 41 more documentaries, each focusing on a specific kind of institution from high school to the racetrack to welfare to the meat industry to the juvenile court system and much, much more.
Never one to shy away from pursuing an interest, Wiseman went onto sporadically direct a variety of theatre from the ‘80s through the 2000s. He got his start directing shows at Cambridge’s own American Repertory Theatre, one of the most respected theaters in the country if you weren’t aware. Going on to work in NYC and Paris with multiple production companies including legendary theatre group La Comédie Française (founded in 1681!!!).
The nature of his type of filmmaking, reducing 100+ hours of footage into 3 hours, is inescapably edited, but Wiseman’s gift is his ability to stay true to what reads as an authentic account of the overall experience within each institution. There is no narration but always a rhythm to the way it’s been cut and a genuine curiosity that rings true in each. At 88 years-old, he’s still making movies.
I caught his latest documentary, Ex Libres – The New York Public Library (2017) at the Brattle Theatre and also a couple at the MFA’s series Frederick Wiseman: For The Record which ran from February through June this year. I really regret not seeing more of this series while it was around.
The Make-Up, Tyvek and Permanent Waves @ The Bell House (Brooklyn)
One of the best shows I’ve ever been to, with legendary frontman/author Ian F. Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, Chain and the Gang, Escape-ism) at his very best. I am going to say he spent ⅔ of the show performing on top of the actual audience without missing a goddamn beat. This live wire performance was broken up with quotable stage banter and polished off with pink champagne, metallic suits custom made by Amber Doyle, for the whole band including Michelle Mae, Mark Cisneros, and James Canty. I’ve never been able to see Iggy (Pop) live, and this felt like a consolation. It was raw, exciting and I was completely blown away. The was one of a few “reunion” shows they played this year and I hope that continues.
Svenonius made his way up to Boston a couple times this year with his solo project, Escape-ism, which is always fun to watch. If you are unfamiliar, the guy is gregarious, engaging, completely with it and one of the funniest people I know. Touring the country (and the world) regularly since the early ‘90s, he has been embedded in the underground music scene for longer than anyone else I can think of, and has always been relevant. Between his lifestyle and wit, the guy has some amazing stories. Following his show at the Sinclair, a couple friends and I went up to Portland with him for his show at Port City Music Hall. Portland is a great town to hang out in and the weekend ended up being some of the most fun I had this year.
Paris Texas + Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction @MFA
Having lost both Sam Shepard, the writer, and Harry Dean Stanton this year, this screening on Christmas Eve was a bittersweet close to the year for me. Shepard started out as a childhood crush via his acting roles in the ‘80s and later became important to me through his plays and the way he lived his life. Just like him, this movie is poetic, gritty, and beautiful to look at – with it’s authenticity only punctuated by its silence and sincerity. Harry Dean knocks it outta the park in a rare lead role, proving he can more than carry a movie on his own.
I also caught a documentary, made towards the end of his life, called Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction. His breed of honesty and humor translate into a rare type of warmth that has never been common and can’t be imitated. I could also legit listen to him sing all day. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan.
RIP boys <3
2017 Sets I Won’t Forget
I didn’t hit as many shows as usual this year, but these were some of my favorites…
Escape-ism and Bugs and Rats @DT
Ed Schrader Music Beat, Joss, Haag @Allston haus
Horse Lords, Creative Healing, Spy in the Sky @Hojoko Boston
Haag, Don Gero @Black Lodge
Pucker Up, Haag, SCUM, Jim Leonard @DT
Priests, Halfsour @Great Scott
Porch Sam, The Dreebs, Gamma Pope @JP
Joey Agresta, Big French @DT
Boston Cream @Elk’s Lodge
Creative Healing, Trigger @First Parish Church
Animal Hospital and Chris Warren @Zuzu