Alfred Gingold in "Power" (Photo by Agnes Meilhac)
All this talk in the news about government intervention in business got me thinking: why, in our free market economy, do we pretty much only have one choice for electricity? Arthur Arent’s “Power” asks this question – and answers it too. “Power” premiered in New York in 1937 and was one of the Federal Theatre Project’s Living Newspapers. These plays were retrospectives on contemporary issues, telling their tales by weaving together voices yanked from the headlines from more than 60 years ago.
The show, which ran for 140 performances in the 1930’s but hadn’t been revived since, has been taken on by the Metropolitan Playhouse in New York City. And the issues it raises are still shockingly relevant. The play’s detailed explanation of the structure of holding companies using a collection of large boxes was especially entertaining and enlightening.
“Power” runs at the Metropolitan Playhouse (220 East 4th Street) until April 12th.
Kurt’s brother David Andersen is one of the top piano technicians in Southern California — he’s also an accomplished rock n’ roller (and a total ringer for The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” ). Kurt visited him at home in Malibu and at work on the pianos of some leading lights in jazz and film composition.
Here they are, the Brothers Andersen, on Studio 360 this week:
The SXSW music festival in Austin has an absurd number of bands play every year — this time it was up to 1900. So to find the gems, needless to say, is challenging — and wonderfully refreshing if you succeed. I saw the amazingly inventive soul/funk singer Janelle Monáe play at a small club in Boston back in the fall and was determined to try to interview her for Studio 360. In the end, I got 6 minutes with her backstage after her Austin Music Hall show. My story airs this weekend. Meanwhile, check out this video of her performing “Sincerely Jane.” One catch: the bass was so loud in the venue that it blew out my recording. So I synced it up with the audio from her CD. It ends up working quite nicely, and you still get a sense of her dazzling stage persona.
Yale Graphic design grad student Ely Kim conducts a 1-man dance off to his 100 fave songs. You won’t hear more than a few bars of each, but you will want watch all 100 (and marvel at all the great art school interiors from printshops to bathroom stalls). Best of all, guests at your future dance parties will thank you for his playlist. (M.I.A. , Technotronic, Yaz, Lil Mama) Watch. Smile. Repeat. BOOMBOX from Ely Kim on Vimeo.
I am not on the payroll of the California Travel & Tourism Commission, I swear. But as if the weather in general were not splendidly un-wintery enough, here’s some of what I encountered a couple of hours west and north of Los Angeles, by aiming for Santa Barbara and then more or less aimlessly wandering. My daughter Kate provivded a perfect iPod score, dominated by Four Tet and the soundtracks of Jungle Bookand Carnivàle.
• Miles and miles of orange groves, with roadside stands where you could buy a big box (100 oranges?) for $10.
• Unwitting sculpture: four ten-foot boulders, apparently just pulled out of the ground, strapped onto the flatbed of an 18-wheeler.
• The brightest organge and yellow wildflowers I’ve ever seen, and fields in the Ojai Valley so intensely green — chartreuse! — that they looked like an image on which the color had been digitally tweaked. Ironically, this digital image understates the unnatural intensity.
• Friendly cattle and an unpeopled lake called Cachuma.
• The 200-year-old Spanish mission in Santa Barbara, where I had the sinful thoughts that it would make a fantastic hotel, and that I’d really like to buy one of their doors.
• The tourist-trappy town of Solvang, which made me somewhat embarrassed about my Danish ancestry.
And then it was back down to Los Angeles via Malibu, and — after getting pleasantly lost in South Central and East L.A. — dinner in Chinatown, with a driving tour afterward of L.A.’s “downtown” district, which seemed like a would-be SoHo/TriBeCa in, say, Cleveland.
When Studio 360 recently caught up with the up-and-coming BLK JKS in Los Angeles we stumbled onto a bit of a musical scoop. Hanging out “back-stage” with the South African band before their show at the LA Natural History Museum, we were fortunate enough to hear a brand new unreleased song from their forthcoming full-length (expected this summer).
Buthelezi went on to say, “it’s about zombies, a corrupt priest, which president to vote for in South Africa.” Band mate Mpumi Mcata chimed in, “Man of God who now walk unafraid, man of God who now walk unawares.” We’re unaware of exactly what that means, but we like how it sounds, especially live and unplugged. Special thanks to sound engineer Claes Andreasson for the hi-fidelity recording. And make sure to check out the complete interview w/ host Kurt Andersen which includes a live unplugged performance of their first single “Lakeside.”
When I visited Johannesberg a few years ago, I was startled by how much, townships aside, it reminded me of southern California — the topography, the sunniness, the freeways, the shiny Americanism in general. So the other day when I interviewed the delightful founders of the cool South African rock band BLK JKS, Mpumi Mcata and Lindani Buthelezi, before their gig at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, I asked, a little nervously, if they agreed. Yes! They also thought it was cool (and, um, ironic) that they were about to perform next to ethnographic dioramas depicting indigenous Africa. The interview — and exclusive acoustic performance! — airs (and becomes podcastable here) starting Friday.
After the interview, I headed west to Santa Monica, where I snapped this picture of the heavenly sunset from my car, and then had dinner with four uncannily beautiful and accomplished women (Kerry Washington, Cecelia Peck, Tricia Brock, Anne Kreamer) and three guys.
Thursday I’m off to Santa Barbara, where I’m having lunch with my pal Pico Iyer, who is more like an angel than anyone I’ve ever met.