Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fish Sculpture @ Genki Sushi (Queen Anne)

Fish heads

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses @ EMP

Nirvana's first demo tapeKurt Cobain was dead before I arrived in Seattle, but for me, grunge has always been Nirvana. I didn’t jump on the Pearl Jam wagon; I tried but it didn’t work out. I have a thing for Alice in Chains and Soundgarden but Nirvana is my it. I’ve often wondered what it must have been like during the grunge heyday in Seattle, what with impromptu shows, accessible musicians and a league of hipster fans before the term was coined.

When I heard the Experience Music Project was hosting a Nirvana exhibit (running April 16, 2011 through April 22, 2013), I was eager to find me a bit of that old-school grunge feeling. Upon entering the museum, the stunning Roots and Branches structure greets visitors:

700 instruments

700 instruments

Constructed of nearly 700 instruments, guitars, keyboards and drums are clustered to create an inverted cone sculpture. Colors, curves and sounds beckon before you move on to the exhibits.

Roots and Branches

Roots and Branches from the top

Stairway w/ Cobain's leg muralNow, you have choices: Move to the live band area where you can front a band and see yourself on stage; hit the interactive area where you can play guitars and basses, sing in a real studio, learn to use a mixer to dancify songs, play the drums while accompanied by keyboards; or check out the visual history of guitars. The interactive areas are addictive and timeless fun. Thus, they get  CROWDED. (Suggestion: Arrive early & play in interactive area before checking out the Nirvana show and other exhibits.)

Quadruple bill at UWAs you enter the exhibit, you are flanked by instruments belonging to the trio: Dave Grohl’s drum set, a bass belonging to Krist Noveselic and Cobain’s guitar. Screens are set up with short films running with commentary from recognizable musicians, such as Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm.

Headphones supplement the personal effects that are displayed in the cases. While you view the letters, playlists, show flyers, you can listen to narrated information about the band. Some of Cobain’s art is also on view as well as photographs showing the young trio traipsing all over the world—partying, getting off planes, exploring foreign lands while on tour. The yellow cardigan sweater Nirvana set listCobain often wore in the ‘90s is there. (It’s strange to see it hanging behind the glass sans the man who made it famous.) There are even remnants of a guitar smashed by Cobain.

The exhibit envelops and takes you back a few decades to revel in time.

By the time you hit the visual chronology of guitars room, you might be a bit spent but don’t skip it. The EMP’s collection contains some rarities that you otherwise may never have an opportunity to view (because the museum doesn’t allow flash, the following pictures don’t do the instruments justice). See for yourself:

Following is Eddie Van Halen’s 1984 “customized” Kramer. The ‘80s were all about “hot-rodding” your guitar.Eddie Van Halen's baby (not Wolfie)

The 1936 Audiovox Model 736 Bass Fiddle was the world’s first electric bass-guitar and it was created in Seattle by Paul Tutmarc. It looks futuristic a la Jetsons.

Bass bass, baby

A 1920s-style Stroh Hawaiian guitar with built on horn mechanism. Supposedly, “wonderfully weird and LOUD.”

Weird and LOUD

If you are still game after all the music paraphernalia, don’t forget the EMP shares its space with the Science Fiction Museum.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Am (2010)

Tom Shayac + I AmHave you ever contemplated what’s wrong with our world today where we are in competition with one another to have the fattest wallet and amass the most? After a serious bike accident, producer-director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor and Patch Adams) had a long recovery period during which he examined his life and level of happiness. He learned that more money and possessions didn’t translate to greater happiness. He interviews many of today’s respected thinkers—Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn—about what it means to be alive today and how to bring meaning to your life.

I Am could’ve gone down preachy and patronizing routes, but, with Shadyac at the helm, it stays light and smart. During one especially entertaining moment, Shadyac asks his famous interviewees if they’ve heard of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The results are laugh-out-loud funny. The only place I Am suffers is an unusual title that doesn’t lend a clue on subject (after viewing, the meaning is clear).

I Am flows with humor, compelling facts and powerful quotes that carry a simple, yet influential message. It highlights the little effort that pays off exponentially if we are kinder and more open. You leave the theater inspired and ready to influence change.

Director: Tom Shadyac

Country: USA

Genre: Documentary

Run time: 76 minutes

Scale: 4.5