• The Boomtown Rats Return: A Conversation with Bob Geldof, Plus a Chat with Finch's Nate Barcalow and Lots of Exclusives
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    photo courtesy Bob Geldof

    A Conversation with Bob Geldof

    Mike Ragogna: Bob, I'm honored to be talking to the Man Of Peace.

    Bob Geldof: You are indeed honored! [laughs] I'd forgotten I was and now my head has swollen so large the phone can't even fit in this room with me.

    MR: [laughs] Bob, let's talk first about The Boomtown Rats performances. You guys are reuniting for a couple of gigs, but do you think it might go beyond New York and Boston?

    BG: Nah, we grouped up about a year ago actually for the Isle Of Wight festival which, along with Glastonbury, are the two big festivals here. It was weird, though. Like everybody I said, "I'll never do that." The solo thing I've got going was doing great, I brought out a record called How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell or something and it did very well. It got awards and all that stuff and I was touring that. Then two of the Rats came and said, "Look, would you think about doing this?" and I said, "Look, we've talked about this before." If the past is another country it's not one that I wish to visit. I lost my passport a long time ago. You can't revisit old glories; they turn out to be not so glorious really, revisited. But they said, "Look, we've got this offer for the Isle of Wight." The Isle Of Wight isn't where I popped my rock 'n' roll cherry, but I saw Hendrix and The Doors and The Who and Leonard Cohen and all of these amazing people in 1969-70 with hundreds of thousands of others. Suddenly, my vanity was piqued. Playing on that legendary stage--I wasn't going to do that a solo thing. I think the regrouping came about because of vanity, curiosity and cash. The vanity with the Isle of Wight, the curiosity was, "Were we any good? Was that all bulls**t? Was that me shooting off as usual?" And the cash was always handy. I said if it felt like pantomime, if it felt like nostalgia, I wouldn't do it, and they said, "Okay, well let's give it a try."

    So we went up to a fan's farm up in Gatwick and we stayed over. The first hour was fucking awful. Then all of a sudden there was this incredible hour--and I'm serious. Just really, "Whoa, what's that?" You don't really know you're a powerful band. You're just a bunch of guys who randomly got together from the neighborhood, you start a band, you're making a racket and you take that racket to wherever you're going to go. But you're not really aware that it's in any way different or how powerful it is, and then after a long, long, long break suddenly you hear this unique group of individuals play together and it's exhilarating. I was used to my solo thing where I'm fairly internal, I wear a cool suit and I play the guitar. Bobby Boomtown is all extrovert. He's the front man. He's an arrogant little prick, and that's me. He was allowed to come out of his sixty year-old self again and it was very liberating and exhilarating. I started singing those words and I didn't need the lyric sheet, I remembered them all. They felt in no way nostalgic. In fact it was much like they'd been words that I was trying to grope for in a contemporary sense inasmuch as that the economic circumstances of eighteen months ago pretty much mirrored 1975, '76 in Ireland. Deep recession, austerity, unemployment chronic for young people.

    So why would I alter one line of the first single we did, "Looking After Number One?" The first line you ever heard me say is, "The world owes me a living." Why would I alter that? And "Rat Trap," which I wrote when I was working in an abattoir in Dublin, about hopelessness. I didn't know I was ever going to get out. Why I would I alter a line like that? Two weeks before the rehearsal some other joker in America had killed some of his schoolmates, et cetera. Why would I alter a line of "I Don't Like Mondays?" "Someone's Looking At You," I wrote that in 1979; we'd just been reading about the NSA and Obama spying on everybody, rifling our emails, logging our f**king text messages, the CCTV cameras everywhere, Facebook mining your brain and trying to figure out who and what you are and selling that and here's a song of paranoia written in 1980; why would I alter that? Suddenly all of it, the sound and the lyrics sounded like they should be sung now. So we went out the Isle Of Wight, the others were very nervous, I wasn't because I'd just done three very big gigs in Germany with a solo band and a fourth gig in the Rose on the Isle of Wight. But there was a lot of people. We walked out on the stage and we f**king killed it. That's the truth. It's boasting, but we nailed it. I was a completely different person from the day before in Germany and on that stage I thought, "How do I get back to Boomtown Bob? Where is he living these days?" I thought, "I know, I've got a f**king snakeskin suit made. That'll bring him out." So I got this full snakeskin suit, it's really cool. Bobby Boomtown came slithering out on that stage fucking screaming and shouting again. I loved it. My voice is croaking because yesterday we did a festival in Cornwall. We've just done fourteen or fifteen festivals in the summer and we did a sell out tour in the winter and we're just going to do another sixteen dates in the cities we didn't do in the UK in October/November. New York and Boston, fantastic, I haven't played in America since God knows when, I hope three people will show up but I'll play for those three people.

    MR: [laughs] I doubt it will only be three people! You've participated or energized many fundraising and awareness raising efforts such as Band Aid, Live Aid and The Secret Policeman's Ball. It must be at least a little frustrating that after all these years, some themes that The Boomtown Rats called out are still relevant.

    BG: Well, it's a good point. The first thing is you forget that the punks came at a time of political and economic despair. There was no joking about The Clash or The Sex Pistols or The Ramones or Talking Heads or Elvis Costello. Not so much the American ones, but the British ones were kids with clear political intent to change. Johnny Rotten saying, "There is no future in England's dreaming," it's a fantastically astute line. The Clash made no bones about where they were at and the Rats came with, "You owe me a f**king living, I'm not going to be like you. We made this thing." From there to using the promise of rock 'n' roll, whether it's embodied in Elvis and Little Richard and them telling you, "Poor black boy, we're coming. You can fuck off. We want in on this thing and we're coming," down to the sixties bands and down to the seventies, that was it. The middle of the "me" generation and the middle of Gordon Gekko and the Yuppies and all of that this spaceship called Live Aid lands in the middle of it saying, "Well, no, it's not just about me. It can be about me, but 'me' only exists through the forbearance of others." That was a sort of shock to the system, which had wonderful reverberations. That's the musical content, but the person--I was always interested in that kind of s**t because I'm a sixties kid.

    So Bob Dylan and Mick and Keith and John were always telling me it's about this other stuff. "Read this, look at this," it's not about Mick and Keith, it's about Howlin' Wof and Muddy Waters, "Okay, I'll listen to that, but what the f**k is that? Muddy Waters? Howlin' Wolf? Are they people or are they some elemental force?" In fact they're both and they make music. Those were the things that alerted you. So I kept making music but also on the other hand taking the lobby that Live Aid generated to 2005 and Live 8, and bringing other people along the way with me. So it's a long journey. If you want actual change you can't just write a tune or play it; you must engage with the agents of change, and the agents of change in our world are politicians, and that's slower. So you have to build up the lobby and keep it going until you eventually get political closure, which we did out of the G8 in Gleneagles Hotel in 2005, and the result was that today with the cancellation of deaths, with the doubling of aid, with massive Chinese inward investment to Africa and the device that glued all of that together, the mobile phone in the largest market in the world, Africa, suddenly you had take off and today seven of the top ten fastest-growing economies in the world are African. Sometimes s**t works.

    MR: Does that make you want to work even harder to get more projects going?

    BG: Well you sort of have to corral the outreach to the focus-pointed end or else it becomes dissipated. I don't think that rock 'n' roll has got the central function in our culture that it had in the past. In fact, we know it doesn't. Now the biggest bands in the world have to give away their records. We have become the McCluhan-esque society; the medium is the message now. The content of the medium is irrelevant. You give it away for free even though that's the human genius. The human ingenuity is the device. It's a very clever device, a little piece of brilliance, but that's how you identify yourself these days. In my day, it was going swanning around with my new Blonde On Blonde album. Now it's flashing your iPhone 5. The actual medium, literally, is the message these days. That's sad, and it means that you're less able to communicate as you were, and as a result you do get this dissipation you talked about, it's acute of you to recognize that. My view is that the distribution of the media has meant the dissipation of the message.

    MR: Bob, what advice do you have for new artists?

    BG: Well, famously, when John Lennon showed up in New York one of the journalists said, "What's the Beatles' message?" and John said, "The Beatles don't have a message, but if they did, it would be 'learn to swim.'" Which is absolutely meaningless, but frankly in the days of climate change it takes up a whole new resonance. I think they've got lesser ambition--that's my view. My daughters' boyfriends are in bands, and they're fantastic bands. Let me be clear: I don't think the music is any less adventurous, any less galvanizing, any less exciting. Peaches' husband is a great singer writing properly great songs. Pixie's boyfriend is a drummer in an amazing band called These New Puritans, beautiful, beautiful music. I go to their gigs and I'm able to talk to these guys who hang with my daughters but get into deep conversations and they're just as impassioned as before and they want to strike out and do new things. This little minor art form, rock 'n' roll, allows you to be endlessly elastic. But where does it go? Who's listening? Who's paying attention? It doesn't have to be about anything. Just by definition rock 'n' roll suggests change. It always does. That's why it's powerful. Of course when it goes to number one it's a bit more powerful, but nowadays a number one record is meaningless. How many tracks do you have to sell to get there? I just think it has a different function now. In a way you can argue that that culture succeeded because of its ubiquity, but conversely because of its ubiquity it's failed. That's sad, but there will be something else. There will be a Sistine Chapel of the web, we just have no idea what it will be.

    MR: Wow. Nicely said. What are you going to be working on now?

    BG: Well I do lots of stuff, obviously the solo band, and I've got a couple of gigs, The Bobkatz, we're doing some gigs, I've got the tour with the Rats coming up, there's all the political stuff I do, I work with Kofi Annan and Bob Rubin and Muhammad Yunus and guys like that on the Africa Progress Panel. I obviously work with Bono and the One Campaign, I have a private equity group for investment in Africa which is very exciting because the next thing is to create jobs. Talking to all the funds I've invested in Africa I've actually decided to do it myself as a way to show that this continent is open for business. I go down there quite a lot and it's fantastically exciting. Then I do quite a lot of business in the UK, media stuff and education technology stuff I have here. I don't know what the f**k I'll do next.

    MR: [laughs] What a great way to end that. It seems like every year, you receive and award. What was 2014's?

    BG: There's a really cool one coming up, it's October tenth. Our equivalent of the Grammys is the Ivor Novello awards. I think the Grammys are voted on like the Oscar academy, the Ivor Novellos are voted on by other songwriters. If you get an Ivor Novello really, you talk to any British artist that's the one that they like. That's the one that they put on their mantelpiece. It looks like a Henry Moore statuette, it's really heavy and it signifies something. But the academy that votes on that is called BASCA, which is the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. When a body of work has been accrued, if it's stood the test of time you get their golden badge. They're giving me their golden badge this year. This is the fiftieth golden badge given out, which is very cool because not many people have it obviously. I think Sting has it, which pissed me off--he's got f**king everything. He's got nine hundred Ivor Novellos and three thousand Grammys, it really annoys me, you know? So I'm getting that, I'm really glad about that. I really don't think about Live Aid, that pride thing doesn't interest me, but what I am is a musician, so stuff like that does my head in. I'm thrilled to get that. Really thrilled.

    MR: Do you take a moment to take a breath and see, "Wow, would you look at all that..."

    BG: That's really a very good question. I do. And I ask my contemporaries, "What the f**k happened to me?" Because in my head always, last week I was on the dough queue in Dún Laoghaire, pissing rain trying to get my benefits--whatever you call them in America, my money--and trying to get any job they'd give me. That was last week. That's it, I can't escape it. I walked out with Sting one summer's morning in his unbelievably beautiful place in Wiltshire. We walked out to the lake and I looked back at his house and I said, "Man, what happened to us?" and he said, "I don't f**king know." He's two days older than me, so he always behaves like my big f**king brother. It really annoys me. He said, "I don't know. Every day I'm delivering that milk with my trolley." It's weird, but you never escape it. Unfortunately. I wish it could all sit easy with me, but it doesn't. But that's the thing that propels you on stage every night. That's the thing that drives you to that righteous anger that you hear in the music of The Boomtown Rats.

    Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

    *****

    CHETTI'S "#MADEINBKLYN"

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    According to the Chetti camp...

    "Brooklyn-bred singer and songwriter Chetti has just released her EP In the City on iTunes and Spotify, and is already poised to do much much more. The 23-year-old started out immersed in musical theatre - she attended Wagner College's Theatre Performance program where she worked directly with Tony Award Winning actress Michele Pawk and many other esteemed theatre professionals, but not long after graduation, she shifted her focus toward writing music, which, turns out, she's really good at. Chetti was a featured artist on Chipotle's Farmed and Dangerous mini series, and also wrote the song 'Burn' for the soundtrack.

    "Her catchy brand of pop/R&B will stick in your head for days, but the songs have a deeper meaning underneath the fun head-bopping and dance-inducing rhythms - Chetti's core purpose is to lift people up with her music, but she's also intent on sending a message of positivity to her fans, especially to other young women."

    Check out her latest track #MADEINBKLYN below, about her hometown.



    She's also made a video for the EP's title track "In the City," which was shot in her neighborhood, with her friends and family. Check out a mini tour of Chetti's Brooklyn here:



    *****

    THE UGLY CLUB'S "PASSENGERS"

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    photo credit: David Worthington

    According to co-conspirator Ryan Egan...

    "This video was a long-awaited project between the band and our good friend Chris O'Konski (Billboard Music, Balcony TV Brooklyn). Chris is a freelance videographer and director and we brainstormed this video for months. Eventually, we collaborated on writing, directing and producing it while Chris shot and edited every second of footage. We attempted to make an eerie, dream-like story with me finding all my band members zombie'd out in this unknown place, to compliment this dark, dancey pop song. We did a lot of ambient, cool shots and even pulled some influence from Gus Van Sant and other favorites. The whole experience was super DIY and just unbelievably rewarding."


    Directed, Produced, & Written by Chris O'Konski & Ryan Egan
    Edit - Chris O'Konski
    D.o.P - Chris O'Konski

    *****

    SHARON BOUSQUET'S "LOVE HAS DRAWN A DOOR"

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    photo credit: Paul Delisle

    Sharon Bousquet is a powerful singer-songwriters who's built a fan base from Colorado and Texas to the Midwest. Check out her original song "Love Has Drawn A Door" that she performs with the group All Souls On Deck.



    *****

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    A Conversation with Finch's Nate Barcalow

    Mike Ragogna: Back To Oblivion is the title to your new album. It's been nine years since your last intended studio album, so that title seems a bit ominous considering the band's breakups and reformations, no?

    Nate Barcalow: It's a little deeper than that. As we were writing the record, the word oblivion would become synonymous with hope. The hope that things can get better no matter what the situation may be. "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." - William Blake

    MR: What have you and the gang been doing since the last project?

    NB: We all kind of started doing our own thing. I started a band called Reverend Crow that I play guitar and sing in, which is still active and I am very excited about. We have an e.p. available on iTunes.

    MR: What was the reunion like and how did the band create and record the new material?

    NB: The reunion was a lot of fun. After stepping out of the scene for a while we had the unique opportunity to go back out as a band and play What It Is To Burn in its entirety for our fans. I think everyone involved in the experience, both band and fans, realized they were a part of something special. After the tour ended we were in a very positive place mentally, and I think we took that energy and headed straight into writing new material that, at the time, we did not realize would become the third Finch record in nine years.

    MR: Were there any surprises that happened during the process?

    NB: I was surprised how challenging the process actually was. There is a lot of work that goes into making a record and since we hadn't done it in so many years, I guess I forgot that it takes time and a substantial amount of focus.

    MR: Are there any tracks that you're particularly fond of now that the album is completed?

    NB: One of my favorite tracks on the new record is Play Dead. It is a dark track through the mud narrated by a man who has had "enough" and has found a way to transform himself into something greater while trying to lead others out of the swamp, figuratively speaking.

    MR: What do you think Finch's major musical contributions to music, and I guess that would include the hardcore scene, right?

    NB: I never considered ourselves a hardcore band. We are just a band. Whatever we may contribute to any scene is never intentional, we just play what we play and if that inspires other people, then that is a positive impact.

    MR: In your opinion, who are your contemporaries and do you guys listen to any of them for enjoyment?

    NB: There were slew of bands coming up alongside of us when we started on Drive Thru records. It was an exciting time for us because we were just starting out and we were so young. I guess the only band that I still listen to from that era would be the RX Bandits. They are an extremely talented and inspiring band and very wonderful people.

    MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

    NB: Never give up and never give in.

    MR: What's the best advice ever given to you?

    NB: I saw a line written on a wall once that said: "Stay True To Your Music." It has always stuck with me and I think it works on many different levels.

    MR: What are Finch's future plans?

    NB: "The future's not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."

    *****

    THE GLASS CHILD'S "WHO AM I"

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    photo credit: Maxime Imbert

    According to Charlotte Eriksson (The Glass Child)...

    "I wrote this song by the river in London one night two summers ago. It was a typical July night and I'd spent the last couple of months wandering in England. No belongings but a worn out bag and my guitar, crashing at friends' and fans' couches, trying to find my way. The song became my own mantra for staying on my path. To not give up and to keep on going, even though it's hard and dark. If you find something you feel like you're supposed to to do, your only mission is to walk your walk."



    *****

    MAIA & THE PILOTS BRING "HOME"

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    photo credit: Janis Wilkins

    According to Maia Pillot...

    "I'm originally from New York but was living among the cornfields of Iowa for a few years. While I was there, I kept thinking, 'Why would anyone move to New York? It's so calm, beautiful, and idyllic here in the heartland.' After a few years, some opportunities presented themselves and I ended up moving back to New York, begrudgingly. So I started writing a sarcastic song about the city I grew up in. But once I got back I realized how much I really do love this place; that it's home, and there's absolutely no place like it. I can take a 15-minute walk and smell the cuisines of ten different nationalities, hear seventeen languages being spoken. There's even a mosque right nearby a kosher deli, both of which have been there for years without a problem. My feelings about New York came full circle. And the song evolved along with that rediscovery. 'Home' doesn't have to be the place where you grew up, but rather the place you gravitate towards. For me, though, they're one and the same."



    *****

    "AUSSIE" BY EXQUISITE RAP DUO FEATURING CROCODILE TONY (IGGY AZALEA'S "FANCY" PARODY)

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    photo credit: Sam Lingle

    According to the Exquisite Rap Duo gang...

    "When American rappers Exquisite Rap Duo first heard 'Fancy' on the radio, they were wondering who this new black female rapper from the Brooklyn was - they liked her flow. When they found out it was a white Australian girl they lost it. So they decided to fight back against the absurd commodification of hip-hop - where now corporations are so bold they'll take a pretty girl from Australia and have her use a fake Brooklyn accent to rap like about American street life. Enter Crocodile Tony. 'Aussie' is the ultimate parody, an American rapper using a fake Australian accent to rap about all things Australian. It is both brilliant and hilarious. Long live Crocodile Tony. Sorry Iggy Azalea, you got owned."



  • What Apple's U2 Stunt Really Says About the Future of Music
    U2's new album hit me like a ton of bricks.

    For eight days in a row, Songs of Innocence has nipped at my heels, beckoning less like a hungry puppy than a salty sea, washing my feet in its tides. The music bears (and bares) pain and joy in the way that only a U2 album can. It's frenetic, intuitive, calming, revealing. I haven't felt this way about an album in at least fifteen years. I didn't know how badly I needed it until I got it for free.

    When Apple automated the push of U2's album Songs of Innocence into the iTunes libraries of more than a half billion people last week, it became the biggest release of all time. Apple paid U2, and we paid nothing. It was an act of brilliant calculation in which the world's biggest brand turned the world's biggest band into a post-consumer element, more of an ether than a product.

    The Internet is aflutter with articles bashing the Apple stunt, chattering about U2's secret collaborations on new digital formats and the fact that only 35 million people have played Songs of Innocence on iTunes. Why are we all so hot and bothered by this album? Because we're on the precipice. There's a chance the music industry could fail further, leaving us with a dearth of uncompensated artists and scant recorded works. Music sales have declined consistently for a decade.

    But, get this: the devaluation of music has also devalued the listener. Maybe the problem with music isn't technology. Maybe it's us. Could it be that the music industry is sinking and fewer people are buying music - not only because people don't want to pay for it, but because listening to music is now officially a lost art?

    It's important to note that during the Apple event where the U2 "gift" was announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't use the word "listener." Instead, he branded us as the Users that we've become. We've been conditioned to use music in the same way that we use apps. We users want music to interface, not interfere, with the other elements of our "user experience" lifestyle. We customize our days down to the millisecond and megabyte - from the app that knows our coffee order to the algorithms that shuffle the random, faceless songs our music streaming services aggregate for us. User experience is itself an oxymoron: using and experiencing aren't the same thing. Not until the digital age did the word "user " suddenly apply to every action associated with personal devices, including one of our previously most sacred visceral and physical experiences - listening to music.

    We no longer feel the need to own music, collect it, cherish it, blast it in our bedrooms, drive it down country roads, hold it in our hands, flip the tape, change the CD, lift the arm of the needle and repeat. In turn, we've invested less money, time and mental energy as listeners. We allow Pandora to curate our aural experiences for our living spaces without fuss, but how dare Apple gift us a release that takes up space in our gadgets? Once upon a time, spending four hours making a mixtape was the ultimate act of cultural democracy - and sharing a tape with friends was the most personal gift you could give. We've forgotten how to discern, taste, choose.

    I'm in love with technology as much as the next guy, but I refuse to identify as a User.

    The cynic's math goes something like this: U2 needed a hit, and to get a hit, U2 needed to be used by 500 million users, and therefore U2 used Apple in order to use you and me.

    But what if the altruistic side of U2 is the real story here?

    If you listen to Songs of Innocence, you might begin to view this album release not as an invasion, but as an unbelievable act of sharing - the grandest attempt from the last greatest band on earth to bring us together as listeners, to be one with the music. Maybe that idea is too bold or too idealistic for some people to grasp, but you can't blame a band for trying.

    No matter what your taste in music is, I challenge you to push play, hear Songs of Innocence and experience the art of listening. It will take less than one hour of your time, but it takes presence. You might not like the songs. You might get bored. You might smile. You might roll your eyes. You might cry. You might go searching for that "delete album" link Apple sent you. You might dance. You might get swept up in the stories about the perilous lives of young dreamers. You might get hooked on an old band in a new way.

    Whatever happens when you play Songs of Innocence will happen because you, dear User, listened.

  • The Expansion of Conscious Media Film Festivals
    In 2014 two new conscious media film festivals launched: the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, AZ and the Awakened World Film Festival in Santa Barbara, CA. There are dozens more, including one happening right now: the Awareness Film Festival in Santa Monica, CA which is celebrating its fifth year.

    As a mindful media expert who has followed this space for many years, I can affirm that this market is expanding. In fact, Gaiam put out a whitepaper called "The Explosion of Conscious Media" and acknowledged that the current audience size in the US is over 100 million and will continue to grow for another five years.

    It is exciting to see more films produced that illuminate, awaken, and raise awareness. We are often surrounded by the doom and gloom of thrillers, horror movies and adrenaline-packed action flicks, but the films that tug at our heartstrings and help us connect back to our inner selves are also important. It is time for society to see a more positive, healthy mirror.

    Films and stories have the potential to heal and improve our lives. This is one of the reasons why I founded my start-up, Synergy TV, which entertains, enlightens and inspires a global audience with curated mindful movies and transformational television. I believe people need to see solutions presented in the media. Our content continues to uplift, evoke awe and restore hope in humanity.

    Consciousness-raising film festivals can do the same. They create a temporary home for these films to be discovered, showcased, and celebrated. The audience can watch movies with like-minded individuals and connect with the filmmakers after the screening. New friendships, business relationships and collaborations often occur at festivals like these because everyone is passionate about the vehicle of entertainment as a force for good. If you are someone who loves to see positive role models, learn something new, and feel your heart open, then these are the types of festivals you want to attend.

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    This weekend, the Awareness Film Festival is happening in Santa Monica. Some key films that will be screened are Finding Happiness, When My Sorrow Died, No Evidence of Disease, and The Starfish Throwers. On Saturday, September 20th I will also be moderating a first-of-its kind panel called "The Consciousness Movement - Wellness in the Media" with writer, athlete and wellness advocate Rich Roll, chef and co-partner in SunCafe Organic Ron Russell, and founder of The Aware Guide Gary Tomchuck. Then, as a gift to filmmakers, I am hosting a roundtable on "Distribution & Marketing." The Festival ends with a special Gala on Sunday, September 21st honoring The David Lynch Foundation and the Better U Foundation. Proceeds from this festival benefit the non-profit Heal One World which offers yoga and alternative treatments to under-served groups.

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    Photo credit: Awakened World Film Festival


    Then, from October 27 - 30, the Awakened World Film Festival launches with inspiring films such as Project Happiness, Walking the Camino, The Invocation, and Money and Life. This festival is woven into a working conference and urban retreat that also features galas, concerts, dialogues and workshops. Produced by the Association for Global New Thought with support from Science of Mind Foundation, the festival will bring together an audience whose values are aligned with spiritual and social responsibility and enlightened action. One special event will be the 10th birthday/anniversary party for the famous documentary What the Bleep?! In honor of this celebration I asked the film's producer, Betsy Chasse, what she thinks about the expansion of this market.

    "I'm grateful to see that conscious people are creating a home for conscious films. For so long we've sort of been left out of the mainstream festivals. Although Awake and Song of The New Earth did premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, it's few and far between. It's time that there are festivals that show the quality films that are available in this genre." - Betsy Chasse


    We both agreed that it's important for visionaries in this space to be honored and rewarded for their heart-centered work to help humanity. The community, which includes you, holds the power to choose which stories we want to see more of and you make a positive difference when you purchase tickets, sponsor, promote, and support conscious media film festivals. The time has come for us to move from a stressed society to one of synergy and mindfulness. The stories we tell in film and media, as well as inside our own heads, can take us there!

    Follow Illuminate Film Festival @64DaysSNV

    Follow Awareness Film Festival @Awarenessfest

    Follow Awakened World Film Festival @Illuminate_FF

    Follow Synergy TV @SynergyTVNet

    Follow Kate Neligan @MindfulMediaEnt

  • 'Big Eyes' Trailer Has Sights On Amy Adams' Next Oscar Nod
    Amy Adams has five Oscar nominations to her name since 2006, but its "Big Eyes" that could finally put her in the winner's circle. The Tim Burton film, which The Weinstein Company will release on Christmas Day, tells the story of Margaret Keane (Adams), the famed painter whose husband claimed credit for her work to great acclaim and fortune. Christoph Waltz plays Keane's husband, Walter, in full mustache-twirl mode. Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston and Terence Stamp round out the eclectic cast. The story, though, is Adams, who many expect to see score a sixth Academy Award nomination for her troubles (and her third nod in as many years). Props, too, to The Weinstein Company for using Danny Elfman's score from "Silver Linings Playbook" at the beginning of the "Big Eyes" trailer, a perhaps not-so-subtle reference to the studio's last big, quirky Oscar darling. (Elfman also wrote the score for "Big Eyes.")

    "Big Eyes" is out on Dec. 25. Watch the film's first trailer below. We're suitably excited.



  • Streisand and Partners: Brillance and Meh
    2014 09 18 Streisand BK R22 Coverlo Thumb

    Full Disclosure: I am a card-carrying 100% I-got-a-perm-like-her-at-16 Barbra Streisand fan; posters on the walls, every movie consumed hundreds of times, every album, CD or digital file played until worn. I remember her birthday (April 24, 1942, yes, 72) sometimes while forgetting close friend's. As a 14 year-old-about-to-be-gay-boy when I first saw her in A Star Is Born I knew. I was a fan.

    She was 34 when I first really started loving her. Now I'm 51 and she's 72. I listen to as much Avicii or Calvin Harris, Emeli Sandé and Sam Smith as I do my divas these days, years of getting records first keeps my music tastes fresh.

    And I root for the Divas in today's music world, the older ones. I rejoice as the 69 year old Cher releases a contemporary album and launches a multi-national stadium tour, tweeting all the way.

    And every time Streisand releases an album, I wait. What will it be? What's she in to now?

    This time around she's in to herself, so to speak. The album, Partners is a reinterpretation of many songs she has recorded in the past. Even some of her standards. And the problem with covering a Barbra Streisand classic--even for Barbra Streisand--is that, well, it's a BARBRA STREISAND CLASSIC. It basically can't be done better. Period.

    Think about it. Of all the legendary artists, of all their music catalogues, Streisand's gets covered least. Because, well, who can sing People without being compared?

    So, what's the still Diva of Pop doing, as even Jimmy Fallon devotes an entire hour to her?

    Partners

    Track 1: It Had To Be You
    With Michael Buble
    A great opening these two work really well together. Their voices blend beautifully, his style is a great compliment to hers. He is a throwback to, well, HER time, when she was coming up. It's a great retelling of this particular track with the final note reminding us right away that this is still the pitch-perfect Streisand: the voice is older, smokier, but the power, the tone is there. Still effortlessly, incredibly there. 4 out of 5

    Track 2: People
    With Stevie Wonder
    OK, now wait a minute. This is a hit that helped put Barbra in the record books. This track from her Oscar-winning role as Fannie Brice in Funny Girl is one of those that just doesn't need anything done to it. The track is much more a Stevie Wonder track than a Streisand; a hybrid that just doesn't work as it should. Here we have two legends, and two of the most fiercely talented musicians and singers and we get a song that sounds just a bit lounge cover. To Streisand I'm sure it's a fun and new way to sing an old song; one she's sung a million times the other way. Why not try it. And it's not "bad." These two couldn't be bad. It's just not what I expected from a legendary pairing. 2.5 out of 5

    Track 3
    Come Rain or Come Shine
    With John Mayer
    From the opening guitar riff Mayer's presence is felt. This track, from her Wet album is given a soulful, powerful delivery that Mayer fits perfectly. These two again sound great together. Maybe it's Mayer bending Streisand to his smooth level of funk/jazz/pop fusion or Streisand schooling Mayer on how vamp out a song, but it works. And works well. If even a few of Mayer's fans buy it, they won't be disappointed. And Streisand's fans will love it. Hearing Mayer soar with his guitar over a full orchestra, a merging of these two styles, and then the obligator belting the song was leading to all along doesn't disappoint. 5 out 5

    Track 4
    Evergreen
    With Babyface
    This song keeps very much of it's original arrangement and is treated more of just a duet. Babyface's smooth-as-silk voice (absent too long from Pop) works well with Streisand's. He adds soul to the arrangement and Streisand shines like the proud mamma she is of this, one of her first endeavors at songwriting for the film A Star Is Born and while the film was panned, she won an Oscar for the song. This version is as good as any. 4.5 out of 5

    Track 5
    New York State of Mind
    With Billy Joel
    The story has it, that when Streisand chose this song for her Superman album (the cover of which will go down as her sexiest) it launched Billy Joel's career in to high gear. Here we have the two of them, two NYC natives, singing their guts out about their home. Now, I am partial to the original, because, well, because. But, if there were no original, this would be a great duet. They fit together perfectly. Joel sounds great. And it's nice to give NYC a shout out every now and again musically. 3.5 out of 5


    Track 6
    I'd Want it To Be You
    With Blake Shelton
    This song so desperately wants to be I Finally Found Someone, her previous duet with Bryan Adams for The Mirror Has Two Faces. I like Blake. I love her. I love songs about friendship. And I wanted to love this. But, I know it's petty, their diction does not work together. Her's is very staccato, his not so much. She seems to have to hold back, it just doesn't work. 2.5 out of 5

    Track 7
    The Way We Were
    With Lionel Richie
    Again, a timeless classic. Her humming at the begin is so iconic I think even preschoolers would still know it. This version doesn't bring anything new to the song other than making it a duet. Now, that's not a bad thing, since this Marvin Hamlish, Marilyn and Alan Bergman track still evokes emotion of time passed, loves lost, lives we missed along the way. And hearing an older Streisand sing this, since the movie was made when she was much younger, has its merits. She's lived every line now, ever single line. And when she opens up at the end as only she can on HER song, it becomes painfully obvious that no one should sing this song with her except her. Richie's additions aren't bad, they're not horrid, they're just not needed. It still gets a 3.5 out of 5 for being this song and being her.

    Track 8
    I Can See Your Face
    With Andrea Bocelli
    OK, here we go. Play this one loudly. These two, together, on a well crafted song, written perfectly for each of their voices, well, if you like this type of music, lush orchestrations, singers pulling out all the stops and then exercising the utmost of control then this is the track. For once Streisand does not overpower her partner. Not only can Bocelli hold his own but match her belt for belt, and does. And wow. 4.5 out of 5

    Track 9
    How Deep Is The Ocean
    With Jason Gould
    The star of this track is Streisand and Elliot Gould's son, Jason. In a behind the scenes video he said he was almost afraid to sing because of course, people would compare him to his mother. How could they not? But he wanted, and wants to express himself as a vocalist. He should have started sooner. Something to be said for genetics. His performance is every bit as nuanced, as, well, performed as his mother's. And the song is perfect, because these two love each other. It's obvious. And as a mother, Streisand allows her son to shine, and shine he does. This duet means so much to her, and to those that love her, but more importantly it's a good piece of work. This is a great duet. 5 out of 5

    Track 10
    What Kind of Fool
    With John Legend
    Ah, the Guiltyalbum with Barry Gibb and the BeeGees. All that white. Barry's chest hair. This is an entirely new version. Not reworked, new. Even the parts are switched. It's sweet. Melodic. It's John Legend. Piano driven, almost quiet at times. It's more delicate than the first. This could play on radio, if only Pop radio would give Streisand plays again. Alas, it will be on AC and such. Again, Streisand doesn't cheat on her own notes of past, in fact, she improves on some. 4 out of 5

    Track 11
    Somewhere
    with Josh Groban
    The Broadway Album brought Streisand back in a big way, including back to the Grammy stage to win. This song has been used to close her show, and is timeless. The track originally from West Side Story is given the respect it deserves. It's the kind of song that if you're a great performer and you do it right, it soars. Well, it soars. Again. Power, performance and passion all poured in to song familiar and hopeful. It speaks of two people from two different worlds finally being able to be together, not torn apart by society. How we still need this message in 2014. 3.5 out of 5

    Track 12
    Love Me Tender
    With Elvis Presley
    Now Streisand knows how ti feels to be a guest on her own album. Because here, The King, is or was at HIS best. Soulful, sensual, the best of Elvis. This song was one of his best, and now this duet will live on as a merging of two legends that could have been. Streisand told Fallon this song was brought to her by the A&R people and the estate said yes. It belongs on the album. These two should have worked together in life. Now, at least, we know what it would have sounded like. Like Gold. Like Butta. 4 out of 5, because hey, it's Elvis.

    Albums are tricky things in today's world. Now, every track must be a hit, a single, a smash. These 12 songs are a lovely compilation of classics and standards, many covered by the woman who made them such, with new approaches and voices. The fact that Streisand even cares to record at 72 is amazing, and her voice remains equally as such.

    Fans will love it. It will recruit some new ones and Streisand is making a few media stops. She looks good (yes, she's had something done, but no word on what) and sounds incredible and continues to work with the best Pop music has to offer. Partners may not outsell Katy Perry or Beyoncé (who was working on a duet with Streisand for the album) but it's a welcome gift to people who like something other than and for people who still enjoy 12 solid works on an album.

    To hear Karel get the Karel Cast App, subscribe in iTunes to the Podcast or simply go to the most incredible website on all the planet, save this one, iamkarel.com

  • "Glass Onion" Celebrates the Great John Lennon
    "LOSS IS nothing but change, and change is nature's delight," said the Roman Emperor and renowned Stoic, Marcus Aurelius.

    •ON October 15th, at NYC's Union Square Theater Lennon: Through A Glass Onion opens. This is an internationally acclaimed event that celebrates the life and work of John Lennon.

    Glass Onion has been created and is performed by actor/musical John R. Waters and singer/pianist Stewart D'Arrietta. The show features 31 Lennon compositions, as well as monologues melding Lennon's life and genius. For info call 212-764-7900.

    •I NOW know that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which I wrote about the other day, is actually a three part movie. Okay -- I'll do my best to catch them all. I want to be fair to this ambitious venture. But as one of my readers commented, "They are amazing, but honestly who has the time or patience?!"

    •IN my favorite café, as usual, the Veau d'Or, chatting up a longtime friend Patrica Bosworth. Years ago, before anybody else thought to do it; Patty wrote terrific biographies about two of Hollywood's most unusual bad boys -- I do mean Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. Her book about the eccentric photographer
    Diane Arbus is another keeper.

    I asked her the question writers always hate, "What are you working on next?" She said, "Oh, my early career as an actor. You know, I'll be dealing with our mutual friend the late Elaine Stritch." (I didn't know. This was more Stritch lore! Knowing Elaine for only 60 odd years, I was still in the dark about some of her past.)

    At the time of greeting Patty, there appeared fresh off 60th Street, Gay and Nan Talese, the king and queen of the writing/editing world. With them was a handsome couple. I thought I recognized the woman -- her name was Virginia. But if she was Virginia, wasn't the guy Peter? Peter Duchin? Bandleader extraordinaire and a true friend of mine over many years? A fixture of New York's music and social life over 40 seasons? I didn't recognize him this night. (Virginia is his wife.)

    Yes, it was! It was definitely Peter Duchin, who I have served with for years at the Living Landmarks Galas. I have even dared to sing with his charming orchestra.

    Peter Duchin had a stroke some months ago and for his comeback, he has managed to retrieve his young self. He looks again like a classic movie star! (This is a guy who, as an actor, once appeared nude in a movie titled The World of Henry Orient, with Angela Lansbury in the lead.)

    I am always so thrilled when somebody can make themselves over. Especially when they do it defying the odds -- and return looking refreshed!

    I hope I'll be with Peter at the Landmarks Gala this year happening at the Plaza Ballroom, which the Landmarks Conservancy saved from destruction. The gala happens November 6th and is one of the rare "fun" fund-raisers of the year. This time out we're making Gael Greene, Leonard Lauder, Mitch Rosenthal, Daryl Roth, Jordan Roth and Mort Zuckerman into "Living Landmarks."

    They'll be joining the ranks of such as David and Laurence Rockefeller, Mike Wallace, Peter Jennings, Brooke Astor, Ahmet Ertegan and a multitude of others.

    •I SAW a movie this week that absolutely floored me. It was so surprising and great and if there is any justice left in the movie world, which has never practiced much "justice," then Pride will be talked about during the Oscar races. And perhaps it will receive its due!

    I would have stayed away from Pride with a yawn if you'd told me I was going to see a film about how a bunch of British gays and lesbians raised money for striking coal miners during the Margaret Thatcher years. But Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin, Stephen Sondheim and the Shubert's Phil Smith wouldn't let me stay away. (Their names were on the invite as endorsing hosts.) And the dynamic press agent, Rick Miramontez, also insisted I should see Pride. So I went.

    Director Matthew Warchus and screenwriter Stephen Beresford and a cast of terrific actors make you laugh and cry and gasp at their talents and realism. So take all your petty prejudices and go.(I did and I had a lot to learn.)

    Don't you dare miss Pride. And I won't bore you with all the details. Just see it and tell me if you disagree. This film has joy, heartbreak, giddy silliness and the vanquishing of hard core mean-ness!

    In a world gone mad with the loss of humor and the politically correct "taking over" the world and its troubles, you will love Pride.

    •PEOPLE are chiding me for naiveté in thinking that it was Jimmy Fallon's idea to put Barbra Streisand in his seat behind the desk when she visited The Tonight Show.

    One, who seems to be "in the know" wrote: "It was Streisand's idea, not Fallon's. Barbra feels her left side is more feminine and attractive!" Other notes have come my way with examples of Streisand demanding sets be rearranged to suit her face. Well, I don't know. Nor does anybody else, unless they were in the room with Barbra and Jimmy, discussing camera angles.

    I still think Streisand at the desk looked appropriate. Especially with it being her first Tonight Show appearance in 50 years. If Barbra had wanted to descend from the ceiling in clouds of smoke with a heavenly choir, that would have been fine too.

  • Backstage at AmericanaFest: With Justin Wade Tam and Leslie Rodriguez of Humming House
    If you've ever wondered what goes on backstage with musicians before or after a show, this series of Q&As from showcases at AmericanaFest in Nashville this week will attempt to unlock that mystery.

    First up is Humming House, a Nashville-based folk-rock-roots band fronted by Justin Wade Tam that first came to my attention in January 2012 with their self-titled debut.

    Since then, there have been a couple of lineup changes, most notably the key addition of singer, snare drummer and social media butterfly Leslie Rodriguez, who originally hails from Louisville, Ky. Her booming voice and ebullient personality bring an explosive dynamic to the group, and is displayed on their most recent release, Humming House Party!

    15281244342 C4245fbbf2 MThe Party! mix collection of live tunes includes covers such as Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann," along with Tam originals like "Tower Park" and "Gypsy Django."

    Humming House, rounded out by original members Josh Wolak (mandolin) and Ben Jones (upright bass), along with recent addition Bobby Chase on fiddle (and occasional beatbox), are a vibrant group of performers, especially in a live setting.

    After the terrific Americana Music Awards show Wednesday night, which rocked with the appearances of Patty Griffin and Robert Plant, Taj Mahal, Rosanne Cash and three-time winner of the night Jason Isbell, Humming House played an energetic 45-minute set at the Basement that began at midnight. Though small, the crowd, which included Rodriguez's parents (mom was celebrating her 60th birthday) was spirited.

    15272732061 9ef7713b17

    Members of Humming House, from left: Bobby Chase, Leslie Rodriguez, Justin Wade Tam, Joshua Wolak. Not pictured: Ben Jones.


    Beginning Sept. 20 in Tarrytown, N.Y., they're back on the road in their Ford Econoline van they've nicknamed Gina for a tour through the Northeast. They've recorded and mastered their next album, Revelries, which will be released early next year.

    Put them on your list of Must-See Acts of 2015 (if not sooner).

    Tam and Rodriguez spent a few minutes chatting backstage (technically, outside on the sidewalk to the alley-way entrance to the Basement) before their midnight show, being good sports while providing a behind-the-scenes look at their profession, including pre- and post-show habits. Some snippets from the Q&A:

    Have you played previously at AmericanaFest?

    Justin: We did two years ago. In 2012, when our first record came out, we played.
    Leslie: That was before I was in the band. I joined them in February 2013. But I just missed AmericanaFest in 2012.

    So what was that experience like, playing AmericanaFest for the first time. Plus, you're Nashville-based, right?

    Justin: Yeah. It was great. Plus the festival has been incredible. I've been, I think, three or four years now either as an attendee or an artist. It's a good chance to see friends. That night we played with Steep Canyon Rangers and the McCrary Sisters as well, at the Station Inn.

    15275837965 6d6b18f3ff NDo you still get nervous before a show?
    Leslie: I haven't gotten nervous for a show in a really long time. But I get really excited. So my adrenaline starts going for bigger shows. We opened, for example, for Emmylou Harris (at Music City Roots at the Factory in Franklin) earlier this summer. ... And that day I woke up with so much excitement. I didn't need coffee all day. I couldn't come down. So I get an excited jittery. I can't wait to do it.

    Have you had some changes in the group?
    Justin: We've had two changes in the group. Bobby Chase has been in the band for, I guess, about two and a half years now. Mike (Butera) left within the first six months. And when Kristen Rogers left, it was February (2013) and then Leslie came in. She was in the middle of a Ph.D. program at Vanderbilt University. So she left the Ph.D. program to join a band. Every parent's dream. (both laugh)

    Leslie, what led you to getting involved?
    Leslie: I was already a fan of Humming House, and I know Justin and Josh, our mandolin player, from college. And Josh and I were in a different band together in college, a bluegrass band. So he knew that I could sing, and we kind of reformed that same band, like a side project. So we had already been working on that. And he actually heard me make a New Year's resolution that I wanted to do more music because I was pretty unhappy with what I was doing. So he heard that New Year's resolution and a month later he called me, and I guess he had it in the back of his mind as they were looking for somebody. And he kind of threw my name into the hat knowing that I was in the Ph.D. program, but just wanting to take that chance. And it worked out. I was ready. I was looking for something different, and I was ready to make that change. And I just jumped at the chance. Like I said, I was already a fan, I already had the album, I had seen them play and I loved it. And we were friends already, so it was an easy transition.

    Justin, you did most of the lead singing on your first album, right?
    Justin: Yeah.

    Looking for somebody to not necessarily take the pressure off ...
    Justin: I tell you what, it helps every night. Leslie takes about a third of the set these days. And it really started out with Kristen taking some covers. That's worked in our favor in a lot of settings. And it kind of gave me a break. And that sort of worked into, when Leslie came in, to her doing some original songs as well. On our new studio record that's coming out next year, she takes lead on three songs as well as this live record that we just put out a couple weeks ago.

    Leslie, you must be the social media person of the group.
    Leslie: I'm a fanatic. And Josh runs our Twitter. Josh is very clever, and can be clever in 140 characters or less. And he does the Twitter account. But I do all of our Facebook and Instagram. We even have a Pinterest. We have a photo blog. We have all that. If it exists, I've got it covered, I think.
    Justin: Leslie's a fantastic photographer. When she joined the band, we all decided we actually had to show up to rehearsal looking somewhat decent. Because it was like having the paparazzi around all the time.
    Leslie: And I never have to because I'm behind the camera. (laughs)

    Getting back to being nervous before a show. If you do get nervous, how do you handle getting rid of butterflies?
    Justin: Whiskey. (laughs)

    Is there a process you go through before a show (to relieve the pressure)?
    Leslie: We do vocal warmups. Breathing. Taking very deep breaths. We all do vocal warmups.
    Justin: Yeah, sort of as a group. I think all those jitters usually go out within the first song or two.
    Leslie: There's so much adrenaline. You can't even pay attention to it.
    Justin: We sort of set out to have a show that brings everybody in to see we're having a good time. Like trying to throw a party, much like our party record (Humming House Party!). I think that's the sort of atmosphere you're trying to create, I think that within a song or two we're usually pretty comfortable in there anyways.

    Any other pre-show rituals?
    Leslie: Not rituals, really. A lot of times, actually, we kind of get rid of a lot of energy by writing backstage. We work on little snippets of songs while we're tuning up and warming up. It's happened enough, that, actually, that's where most of what we're working on right now has come from.

    What else do you do to kill time backstage?
    Justin: I think we probably kill a lot more time in the van.
    Leslie: It's so different, depending on where we are and how much time we do have backstage. A lot of it's just ... for me, a lot of it's just getting ready. ... It takes me awhile.

    Do you have help?
    Leslie: No, it's all me. Having help would be wonderful. (laughs) One of these days. Josh took a nap backstage the other day. Just whatever we need. There's a lot of coffee.
    Justin: It depends on the show. When you're driving from city to city, oftentimes you don't have a lot of time. We'll show up to a show at 5 o'clock, we'll load in, we'll sound check, we'll eat dinner and we'll watch the opening band and have a drink and play. Each individual band member has their own thing. Ben and I will like to try to get away sometimes, and take a walk because we're all slammed together in a van all the time. So it's good to get away and center yourself a little bit.

    OK, do you call it a gig, show or concert?
    Leslie: Show.
    Justin: I'm split between gig and show. (laughs)
    Leslie: I say show. I think that's probably what I've used my whole life, playing around town with my dad growing up. We would have shows, not gigs. Probably because I was so young at the time, it just sounded weird to say that I had a gig. So I just got used to saying show. I feel like gig sounds more like a job.

    Do either of you carry a good-luck charm onstage?
    Justin: No.
    Leslie: No, but I do like to wear heels. I do feel like that makes the show better for me, having heels. (laughs)

    Do you have a pet name for your favorite instrument you play onstage? You know, like B.B. King has Lucille.
    Justin: (Laughs)
    Leslie: We have a pet name for our van.
    Justin: Her name is Gina.
    Leslie: If she's broken down, Gina's not feeling good. Or if she's running smoothly, we thank her. "Thanks, Gina."

    What kind of van do you have?
    Justin: It's a Ford Econoline. A classic band van.
    Leslie: We love her. She's like a pet. ... I'm gonna have to name my snare. I'm gonna buy a snare soon, my own. Because right now I'm using (Justin's). When I get a snare and name it, I'll let you know. I'll tweet it at you.

    Before a show, what's your must-have food or drink? And is it written into you contract?
    Justin: (Laughs) Yeah, in our rider, let's see ... what's on the rider? We definitely have bourbon. Several us really like kombucha. We drink that regularly. (Leslie shakes her head no.) I don't know. We always eat fairly healthy. So we're always asking for veggies and hummus.
    Leslie: My preferred meal, if I can get it, is a salad. It rarely happens. Usually, it's pizza and burgers at the bar.

    This week, who do you wish you could join (or could join you) onstage at AmericanaFest?
    Leslie: Anybody? Like even from tonight (at the awards show)? I would have given anything to join (lifetime achievement songwriter) Loretta Lynn onstage. (Justin laughs) Anything! Oh, (accordionist) Flaco Jimenez (lifetime achievement instrumentalist) was onstage tonight. That was killer.

    Which cover song do you never get tired of covering?
    Justin: We really enjoy our version of (Michael Jackson's) "Billie Jean" a lot. It's kind of our own arrangement kind of a thing.

    And which songs are you sick and tired of covering and will never do again?
    Justin: (Laughs) We sort of have done a lot of old country tunes. And in longer sets, we've done fillers. But I wouldn't say we're tired of them. We just don't know if they fit the show as well as we'd like them to. So we don't choose to do them very often. They're still fun.
    Leslie: This isn't one that I'm sick of because we haven't played it a lot but I will say that I never really enjoyed, it's a Motown song (by Stevie Wonder), "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." I never liked singing that one.

    Is there something that happens during a show that makes you want to alter your set list?
    Justin: All the time.
    Leslie: Yes.
    Justin: Almost every night, actually. It's typically the audience. 'Cause sometimes we'll go into a set thinking, "Man, this is gonna be a raucous crowd.' ... And then all of a sudden, they're like really listening. We're like, "Let's throw a few of these in that people actually will like ... like intimate songs. Or vice versa. We'll have a set where it's a lot of down songs that are really intimate moments and then we'll just cut them all like halfway through. Like, "All right. These people just want us to yell at them all night." It depends on the crowd. There's a time and place to have a crazy party of a set. There's a time and place to bare your soul for somebody.

    Favorite onstage beverage?
    Justin: For me, it's whiskey. Straight. (laughs)
    Leslie: It's just water for me.
    Justin: Typically, we drink a whole lot more water, but I'll usually have a small glass of bourbon onstage, if I have anything. It's a lot better than beer onstage, for sure.

    What's the craziest thing you've been asked to sign at a merch table?
    Leslie: I have a picture of this. At Old Settler's (Music) Festival (in Austin, Texas), this guy asked me to sign his (bare) chest. And Bobby took a picture. That was weird.

    15275456542 70bc1fa92bWhat do you do to unwind after a show?
    Leslie: Sometimes we just want listen to soft classical music. That's what happened the other night after Beloit (in Wisconsin).
    Justin: Yeah, listen to calm music. I don't know. It just depends on the night. I don't know if we really have a ritual to calm down. Sometimes it's really hard to calm down after a really big night. And a lot of times, the night just keeps going. Like after we've had a really great night or great set and there's tons of people around, we usually are going out and celebrating with them. (Tam, left, with Wolak.)

    What time do you usually get up the day after a show?
    Leslie: It depends if we have to drive, and how far.
    Justin: (Laughs)

    What about if you have a day off, or does that rarely happen?
    Leslie: It rarely happens, but when it does, I would probably get up around 8. That's me, I'm a morning person. These guys will get up later.

    Humming House photos by Michael Bialas. See more from their show at the Basement.

  • James Earl Jones Told Ryan Reynolds, 'I Am Your Father, Motherf**ker'
    James Earl Jones clearly knows how to get other actors into gear.

    Jones starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in the 2001 film "Finder's Fee," which was directed by "Survivor" host Jeff Probst. When Probst stopped by HuffPost Live on Wednesday, he shared an incredible story about the way Jones broke the ice on set.

    Apparently Reynolds and a group of younger actors were intimidated when Jones arrived -- and let's be honest, who wouldn't be? The problem was that in the film, the dynamic was supposed to be the opposite; Jones' character was scripted to be intimidated by Reynolds'.

    Jones sensed the tension, so he shook things up in the best possible way: by staring Reynolds in the eyes, mustering up his best Darth Vader and saying, 'Luke, I am your father, motherfucker."

    Watch Probst tell the whole story in the video above, and click here for the full HuffPost Live conversation.

    Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!

  • Where We Left Off And What To Expect On 'The Good Wife'
    "The Good Wife" is finally back, and with any luck, Season 6 will be less frustrating than its predecessor. To get all caught up and ready for Sunday's premiere, let's relive all the turmoil at Lockhart/Gardner... and Florrick/Agos.

    Alicia and Carey and a handful of other fourth-year associates finally decided to form their own firm, and the first 14 episodes of the season consist solely of plotlines that pit them against Lockhart/Gardner. Each week we watched as both firms vied for clients and debated how low they would sink to beat each other as opposing counsel. They worked tirelessly to erode the bond and respect once shared between Will and Alicia.

    It was an exhausting, not a particularly enjoyable viewing experience, if we're being real. But that all changed with the sudden and unexpected death of Will Gardner, who was shot by his client, Jeffery Grant, in open court.

    The remaining episodes of the Season 5 reminded us why "The Good Wife" is one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television.

    After Will's death, the show took a dramatic turn away from the nonstop pettiness and squabbling. Alicia reconnected with Diane after Will's funeral and they considered merging their firms. Alicia dealt with Will's death by pushing her husband Peter away, while also reaching out to Finn Polmar, the prosecutor in the Jeffery Grant case. She convinced him to run for state’s attorney so he couldn't be fired by the current state’s attorney looking to use him as a scapegoat for Will's death.

    Then there was the whole NSA storyline and a Silk Road-Bitcoin case. Additionally, the wonderfully creepy Colin Sweeney made yet another appearance. Oh, and we can't forget that photo of Finn leaving Alicia's apartment that State's Attorney Castro brought to Peter and Eli as ammo to save his own campaign.

    In the season finale, Diane pulled a big twist and -- rather than merging firms -- straight up asked for Florrick/Agos to take her on, along her her $38 million per year in client billing. (Yeah, that's right. Take that, David Lee and Louis Canning.)

    But things couldn't end just there, of course. Eli had to ask Alicia, "Would you want to run for state’s attorney?" Then it all faded to black, and we spent the last few months waiting, to hear Alicia's answer.


    What's To Come In Season 6
    Season 6 picks up right where we left off in Season 5, show creator Michelle King told E! News. "We're not slowing down for even a moment. We're barreling right ahead with our story," she said.

    CBS has released a few clips from the premiere and we have our answer.

    [SPOILERS AHEAD]

    Alicia does not want to run for state's attorney. "I'm never saying yes," she says. Well that's done. Or is it?



    In another clip, Diane is negotiating the terms of joining the firm with Alicia. She has 45 clients she plans to bring with her and it sounds like viewers can expect another season of battling it out with Lockheart/Gardner or whatever her old firm inevitably renames itself.



    Season 6 of "The Good Wife" premieres Sunday, Sept. 21, at 9:00 p.m. ET on CBS (and will likely be delayed due to whatever football game is on, as always).

  • The Crawleys Are Back: Why The World Loves Downton Abbey
    Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and the rest of the gang are back on Sunday in the UK for Downton's fifth series (although PBS will keep law-abiding Americans waiting until January 2015). High50's Kirstie Brewer looks at why, from China to Canada, this very English series has been such a success

    Downton Abbey sweeps back on to Sunday-night television in Britain this weekend, much to the delight of its avid fan base. While the British public has long had a love affair with costume drama -- not to mention Dame Maggie Smith -- the rest of the world has also taken the show to its bosom.

    "Nobody in their right mind could have predicted what happened, when it sort of went viral," Julian Fellowes, the show's creator, told The New York Times last year.

    In 2013, the exploits of the aristocratic Crawley family were watched by an estimated global audience of 120 million. As well as Brits, Anglophiles in the USA and Asia have been going particularly gaga for the post-Edwardian drama.

    Since its ITV debut in September 2010, Downton has been sold to more than 220 territories, reaching a level of international popularity rarely achieved by a British series.

    The Downton Effect

    Visitor numbers at Highclere Castle, where the drama is filmed, have more than doubled since Downton's debut. "We used to have good days, now we have great days," says Candice Bauval, assistant to the Countess of Carnarvon, who lives at Highclere.

    Aside from the swathes of British tourists, the historic site attracts visitors from all over the world, particularly North America and the Nordics. Visitors are coming from China and Japan in increasing numbers, too.

    The China Syndrome

    Downton Abbey is big business in China: 160 million people there tune in for the show. This summer, David Cameron gifted the country's leader with an autographed script of the show's debut episode.

    For the booming middle class in China, the show is aspirational, says Rachel Emerson, who has lived and worked in the country for more than 20 years.

    "Wealth and success are huge status symbols in China, which is why Downton is so appealing", she says. Mr Carson and his ilk are hot property, as China is the fastest-growing market in the world for British butlers.

    "I think those who have wealth subscribe to stereotypical symbols of western culture," Emerson says. "For example, there is an attempt to purchase class through buying chandeliers, marble floorings, grand pianos, owning horses and sending children to English boarding schools."

    Da-Xia Chow, a teacher from Nanjing, says she and her friends have modelled their English accents on period dramas such as Downton Abbey. "We are in love with that way of life and Downton's romantic aesthetic," she says.

    Yes, Prime Minister

    Downton has been sold to 220 countries, and British Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave a signed script to the Chinese premier

    "I think people here in Hong Kong watch the show for nostalgia," says Chinese businessman Joe Lu, in reference to the region's status as a former British colony.

    "People are attracted by the clever blending of history and drama in the storyline as well as by the meticulous production," Lu says, though, he adds, a lot of fans stopped watching Downton Abbey after the tragic demise of 'heartthrob' Matthew Crawley in season three.

    George Clooney To Star?

    Still, the news reports that George Clooney is to appear in a one-off Downton special for charity may coax some heartbroken Chinese souls back into the fold. One suspects the Clooney factor will have universal appeal.

    Pre-George, the injection of more American blood in the past two series (Shirley MacLaine's Martha Levinson and her son, played by Paul Giamatti) have added to the show's US appeal.

    American viewers are eagerly counting down to fifth series going live on the PBS network in January.

    "The idea of rigid class difference is somewhat exotic and, of course, the enormous estate with the huge number of staff is also a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to many American viewers," says Anne Mattina, a university professor from Boston and a Downton obsessive.

    People everywhere are drawn to a world that seems almost surreal to us now, in the 21st century. "The characters have such a formal way of living, with so many rules and taboos surrounding relationships of all kinds, not to mention all those fabulous clothes," says Anne.

    The lives, loves and dramas of Downton's inhabitants resonate today, and so do their anxieties over status and family obligation.

    And this is the key to its global appeal: Downton Abbey is at once antiquated yet timeless. "There is a universal aspect to the characters that everyone in the world relates to," Downton producer Gareth Neame has said. From Basingstoke to Beijing, we all need an escape.

    Related articles:

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    The Hottest New Shows In London's West End

    Kirstie Brewer has worked as a journalist in London for five years, covering the financial sector, the arts and culture. She can be found tweeting @kirstiejbrewer

  • Key And Peele Are Back In Action With Alien Impostors Video
    Comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the kings of "yo mama jokes" and Obama impressions, have finally returned to the spotlight.

    In a new video clip released Thursday, the stars of Comedy Central's sketch TV show "Key & Peele" have come up with a system to distinguish humans from alien impostors.

    "Would you let me date your daughter?" Key asks an older white man in a suit. The duo determines the man's answer, "of course," is a clear sign that he's an alien impostor and he must be taken out. But when the two comedians later encounter a young white girl named Emily who loves Jay-Z and whose best friend is black, they asses that "she's good" and not an alien.

    Watch the clip below -- part of the show's upcoming season four premiere on Sept. 24 -- to see Key & Peele back in action:








  • All The Times You'll Unexpectedly Laugh During 'The Maze Runner'
    "The Maze Runner" isn't a particularly funny movie. But the dystopian thriller, based on a YA novel by the same name, may make you laugh unintentionally, if, like this viewer, you're forgiving of genre tropes.

    Told through the eyes of Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), "The Maze Runner" follows a group of teenage boys sent to live in a giant field, The Glade, which surrounded by a maze. Their memories have been erased by a mysterious overlord, but they come with one purpose: survive. It's "Lord of the Flies" meets "The Hunger Games," with a similar formula. The boys, known as Gladers, have rules and regulations meant to keep them alive, but Thomas' arrival -- and the curiosity he brings with him -- changes all that. When another Glader named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is sent earlier than expected, all hell breaks loose and the Gladers must immediately find a way out of the maze.

    O'Brien (known for "Teen Wolf") nails the bewildered but brave teenager role, but even his performance can't shake a snoozy and muddled plot. We're presented with dozens of questions, half as many answers and only one female character for most of the film. Fans of the book will miss some of the undercurrents, mainly Thomas and Teresa's telepathy, and the pacing, since the film puts Thomas in the Glade for just a few days.

    Author James Dashner gave the film its climax and finale (spoilers ahead), and the cast makes the best of the clunky ending, which nicely tees up a sequel, "The Scorch Trials." (That film is already in development.) Nevertheless, "The Maze Runner" is a good time, full of worthy action scenes and adolescent jest. Forget that Thomas and the surviving Gladers are now entrusted to save the world from a "scorched Earth." Here are all the times you'll unexpectedly laugh while watching "The Maze Runner."



    When Thomas spits out Glader alcohol.
    Whiskey made by teenagers trapped inside of a maze sounds like a terrible idea. Thomas realized this as soon as he took a sip from Newt's Mason jar.

    When Teresa comes out of the box.
    It's a girl! WICKED, the scientific organization who controls the Maze, sends Teresa up in the box with a cryptic note, "She's the last one ever." But she's also the first girl, and, unsurprisingly, everyone is shocked. Teresa opens her eyes, looks directly at Thomas and yells, "THOMAS!" Then she passes out while all the Gladers stare at him. WTF, Thomas? The whole theater giggled.

    When Teresa stabs Alby with the Griever antidote.
    Alby, recently stung by one of the maze monsters known as Grievers, recognizes Thomas and instantly realizes he was somehow involved in the maze's creation. As he lunges towards Thomas, the other Gladers hold him down. Teresa has no idea if the mysterious syringe she came to the Glade with contains a cure, but -- STAB! -- she jabs him with the mystery medicine. Bravo, Teresa, you brave psycho/nurse.

    When Chuck says, "Girls are awesome."
    These boys don't remember having any contact with girls. So, when Teresa wakes up after falling unconscious, she does what any terrified girl would do: She pelts the boys with rocks from a tree house. Chuck's enamored.

    When WICKED leader Ava Paige shoots herself in the head.
    Because, JUST KIDDING, she's not dead! A few minutes later, Paige (Patricia Clarkson) reveals herself to be alive, well and very excited to move into Phase 2. Life is terrible, kids, and freedom is fake.

    "The Maze Runner" hits theaters Sept. 19.

  • Introducing Bad Advice for Writers!
    Greetings from the offices of Bad Advice for Writers!

    We here at BAW strive every day to offer you, a writer, the very best bad advice we can, in easy-to-digest lumps of excellent terribleness. Whether you're planning a novel, a screenplay, a short story, or a letter to your mother, if it's fiction we're here for you!

    Let's get going!

    ADVICE #1: Begin sentences with the ending of the previous sentence as a way to deliver exposition

    We all hate exposition here at Bad Advice, but agree that it's usually necessary if we want characters to have had a life of some kind prior to our writing about them. (Note: yes we do.)

    Sometimes the best way to deliver exposition is to drop all of it into the story as soon as possible in large piles, just like the "previously on..." bits that open up television shows. Readers will find this incredibly convenient and not at all distracting and awkward.

    For a great way to sneak it in without being too obvious, try repeating the point of the first sentence at the beginning of the next sentence, to really nail down those details in the reader's mind. We call The Staircase of Exposition.


    Example:

    She went into the bathroom. The bathroom where her mother killed herself. She killed herself because of him. And he was on his way over to the house. The house where her mother killed herself. In the bathroom.


    See how story leads the reader, like a small mentally challenged dog, down the staircase?

    This method also creates a dramatic tension in the reader, who will read this and think "I, too, wish to kill myself."

    Advice #2: Differentiate character dialogue by giving characters different names

    If you're a male author, you may have found it difficult to write dialogue for female characters, because manhood, testosterone, blah blah something.

    Good news! It's okay if all of your dialogue sounds exactly the same as long as you tell the reader who's speaking, all the time! Proper use of dialogue tags means one of them could be a robot! It doesn't matter!

    Also, here are two solutions to the male-female dialogue problem that have proven success:

    Solution #1: Write the female characters as if they were men, and cast women actors to play the roles. Not writing a script? No problem! Do the same thing only cast them as women in your mind! This is known as The Sorkin Technique.

    Solution #2: Write the female characters as if they were children who relied on the male characters for guidance and support and to tell them when they are being wrong and confused and silly. Powerful men with adoring women orbiting them is just like real life. Interestingly, this is also known as The Sorkin Technique.

    Advice #3: Never say "said"

    When writing dialogue tags, you absolutely don't want to use "said," as in the following example:


    "This is the most boring thing ever," he said.


    What you want to do is direct the reader's attention as far away as possible from the dialogue. You don't want them to even care exactly who is saying the thing they aren't paying attention to. They should spend all their time reading a description of how it was uttered. Make sure the reader knows how big your vocabulary is, or, how big the vocabulary of your thesaurus is!

    Examples:
    "Nobody will care what I say here," he excoriated.
    "That probably isn't even a legitimate dialogue tag," she inferred.
    "Whatever," he scoffed.

    Other words you can try: lambasted, glottal-stopped, inveighed.

    (Note: we at Bad Advice aren't even sure what inveigh means, but it looks awesome, doesn't it?)

    If you use this approach we guarantee nobody will notice all the problems you're trying to hide in your dialogue or the fact that all your female characters sound like men.

    Advice #4: Punch up your writing with a creative use of homophones

    Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and different spellings. They are a class of homonyms, which are words that sound the same and have different meanings but the same spelling. (Note: we just looked this up a minute ago.)

    Creative use of homophones can spice up any text.


    Example:
    Nobody was sure what was going to happen when he went over their.


    See how the homophone--'their' instead of 'there'--turned this from a normal, boring sentence to an exciting and confusing one? Instead of simply conveying information this sentence poses a question: "over their what?" Who owns the thing this "he" fellow is going over? What is the thing? The reader will be scrambling for the next sentence to find out! And when they get there and discover their question has not been answered it will create a new mystery: did the author mean 'there'? Now you have them really thinking!

    People may complain about this approach, but as you know most readers started out as small children, and most small children learned to read by reading aloud, so what you are really saying is, reader, return to that time of innocence, when you sounded out everything and also were probably only recently potty-trained.


    Here are more examples:
    The ranger was mauled by a bare.
    This perfume has a lovely cent.
    Their is a cereal killer praying on the hole city.


    Remember: writers are artists--like Picasso--and homophones are one fantastic way to express one's artisticness! Artistry? Artistry. A fantastic way to express one's artistry! We aren't using the wrong words, we're painting a third breast and a second nose! We are seizing our creative selves!

    That's all for this week's Bad Advice for Writers! We hope you have learned a lot from our incredibly bad advice. Next time: how spellcheck makes editors irrelevant, rhyming character names, and how rules about punctuation are really just guidelines.




    Gene Doucette is the author of the Immortal Trilogy -- Immortal, Hellenic Immortal and the upcoming Immortal at the Edge of the World, available for preorder now. His short stories include The Immortal Chronicles -- Immortal at Sea, Hard-Boiled Immortal, and Immortal and the Madman, and the thriller Surviving Hector. He has also written the sci-fi thriller Fixer, and as G Doucette the dark erotic novel Sapphire Blue.

  • Did Julianne Hough Just Out 'Mean Girls' Star Jonathan Bennett As Gay?
    Julianne Hough might have just outed "Mean Girls" star Jonathan Bennett.

    The "Dancing With the Stars" judge appeared on "Extra" to talk with Mario Lopez about Season 19 of the reality competition show. The conversation turned to a discussion about Bennett, who is a contestant this season.

    "He tweeted me last year and said, like, I had a nice butt, but he also tagged my trainer," she said. "And so I was like, 'Oh, he's hitting on me. I should try to go on a date with him.'"

    "What happened?" Lopez asked.

    "He's gay," Hough responded. "So, I was like, that's not gonna work."

    (Watch a clip from the segment below)



    Some blogs have dubbed him a gay man and he was rumored to have once romanced "Kyle XY" actor Matt Dallas, according to Out magazine. Even his Wikipedia page says "Jonathan Bennett is openly gay," but the 33-year-old actor has not publicly come out.

    Bennett's rep declined to comment on the actor's sexuality or the Hough incident when contacted by The Huffington Post.

    Bennett starred in 2004's "Mean Girls" as heartthrob Aaron Samuels and his hair looked sexy pushed back.

    Aaron


  • This 'Breaking Bad' Easter Egg Is Hiding In 'Godzilla'
    Not even Godzilla can completely overshadow Walter White. A hidden reference to "Breaking Bad's" resident meth-cooking kingpin popped up in this year's big-screen adaption of the sci-fi monster story, which co-starred Bryan Cranston.

    Check out the video above to see the Heisenberg-related Easter egg you most likely missed.

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