Backstory: In the summer of 2009, I was still writing for Modern Drummer magazine and got an assignment to interview a drummer named Pete Wilhoit, of the band Fiction Plane. I had heard of Fiction Plane already, specifically because the band is fronted by Sting’s eldest son, Joe Sumner. I had never heard their music, but I was pretty sure I would not dig them. Because Sting, well, let’s just say his music in not exactly my bag.
Guess what? I was incorrect in making that assumption. Pete turned out to be an amazing drummer, a great interview and a very cool guy. Around that time, I also went to see Fiction Plane play live at the Mercury Lounge downtown, and they just blew my mind away completely. Honestly, I could not believe they were such an exciting and engaging live band with a following of absolutely rabid fans. The show was just insane.
This week, Fiction Plane’s latest video for the song “Where Do We Go From Here” showed up in my mail box, and it felt like I was hearing from a favorite old friend. Fiction Plane’s sound has definitely matured in the half-decade since I’ve seen them, to where they sound less like a more aurally appealing version of The Police and now fondly remind me somewhat of Joshua Tree-era U2. Maybe that turns you on, maybe not, but it sure is refreshing as hell to rediscover a band whose music doesn’t sound like it came from a can.
Fiction Plane’s fourth studio album Mondo Lumina will be released on November 13th, 2015. The band performs at Pianos in New York City on October 13th as part of the Rhyme & Reason Records Showcase during the CMJ Music Marathon. In the meantime, enjoy!
Fiction Plane is Pete Wilhoit, Joe Sumner, Seton Daunt
Julie Taymor is an extremely literal-minded director. That much is in evidence if you’ve seen the film Across the Universe, a Taymor-directed 2006 release in which she visually interpreted, word-for-word, a cache of The Beatles’ most popular songs in order to tell the most simple-minded love story imaginable. Across the Universe, while visually stunning, was nevertheless mostly a critical and commercial bomb – a celebration of style over substance that failed to resonate with audiences despite its indelible tie to the Greatest Band Ever. Because, boring. It’s not all that surprising then that Taymor’s latest Broadway production, the now infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark has become the most polarizing show currently gracing the Great White Way. Aside from the innumerable injuries to its actors, which have helped keep the show in previews for longer than any other stage production in history, Turn off the Dark is heavily flawed in ways that have earned it the distinction of being the Worst Reviewed Broadway Musical of All Time. How does that even happen?
This is an interesting case of negative publicity being good for business, as the show continues to sell out at each performance and gross millions of dollars weekly. Personally, the more bad press I read on the show, and the more that sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live parodied its pitfalls, the more I knew I just had to see it, which I finally did last night. And you know what? I absolutely loved it. Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark is a show with its visual “Oh My God! I Can’t Believe They Just Did That!” factor so far off the charts, unless you are in a coma, you almost can help but be entertained. When people tell you that this show has stuff in it that’s never been done before and that you won’t see anywhere else, they aren’t exaggerating. As far as the sets (which look like they’ve been lifted from films like Inception or Dark City), costumes (Grace Jones would be jealous), visual effects (Spider-Man goes to Hell, or something like that) and stunts (Assloads of Flying! Flying!), it’s by far the best stage production I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, drugs are completely unnecessary, because you will not even believe some of the jaw-dropping, perfectly amazing things you’ll see. I was so wildly entertained, I didn’t even (hardly) mind the really bad parts, which are described in the next paragraph.
When you buy your tickets to see Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (which you will, because you just have to see it), don’t expect much of a plot: the plotline is either confounding or non-existent. If you’ve seen the first Spider Man movie starring Toby McGuire, or if you know anything about Spider Man’s “creation story” at all, that’s all you need to know. Also be aware that there are some genuinely mind-numbingly boring parts in the first act. You will know when they are happening, because you will be all like “I wish they would fly around the theater again, because that was awesome!” Also, while the actor’s singing voices are all really top-shelf, despite its musical compositions being credited to U2’s Bono and The Edge, Turn off the Dark is perhaps unique for being a musical with zero memorable songs. I swear, the only hook that stayed in my head at all is the reoccurring, three chord electric guitar riff that indicates when Spider Man is about to kick someone’s ass; you know, it’s the bit used in every radio and TV advertisement for the play. Now, that’s an ear worm if there ever was one. It’s in my head right now, as a matter of fact. Spider Man!
Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, starring Reeve Carney, is currently in previews at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street just West of 7th Avenue (steps from all the major subway lines). It is set to officially open on June 14th, but who knows if that will actually happen. I suggest you try to get tickets right now, before they close it down for a re-tool some time in April. I got tickets on Gold Star for $90 each including fees. It was totally worth it.
When I first heard about Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary, It Might Get Loud – featuring interviews with and jam sessions among guitarists Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge – I figured I might go see it, or I might not. That I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Page goes without saying. Led Zeppelin! But I’ve never been able to work up much enthusiasm for anything Jack White does (too much hype always being a big turn off for me). And while I appreciate U2 (having been blown away by them live back in 2001) I certainly would not call myself a fan. But everybody keeps talking about this film – especially the Led Zeppelin fans on my FaceBook page – and Geoffrey wanted to go, so I figured what the hell. Even though my expectations were only moderate, I am really glad I saw this film because it was really just fantastic. Here are three things I learned while viewing It Might Get Loud:
Jimmy Page is a musical genius (well, I already knew that but, man, is he ever adorable).
Jack White hides the fact that he is a musical genius behind a pile of meaningless, hipster-indie-cred and a really bad haircut.
The Edge may not be the best guitarist ever to live, but his talent for creating unique guitar effects for each U2 song individually makes him sound like a musical genius. So, you know, props to The Edge.
If you love music or are passionate at all about the guitar, then do go see It Might Get Loud. If it is not playing in your area, pre-select it for your Netflix queue right now!
Sid Vicious, (born John Simon Ritchie), bassist for the Sex Pistols and infamous pop culture icon, would have celebrated his Birthday today, if he had not died in 1979. May 10th is also the Birthday of Sixties Pop Guru, Donovan(born in 1946) and some guy named Paul Hewson (born in 1960), who sings and pontificates for the band U2. Happy Birthday, guys!