Ryan Pitkin


Tupac returns to play Coachella with a bulletproof body

Tupac's ghost comes through the Coachella stage. Photo/YouTube

Any college student who hasn’t heard the biggest news to come out of 2012’s Coachella music festival yet must have a workload that is close to killing them.

No worries: you can be brought back.

As anyone with a Twitter feed has heard and probably seen, Tupac stopped by during Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s set at the concert by means of hologram.

He did not pass on any messages from Obi Wan Kenobi, but instead pranced around on stage and rapped his hit song “Hail Mary.”

The hologram of Tupac appeared to rise from the stage exactly a week after the holiday celebrating another man’s resurrection; a man you may have heard of who has sold similar amounts of work since his death.

The slightly transparent rapper had a bit of a back and forth with Dre and Snoop before asking the crowd, “What up, Coachella?!”

This seems to give some hint towards whether an impersonator was behind the hologram’s voice, since Tupac died three years before the festival was founded.

The idea was apparently Dr. Dre’s from the start, and although no one has commented on the exact price, a recent report puts the approximate range between $100,000 and $400,000.

I know it wouldn’t have been the same, but I feel like for that sort of money they could’ve pulled Pac’s pants up just a bit.

As funny as this is to me and as much as it’s suffered from media overkill, I must admit it is pretty great to think about what technology has been able to accomplish.

To be honest, the idea of seeing Tupac live, even as a hologram, is much more enticing to me than seeing the Beatles’ children starting a band, which they have been threatening to do.

There has been a rumor regarding Dr. Dre touring with the hologram, and although it would cost a lot, at least he could guarantee that the two would probably get along the entire time.

I support Dr. Dre for the steps he has made as a pioneer in the music industry beyond just his music.

After changing the audio game with his headphones and now this, one wonders what sense he will own next.

‘Kill Shot’ brings Mitch Rapp back to life

Courtesy of vinceflynn.com

Vince Flynn’s new novel “Kill Shot” is the 11th in a series of espionage thrillers, going back to the 90s, based around the character of Mitch Rapp.

The book is a look back into the story of the assassin; how he was recruited into the CIA and how the once-rocky relationship between him and his handlers evolved into the one Flynn’s readers are now familiar with.

Flynn said in a recent interview that he had already been planning on taking readers back into Flynn’s past, but relatively new talks of a movie deal seem to be another reason why the time was ripe to make Rapp younger.

After years of these talks going nowhere, 2011 released the first prequel to the Mitch Rapp novels: “American Assassin.”

This book seemed to jumpstart the movie deal and CBS Films quickly decided to change the film adaptation from an earlier book to the prequel.

After a couple of years of rumors floating around regarding Gerard Butler, Bruce Willis (neither bad decisions) and others, the studio now had a reason to look into younger actors, and the prequels all began to make sense.

A year after the release of “American Assassin,” Flynn released “Kill Shot,” an entirely different take on the Rapp franchise.

The first nine novels in the series served as shoot-‘em-ups; Mitch Rapp was Jack Bauer before there was a Jack Bauer.

While “American Assassin” began to dive deeper into the relationships between the main players in the CIA that defines the organization, “Kill Shot” goes even further.

It branches away from the usual setting and plot of a Rapp novel in that the conflict is entirely internal within the CIA.

Rapp is set up during a hit job near the beginning of the story and spends the rest of the book trying to figure out who is responsible.

As he is in Paris for the job, he quickly melts into the population and the rest of the book is based around both friends and enemies trying to rein him in.

Although the story line is deep and entertaining, I couldn’t help but a notice an increased amount of childish bravado involved in the dialogue.

I understand that a macho vibe can be expected in stories revolving around men that kill for a living and rely on brute strength to survive.

I am not simply some tree hugger reviewing a book about CIA assassins; I have read every one of these books and look forward to the next.

That being said, “Kill Shot” steps it up with the childlike name-calling between newly minted members of the CIA’s killing team.

As I began to notice this it turned me off, but I soon became aware that it was probably purposeful and actually works quite well.

Most of this odd attitude (I kill because I like to kill and it doesn’t matter who I kill) comes from the story’s antagonist, another recruit that came up at the same time as Rapp. That sort of character building can be expected.

Rapp and other characters also showed signs of being unreasonable, but it’s important to realize that this is a prequel.

These are the characters before they were hardened to the realities of their jobs. It’s also a team that hasn’t been fully trained, and the rogue, trigger happy murderers haven’t been weeded out.

Flynn was diagnosed with stage III metastic prostate cancer in November of 2010 and dedicated “Kill Shot” to his team of doctors.

There isn’t any obvious change in writing due to his facing a deadly illness, but it does seem that Rapp is a bit more concerned with living life than in other books.

Rapp has a love interest for the first time since the earlier books, and more than once he contemplates leaving his life of killing behind and trying a real life with his new girlfriend.

This could be a reflection of Flynn contemplating resting a bit after more than a decade of constant writing and book tours, but I see that as doubtful.

Judging from interviews with Flynn, he seems as energetic and ready to continue writing as ever. He has said that he plans to return to the present day for his next Rapp novel.

It’s more conceivable that Rapp’s doubts can once again be chalked up to the fact that it’s a prequel.

Any reader of Flynn’s other novels can tell you that Rapp wouldn’t be naive enough to think he could leave the CIA and live a normal life later on.

Yet in this book, Rapp wouldn’t think twice about not only leaving the CIA, but killing any superior involved if he felt he was put in danger.

Yet, as any Rapp fan knew already, he was going to make it all along.

Black Keys burn it up at Bojangles Coliseum

Courtesy of The Black Keys.

Stomp-blues rock group The Black Keys played a long-awaited show at Bojangles Coliseum on Saturday, March 24th, 2012 with Arctic Monkeys.

From the start, it became obvious that a band with as big a fanbase as The Black Keys should be playing venues bigger than Bojangles.

The refreshment lines weren’t too much worse than any other concert but by the time The Black Keys were set to play, the bathroom lines were ridiculous.

Not wanting to miss the ten songs worth of time I’m sure it would have taken to get to the toilet, the long lines led to some behavior that I won’t get specific about, as I’m sure some of it was illegal.

But enough about the drawbacks of playing any venue other than Verizon, let’s get to the pros.

The last time The Black Keys visited this beautiful city, they were opening up for Kings of Leon at Verizon Wireless.

This performance, in September of 2010, stole the show from the “Kings” despite the obvious attempts of management to turn down their sound levels in order to make the headliners sound better.

For this go round, The Black Keys were ready to play a much more personal venue with their own light shows, projections and sound people. It showed.

Arctic Monkeys opened up, playing at about 8 p.m. They played a less than overwhelming set using moody blue spotlights as a backdrop.

After a 15-20 minute intermission, the Keys came on, opening with the hyper arena-rock jam “Howlin’ For You,” from 2010’s Brothers album.

With the pounding Jock Jams-like drums to start the song, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect to begin what would become an electric night.

After another song from Brothers, singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney transitioned into the reason much of the sold out crowd was there; three of the next four songs were off of their new, critically acclaimed album El Camino.

While people couldn’t get enough of El Camino, The Keys’ fanbase is not made up of bandwagon jumpers. They recognized this by spreading their set list out pretty evenly throughout their 11-year career.

While a huge chunk of their songs were off of El Camino and Brothers, they also played songs from everyone of their remaining four albums, not counting Chulahoma, an album of Junior Kimbrough covers released in 2006.

The band has used their first headlining tour to perfect a set list that played to the mood of the crowd in a genius way.

The placement of “Little Black Submarines,” a mostly acoustic song with a very hard ending, as song number 10 in what would be a 20 song set, worked well as a sort of relaxing point while Auerbach strummed and sang before getting back into rock mode.

I had hypothesized that this would be a great song to start an encore with, but it worked great where it was.

The visuals were great, with blue and yellow light shows, bright spotlights blaring into the middle of the coliseum and an amazing silhouette visual of Carney on the left side of the stage that had him at somewhere near Godzilla’s size.

As in other tours, Auerbach and Carney brought along bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist/guitarist John Wood, who both played from an elevated stage behind the two group members.

Doing this helps The Black Keys recreate the feel of their songs to sound as close as they can to the studio recorded versions.

This is definitely an effective way to go about things because it is mind-blowing just how perfectly they pull it off.

Some two-member bands, like The White Stripes, are known as great live acts but change their styles up while playing a show. The Black Keys go the other way with it.

The band didn’t play around too long waiting for an encore, which is refreshing in a hot, packed house like Bojangles.

They started it off with the soothing “Everlasting Light” off of Brothers and built up the momentum with another song off of that album, “She’s Long Gone.”

The grand finale came with “I Got Mine,” the first single off of Attack and Release in 2008.

The song was named the 23rd best song of that year by Rolling Stone and was easily the high point of their opening Charlotte set in 2010.

The band must know their strengths, because closing the show out with this song and an amazing colored disco ball effect was the one of the best endings to a show I’ve seen in quite some time.

This was the last Black Keys show for a week, and they are headed back to Akron to rest a bit.

Earlier in the day, Carney had tweeted a picture of his dog, saying that he couldn’t wait to go back and see him. The dog’s name? Charlotte.

Late journalist leaves memoir behind

Shadid in 2007. Photo courtesy of Terissa Schor.


On Feb, 16, 2012, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Anthony Shadid was attempting to leave war-torn Syrian when he collapsed of an apparent asthma attack. Hours later Shadid, a man who had placed himself in danger daily as part of his job description, was pronounced dead.

His most recent book, “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East,” was slated for release at the end of March. In light of his death, the book release was pushed up to March 1st.

As a journalism student, I only became familiar with Shadid two months before his death, when a professor slipped me a copy of a piece he had written on the Arab Spring, thinking I would be interested.

She was correct and I tucked it away in my notebook after reading over it carefully, not to be thrown away but soon to be covered with returned grades and more pressing pieces of paper. When I heard the news of Shadid’s death, I was saddened by the news of another journalist lost but never made the connection.

Hours later I heard the news repeated and had to continuously ask myself why the name was so familiar. Once I put it together, I poured over the essay my professor had given me and ordered my copy of “House of Stone” shortly after.

Houghton-Mifflin pushed up the release date after I made my order so it surprised me to see the package on my doorstep a month before I expected it. I dug in immediately and was pleasantly surprised.

Expecting a Middle-Eastern war version of Anderson Cooper’s “Dispatches from the Edge,” I was taken aback by the polar opposite. Shadid soon showed why he was a level above his peers, both as a reporter and a writer.

It also became clear why he told his wife while  writing the book, “This is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” as she recalled in a recent interview.

The book is not about war at all but, as the title suggests, a search for home, in its physical and psychological respect. This idea is defined by the word bayt in his family’s native Arab tongue.

Shadid was a Lebanese American from Oklahoma City with a hulking family tree that his family holds on to like a life raft as the generations expand.

He begins the book by making a decision to rebuild his great grandfather’s house in the small Lebanese town of Marjayoun.

He makes the decision in 2006, fresh from three years of reporting on the war in Iraq and now witnessing horror of a grand scale in his home country of Lebanon after a short war with Israel.

His family home had not been lived in for forty years when he came to it. He found it damaged by an Israeli rocket.

It would have to be torn down and built from scratch.

This is how the story begins, and Shadid takes his readers through time as he entwines the story of Isber’s life in Marjayoun through the turn of the century into the first World War with the present retelling of his often chaotic experience in rebuilding the “House of Stone.”

I’m a realist, and I know this book strays far from the usual Max Tucker novels and Chelsea Handler memoirs that college students normally read.

There is nothing wrong with those books, but for anyone interested in a view of the Middle East that they will never hear about in the American media or for anyone within a few generations of their immigrant ancestors, this book is a must read.

The characters Shadid works with, reluctantly for the most part, within this small Lebanese town are too classic not to entertain: men who call themselves masters of all crafts, and therefore show up to work when they want. They will (hilariously) curse anyone questioning this work ethic.

The hushed gossip and never-ending grudges within the neighborhood mix with Shadid’s beautiful (and sometimes crumbling) descriptions of the land to give the town a true personality.

The genealogical descriptions of Isber’s family and how they got to America can lose the reader, especially an American reader not used to the Arabic names.

My best advice is to not worry if you are confused, you will know the storyline that counts for the emotinal payoff in the end.

As the book comes to an end and war looms in Beirut, Shadid writes, “I should be in Beirut, I thought, working as a journalist, but another part of me was so wary of that old life of guns and misery…I wanted to do nothing more than move dirt from one place to another.”

The reader can’t help but wish he would’ve indulged that desire.

UNC Charlotte alumna puts dreams on hold

One of the seven arrests made by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department on Jan. 30 at the Occupy Charlotte protests. MCT Campus

As award-winning freelance journalist Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman stands in front of the Occupy camp on Charlotte’s old city hall’s lawn, it’s hard to tell who the “occupier” is.

She’s standing with a young man wearing blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt depicting Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. His clothes are spotless, but a look at his mud-caked shoes makes it clear he’s not new to this scene.

Rhiannon, often called Rhi, is wearing sweatpants, a fleece sweater vest and a pulled back ponytail. She is staring out at the muddy lawn with the boy, who doesn’t look to be out of his teens. The city council vote deciding the fate of the occupiers is happening in a couple of hours and she is wondering where all the protesters are.

She asks the boy if he is willing to go to jail for the movement and he quickly nods his head in response. Five minutes later she asks what he will do if police storm the camp after the vote. “I will probably go back to my brother’s,” admits the kid.

It’s conflicting answers like these that define the things Rhiannon puts up with on a daily basis. She seems drawn to stories that branch off in many different angles, even within a single source, such as this confused protester.

The Occupy camp, which Rhi has been covering since its development in October of 2011, is a shadowy place, even for someone as familiar with it as her. While some look to her for information on their own movement, others are quick to pull away for lack of trust.

That trust issue can go both ways. “It’s frustrating,” she says as she makes her way from the camp across the street to city hall. “It’s hard because I know at least one or two people there are moles for whoever wants one in there, but who that could be I have no idea.”

Rhiannon is up close with these sources because of the way she does her job. It’s the type of attitude that won her the 2011 Gold Gamma Award for a story she wrote about the Catawba Riverkeeper, David Merriman.

Although she claims not to care about journalistic awards, she takes pride in one judge’s comments. The Gold Gamma judge told her, “You could have made it preachy. You took us into these peoples’ lives.”

This is what Rhi calls covering a story from the inside out. “What it’s about is amplifying the peoples’ voices,” she said. She recalls reading a story about Occupy Wall Street when it first began in which the journalist quoted anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

This reporting seemed lazy to Rhi. “What the hell does she have to do with anything? Give people equal weight,” said Bowman.

To “amplify people’s voices” is why she now stands here with a confused and standoffish young man not sure if he will be spending the night in a cell or a wet tent.

Rhi, heading to the city council meeting in sleep-ready clothes, has a similar lack of knowledge when it comes to where she will lay her head tonight. In her car, parked a block or so down the road, she has packed enough sandwiches to stay on site for two to three days. She has blankets and even a fold out desk in the back seat in case she needs to get some work done.

“You need to be prepared,” she says, wondering whether Charlotte will turn into scenes similar to those happening in Oakland, New York and other Occupy sites. “[The police] sort of wait until everyone stops paying attention, then they move in.”

This is not the place Rhi would like to be spending a chilly Monday night. She has other things she would like to be working on. Her top priority professionally is to push the book ideas that she has been working on to publishers in New York and across the country. She feels that she is needed here, however.

This feeling is ingrained in her personality, according to Kim Lawson, an editor at Creative Loafing, where most of Rhiannon’s Occupy work was published. Kim also calls Rhiannon a good friend. “She’s just a great storyteller that cares about community issues,” said Lawson. “She’s very aware, but she’s smart about being aware.”

She loves hiking but hasn’t been able to lately because of her busy work schedule. “I have been doing a lot of urban hiking,” she says, referring to her coverage of the Occupy Charlotte movement.

A car accident two years ago fractured her spine and made it nearly impossible to do one of her favorite activities: tent camping. She toughed it out, however, through a night of camping with a group of protestors early on in the Occupy movement.

“I definitely paid the price,” she said. “I was in serious pain for a couple of days.”

That was just another way of telling the story from the inside out. “I just felt like someone needed to be out there without a bright light and a camera. [The Occupiers] weren’t media savvy at that point.”

It’s almost as if she hears a calling when a story breaks; a calling that tells her nobody else will tell this story if she doesn’t. “She’s so thorough and some stories have so many different sides to tell,” said Desiree Kane, a friend of Rhiannon’s. “That sort of thing will suck in any good journalist.”

Rhi remembers the day she heard about the Occupy Charlotte camp forming on Twitter. “I was really looking forward to having a Saturday to myself, but I knew that I had to go. I just feel this strange obligation to my community to tell them what’s happening,” in a tone that makes it hard to tell if sarcasm is prevalent or she really finds her own feeling of obligation strange.

Rhiannon’s husband, Dan, has seen the way stories like this can envelope her. “She needs to know, ‘How did we get to this point?’ Once she starts down that path, it consumes her,” he said. “It’s her passion.”

At the meeting, the city council passes a measure that will have the occupiers legally ousted from their camp on the following Monday. As certain controlled chaos breaks out inside of city hall, with most of the occupiers in attendance now chanting slogans, Rhi zones in, seemingly in her natural habitat.

Rhiannon is a full head shorter than most of the people in the lobby, but her presence is known by everyone. She slips comfortably between multiple conversations; interviewing police about the way the eviction will be carried out, phoning a lawyer who had threatened to sue if the measure was passed, carrying on nonchalant conversations with occupiers to find out their next move. Everyone in the building, it seems, knows her and is comfortable talking to her.

One occupier, Robby, is telling her that he is comfortable with the decision and he already has bigger plans than camping. When she asks him for more details he smiles and says, “You gotta wait for our next move.”

Rhi rolls her eyes as the man walks away. Her response may be based on the seemingly obvious fact that he has no clue what his own next move will be. More probably, she is coming to the realization that there is no end in sight for a reporter so far inside the story. It’s the awareness that Lawson mentioned, a brick wall that is nearly impossible to slip anything past.

“Rhi is who she is all the time, so when you meet her you get a pretty good sense of who she is,” said Kane. “If you ask Rhi a question she is going to give you a straight up answer whether she’s known you for ten years or ten minutes.”

Three weeks later, Rhiannon is at her home going through files. She’s “stepping back” to write a more broad story on the entire Occupy Charlotte movement for Charlotte Magazine. The deadline for the camp has come and gone and seven people have been arrested.

Rhiannon spent the day of the raids at the camp as a reporter. She spent that night as a patient in the emergency room.

She had been working for 30 hours straight with only a 30 minute nap in between. “It was just pure exhaustion,” she says of that hospital trip. The doctor left a note in her paperwork pleading for her to “not do anything for a week.” She took his advice.

Now, as she gets ready to tackle the big picture of Charlotte’s Occupy movement, she thinks her recent hospital visit has put things into perspective. “I’m realizing that life is short and you have to do what makes you happy,” says the woman who dropped her job selling annuities to pursue a writing career in 2006.

“You need to be able to pay your bills and stuff but don’t get into anything for the money,” she says. “God knows nobody gets into journalism for the money.”

Racy play hits NoDa

This image, used in LaBorde's promotional material, is an aggressive take on Mamet's original Broadway flyer. Photo/Charles LaBorde

There comes a point in David Mamet’s play, “Race,” in which a black female attorney tells her white male associate, “This isn’t about sex, it’s about race.” To this the man responds, “What’s the difference?”

Charles LaBorde, director for Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (CAST), will bring this play to Charlotte on Thursday, Feb. 23rd, 2012, and he thinks this is a very explanatory piece of dialogue.

So much so that he has the page number of the script memorized (page 36) and flips to it as one would look at their watch.

“On the surface it’s a sort of simple play but it’s actually very complex,” said LaBorde.

The play revolves around the case of a white billionaire tycoon (“a Richard Branson type”) who has been charged with the rape of a black woman.

Two high-priced male attorneys are hired for the case.

The case takes its toll on a strong relationship between the two attorneys; one black and one white.

In classic “12 Angry Men” style, the entire play takes place within the boardroom of the law firm, with only four characters: the two lawyers, the accused and the female lawyer mentioned above, brought in later to help with the case.

The play will take place in a small theater within the CAST studio on N. Davidson Street and E. 28th Street (the same shopping center as Amelie’s).

The play is also done “in the round,” which means the audience will be surrounding the characters, with members in the front row sitting within two feet of the table.

“That’s really an exciting thing for the audience but also for the actors,” said LaBorde. “To have the audience that close you sort of feel the synergy between the two. It’s a play that, within that space, you have nowhere to hide, and with a play this shocking it will be interesting to have the audience that close.”

The play hits hard not only because of the controversial themes of the plot itself, but the electric dialogue that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet is known for.

“Typical of Mamet, the language is very adult and rough,” said LaBorde. “Most people associate Mamet with extreme profanity and constant profanity, which is the case, but not quite as frequent as in most of his plays. It’s still shocking.”

However, this play goes beyond just swearing for shock value. “The way he gets it up to his typical level of in-your-faceness is that he adds the racial aspect,” LaBorde said.

“A lot of the racial stuff that gets thrown around, you just don’t hear people in most polite company talk frankly about the issues in the play the way they do in this play.”

It is this issue that lies at the heart of the play, speaking to audiences who like to believe they live in a post-Obama, and therefore post-racial, world.

Mamet was once quoted as saying that the theme of “Race” is race itself but also “the lies we tell each other.”

“I think [racism] is still very much there,” said LaBorde. “I think we’d like to think that we as a society are past that but I really feel that it is something that is difficult for Americans to get past.”

It’s by tapping into these hidden emotions that this play starts to peel back the layers of the characters’ subconscious and becomes more complex.

“Even though it talks frankly and a lot of people in the play have worked closely and been close friends for a long time, they see things differently in the play,” said LaBorde.

When people begin to see things differently, the play’s unofficial motto, “Everybody lies,” begins to take effect.

LaBorde developed the catch phrase from a line of script said in passing by one of the pay’s characters.

“We talked in rehearsals about how the different characters lie: some overtly, some less obviously, some to themselves, some to the other people, but they’ve all got one version or another of lies.”

The play will run until March 24th and, as usual for a CAST play, will engage the audiences as soon as they walk in the door. Tickets will be made to look like tabloid magazines with the defendant’s face splattered on their fronts and the entrance of the theater will be made to look like the lobby of a law firm.

RE:Generation music project bridges generations and genres

Pretty Lights

Is it just me or does every single person on this campus listen to every type of music there is?

It seems that whenever I am to ask someone what type of music they enjoy, they always give me the exact same answer, “I like everything.”

So drop the generic “I am open-minded” answer and think to yourself what type of music you truly get down to. Then ask yourself, “Don’t I wish I really was familiar with more?”

While the Grammys award show was spoon-feeding everyone the same old thing you hear on the radio every day last week, the people behind the awards had an ace in the hole; one in the form of a film that was shown at AMC Carolina Pavilion 22 on South Boulevard on Thursday, Feb. 16th.

Lucky for you, it’s returning for one more showing at the same place on Feb. 23rd.

The film, presented by Hyundai Veloster in association with The Grammys, is titled “RE:Generation” and it captures a music project embarked upon by five world renowned DJs to do something truly different.

The DJs involved are The Crystal Method (two DJs, really), DJ Premier, Mark Ronson, Pretty Lights and Skrillex. Each artist was assigned a genre that was completely new and obscure to them and told to make one great song with it.

DJ Premier

DJ Premier, a hip hop DJ known by anyone who has ever touched a rap record, was told to make a song based on classical music. Pretty Lights, an electronic music DJ, was assigned country and Skrillex, perhaps the most famous of the five at present time, was to collaborate with the three remaining members of The Doors.

The project could have easily fallen into a gimmick in multiple different ways.

The DJs might not have taken it seriously and sort of just made what they usually make incorporating a sample or two. The collaborative artists could have all been excited to help and everyone could have went home happy after a few studio sessions, more in tuned with the musical world.

This documentary beat back those gimmicks and, whether due to the elite class of DJs chosen for the project or just the lucky science of the choices assigned to each, created a true diamond in the rough of music film.


Each DJ truly tries to dive headfirst into the project at hand and assigns it true meaning to themselves personally. Each also finds out soon enough that it won’t be an easy road to travel.

The muscle of the movie is conflict, and there is no shortage of it. Some is comical and got the biggest laughs out of the audience, while some awkward moments give the viewer a standoffish feeling and leaves a bitter aftertaste.

This conflict is born in the fact that every DJ is attempting to collaborate with at least one artist from their given genre; an artist scene as an innovator in their field and in no mood to be told how to make music by a guy with a two turntables and a bunch of wires.

While DJ Premier brings longtime friend Nas in and Mark Ronson calls on longtime collaborator Ziggy Modeliste, even they have to step out of their safe zones at least once.

The Crystal Method

One of the toughest parts of the movie to watch is a collaboration between electronic artists The Crystal Method and Martha Reeves, a queen of Detroit before Motown truly ruled.

The two DJs tour the city with her and even watch alongside her as the first auditorium she ever performed in is torn down. The team thinks they’ve experienced enough to write a love song for Reeves’ hometown that she will then record for them.

Once in the studio, The Crystal Method soon realize that she is not willing to simply sing what is written in front of her and she wants a say in the entire process. The term diva comes to mind, and not with a negative connotation, but an understandable one.

It was just simply inevitable that these three people would clash coming from the complete opposite cultures they come from.

Mark Ronson

If the muscle of the movie is conflict, then the music is the heart, and it is the reason this movie is a must-see for any true music fan. It is simply amazing to see Ronson move around in a room full of musical geniuses and treat it as if he’s playing with his Garage Band app.

Conflict or not, the movie is ultimately about understanding and bridging generational gaps through music. It even worked on me.

Before I walked into that theater, I would have honestly told you that I don’t care an ounce for electronic music and don’t care to ever hear a Skrillex song.

Walking out, I may not be buying tickets for any upcoming shows, but I understand it. I respect the artists and can dig the appeal. That feeling is what this movie is all about.


*All photos courtesy of Brian Nevins.

49 must-have songs on your Valentine’s playlist

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

*Songs 1-24 picked by Ryan Pitkin; songs 25-49 picked by Barry Falls Jr.


1. “Fool for Love” by Sandy Rogers

This song got it’s time on the spotlight thanks to a spot on the 1992 “Reservoir Dogs” soundtrack. Country singers just don’t make them like this anymore.


2. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Perhaps Houston’s most well known song. Her tragic death will more than likely bring the inevitable spike in sales for all of her music, but this song will remain timeless for decades to come.


3. “Saw Red” by Sublime Feat. Gwen Stefani

This song was released in 1994 before Sublime or No Doubt were known by much of anyone outside of the Southern Cal. music scene. Lead singer Brad Nowell dated Stefani for a time before making this song.


4. “All I Want is You” by Barry Louis Polisar

Once you get past the corniness of this song, featured on the “Juno” soundtrack, you realize it’s just great feel good music. It also kind of makes you want to square dance.


5. “You Got Me” by The Roots Feat. Erykah Badu 

This track tells the story of a man and woman that met in France while the man was on tour. They bring their relationship back to The Roots’ hometown of Philadelphia.


6. “I Hate the Way You Love” by The Kills

With its distorted guitar and anti-Valentine’s Day lyrics, the song is a perfect representation of a typical Kills song.


7. “The Littlest Things” by Lily Allen

Of all the songs slamming her ex in her debut album, this one takes a nostalgic look back at a relationship that has run its course.


8. “Ms. Fat Booty” by Mos Def

What would a list of Valentine’s songs be without a song titled “Ms. Fat Booty?” Not the generic B.S. rap song that it sounds like.


9. “Wild Young Hearts” by The Noisettes

This track talks about the dumb things people do for love when they’re young. Everyone makes mistakes in the name of the opposite sex, but that’s just how we learn.


10. “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles

This song was actually written as a rebellion against Bareilles’ record company when they asked for a generic pop hit.


11. “It Takes a Muscle” by M.I.A.

It’s easy to get lost in this song, especially listening to M.I.A.’s seemingly helium-induced voice through the chorus. The dreamy song is a perfect example of her choice to sing as much as she raps on her latest album.


12. “Hot Summer Night” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

This song, about a significant other heating up a cold winter night, goes right along with a holiday based on love placed in the middle of February.


13. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West

Don’t forget about the other special woman in your life on this Valentine’s Day.


14. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

This track was just about ruined by a horrible club mix and radio overkill. If you strip the ode to the drunk-dial down to the roots and forget about the rest, it’s still a great song.


15. “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey

This is far from being a song I truly enjoy, but I always know that if I want to make my girlfriend happy, this song will never let me down.


16. “Back to Black” Amy Winehouse

Yes, I am not ashamed to include a few break up songs on my Valentine’s list. Not everyone has someone to spend this day with, and nothing helps get over the gag reflex of watching everyone else’s lovefest than some good soul searching music.


17. “Son of a Preacher Man”  by Etta James

You can’t listen to this song and not just want to dance. It’s a classic that will probably live forever.


18. “Yellow Sun” by The Raconteurs

Everyone’s been there at some point. In love with someone who doesn’t love you back, or they might not even know about your feelings. This song covers a mix of both predicaments.


19. “Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morrisette

While Morrisette is usually blasting men who have spurned her throughout this album, she takes a turn on this song. However, she still includes the lyric “It’s all your fault.” Classic Alanis.


20. “It’s True That We Love One Another” by The White Stripes 

The song’s title seems to play with the much-talked-about relationship between Jack White and his drummer, Meg. The mood of the song is also playful, with Jack, Meg and British singer Holly Golightly trading childish jabs.


21. “Baby I’m Afraid” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

From their debut album, “Fever To Tell,” this song showcases Karen O as she talks someone just as damaged as her into giving love one more try. “Cool kids belong together,” remains a favorite of YYY fans.


22. “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” by Jay Z & Beyonce 

The super couple made their unstoppable relationship very public with this one. There’s nothing too complex here, just plain feel good stuff.


23. “Everlasting Love” by The Black Keys

This song took a turn from what Black Keys fans had been used to. Lead singer Dan Auerbach’s voice is about two notes too high, but somehow it really works.


24. “Time of Your Life” by Little Brother Feat. Carlitta Durano

This song is about that feeling when you get your paycheck and you just can’t wait to spend it on a night of fun with your special someone. Wining and dining done at its best by the NC-based rap group.


25. “Babygirl” by Anthony Green

Anthony Green’s newest release- “Beautiful Things” proves this vocalist has come a long way since his screamo days of Saosin.


26. “Will You Return” by The Avett Brothers

When this North Carolina-based folk group wrote “Will You Return,” they made one of the catchiest tracks in their discography with a youthful motif of love and indecision.


27. “All The Small Things” by 

Blink 182

There is a reason this song this song is still known as one of the pop punk group’s signature songs. “All the Small Things” is surprisingly romantic, accessible and above all else- fun.


28. “The Scientist” by Coldplay

The potent combination of Chris Martin’s falsetto voice and simplistic piano tempo makes “The Scientist” one of the band’s greatest ballads and one of the greatest ballads in general.


29. “A Real Love Song” by Erika Blatnik

This once common frequenter of the Charlotte music scene balances bold force and emotional vulnerability in ways that others just can’t.


30. “Everlong” by Foo Fighters

“Everlong” features all the heart and force you’d expect from Foo Fighters.


31. “Slide” by The Goo Goo Dolls

With the upbeat guitar strums and romantic lyrics, it may seem strange that this song is actually about a young couple contemplating an abortion.


32. “Good Feeling” by Violent Femmes

From Violent Femmes’ self-titled album, “Good Feeling” is a cult classic written by high school kids in the mid-eighties. It’s also Marshal and Lily’s song.


33. “Dig” by Incubus

The second single released from the alternative rock band’s sixth studio album, “Dig” lyrically counters the conditional aspects of life with unconditional love perfectly.


34. “23” by Jimmy Eat World

Arguably Jimmy Eat World’s best song, “23” is a contemplative song about life, the search for love and ultimately turning 23.


35. “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane

The third commercial single from the British new wave band, “Somewhere Only We Know” is beautifully layered and lyrically ambiguous. This piano rock song will seems to tell a different story through each listen.


36. “Everything” by Lifehouse

Like a lot of great love songs by semi-Christian bands like Switchfoot or Lifehouse, it can be hard to distinguish whether the song is a love song or a worship song. “Everything” is no exception.


37. “Somewhere Out There” by Our Lady Peace

This track was the most successful single from one of the most successful albums of one of the most beloved pop rock groups from the 90’s. Our Lady Peace managed to create one of the group’s most mainstream love songs with the uniqueness that you’d find on any of the band’s albums.

38. “Alive with the Glory of Love” by Say Anything

Full of just as much angst as heart, “Alive with the Glory of Love” is a semi-biographical ballad about two Jews who fell in love during the holocaust.


39. “Spoils of War” by Sugar Glyder

Expertly layered with ambient guitar strumming and lead singer Daniel Howie’s stretched vocals, “Spoils of War” brought the Charlotte-rooted band’s debut album to an anthemic conclusion.


40. “Only Hope” by Switchfoot

Before it was artificially covered by Mandy Moore in “A Walk to Remember,” “Only Hope” was one of Switchfoot’s better-known songs for its confessional lyrics and intoxicating candor.


41. “Blinded” by Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind’s last charting single is highly sing-along-able and an energy-filled wonder to see performed live.


42. “With Or Without You” by U2

A few of you might remember “With Or Without You” as the first single off of the band’s most critically acclaimed album. The rest of you probably remember it as Ross and Rachel’s song.


43. “Goodnight Elisabeth” by Counting Crows

Almost every Counting Crows song reads like just another reason why it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to date Adam Duritz. While the song isn’t exactly a love ballad, it paints a romantic, intimate picture.


44.“I Go Blind” by Hootie and the Blowfish

What you might not know is that this is actually a cover of a Canadian alt rock band 54-40. “I Go Blind” is a must-have on your Valentine’s playlist regardless of which version you prefer.


45. “Anyone Else But You” by The Moldy Peaches

Quirky, simple and romantic, this anti-folk duet always finds a way to burrow into your head. “Anyone Else But You” was also covered by Michael Cera And Ellen Page in the iconic conclusion of the 2007 indie hit- Juno.


46. “You Belong To Me” by The 88

It’s true, The 88 are “The Wiggles of wedding bands.” And “You Belong to Me” is one of their best.


47. “Pachuca Sunrise” by Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear always has a way of making listeners feel like they’re in the song rather than just listening to it. The Seattle-based indie group will be playing later this month at Tremont.


48. “Pictures of You” by The Last Goodnight

The pop rock band’s first single from the debut album will certainly add a Eve 6-meets- Maroon 5 pop sensibility to your Valentine’s playlist.


49. “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths

Captivating and haunting, this classic Smiths track appears on my iPod in about six different versions.

UNC Charlotte student goes against the odds at ‘Idol’

Brittney Brown and friend Kasey Johnson kill time after "Idol" registration. Photo courtesy of Brittney Brown.

Year after year, American Idol tryouts came and went as UNC Charlotte senior Brittney Brown quietly went about her business.

The 21-year-old had been singing since she was a small child and had always wanted to try out for the popular singing competition. However, she suffered stage fright in front of large crowds and for that reason, had never brought herself to try.

She heard about the 2012 tryouts about six months before they were held (in June of 2011).  “Something just kind of came over me and I decided I have got to get myself out there if I want the things that I want,” she said.

She looked up the dates for the audition in Charleston, SC and immediately got to work with her voice coach, Sylvia Hawe, whom she had worked with before and calls “a second mom.”

When late June rolled around, Brown and her mother set out for south of the Carolina border on the same day she would be expected to camp outside of the convention center.  They soon realized their mistake.

“We didn’t bring anything. That was so stupid. People had chairs and blankets and food,” she said.

Brown didn’t even have a wall to lean against. Luckily, she made quick friends with a girl named Kasey Johnson from Fayetteville, NC. “She gave me a blanket that I shared with my mom. [Kasey] and I are still great friends to this day,” she said.

It was during this night of waiting that Brown realized how hard it would be to sleep, blanket or not. “Random people would stand up and start belting out notes, whether they were good or bad.”

Being exposed to so many random acts of choral expression had a few unexpected downsides for Brown. “I hated [Adele’s song] ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by the end of that night, because everybody was singing it. And I used to love that song.”

At around 10 a.m., Ryan Seacrest showed up and Brown and some others near the front of the line were able to get close enough to touch him. Then came the anticlimax of the registration period. After all that waiting, Brown simply walked into the auditorium and got her registration ticket.

Photo courtesy of Brittney Brown.

Once they handed her a ticket, she had a couple of days to spend in Charleston before she would need to audition. Brown spent this time making a sign for the filming of the show and making sure she would be prepared for the next big camp out.

When two days passed by, Brown made her way back to the Charleston Convention Center early so she could remain at the front of the line. This time she brought comfortable clothes, chairs and food.

The media was out in full force the next morning. Brown sang for a local radio station as well as a local ABC news station. Contestants were then let into the auditorium.

“This is where you find out that it’s all show business,” Brown said.

“The girls’ bathroom was complete madness. I changed clothes in a stall and then couldn’t even get to the mirror to do my makeup. I just did it in the middle of the room and hoped it looked OK,” Brown said.

In the packed auditorium, the film crew continued to tell the crowd what to do while filming them over and over.

Charleston Convention Center. Photo courtesy of Brittney Brown.

They were told to all sing Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” and then told to chant different things while cameras filmed.

“This is what took the longest. It took hours,” said Brown. “Once the auditions started it went fast.”

The stage is broken into 12 stations with two producers in each station acting as judges. Four contestants go in front of the judges at a time. “I went up with Kasey and two other girls. I knew the two other girls weren’t going to make it. Kasey sang beautifully and I thought she had it but she cracked near the very end,” said Brown.

According to her, the producers’ behavior was the most intimidating part. “Singers only had about five seconds before being told to stop and the judges seemed more interested with what was happening on their computer screens than what was happening in front of them.”

Brown went last in her foursome and began belting out Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” The men looked away from their computers and began smiling as they let her sing long after 20 seconds. They then called all four up.

After a nerve-wracking discussion, the men told all four girls that they would not make the cut.

Out of the 10,000 people in the auditorium, only 500 made the cut. They had to make it through three more cuts before even getting into a room with Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.

Considering those odds, Brown said she was proud of herself. She and her new friend Kasey are planning to try out for NBC’s The Voice next summer.

As she left, there was a door marked “Winners” and a door marked “Non Winners.”

“I had to walk through that second door, but I walked through it with a smile on my face,” she said.

UNC Charlotte alum brings controversial Rudnick play uptown

A flyer for Griffin's "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told." Photo courtesy of Queen City Theatre.

UNC Charlotte alum Glenn T. Griffin, director of Queen City Theatre (QCT), is bringing Paul Rudnick’s controversial play “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” to Charlotte’s Duke Energy Theatre. Its run begins on Feb. 2, 2012.

The play is based around the story of Adam and Eve but jumps between the past and present day. There is also another twist; all of the main characters are gay.

The stage manager, or God, creates Adam and Steve and soon they are banished from the Garden of Eden. The two men then meet Jane and Mabel. The story spans over centuries and covers everything from the flood and Noah’s ark to slavery in Egypt.

“It really is a journey play,” said Griffin. “It’s a comedy but at the same time it has a lot of heart.”

Although the play has gotten a lot of negative response from local religious groups, Griffin insists that the play is not bashing religion at all but rather taking a closer at it.

“We are trying to comprehend our own idea of religion,” he said. “I question. I am trying to understand why bad things happen to good people. A lot of us don’t just blindly believe anymore.”

Griffin, who was raised a Catholic and says he is strong in his faith, has been dealing with a lot of hateful commentary regarding what he calls “a God-affirming play.”

“Imagine getting 50-70 emails in a day telling you how you’re going to hell,” he said. Cyberspace has given his tormenters a safe haven, he believes.

“In our day and age, the internet makes it so easy to say things to people without facing them. I would love for them to say these horrible things to my face,” he said.

With some threatening to picket the opening, Griffin said he was caught by surprise by some of the reactions the play has gotten. “In 2012, I didn’t think you could do anything that is so controversial, but apparently you can,” he said.

He hopes that people will give the play a chance first before criticizing him. “At least be a little open-minded. It can’t just be your point of view. Out of all the people that have been saying things, none of them have read it,” he said.

Griffin and the rest of the QCT staff reinforced this point in a statement that was recently released to the media. In it they stated, “This show WILL NOT be shut down. This production WILL NOT be altered or changed on the request of people who protest in ignorance because they have never seen nor read the play.”

The openly gay Griffin said he did not choose the play simply because of its controversy. “I would never just choose a show that didn’t have artistic merit. It’s a very smart comedy. I’m not just directing a silly comedy.”

Griffin thinks that people will be pleasantly surprised by the humor of the play. The actors have had a hard time keeping a straight face through rehearsals, he said.

Audience members should be prepared for “two hours of laughing and thinking about love, hope and our look at religion,” said Griffin.

Griffin, who used to be an actor, had starred as the title character in one of Rudnick’s earlier plays, “Jeffrey,” and has always been a huge fan. “I love the way he thinks,” Griffin said. “I love to find humor in everyday events. He makes you laugh about something you would never laugh about.”

The play deals with parodies of eras long past while still mixing in modern day issues. It truly takes place in the here and now but the flashbacks work as a sort of dream sequence in which characters are imagining things.

Beyond the four main characters, four actors play every other character in the story. An oppressive pharaoh ruling over Egyptian slaves is later depicted as a bitter rich man in modern day New York. The Garden of Eden is later Central Park and Noah’s Ark is actually a circuit party.

The play explores many taboos, such as the God character being played by a woman.

“That was a very interesting choice,” said Griffin. “When you look at God as a nurturer and creator of humans, it makes a lot of sense to see God as a woman.”

Despite some of the negative backlash around the Charlotte community, Griffin said that he has gotten just as much positive reinforcement from people here and all over the country. He has received calls from people in the industry in New York and California, among other places, in which they encouraged him not to let the protests slow him down.

Telling this story is very important for Griffin, and he is excited to be able to share it with audiences. “I’m not going to make a million dollars with this. I just really want to create something that was never there before,” he said.


Flooded with streams: online media streaming on a college student budget

With students not able to afford being robbed by Time Warner and the other dish and cable networks on a monthly basis, many are switching to the alternative websites where movies and TV shows can be streamed for a relatively small price. Here is our look at the three most popular:


Photo courtesy of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime





Hulu Plus

I have some major problems with Hulu Plus. I had always watched these types of shows on the regular Hulu website for free without much of any problem. When I moved in with my roommate, I signed up for Plus because it can run through a PS3 to the TV, making the interface far more user friendly.Hulu Plus gives the viewer shows like Modern Family, New Girl and Family Guy a day or two after they’re released.

I figured this plan would double our library and make the bill paying easier. For the most part I was right, but a lot of the “features” of Plus aren’t much different than the free website.

For one thing, I was told the full series would become available for more than 100 of my favorite shows, as opposed to the free site carrying up to five of the most recent episodes. Although I wasn’t purposefully misled, I did expect more full series runs to be included. Certain shows (The Office, Community) provide all episodes but other big ones (Gossip Girl, House) have less than 10. I will admit that I have never watched an episode of either of those shows but I am writing for a target audience here.

The main problem with Hulu Plus is that if you pay for the service you still have to watch ads. My question is this: What am I paying for if I have to watch ads?

Could you imagine being at a movie theater on the edge of your seat in suspense and all the sudden you see Steven Tyler’s dumb grin looking at you while a narrator promises that this season of American Idol has more talent than all the others put together?

For the most part, I am paying eight bucks a month to be able to keep up with NBC Thursday night comedy and Modern Family. If FX shows like The League and It’s Always Sunny were included, it would take care of everything I paid for with cable anyway. But for fans with more needs, I would take a look at the lineups before signing up.

I’m not even going to mention Hulu’s movie selection. I’ve yet to find a movie I’ve ever heard of.

They do have some exclusive shows that can only be watched by Hulu viewers.

These shows include Misfits, a show that revolves around a group of five troubled teens assigned to do community service together. An electrical storm gives the teens super powers. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Their newest show is The Only Way is Essex, Britain’s take on The Hills. Horrible cockney accents and acting that makes Laguna Beach look like Breaking Bad.

I will take Misfits.



As for Netflix, the library is amazing. The movies are great, especially the documentaries (Restrepo, The Cove). Relatively new movies are added on a regular basis and the classics are neverending.

The TV shows are equally good, with critically acclaimed dramas (Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy) and hugely popular comedies (Workaholics, Weeds).

With everything from cult hits (Portlandia) to just cults (Vampire Diaries), Netflix does not skimp. There’s even some show called Glee, whatever that is.

The only problem is that you’re watching episodes that are from older seasons.

You don’t want to be the guy at work like, “I can’t believe how they ended season 5 of Rescue Me,” when everyone else is talking about Southland.

The age of some shows is completely fine with me, and there’s always the chance that I will run into something good that I never knew about.

As a full blown procrastinator, I like knowing that all of those shows are there. If somebody asks me if I watched Mad Men, I say, “No, but one day…One day I will.”

I recently found a Starz gem named Party Down. Nobody ever watches that channel but I stumbled upon the show on Netflix and it has become a favorite. I couldn’t care less that it’s three years old.

The ratings feature is a huge strength considering the size of the library. The “Top 10 for You” feature and other “Like” choices give you suggestions based on the things you’ve watched in the past.

This means that you can sit on your couch and watch enjoyable television for weeks on end. Forget about the fact that you have two papers to write and ten chapters to read.

It is easy to let someone hop on your Netflix account by giving them your passwrod, although technically I’m sure it’s illegal (SOPA!). However, beware who you trust with that information.

A person’s Netflix favorites and suggestions say a lot about him or her. My roommate was recently startled to see that his suggestions queue was filled with shows like Teen Wolf and Angel because my girlfriend had been ustairs watching Vampire Diaries on my iPad.

Although Netflix has roughly 25 times more paying users than Hulu, many lost faith last year when they bumped their monthly fee for movie mailing services up to $16.

I always thought that even the movies in the mail thing was dying considering how many people have access to streaming, but apparently not.

But if streaming is what you’re looking for, Netflix is the best bet.



Most wouldn’t consider Amazon Prime to be a serious competitor to Netflix.

But once you consider how many people subscribe to Amazon Prime for the company’s non-media streaming capabilities, it grows more and more appealing.

The primary appeal of Amazon Prime is its shipping service.

Those who purchase items online from the Amazon market and have a membership to Amazon Prime are given free two-day shipping which can be very beneficial.

For anyone looking to purchase a birthday or holiday present for a significant other or buying textbooks for much cheaper than they can be found at Barnes & Noble, free two-day shipping can be a true lifesaver.

For those who purchase more than ten or so items per year online, this benefit is worth the $79.99 all on its own. And so for many, the video streaming is only a bonus.

However, if you know someone who has an Amazon Prime account, they can simply let you on as a guest legally and you will get the free two-day shipping.

The price of $79.99 per year may look a little steep as a lump sum, but Amazon Prime ultimately comes out to less than both Netflix and Hulu Plus.

To those who are looking to Amazon Prime for video streaming solely, reservations are to be expected.

As far as content goes, Amazon Prime still does not measure up to Netflix. Amazon Prime only began adding video streaming to their service early last year.

At its launch it offered over 5,000 movies and television shows, which was tawdry compared to the 20,000 movies and television shows that Netflix offered.

Since its launch, there has been a substantial improvement in both quality and quantity of the Amazon Prime content.

It makes a difference that Amazon Prime members can’t stream the movies through their smartphones or tablets. It simply tells the user to put the movie on their Wish List and then find it with their computer.

Even with the improvement that Amazon Prime has achieved, it does not compete with the selection of Netflix, or even Hulu for that matter.

If you are a big spender on Amazon, it is worth it  to become an Amazon Prime member for a couple of different reasons.

Streaming video is not one of them.


The Verdict

My best advice is to work out a shared plan with a roommate, or even a friend you share passwords with, for both Hulu and Netflix. It’s convenient because both services have upsides and you both have bills under $10. As long as you pay yours and they pay theirs, it’s smooth sailing.

This isn’t always possible and so the big question still remains; which one has the advantage over the others?

Unless you are one of those water cooler lurkers who needs to see episodes of shows as soon as possible after they come out, I would stick with Netflix. The selection is just incomparable. 

Shutter 2012 gives snapshot of anxiety

[nggallery id=4]

The Art of Light Photography Club (ALPC) is now displaying Shutter 2012, an exhibit that showcases artful photographs from college students all around the country, in the Student Union gallery.

The Shutter exhibit has returned for its third annual showing, although it was skipped in 2011.

The opening reception on Thursday, January 18th, 2012 was a major success, with somewhere between 60-80 people passing through, said Liz Poulin, president of ALPC.

“There really was an awesome turnout,” she said. “Since it was in the Student Union we got the chance for students and faculty from outside the art department to come see our show.”

Some of the gallery-goers may have had hidden motives typical of most college students. “I do think there were too many crashers using us for the free food,” said Poulin.

Whether lured by the love of art or catered meat, the feedback from those in attendance was overwhelmingly positive.

“There were a lot of positive reactions. There were a few negative comments I read, but art is subjective and nobody is going to like everything in that gallery,” she said.

The only negative statement to be found among pages of positivity in the guestbook was from a girl named Kimberly from Charlotte who wrote, “Only four [pictures] stood out. Artists need more creativity. The gallery made me want to cry.”

That was the exception among many impressed patrons to sign the guestbook.

The art includes many different creative mediums for photography, from a self-portrait laser printed on wood to a family portrait encased in wax.

The latter was a piece named “Home” done by UNC Charlotte student Rachel E. Andrews.

“This past semester was very experimental. We were encouraged to look beyond traditional methods to mediums that could further enhance an image,” Andrews said.

“This was the first time I have incorporated wax with an image and it was a successful project.”

The wax gives the portrait a ghostly look in which the viewer can tell they are looking at a family portrait but can’t identify who they are looking at. Andrews said this sends a message.

“These family portraits are the Western idea of what a “perfect” family would be: white, a mom and dad and children. Leave out the single parent, the homosexual couple and the black family,” she said.

“The ambiguous identities allow the viewer to project their own family on the portraits and question the idea of what aspect of family creates home,” she said.

Andrews was pleased with the validation of having one of her pieces chosen.

“It’s always rewarding to have my work received in a gallery setting among other pieces created by very talented artists. At least I know I’m doing something right,” she said.

While UNC Charlotte students made up about half of the photos in the exhibit, other (mostly southeastern) colleges were also represented.

One notable piece from Cheryl Jordan Upchurch of University of South Carolina showed two closets: one belonging to a seven-year-old girl and the other to a 21-year-old male. The similarities are glaring.

Antonio Martinez, assistant professor of Intermedia Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), was the guest fine art photography juror for the exhibit, choosing about 30 pieces out of over 780 photograph submissions.

As well as the 30 winners, Martinez picked another 30 submissions to be shown on the ALPC website.

His longtime frined Aspen Hochhalter is a UNC Charlotte professor who also serves as faculty advisor for ALPC. As lead organizer of Shutter 2012, she approached him to be juror in October 2011.

“It’s been a refreshing experience, in that I get to see a range of different styles of creative work from non-SIUC students,” Martinez said. “In short, I get to see how students in other programs are similar and dissimilar to the students I teach at SIUC.”

Martinez made a couple observations about the photographers’ demographics while sifting through their photos, including the push for experimentation that Andrews mentioned.

“I noticed that the majority of the work produced from the southeast schools have an affinity for alternative and experimental photographic processes.”

Perhaps more startling was the realization Martinez made about the mind state of the young applicants.

“What I noticed in viewing this student work, which I presume was created mainly by young adults, is that this generation is consumed with anxiety,” he said.

“This could explain the desire to distress the surface of the image, to point the camera at the middle-class banality of life, or to create fictional narratives as societal warning flags concerning gender or environmental issues.”

Perhaps Kimberly was on to something when she admitted that the gallery made her want to cry.

“There are many images in the exhibit that evoke feelings of solitude, despair and loneliness,” said Martinez.

He doesn’t see this as a negative though. “At first, this concerns me, but I am reminded that artists, at times, function as the social antennae of the world, in which they possess a unique level of sensitivity to their environment with people and places included. These issues are important and impact society as a whole. When you put a camera in an artist’s hand, that level of sensitivity only amplifies.”

[Video] New von Gwinner exhibit gives literal meaning to ‘Projective Eye Gallery’

Internationally renowned artist Anna von Gwinner debuted her exhibition, “Betwixt and Between,” at UNC Charlotte’s Center City building on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

The exhibition, which projects images into the lobby of the building and out on to 9th Street, builds on a theme regarding what happens outside of the frame that is prevalent in most of her work.

The lobby projection shows a lit fuse, sometimes multiple fuses, that burn down and sometimes burst into a small explosion right before dissipating. The projection directed towards 9th Street simply shows drifting smoke.

It is within the unviewed 54 feet of the Center City building’s gallery, which lies between the two projections, where Gwinner hopes to focus the viewer’s mind.

“Some of you might have come to see fireworks tonight,” Gwinner told a packed

crowd in the building’s lecture hall. “I don’t want to show fireworks. I want them to be in your imagination.”

The new exhibition may not be as attention grabbing or breathtaking as some of her earlier works, but it is new territory for the Berlin-born architect and artist.

Although she has used multiple screens before, as in her Winnipeg “Downpour” exhibition in which she used six different video installations to make a building look as if it was filling with water, this is her first time putting them on opposite sides of each other.

“This was an interesting challenge,” said Gwinner.

She also said that she had never worked with a building quite as unique as the new Center City building on the corner of Brevard Street and 9th Street uptown.

“I discovered that the geometry of the shape of the gallery is so strong that anything that would try to draw the observer into the depth of the space wouldn’t work. So I thought it would be interesting to work with the geometry of the space,” she said.

The projections are placed upon trapezoid shapes on the bottom floor of the building.

They give the viewer the sense that it is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Although it can be frustrating to want to see more and feel like there must be more to see, that is the idea of most of Gwinner’s work.

One past exhibition, “Trampolinspringer,” showed a man repeatedly coming to the peak of a jump from a trampoline that remained out of theframe.

The projection was hung in a Catholic church in the southern part of Germany and during Mass, churchgoers would nod their heads up and down as if viewing the man through his entire jump, said Gwinner.

Gwinner’s work always revolves around a central character, such as the water in the “Downpour” exhibition or the jumper in “Trampolinspringer.”

In “Betwixt and Between,” two characters were needed.

She decided on smoke first. “I was looking for a character which would, through its movement, spread out on the surface of the façade. There’s an invisible force that makes the smoke change directions and sometimes makes it move in two opposite directions at the same time.”

She then needed a character to create the smoke.

Gwinner experimented with pouring water on lit fuses and, when that failed, submerging them in buckets. She quickly realized that there was nothing she could do to put the fuse out once it was lit.

“So they create this situation of uncontrolled explosion and fire within the gallery space, most likely leaving black stains all over the freshly painted walls,” said Gwinner.

The lobby projection is on a loop that lasts about 12-14 minutes, said Gwinner. The outdoor projection lasts 10 minutes.

Gwinner always builds a model of the space she will be working in, because her pieces aren’t truly art until they are placed there, said Gwinner.

“All of my art needs space to come alive,” she said.

In order to help the effect of the outdoor projection, Duke Power and the Charlotte Department of Transportation shut some of the streetlights off on 9th Street outside of the building, according to Crista Cammaroto, the College of Arts and Architecture’s (CoAA) director of galleries.

Cammaroto, as well as Ken Lambla, dean of the CoAA, spoke shortly and introduced Gwinner. She spoke about the difficulty of setting up such an elaborate exhibition over email.

“For a while there I thought she had a flamethrower and this was a political piece,” said Cammaroto.

Gwinner’s lecture, which lasted from about 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., was followed by a concert to launch “Fresh Ink,” a new music initiative by the College of Arts and Architecture.

According to a press release, Fresh Ink focuses on the music of living composers who draw from contemporary ideas and an eclectic sound world to create works that forecast an exciting new direction for concert music.

The music, by Andy Akiho, Kevin Puts and UNC Charlotte Assistant Professor of Music John Allemeier, was inspired by the work of Anna von Gwinner and her downtown installation especially, according to Lambla.

Lambla spoke on the fact that Gwinner’s work fits perfectly with what the CoAA is trying to do at the “Projective Eye Gallery,” which is “denying access to what one commonly thinks of a gallery, as a sanctuary or domain with precious viewing of pieces of art on the wall.”

Gwinner has not been able to see much of the city due to her busy schedule while she’s been here. She was editing the projections right up to the day of its debut.

However, during her only bike ride through town, she noticed a glaring difference from her home town.

“It was a very enjoyable bike ride but I found myself noticing that I was the only one on a bike,” she said.

Gwinner’s projections will be showing continuously until March 15, 2012. For those looking for hidden meanings or statements behind the exhibition, they need to look no further than their own imagination, said Gwinner.

“It’s not important the story I’m trying to tell you. It’s just the characters and the space they move in.”

Hello Handshake emphasizes the experimental

A promotional flyer for the upcoming Amos' show depicts all of Hello Handshake's members; kind of. Photo courtesy of Hello Handshake

In Charlotte’s music scene, finding a truly experimental band that’s willing to push the envelope artistically is like looking for a parking spot on campus at 11 a.m. They are there but finding one takes some looking.

Now say, “Hello,” to Hello Handshake, a six piece art collective that is based in music but likes to play with multimedia within their shows (think projection screens). The band lists its main influences as Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, early Pink Floyd and Flaming Lips.

Handshake will play Amos’ Southend for the first time on Jan. 28th and they hope to reach some people who are tired of the same old two-step when it comes to local rock.

The lineup, like the music, is constantly growing and evolving. The band started in 2009 as French Handshake, with Evan Plante, Bobby Bellamy and Nate Proczak, who are still members. Drummer Kevin Gavagan soon realized the time constraints of playing in two bands (Broken Napoleons) and opted out of French Handshake.

The band played a farewell show with Kevin as Goodbye Handshake before moving on to their present name. “We used French Handshake as we were messing around in the studio. Then when we had to play a show we were like, ‘Oh, we have to tell people our name? Let’s change it,’” said Plante.

Further down the road in 2011, the three remaining members finally hit the studio to record what would become Sublime Machines, their debut record that was released in the fall. It’s hard to truly list band members in regards to what instruments they play, as doing so is like trying to keep up with Hollywood marriages.

Officially, Bellamy is the lead singer and plays guitars and keyboard. Plante plays guitars, drums and the theremin. Proczak plays the bass, guitar and does samples. The three of them just played what needed to be played while the album was being recorded, but that wouldn’t work at a show, said Bellamy.

Soon after the album’s release, Todd Rowland signed on as the live drummer. Prozcak left the group to tour with Phil Stacey but rejoined in 2012. Most recently, Plante’s wife has joined to help on vocals, keyboard and percussion.

The fact that their history is so hard to follow fits perfectly with the product they put out in the form of “Sublime Machines.” For the most part, the music has a very 90’s feel, which makes sense considering the album name consists of two of that era’s most popular rock bands.

Yet Hello Handshake refuses to be lumped into any sort of category, and they don’t need to tell you that in person. Anyone listening to the album will notice that the songs practice a certain brand of musical Tourette Syndrome.

Melody is often broken by a manic state of instruments clashing that hits the listener without warning and can be a bit unsettling for the average music fan. It plays better when the CD is listened to front to back, but doesn’t work as well in the average iPod shuffle.

“We understand that it’s an awful lot to ask people to listen to a concept album when indie rock is so much pop now a day,” said Evan. “It’s not just a concept album but calling it that will let people step back and see it as a whole.”

Bellamy thinks the “outbursts” also have a place within the storytelling of the song. They precede a stampede in one song and foreshadow a coming flood in another.

These sections of clamoring also go further in showing that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously and that they are all in on what Proczak calls “the joke.”

“The outbursts keep it authentic. It brings us down to Earth, we’re just kids having fun,” said Bellamy. This works well within songs that can come off as a bit dark with Bellamy’s melancholic voice.

“Aspects of it are distant, cold and alarming. I feel like we’re telling a joke but I want everyone to know that it’s a joke,” said Evan. Making audience members feel as if they are on equal footing with the band is a big part of making that happen at shows.

“If I am writing about something personal, I’m writing it as a fictional character. If I could be in the crowd and still expressing myself without being on some pedestal, or have everyone in the crowd up on stage with me, that would be the best possible scenario.”

The Amos’ show will be Susan’s first, and will prove to be an interesting challenge for such a diverse band. “There are no set roles. We all do what needs to be done as the show progresses. Sound guys hate us at these venues. They look at us like we have 10 heads,” said Evan.

It’s all worth it in order “to take a step in the right direction for the music scene here,” said Proczak. “The complex can seem simple, and for us it’s just necessary.”