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Mind yr openers: Future Islands and Titus Andronicus upstage Okkervil River

Mind yr openers: Future Islands and Titus Andronicus upstage Okkervil River (photo)

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Last night, Okkervil River headlined a sold-out concert at the Cat’s Cradle, the long-time and legendary North Carolina stopover between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The Cat’s Cradle holds just more than 500 people, meaning that any two of the three bands on Wednesday night’s bill–Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus and Future Islands, combining for one of the summer’s biggest indie tours–could have sold out the show just fine. The Cradle appearance was the second of the month-long tour, and excitement was high. After all, Future Islands are a Baltimore band, but they’re actually kids from nearby Raleigh. What’s more, neighboring Durham was one of the first towns outside of New England to fall for Titus Andronicus, back before a big record deal and Pitchfork laurels. This was the kind of show, then, where tickets were sold in parking lots, where long-faced indie kids stood close to the entrance in hopes of someone having a spare. It was also the sort of show where you wondered just what Okkervil River is thinking.

Musically, the bill made no sense from the start: Okkervil River makes finely orchestrated, careful indie folk, led by proudly loquacious frontman Will Sheff. It’s well-rehearsed stuff, with little room for error or improvisation. The set was a carousel of instruments, with members swapping out guitars and positions between songs as though they were playing a public game of hot potato.

But Titus Andronicus makes willfully sloppy music, backing their Springsteen-meets-Danzig rants about life in New Jersey with a shoegazer’s feedback, Sousa-sized melodies and a rhythm section that only acknowledges the difference between loud and louder. Patrick Stickles howls and swears and slurs, sometimes only barely clinging to coherence. At one point, a guitar amplifier started feeding back uncontrollably, but no one cared; they just went for it.

Future Islands is three dudes–a keyboardist who stares at his hands, a bassist who stares straight ahead, and Sam Herring, who sings like a cross between Jack Black, Baby Huey and David Tibet. They make electronic soul with a big, thumping pulse, shaping the perfect frame for Herring’s onstage antics. He dances, growls and slaps himself, pushing the emotional hurt of his electronic songs to a visceral hope. They’re one of the most thrilling bands on the road right now.

So, sonically, it didn’t fit, but there was the hope–or the thought, at least–that the bill might gel on the strength of its respective frontpeople. Sheff, Stickles and Herring are a proud triumvirate of leaders, each at the center of their own universe of sound and story. When Herring sings about the woman whose infidelity became the inspiration for these songs, you get the sense that he’s pondered the situation just as much as Stickles has dissected and analyzed his youth, or as much as Sheff has catalogued and parlayed the neuroses he finds in his orbit. But Sheff came off as precious and stiff, with none of the aplomb, ease or enthusiasm of the bands before him.

Neither Titus Andronicus nor Future Islands had ever headlined the Cat’s Cradle; for them, it was a new treat, a chance to see how they sounded in the big room, how they looked for the large crowd. Honestly, they looked inspiring, two bands doing what they have long done with disregard for the careful nature of their hosts. The crowd expelled more energy for the short opening sets than they did for the long headlining performance. They clapped when Stickles demanded it, went crazy when Herring implied it with a slap to his own face and a dip of the hip to the left or right. For Sheff and his perfectly rehearsed pathos, they listened until they started to leave, the exhaustion of a dance party and a shout-along ostensibly leaving no room for introspection. Nominally, it was Okkervil River’s night; in actuality, you sort of pitied their folly.

So, have you ever gone to a show in hopes of seeing the headliner, only to be stunned by the opener and bored by the time the main act hit the stage? Tell us about it.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.