I got to try on a critic’s cap during Spoleto this year, and contributed a couple mini-reviews - of Bela Fleck and 13 Most Beautiful - to the online magazine CHARLIE.
BELA FLECK AND THE ORIGINAL FLECKTONES
Bela Fleck reunited with his original bandmates and enchanted a sold-out Gaillard crowd Sunday for a one-night-only show. While Fleck’s lightning-speed banjo picking mastered just about every musical genre, the band was at its best when it stuck to the script. A couple of the prolonged jam sessions veered into highly experimental – and at times frenetic – territory, prompting a handful of older patrons (who perhaps had more of a taste for opera?) to flee the scene. A highlight was guest fiddler Casey Driessen, whose freestyle exchange with Fleck a la Dueling Banjos took the band soaring to new heights. How many times have you really gotten to say, “That fiddle player was nasty!”
Our arty barometer says: This ain’t no Cotton-Eyed Joe. It’s banjo for grownups.
13 MOST BEAUTIFUL…SONGS FOR ANDY WARHOL’S SCREEN TESTS
Call Andy Warhol what you will – genius, whack job, or some combination of the two – the man certainly had an eye for pretty people.
In 13 Most Beautiful, indie rock/pop musicians Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips pair hypnotic musical compositions against a backdrop of black and white projections of some of Warhol’s famous (or infamous) screen subjects. The footage itself is grainy and subjects range from the familiar (Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Dennis Hopper, Nico) to the obscure. You can imagine Warhol himself off-screen, directing the subject to spontaneously cry, drink a Coca-Cola, look melancholy, or choreographing a slow curl of cigarette smoke or light reflected from the lens of sunglasses. Wareham and Phillips give an understated performance, demonstrating a conscious effort to take a backseat to the screen stars. The music serves to connect the audience with the subjects, in doing so achieving what they wanted all along. We love them, we adore them, we are fascinated by them. They are all famous, for at least 13 songs.
Our arty barometer says: It’s Warhol. It’s weird. Embrace it – with or without some mind-altering substance.
While the screen is dark for the show’s run at Spoleto, a recorded version is available to Watch Instantly on Netflix. Happy viewing.