Cold as Ice
My parents are no concert slouches: They saw the Who in their 1960s heyday and have accompanied me to R.E.M. and U2 shows. But since my dad delights in playing the rock-i-fied holiday tunes of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every Christmas, B-Sides decided to grant his holiday wish and send him and my mom to one of the band's three Cleveland shows to report back on what they saw.
B-Sides: How many people were onstage?
Dad: I think there must be eight of them? There was the narrator, three guitarists, a violinist, two keyboards....
Dad: And a drummer. An excellent drummer.
Mom: And then an orchestra.
What does the narrator narrate?
Dad: Each year there's a different story that they put their music to. The story was about an old man going into a bar on Christmas Eve, sitting all alone. Then he starts talking to this other gentleman, and a gentleman relates a story about an angel going around the world on Christmas Eve.
What was surprising about the concert you didn't expect to happen?
Mom: They went into this long rock concert [after the Christmas portion].
Dad: I think they were trying to spread their wings, because they were playing non-Christmas music.
Did you like it?
Dad: It was OK. But I came prepared to hear their Christmas music. I wasn't prepared for other music. Two-thirds of the way through the second set of songs, he [a band member] says, "OK, Cleveland, let's see how many people out there have cell phones light 'em up! Wave your cell phones!" That was really neat. All you could see is these little blue screens waving....
Mom: Of course, you know your dad couldn't wave his because his doesn't...[Laughs]
Dad: Oh, shut up.
Because his doesn't what?
Dad: I've got my little green screen. I've got my old little phone, the ancient one? [Laughs]
Mom: It doesn't light up. So he pretended that he had one.
Mom, which Christmas song did you like the best?
Dad: She liked the one with the strings.
Mom: That was their opening one.
Was it all downhill from there?
Dad: For your mom it was.
Mom: It's not like a Christmas concert where you're actually hearing Christmas songs. Like if you go see the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes: If you see that one, you have things that you recognize. But the variations they do on these songs...it's so much rock. And so much guitar and headbanging, that you don't recognize it.
Mom: Headbanging with "O Come All Ye Faithful."
Dad: No, they run up and down the stage, Annie. They're all longhairs. Longhairs in tuxes.
Mom: When they were doing "O Holy Night" which is one of my favorite Christmas songs anyhow it was this rock version of it, where they're doing the dueling guitars right next to each other and swinging the hair.
Dad: Think of Jimi Hendrix. The way they did it on the guitar. They know how to play their guitars, believe me.
Mom: It was so rock. As I said, it reminded me a lot of Beavis and Butt-Head doing AC/DC.
Dad: The thing is, though, Gerri, people who like Trans-Siberian Orchestra recognize their music the way they do it that way. You're not into that. I enjoyed that.
Mom: Right. All I could think of was Beavis and Butt-Head. Annie Zaleski
Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Savvis Center, South 14th Street and Clark Avenue. Two shows start at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, December 23. Tickets are $35 to $45; call 314- 241-1888 for more information.
The cinnamon-flavored potpourri, the delightful eggnog and the crackling fire; nice work, Martha. In fact, you've done such a great job staging the perfect holiday scene that your guests won't leave, and it's damn near 2006. Assuming you don't want to drag the cops into it and arrest the stragglers for trespassing, include these tunes at the end of the night's soundtrack and deliver the universal message of "get the hell outta my house" the musical way.
Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant": Yes, it clocks in at more than twenty minutes. It's repetitive, even catchy. But it'll force even the most rooted to the couch and hammered guest to think, "Hey, wait a minute. I've heard this before. Like, just a few minutes ago. Damn, how long have I been here?" And if even your sober attendees can make it through the first ten minutes, they should be able to get the hint. And maybe even take the drunkies home. But like "American Pie" and anything by Meat Loaf, people won't ask you to play it twice.
Johnny Cash, "Hurt": Sure, the Nine Inch Nails version of "Hurt" was no uplifting joyfest. But few voices are more haunting than Cash's anti-cheer baritone on his cover. Note for plicky-plucky note, the guitar strings themselves seem at once lonely, desperate and off-key. Kind of like the lives of those at your party! This antithesis of holiday cheer should break up the crowd faster than police showing up at a post-prom, Boone's Farm-soaked fête.
Trent Tomlinson, "Drunker Than Me": This PSA-as-country-song might hit the sauced single ladies where it hurts right in the booze-marinated liver. Especially this part: "I can't be with a woman, baby, who gets drunker than me." Chicks know it's tough to fly solo at couples showers or the dreaded New Year's Eve. This might spark a moment of clarity, God love 'em, as they crouch alone by the toilet bowl. Perhaps they'll even take stock of their lives. And, more important, get the hell out of yours. For the night anyway.
But ultimately, don't give even the sloppiest invitee such a bitter heave-ho-ho-ho that they'll never come back to your casa. Because deep down, you know they're the fun ones who will really help get your first annual Flag Day party off the ground. In June. Kristie McClanahan
Hyperbubble keeps it robotically real. This San Antonio synth-pop duo employs more off-beat noises than a Foley artist all the while paying lyrical homage to their appliance parents and electronic gizmology.
B-Sides: When did your robot obsession begin?
Jess: Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Jeff: I like gadgets in general, machines working so that people don't have to. Frees us up to dance! Thank you, robots!
Who are your favorite robots?
Jeff: Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Jess: Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot!
What do you think of Aibo, the robot dog?
Jess: I think it's a great idea. When I was a kid, I was so desperate for a pet, I pasted a magazine picture of a cat onto a fur muff and dragged it around until it fell apart. My parents never got the hint.
But you have a pet now. There's a cat on the track "Leon."
Jeff: We followed him around the house for about an hour with a microphone to get some choice yelps.
Jess: I had to give him a couple of squeezes.
You say your parents were a toaster and a blender?
Jeff: That's what we were left with when our parents went out.
Jess: Actually, I can't even make toast. I never learned how to cook!
Jeff: You were abandoned by your Toaster Mom!
Jess: I was shooed out of the kitchen by my Toaster Mom.
You also talk about electric brains.
Jess: Our house has an electric brain. Every time we turn the microwave on, the lights flash.
Sounds like your microwave has a lot of power.
Jess: More than we'd like it to!
Jeff: Our microwave kicks ass.
Jess: But it does have a mind of its own. It turns itself on sometimes.
Jeff: It just beeps all of a sudden, like "I'm still here!" Once it knew we recorded it, it was like, "I can do other things!"
It's the holiday season. What is an ideal Hyperbubble Christmas gift?
Jeff: I think one of those Panasonic eight-track players and some Donna Summer tapes to go with it. She is the queen of techno. But also, everyone should own a synthesizer. If they did, the world would be much more easygoing.
What would be a good present to give a robot?
Jeff: Oil and some fresh ball-bearings.
Jess: Disco music! A Donna Summer CD!
Here's what I'm taking away from this conversation: You guys love microwaves and Donna Summer.
Both: Oh yeah!
Jeff: Think about it! [sings Donna Summer's "I Feel Love"] ...as the microwave goes round, oscillating? Would you like to hear our microwave?
Hyperbubble at the Creepy Crawl, 412 North Tucker Boulevard. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 22. Tickets are $7; call 314-421-9333 for more information.