Local H's Scott Lucas. Photo by Wade Hawk.

It would have been the perfect time for Scott Lucas to close the door on Local H.

In February, he was mugged in Russia, an attack that left him with damage to his vocal chords - and they still aren't fully healed. In August, Local H announced that drummer Brian St. Clair was amicably leaving the guitar/drum duo after 14 years.

On the plus side, the band was coming off Hallelujah! I'm a Bum, which one PopMatters.com author dubbed the "best rock album of 2012," and which TinyMixTapes.com called a "watershed album ... . Not only is it the most intricately arranged and carefully structured of the band's 20-plus-year history, but it is also their first to delve so deeply into the polluted waters of partisan politics. ... Musically, Hallelujah! is on par with the best entries in the H catalogue. Lucas has a knack for crafting heavy rock with strong, distinctive hooks." As epitaphs go, a band could do much worse.

But when I asked guitarist/vocalist Lucas last week about shelving his Chicago-area band given the events of 2013, he said he never seriously considered it. "This would be the second time in my life where I would sort of think that," he said. But "at this point it's kind of hard to separate myself from the band. When I'm dead, you won't have to wonder what I thought and what was going through my mind. All you have to do is put on these records, and you'd know. ... This has never been a job for me. I honestly don't know what else I would do. It is part of me, and it always has been."

Sybarite5

It likely seems a minor thing, but most of the tracks on Sybarite5's 2012 album Everything in Its Right Place clock in within a few seconds of the corresponding Radiohead versions.

The string quintet - which will have three public performances as part of its Quad City Arts Visiting Artist residency from November 4 though 10 - is by no means the first classically trained ensemble to tackle the songs of Thom Yorke and company. But it's certainly the most faithful, and the song lengths are actually telling.

The eight arrangements by Paul Sanho Kim (on the 10-track album) are striking in matching each song nearly moment-for-moment and part-by-part. This includes lush, thick, slow pieces such as "Everything in Its Right Place" and "Pyramid Song" but also explosive rockers such as "Paranoid Android" and "2+2=5." Crucially, neither the arrangements nor the performances castrate the songs, retaining their dynamic range and energy without drums, electric guitars, or amplification.

Har-di-Har. Photo by Taylor Creery Photograpy.

There are many unusual things about the married-couple musical duo Har-di-Har, including the way songs swerve, shift, collapse, explode, die, and rise again with little warning. But it's unlikely that you'll get to hear their strangest songs when they perform at Rozz-Tox on Saturday.

Some odd bits first:

• The name Har-di-Har is drawn obliquely from the theme music of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that information is as helpful as any of the other explanations given by the band.

• The pair shares a drum kit, with Julie Thoreen playing the "hands" and Andrew Thoreen the "feet."

• People who purchase a USB drive with the band's two EPs will get all future Har-di-Har releases uploaded to it for free at a live show.

• The Thoreens decided to pursue music before they'd played a single show as a band.

• Har-di-Har's Facebook page calls its music "psychedelic dream pop intricately composed and played the way three-legged contests are won."

"We cannot do anything the way other people do it," Julie Thoreen said in a phone interview last week.

Sandra Steingraber. Photo by Dede Hatch.

Sandra Steingraber has bachelor and doctorate degrees in biology and a master's in creative writing. "I had long been a biologist by day and poet by night," she said in a phone interview earlier this month. "I kind of kept my writing world and my science world separate."

And that was her intention when she set out to write the book that would become Living Downstream. "It was going to represent my best attempt as a biologist to summarize the links between cancer and the environment," she said.

But the poet in her ended up transforming the project into something unusual: a deeply personal story intertwined with a scientific one, as Steingraber discusses her own cancer in the context of the troubling relationship between chemical pollution and the disease. The hook of the book, she said, is "the life behind one of the data points in the cancer registry, namely my own."

Steingraber will be speaking at St. Ambrose University on October 22 as part of the school's Sustainability Project, which includes events throughout the academic year. Her lecture, she said, will apply the "conceptual theme" of Living Downstream (originally published in 1997, with a second edition and film adaptation released in 2010) to fracking - induced hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas and petroleum.

Heartland Film Festival Opening Night Event on October 17 to feature film talent and real-life inspiration behind Roadside Attractions film at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Vanessa Hudgens to receive the Pioneering Spirit: Rising Star Award on October 19

(Indianapolis) - The 22nd Annual Heartland Film Festival (Oct. 17-26) kicks off on opening night with the world premiere of "Gimme Shelter." Centering on homeless, pregnant teenager Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens), the film explores her struggle for survival and the hope of redemption through the harsh realities of life on the streets.

Vanessa Hudgens will receive the Pioneering Spirit: Rising Star Award at the Heartland Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Saturday, October 19 at 8 p.m. at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

WHAT:

Heartland Film Festival presents the world premiere of "Gimme Shelter" (Roadside Attractions) at its Opening Night Event.

 

 

WHO:

  • Vanessa Hudgens, actor
  • Ronald Krauss, director, writer, producer
  • Kathleen DiFiore, inspiration behind the film
  • Joshua Amir, co-producer
  • Rachel M. Amberson, actor
  • Darlisha F. Dozier, actor and inspiration
  • Wanda Santos, actor and inspiration

 

 

WHEN:

Thursday, Oct. 17

  • 4 p.m. - First screening of the film with talent Q&A to follow
  • 6:15 p.m. - Red carpet with talent (press call time 5:30 p.m.)
  • 7:30 p.m. - Second screening with talent Q&A and reception to follow

 

 

WHERE:

Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46208

Media outlets can reserve a spot on the red carpet by contacting Heartland's director of marketing & communications, Greg Sorvig, at gsorvig@trulymovingpictures.org.

# # #

About Heartland Truly Moving Pictures
Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, a nonprofit arts organization, seeks to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. Its flagship event, the Heartland Film Festival®, launched in 1991 and runs each October in Indianapolis, screening independent films from around the world. Each year, the Festival awards more than $125,000 in cash prizes and presents its Festival Awards to the top-judged submissions. Heartland has awarded more than $2.5 million to support filmmakers during the last 20 years. The organization's Truly Moving Picture Award was created to honor films released theatrically that align with Heartland's mission. By bestowing this award seal to honored films, the award allows studios and distributors to inform audiences of a film's transformative power and appeal. Heartland is also dedicated to cultivating youth, and thus created the Heartland Institute to provide innovative educational and outreach programs that enrich the minds and lives of youth and aspiring filmmakers. Heartland shares inspiring films year-round in the community through the Heartland Roadshow, bringing meaningful films across Indiana. For more information, visit TrulyMovingPictures.org.

Willy Mason

An online comment on the American Songwriter review of Willy Mason's Carry on disputed the gushing praise heaped on the album, complaining that "the percussion sounds to me like it's straight from a drum-machine loop."

There's a simple reason for that: It was.

The singer/songwriter will be performing October 17 at Maquoketa's Codfish Hollow Barn as part of the Communion Tour with Rubblebucket, Roadkill Ghost Choir, and others. In a phone interview last week, Mason explained that the drum-machine idea came from producer Dan Carey. "He had that, and I had the songs, and we went in and we started working with that rhythm, and things just unfolded from there pretty quickly," he said. "I was actually skeptical at first, but I thought it would be worth a try. ...

Laura Stevenson. Photo by Dave Garwacke.

Laura Stevenson's song "Sink, Swim" could be called an apocalyptic ditty, a cheery, up-tempo rock song with soaring vocals that sketches out the destruction of the West Coast: "Oh California, I tried to warn ya. / The earth is gonna quake before ya. / You'll be real sorry but it won't be sorry. / The dirt is gonna crack and split you in two." The casual address certainly suggests the musical approach, but it's easy to miss the lyrics in such a joyous ruckus.

The song appears on her 2013 album Wheel, and she explained in a phone interview last week that "I like that juxtaposition of mood and ... undercurrent - the actual meaning of the song. ... Two different ways of feeling the same word[s]. You can read them on the page and take them at face value, or you could hear them put to music with a completely different mood. It's just a different way of digesting it. Kind of what life is like."

She and her band will be playing the Moline Bier Stube on October 4, and in that setting it will be easy to gloss over grim words. But Stevenson's songs are rewarding both musically and lyrically, whether you consider their sometimes disparate components together or separately.

Kelly Daniels. Photo by Joshua Ford (JoshuaFord.com).

In ninth grade, Kelly Daniels was called to the principal's office, where his father was waiting. Dad took Kelly and his younger brother Ole for a drive, and after a while, he said, "I figured you should hear it from me first."

He said he woke up in jail. And: "To be honest, it was kind of a relief when the guard finally told me I killed Barclay." And then: "You can cry if you want."

But Daniels didn't cry. What he felt instead was "something that still kind of amazes me," he said in an interview earlier this month. "It was a strange reaction. It just seemed like all of a sudden my life brushed against the news. 'This is a big deal.'"

He felt something similar when he emerged from a week-long fever that nearly killed him in Honduras: "There was this same sense ... of my life being like a book."

And now it is - and a good one, too. Daniels, an associate professor of English at Augustana College, earlier this year published his memoir Cloudbreak, California. (He'll celebrate its release with a party from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, September 27, at the Bucktown Center for the Arts, and he'll also read from it as part of the River Readings at Augustana series on January 16.)

Local developer Rodney Blackwell clearly got the Davenport City Council's attention with a $250-million casino-development proposal on September 7. But from the outset it didn't appear there was any path forward for it.

The Isle of Capri (IOC) has, through October 15, an exclusive negotiating agreement with Dan Kehl's Scott County Casino company to sell its Rhythm City property. And, as Blackwell readily admits, even if it didn't, the Isle wouldn't want to negotiate with him and his partner, the Canadian company Clairvest Group.

So the city council's 9-1 vote on September 11 to table a development agreement with Kehl appeared to be little more than a delay. Kehl has said he'll complete the sale by the October 15 deadline. And the Riverboat Development Authority (RDA) - which holds the Rhythm City gaming license - on September 16 approved an operating agreement with Kehl's company. (All these agreements are steps toward actually building the casino, and beyond them is approval from the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.)

The message of Kehl's comments and the RDA's action is that the train has left the station, and Blackwell isn't on it. As RDA Chair Gary Mohr told the Quad-City Times: "The RDA will keep its commitments. I don't know if people don't understand it or they just don't like it."

But Blackwell thinks he has a play. He said in an interview last week that he believes the city council can kill the Kehl deal, and that it further has the leverage to force the Isle of Capri to negotiate with him and Clairvest. Alternatively, the city could use its power to push Kehl to make a larger investment than the $110 million he has pledged to spend on a new casino and hotel complex. (Kehl said the three-phase development will total $200 million.)

Chuck Ragan. Photo by Tom Stone.

When Chuck Ragan stops in Davenport later this month, his fans shouldn't miss the opportunity to see him. He's not likely to announce his retirement from touring any time soon, but he's regularly talked about the difficulties of being a touring musician and the price that families pay.

And he said in a phone interview last week that someday he will hang up his guitar to spend more time with his family. "Absolutely," he said. "I'm sure a lot of musicians would say the exact opposite. ... [But] I really look forward to that in a huge way. And I don't know when that is. ... I've always had a love/hate relationship with touring and the road. It does take a massive toll. But I think it takes more of a toll on our loved ones, who are on the other side of it."

Ragan is not, I stress, stepping out of the spotlight soon - which should be apparent from both his recent activity and his plans.

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