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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Muse's Simulation Theory Tour; an unexpected cyber trip

 Sometimes spontaneous and amazing things happen and more often than not for me they are connected to music. On March 9th 2019 I was invited to a Muse concert by a neighbor I pet sit for. Apparently her son works with the band Muse! This is how I ended up with VIP tickets. The opening band had just ended (we got there late). So there I was at the packed Oracle Arena, the atmosphere (in terms of lighting and sound) felt akin to a John Carpenter movie. I could tell we were in for something special and the ending result was YOU HAVE NO IDEA. Part of why this blog has taken so long to write is because I don't know how to truly articulate what I experienced. This is probably one of the first or few of the concerts that I've been to that was an experience.


Let me explain...
The band came on stage to an enthusiastic crowd opening with some of their new music from "Simulation Theory." Unfortunately for me I haven't kept up with Muse's music and am only really familiar with their old songs. However after seeing them live for at least the 2nd time, they have definitely evolved, matured and elevated themselves. I don't know if you guys know but they have been doing so much more than music... and I'll get to that later!


 So much thought was put into the stage performance it's hard to detail everything I saw. In summary: There were dancers in coordinated LED covered suits climbing and descending the walls, men in large intricate robot suits, Matt Bellamy wearing LED jackets and sunglasses with the song lyrics, confetti, balloons, John Carpenter-esque light colors, lots of lasers, and my most favorite part...a giant inflated skeleton robot!


 My mouth literally dropped when I saw this thing ^! I can easily say that was the most impressive thing I've seen at a live concert! I think the last time I saw Muse was in 2007 and I remember them being incredible then. They have improved so much from greatness it's hard to put into words. I came away incredibly impressed by their performance. They did all the songs I wanted to hear "Knights of Cydonia", "Hysteria", "Starlight", "Uprising", "Time is running out" and more. 


 At parts the lead singer encouraged the audience to sing. I also really love seeing and hearing the fans in the audience sing to the music in unison. It feels like a bit of world peace for just a moment. Like I've probably said a million times before, I love how music unifies people. It's a beautiful thing. I was in the upper stage right area with a great view of the stage and auditorium. The band had a moment where they referenced Close Encounters of the Third Kind by using a guitar to make those communication sounds in the movie. The stage lights responded back to him with light and sound, again just like from the movie, very cool!



 Another cool thing that happened during the show was parts of the stage lowering down and rising up again to reveal different things, weather it be the band or one of the suited performers. It was the kind of show where you are looking all around the auditorium and don't know what will come from where next. It was incredibly immersive (which was obviously the point!), and I feel like simply calling it a live concert is not doing it justice. It was like a concert combined with something you'd experience at Universal Studios. Anyways, the show ends with no encore which might be the first time I've seen that. Once we left our seats I thought the night was done. 

 As we were leaving the crowded auditorium, I had no idea I was in for more! We made our way to the BMW Lounge with our VIP badges. We entered this room with Muse images and signs everywhere. In the entrance was a young lady taking pictures of guests posing with the Muse background and these purple gremlin things. As I look around the room I notice a lot more.  The show atmosphere continued into the lounge with the pink and purple lights, feeling a lot like Stranger Things. There are a bunch of virtual reality games, racing games and more over in a section of the lounge. Interestingly, these games were developed by the band and our connection to the band. Apparently the games go along with their music to top it off. Honestly at this point I was kinda stunned because I wasn't expecting any of this. 

 I'm looking around the room, noticing more and more things. "Hey there's a dog", "Hey there's the opening band..." "Hey, is that the drummer?", "Oh shit that's Matt the lead singer of Muse?" Everyone from the show I just saw was all in this one room mingling around the bar and games. I decided I would rather just observe and not bother the band members, although in retrospect I think I should have. We spent the next hour in the lounge, it was already about midnight before we came in. I got a massively overpriced gin and tonic and sat with my boyfriend taking in the scene. I looked around and thought, "this is really fucking cool" and I just acted like a normal human and didn't bother anyone. Special thanks to Jesse Stout for getting us in the show! If you haven't seen Muse recently, you need to!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

We need to talk about this: The Foo Fighters are "AIDS denialists"

Preface: I am a fan of the Foo Fighters' music, so this isn't intended to be a hit piece. I genuinely feel troubled by what I'm about to share with you in this blog entry. I had no idea about this until just days ago.

 Recently I saw a video that addressed celebrities with controversial beliefs. The one that stood out to me was Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters being "AIDS denialists" (which I didn't even know was a thing?) aka "HIV Truthers". I immediately had to look into this because it sounded just too crazy to be real (and you should ALWAYS be skeptical of things you hear and do. your. research.) An article that I felt was very thorough on the topic was "Foo Fighters, HIV Deniers"
"Maggiore’s message has apparently penetrated the minds of at least some Foo aficionados. She says she has heard from many Foo fans since the show — one of whom, she says, now works at the Alive and Well office. 
“AIDS is a toxic disease caused by either long-term recreational drug abuse or short-term anti-HIV medications,” writes a 22-year-old member of the Alive and Well-affiliated Students Reappraising AIDS on the Foo Fighters’ Web-based message board. “HIV is not spread sexually, nor is it the cause of any disease.” 
Other fans are less impressed. Damian Purdy, a 21-year-old Winnipeg, Canada resident and devoted Foo Fighters fan, is outraged by the band’s position. “By supporting this, the Foo Fighters have entered an arena that they have no business being in. The truth is that a rock concert is not the appropriate platform for these views to be expressed. I think the Foo Fighters have more influence than they realize,” he says."
 The deeper I dug the worse it looked. Not only have they teamed up with Christine Maggiore who is an AIDS denialist (WITH AIDS *long sigggghhhhhh*) for harmful promotions on tours and a crackpot documentary. Her website Alive and Well reads that AIDS is not a disease, one shouldn't seek medication for AIDS, and furthermore if you do it should only be homeopathy, herbs and naturopathy. Spoiler alert: Maggiore passed away from complications with AIDS in 2008.


 The Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl were a part of a documentary called "House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic." Here's a brief description of the movie: "The film argues that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is harmless and does not cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a position known as AIDS denialism. The film's claims of impartiality have been widely rejected by scientists, and the film's claims about HIV/AIDS have been dismissed as pseudoscience and conspiracy theory masquerading as even-handed examination."

I had to wonder if they still hold these views? I did some looking into it and found that they were vocal about being HIV deniers up until LAST YEAR (2017). As of currently there are no links on their site like there was last year. If you use the Way Back Machine aka Archive.org you can find screen captures on the official Foo Fighters site.

 As far as I can find they never retracted their stance. I found no signs of a change of heart on their site or social media.  I decided to reach out to them via tweet to see if I can clear the air on this issue. I'm able to find a few excerpts that echo the point that they since 'distanced themselves' from it in articles like  The Top 5 AIDS Denialists.
"Among Maggiore's supporters were members of the rock group, the Foo Fighters, who organized a sold-out benefit concert for her in 2001 (a stance they have since distanced themselves from on their band's website)." 
 In this section there's a link that simply takes you to an old message on the Foo Fighters message board (from 2006) with a random member of the forum (not a band member, I made sure) speaking against AIDS denialism. So sadly that leads nowhere since it's not coming from the band itself. 

Looks like they have only distanced themselves by taking the link off their official website.

 This fan's comment, which the above article uses as evidence of the band's change of heart states this:
"Please don't support Alive and Well    This organization advocates a dangerous position that can lead to people not receiving appropriate treatment for HIV and AIDS. The organization may make some interesting points, however this is not just some academic discussion, peoples lives are at stake. Your support encourages people to make decisions about HIV and AIDS based on the incomplete and misleading information promulgated by Alive and Well. Not only does the organization advocate putting less research into HIV and AIDS, it asks people not to use condoms to protect against HIV and asks people with HIV and AIDS not to take their medication. That is dangerous advice and I believe your support of this organization is irresponsible."
 It doesn't look like there has been a change of heart. It looks like they got some heat and decided to go quiet. Being a fan of theirs I'm disappointed to hear that they haven't seemed to change. At first I thought/hoped I'd easily find an article mentioning how they've since changed their minds on the whole AIDS denialist thing. For a great deep dive into this crazy topic, check out Myles Power's video series Debunking the AIDS Denialist Movie House of Numbers and the article The Deadly Legacy of HIV Truthers.

 Like I mentioned I reached out to the Foo Fighters on Twitter to see if they could clear the air. I doubt they'll respond, but I had to give that a try. If you to know of or have come by an article or video where they give an update on that I will gladly update my blog. Feel free to contact me through here or email.

P.S. Anyone else find it ironic that they have toured and performed with Queen doing tributes to Freddie Mercury who died of AIDS?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody hits all the right notes


This review will contain spoilers! Yes contrary to what I thought... there are spoilers! 

 Last night I finally saw the new Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a movie theater was almost completely full. The energy in the room was much like that of a live concert that was about to start as opposed to a movie screening. The movie opened with Live Aid, which is the bread in the sandwich of this story. It then went back in time to a young Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie's original name) developing his style and aesthetic. It also gave an intimate look into his family life and his dynamic with his parents, especially his father.

 The story continues as newly named Freddie sees the band "Smile" perform; which contained 2 future members of Queen (Brian and Roger). At first the two guys assume Freddie is self-inflating about his ability to sing and brush him off. True to form, Freddie pauses and begins to belt out a song which takes the guys off guard. And like that, we saw the birth and creation of the band Queen. From then on the story takes us through the growth and evolution of the band which included the new band name of "Queen."

 I think it goes without saying that Rami Malek (who played Freddie) was fantastic. I don't think there's anybody else in the world that could have owned that role better. The mark of a great character actor is someone who transforms into their role and even convinces you you're seeing the real thing. Rami Malek absolutely delivered and if he doesn't get nominated for an award I'm going to be annoyed and confused. All the guys cast for the band were basically perfect, especially Gwilym Lee who portrayed Brian May. If I could find a gif of someone throwing academy awards...I would post it here. All the awards for Rami and Bohemian Rhapsody!

Parts I loved


 Probably my favorite part in all honesty was Mike Meyers playing the record executive character and making the comment (I'm paraphrasing here) "Kids will never listen to this song in their cars while they bob their heads" when referring to the song Bohemian Rhapsody. Hilarious coming from Wayne Campbell! Mike Meyers' character tells them the cliche "You'll never work again in this town again" kinda thing and the movie makes sure to close out with him looking like the world's biggest chump. Obviously the music was great, the film was speckled with humor that was natural and genuine (not weird and out of place like with The Last Jedi).  The movie is self-aware and cheeky in it's moments of comedy. 
 I loved all the ripping on Roger's "I'm in love with my car" when they were working on "A Night at the Opera" album. I loved all the sprinklings of Freddie's cats and how they referenced how Freddie would talk to his cats on the phone. The way the movie showed how the band worked together and made music was done very fluidly. It was difficult to not feel goosebumps in many moments of the movie. Also shown in the film was Freddie dealing with racism, being called a "paki" and navigating young life as an immigrant. The Live Aid sequence did a great job of capturing the look and sound of the time. The effects were not tacky or overbearing which only made it feel more real like a live rock concert. I've watched my Live Aid DVD many times and this movie does a wonderful re-creation. 

Where it fell short

 I must mention that one of the things I feel like the movie misrepresented was Freddie Mercury's sexuality. The relationship with Mary seemed mostly accurate from my understanding, but apart from that I saw issues. First of all the movie treats Freddie like his homosexuality was this fleeting, random and impulsive thing. My understanding is that Freddie was straight but flamboyant, and he gradually became aware of his sexuality. He was experimenting with men and eventually came out to the people around him about being gay. 
 Another thing is this movie missed some great opportunities in Queen history. Such as music videos (they made some of the best and most groundbreaking music videos of the 80's like Radio Gaga), other legendary concerts (Wembly with the infamous yellow jacket), the collaboration with Bowie, and other huge moments (The Works Tour which I believe was the real catalyst for doing Live Aid). I realize the creators of the film can't show everything, but I do feel like they skipped some important things and kept in some less pivotal ones. But hey, that is just my opinion. Note: I just realized they did show the "I want to break free" music video. I guess I just wanted to see more. 


 The movie ends with the end of Queen's set at Live Aid and mentions Freddie's death from AIDS in 1991. As the credits roll Queen's music plays throughout as did live Queen footage. I have skimmed through a few reviews but couldn't give any kind of opinion until I saw it myself. Now that I've seen the movie I want to read the reviews so I can compare and contrast on some of the thoughts I had. With all the headlined articles about how the movie portrayed Freddie's sexuality makes me think I still have more to say on this subject. Note: I've realized that I can only really delve into the details after I see it for a second time. So part 2 will have to be put off a bit.

 Put bluntly every Queen fan or rock n roll fan needs to see this movie. I would describe myself as a skeptical and hard to impress person who is very protective of my favorite band...and I'd give this film a 9/10.
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