Thursday, December 14, 2006

most depressing xmas song EVER

Come December, I'm attracted to 24/7 Christmas radio like a moth to a bug-zapper. In Chicago, it's 93.9 FM - THE LITE. This year, they switched their light pop/shlock format to Xmas tunes in October. OCTOBER!!!!!!!! There was an article in yesterday's Redeye about how lucrative the format-switch is, even in October. It makes sense. I don't ever listen to The Lite outside of their Christmas format.

Last night, I was writing a few Christmas cards and listening to The Lite when the Delilah Show was on. She's syndicated coast to coast and out the wazoo. Good ol' Delilah runs a call-in, love song dedication, feel-good type program. During the Christmas season, folks call in to share favorite holiday memories and family traditions. It's enough to make your teeth rot out of your head, and I'm a sucker for it when I'm not busy rolling my eyes. I was only half-listening to a song she played in dedication to one of her callers. It was mostly on as background noise as I was affixing a Ninja sticker to the inside of a Christmas card (nothing says Merry Christmas better than a ninja).

The jist of the song, once I started listening half-way through, was roughly this: a kid wants to buy a pair of shoes for his mother for Christmas. His mother is sick in a hospital, she's dying fast, and he wants to give her a new pair of shoes so she'll look nice "for when she meets Jesus."

What the... ? Huhn??? Is this Christmas music or the soundtrack to cut yourself?

Have any of you heard this song? If so, do you have any idea who sings it? It's a contemporary male singer who sounds like he belongs in the country music rack at Wal-Mart, if that narrows it down.

Delilah, you sick sick woman.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

my friend, the dictionary

I had an extensive IM conversation last evening with my sister Carly. It was the longest conversation we've ever had with each other about anything. It started with her asking me for the proper spelling of the word "antisemitic" (www.dictionary.com was down).

Marisa: Well do you have a REAL dictionary? Like a book dictionary?
Carly: nope
Marisa: Made of paper?
Carly: what's paper?
Marisa: ...you seriously do not have a real dictionary? That's nuts.
Carly: I also tried spellchecking on word. it didn't come up anywhere
Marisa: I suppose I could look it up for you in MY dictionary. But you owe me a dollar if I do.
Carly: I hate you.
Marisa: You need a dictionary. Punk.
Carly: I'm not a writer, and I don't plan on becoming a writer as a career
Marisa: You don't need to be a writer to need a dictionary. I'm getting you a dictionary for Christmas now. You are getting a dictionary.
Carly: I don't need a dictionary!!!
Marisa: Yes you do. I don't care if you don't think you need it. You can use it as a coaster.
Carly: buy me something useful!
Marisa: Like I said, use it for beverages. And then guests to your apartment can look up words you don't want to look up. You just doomed yourself to getting a dictionary from me. Do you have a dictionary preference? Webster's? American Heritage?
Carly: Apparently not.
Marisa: Fine, then you leave it up to me. And I'm going to highlight all the words I think you should know.
Carly: Are you just going to color all the pages with a marker?
Marisa: Technically, a highlighter IS a marker. So yes.
Carly: Yeah, I wanted to add some word variation. I just wanted to prove you don't need to buy me a thesaurus too.
Marisa: Sometimes they have deals on a dictionary/thesaurus two-pack
Carly: You know what! I'm going to go finish my paper now...without a dictionary made of paper. Thank you for your time. I don't need anymore sass.
Marisa: You deserve the sass for not owning a dictionary. Go finish your paper. My half of your Christmas present won't be a surprise. Sorry.
Carly: I don't care. Thanks for the dictionary...
Marisa: You're welcome. You'll love it.

[end]

Monday, November 20, 2006

deconstructing "leader of the pack"


I recently listened to the lyrics of “Leader of the Pack” by the girl group the Shangri-Las, a #1 hit of 1964. This song falls into the popular 1960s “teen tragedy” genre wherein teenagers fall in love and then get gruesomely splattered all over the pavement. It always involves a car or a motorcycle, and sometimes rain or otherwise dangerous road conditions.

“Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Dead Man’s Curve” is a disaster of the stock-car race variety where the boy dies in a mangled wreck. In “Teen Angel,” a car stalls on the railroad tracks and the lovers escape the car; unfortunately, the foolish girl goes back to the car to retrieve her beau’s high school ring, and she gets mashed into choo-choo pizza. The finest example, lyrically at least, is “Last Kiss” (covered by Pearl Jam in 1998) where the girl dies after her boyfriend wrecks the car in a sonic shower of “screamin tires” and “bustin glass” and “painful scream that I heard last.”

God, I wish this genre were still popular!

My favorite song, though, is “Leader of the Pack.” It’s filled with so much drama and angst, generational disputes, and archetypal bad-boys. The literal sound-effect of rebel Jimmy revving his motorcycle and crashing is just icing on the cake. The lyrics make sense in a casual listen. But a deep listen yields a curious story. (If you’d like listen along as I hash this out, click here to open up a MySpace page containing the song)

LEADER OF THE PACK

by The Shangri-Las

Betty’s gossiping peers open the song in spoken word under hums and ominous piano chords.

[Spoken:]
Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let's ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing?

BETTY: Mm-hmm

Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?

BETTY: Uh-uh

By the way, where'd you meet him?


The song sets itself up as an explanation to our Greek chorus of gossipy girls. Clearly, they don’t know Jimmy bought the farm if they wondering if he’s going to pick up Betty after school. And Betty seems pretty okay in her casual “uh-uh” which is a little strange if this was such a life-shattering incident. I suppose we all handle our tragedies differently. But these gals are opening a can of story-tellin’ whoop ass when Betty kicks into full gear with percussion and guitar support.

I met him at the candy store

Uhhh -- hold on -- what sort of motorcycle rebel is hanging out at a candy store? If it’s to establish Jimmy as a childlike innocent despite his leather-clad (I assume leather) bad-boy streak, I understand. I would sort of like a lyric along the lines of “Jimmy really liked chocolate covered marshmallows la la laaaa” to provide more context. Maybe candy shops were a little more bad-ass in 1964?

He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture? (girls, spoken: yes, we see)


Ahh, Betty swoons for a smile. Her peers understand all so well. They’re just going to brush the whole “Candy Store” under the rug. I, however, will not.

That's when I fell for (girls, sung: the leader of the pack!)

[sound: motorcycle revs]


Clearly, these girls were just baiting Betty as the jump right into her song. But where are these motorcycle sounds coming from if Jimmy is dead? Are they phantom revs of better times? Spooky.

My folks were always putting him down (girls: down, down)
They said he came from the wrong side of town
(Girls: whatcha mean when ya say that he came from the wrong side of town?)


The girls are onto it. What is unsung here is that Betty’s parents were also concerned that Jimmy is a guy who hangs out at Candy Stores.

They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad


Why was Jimmy so sad? I can only assume it has something to do with a dead puppy.

That's why I fell for (girls: the leader of the pack)
[sound: motorcycle revs]


Wait wait wait. Betty, darling... You told us you fell for him when he smiled. Which is it? Or is there something more here, something a little more, oh, poetic? Like are you also telling us that in his smile you saw this sadness and that is the why? Deep.

One day my dad said, "Find someone new"
I had to tell my Jimmy we're through
(girls: whatcha mean when ya say that ya better go find somebody new?)


Betty, you fold like a freakin chair! Put up a little fight, will ya? A little “oh, c’mon Dad, stop being an old fashioned “I Like Ike” ass, lots of motorcycle rebels hang out at Candy Shops with little kids!” The chorus girls get it, Betty, why can’t you? Duh.

He stood there and asked me why
But all I could do was cry
I'm sorry I hurt you (the leader of the pack)
[motorcycle revs]


You shoulda stood up to Dad because we’re getting to the center of this teen-tragedy. Betty betrays her heart and it results in the death of her true love. That motorcycle revving is, like, thematic n shit.

[Spoken:]
He sort of smiled and kissed me goodbye
The tears were beginning to show


Jimmy is such a softie. Turning on the waterworks.

As he drove away on that rainy night
I begged him to go slow
But whether he heard, I'll never know


Oh he heard you all right, Betty. You broke his bad-boy heart in record time and YOU KILLED HIM! Though to be fair, there isn’t evidence of much courtship up to this point. I suppose this leads to the assumption of overreaction in all parties. Regardless, I think Jimmy really needed to motor to get to the Candy Store before it closed. Also, did he just wipe out on the pavement because the road was a little slick? That's sort of lame. This would be a bigger tragedy if he got caught under the wheels of a school bus and the school bus exploded and then rammed into a nursing home, somehow. I'll shut up now because this is everybody's favorite part of the song:

(girls: No No No No NoNoNO)
Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!


My favorite moment in any pop-song, ever. A bold statement, for sure.

I felt so helpless, what could I do?
Remembering all the things we'd been through


It’s not clear at what point this “helplessness” and “remembering” occurs. I assume that was more lyrical than “I called an ambulance and gave my statement to the police.” This narrative event must be implied.

In school they all stop and stare
I can't hide the tears, but I don't care
I'll never forget him (girls: the leader of the pack)


This is evidence that the chorus girls don’t attend Betty’s school. Betty was lucky to find slightly ignorant girls to keep the story moving forward and who also happened to be so musical. We also have to make a big assumption here, that being: the Leader of the Pack is dead. We could also assume he was just severely injured and he never wanted to see Betty ever again because she's a lame lame-o who can't commit. Or he moved to Phoenix or something. But I'm pretty sure Jimmy got greased on the pavement because that's how teen-tragedies have to end.

(Betty and the girls)
The leader of the pack - now he's gone
The leader of the pack - now he's gone
The leader of the pack - now he's gone
The leader of the pack - now he's gone


Notice, we really get no sense of the pack that Jimmy leads. No mention of his biker buddies. He seems a lone wolf, Leader of the Pack in title only. No matter. May we all be so fortunate to spin our tragedies into artistic gold. Rest in peace, Jimmy, you candy-lovin’ Leader of the Pack.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

travelogue: Wisconsin Dells

Everything along route 12 between Baraboo and The Wisconsin Dells is geared toward pillaging your wallet for the sake of supporting or exploiting the natives of this region. Faux Indian trading posts, Ho Chunk casino, and what I could only decipher as a twenty-four hour Bingo parlor, which was actually pretty tempting. I’m good at bingo. The natives call me Dances With Bingo.

When I hit the main drag of the Wisconsin Dells, I have about ten simultaneous flashbacks of family vacations here. The Corny Maze. The Wonder Spot. Timber Falls Mini-Golf. There seem to be bigger, gaudier resorts nestled here on the outskirts of the Dells, but closer to the epicenter are the familiar motels and hotels built in the heyday of TV dinners and hula-hoops. The skeeze is all family oriented (except for Dave’s Tattoo Parlor). Tommy Bartlett’s Sky, Ski, and Stage Waterski Show, one of the staples of the Dells will rock forever and ever, even though Tommy kicked on fifteen years ago. I saw the Tommy Bartlett show once. Despite the cloud of mosquitoes eating me, it was a pretty solid evening of hokey and exciting entertainment. Bigger, badder roller coasters have sprouted from the ground from when I last remember. The last time I was here was with my sisters Amanda and Carly nine or ten years ago. Amanda bungee jumped and Carly kneed me in the face on a pitch-dark, double-innertube waterslide at Noah’s Ark. I spent the rest of the day with toilet paper waded in my nostrils, cartilage in my nose properly crushed.

I wasn’t anticipating doing anything on this jaunt other than drive the few miles along the main drag and into Downtown Dells. Most of the attractions are closed for the winter. There are plenty of Haunted Houses and Dungeon’s of Terror, and Fun Houses.
I remember this one used to be called Mass Panic. You can probably guess why they changed it. But this one is one I hadn’t seen before. . .
What the F? What is this? Is this the White House?
Please note the White House landed on, and crushed, that white compact car.

TOP SECRET: A Highly Classified Experience. Now the key giveaway that this isn’t really the White House is that it’s slightly smaller than the actually White House. And it’s upside down. And in Wisconsin. The sign on the ticket booth said it was open so I really can’t leave the Dells without plunking down ten bucks (the winter rate. It’s 12 bucks in the summer. What a deal). I’m the only one here, which seems to be the theme of all of today’s attractions. I enter a waiting area and watch a DVD of presidential bloopers that was clearly made before the George W era: a baby throws up on Bill Clinton, George Bush gets bit by a crab, Dan Quayle being Dan Quayle. I notice something peculiar about the waiting area. This seems to be an upside down room. Hmm.

My college age tour guide arrives and she seems to have invited her boyfriend along so it’s not entirely awkward that I’m the only one on this tour. He’s wearing a t-shirt with an old-skool Nintendo control pad on it, and he admits, “she dragged me on this tour.” I feel a fissure in their relationship and that he ain’t getting any nookie tonight. The tour guide rattles off the scripted tour spiel like the college theatre major she probably was. I say to her, “Please tell me if anything is going to jump out and scare the shit out of me.” She smiles and laughs and not once during the tour does she ever tell me if anything is going to jump out and scare the shit out of me before things jump out and scare the shit out of me, and for this, I hate her. Amanda will tell you about the time at the Wisconsin State Fair when I made it halfway through a “Fun House” before I turned around and ran out the entrance crying. Fun House? More like… Not Fun House.

We walk into the first room: The Oval Office. But there’s something strange… the furniture and everything is stuck on the ceiling and, oh my god, George Washington is behind the desk, feet firmly planted on the ceiling. The most unbelievable thing here is not that the entire White House is upside down, but that George Washington never lived in the White House during his presidency. Never mind that historical inaccuracy. This tour only gets stranger.

The next room we visit is the upside down Lincoln Bedroom. The tour guide informs me that the room is haunted and the bed on the ceiling fell and crushed the last tour group she took through here. I see the upside Red Room and Green Room and then… the top secret part of the tour… I am taken on an “elevator” into the basement. Well, the elevator doesn’t go anywhere. The walls shake and the lights flicker to imply descent. Although, this being the upside down White House, shouldn’t we be going UP to the basement…?

So in the basement, there’s some kind of excavation going on. My tour guide tells me the digging crew disappeared last week. There are alien skulls packed in the dirt. Apparently, there are live aliens stored in crates, or something, I don’t know, the whole story of this Top Secret basement is foggy. Then the next room is, like, a presidential robotics lab where I find out that all the presidents since 1950 have been robots and that the current George W. Bush model is malfunctioning. Okay, that’s a little amusing. Chuckle worthy, maybe. The tour guide leads me through “a decontamination chamber,” on of those cylindrical rooms where you walk on a catwalk, and the walls spin around you with lasers and lights, and the affect is disorienting and makes you run into the railing and makes you want to vomit. This sure is fun.

We walk through a sewer system (whatever, I’m still hung up on the George Washington thing) and end up in the library of the upside down White House. My tour guide leads me into a “secret passage” which is actually a dark mirror maze. Oh shit. A dark mirror maze is what fucked me up in that State Fair fun house. I have to meet my demons head on, I guess. I don’t want to chicken out in front of this tour guide and her lame boyfriend.

I totally rock this mirror maze!!! I’m out of there in like twenty seconds. Even though some scary shit jumped out at me and there’s pee pee dripping in my sock, I feel I have been redeemed in some small way. The maze lets me out into the upside down dining room. I’m informed that the half eaten sausage pizza on the table is Abraham Lincoln’s. I’m just going to let that one go.

The tour guide takes me to the exit and tells me to visit again soon. This is when I press her for answers: “So, I understand that this is the White House, only it’s upside down and the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling is the floor, yadda yadda… but what is the actual premise?”

“Well, that’s pretty much it,” she says.

“I know, but how did the White House get dumped upside down in Wisconsin? Is there, like, a story behind that? How does that connect with the aliens and robot presidents?” I ask.

“Umm. We’re kind of still working on the premise.”

She wants to get away from me as fast as possible and go back to watching TV in the ticket booth. But it makes me wonder. Shouldn’t the premise and the story have been intrinsic to the development of the idea of the upside down White House, or is this just me trying to impose connective story tissue on something that gets by on it’s sheer weirdness and, like, upside down razzmatazz? I know The Poseidon Adventure exploited the upside-down premise, but there was a clear-cut story. What if I had to escape the upside White House? That would’ve been good and scary. But why would I have to escape? What’s chasing me? How does what’s chasing me connect to the reason the White House is upside down in the first place?! All I’m saying is I think I could have gotten my ten dollars worth if someone had put more thought into the story-telling here. I’m thinking about this way too much. My tour guide has left me and I’m standing alone in the parking lot of the upside down White House feeling a little cheated.

I give Carly a call. She’s in school at UW-Madison and Madison is on my way home and maybe we can get a bite to eat. I’ve heard horror stories about her dumpy Madison apartment, and I still have to check it out. Turns out it’s not as bad as I was expecting, but I’ve lived in squalor before and when you yourself have lived in squalor, nothing is ever as bad as you may expect. Carly’s apartment has a nice layer of lived-in skank and has clearly been occupied by college students since the dawn of time.

I have dinner with Carly and her boyfriend Drew. At some point in the meal, I go off on the upside down White House.

“It just… I don’t know. I’m flummoxed. Why was all the furniture bolted to the floor (now the ceiling) in the first place???” I say, emphasizing the parenthesis and the additional question marks.

“Would it have been satisfying if all the furniture had fallen down and was piled in the corner of the room?” asks Drew.

Good point. No, it would not have been satisfying. More realistic, maybe, but not satisfying. I find I really want to believe in the magic-realism of this situation, but my tour guide didn’t give me the tools to do that and I’m finding this is all a metaphor for the responsibility of an artist to her audience.

I tell Carly and Drew about Abraham Lincoln’s sausage pizza and nobody is quite sure what to make of it. I’m sensing that maybe they wished I was talking about something else now.

I depart Madison. I’m always surprised with how dark Wisconsin highways get at night. Guess my eyes are just used to the bright lights of Chicago, but it’s a piece of my heart in Wisconsin I shall leave.

Friday, March 03, 2006

travelogue: Baraboo, WI

When John Ringling, of Ringling Brothers fame, left his hometown and Circus headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin, he referred to the townsfolk as “hick Barabooians.” I found the people there friendly and helpful, and when the toothless town bum spotted me taking a picture of the historic Al Ringling Theatre on the town square, he was thrilled to point out Al Ringling’s redbrick house before asking me for change. Baraboo is steeped in Circus history and is home to the Circus World Museum, but that’s not why I drove 3 hours from Chicago. I was here because I had that audacity to set one of my plays here. Why? I like the town’s name: Baraboo. Say it. It’s fun.

This isn’t the first time I’ve abused a small Wisconsin town in one of my plays. I named a horrible fictional disease after Peshtigo, Wisconsin because the town burned down in 1871 and I liked the grisly details of the fellow who hung himself in a well rather than be burned alive, or following the fire, the thief who was sentenced to death for looting, but got out of that pickle because all rope to hang him with was burned up. I even called the Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce to find out how to pronounce the town’s name because if you look at it, there are three possibilities. The woman who answered my call was amused I couldn’t pronounce Peshtigo correctly because ignorance is funny. It’s not Pesh-TIE-go. Nor is it Pesh-TEE-go. But PESH-tigo.

I wanted a change of scenery and get a feel for Baraboo, Wisconsin, population: 10, 971. The morning drive up there was pleasant, rush hour traffic out of Chicago was as cooperative as a good bowel movement, and the Eric & Kathy morning show on The Mix 101.9 FM still doesn’t fail to annoy the crap out of me. Around 8am I passed through Beloit, Wisconsin, which, by the way, is “The Gateway to Wisconsin”—did you know this? I didn’t. Somebody needs to give Kenosha, WI a call, because I always assumed their acres of outlet malls were the Gateway to Wisconsin—some Beloit radio station had one of those “Dumb People Are Funny” segments about a woman who successfully faked her death to get out of all her traffic tickets… until she got caught speeding posthumously. The DJs had a good morning-drive guffaw and I only wish I had thought of the Fake My Own Death route to get out of that speeding ticket I got in Utica, NY last summer.

There’s not much scenery along the way. It’s all vague and vast and forgettable, much like my English major in college, but the billboard signs that advertise Wisconsin Dells attractions provide the Entertainment Weekly reading material to the scenic equivalent of the endless Wisconsin landscape of Chaucer and Milton. The exit for Baraboo/Portage has one of the sharpest, fastest clover-leaf exits I’ve ever experienced, and after nearly flipping my car into a drainage ditch, I end up on a country road toward the promised land, if, by promised land, I mean Baraboo. I drive past houses, decrepit and serene, I drive past farms and grain silos, I drive past Pigtail Road, and I wonder who lives up there. Pippi Longstocking? Wendy the fast food huckster? Yo mama? (if, by Yo Mama, I mean your mother, if she wore pigtails).

Nine miles later, I putter into Downtown Baraboo. It has a town square the way Hill Valley in the Back to the Future movies has a town square. There are the obligatory military cannons parked on the lawn in front of the town hall. I park the car and stand on the sidewalk, dumbly. I don’t have an agenda. It’s 10am and I’m hungry. Nothing is open for lunch yet. I walk around. The aforementioned Al Ringling Theatre:



I buy a couple circus postcards in the drugs store. I keep expecting Marty McFly to skateboard past. I go into an Irish boutique and gravitate instantly, lush that I am, to the Guinness merchandise and purchase a pint glass. I ask the shop owner where a good place to get some grub is, and she raves about the catfish tacos at The Little Village CafĂ©. I am intrigued because I’ve never had catfish in taco form, and I still haven’t, because the pesto-chicken and mozzarella sandwich grabbed me by the throat.

I’ve been to Baraboo before. I think I was nine or ten years old, and it was part of a summer family trip to the Wisconsin Dells. How does one describe what the Wisconsin Dells are to a person who has never feasted eyes on such splendor? Las Vegas for 12-Year-Olds. Go Karts, Water parks, Mini Golf, in a hodgepodge of tacky splendor. The Dells are about 13 miles north of Baraboo with a Ho-Chunk Casino smack dab between the two, the kind of Casino where certain Wisconsin regulars will carry around a lucky Ziploc baggie of cow-pie for good luck at the craps table. We had come down to Baraboo to visit the Circus World Museum. When I talk about it with my sisters, all they can remember is that it was rainy and cold when we went. All in all, I think we were underwhelmed by the experience, and it isn’t quite as visceral of a vacation moment as was the time we were all three crammed in the backseat of a rented convertible in Hawaii, whining and howling about our utter misery, discomfort, and boredom, until Mom, who is actually a very patient woman, completely snapped and thwacked us with a rolled up newspaper. Forget sugar-coated nostalgia. Those are the Kodak moments.

After lunch, I head to the Circus World Museum. I knew even before I left Chicago that the museum is closed for the winter. I parked and walked around the outside. Many of the Ringling Bros. buildings, most built in the late 1800s, are still standing and tagged with historical plaques, buildings for camels, elephants, and bears, oh my. Perhaps this building housed baby chicks?



Much of the museum is outdoor stuff—trains and wagons—so I peeped through the fence. Closed or not, creepy circus calliope music floats over the desolate circus grounds. Why was there music? I don’t see anyone anywhere. Was this a circus for the dead? Am I dead? Did my car actually flip over and burst into flames in the Baraboo highway exit of doom and this is some sort of circus afterlife? The circus music is unsettling. At one point I fantasize that I’m in a Scooby Doo cartoon and I need to solve a mystery in the creepy abandoned circus. I think my favorite part of the Circus World Museum are the clown-heads that top the garbage cans, so you throw your crumpled up Sno-Cone cup into a clown’s mouth, thus fulfilling many clown-haters desires to do that to a real clown.

I got back in my car and followed the signs to Devil’s Lake State Park. It’s a beautiful area, even with the lake frozen over and covered with snow. Before it became a state park, Devil’s Lake was a thriving resort until the late 1800s, but tourism dropped off after people started dropping dead from Typhoid Fever. Right now, it’s deserted and looks like the perfect place for a young female tourist like me to be murdered. I leave the park and drive by what I can only assume is the world’s best family restaurant.



And who can forget the famous Hooty’s jingle?

Hooty’s Hooty’s
Shake your booties
Grab your horns
And blow some tooties!


Really, it’s a shame I’ve already eaten lunch. It’s still pretty early in the afternoon. I don’t need to go back to Chicago yet. That leaves me only one option: I’m gonna hit the Wisconsin Dells!

Tune in soon for the next chapter of high adventure and swashbuckling romance in Wisconsin, including one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in my entire freaking life…

Friday, January 27, 2006

superdiamond: the experience

By popular demand (yeah you, Kinz), here's a little somethin somethin about my "Surreal Neil" Superdiamond experience at The House of Blues. After the show, we almost got bitch slapped by some Lincoln Park yuppies who were pretty sure we stole their taxi and that "(tss!) the line is over there." If I hadn't been riding with someone who was slightly belligerent after a few drinks, I probably would have given up the taxi, but Megan was getting in that taxi dammit and I was following Megan.

But I've jumped way ahead to the point where I've skipped over the entire concert including the opening band "The Wedding Banned." They were a faux wedding band headed by shaggy Beatle-wigged frontman named "Captain Mantastic" who, when he passed through the crowd during a rousing rendition of "Jack & Diane," smelled of old sweaty costume. At some point, I had to purchase a $5.50 can of Bud Light (12 oz, damn those downtown prices) to get quarters in change to buy earplugs from a vending machine in the Ladies Room. I have sensitive ears and those bastards were loud.

After a way-too-long set list by "The Wedding Banned," Superdiamond hit the stage at about 10 o'clock. This show was completely sold out on The House of Blues's main stage, and played a completely sold out show the night before. The place was PACKED. You could barely move. Are people really this insane?

The lead singer sounded exactly like Neil Diamond. The lead guitarist's mutton chops were out of control. The bass player looked like the Dad on Malcolm in the Middle. There were also two keyboardists and the drummer who I'm sure had faces and hopes and dreams. Their costumes were silky and black, and the frontman "The Surreal Neal" wore a cowboy-esque shirt that made you just want to reach out and pet it and go "ooooh." Somebody tossed multiple pairs of underwear on stage, but you could tell they were all from a recently opened Target-brand variety pack o' panties. Very inauthentic. Neil Diamond would be spinning in his grave if he were dead.

So their set ends and no Sweet Caroline. But OF COURSE they would come back for an encore and appease the fans. How could they not? They'd get shanked prison-style if they didn't. In short, I'm glad I went, but seeing a Neil Diamond cover band is something I never ever have to do again. Unless it was free. Then maybe I'd consider it.