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Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...
THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for April 20, 2017
JUST UP ON HUFFPOST: PAUL ON RADIOHEAD.
A Close Listen to Radiohead's 2017 Tour
Fans buying Radiohead merch in Berkeley last Tuesday (April 18). [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
The current Radiohead tour is hitting only nine North American cities, but the band still managed to squeeze in two consecutive concerts in Berkeley, in between Coachella appearances. Both were knock-outs.
I was amazed at how they now have the stature and resonance of bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead for peeps under 40. Their classic tracks have become pop culture landmarks whose opening notes can trigger hysteria, or at least loud enthusiasm.
Those, like me, who heard both nights heard eight of "OK Computer"'s twelve songs -- a fitting tribute for the twentieth birthday of that landmark album.
Students from the University of California at Berkeley, where the Greek Theater is located, swarmed the hills above the theater (where I heard the show) in almost unprecedented numbers. (Only Hozier and Tame Impala have drawn as many.) And they were jazzed, smiling and joking and laughing like people who hadn't laughed in a while. This -- two sold-out gigs that could be heard full blast for free in the springtime hills above the Greek -- was a treat, and everyone knew it.
Night Two (April 18) was even better than the excellent (but rainy) Night One (April 17). The band served up musical caviar like "Paranoid Android," arguably the greatest melody from any band to have emerged in the post-Beatles era. (The "rain down" part cries out for adaptation and expansion by a symphony orchestra.) Plus, an exquisite "Street Spirit," the band's "Sound of Silence"; and a "There There" that Jonny Greenwood, on fire, turned into a flameball.
And then there was the astonishing final encore, "Karma Police," which had a Cobainish cultish quality. I've never seen a crowd enjoy and need a particular song more in recent memory. Even after the band finished, thousands spontaneously sang "I lost myself, I lost myself."
Peaks were everywhere. "Climbing Up the Walls" made me feel like I was in the middle of a sci-fi horror flick. "The National Anthem" sounded like a song you hear while you're dreaming. "Separator"'s melody caught me by surprise on second listen.
And when Thom Yorke muttered "oh shit" during encore "Give Up the Ghost," Greenwood apparently instantly turned the audio sample into a tape loop, though it was hard to tell at the time what exactly had happened. (Btw, contrary to published rumors, the band did NOT perform "Creep." I have the entire concert on tape, so I know.)
The best new ones, from last year's "A Moon Shaped Pool" album, were "Ful Stop" and the evocative "The Numbers."
On the first night, they wasted no time getting to some of the gold on "OK Computer," bringing out "Lucky" with a whisper that turned into an operatic roar early in the set. Played at a slightly slower pace, it seemed to fly like some sort of prehistoric bird.
Other highlights of the first night included "Everything in Its Right Place," which always has the feel of a cozy overnight transatlantic flight (on an airline other than United, of course!); "Fake Plastic Trees," which never fails to get me choked up; and the uplifting (and rarely played) "The Tourist."
The last time I heard them was at the same venue eleven years ago, when they were road-testing material that would later appear on "In Rainbows." It was a limited-edition tour that I caught twice. At that time, "OK Computer" was a mere nine years old and the word Obama was unknown to most Americans. At those concerts, a star of the set was "Four Minute Warning," the best of the new ones, though oddly later consigned to a bonus disc and never subsequently played live. And "House of Cards" was already embraced as an encore and had everyone clapping along, but is now almost never performed (though they did play it on the second night here). .
In those eleven years, Radiohead has become an even better, tighter live group that has weeded out all irrelevant notes and dead patches. They even creatively filled up the empty space after their opening act with fascinating pre-recorded experimental and atmospheric music (and kept the wait to a half hour).
The opening act was Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis. At their best, they sounded like a combination of R.E.M. and Cem Karaka; at their worst, like the Gypsy Kings. Thoroughly enjoyable set that mixed various middle eastern musical forms with modern rock. (Tass should try a cover of "Paranoid Android.")
Radiohead's U.S. tour ends tomorrow night (April 21) at Coachella; the European leg begins in June.
THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for February 2, 2017
Berkeley on Fire Last Night
Sproul Plaza, on the Berkeley campus, on fire on Wednesday night. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
The Berkeley protests against the alt-right's Milo Yiannopoulos -- who offers up a gay version of Ann Coulter on the college lecture circuit -- started out peaceful, but then got violent, scary and volatile on Wednesday night.
From ground zero, where I watched it unfold, it looked like protesters were going to burn down the student center building at the University of California at Berkeley at one point.
That's where Yiannopoulos was planning to speak, at the invitation of the student Republicans, and where he had arrived, amidst loud boos, just before six p.m.
It was around six that the relatively peaceful demonstration -- full of chanting and inventive signs up to that point -- turned violent.
That's when a group of a few dozen, dressed in black, faces covered, stormed the building, dramatically knocking aside metal barricades, smashing windows and lighting fires. The police did very little to stop it, allowing them to blow off steam.
And they started shooting fireworks up at police officers positioned on the second floor balcony of the student union. Fires were set.
At 6:18, after around twenty minutes of violence, there was an announcment by a police officer over a loud speaker or bullhorn: "Attention every one, the event has been shut down."
There were big cheers from the crowd.
"Immediately disperse," said the amplified cop.
"This is an unlawful assembly."
Some demonstrators began to file out of Sproul Plaza. But at 6:26, things took a bad turn. First, there were more extremely loud fireworks that sounded like a bomb, causing people to run in panic and almost trample others.
And then a huge fire lit up Sproul Plaza. (The anarchist contingent burned some sort of lighting equipment.) It truly looked like the building that Yiannopoulos had entered was about to go up in flames.
I asked a police officer whether the fire department was on its way to put out the fire, and he said, "No, it's not safe."
Indeed, it truly wasn't. I've been in protests throughout the world and this was, in many ways, one of the most frightening.
Earlier in the protest, things were peaceful. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
Sproul, filled with smoke from fires. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
The crowd grew to around 1,500 people as the protest gained steam. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for December 1, 2016
The Doobie Brothers Kick Off the Holiday Season with a Freebie
The Doobie Brothers playing "Black Water" on Tuesday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
The Doobie Brothers set up on California Street in downtown San Francisco for a free outdoor show at twilight on Tuesday.
And they didn't just play a few numbers; they pretty much ran through their greatest hits and then some. At full volume at rush hour in the financial district. And those who got there even slightly early were able to watch from a couple yards away (as I did).
The band performed as a full-bodied six-piece that included not only core original Doobies Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston, but keyboardist extraordinaire Bill Payne (who co-founded Little Feat with Lowell George) and guitar wizard John McFee (who has performed on such classic rock albums as "My Aim is True" and "Mars Hotel").
It was all part of the tenth annual tree-lighting ceremony at 555 California Street. (The concert happened in the plaza just off the street.)
The Doobies took the stage at around six p.m. and wasted no time getting to the hits. "Black Water" had a marvelous folk singalong quality, with McFee, on fiddle, outdoing the original recording; "Listen to the Music" (with NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott joining them onstage) was irresistible; "Long Train Running" was hooky (and that iconic riff was done with acoustic guitars, surprisingly); and Take Me in Your Arms" just simply erupted with energy.
Plus, they did a couple Christmas songs, most notably "Joy to the World."
Afterwards, the gigantic holiday tree (from Shasta, they said) was lighted. Hundreds of people -- and plenty of wowed children -- overflowed from the plaza to the sidewalk to take a look.
The event, dubbed the 555 California Street Tree Lighting, also featured performances by the Dick Bright Orchestra and Pacific Boy Choir, among others.
Original Doobies Patrick Simmons (l) and Tom Johnston. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
Patrick Simmons croons for downtown San Francisco! [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
The holiday tree at 555 California, seconds after it was lighted. [photo by Paul Iorio]
THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for November 15, 2016
I Predicted Trump's Election -- and His Impeachment!
My Journal of the Plague Year
On May 10, 2016, I predicted both a Trump victory -- and his eventual impeachment
Repeatedly, over the past sixteen months, I warned that Donald Trump would be elected president of the U.S.
"Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States -- and the fourth to face impeachment," I wrote in an electronically-dated comment on Facebook on May 10, 2016, around six months before the election. (Scroll through my timeline at Facebook.com/pauliorio.)
And nearly six-months later, days before the election, I called the electoral tally:
On November 4, 2016, I predicted unrest would follow Trump's election.
No one else agreed with me.
"Not happening," wrote a good friend in an email. It'll be a Hillary landslide, wrote journalistic colleagues on social media.
And, of course, almost all pollsters and pundits gave no credence to my prognostications.
I also predicted his election on my website The Daily Digression. And in my blogs published by The Huffington Post, I reported an alarming lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in the very blue San Francisco Bay Area ("Bernie Comes to Town and Doesn't Mention Hillary," October 17, 2016; "Campaign 2016: The View from the Epicenter of Progressivism," February 26, 2016 ).
In fact, as far back as July 7, 2015 -- that's 2015 -- I wrote "a president Trump is not out of the question."
From 2015, on Facebook.
And I stepped up my warnings in the final week of the campaign.
A tell-tale sign, I noted, was that Clinton was still trying to seal the deal in Michigan days before the election. That was like Trump trying to nail down Texas.
Another sign: only 30,000 people were drawn to Clinton's election-eve mega-rally in Philly with Jon Bon Jovi, the Obamas and Springsteen performing on his home turf. As I noted with original research, Springsteen drew 80,000 for John Kerry in Madison in 2004.
Springsteen drew 80,000 for Kerry in the mid-west, but only 30,000 for Clinton on his home turf? Red flag.
How did I catch what almost everyone else missed?
I paid closer attention to the polling of likely voters rather than of all voters.
I saw the enthusiasm of Trump supporters (and the lack of enthusiasm among Clinton backers) as an indicator that his voters would probably turn out in greater numbers.
And I factored in the wisdom of Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity."
But mostly it was just my own political analysis that steered me right.
For example, I thought that Sen. Tim Kaine, as able as he is, was not the running mate to sop up the Bernie gravy of independent voters. On July 22, 2016, I wrote this:
As I noted, the southern swing state strategy was such a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem.
The only way to win was to put Sanders on the ticket to galvanize indie voters, I wrote.
In May 2016, I was already writing that the Dems had lost their best opportunity to beat Trump.
Another thing that tipped me off: my analyses of the vote totals after various primaries. Here's what I wrote on May 3, after the Indiana primary:
And, finally, I caught a more ambiguous whiff of the zeitgeist during the extraordinarily odd, overly emotional final game of the World Series, days before the election, when things were just starting to shift permanently for Trump. It seemed to me that America was expressing all that emotion for more than just a ball game. Here's what I wrote:
A Collection of Paul Iorio's Original Photography, 1976 to 2016.
THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for October 16, 2016
Bernie Comes to Town and Doesn't Mention Hillary?
Bernie Sanders, after being mobbed by fans, gets into a Mazda on Grove Street in San Francisco on Saturday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
Did Sen. Bernie Sanders really not mention Hillary Clinton by name in a speech in San Francisco on Saturday?
He did repeatedly mention Donald Trump, disparagingly, to robust cheers from a crowd at the headquarters of a local political candidate, Jane Kim. And he did mention Kim, a California state senate candidate for whom he'd come to campaign. But he made no direct reference to Hillary (unless the loud crowd drowned out a stray remark).
There are several possible reasons for the omission. First, Clinton can't lose California on a bet, so he's not needed for her here. Second, her name is likely not a big applause line among these lefties. (In the crowd, I saw no "I'm With Her" signs, but did see a couple Jill Stein buttons.) Or perhaps there's still bad vibes between the two former rivals.
The real reason is probably that he was there specifically for Kim (who, by the way, introduced Sanders by mistakenly saying, "It's an honor to endorse [Bernie]...").
After Kim corrected herself, Sanders took the mike and offered up vintage Bernie-isms about Trump, income equality and affordable health care for all.
"Trump shows... you can be a multi-billionaire, you can have mansions all over the world, but if you...know how to use a corrupt system, you don't have to pay a nickel in federal income taxes," he said, to deafening cheers, whoops and howls.
"When we stand together, and do not allow the Trumps of the world to try and divide us up," we triumph, Sanders said, paraphrasing Kim.
And then more red meat for the deep-blue crowd: "If we were a poor country, yes, I could understand people sleeping out on the street," Sanders said. "But, brothers and sisters, we are not a poor country."
Most in the crowd acted like it was a Bernie rally at the height of primary season. Outside the gathering, a vendor sold Sanders t-shirts. Inside, there were leftover Bernie signs from the campaign.
And it was almost like a scene from "A Hard Day's Night" when Sanders was surrounded by wildly enthusiastic supporters as he exited the venue and tried to make his way across a sidewalk to his modest Mazda at the curb.
I was around an inch away from him, and wanted to mention that I'd interviewed him way back in January 1989 for a newspaper article, wanted to ask whether he might consider heading the Fed or Treasury in a Hillary regime. (Imagine a Socialist signing all our money!)
But I couldn't get a word or a selfie in edgewise as he made it through the aggressive crowd.
Sanders had no bodyguard, no tinted windows, no Lincoln Towncar or limo. And here he was at the tatty edge of the hard-luck Tenderloin district.
When he finally got to the car's passenger seat, he seemed winded and even rolled his eyes as if he had been truly taken aback by the intensity of the crowd.
He drove away, a few fans trailing his car, which briefly stopped at a light at Market Street. From the open window, he waved goodbye and drove off to Mission Street, to another rally, just another Mazda in the mid-day traffic.
The Sinatra of Socialism, last Saturday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
A forest of fingers on phones as Bernie appears. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
Outside the event, on Market Street, a vendor sells Bernie t-shirts while a person completely covered in fabric appears. [photo credit; Paul Iorio]