Review: Girl Talk and Friends at Station Square, PA

Girl TalkAs far as mash ups are concerned, I will admit that I had no idea it was a legitimate form of musical art until Girl Talk came out. That statement may capture what Girl Talk’s impact on the musical world is: bringing ridiculously impressive mash-ups to mainstream audiences.

If you haven’t heard of Girl Talk, you need to check him out. Girl Talk’s MySpace hosts his latest album, “Feed the Animals,” which garnered praise from critics like Rolling Stone when it was released. You can pay whatever you want for it, so there is no reason not to download the tracks.

Anyway, if you are in the Pittsburgh area, you were hopefully aware that Girl Talk threw together a mini-rock festival of epic proportions. Though he was certainly the headliner, he brought together a great group of Pittsburgh performers on a Friday night at the Station Square Amphitheater.

In my opinion, the show was nothing short of fantastic. Given the low profile of some of the preceding acts before Girl Talk, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Fortunately, it turned out that Girl Talk, not too surprisingly, is capable of picking out a nice lineup of bands.

By the time fans started rolling in, Grand Buffet was on stage. Not my favorites. Though the hip hop duo was funny at times, ridiculous commentary between songs (for instance, discussing the possibility of microwaving the Fort Pitt tunnel o

r suggesting that Pittsburgh’s G20 Summit is a ruse for Diet Sprite to purchase the Pittsburgh Steelers for $20 through the Illuminati) may have ended up dominating the set. They weren’t bad, but the performance was probably not something to write home about. The band seems stuck between their effort to be the goons of the stage while imitating hardcore rappers. It’s been tried before. Nonetheless, it was a good start to the show.

Grand Buffet was followed by Donora, a three-person group that specialized in indie garage-punk-pop (maybe?). Regardless, I thought the group was excellent from start-to-finish. I highly recommend checking the group out right here. Though I was previously unaware of the band’s existence, their fun sound was great for the live performance. From reading their bio, it looks like Donora has turned some heads outside of Pittsburgh already with music featured on a couple of MTV shows. In their set, Donora played a cool cover of MIA’s “Paper Planes,” which ended up being my personal favorite. Donora is definitely a band to watch out for, so I am glad that I had the opportunity to check them out. Here’s one of their videos from YouTube:

Modey Lemon followed Donora. Lemon, formed in the 90’s by students at the University of Pittsburgh, are pretty much what you would expect with a solid garage rock band. The band’s drummer was great, and the group as a whole was fun to watch. What I didn’t quite get though was the seemingly “with-the-band” pseudo-announcer, who wore a turban while introducing the group. That was different.

The last act before Girl Talk was Pittsburgh’s king of rap: Wiz Khalifa. Khalifa’s set included many of his favorites from “Flight School” (reviewed here). Performing on Pittsburgh’s South Side, he opened with his classic, “Pittsburgh Sound” to get his show started. By this point, the sun had set and the crowd was warmed up, and Wiz successfully used the audience’s excitement to give his city a great time. Hands were in the air while many in the audience flashed the sign of Wiz’s “Taylor Gang.”

Flight School

Khalifa also spoke briefly about his recent breakup with Warner Bros. Records. His explanation was that he is glad to be “independent” again with Rostrum Records behind him. The complaint? Wiz believes that Warner Bros. prevented the “flight from taking off.”

By 10:15 PM, Girl Talk was ready to roll. In short, the show was nuts. A fairly large crowd dancing and waving simultaneously, dozens of fans on stage, and Girl Talk’s mash-ups combined to create a highly memorable performance.

Before seeing Girl Talk for the first time, I wondered if the concert would be virtually the same thing as listening to his album. It wasn’t. I may be wrong, but it seemed like he never repeated a song in its entirety from his recent album, “Feed the Animals.” Instead, Girl Talk integrated elements from his older tracks with newer hits (for instance, “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eyed Peas, “LoveGame” by Lady GaGa, and “Blame It” by Jamie Foxx).

He also appealed to the Pittsburgh crowd not only with the slideshow of Pittsburgh-related images playing behind him (like the Penguins hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ logo, etc.), he even used the ultra-familiar “Here we go, Steelers,” cheer in one of his final songs.

Girl Talk’s performance was fantastic, and it definitely ranks among the best concerts I have ever attended. If you ever have the opportunity to see him live, I would strongly urge you to check it out.

As a whole, the show deserves 4 out of 5 stars for great artists and a generally great time.

August 1, 2009 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Favorite Family Movies of the 1990’s

1. “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” Might as well put these two together. Pixar and Disney rocked the 1990’s with these two computer generated flicks.

“Toy Story”:

“Toy Story 2”:

As you have probably heard, a third “Toy Story” film is on the way. Apparently, the plot centers around Andy going off to college and leaving his toys at a day care center. Kind of disappointing that the kid, who was my age at the time of the film’s release, is now being killed off by Disney. So it goes. Here’s the trailer.

2. “The Lion King” was another fantastic achievement by Disney. This may have been the “last hurrah” for traditional animation’s heyday.

3. “James and the Giant Peach” was the 1996 classic that combined live action performance with computer animation. Have to love the hybrid. A bit dark for me at the time, but I have since come to love “James.”

4. “Free Willy” was the 1993 family film about a young boy who befriends an Orca whale. He then fights to save the whale by stealing it and releasing it back into the ocean:

On a similar note, the film also included the Michael Jackson classic, “Will You Be There.” The music video:

5. “Indian in the Cupboard” is still one of my favorite cinematic adaptations of a children’s book.

Honorable Mention:

“The Sandlot” was probably my favorite film as a baseball playing kid. Classic scene from the movie:

“Aladdin” may have been the second best traditional animation film of the 1990’s.

“Good Burger” might not have been that good… I still miss Keenan and Kel, though.

July 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm Leave a comment

“The Onion” breaks ties with Yu Wan Mei

I thoThe Onionught I should shed some light on such an i mportant news-related issue. As a big fan of “The Onion,” a satirical news source known for spoofing everything from sports to politics, I was highly disappointed by the choice to sell out last week. If you read “The Onion” regularly, you probably noticed a drastic change in website design as well as article content.

T. Herman Zwiebel explains the sale here. Zwiebel stated, “As the longtime publisher of this news-paper, it is my duty and unrestrained pleasure to inform you spittle-soaked readers that I have sold The Onion and all of its various holdings to a syndicate of industrious China-men from the deepest heart of the Orient.”

Nevertheless, the industrious, powerful, and fictional “Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation” has decided to put “The Onion” up for sale again.

Under the leadership of Yu Wan Mei, “The Onion” produced such memorable articles as “Yao Ming!” It looks like the news source will return to its position as “America’s Finest” in the coming days.

July 27, 2009 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

Disney: “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” is on the horizon

When rumors spread suggesting that “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” would be the final installment of the POTC series, I was pretty disappointed.Pirates of the Caribbean

As you may remember, the closing scene of the movie featured Captain Jack Sparrow preparing to pursue the fountain of youth. This left the audience with the question, “will there be another film?”

The answer was unclear up until now. Coming Soon managed to snag an interview with Disney’s Head of Production Oren Aviv at the San Diego Comic-Con. According to Aviv, “We’re going to shoot ‘Pirates 4’ in April or May of next year.” Even better, he says “We are going to release it hopefully in 2011 is the plan.”

To me, that’s great news. He also believes this may generate a new trilogy of “Pirates” films. Great success!

However, this may raise another question: “How does the series improve?” It is certainly true that POTC has produced several epic films. In light of this trend, Aviv says that Disney is focused on scaling the project back a bit. He says, “The movies have subsequently gotten bigger and bigger and very complicated and they were satisfying on so many levels obviously, but I want to kind of reboot the whole thing and bring it down to its core, its essence, just characters.”

I look forward to new POTC flicks. It appears that Sparrow will be returning, but virtually all other details surrounding the series are being kept quiet by Disney.

The cast is even more unclear. Keira Knightley has stated that she is not interested in continuing to portray Elisabeth Swann. Her POTC husband, Orlando Bloom, has not declared whether he would like to return. Geoffrey Rush, the actor who played Captain Barbossa in the trilogy, apparently is interested in returning to the series. Johnny Depp also has committed to returning to “Pirates.”

Excited? You should be.

July 25, 2009 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”: Trailer Leaked

Whoops. The trailer for next Disney produced installment of “Alice in Wonderland” has been leaked to the interwebs. Haven’t seen it yet? Check the trailer out right here.

The new “Alice in Wonderland” is just that: new. Rather than revisiting the classic Lewis Carroll novel, the unique Tim Burton has given the story new life be capturing another journey down the rabbit hole after Alice has advanced into her teenage years.

“Alice” is set to hit the big screen on March 5, 2010 as the trailer indicates. Consistent with Disney’s new artistic direction, it will be released in both 2D and 3D.

Personally, I think the film looks fantastic from this trailer. Tim Burton rarely disappoints to begin with, but it seems like he may be one of the few who can take a story like “Alice” and run in a completely unexpected direction.

See familiar faces? Johnny Depp will fill the hat of the iconic Mad Hatter in the new film. No surprise, really, that Depp is making an appearance in another Tim Burton film.

July 23, 2009 at 4:35 am Leave a comment

Wiz Khalifa’s “Flight School” mixes it up

Flight School Pittsburgh’s Wiz Khalifa released “Flight School” through Rostrum Records earlier this year. If you haven’t had a chance to sample this mixtape, it is about time. “Flight School” is, by far, Wiz’s best work yet.

At 21 tracks, “Flight School” is enormous. However, the most striking characteristic of the album is simply the diversity of the songs. No two tracks sound alike, which makes for a fun ride.

There is no getting around it. The beats are tight, which is one of the distinguishing features of the album. “Flight School” moves beyond the bubble gum hip hop currently dominating the charts.

Khalifa’s lyrics are sharp as well, though the content of the album rarely moves beyond women, money, and drugs.

“Boarding Pass,” “Never Ever,” and “Name on a Cloud” rank as my personal favorites from “Flight School.” As noted, each song seems to bring something new to the table, and any rap fan can find something they like from this release.

The mix tape includes a short commentary at the end of each song, which occasionally comes off as a minor annoyance. Nevertheless, “Flight School” ought to rank as one of the top mix tapes in recent memory. Members of Khalifa’s “Taylor Gang” and new fans alike should appreciate the album.

Interested? You can’t find “Flight School” on iTunes unfortunately, which may be one of the reasons that mainstream audiences will not be reached by Wiz. However, you should check out his MySpace for more information on ordering the album.

For high quality beats, crisp lyrics, and a generally solid performance, “Flight School” has earned an 8.5 out of 10 on the TIP scale. This is an album that may be under the radar yet is definitely worth checking out in the near future.

July 21, 2009 at 5:27 pm 1 comment

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” brings back the magic

I will admit it. I am a “Harry Potter” nerd. I have been for about a decade now, and I am comfortable with that fact.

Naturally, I was pretty excited to get my first chance to see HP6, otherwise known as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Here is my review.

An aside: I would be surprised if anyone gets to see my thoughts on the flick given the sheer number of reviews already published combined with the lack of audience for this blog. Make sure to comment if you check it out though. I would love to see if we are getting hits!

Anyway, I guess I am in a little bit of a disagreement with many of the critics who have praised the film. I thought it was a good flick, but it wasn’t spectacular by Potter standards.

In some ways, I think the commitment to the book may have taken away from the film. The storytelling seems to fluctuate rapidly and unpredictably between superficial teenage angst (i.e the romantic struggles of Harry, Ron, and Hermione) and the intriguing commentary on the battle between good and evil.

In my opinion, this discrepancy makes the overall work a little bit watered down. Nevertheless, the message of the film is clear. Having not read the book recently (try several years ago), following the story is easy and fun without a detailed understanding of the intricacies of the actual text.

It seems fitting that the plot of the films has grown increasingly dark as the series’ actors have matured. The depth of this film far exceeds any past “Potter,” and I think that some fans will miss the days of “adventures at Hogwarts” as we embark on a new journey against immense forces of darkness that seek to destroy all that is good.

It is definitely worth seeing. The visuals of “Harry Potter” often rival those of “Transformers,” yet are far less distracting from the substance of the film than Michael Bay’s work. The young stars have turned into highly capable actors, and the two-part finale to the series will be an intense finish, for sure.

Alternately, the dark, troubled, and conflicted Draco Malfoy makes numerous appearances on screen, yet the audience receives few opportunities to delve into the character’s mindset as he battles overwhelming pressure to support the efforts of the Dark Lord. A flaw in the book? Perhaps. The movie may have had an opportunity to redress this flaw, though.

Had the film focused more on the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore and the increasingly difficult fight against the forces of evil, the film may have been even more enjoyable. The movie’s commitment to following the conflict between Ron and Hermione perhaps diminished the strength of the work as a whole.

On the bright side, “Half-Blood Prince” managed to defy the new trend in Hollywood of combining as many scenes as humanly possible to create marathon-length films. With ample material to work with, “Half-Blood Prince” managed to condense an enormous journey into a manageable chunk, which audiences ought to appreciate.

TIP gives “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” four out of five stars.

July 21, 2009 at 3:01 am Leave a comment

Wiz Khalifa breaks it off with Warner Bros. Records

Wiz KhalifaAccording to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, rapper Wiz Khalifa and Warner Bros.’ record label have officially split. PPG cites delays surrounding the release of Wiz’s major label debut as the primary reason for the breakup.

Wiz has achieved moderate success from singles like “Say Yeah,” but he has not yet cracked the national spotlight. He is well-known for his close relationship with his fans, otherwise known as the “Taylor Gang,” through social networking websites and Twitter.

A TIP review of his recently released album (titled “Flight School”) is in the works. Meanwhile, Wiz is preparing to release several singles off of “Flight School” in the near future.

July 20, 2009 at 3:16 am Leave a comment

Yahoo!’s ranking of animated movies is iffy

I am going to get away from my “Degrassi: The Next Generation” rants for a moment. It’s worth it, I think, because I have a confession to make. I read Yahoo!’s articles way more than I should. My homepage is and probably will always be Google, but I still frequently jump over to ol’ Google’s rival to see a few headlines.

Anyway, on to the hard hitting blogging. Yahoo! has published a list of the top 30 animated movies throughout history which allegedly was created with input from Yahoo! users. This list/slideshow is available right here. Perhaps I missed the memo on this one, but I didn’t get to contribute my preferences in the genre of animated flicks.

If you check this list out, you will notice that Disney-Pixar (and mostly the latter) dominate the top 30 group. I think Yahoo! users are definitely on to something here. I grew up with Pixar movies, especially Toy Story, so I think that any public poll should place Pixar’s films high up the list.

In the sub-category of great Pixar movies, however, the ranking looks like this:

  • 8 ) The Incredibles
  • 7) Cars
  • 6) Monsters Inc.
  • 5) Finding Nemo
  • 4) Ratatouille
  • 3) Toy Story
  • 2) Wall-E
  • 1) Up

Ugh. I am not such a big fan of this ranking. First of all, if you were to ask anyone on the street what movie comes to mind when you hear the word “Pixar,” I am willing to bet 90% would say “Toy Story.” That’s just reality. “Toy Story” was the series that made Pixar what it is today, and it was the defining movie for this generation of animation. Give the film some respect.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed “Up.” It was a superb movie, but Pixar is a superb studio. Was it the studio’s greatest creation? No way. Was it the most recent? Sure. That seems like the only reason why “Up” could top “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”

Enough about Pixar. This list puts “Bolt,” which was released by Disney in 2008, at number 3. Unless the only voters in this poll were 11 year old girls, there is absolutely no way anyone would put “Bolt” higher than classics that have spanned generations like “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Movies that I think should be included on any list of spectacular animated flicks:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • Fantasia
  • Toy Story 2
  • The Rescuers
  • Peter Pan

Kids these days, eh!

July 3, 2009 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” returns to the U.S. today

Nothing like two consecutive posts about “Degrassi: The Next Generation” to begin this blog’s life. Regardless, the N will broadcast a new episode to American audiences tonight at 8 PM EST.

From the promotional footage that has been released so far, the episode will focus on a disturbing memory Jane encounters of her father during her childhood.

Naturally, after advising readers to check out The N’s library of old “Degrassi” episodes, it appears that the videos have been removed from the website. If you check out “The Click” in the video section, you can watch a number of Degrassi-related videos. However, as of right now, the old episodes are completely unavailable. What gives?

July 3, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

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