Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tonight: Rock School New York City premiere

Marky Ramone with Rock School All Stars Joey Randazzo, Eric Slick, and Grace Hollander.

Sooo...that's David Bowie's guitarist, Carlos Alomar, who will be performing with the Rock School All-Stars at CBGB's tonight following the premiere of Rock School in New York City tonight. My son, Eric, will be on drums behind Carlos on "Heroes" and "Fame". Think I'm a little excited? The rest of the set list is incredible as well but I'm not going to give it away -- I'll report back with a review tomorrow.

And on the drums tonight performing Ramones' hit I Wanna Be Sedated fresh off the Rock School soundtrack, Marky Ramone.

A brief history about guitarist Carlos Alomar -- he's played on more David Bowie albums than any other six stringer has (including Mick Ronson, who was perhaps the most identifiable with Bowie). In 1974, Alomar crossed paths with Bowie, who was interested in penning an album that explored dance/funk sounds of Philadelphia soul. The two hit it off, which would signal the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the singer and guitarist. 1975's classic Young Americans soon followed, as Alomar also helped co-write one of Bowie's biggest hits, "Fame," along with Bowie and John Lennon. It was also around this time that Alomar supposedly 'discovered' soul singer Luther Vandross, having him sing on Bowie's album, which ultimately led to a successful solo career of his own. Alomar quickly figured out that Bowie wasn't set on a single musical style for any period of time, as Alomar kept pace on such experimental and musically varied Bowie albums as 1976's Station to Station, 1977's Low and Heroes, 1979's Lodger, and 1980's Scary Monsters. The guitarist and Bowie also helped revive the career of punk icon Iggy Pop during this period, helping produce and co-write two of Pop's finest solo albums, 1977's The Idiot and 1978's Lust For Life.

So yep, I'm pretty excited about tonight.

In other news, I'm waiting for Eric to wake up because apparently he got in late last night and mumbled something about Rolling Stone giving Rock School three stars out of four. I don't know if he was talking about the movie or the soundtrack; if it's the soundtrack I don't know if specific kids' performances are mentioned or they just concentrate on the "names" like Ann Wilson, Jon Anderson, Billy Idol etc....arghhh...I'm so dying to wake Eric up but since he has the big NYC show tonight, I wouldn't dare.

I did see this very nice review of Rock School the movie this morning in the Seattle Weekly:

One of the principal ideas behind Don Argott's debut documentary, Rock School, is summed up in its first five minutes by an adorable, adenoidal little boy. Wearing an Angus Young–style shirt and tie, 9-year-old drummer Asa explains that "AC/DC's really easy, all you do is . . . , " then bangs out a beat that every AC/DC fan will immediately recognize. Rock music isn't rocket science, and the point is well-made by the students of Paul Green's irreverent Philadelphia-based music school. But Argott's film would be pretty one-note if all it did was show that elementary-school kids can play elementary riffs.

Fortunately, Rock School is really about relationships—primarily the ones between Green and his students (ages 9 to 17). And it's about how those relationships push young musicians past 4/4 rock rhythms, all the way to a Frank Zappa festival in Germany.

Anyone who has played in bands will recognize Green as that guy who always took it a tad too seriously. He confesses to having failed at the rock and roll dream of making it big, although he also says he'd only want to make it big if he could make it big in 1972. Still, it's clear that he's living out some vicarious fantasies through his students, but that would only be a problem if they weren't also having a genuinely good time and benefiting from his outside-the-box pedagogy.

Green's star pupils are C.J., a preternaturally talented preteen guitar player whom Argott paints as a mini Carlos Santana, and Madi, a high-school-aged Sheryl Crow–ish singer/songwriter who moonlights with the Friendly Gangsters, a Quaker rap group. Dry-ice clouds surround confident C.J. wherever he goes, while Madi needs—or does she?—cajoling, editing, and lots of direction from Green. Perhaps reminiscent of Jack Black in School of Rock, Green tells us he utilizes the kids' aptitude for learning without actually treating them like kids. You do get the sense that Green would scream and carry on with his shtick even with his mother.

Argott gets some narrative shape for his documentary as it culminates with the kids' big performance at the Zappa fest. Music fans will recognize that these particular students are beyond AC/DC; Zappa was a complex composer, and the students have expertly mastered his music. Even if you're not a Zappa fan, it's hard not to be thrilled by C.J.'s deft solo and Madi's slightly hesitant but bright smile when her band nails the toughest song of the festival.

You do worry about these kids, however—about their stars burning too bright too soon. Will they burn out or fade away while juggling their chores and homework? We'll have to wait for Rock School 2 to see. (R) LAURA CASSIDY


I like this review because she's got a better handle on what goes on at Rock School and she understands Paul and gets it. She also appreciates how Don Argott portrayed him. I was distressed by the review in the Village Voice because again, it was as if the critic was looking to attack Paul and totally missed the point that the kids are there because they want to be there; that he does bring out the best in them; and anyone who has spent time with this group of musicians on the road knows about the unique bond they have with each other and with Paul. Yeah, there's a lot of screaming but there's a lot more laughing and good times. Rock School is a family...and that's what families do. People who love each other also lose their tempers with each other. That's just the way life is. So some critics choose to focus on the negative and completely overlook the positive. Again, that's why they are critics and not artists.

Which would you rather be? No wonder some are, um....small minded and bitter.

But all anyone has to do is view the tape I have of Eddie Vedder singing with the Rock School All-Stars backstage in Seattle and you will see how much they love Paul, each other, and how much they love the music.

Getting back to this reviewer's comments where she worries about whether the kids will burn out/fade away....sure, some might, but that's the way it is. Many will go on to music college; I predict many will go on the road with their bands or be studio musicians - they're in it for the long haul. Actually, I think a good portion of Rock School graduates will go on to be major stars...and you're going to see a whole slew of them who make it and credit Paul Green. In any case, these kids have a life long love of music which will never fade or burn out and they'll pass that on to their kids and maybe there's some hope for the future of music after all...Britney and 50 Cent be damned.

Meanwhile, how about that Rock School soundtrack? I've played it for anyone who will listen; everyone who heard it yesterday is in awe. I had phone calls from relatives, friends...people are blown away.

Funny stage mother story here. I went, against all of my principles, to Tower Records to buy it because my son went into town earlier and said he couldn't find it at any of the indie stores. He said he couldn't find it at Tower, either, which I found impossible to believe. So I go to the store, and where do I fucking find it? In the same bin, under soundtracks, as "School of Rock". In other words, they just put it in the same exact place; no separate divider, nothing. What, did the salespeople just think it was the same Jack Black CD, new cover?

I complained and then stood there while the clerk changed it. No way was I leaving that store until it was fixed. Now. Where are the accompanying posters? Why isn't it getting special attention in "New Releases"? Trust me, I got on that, too.