by: kelly ulrich
by: kelly ulrich
I know that Macaulay Culkin turned 40 in August, and yes, it makes me feel old. Happy Late Birthday Macaulay Culkin!
The best holiday movie memory I have? Watching Home Alone for the first time with my three-year-old twins and my 84-year-old grandmother.
When Home Alone was released in 1990 in theaters, I completely missed it. To be honest, I missed most things in 1990. After having twins in April, our family made a major move from Missouri to California in August, and we moved into a house the first part of December. I had heard about cultural touchstones in my periphery – I do remember that 1990 brought us Milli Vanilli’s “Best New Artist” Grammy. Most everything else was a blur. How could I have predicted that I would miss the movie that held the record for the highest-grossing live action comedy? A record it held until 2011! What could be so mesmerizing about a movie with such a simple concept?
I found out in November of 1993. At three years old, the girls were mobile, could dress themselves and feed themselves, and had fun personalities. My grandmother had come to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday and Home Alone was going to have its broadcast world premiere on one of the networks. We were set for Thanksgiving night entertainment.
I have never heard anyone laugh so often at a movie than my grandmother. I had parental angst when I saw the plane ticket go in the trash with the paper towels in the kitchen. I felt tense when the kids were counted and the neighbor kid gets counted by mistake. I am not a fan of slapstick, but when the hijinx started with the Wet Bandits, I started to loosen up and really root for Kevin.
My grandmother had a ball. The kids were laughing at all the things Kevin did and tried to guess what would happen next. Watching the three of them, at two ends of the age spectrum, see something for the first time, really made me appreciate this movie with a simple concept. My husband and I were seeing it for the first time as well, but we really were seeing it through their eyes. Since we were in our living room, the kids could run around, laugh with abandon, and talk without any editing.
The next day brought a trip to San Francisco where I took pictures of my grandmother with her great-granddaughters at the Golden Gate Bridge. Wonderful shots, but I treasure the ones on Thanksgiving night just as much.
Because Home Alone was released on VHS for the Christmas season of 1993, we bought it, and each subsequent media iteration thereafter. It became a tradition to watch this Christmas movie on Thanksgiving for many years after. Even though we all know how it will end, I still feel angst when the plane ticket goes in the trash and I still feel tense when the kids are counted incorrectly.
And now, after all of these years, I still cheer for Kevin.
I have sent letters. I have donated to organizations. I have studied the issues. I have had discussions. I have listened. I have voted. I have worn a mask and socially distanced since March 15th.
Now, I will listen to music. On room speakers, not my earbuds. Albums, CD’s and downloads. Recorded live music and acoustic. Artists I have just discovered and artists that I have loved forever. R & B, folk, rap, heavy metal, dance, rock and roll. I will sing all the words that I know and hum the ones I don’t. I will dance, regardless of the genre. I will remember all of the incredible live shows I have attended and anticipate the shows to come.
Music is not a panacea for all the problems that we face. But today, it will help me through the day.
Monday through Friday at 6PM PST over on indie-pop band TWIN XL’s instagram, viewers will find a themed live stream. TWIN XL, is a three piece from Los Angeles, consisting of brothers and former members of The Summer Set John Gomez and Stephen Gomez, and Cameron Walker.
These weekday live streams allow for the band to stay connected to fans during these uncertain times. Each day follows a different theme ranging from Q&A’s, talks about the making of one of their songs, games, and play music.
On Monday March 30, John Gomez and Walker tuned into Instagram for one hour to play songs per request of the audience.
Starting off the stream, Cameron played an unreleased song of the band that they have played at shows called “Melt”, mentioning the possibility of the track being released soon. After that, Gomez and Walker would read the chat in the stream taking song suggestions. Some songs they played included “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional, “Love Like Woe” by The Ready Set, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. Gomez even pulled out an oldie and played “Chelsea” from his former band The Summer Set.
The whole stream felt like a jam session between friends. The two did come to the stream with a song they wanted to perform but the rest was up to the fans. As the stream started Walker joked by saying “we are going to ruin your favorite songs”. From the start it was clear that this stream was about having fun, and that is exactly what the stream was, fun.
TWIN XL set up these weekday live streams that have happened consistently for the last two weeks, to give fans one hour a day for some fun and stay connected. As concerts are being postponed or cancelled, bands are trying to find ways to stay connected with their fans, and provide them with some form of content in lieu of a concert.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known across the globe simply as Hozier, has been an active participant in the live-stream concert trend that is sweeping the globe. The music industry enigma’s most recent endeavor took place on Friday via Billboard Live’s facebook page in an effort to raise money for the Downtown Women’s Center in LA, which focuses on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. While in his previous livestreams Hozier has been accompanied by bandmate Alex Ryan, he buckled down in his bedroom by himself for this one due to intensification of the lockdown, joined only by his acoustic guitar. After talking a little about the Women’s Center, Hozier jumped into material from his massively successful 2014 self-titled debut, which birthed chart-toppers like “Take Me to Church” and launched him into wide-spread fame.
The Irish musician started off with an acoustic rendition of “To Be Alone”, a bluesy rock number off of his first album. Even without the driving electric guitar and hard-hitting percussion of the original track, Hozier kept all of his power with his soulful vocals and guitar-playing. He then invited fans to send in requests, humbly stating that he could “try and God knows that’s the best I can do” (Yeah, okay Hozier *insert eye-roll here*) before moving into a soft-spoken version of fan-favorite “From Eden”. The beautiful number was accompanied by bright slide-guitar and whispered falsetto brushed across the tops of the airy track’s high notes. “Cool.” Hozier breezily said before diving into some questions from the stream’s viewers.
“What are you some of the ways you’ve been keeping busy during these times?” He read aloud from the comments and questions streaming in at real time. Hozier took the moment to speak of the effect that the pandemic has had on the live event industry and of his own plans for the year. “I’m very very fortunate that I didn’t have touring plans this year. So a lot of musicians and in particular independent musicians, freelancers, anybody involved in event management or gigging….” He trailed off in thought before coming back, restating “I’ve been very very fortunate”. Hozier shared that his plans have not been heavily affected by the pandemic, a fact not all that surprising for a man who’s infamous among fans for backing out of the spotlight for years at a time when he’s not touring to work on his music without the constant pressure typically forced on artists by labels and the public. He did share what he’s been up to though: reading, writing, and walking “at safe distances from other people”.
Hozier spoke a little more about the Women’s Center and encouraged viewers to donate if they could before cutting off his own thoughts. “And- Yeah. What are we doing? I suppose I’ll sing a song” he said with a grin. “That’s what I do”. He spoke on as he tweaked his guitar. “Today was a sad day, sadder than normal. Bill Withers passed away, who I’m sure you’re familiar with, and it’s an absolute tragedy”. He then spoke of Withers influence on him personally before paying tribute to him with a haunting cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, one of Withers’ classics. Not surprisingly, he did the soulful track justice, effortlessly building the intensity with his impassioned playing and singing before pulling back to let the last section breathe. “Isn’t that a beautiful song?” He mused.
Hozier followed the heartfelt cover with “Cherry Wine”, one of the most beautiful and patient songs from his debut. Seeing that the album version is a live recording with just acoustic guitar as well, his livestream edition sounded eerily similar and was charged with nostalgia for longtime fans. The world stood still for a couple moments as the musician’s remarkable ability to make everything feel alright washed over like a wave of cool and calm, serving as a personal reminder that if Hozier told me to jump into a volcano he’d probably ask in such a way that I’d not only oblige but think it was a fantastic idea. Remarkable.
There seems to be a tendency among musicians who had a giant breakout hit like Hozier did with “Take Me to Church” to avoid playing these hits when they don’t have to, so I was a bit surprised when he busted out the song that launched him into mainstream popularity back in 2014 to close the set. But Hozier, ever a man of the people (even if he hides from them in the woods for years at a time) brought back the hit for his last song of the night.
“I have not played this song on guitar for um, many moon now, for years I would say”. Hozier teased with a coy smile as he tuned his guitar. “There was a time when I’d play it 3 times a day. So hopefully that will sustain in this first time I’ve played it in years”. Hozier thanked his viewers and Billboard before reminding everyone to donate to the Women’s center one final time.
Not shockingly, he followed that intro with a perfect rendition of the dark and soulful tune, reminding everyone of why we fell in love with his music in the first place.
“Or something to that effect” Hozier said before signing off and returning to his preferred state of anonymity, presumably “In the Woods Somewhere” (Hah, Hozier puns) where he belongs.
“And wash them hands,” Hozier said as he waved his way off the air. Your wish is my command, Hozier.