The O-town Scene

July 28, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews ‘Captain America’ is more Lost in the Trees gives incendiary performance A stifling, little blanket of still mid- summer air settled over Oneonta this past Friday, which Oneonta Theatre manage- ment mercifully tried to alleviate with a monstrous fan set near a side door of the upstairs Balcony Ballroom. If anyone could enliven such a stagnant evening, it would be Lost in the Trees, a relentlessly inventive North Carolina col- lective, with their own spectacular knack for creating an air-clearing atmosphere. Trees began their set with only two of their musical branches represented _ Ari Picker sang and picked at an acoustic guitar, while Emma Nadeau stood off to his side with her hands folded, as if there to bear mute witness. Then operatic tones of a chillingly clear liquid quality started to pour out of her, shimmering behind (and seemingly above) her partner. The group’s sense of theater then sum- moned something thoroughly unexpected _ a long-snouted skull, heading a train of amorphous puppet anatomy appeared, as if arriving to the affair fashionably late. It politely crept down the side stairs and advanced across the floor in front of the stage. Contributed Lost in the Trees performed at the Oneonta Theatre on Friday, July 22. and twirl above the crowd like some pos- sessed movie prop, we can only attribute to the creature’s own impeccable sense of restraint. Composer, guitarist and lead singer Ari Picker often lifted himself up onto his tippy- toes, even as he and his talented band- mates constantly kept the audience on theirs. He looked to be locked in a walk- ing, waking reverie, all while he seemed like some barely-earthbound being danc- ing through someone else’s dream. “You Walked Through This Horrid Life/ who nevertheless remained an essentially “homeless” menace who sported a single-pair shoe collection. Picker’s ravenous pursuit of knowledge _ and eager- ness in passing it on _ led him to at last catch himself, and kindly ask his audi- ence, “Should I stop now?” The group’s string section was an immense, cohesive force that could in the middle of a deceptively light ditty give way to the weight of a swelling string interlude, an acoustic concert taking on the fast- blooming bulk of a film score. Their sound washed in as if from some more somber, full-bodied plane, flooding each composition with immeasur- able new dimension. The group’s string section was an immense, cohesive force that could in the middle of a deceptively light ditty give way to the weight of a swelling string interlude, an acoustic concert taking on the fast-blooming bulk of a film score. Cello player Leah Gibson and violin- ist Jenavieve Varga worshipfully waved streamers-on-sticks on either side of the cloth-and-cardboard beast. Lurking inside the stomach of the horse were Drew Anagnost (cello) and Mark Daumen (tuba/bass), who emerged from their host’s mid-section to claim their instruments. The haunting mascot stood guard at the far corner of the stage. Taking the cue from their hidden horse- men, Lost in the Trees remained resourceful musical smugglers throughout the night, chronically sneaking symphonies into strummed sing-alongs. They came prepared with dark, wheeling waltzes fit to wake the dead. That their wrenching dirges didn’t move the massive muppet itself to levitate But You Got To Sing/Before You Closed Your Eyes” Picker quavered on “An Artist’s Song (Daytrotter),” making the heartfelt most of his own singing time. It was an eerie, epic elegy that managed to rattle, shuffle, shake and swoon. He dedicated it to his own music teacher, who he informed us was one of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s last pupils. “Is anyone here a Shostakovich fan?,” he asked. Picker came across as a tirelessly interested and inspired student, not only of his own art, but of the history that helps produce it. He couldn’t keep himself from sharing what he’d learned about Josef Stalin, the ruler under which Shostakovich had had to live and work. Picker remained morbidly fascinated by the power-clinging dictator Lost in the Trees is a band determined to demonstrate how something seemingly routine can abruptly gape, expanding into an experience that’s shockingly profound. Lost in the Trees led us out of the lush woods of their pre-encore set with a jaunty demo of musical deforestation called “Fireplace.” Varga shook her tambourine with a vengeance while Gibson clapped thick sticks together; the both of them kept time like defiant clockwork, as the two transformed into a rebel pair of rock- and-roll back-up singers, hollering the chorus along with Picker. The breaking vitality of their voices banded together, supplying the spark necessary to keep any hearth healthily ablaze. A joyfully-inflamed audience just about demanded that the departed Lost in the Trees return to the stage. As they so graciously did, in the less-than-gra- cious heat (Picker’s infamous Ambercrom- bie apparel was by now blotched with sweat), they advanced like some friendly regiment, occupying that space between stage and seats. Lost in the Trees defies genre. There’s no reason cellos, guitars and accordions can’t thrivingly co-exist, just as there’s no good reason for band members not to enter under cover of a puppet horse. And classical music doesn’t have be extinct. As the legend of Lost in the Trees takes root and begins to grow, such narrow-minded myths are the ones they seek to cast into the beautiful fire they’re so tirelessly, so skillfully tending. _ Sam Benedict than patriotic, it has heart The release of “Captain America: First Avenger,” which opened last weekend, was way overdue. The fact that Captain America, one of the biggest players in Marvel Comics, was proceeded by the likes of Ghost Rider, Elektra and Punisher for headlining movies is beyond me. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny Brooklyn kid that has faced rejection too many times when it comes to serv- ing his country. He longs to go across the water and fight to protect freedom against the Nazis in World War II. Sadly, because of his small stature and long list of medical issues, he is denied from doing so. That is until scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) enlists him for the Super Soldier Procedure, making the once small fry a mass of muscle able to fight heroically, run rapidly and make women swoon. I guess steroids are okay for superheroes ... Now that he is fit and ready for battle, he can fight the Nazis and its string puller, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), an enemy with a serious need of some aloe vera. Captain America must rely on an entourage of allies that include old pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan), femme fatal Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and command- ing officer Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones.) Cap, wearing red, white and blue, and wield- ing a heavy-duty shield, battles his way through Europe, taking down his enemies until the steroids final showdown with Red Skull. Typically, when it comes to superhero movies they seem to lack character, and fail to translate a comic concept to the screen. Director Joe John- ston honors the material well, telling a good story within a high action epic. I had questioned whether Evans would be able to pull off the title role, but he wholeheartedly portrays the Ultimate Boy Scout, coming across as an incredibly patriotic, nice guy. The supporting cast did a good job, as well _ most notably, Hayley Atwell as the romantic inter- est of Captain America. She had depth and char- acter, showing she is more than just eye candy. All in all, “Captain America” is a decent super- hero flick. _ Peter Eklund Grade: B July 28, 2011 O-Town Scene 15 Associated Press

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