November 1, 2009
*”Lose Your Soul“
I’m way over the West Hollywood Halloween Parade. Yes, it’s fun…but there are soooooo many people, it’s hard to park, and the traffic is unbearable (even for LA). So, this Halloween, I went to see Ryan Gosling’s band, Dead Man’s Bones, perform at the Echo with one of my best friends. A great idea, in theory…since the inspiration for the music, according to the band’s myspace page includes: ” the disney haunted mansion, doo wop and 60s girl groups”.
The band is composed of Ryan Gosling, Zach Shields, a female vocalist and the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir. Last night, however, many of the children from the choir were absent, as they were trick-or-treating. Two children showed up. So, at the beginning of the show, Gosling announced that the rest of the choir was made up of friends who learned the songs today. Not a great start to the show.
Speaking of the start of the show, the whole thing began with a strange warm-up act. It wasn’t really an opening band. It was a few random talent acts. I wish this portion of the show would have been better.
The first act were some singing ghosts. I liked them:
Then there were the Apple Sisters, two girls (I think there’s a missing third) put on a little variety show. Unfortunately, they were pretty boring. I’m sorry! The best part of their act was the skit when they were singing and speaking and bubbles came out of their mouth.
Then there was the guy who played the Theremin, an early electronic musical instrument controlled without the player touching it. This was kinda cool. I’d never seen someone play this instrument. But we didn’t need to hear three songs. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would have been fine by itself.
During the talent portion of the evening, I was a bit bored, so I started taking photos of the audience. There were some fun costumes–and no one was dressed like a hooker! Yay!
Finally, Dead Man’s Bones came on stage. They were carried up to the front of the Echo in coffins–a fun entrance.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this concert. It just seemed like a fun thing to do on Halloween….and it was. But, Ryan Gosling was the only reason the night worked. Tickets were pretty expensive for the Echo—$20 a pop, plus handling fees…But, everyone at the Echo seemed like they were okay paying $20 to see Ryan Gosling live in person. He was mesmerizing. His charismatic presence took control of the out-of-control situation (the choir not knowing their part and a little girl too shy to sing her lines),with ease. I know I was transfixed on Gosling the whole evening…and I’ve interviewed tons of celebrities in the past. He really has that “It” factor. Poor Zach Shields, a very good-looking guy and other half of the band, seemed out-of-place. He definitely seemed to be in the background.
So what did I think of the music? I think that it was very creative, theatrical and fun. I liked Gosling’s voice. It reminded me of Chris Isaak’s.
Before I purchased tickets for the show, I read a few interviews about how the band started:
“Gosling and Shields met in 2005; Gosling was dating actress Rachel McAdams (his co-star in The Notebook) and Shields was dating her sister Kayleen. “Zach was wearing high heels when I first met him, and we were forced to live in the same house on the first day,” Gosling explained, laughing. “I thought, ‘Who is this guy, what am I going to do with this character?’ And then I thought, ‘Well, I guess we’ll start a band.”
The pair bonded over a shared obsession with scary stuff like ghosts, monsters, and zombies, and set out to create a spooky musical theater production, “a Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire kind of show,” as Gosling described it. Somewhere along the way, the “theater production” aspect of it fell to the wayside, but the songs remained.
Inspired by musical classroom experiments the Langley Schools Music Project and Nancy Dupree’s Ghetto Reality, the two decided to involve children in Dead Man’s Bones from the very beginning. “We’d rather see a high school play as opposed to a Broadway show any day,” Gosling explained. “Not that Broadway shows aren’t great, but there’s just something about a high school play…you’re not distracted by the achievements, you get to watch the process, the will to make something.” *pitchfork.com
In another interview, I read the Gosling grew up in a haunted house and played in a cemetery as a kid…so the “haunted” aspect in his music seems appropriate. I think the haunted aspect works well in some songs. I do like “In the Room Where You Sleep” and “Lose Your Soul”. And these songs are pretty catchy. I just don’t know how if there’s a large enough group of people devoted to this eerie, Halloweeny genre. Gosling’s answer to the question?:
“It seems like an interesting time to come into music, because it seems like everybody’s leaving, every office we go into the guy’s packing up, and pulling all the final things from his desk in a box,” Gosling said. “It seems like, you can’t make money anymore, so people are trying to figure out how it all should work. My impression just seems to be like, it’s kind of the Wild West in a way. Whatever you think of you can do, and that’s really terrifying but also an exciting situation to be in, because you realize that you can create the way that this goes down for you…So people are in it because they want to be, and not because they think it’ll be profitable for them. It seems like it’s good creatively, but you also have to figure out how you want to present your music, because the old model doesn’t work anymore.” * Pitchfork.com
Even if this new creative model doesn’t work, people will still come to the Dead Man’s Bones concerts to see Ryan Gosling. And, I do think he’s a very talented musician. He can play multiple instruments and has a great voice. And believe me, I do love new, creative ventures like this one, but as the friend I attended the concert with posted this on her Facebook profile this morning ” Dead Man’s Bones = (Ryan Gosling) + (your third grade Halloween play when everyone forgot their cues) x (a 6-year-old girl goaded into singing about being shot to death). Arcade Fire, it is not.”
I still think they were some redeeming qualities to the concert…it felt very intimate. I’m happy with the $20 I spent on a night with Ryan Gosling and his band. I think he’s a lot more talented than many actors turned musicians. The video I shot and posted (above) will give you an idea of what the night was like.
Below, see some of the tons of photos I shot at the concert (mostly of Gosling, as he is so photogenic):
As much fun as the concert was, we were starving. We snuck out a bit early to grab TWO BOOTS PIZZA (right next door to the Echo) and TACO ZONE (a few blocks away). I totally recommend both places. The FOOD made the night.