My second favorite “Rush in Kansas City!” story.

This past Thursday evening, the family and I ventured to the Sprint Center here in Kansas City to take in yet another concert featuring my favorite band.

rushWhat made this outing special was that it was the first ever *real* rock concert for the girls. I had long hoped that I would get to take them to see the band play live, and in doing so set the bar high and early so far as future concerts were concerned. It was something I’d been plotting pretty much from the moment Michi showed me that first pregnancy test.

So, you know…MISSSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Addy&Erin_R40With that addressed, what was my second favorite part of this story? It was the one I didn’t even know about until a friend on Facebook sent me a link to website article:

Westboro Baptist Picketers Epically Trolled At Kansas City Rush Concert

That’s right! One of Kansas’ most renowned exports decided to check out the haps in downtown KC, and as you might expect, they were their usual warm, welcoming, loving selves, in keeping with the teachings of the Lord and stuff.

Oh, wait….

rush-wbc01
For the most part, their antics were ignored. As I said, I didn’t even know they were there, as we’d entered the Center from its opposite side one block over. However, that didn’t stop a few fans from doing their part to welcome the WBC contingent:

rush-wbc02(Photo Credit: F.T. Boley)

Hawt.

(And the expression from the WBCer on the left is priceless.)

I have to say, though, that I admire the WBC’s pluck in turning out for the concert. Their numbers were easily double what I’ve seen when I’ve encountered them at other events, such as anytime Kevin Smith comes to town). I doubt they converted anybody, but it’s nice to know that you can always count on them to provide a pre-show laugh or two.

Heh.

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Rush in Kansas City!

Yep. The Holy Trio came to Cowtown, as they almost always do at some point during their various concert tours. Of course we went.

rush

Michi and I have been going to Rush concerts together since before we were married, and those of you who know us know we’ve been married a damned long time. Tonight my bud Kevin joined us as we hit the Sprint Center for this show, which of course was not to be missed. I’ll admit I gave momentary consideration to selling my tickets to a scalper for a tidy sum, but I immediately punched myself in the junk for even daring to entertain such an errant thought.

(Okay, I didn’t really punch myself in the junk, but I did have one of the voices in my head — Morgan Freeman’s, for those keeping score at home — rebuke me for my insolence.)

Anyway….

Almost forty years doing this together, and Rush still puts on a hell of a show. It was the last stop on their Clockwork Angels tour, and while there were some early indications that the guys might be ready to go home for a while (Geddy Lee’s voice sounded a little rough on the opening number, “Subdivisions”), everything got dialed in pretty quick and we were off and running.

Nearly three hours of music, including most of the tracks from their newest album, the aforementioned Clockwork Angels, along with plenty of perennial favorites and even a few that don’t normally get included in their concert set lists (“Grand Designs” and “The Analog Kid,” for example). Naturally, the place went bananas whenever something like “YYZ” or “The Spirit of Radio” cranked up, and their encore was “Tom Sawyer” and from 2112 “Overture, “Temples of Syrinx” and “Grand Finale” to close out the evening. No matter how many times I hear them, those last handful of songs are always fun to hear live and with a great audience.

Next year marks Rush’s 40th anniversary, and I’m hoping for a new tour much like they did in 2004 for their 30th. The kids are getting to the point where I think they’re ready for their first rock concert, and it has to be Rush before some boy band or else I will punch myself in the junk. For realz.

Okay, probably not…but Morgan Freeman’s voice almost certainly will admonish me harshly.

SModcast in Kansas City!

Thanks to some pinch-hitting mercy bestowed upon us by friends after our primary and secondary kid-sitting options fell through, Michi and I were able to meet up with Kevin at the beautiful Midland Theater in Kansas City, and attend our second event in as many months featuring the one and only Kevin Smith.

The big difference this time? He brought friends!

That’s right, accompanying Smith on his latest visit to Cowtown was his longtime friend, producer, and fellow SModcaster Scott Mosier, as well as Jay himself, Jason Mewes. This was not to be an extended Q&A session such as the one Smith held here in KC last year, or the one which accompanied the Red State screening here back in March. Instead, the audience was treated to a live performance and recording of installments for two of the many podcast shows which now air under the SModcast Network banner (soon to be “SModcast Internet Radio“).

Okay, that’s enough links for one paragraph.

Anyway, Smith and Mosier came on stage first, sitting at tables and lookin’ all talk radio host-like and shit, to record an episode of their podcast that is the cornerstone of the SModcast Network. There was banter on this or that topic for a bit, including comparisons between the death of Osama Bin Laden with the demise of the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. They even led the audience in a sing-along of the Ewok celebration song at the end of the film (“Yub nub. Bee-boppin’, yub nub.”). The bulk of the time, however, was devoted to Smith sharing with us a “new commentary track” he’s begun composing for Mallrats…apparently while baked out of his mind. The comments and other disjointed thoughts he had written on his laptop run the gamut from gut-bustingly funny to total “WTF?” and in truth it’s Mosier, perhaps destined to be one of the all-time great comedy straight men, who really makes the whole thing entertaining long after the idea itself begins to wear thin. Still, watching and listening to these two guys who obviously have great respect and love for one another (in a totally manly way, of course) let their hair down is still a gas.

After a brief(?) intermission, the second show started, this time with Smith and Jason Mewes recording for their “Jay & Silent Bob Get Old” podcast. I’ve never seen Mewes live before, and the times I’ve seen him on stage with Smith on any of the Evening with Kevin Smith DVDs it’s always a crapshoot as to whether he’ll be sober or completely ass-hammered by the time he shows up. Last night, he was running on all cylinders, mainlining Red Bull as his recreational drug of choice. The topics he shared (with ample setup from Smith) focused to a large extent during his time(s) in rehab, including his oh-so-frowned upon liaisons with female staffers and sharing a room at one facility with Ben Affleck. To say that you had to be there for this one isn’t an insult; Mewes was hysterical in his recreations/reenactments of various anecdotes, with Smith laying on extra laugh-fodder for good measure. The show was rounded out by Smith directing Mewes in a bit of impromptu stage reading of a scene from Notting Hill, along with the help of two audience volunteers.

Despite a couple of instances where I thought the guys might be pulling a page from the latter-day Saturday Night Live playbook and letting jokes and topics overstay their welcome a bit, it was still three hours of fun. I know performers always say they love whatever city they’re in on any given night, but Smith has made a habit of showing up in KC for movie screenings and stage shows over the past few years, and has said more than once that the town is a “View Askew” stronghold. So, I’m inclined to believe him, and I hope he (and the gang) make it back here soon because, damn it, he can make you laugh so hard you end up having to check your seat for a wet spot.

Nootch.

Red State screening and Q&A in KC: March 12th.

A night out with the wife and friends, Kevin Smith, and the Westboro Baptist Church?

Wow.

Okay, so here’s the lowdown: Writer/director/podcaster/Silent Bob alter ego Kevin Smith returned to Kansas City this past Saturday night, bringing with him his new indie film Red State, a “horror” movie which uses for inspiration Fred Phelps, his family, and the controversial Westboro Baptist Church. The screening was advertised as also featuring one of Smith’s patented “Q&A sessions” with the audience. Having seen the DVDs of such performances and after attending one live here in KC last year, I have to say that Smith is one of the most entertaining storytellers I’ve ever heard. I think I enjoy listening to him just spin a yarn more than watching his movies (and I don’t mean that as dissin’ his flicks…well, except maybe for Cop Out. I kid! I kid!). So, even though we had already purchased tickets for his upcoming show in KC in May, missing this “extra” visit to Cowtown just wasn’t an option.

But, just to sweeten the deal, Smith announced in the days before the screening that there would be special guests in attendance. While I already knew that members of the Westboro Baptist Church would be there, picketing Smith and the screening just as they had his Q&A last year, what came as a surprise was that Smith had invited the Phelps family to watch the film as his guests. Now, I know what you’re thinking: It’s an easy offer to make, because there’s no way the Phelps would accept the invitation, right?

Wrong.

Nope. The invitation was accepted, setting the stage for an epic showdown between Smith and the WBC. When Saturday night finally arrived, the party was in full swing outside the historic Midland Theater in Kansas City. A large, boisterous crowd waited outside the theater to be admitted for the screening, while an apparently larger-than-usual contingent from the WBC was on hand, waving their signs and reminding us that we’re all destined for a bullet-train to Hell. The pro-Smith gang had their own signs, too, of course, making for a bit of spirited competition between the two factions.

Now, the movie. Believe what you’ve read: Red State ain’t the “typical” Kevin Smith flick, that’s for sure. Jay and Silent Bob do not lurk in the shadows. While there are several snippets of Smithian-style dialogue sprinkled throughout the script (including one or two laugh-out-louders), you will find not a single reference to anything View Askew-related. If there’s any sort of wink or nod to any of Smith’s backlist anywhere in this film, I didn’t see it.

As for the movie itself? Holy. Shit.

Leave any expectations at home. The plot? Three high school kids answer an internet ad for sex, and when they go looking for the meet-up they instead run afoul of Cooper and his family, all of whom are devoted to Cooper’s “Five Points Trinity Church.” To call Cooper and the 5PTC a simple riff on Phelps and the WBC would be a mistake; once you get past the surface comparison, things take a decided turn for…well, damn.

Without offering any spoilers, if you think he’s gonna zig, Smith zags. If you think character X is going to do or say something because that’s what similar character X-types do or say in other movies, forget it. If you’re certain he “won’t go there” with this or that, you’re screwed. Every time…every time…there’s an opportunity to pull a punch, Smith instead hits you twice. Hard. Michael Parks, playing the Fred Phelps-inspired character Abin Cooper, is quite simply chilling. This isn’t a parody of Phelps; Parks completely inhabits the role and makes it his own, to stunning effect. John Goodman provides an authentic world-weary, jaded quality as the veteran ATF agent who becomes involved as the plot unfolds. Recent Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (who I remember from the truly awesome television series Homicide: Life On the Street), plays Cooper’s daughter, who has so totally drunk the Kool-Aid. Red State is being called a “horror film.” Why? Because the horror you see on the screen is something that could happen…right down the street from you.

The film looks pretty damned good, with deft editing and pacing helping to disguise the fact that it’s the product of a modest $4,000,000 budget. A few of the younger performers aren’t as polished as their veteran co-stars, but most of those very minor slips occur early on. It’s hard to explain the ending without spoiling anything, but the film’s penultimate scene–which I view as the true ending–is perhaps a bit too pat, and probably goes the furthest toward returning to anything resembling “Smith territory.” That’s not necessarily a ding. All in all, Red State was a very entertaining flick. I don’t know that it’s something I’d watch on a rainy day, but I’m definitely going to see it again when it’s released to theaters this fall. Smith’s commentary track should be worth the price of the DVD, along with the special features it’s liable to contain.

One of those features will almost certainly be the Q&A which took place after our screening. Though the Phelps clan who accepted Smith’s invitation to watch the film left less than twenty minutes in (they told Smith it was “too filthy.” HAH!) and so weren’t on hand for their promised post-movie analysis, the grand surprise of the evening, to Smith as well as the rest of us, was when two people stepped up to one of the microphones during the Q&A. When they identified themselves as Libby Phelps and Joshua Phelps-Roper–two members of the Phelps family who have publicly renounced their association with the WBC–the place went nuts. What followed was an extended interview, with Libby and Josh on stage with Kevin Smith and dishing the truth behind the WBC and Clan Phelps. According to what we learned, it’s all true. They truly believe all the shit they spew.

You can watch a portion of the interview by checking out this piece at The Pitch, KC’s indie newspaper: Pitch.com – Kevin Smith’s Q&A with ex-Westboro Baptist Church members (video)

According to Smith, the whole Q&A was recorded, and will if at all possible be included with the DVD release. Awww, yeah.

So, there you go. What a hell of a fun night. I can’t wait until Smith (with Jason Mewes!) returns to town in May.

Snoogans.

Look up the word “EPIC” in the dictionary.

Holy.

Shit.

For those who aren’t up to speed, writer/director/podcaster/storyteller/Silent Bob’s alter ego, Kevin Smith, recently launched a cross-country tour to promote his latest movie, the low-budget indie feature Red State. Many people look at the flick as some kind of parody of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and its patriarch, Fred Phelps, particularly when talking about actor Michael Parks‘ reported performance as the Phelps-like character, Abin Cooper. While Smith denies that the film is intended as a swipe at Phelps or the WBC, he admits that they’re an obvious inspiration. The film’s been getting some interesting buzz and a mixture of reviews, but it’s definitely on my “wanna see” list for 2011.

Well, Smith and his merry band bring their tour to Kansas City on Saturday, March 12th. As happened last year when he came to town for his one-man Q&A show, members of the WBC staged a protest across the street from the theater. This year’s show is at the same location, and….you guessed it…Clan Phelps will be on hand.

But, wait! There’s more.

Mr. Smith apparently extended an invitation to members of the WBC to attend the screening, watch the film as part of the audience, and then participate in the Q&A session Smith already was planning for after the show.

The invitation was accepted.

TheRedStatements.com: Dinner with Darth Vader: PHELPS FAMILY VIEWING!

This is going to be awesome. We already have tickets and are going (Fifth row center, baby!), but this is just icing on the cake. Like the subject line says, look up the word “EPIC” in the dictionary, and after you read through all the boring bullshit definitions and whatnot, THIS is the sort of thing that should be listed as a prime example of the word in action.

Holy.

Shit.

EDIT: What kind of shameless whore would I be if I didn’t use this opportunity to draw attention to my pithy little story, “Counter-Protest.” Okay…shilling complete. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled lives, already in progress.

Rush: Time Machine Tour 2010 – Kansas City edition!

Leaving our offspring in the care of our trusted friends Gail and Gregg (or, as the kids call them, “Aunt Gail and Uncle Gregg”), Michi and I made our way with great enthusiasm to the Starlight Theater in Kansas City for Rush’s second stop on their just-gettin’-started “Time Machine Tour.”

The weather was perfect for taking in a concert at an outdoor amphitheater, and the crowd was lively and full of energy. The show began with an intro video that offered a humorous look at the band’s history before the trio took the stage and opened with “The Spirit of Radio.” The “Time Machine” theme was prevalent throughout the evening, even down to the amps and other equipment on stage as well as the base for Neil Peart’s drum kit – all of which had been outfitted with a complete “steampunk” look. As was pointed out to me via Twitter by Kevin J. Anderson, the base of Neil’s drum kit has portholes all around it, which resemble those on the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Awesome.

As for the music, it ran the gamut, with choice selections from the band’s back catalog ranging from their first album all the way up to and past their most recent release, Snakes and Arrows, including coming out of their halftime break and performing their Moving Pictures album in its entirety. They even introduced two brand new songs from their forthcoming album (due out next year….likely with a concert tour to accompany that. Sweet.). So far as I know, this was the first time they’ve ever “unveiled” new material at a concert, ahead of an album’s actual release. At least, it’s never happened before at any show I’ve attended, and I go back to the Presto tour in 1990 so far as seeing Rush concerts goes. So far as the new songs go, I think “Caravan” plays much better than “Brought Up to Believe,” both live and just listening to it on my MP3 player.

Something else that was new for this show was a short film after the concert was over and the band left the stage after their encore: Jason Segel and Paul Rudd reprise their Rush-nerd roles from I Love You, Man (one of oh so few films to feature Rush music), sneaking backstage to the green room to await the band after the concert’s over, where hijinks ensue. “Slappin’ that bass, man!” I’ve never actually seen the movie, but this was enough for me to consider hunting it down, as I’m a fan of both actors, anyway.

Okay, enough rambling on that….

It was yet another fun show offered up by the priests from the Temples of Syrinx, and we eagerly await their return to Kansas City in what I hope is the not-so distant future. Addy and Erin are budding fans, themselves, and Addy (at least) should be old enough to go to the next concert. Awwwwwww, yeah.

Kevin Smith in Kansas City, March 27th.

Last night, Silent Bob spoke.

Like a muthafukka, he did.

With our good friends the LaRocks offering to babysit our offspring (it sounds like a prison sentence, but G&G seem to love doing it…for reasons surpassing understanding), Michi, Kevin, and I convened at the Midland Theater in KC to attend one of director Kevin Smith‘s famous Q&A session/standup comedy/whatever shows. Having already observed this phenomenon on three separate DVD releases (the first of which remains my favorite of the bunch), I’d always been hoping for the chance to see one of these live and in living color.


To say that Mr. Smith did not disappoint would be a criminal understatement.

Anyone who follows Kevin S. via any of the multiple venues in which he makes himself available to his ardent fanbase (Twitter, his blog, his website, and the weekly SModcast he does with long time friend and producer Scott Mosier to name the four prime examples) knows that he’s…candid. No, candid is too restrained an adjective in this instance. Brutally honest? Yeah, that’s closer to the mark. Hilariously forthcoming with the gory details on any subject that suits his fancy? Now we’re talkin’. If there is a filter between his brain and his mouth, that shit ain’t working…much to our benefit.

As he has often pointed out (and did so again last night), he considers himself less a film maker or writer than he does a storyteller, and man…can this dude spin a yarn. A gut-busting, wrong-on-oh-so-many-levels, eye-watering yarn that makes you check your shorts for wet spots.

As “Q&A” implies, he fields questions from the audience, bouncing between four microphones pre-positioned at different points around the theater. Lasting just over three solid hours, the topics last night ranged from directing Bruce Willis during the making of Smith’s most recent film, Cop Out, to the true definition of “Ass to Mouth,” to the number and location of any tattoos he might possess, to the memorable occasion when he and his wife tried to smoke weed and have sex, and the hijinks that ensued. Along the way, he shared hysterical anecdotes about Jason Mewes and his wife as well as the numerous people from his youth with whom he still maintains steadfast friendships, and touching moments about being the father of a 10-year old girl. He covered what it’s like to evolve from the aimless young man who wrote Clerks. Along the way, he discovered that everything he’d ever wanted from life has been granted to him…for which he remains eternally grateful, while at the same time realizing that he has to find new passions from which he can craft what he hopes are interesting stories.

He briefly discussed a couple of forthcoming projects, including Red State, which was greenlit thanks to the minor yet still solid success and returns provided by Cop Out. It’s interesting that this will be his next film, particularly given its subject matter and how much inspiration it draws from a certain pack of certifiable nutjobs the Westboro Baptist Church, some members of whom showed up to protest Mr. Smith’s visit to KC.


(Click to enlarge.)

Yeah, those boneheads were fun. Some protest. I had more guys drop out of my platoon during the first week of boot camp.

Anyway, we were told that the Midland Theater, at 1,700+ seats, was a somewhat larger venue than he’s comfortable playing these days, and he was worried at first that the show might not sell out. However, he’s developed a bit of a love affair with Kansas City in recent years, thanks to monster test screenings of two previous films (Clerks II and Zack and Miri Make a Porno). According to him, KC’s a “View Askew Stronghold!” and we did sell out the place, laying waste to the notion that Midwesterners don’t enjoy their fair share of dick and fart jokes and in-depth discussion of his wife’s nether regions. I’m hoping we made enough of an impression that he makes it back, be it for another Q&A, a test screening, or even to shoot a movie here.

(On that topic, I learned last night that the now-demolished Bannister Mall here in KC was on a short list of locations scoped out for use in his second film, Mallrats. Of course, at that time I didn’t even know who the hell he was, even though I was working a mile away from the mall back then. Ah, well.)

Long story short: We had a blast, and yes, I checked my shorts for wet spots…a couple of times. If you’re a Smith fan and have never seen one of these live, be sure to check it out if and when he comes to your town. Nootch!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2009.

It’s Christmas time, and one of our annual traditions is taking in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra when they come to town. This year was no different, and Michi and I — along with Kevin and his daughter, Colleen — made our way to the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City for the show.

As with last year, we had floor seats, dead center, although this year I was able to get us two rows closer. From that distance, the heat from the pyro and even the stage lights makes you feel like a Big Mac waiting for a combo meal to be purchased.

TSO has a new, non-Christmas CD, Night Castle, out just a month or so ago, and in addition to the usual holiday music that dominates the first half of the show, the band played several of the new selections as well as audience favorites from their earlier albums to round out the 2-hour performance.

This was our eighth time attending the show, and even though it was still fun, both Michi and I sensed something was off this time around. The band’s leader, Al Pitrelli, said that they were coming to the end of the year’s tour, so we had to wonder if fatigue wasn’t setting in by this point. Despite this, we enjoyed ourselves, and look forward to next year’s show. They also announced a second tour coming some time next year, focusing on their non-Christmas music. Now that is something I wouldn’t mind seeing.