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Archive for October, 2009

OneRiot Guide to Last-Minute Halloween Costumes

Posted by evankessler on October 30, 2009

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

Muahaha, Spooky greetings OneRioters! Here we are on the cusp of yet another haunted All Hallow’s Eve, ready to gorge ourselves on Candy corns (yechh!) and Fun-sized Nestle Crunch (yum!). Are you with us?

Well, before you secure enough sweets to last you the next financial quarter, you’re going to have to stop stomping around the neighborhood in your everyday gear, because no one wants to give M&Ms to a banker or a dad casually dressed in Eddie Bauer gear– unless you can convince them that your costume is “1995 Man.”  So if you’ve waited ’til the last minute and have yet to secure a quality costume for Saturday’s big party or trick or treat trek, we here at OneRiot have a few suggestions to help you stand out amongst a sea of balloon boys and Jon and Kate plus Eight impersonators. So without further ado, the OneRiot last minute Halloween costume guide for those who have yet to decide:

Halloween 2008 – Last year Sarah Palin costumes were all the rage. You probably even dressed as the former Alaska governor last year. You’re so creative. Why not pull that power suit out with the American flag lapel pin out of the closet this year, make your hair look all sexy librarian-ish and slap on that pair of New Year‘s 2008 glasses you’ve held onto hoping to somehow get another use out of.  For good measure grab yourself a piggy bank and slap some lipstick on that thing and maybe glue some old candy wrappers to your person. Voila!

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger– Dust off that old sport coat and procure a pair of pilot wings, a nifty hat and a sweet white stache. Carry with you a tupperware labeled “Hudson River” filled with water and a mini toy plane. Throughout the party keep landing your toy plane safely in the tupperware. Everyone at the party will consider you a hero. If you don’t want to carry around the tupperware you can just keep dropping your plane in other people’s drinks, but we suspect that could be annoying.

Joe Francis– For the sleazy mail order video king getting young girls to act uninhibited on camera may have led to a jail stint, but donning an orange prison jump suit and walking around the party of your choice beckoning fellow revellers to “go wild” whilst training your video camera on them could make you the hit of this Halloween – and give you plenty of memorable footage for years to come.  Just don’t sell it in monthly installments for the low price of $9.99.

Unsexy Cat- Every halloween, like clockwork, a bevy of impressively endowed ladies make it their duty to prove their sex appeal by showing that every possible profession looks better with less clothes on. This also extends to portrayals of Satan and domesticated animals. The fact of the matter is this: “Sexy Cop” or “Sexy Oncologist” are not real jobs and not all men are turned on every time a Siamese cat walks by. So in order to bring a dose of reality to halloween, we find the “Unsexy cat” to be a welcome change from the usual come hither costumes.  All it takes is an unattractive baggy pair of sweats, a tail and some cat ears.  Once you get to the party just start rubbing up uncomfortably against people and asking for food or water.

Veiled Insult– (or the, this is what I’m going as special) A lot of people show precious little creativity on Halloween. Couples will try to be cute and dress up as Raggedy Anne and Andy, or whatever adorable duo costume they found at the costume shop.  Ladies will try to be super sexy (slutty) and some guys will try to toss it off like they don’t care enough to get dressed on Halloween and just pop in some vampire teeth or a hint of fake blood. This is your chance to get back at them by going all conceptual. All you’ve got to do is get some lacy material to fashion a veil and affix it to a hair clip. Next, just attend a party and tell people how awful their costume is. They’ll either get your concept or they’ll want to fashion a new “person with a bloody head” getup for you. The key is to criticize sparingly and effectively, whilst enjoying their poorly dressed company.

Alright, Onerioters. Have a happy and safe Halloween.  Don’t eat any apples with pins in them, and if you’re giving out candy at your house don’t be the weirdo who pawns off pennies.

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Google GPS and Other Huge Net-ovations

Posted by evankessler on October 29, 2009

This morning the social web was abuzz with the phrase “This Will Be Huge.”  Those four words seem applicable to so many situations that what it may have been referring to was  a mystery to us. Perhaps everyone on the Interweb was partaking in a worldwide pizza making contest and had used entirely too much dough, prompting them to announce “This will be huge” –or maybe it’s National Viagra Day. Either way a further investigation was warranted.  What we came upon was neither food nor erectile dysfunction related.

It seems that Internet industry monster Google has released a new beta application  called “Google Maps Navigation.” The free GPS turn-by-turn navigation system made such an immediate impression that stock of GPS makers such as Garmin and TomTom more or less hit the deck, and Mashable’s article on the release was passed around like hotcakes at a Sunday brunch buffet. While we have no doubt that Google’s new beta map app will change the face of humanity forever, this huge announcement also made us take a look at other web innovations that change the way we interact with the world around us. While we think that Google Maps Navigation will certainly be huge, it might never eclipse the following five internet advances:

1. Online Fantasy Sports Prior to the widespread availability of the Internet, true sports nerds would check the box scores the day after a sporting event and tally statistics before mailing out weekly results to fellow dedicated geeks .  Online Fantasy Sports leagues hosted by Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS Sports now give millions of less dedicated people worldwide the opportunity to partake in the sports version of Dungeons and Dragons, by wielding the sword of immediate updates on any given Sunday, Monday, Tuesday….etc.

2. Emoticons- Winking and making overt tongue motions at your friends was never really widely accepted in most social circles, mostly because winking is a bit creepy.  Thanks to emoticons women  and gay men can give cutesy responses to their friends and straight men can have their sexuality put in question when they use an emoticon to react to the news that their fantasy football trade has been approved.  Grammarians though tend to frown upon this practice, as it’s an easy way out of self expression via the eloquence of words.

3. EbayBefore e-bay, you had to hope to find that rare A-Team mug you never knew existed at a yard sale or flea market. With Ebay you don’t have to leave your house to find buried treasure and you can get that A-Team mug for the low price of $3.84 plus shipping– unless that bastard in Dubuque, Iowa continues to up his bid.

4. Email- Prior to the advent of email, horses had jobs. Postmen rode around the country on thoroughbreds, racing against time and postal vans to get urgent final notice bills to people with rapidly declining credit scores. Now a simple online notification in your inbox alerts you that you should probably pay your bill or someone’s going to repossess that sweet new racecar bed you pretended to buy for your kid even though you’re single. Also, thanks to its easily archived nature, Email allows you to keep track of all of the dumb things your friends say over the years and offer them irrefutable evidence of it later.

5. Youtube/Blogs- Everybody thinks they have a great sense of humor or that they have something important to say. This is probably the most fatal assumption made by human beings. Before the existence of Youtube/Blogging the only place you had to deal with people on the negative side of the funny (or importance spectrum) broadcasting themselves was at a friendly gathering, political rally or a Dane Cook concert. Now anyone can air their grievances or bring the “funny” by showing off their wacky personality or misguided opinion via their own web channel and reach millions!  Talk about being huge.

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Fare Thee Well, Geocities

Posted by evankessler on October 26, 2009

Today marks a sad day in Internet lore as Yahoo! has shuttered the digital doors of the long-time personal web hosting service Geocities. Geocities began in late 1994 as Beverly Hills Internet and was one of the early ways for aspiring mavens of the world wide web to post their elaborately hokey tributes to the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley– complete with rotating and blinking Unicursal Hexigram icons and horrendous purple backgrounds.  It was this potential for the rampant display of obsessive nerdery that led Yahoo! to purchase the service for $3.57 billion in 1999, effectively encouraging people like @MyLifeIsRandom to start About Me pages and Ronnie James Dio fan sites also awash in blinking and rotating icons.

Sadly, that large niche of the Internet reserved for people who get off posting inane bullcrap cared about by a select few has shifted to more user-friendly interfaces offered by blogging and social networking sites. While Geocities hung on for as long as it could, it was announced back in April that the service would cease to be today, October 26th, 2009– hence the trending topic RIP Geocities. And though Geocities is now gone from our midst, it is certainly not forgotten– as evidenced by net savvy tweeters  sharing their fond recollections of blinky web atrocities gone by.

With that we say, “Fare thee well, our fine internet friend.  You will be missed.”  Or as @captainhairy pointed out, perhaps missed is too strong a word.  You will be remembered.

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Nick Griffin: Scourge of the Britons

Posted by evankessler on October 22, 2009

It’s not often that matters solely encompassing political affairs of the British Isles make lasting impressions throughout the course of the day. The fickle nature of trending topics tends to guarantee that at almost the precise moment we choose to tackle one in blog form, it disappears. Today, however, the topics of “BBC” and “Nick Griffin” have managed to stay afloat atop our fair list of topics. Upon first glance, these two topics seemed separate. We thought perhaps the BBC was trending because Monty Python just so happens to be celebrating their 40th year of hilarity, and maybe everyone in Britain was checking feverishly to see what time a special is going to air on BBC. Not really knowing who Nick Griffin was, we figured maybe he was a new contestant on Britain’s Got Talent who even topped Susan Boyle. Upon further investigation, this could not be further from the truth.

Nick Griffin is a rather controversial figure across the pond as the head of the rather exclusive (in a negative way) right wing political party known as the BNP.  Hoards of Brits are outraged over the BBC’s decision to allow his whites-only party their fair share of air time– or as it’s put, “Question Time“– to voice their political views, in spite of protests by those with both political and moral opposition.

Opinions on the free speech front can be heard as echoes of digital displeasure from as far North as the Orkney Islands all the way to the Channel Tunnel entrance near Dover. The Twittersphere is aflutter with strong feelings as people like @Furbylina who wishes she could be at the BBC protesting the BNP and to afford Nick Griffin the opportunity to wear a little egg on his chin.

Meanwhile, others like @RyanPilbeam see this as not necessarily a victory for free speech, but certainly an exercise in it that should be tolerated.

The entire episode has an air of familiarity to it. I think I remember something happening in America back in August and September with people holding up Nazi flags and racist signs and talking about Healthcare of all things.  While this debate doesn’t have the same issue at the center of it, it does raise an interesting question over the limits of free speech and when we can legally restrict the speech of another.

Britain.  It’s just like America– but with funny accents and a different way to spell “humour.”

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Hoaxes Highlight Real-Time Web Accountability Issues

Posted by evankessler on October 21, 2009

There are some days in which the real-time web proves its own absolute relevance by breaking news as it happens at almost the immediate moment of impact, as evidenced in the recent election struggles in Iran.  Then there are days like today; days when the act of receiving pertinent updates on pressing world affairs and other occurrences of note seems to be eclipsed by the power of speedy necessity and a certain immaturity that at times makes us yearn for the days when Newspapers took a long hard look at what news people needed to hear the following morning when they picked up their tabloid of choice along with their morning cup of Joe.

Today’s slate of trending topics hinged on stories of not one, but two notable demises.  The first, and obviously most important coming from the world of celebrity was that of Kanye West.  Now, anyone with a quarter of a brain who has weathered storms of internet hoaxes before was obviously aware of the thread of idiocy running through the Internet since late last evening, but nonetheless the rampant pollution of the real-time web trending topics with such nonsense can make it seem like one is trying to attain their daily fix by remaining adrift in a river of idiots swimming upstream against the most important or even interesting information.

It’s not clear why people want to make everyone think Kanye West is dead?  Maybe they don’t like his music, maybe they love Taylor Swift, but any attempt to prove so is just as malicious as a Kanye interruption of a teenage girl’s MTV Awards speech if not more so. While I’m not sure if this legally akin to libel, perpetuating a falsity on your own personal whim can’t be that far off. So how do we stop these ridiculous hoaxes that clog the flow of information? Do they become punishable offenses or does Twitter have to go the wikipedia direction and try to figure out some fact filter?  Or do we all just become so desensitized with heightened bullshit-o-meters that we turn off any unsupported facts we’re even the least bit cynical about?  This is a problem that must be addressed by the real-time web if it wants to maintain relevance.

This doesn’t just apply to Tweeters and those who ReTweet with frequency.  The immediacy of Real-Time has caused news organizations to compete before valid confirmation of news stories, which leads us to today’s second example of a notable demise and trending topic “Megrahi”.  Earlier in the day the UK’s Sky News reported that Libya’s recently returned Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi had passed on, an event that possibly may have brought some comfort to the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.  In an obvious attempt to scoop the world, the news was proudly displayed and quickly spread like wildfire on the Internet.  Unfortunately, we’ve since come to learn that the reports of Megrahi’s demise may or may not have been greatly exaggerated, as his lawyer has since denied his passing. It may be slightly off base to say that Sky News lack of fact checking on the matter is a direct result of being in direct competition with the ability of real-time web to break a story first or a network’s need to break a story first on the real-time web, nonetheless these gatekeepers and real-time conduits must always be aware that there is no next day correction column when things are happening in the now and that sometimes getting things correct should be of paramount importance over getting things out first before everyone starts believing something that isn’t true.

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Uses for a Rotting Corpse on Halloween

Posted by evankessler on October 19, 2009

Beginning sometime around our gentle transition into the autumn season, the word “Halloween” began appearing as a trending topic on the minds of many a real-time search monger.  While it’s true a good deal of the hubbub is merely result of users reading up on their favorite spooky sugar-coated candies or attempting to get a head start on finding the perfect costume like @trexy79 who’s considering stealing my costume from 5 years ago and at the same time ruining the surprise for any of his twitter follower friends who might be attending the same party, not all of the Halloween buzz though is centered around candy or fun dress up ideas.

One new and bizarre All Hallow’s Eve-based oddity that’s burning the jack-o-lantern at both ends, in terms of the amount of shares it’s getting, runs quite counter to that good natured ghoulishness. The dead body of a man on his balcony in Marina Del Rey, California went unreported for several days on account that other people in the neighborhood mistook the rotting corpse for one of those fun fake rotting corpses that people everywhere really like to decorate their balconies with–or something like that. We’ve heard of bony skeletons, but lifelike rotting corpses with a gunshot wound to the head don’t exactly scream “trick or treat” to the neighborhood children. We’ll humor that one particular neighborhood in California and say that having a rotting corpse on hand could come in a handy this Halloween. Here are our top five Halloween uses for anyone who just happens to have a rotting corpse sitting around the house:

1. Weekend At Bernie’s CostumeDress up as Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman from the popular 80’s comedy and pretend your rotting corpse is alive by manipulating his hands so that it looks like he’s waving to the neighborhood kids and drinking some hot apple cider.

2. Warning Sign- If you’re not going to be home this Halloween but still want the kiddies to have candy, you can sit your rotting corpse upright holding one of those plastic jack-o-lanterns full of candy. To make sure kids don’t take more than the alotted amount, leave a sign that says “this guy took more than two pieces of candy.”

3. Haunted House Prop-
Everyone and their mothers–or at least their mother’s children– loves going to Haunted Houses.  Normally though kids are so painfully aware about how fake all of the scare tactics thrown at them are, between spaghetti being used as intestines and what not. Solution: having a rotting corpse on hand will let them know how good they had it when they were feeling fake intestines. They’ll never take the experience for granted again.

4. Table- If you’re having a Halloween Party but are short on table space to put bowls of candy and other treats you’d like to put out for your guests, why not take two chairs of even height and balance your rotting corpse over the two.  Voila! You’ve got a decomposing table and plenty more surface area to rest those chips and empty cups.

5.  Date- Your former significant other is going to be at the Halloween party you’re planning to attend. You know she’s got a new man, but you’ve yet to move on and find someone else. Make her aware of just how much you don’t miss her by showing that even a rotting corpse can look hot in that sexy cat outfit she left in your closet after she moved out and broke your heart.

Alright, we’re not sure if anyone reading this has a rotting corpse floating around the house in your attic, or jammed into the closet, but if you do these are just a few ideas you might be able to pull off to make this Halloween special for both you and that thing you keep around for no reason that should probably be buried in a cemetery or cremated already–you extremely sick person.

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Garth Preps for Vegas Cowboy Comeback

Posted by evankessler on October 15, 2009

Beyond the Season

Image via Wikipedia

There are some people, that when you see their names trending, you assume to be either freshly dead, the subject of Internet death rumors, or newly accused of a heinous crime. Garth Brooks has been so safely stowed away from the limelight in recent years that his current nature as a trending topic had us fearing the worst and twitter user @LouisaPaxton wondering “Who is garth brooks?”

Rest assured Garthamaniacs, the former Country music megastar is not joining Michael Jackson in that big recording studio in the sky.  Quite the opposite.  The best-selling solo musician in U.S. history has announced that he will be ending his self-imposed nine year retirement and is rumored to be joining the ranks of Wayne Newton and Cher as a Las Vegas performer. So with Garth allegedly set to heat up the gambling circuit for 16 weeks courtesy of the Wynn Hotel & Casino, we here at OneRiot have come up with a list of ten things to expect during Garth’s run on the Sin City strip.

1. Admittedly not big on “social graces” an entire half-hour of the show will be dedicated to displays of Brooks’ bodily functions, burping being the one most prominently featured.
2. There will be barriers between the crowd and the stage, just no fences.
3. A more than uncalled for crowd hushing nightly pantomime re-enactment of the video for “The Thunder Rolls” as performed by a bevy of horribly out of place scantily clad showgirls.
4. The only merchandise available at the show will be Garth’s trademark black and white button down.
5. Opening for Garth Brooks…Trisha Yearwood…and on some dates, Larry The Cable Guy.  On no occasion will Clint Black be appearing.  The two haven’t gotten along since “the incident.”
6. Garth will reserve the front row each night for his best friends, for the sole purpose of not lying every time he sings “Friends in Low Places
7. There will be a giant slot machine on stage that Garth will invite one elderly fan to play throughout the entirety of the show.  If she hits the jackpot she wins the show’s entire gross profits for the evening.
8. Somewhere around the 14th week Garth will do a full week’s slate as his alter-ego Chris Gaines.  After the performances go largely unheralded, failing to achieve any critical or audience acclaim, Garth will return to as his old successful self.
9. In between the set and the encore of every show, Garth will slip on down to the Oasis Resort & Casino about an hour north of Las Vegas to chase his blues away. He’ll be okay.
10. Garth will put on the gosh darn grandest spectacle of a country music show you ever seen.  Mark our words…GRANDEST!

Alright, country music fans.  There your have it.  Time to thank your lucky stars that Country music’s true superstar is back in our good graces.  We expect to see searches for “Great Vegas Travel Deals” trending real soon.

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Riding Out the Week On Your Camel

Posted by evankessler on October 14, 2009

Dromedary camel in outback Australia, near Sil...

Image via Wikipedia

If you were to compare the working week to an animal what would it be?  A dog, because of how hard you work from Monday to Friday? Probably not. A rat because of the way you’re constantly racing around to get that hard-earned cheese before you hide away in your house for the weekend? Well, close but no cigar; actually not even a clove cigarette.

If the trending topics are any indication of how the real-time Internet user treats the working week, you’d be hard pressed to find a better comparative creature than a good ol’ Dromedary Camel.

Something seems to happen in the minds of a good deal of search engine users once they hit the weekday wall known as Wednesday.  If I’ve noticed anything about real-time trending topics, it’s that like clockwork around noon on Wednesday, the word “Hump” seems to be a hotter topic than the latest Lohan-fueled travesty or celebrity death-athon.

While it’s true people could be talking about getting a quickie in the office supply closet or forgetting to pluralize their favorite Fergie song, the endless stream of hump-centric tweets prove this is decidedly not so– as evidenced by celebratory users like @psychosmatic: trumpeting “It’s Hump Day!!! Woo-hoo” or @noinyc trying to elicit a tweet of support from her favorite New Kid On The Block:

“@DonnieWahlberg DDUb! It was my birthday yesterday. Can I get some love on hump day?”

For the most part people seem enamored with the concept that they are halfway through the working week, wearing it like a badge of honor, as if Thursday was no longer a hurdle on the way to Friday– the day in which they’re finally in the clear from bosses and responsibilities.

Until people learn to treat their weekly responsibilities as a 200M sprint instead of the 500M hurdles we’ll no doubt continue to see that hump day notice pop up every week instead of treating Wednesday like just another day.

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Happy Columbus Day?

Posted by evankessler on October 12, 2009

Most people who don’t ask for directions and wind up in a completely different place than they intended are usually met with heaps of ridicule.  Let’s face it, recreating Christopher Columbus‘ fateful trip would be like setting out for a road trip to your cousin’s house in Detroit, arriving in Flagstaff, and eating some stranger’s Fruity Pebbles, then having a kegger for your friends back home before setting their house on fire.

In the olden times, however, the serendipitous exploration that resulted in landing a mere thousands of miles off your original course was seen as a greatly forgivable offense, provided there were spices on hand and plenty of people to exploit.  Whether or not Christopher Columbus engaged in wanton cruelty upon reaching the New (yet already inhabited) World can sometimes seem immaterial when you stop and consider the alternative; If the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria had never sailed the ocean blue in 1492, many of us now inhabiting the Western hemisphere might live in Albania or somewhere near the Cape of Good Hope instead of  Colombia, Columbus, Ohio, or even British Columbia.

So while it’s easy to focus on man’s inhumanity to man or Cristobal Colon’s inhumanity to indigenous peoples….oh who are we kidding? Christopher Columbus probably wasn’t a very good dude and most people don’t even get off work to celebrate his misguided sailing trip anymore. When’s Amerigo Vespucci day anyway?

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Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall

Posted by evankessler on October 7, 2009

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!  Or if you’re Steve Martin, you get there by being one of the more talented human beings in nearly all facets encompassed by the arenas of stage, screen, and the written word in recent memory.  The ability to do a damn fine job finger-picking a banjo, can’t hurt either.

I’ve always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the work of Steve Martin.  The jealous part of me thinks he’s a total asshole for being so great at everything.  I only wish I could be as good at one thing  as he is at well…you name it, he’s probably an expert.  I bet he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a world class chef.

The other part of me finds the deft touch of wit and complete dedication he seems to put into everything to be totally admirable and absolutely endearing.  The latter, more positive part wins out 99.9% of the time.  So, it was with little to no hesitation that I accepted an invitation on Tuesday evening to attend Steve Martin in concert at Carnegie Hall accompanied by the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers with the legendary Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys slated to be the opening act.

To be as gifted as Steve Martin is to be allowed to display  at least a cursory amount of arrogance and for as long as I can remember Martin’s feigned air of superiority has been a staple of his humor repertoire.  While jabs at his own haughty superstardom would mark later banter in his performance, the perennially white-haired jack-of-all arts strolled on stage with his banjo at around 8pm and thankfully announced to the crowd that he had always dreamed of doing a Banjo show at Carnegie Hall.  He went on to inform the crowd that when it was suggested that the legendary Bluegrass performer Ralph Stanley be his opener, his response was, “Ralph Stanley doesn’t open for me.  I open for Ralph Stanley.”  And with that the show began, Martin picked his way through a short number influenced by several of his favorite banjo tunes growing up.  Following a generous round of applause Martin exited stage right and made way for Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Clad in matching outfits suitable for a traditional bluegrass whoop up complete with cowboy hats and guitars, fiddles, banjos, and a standup bass accompanying them, the Clinch Mountain Boys sauntered out on stage followed by what appeared to be a tiny aged afterthought, shuffling to catch up with arms crossed.  The Clinch Mountain Boys launched into their opening number and the aged man still hung back from the microphone so as to patiently bide his time until it was his turn to make his voice heard.  As the opening instrumental came to a close, Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley stepped up to the microphone and gave a haunting rendition of “O Death,” a song more recently familiar to many music fans as a track on the acclaimed “O Brother Where Are Thou?” soundtrack.  After wresting complete attention from his band for that moment with his weathered, otherworldly wail; Stanley and company launched into the much beloved “Man of Constant Sorrow” which also enjoyed a resurgence from the aforementioned Coen Brothers soundtrack.

Steeped in 60 plus years of tradition, the hour and ten minute opening set by the legend and his cohorts rolled on like a steam train running on fuel made out of clawhammer guitar strumming and tunes played tighter than a parachute pack on a first time skydiver. The 82-year-old Stanley occasionally slowed things down with some stage banter; banter that made you realize just how young you were.  On several occasions he’d mention when he wrote songs, peppering in years like 1948, and 1954; probably long before many attendees were a gleam in their mama’s eyes. It was a family affair for old Ralph and the Clinch Mountain Boys as we learned that many of the players had been with him for upwards of around 16 years maybe even longer.  More than that though, they also featured Stanley’s actual 17-year old grandson on the guitar.  They let him sing a few too.

Perhaps the oddest moment of the entire evening came when Ralph Stanley invited his son, Ralph II out on stage to play a few tunes with him.  From the moment Two (Ralph Stanley II’s nickname) entered stage right, visions of Kenny Powers and many other of the world’s greatest black sheep bounced around the brains of the audience.  While everyone else was wearing more Bluegrass friendly garb, Stanley’s son separated himself wearing sunglasses, a dark designer outfit ,and a devil may care attitude accented by his cocky stroll to the microphone stand.

Ralph Stanley II

Ralph Stanley II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Instead of thanking his father for having him up on stage, Two spouted off sales facts about his new album.  It debuted at number one, it’s been number one for a few weeks, and so on…  It was as if the former Clinch Mountain Boy was saying, “look at me dad, I can do this shit without you.  You may be a legend but you’re fucking out and I’m fucking in.”  While Two’s first song seemed like a stereotypical neo-country snooze fest, the second with his father and what seemed like the full compliment of the band, had a lot more life to it.

Overall, the full set performed by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys was a solid outing with very few chinks in the armor.  While Stanley’s aged rasp didn’t necessarily travel that well through the Carnegie Hall sound system on occasion, he along with his band made you feel as though it were an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of such musical history and greatness.

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

If Ralph and Co. were as tight as a snare drum, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performance had about as regimented a feel as elementary school recess.  Martin’s original compositions were pleasant to the ear and full of toe-tapping, knee-slapping splendor, but they also had an airy, loose feel that was quite apparent from the get-go.  Throughout it all Martin kept the audience smiling and laughing with trademark witty banter.  He warned his bandmates not to be too talky as that was his job and threw wrenches in the conventional stage discourse reserved for expounding on song backstory.  At one point Martin was about to wax informational about the inspiration behind a particular ditty, launching into…”this song…” and letting the words hang in the air before actually playing it. He also told the crowd that the tour fulfilled a life long dream of his to go on the road with handsome men, referencing his bandmates in the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin again proved a modest host early on in his set, leaving the stage for his bandmates, allowing the audience some quality time to get acquainted with the music they play when not in the presence of such a superstar.  The Steep Canyon Rangers certainly impressed with the vocal harmonies on their Gospel award nominated track “Be Still Moses” and another song.

Martin soon returned to the stage and the loose atmosphere persisted even through a turn at more traditional songs.  He only provided vocals on two or three of his own songs with his bandmates picking up singing duties on the other non instrumentals.  Even the more poignant songs had a dash of humor as Martin introduced “Daddy Played The Banjo” as a song he wrote while attempting bad poetry, which he thought made for a good country song.

Even in the midst of delivering his blend of bad poetry, the crowd was never left wanting for someone more talented.Having such an adept comedian deliver  in the midst of such a fine setlist of quality music seems like a nearly once in a life time opportunity.  Martin’s songs off The Crow: New Songs for The Five-String Banjo may or may not leave an indelible mark on the Bluegrass community but seeing this undeniable talent’s combination of skills in action certainly left one in my mind.

In a fitting end to the evening after an encore or two, Martin called out all of the night’s performers to join in on the bluegrass standard Orange Blossom Special…and as Martin traded lyrics with the legendary Ralph Stanley, he made sure to throw in a “King Tut” just to make everyone remember from whence he came.

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