I’ve been wanting to write a musical for awhile now. Mostly, just to see if I could do it. But the problem is that not every story or concept works as a musical. It has to be just the right fit or else it ends up really silly.
Luckily, the right opportunity came along when my friends at Homegrown Theater, asked me to write a puppet show to be a part of their Halloween show in Boise. I decided to play off the Cannibal: The Musical theme and find a really inappropriate noun to attach “the musical” to. After polling some friends, I decided on ritualized murder.
The goal of the show was basically to see what Silence of the Lambs might have looked like were it an absurdist puppet musical. I think it was successful, especially as I liked the way the songs came together to advance the plot, but also be kind of catchy in their own rite.
The show only had a 3-day run, but was by most measures a pretty big success. The audience was full every night and no one walked out or loudly panned it over drinks afterwards.
Video of the show for those that couldn’t make it is below.
The Idaho Statesman, the local daily did a review of my book for last Sunday’s paper. In case you missed it, some highlights are below.
I’ve never had an interest in reading short fiction. It doesn’t seem plausible to be able to write a compelling enough story that has a character or plot worth getting invested in. But I’ve been converted after reading the collection of short stories in “Secrets & Lies” by Josh Gross.
Josh has a talent for creating an instant connection with a character and his or her story that, unfortunately, seems to be rare in the world of writing today.
The print edition of Secrets & Lies has been out for a while now. But because of a doozy of a file error, I wasn’t able to get it converted to an e-book until very recently.
But I’m happy to report that it is now available for Kindle as an e-book, and that several of the stories are available as singles. You can find all of that via my author page at Amazon.
Next up will be a version for the Apple Store, hopefully with embedded audio versions of the book and a copy of the film adaptation of The Dog House, the first story from the book. No hard timeline on that though.
Interview with Boise Author, Josh Gross (Edited for space)
(August 24, 2012, Dawson Taylor Coffee – neutral territory)
When you first asked us to review it I saw that it was a collection of short stories and I never really never got into short stories just because, for me, I never thought there was enough to get into, but actually, short story writers are very talented because you have to get all of that in there, you have to get the bang of the character in the story right away—
I’ve wanted to shoot this video for Doing Fine from The Godcrotch Sessions for awhile now. But I needed an impetus. Luckily, one came along in the form of the annual 208 Music Video Show. It got my ass in gear to finish it.
The video premiered at the event last night, meaning it’s now free to be viewed by the world at large.
Had a lot of fun making this. So expect more videos in the future, for other songs on The Godcrotch Sessions, possibly something from The Ratings Battle and some more live performance videos.
Thanks to my friend Janessa White for acting in the video.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a musical. It combines a lot of different things I do in a way I’ve never done before, and I felt it would be a good challenge.
After the success of my play Veronica Livingstone I Presume in spring, the company that put it on, Homegrown Theater, asked me to write a short script for a Halloween-themed puppet show the company would be putting on in October. Since it had to be a puppet show, it seemed as good an opportunity as any to write a musical. And since it had to be puppet-themed, I decided to find something Halloweeny and then just attach the words musical to it, kind of like the creators of South Park did with Cannibal: The Musical. But since it was both a puppet show and a musical, I wanted to go way over the top with it and make it as absurd and explicit as possible.
I settled on Ritual Murder: The Musical. The script and lyrics are about 2/3 done so far and so I started working on the music with the help of my friend Steven Palin of Bridgeport. This is a iPhone demo of the opening of the show that we made for the company to see what we were working on. It has the first song, which is sort of a medley of two characters songs and introduces the action of the show for the first scene.
As for what happens next, you’ll just have to show up to find out. The show will go for three days at Red Room in Boise around Halloween.
When I started at Boise Weekly, the paper got a lot of flack for my music reviews being a little more “honest” than the city was accustomed to. See here for an example of what I’m talking about. And there was also a lot of absurd hubbub that what is written in reviews has solely to do with who is friends with who, never on any principled belief in journalism or open debate. Half as a joke, and half to prove a point, Amy Atkins, the old BW A&C Editor asked me to review my own band. I don’t think she thought I would actually do it. But I did, and every bit as honestly as I would have any other. Moreover I did so at a show when I really wasn’t at my finest. Well played Josh. The review wasn’t ever published, which was a shame, because in addition to being a good meta-joke, I thought it was fairly effective in showing that it is not who is being reviewed, but what they are doing and what standards it meets or falls short of, that ultimately determines the outcome of a review.
I just rediscovered that review while cleaning up some files on my computer. So here it is. Notorious music critic Josh Gross reviewing Godcrotch, the one-man project by notorious music critic Josh Gross.
Godcrotch is a Jarring and Erratic Musical Journey Through Adolescence
You probably shouldn’t expect much from an act that calls itself Godcrotch. It portends of juvenile boys giggling over songs about pee-pee and poo-poo, perhaps tossing around profanity like it’s going out of fucking style.
And for at least a third of Godcrotch’s set at Tom Grainey’s basement on Tuesday, July 5, that’s an apt description. The one-man act rapped about skateboarding and dog poo, occasionally berating the audience whenever a song or “joke” didn’t land properly with all the dignity and maturity of bathroom graffiti.
But the other two thirds were oddly compelling in their own way, even though rough.
Godcrotch’s act toggled back and forth between morose ukulele ballads about suicide and regret—and one Judas Priest cover—and a series of short raps laid over beats made via a series of instruments plugged into a looping pedal. One of the raps, a duet performed with a member of the Idaho Atheists, was particularly absurd, beginning with the lyrics: “I fuck God in the face on a regular basis.” You can guess about where it went from there. Both “rappers,” had to read from lyric sheets for that song, as they said it had been written just that evening.
Some of the beats were interesting, using beatboxing as the foundation, and then layering bass, guitar and percussion on top. But at least two songs contained live loops that were played slightly out of time, likely due to a general nervousness on the part of the performer. He said repeatedly that this was his first attempt to play live with this setup. It definitely showed, both in the roughness of the performance and the bizarre mismatch of the material.
But there’s something to be said for the pastiche of things that don’t really go together. Though it may have been jarring, it definitely wasn’t predictable. Besides being outlandish, it’s entirely likely that Godcrotch himself may not have had the first clue what he would do next. And that can be sign of good things on the horizon. However, if or when those things will arrive is anybody’s guess.
While out on the Everything For Everyone Tour, we shot a lot of little acoustic performance videos. At some point in the near future, I’ll be cutting them together into a tour retrospective, but I wanted to post this one now because I mentioned it in the last blog post.
It’s a ukulele version of You Are My Sunshine we shot at the abandoned cement plant on the side of I-84. I really enjoy the juxtapositions in this video and this song and will definitely be shooting more one-take live performances in interesting found locations like this one in the future.
We—Steven, Keesha and I—left Boise on Friday afternoon. Since we had plenty of time before our first gig in Tacoma on Saturday, we decided to stop at the abandoned concrete plant on the side of I-84. It’s one of those places that every time you drive by, you say you want to stop at to explore or shoot a post-apocalyptic film at, but never actually do. We wanted to change that mentality.
However, that’s when the my trusty rusty Volvo decide to get snitty. It lurched to a halt right in front the plant. Since we chose to stop there anyhow, we decided to not to worry yet, that maybe the car just needed some rest from the summer heat. So we set off to explore and give it the time it might need.
It was a truly creepy place, that had everything from burnt-out shells of building littered with old paperwork to flooded staircases full of mechanical debris. The ruins also sported all kinds of graffiti and were infested with chipmunks. Really, it would be an amazing place for some sort of ritual murder or to slip into a hole and never be seen again. If you’re driving by, definitely stop and take a look around.
Strangely enough, there were two other cars stopped there as well, and both of them were traveling bands. One of them, Lights in the Sky, had played Boise the night before and had some mutual friends with Steven in Tacoma. Randomtastic indeed.
We spent nearly two hours exploring the factory and shot some live performance videos inside of an old concrete storage tank that had a really cool reverb.
When we tried the car again, it started no problem. We didn’t run the air conditioning after that and didn’t have any more problems for the rest of the drive.
Upon our arrival we got the bittersweet surprise of learning that The Weekly Volcano, a Tacoma alt-weekly, had done a half-page writeup on our show—see below. Awesome, except that the article managed to get nearly everything but the show deets wrong. It has a picture of Steven with a caption that talks about me being a poet. It didn’t make me mad, but it did remind me of the importance of fact-checking and how glad I am to have editors that are sticklers for it at Boise Weekly.
We spent the day practicing and taking some pictures at a beautiful park in Tacoma, Chambers Bay. It is a large grass area on Puget Sound that has ruins of an old factory incorporated into its design. Some of them look like Greek columns. There is also an underground tunnel with an amazing reverb that we played with for awhile. I’m sure it looked like we were on all kinds of drugs to those walking by, but fuck ‘em.
We also met a really cool chalk artist there who comes back and draws on the same piece of concrete slab at the park every week, even though the police come and wash it away when he leaves. He said it was what kept him balanced.
After a few hours of that, we headed to the show.
The venue was in the back of a vintage clothing store, Urban X-Change, and was voted by Best All Ages venue by the Weekly Volcano. They weren’t wrong about this though. It was a great spot. Intimate, stylish, and packed with kids. Most of them were there to see The Deep Vs—which I’m pretty sure is some sort of vagina reference, though the manager of the store disagreed with me.
Bridgeport played first, powering through the four songs with the full band. It went pretty well, especially considering that I was playing bass instead of drums in Bridgeport and had only met Mike, the tour drummer, several hours earlier. After that, Godcrotch stepped up to the mic and did a few numbers. They went really well. And though it wasn’t the most engaged or dancy crowd I’ve ever played to, it stood in a start contrast to the level of apathy I often see at shows in Boise. Not just for me, but for anyone. I don’t like to denigrate a whole town or a scene, especially not the one I live in, but it was a remarkable difference.
As if just to prove it, the crowd even stayed and clapped for Run On Sunshine, an acapella performer whose performance is best described as fearless. He had no instrument to match his no sense of key or melody. What he did have, was a lot of songs about different cats that he knew in Arizona. Seriously. A lot of them. It was bizarrely compelling, a bit like the Jonathan Richman show I saw a few months ago, but with far far far far far far less talent. Arguably zero talent in fact. Just pure moxie.
After that came The Deep Vs, who played three Strokes covers, which I think is tacky, because it’s like saying you just want to be in that band instead of your own, but whatever. They’re young. Seeing the kids rush the stage for it though reminded me how little most people care for music in principle, and how much of their interest in it is actually tied to emotional experience—in this case, their friends. I remember that feeling as a high school kid, and it was rad.
But the problem was that since they were only invested in their friends and not the opportunity to see music in general, they didn’t stick around to see Rodney afterwards. He was a a really compelling singer songwriter with a soulful style and a stick to it spirit. He played through a guitar that wouldn’t stay in tune, an amp that wouldn’t work, a mic that cut out and a microphone stand that kept moving on him. There really wasn’t anything else left to go wrong. But his material was engaging enough to power through it, especially the vulnerability in his voice. I’m hoping he’ll come play in Boise sometime.
I sold one book and Steven left a few CDs at the store. Total take, around $60. Not bad for that sort of show. The next night, Steven played classical guitar at an Italian restaurant in Tacoma. That paid much better.
We’re off to Portland next, to play at Backspace, and hopefully do a house show and a book reading while we’re there.