A few weeks back, I gave a speech at the Ignite Boise forum. It’s basically a power point presentation about whatever it is the presenter feels like talking about.
It’s supposed to be a forum for big ideas that are interesting for their own merits, not any sort of commercial tie-in. However people occasionally usurp the platform to boost their business or project. As an audience member, that irked the bejeezus out of me.
So when I was asked to submit a proposal, I made my speech about exactly that: the value of ideas in the abstract and why Ignite is a unique forum for them, that should not be used in a commercial manner.
Check it out below.
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.
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.