2006 Arts & Entertainment Editors' Picks

Editors' Picks

Best New National Celebrity

E.J. Pettinger

For as long as we've been printing EJ's single panel cartoon Mild Abandon in Boise Weekly, we've been cutting those same cartoons out of our paper and putting them on our computers and bulletin boards. Needless to say, we're fans, and we only felt fannier when we saw the 'toon start showing up in other weeklies like Cityview in Des Moines, Iowa, San Francisco Weekly and Seven Days Vermont. But when EJ defeated Tom Tomorrow and his mighty This Modern World at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies awards earlier this year, even we were knocked out of our cumberbunds. We've got a live one here, folks. If he keeps this up, he might quickly approach "The Next (insert favorite single-panel comic)" status. Let's not jinx it.

Best Place to See a Play, an Art Installation and a Concert ... All in the Same Week

Visual Arts Collective

Do you know what isn't the best of anything? Sentences that begin with "people these days ..." But we're going to go ahead and say it anyway. People these days seem to value multitasking pretty highly. Maybe we're busy, maybe too many video games broke our attention spans, but for some reason, if something's stated function is not a singular but a plural, we like it better. Cell phones are mp3 players, cameras, date books and, yeah, telephones. Our cars are rolling dining rooms. And if anyone in the BW editorial cave ever leaves his or her desk to eat lunch, it's a notable occasion.

Visual Arts Collective, still a young art gallery since opening in a former Napa Auto warehouse in the Linen District in September 2005, has taken the idea of a multi-use space and made it cooler than we ever could. Because the space is a former warehouse, VaC is able to find innovative ways to divide, define and reshape its space according to the needs of the event. They've exhibited projects from local artists and groups like Boise Naval Base, Projekt Locqa and BW's own Open Studios reception, but they also play host to various fundraisers, poetry slams, lectures and functions, musical performances ranging from Juxtapercussion to A Taste of Opera Idaho, in addition to serving as the performance home of theater group Spontaneous Productions and playing host to East Indian Follies' last run of contemporary Indian plays. Right now, they're hosting their own event: "Small," their anniversary show. Aw. Happy birthday, VaC!

1419 W. Grove St., 424-8297, www.visualartscollective.com

Best Concert: High-Brow

Sun Valley Symphony, Four Last Songs

Richard Strauss never had the opportunity to hear the last four songs he ever wrote performed. Luckily, we did. Set to three Herman Hesse poems and a fourth by Joseph Eichendorff, these peaceful musical meditations on death barely last 20 minutes when strung together, but soprano Christine Brewer's performance with the Sun Valley Symphony on August 12 was no less overpowering for its brevity. And of course, like all of the performances by this international treasury of top-notch musicians, it was free to attend--and you could even bring a picnic. If you missed this, the 22nd season of the symphony, you're approaching "lost cause" status.

Brewer stuck around two nights later to wow the crowds with some bombastic excerpts from Wagner's Götterdämmerung, but ... Wagner? Meh. He was 10 times the proto-Nazi asshole that Strauss was, and we only have so much positive ink to throw around for that subgenre of human being in the first place.

Best Concert: Low-Brow

The Dwarves

To win the title of Best Low Brow concert, copious amounts of foul language is one requirement and full-frontal male nudity is another. Any band with one or the other would clearly be in the running. Any band with both, well, they've already won. The award this year goes to the Dwarves, whose show at the Bouquet titillated, teased and totally turned-on a full house with a set of great songs, plenty of the F-word and one, big, flapping male member. Now that's hot.

Best Concert: Sloping Brow

Rawkstock Idaho 2006

When Split Infinitive and Outing Larry Craig opened for Monkey Pox and Dirk's Love Child in an unscheduled, illegal show in Storey Park and called it "Rawkstock, Idaho 2006," all the best scaries turned out. Remember when Johnny accidentally kicked that dog in the face in the mosh pit, and then the dog tore Johnny's lip ring out? And remember when the guitarist for Split Infinitive played his Philipino fake Telecaster with a sewer grate, and then he threw the grate at that guy who was making out with his sister? And the best part: We all got to do an encore on the Ada County Sheriff's Office arrest report Web site in the morning. Being hardcore RULEZ!

Best Homegrown Film Festival

True West Cinema Festival

In August, True West wrapped its third year of silver screen celebration of the spirit of the West. A weekend of filmmaker hobnobbing and movie merriment, the annual event just gets bigger and better every year, thanks to the ambitions and hard work of creators Heather Rae, Travis Swartz and Gregory Bayne. Each year's line up includes shorts and feature-length films, all of which are in some way bound to the West, but not necessarily about the West. Filmmakers who shoot, write or film in or about the West are invited to sumbit their work. If you missed this year's event, mark your calendars for next year.

Best Song (Maybe Only) Dedicated to a BW Music Editor

Bloodsucking Freaks

From Wilson St. Pub and Sluthouse Band, to Amy Atkins with love, at a Bouquet show in July.

Best First Song on an Album by a Boise Band

Built to Spill, "Goin' Against Your Mind"

The longest song on a Built To Spill album in nine years, this opener of You in Reverse stands out as a grungy loner in an album of calm, steady grooviness. It's faster and harder than any of the other tracks, but it's also familiar and comforting. The snarling, layered guitars and propulsive rhythm may make you think you've wandered into one of your old Treepeople records--or barring that, at least a time when there was one cranky jam on every Built To Spill album that not all of your friends and friends' parents "could handle." This is that song, and it rocks as rockingly as anything has rocked in this town since the Crazy Horse croaked.

Best Reunion About to Happen

Dirt Fishermen! Hell Yeah!

Sometimes it can feel like nobody's left from the good old days of the early '90s. Back then, the logic behind spending $150 on a pair of 18-hole Doc Martens that cut off the circulation to your feet was so obvious that it seemed like your parents were the only ones who couldn't understand it. Kinda-cool-and-kinda-sketchy coffee shops were the hangout du jour, and the primary activity, other than complaining about the 'zines, was complaining about how cool the coffee shops used to be. And of course, back then, each new release from bands like the Dirt Fishermen, the Treepeople and Caustic Resin was a cultural event so significant, you'd pay full price for the tape and carve your favorite song title in your arm during health class.

The Dreamwalker and Faster than Sheep may be dead, but the Dirt Fisherman haven't reached their expiration date just yet. Dan Krejci, Gina Gregerson, K.T. Shanafelt and Glenn Newkirk are playing at Neurolux on October 7, the Record Exchange on the 20th and opening for Built to Spill at the Egyptian on Halloween. Too cool.

Best Waste of 75 Bucks

The Cheap Seats at the Rolling Stones Concert

Q. What's 75 bucks and affords a view of the back of Mick and the boys' heads, the side of a big screen, and a bunch of wires and sound equipment?

A. The nosebleed seats at the upcoming Rolling Stones gig at the Idaho Center in November.

That's right--if you couldn't pony up $150 for the OK seats when the concert tickets went on sale for 54 minutes on August 7, then your cheap-seat alternative--a healthy 75 bucks--puts you parallel with and a bit behind the stage.

The Rolling Stones kick ass, but jeez. Do they need the money or something?

Best Visitor to the BW Office

Bonzo Crunch

In October, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus sent an advance clown, one "Bonzo Crunch," to serenade the editorial staff. Armed with a press kit, a ukulele and a bag full of candy and red rubber noses, Mr. Crunch gave clowns back their good name. Maybe we've finally gotten past our irrational fear of c-c-clowns.

Best Chance for Us to Eat Our Words

The Governor's Arts Awards

There's a homily about left hands and right hands acting independently and blindly of one another, but we're too tired to go look up the right wording or distill the moral lesson it's supposed to impart.

There was a definite right hand/left hand thing happening around BW earlier this year--while the right hand knew we had been nominated for a Governor's Arts Award, the left hand only knew that then-Governor Dirk "the Jerk" Kempthorne had cancelled the biannual hoop-dee-doo because he was too busy preening his interior secretary feathers in D.C. to follow through on his commitments back home in Eye-Dee-Ho. Despite the fact that all the applications had been accepted. And despite the fact that the Idaho Commission on the Arts collects and judges the apps, and recommends the winners for the governor's mere rubber-stamping. So we bitched about it in print (Arts News, "Governor Kempthorne on Arts Awards: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," April 19).

We were pleased to later get word that interim Guv Jim Risch was going to pick up where Kempy left off and keep the awards going, and we reported on that (Arts News, "On-Again Off-Again Governor's Arts Awards Back On," May 24) while still bitching about what a turd Dirk was. Then we heard that BW had actually won one of the things, and we were conflicted--because as much bitching as we'd been doing, we editorial wonks didn't know we had a stake in the thing. So we reported on that (Arts News, "Governors Arts Awards Recipients Announced," July 19). Now we don't know what to think ... except, of course, "Yay, us!"

Best Case of Too Much Bee Dub Lub, Part 1

Darkwood Consort

Sometimes there's something out there that we can't stop writing about, and we don't even know we're writing too much about it until we notice that we never stop writing about it. Such is the case with Darkwood Consort. We've been mesmerized by the world's only touring viola and bass clarinet duo ... and we're powerless to let anything they do go without mention somehow, somewhere, in the pages of this paper. They're just so damned good. This pull they have over us is worse than Bolivian marching powder.

Best Case of Too Much Bee Dub Lub, Part 2

The Thieves

Did we say "Darkwood Consort"? We forgot about the Thieves. This music group out of Britain can't burp in Boise without us gushing about it, such is our love for cute little rockers Hal, Sam and Sid. We got it bad, but if loving the Thieves is wrong, we don't want to be right.

Best Boise Art Museum Exhibit

"Unraveled"

BAM's survey of Icelandic artist Hildur Bjarnadottir's work from 1998 to 2005 last winter, titled "Unraveled," was a fascinating subversion of time-tested cultural hierarchies and conventional notions of fine art. Bjarnadottir's combination of a traditional craft background from her native Iceland, a post-modern critical sensibility honed in the Pratt Institute's MFA program, and a certain intellectual impudence makes this artist's work thought-provoking but also fun. Add her very personal, non-partisan feminism to the mix and you have a body of art that is truly unique. Her fabric-based sculptural and two-dimensional pieces often take off from conventional craft forms and evolve into edgy, even macabre images, like her large doilies whose borders mutate into skulls or handguns. Examples of crocheting and gingham using linen threads from painting canvas become elegant works that undermine the dualism of art vs. support. An abstract knit wool relief with a spiraling design had a warm sensuality to it. Even Bjarnadottir's works of non-fabric materials and her experiments with video and digital imagery derive from a fabric/craft perspective. The exhibit's sparse, elemental feel lent a poignant sense of place, too, evoking a minimalist Arctic exoticism.

Best Gallery Show

Christel Dillbohner at Stewart Gallery

Showcasing another Nordic sensibility was Stewart Gallery's presentation of recent work by California artist Christel Dillbohner last November that transformed one gallery space into a warm, contemplative environment. A native of Germany who has lived in the United States since 1987, Dillbohner's art reveals the influence of both German Romanticism and recent German art stars like Joseph Beuys, Wolfgang Laib and Gerhard Richter, distilled through her own interest in the connotations of landscape. The centerpiece of the show was the organic installation Green Pool, constructed from 365 cone-shaped paper paint strainers suspended just off the floor with transparent monofilament. The work's lightweight susceptibility to air currents resembled floating vegetation while the clear monofilament evoked a silent, steady rain. Completing the installation were large, archival-looking paintings in oil and wax on mulberry paper that offered two-dimensional perspectives of cone-shaped elements. Elsewhere in the show, Dillbohner's landscape-inspired oil and wax paintings on wood conjured up Sturm und Drang visions of stormy coastlines, a melancholy marriage of Caspar David Friedrich and Gerhard Richter. The show gave us only a taste of what's in store for this restless talent.

Best Literary Hero-Worship Interview

Mark Helprin

Interviewing someone as a fan is a tricky thing. You get all first-date fluttery and care way too much about whether you sound like a total asshat to said object of admiration.

BW's arts editor, Sara Beitia, found herself in that enviable but terrifying position this summer when she got to interview one of her most favoritist authors of all time, Mark Helprin, via telephone. Helprin is the author of several brilliant and wickedly whimsical novels, including Winter's Tale, Memoir From Ant-Proof Case and most recently, Freddy and Fredericka. The interview was no disappointment, either: Helprin had a lot to say and was as fascinating as possible. (Look for that article later this fall for confirmation.)

"Now, if I can just rope Stephen King into an interview," says Beitia, "I can retire from journalism satisfied."

Beitia suspects that she did, in fact, sound like a total asshat, but Helprin was too gracious to say so. Aww. Literary crush post-interview: still intact.

Best Musical Hero-Worship Interview

Thomas Dolby

Our music editor, Mama Amy Atkins found herself on the other end of the line from someone who she has had a professional crush on for lo these many years. When she discovered Thomas Dolby was going out on tour, it was enough to give her heart palpitations. When she discovered that one of his stops was going to be in Boise at the Bouquet, she found it difficult to breathe. When she learned that she had been granted an interview, she actually fainted. And although Mr. "She Blinded Me With Science" may not have been as enamored with Atkins as she was with him, the interview and subsequent show (where she did get a brief meet and greet) rank high in her Top 10 Coolest Things Ever list.

Best Arts Professional We Might Not Miss

Tim Close

Let's see ... while Close was its director, Boise Art Museum lost the Fresh Visions program--one of the final lingering threads from back when a museum show was something that the best among local artists could aspire to. And sure, we knew the day would come when admission rates would hurtle upwards--it's an inevitable part of Boise growing up, or something like that--but did it really have to happen for shows as highfalutin' and perplexing as Chihuly and Degas? The first was a bunch of needlessly delicate dog water dishes that the "artist" puts his name on even though other people make them. The second was a shipment of bronze models that even the artist thought were too ugly to display. And now that he's safely up at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, we can finally say it: Just what was up with that moustache-with-a-Steven-Seagal-pony-tail look you were rocking, Timbo?

Best Concert That Really Isn't

Journey

Journey and Def Leppard are on a whirlwind tour, propelled by '80s nostalgia. But can we just say, Journey is not Journey without Steve Perry? And don't throw the AC/DC argument at us either. Steve Perry isn't dead and his replacements in Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto are just creepy.

Best Lute Jam

Joseph Baldassare

There may be albums released in Boise that rock harder or get more attention, but good luck finding anything as virtuosic as Boise State professor Joseph Baldassare's newly released second album, Luter: Music of Western Europe, 1200-1450. Baldassare plays every note of every instrument on the album, from (naturally) the lute to the oud, riq, crumhorn, symphonia, soprano flute, doucaine and others that are not quite so--ha!--famous. He also sings admirably in both the esoteric southern French language Occitan and English. You may not track down Baldassare's CD and buy it from his Web site, www.drjoeb.com, but dammit, you should.

Best "Celebrity" "Concert"

Steven Seagal

Last spring, Boise was blessed when the Big Easy played host to action-star-cum-axe-shredder Steven Seagal, master of martial arts and the middle-aged white guy ponytail, and star of cinema classic Under Siege 2.

Our humble little town's stages have been rocked in the past by the celebrity likes of Cory Feldman and Bruce Willis, but this makes those guys look like a pile of puke ... just ask Seagal. From the September 4 issue of Time: "'You can't find another actor who can play guitar as good as me,' he boasts. 'Kevin Bacon, Keanu Reeves, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, they're not even in my universe.'" What about Eddie Murphy, Steve? "Party All the Time" was pure money, baby.

Best Reason to Brag About Our Awesome Theater Community

world premiere of "The Physics of regret" at BCT

Boiseans know that our theater community is a creative, growing, supportive and flourishing fellowship, but sometimes it seems like we're the only ones who know it. It's nice when something proves that false. In that vein, last February, Boise Contemporary Theater not only staged playwright Michael Rohd's The Physics of Regret for the pleasure of the theater-going public, the production was a world premiere (a first for the 10-year-old theater company). The Portland-based playwright directed the BCT production of his play, an artsy, experimental, vignette-style look at ideas and people two-and-a-half-years in the producing--and complete with innovative staging, movable parts and video projections.

854 Fulton St., 331-9224

Best Crowd Equalizers

Prairie Dog Productions

Where else but in the theater in the Alano Club can you find yourself in tears over a pun that makes the 6-year-old sitting next to you groan? But just try to resist it--we dare you. Try to resist cheering for the good guy with the familiar name (James Blonde, or FroDorothy in Lord of the Ring Dance, for instance) or booing the bad guy with the bad wig. If you manage to, you're directly disobeying the person who, before each show, comes out and coaches the audience through the appropriate responses. And nobody likes a troublemaker.

But does Boise's family theater really work for adults? Apparently, since a BW critic reviewing James Blonde--her first Prairie Dog play--earlier this year admitted to not being willing to risk going to the bathroom because she didn't want to miss a thing. If you're so highbrow you can't handle PDP's wacky punniness, you need their help more than anybody.

3820 Cassia St., 336-7383

Best Two-Year Tease

Futurama 2008

What kind of person announces the return of a cult classic two years in advance? A big meanie, that's who.

Matt Groening and co-Futuramist David Cohen will resurrect their cartoon Futurama (cancelled by Fox in 2003) with new episodes, for Comedy Central this time. And the nerds breathed a collective Cool Ranch Doritos-laced sigh of relief, right? Better hold that thought, nerds--the show won't actually be on until 2008.

We can wait. But if the tease turns out to be just a tease, Groening and Cohen can kiss our shiny metal asses.