It's my job to write songs/ Allow me to do whatever I want.
Last night after the usual Friday stop at Fong's Pizza we headed over to the Des Moines Art Center for the Manhattan Short Film Festival, a free event with 10 short films from all around the world. Apparently other people were also watching screenings in other cities on various continents. At the end we all voted on our favorites. The place was packed when we got there-- tried to sit on the floor up front, tucked away in a corner, but as we half-suspected that space was in violation of the fire codes, so we headed back up to the ledges in back we had passed by on our way in, where we ran into Ben Godar and Nathan Wright and then found a couple of spaces we could occupy. It was dark in the theater by the time we were finally seated, so I didn't get a chance to look at the ballot where we would vote for our favorite short films-- as Mrs. Des Noise points out, that's "short movies" to us laypeople--and I was sort of imagining and frankly dreading the possibility that we would be asked to rank them all in order, Pitchfork-style. The UK entry, The Watchers, was up first and was engaging with a neat twist ending but it's hard to know how something is going to compare when it's first, you know? There was a cool short from Croatia where these kids go off to some ruins and party and commit all the sins so I was sort of hoping for some sort of horror-movie ending but it turned out to be more of a sad commentary on the effects of the civil war there in the 1990s. One of the most visually beautiful films was the French entry but it was almost like they were doing a school report on Madagascar and decided to ask their parents to help them make the most lavish, expensive, tasteful diorama ever, like the Avatar of reports on what you did over your summer vacation, like they were trying so hard to impress you that they forgot it's more important to move you. The entry from Quebec, A Little Convenience, was definitely a contender for my vote, with its delightful, sumptuously realized, magical-realist depiction of a man who sort of starts floating, but it kind of made me think of that Calvin & Hobbes storyline where Calvin thinks his gravity has reversed its polarity, except this one didn't really fit into any sort of story and kind of trailed off at the end (don't get me wrong, I liked it, too, I just was having to rank these films against each other). The entry from Germany, 12 Years, was the shortest and depicted a pair of animated, human-like dogs talking to each other at a restaurant, with an elegant female dog and a smaller male dog who kind of reminded me of a canine Woody Allen, and I dunno, I don't want to reveal too much about it and it's hard to say if I liked it because the dogs were a gimmick (other movies had "gimmicks" though, too, in that case, like cute children or sex or politics or whatever) or because I had already seen a still of one of of the dogs so I was primed to like it, but of all the shorts we saw it was the one that I enjoyed most and also the one that had the most singular, distinctive story, communicated most memorably, so that I know I will always remember this one even though I might not  be able to distinguish the murder-investigation short from Poland from other crime stories a decade from now because although it was interesting it just wasn't as much of a unique work of art (and I know there can't be degrees of "unique" but something can't be more "immaculate" than something else either-- it's like being pregnant-- not trying to start beef with anybody on that one, though; it's a general observation, I could've singled out anyone-- including myself-- it's just, I feel like the internet has displaced the professionals but instead of filling their shoes professionally we're all amateurs now... we all expect everything for free and you get what you pay for... like we're all willing to do stuff now that doesn't have much heart or soul in it but we obviously don't do it for the money, so we're like that Huffington Post journalist who got the Obama "bitter" quote, and where is she now, and if we really care about youth culture shouldn't we care that we're gradually extracting all its heart and soul?).

What should I do, what should I do?
So the nice thing was in the end when the lights came back on I found out we only had to vote for our one favorite movie, after all, so I obviously picked 12 Years, not because I would be unhappy if any of the other films won but because it was the one I enjoyed the most that particular night. And if you're a music fan in Des Moines then choosing which concert to go to last night offered a similar sort of choice between good options. Band of Horses were playing at Val Air Ballroom, where I've still never been, and a bunch of our friends were going, but I've seen those guys twice and they've been really good both times (the second time, at Denmark's Roskilde Festival, the sight of thousands of Danes singing along showed me how wrong I was about considering Band of Horses' second album a lame knock-off of early My Morning Jacket records-- it's just a good record), and it was expensive and I'd have had to ask Mrs. Des Noise to drive there and what if I had a bad time like at Phoenix, would I have ruined her evening and bummed out everybody else we were there with and wasted all that money? The other option was to see the Strange Boys, Gentleman Jesse & His Men, Natural Child, and the Jitz a block from our place over at Vaudeville Mews, which would mean seeing an up-and-coming Texas garage-psych band with a small hit in "Be Brave" (they play it all the time on DirecTV's "college rock" channel!) and a super tight Atlanta power-pop band, plus some southern-fried Nashville punks I'd never heard before and local rock'n'roll good-times guaranteed the Jitz. So I think you already know which one we chose, but it's not because we don't like Band of Horses.

Missed the Jitz because of the film festival, but we got there in time for Natural Child, who looked really young and pretty drunk but had some fun, simple, super-bratty, Vice magazine-ready songs, sort of like the Black Lips with more of a Southern-rock vibe, and as Ryan pointed out, it was cool how they'd introduce each of their songs as being about one thing (Afghanistan, a girl with no legs whose dad was happy that her boyfriend didn't leave her outside in her... well, it's one of those jokes where as a gentleman and a scholar I'm obligated to pretend I can't see why it might be funny) and then it would sound like that song wouldn't be about that one thing but then it would totally surprise you by being about that thing; my favorite Natural Child song was the one they said was about "punk," and it was really short but it was catchy and I remember a couple of the lyrics being "baby" and "crazy." I didn't know Gentleman Jesse & His Men as well as I wish I did, but man, apologies to the Strange Boys, but they were the highlight of the night, although the Strange Boys are still the ones pictured at the top (I didn't get a photo of Natural Child), and Gentleman Jesse are the ones right above the last paragraph-- they just knocked out some super catchy, Rickenbacker-based songs that I guess appeal to big-time 1970s power-pop fans like Andy but I don't really know the Plimsouls and I still loved the way these guys put a little crunch into upbeat songs with lots of early-Beatles-style harmonies 'n' hooks. The next song would often begin almost as soon as the last one ended, and they were smiling a lot, which bands don't do very often  and I understand it's not everyone's thing but I do like it when it looks like at least the four people on stage are enjoying their music because sometimes you go to shows and it looks like nobody there is having fun and it's all fake, but not last night, and one of the guitarists looked like Uncle Jesse, and I talked to the bass player later because he recognized my T-shirt for Puerto Rican garage-rock band Davila 666, and I hope he won't mind me posting this because I didn't tell him I had a blog or whatever, but he said he's going to hang out with those dudes down in Puerto Rico after this tour is over, which is awesome. And then the Strange Boys did the sort of laid-back, easy-boogieing garage rock thing that the Beets or Harlem or so many bands that come to the Mews do, which makes for a fun capper to your Friday night even though they weren't necessarily as captivating as Gentleman Jesse, but they played a quote from Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" and they covered Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa" but introduced it as "a Paul Simian song" which made me think about Paul Simonon and they said it was the last night of their tour with this bill so I hope it was a good one-- people sort of playfully razzed them a little bit but it was a fun time. Oh and also their bass player, who was wearing a horizontal striped shirt sort of like one of the dudes from the Beets, looked like a young John Mayer.

So in conclusion I think for our money we made the right choice to see the Strange Boys and Gentleman Jesse at Vaudeville Mews instead of Band of Horses at Val Air Ballroom, but for somebody else the right decision might have been different. And also you should see that 12 Years short film if you want-- it's even shorter than the other short films, so it won't take up too much of your time-- but again mileage may vary. And finally I guess the point of this post is when you choose one thing to champion over another, or rave about one thing and rave about another thing only slightly less, or even when you totally pan something and write that it's an insult to the audience's intelligence or something like that, it's not a verdict you reach in a vacuum but rather just a relative evaluation comparing that particular work of art against all the other possible ways you could spend your time, because life is short and no matter how much a given artist might think he or she is a precious snowflake sometimes it's a better use of your limited span on this planet to take a nap or kiss your loved one or go for a walk or watch a college football game, which is what I'm doing right now. You can't turn the ball over three times on the road in the Big 10 and expect to win, even if you're playing a lesser team, and-- oh wait, the team I was rooting for just won, so now I feel bad about that "lesser team" dig.

Life changed on you again.
The word we heard: "Did you just say 'Paul Simian'?"


  1. I was hoping that guy may actually be John Mayer backing up the Strange Boys on bass. For some reason, seemed like something Mayer would do, an entire unannounced tour slappin' the bass with the Strange Boys.

  2. Oh yeah, and I record things:

  3. Nice! Thanks for the link. Good seeing you there, dude. Pretty sure it's not Mayer-- don't think he's been that skinny since 2001-- but you never know!