SxSW Film Review: Constructing Albert [Laura Collado]

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Sibling rivalry is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an emotion reserved for the lowest common denominators on Jerry Springer. Even in the rarefied world of haute cuisine, where the names elBulli and Adria recall creative genius operating at an ionospheric level, this is still true. Although Albert Adria has been behind the restaurant elBulli for decades, his culinary talents seemed to have been overshadowed by his brother Ferran’s conceptual overhaul of the language of fine dining. The idea was quite startlingly simplistic: an experimental kitchen whose goal is solely to invent experiences between mouthfuls. The closure of elBulli, however, left Albert literally at a loss. His invisibility behind Ferran and elBulli’s reputation both hampered his ambition to become his own boss. Constructing Albert is the documentary about how they remade his new brand in this long shadow.

In 2013 when Albert (and filming) began, that arduous journey involved opening and coordinating five restaurants in one year. Tickets, 41deg, Pakta, Bodega 1900, and Nino Viejo. Both Tickets and 41deg ended up earning Michelin stars. Having gotten that far, Albert then decided to close 41deg in order to use it as a stepping stone toward a new concept restaurant called Enigma. In this hindsight view, you can really appreciate the way that entrepreneurs in the restaurant world interact with their critics. Bear in mind that these critics are not the Yelping public, but a stratified group of foodies that have somehow garnered the power over life and death. The vocabulary needed to commune with them, while alien, isn’t hard to stomach. I liken it to how academics shape their interests by experimenting with publishing in top journals – just substitute “publications” for “restaurants”. Perhaps the inventions in elBulli in the early 1980s were never meant to earn Michelin stars. But in constructing a new brand and reputation, that is now the first and last thing on the menu.

Describing this on paper makes it seem like simple business decisions. But in reality, people work the kitchen and restaurants. Where the film shines isn’t in the narrative of a brand, but the evolution of the personal stakes everyone involved has wagered, including that of director Laura Collado. During Q&A, she mentioned that the original intent of the documentary was indeed to explore the sibling rivalry, which would have been a short few interviews. Five years later, watching the film in 2018, one’s appreciation of the dynamics between the chefs has to be revised. While I am certain that her footage could have been edited so, a nasty intrigue never materialized. If anything, the film seemed a bit of a muted celebration of Albert. And why not? As if juggling 5 restaurants, 2 Michelin stars, a revolving list of dishes that updates every two months, thousands of ingredients and techniques isn’t entertaining – just looking at the results makes me want to drop $500 on a meal.

SXSW Review: Spirit Adrift, Victim Mentality, March 15, Dirty Dog Bar

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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Metal has never been quite a top priority at SXSW, but its presence has come in ebbs and flows. Some years, there have been enough metal and metal-ish bands that you could pretty much exclusively see bands on the heavier end of the spectrum while other years have been a bit of a fallow period. It was particularly notable last year when Metal Injection, a site that has had a presence at SouthBy over the years, put on a showcase featuring not one band that could quite be classified as metal in the strictest sense (and I don’t think the Metal Injection guys were there at all this year). This year was yet again a bit of a fallow period.

That said, there’s always been enough heavy stuff in the lineup and it doesn’t quite feel like SouthBy to me if I haven’t seen at least one metal band, so on Wednesday night I made my way to The Dirty Dog Bar to catch a couple of metal acts – Korean glam metallers Victim Mentality and Arizona doom crew Spirit Adrift (with a couple of brief detours to catch excellent sets by Detroit’s Anna Burch and former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes in between).

Victim Mentality put on a ridiculously fun (and often just kind of ridiculous … but in a good way) performance in all their spandex glory, full of shredding solos and vocalist Krokodile’s impressive high register. Yes, apparently, he goes by Krokodile while the other members go by Skorpion, Die-amond and Cyborg. It was everything you’d expect and then some – while the band has all the trappings of the stereotypical glam band, they incorporate a lot of heavier influences into the sound as well. And they weren’t afraid to sing their own praises either, referring to themselves as the best band at least once during their set.

Upon returning to the Dirty Dog a couple of hours later, I was greeted by the wonderfully heavy sounds of Spirit Adrift, who mixed doomy riffs with a whole lot of early Metallica inspired solos – a winning combination in my books. While doom metal can often come acrosss as funereal or morose, downbeat or depressing, there was something oddly uplifting about Spirit Adrift’s music.

Singer/guitarist Nate Garrett closed out their set with a plug for their merch table that also maybe served as an explanation for why some metal bands have chosen not to play SXSW anymore:

“We’ve got merch over there. Buy something! This has been an expensive trip – SXSW is expensive as fuck!”

Hopefully they sold at least a couple of records or t-shirts. SouthBy don’t come cheap.

SXSW Review: Superorganism, March 14, Fader Fort

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Superorganism, March 14, SXSW 2018

One of the more memorable songs on Superorganism’s self-titled debut is called “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” and their live show proved to be just that – a feast of sights and sounds for the mind. Sure, it might have been the free booze offered up by Fader Fort colouring my opinion a bit, but Superorganism offered up one of the most fun experiences of the week – a mish-mash of various styles to match the various locales that the band’s members all hail from (they were introduced before going on stage as being “from everywhere”).

Vocalist Orono Naguchi, while not necessarily the best singer in the technical sense, was an engaging frontwoman and worked as a sort of ringmaster to everything that was going on both onstage and in the crowd. “Sing along! It’s easy!” she shouted as she urged the crowd to sing along. Also entertaining to watch were the three backup singers who would just dance and jam out whenever they weren’t singing.

Superorganism’s show was a weird, joyful musical celebration. I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even mind anymore that Fader Fort security confiscated the pear and apple that I had in my bag. Really though, why you gotta take a guy’s pear and apple, Fader Fort?

SXSW Review: Shitkid, March 14, BD Riley’s

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

ShitKid, March 14, SXSW 2018

Even before Shitkid‘s set at BD Riley’s had started, you could tell that Åsa Söderqvist was up for some michief. “We’re going for a smoke,” she announced, walking out of the venue with her bandmates at about the time they should have been taking the stage. She did note, however, that they wouldn’t take too long since there were three of them and only one smoke.

Once they returned shortly thereafter, Shitkid launched right into it as Söderqvist shouted “Shitkid! Woooo!” into the mic at the top of her lungs before running through a set of fun, kind of punky tunes accompanied by a guitarist, bassist, and a keyboard in the corner that mostly just played prerecorded beats but with which she would occasionally fiddle around. Billing herself as an “anti-popstar,” Söderqvist certainly exuded a fair amount of charisma onstage, “borrowing” some drinks from a table near the stage, swinging her mic around with abandon, and pulling down the venue’s SXSW banner at the end of her set (I witnessed Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde attempting a similar feat the next day) before then exclaiming “That was easier than I thought!”

A raw, irreverent performance to match the raw, irreverent nature of Shitkid’s music. Good times.