The Edge of the Spotlight
Perhaps it shows the Continental Club's sense of resignation over sparsely attended Wednesday-night shows that they've booked Chris Knudson, the eternal opportunist who wrote that ham-fisted Kinky Friedman-for-governor song "Stand Up and Be Counted." Knudson seems willing to attach himself to any artist or cause -- from Kinky to the possible razing of the River Oaks Theatre -- that might allow him to stand closer to the spotlight. Seldom has an assignment come my way that brought more people out of the woodwork with horror stories about an artist. Apparently the self-proclaimed "New Texas Troubadour" is a pain in the ass of Texas-size proportions.
One club owner who booked Knudson earlier this year just shook his head when I asked how it was. "He called about two hours before the show and said he needed to know the dimensions of the room. He was playing solo acoustic, but you'd have thought he was planning a show at Reliant Stadium. Then only about three people showed up. He was rude and arrogant. He won't play here again."
A local artist who's had her share of contact with Knudson over the past few years finds the irony of self-professed believer Knudson's religion-bashing "Let's Get Together" pathetic. "That's just the most hilarious thing, 'cause he's maybe the most cutthroat, competitive asshole I've run into on the local music scene. He's always in people's faces saying how wonderful he is. 'Jerk' doesn't begin to cover it."
A close inspection of Knudson's page on the Indie911 Web site reveals an avalanche of specious self-promotion, beginning with the announcement that Knudson "is an international recording artist, songwriter and producer." Well, okay, if you say so. Knudson goes on to name-drop like Joan Rivers on meth about all his connections with Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson and a slew of other St. John's High School buddies who haven't seemed to have found much need for their "international recording artist, songwriter, and producer" chum in their Hollywood careers. But the real tickler is that "Knudson has been honored with the ASCAP Popular Music Award on multiple occasions." Having such an important and honored person will certainly be a first for a Continental Wednesday.
Surfing on over to Knudson's MySpace page, a casual look at his "friends" offers some hilarious insights that border on the absurd. I suppose it's possible that Knudson is "friends" with T-Bone Burnett, but Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt? Fuckinhell, didn't Knudson get the memo that both of them are deceased? How about the startling revelation that first and foremost among this self-serving huckster's "influences" is "Gee-Oh-Dee" (that's God, for the phonetically challenged). Given that the August 30 gig at the Continental is the only one listed on Knudson's site -- and given that he posted "Chris Knudson continues to work diligently on maintaining a conscious connection with Divine Principle on and offstage" -- one must ponder what sort of divine intervention has come into play on Continental Wednesdays these days.
We love the Continental, but we've got to call this one what it is: bullshit.
Chris Knudson appears Wednesday, August 30, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.
Music on the small screen
It's way too hot to go outside, and virtually every pop chick in the running for Jam of the Summer (except Jessica Simpson) has her video out, so I guess that means it's time for a round-up of the girls of summer.
Beyonc featuring Jay-Z: "Dj Vu" It's predictably gorgeous, and I love it, but you already knew that. The song "Dj Vu" isn't quite as good as "Crazy in Love," so there's less to work with, but it's still fun to watch. The "Dj Vu" clip seems predicated on the same idea as Ocean's Twelve: It's fun to watch rich, pretty, talented people being rich and pretty and talented and enjoying their wealth and beauty and talent. I'm one of those weird people who really, really liked Ocean's Twelve, so that works for me. And so that means we get Sophie Muller putting sweltering, verdant filters on her lenses and filming Beyonc striking silent-film poses in front of a lake and twirling a long skirt in front of a sparkling-white antebellum mansion. There's also a weird scene in which Jay raps his second verse while Beyonc grinds on him and he pointedly ignores her; I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. (That bit of grinding prompted a bunch of Beyonc fans to start an online petition asking the label to take the video off the air, saying it didn't show her in a very ladylike light.) And someone needs to write a book on that one shot near the end of Beyonc's doing a shockingly intense bird-flap Alvin Ailey thing.
Christina Aguilera: "Ain't No Other Man" Sean Fennessey wrote about how this video depicts Aguilera as the blond center of attention in a sea of blackness, and maybe he's on to something there. But I don't know how he manages to count all the white dudes in the video, since most of them are ethnically indeterminate En Vogue-backup-dancer types with porkpie hats pulled low anyway. The big thing about this video is that it's Aguilera's big leap into jazz-age iconography, a calculated publicity move designed to fully reposition her away from her teen pop roots and re-establish her as a virtuosic young jazz singer who hangs out with Etta James, DJ Premier and, um, Linda Perry. It's not the first time she's tried to do that; a few of us still remember when she did that "Tilt Ya Head Back" shit with Nelly, like, two years ago. In fact, the urge to dress up in '30s clothes is one that seems to strike pop stars pretty often; Chris Brown's "Gimme That" is just the last one to come along. I don't know why pop stars are always getting all Bugsy Malone on us; it's almost an established video clich at this point. I wasn't there or anything, but I'm guessing the actual '30s didn't really look much like what you get from these videos, which almost certainly look a whole lot more like Centennial High School's 1997 production of 42nd Street (I was there for that one). And even though these videos usually turn out to be entertaining, they're also obnoxious reminders that pop stars are often the sort of unbelievably annoying look-at-me personalities who would've tried out for high school musicals if their careers as aspiring pop stars had allowed them to actually go to high school. It must be noted, though, that the part where Christina opens and closes and opens her robe and then does that thing with her hips is one of the greatest music video moments since the zombies started dancing in Thriller.
Paris Hilton: "Stars Are Blind" The song may be a shockingly likable little nugget of pop-reggae, but that doesn't mean I need to see Paris ineptly grinding on a palm tree or frolicking in the surf in black-and-white like she was Chris Isaak.
Cassie: "Me & U" A video really needs more than one location if it's going to avoid becoming ridiculously boring. I kept waiting for something to happen in this one, some sort of jarring juxtaposition or story-line advancement, but no, it just keeps going: Cassie in a room dancing and staring at herself in the mirror. There's a semi-troubling narcissism overtone running all through this thing: You never see the object of her affection, but you do see her staring longingly into the mirror and even kissing herself. Maybe this is supposed to be hot, but it makes it look like Cassie is just singing to and about herself, like she's the only person she could ever love. Also, she can't dance. But I like the song and she looks good, so whatever.
Ashlee Simpson: "Invisible" Just awful. Ashlee is virtually unrecognizable with a blond dye job, and the song is a wretchedly boring slice of almost-Creed power-ballad sludge. The video is pretentious black-and-white with a ton of slo-mo shots and a plot that egregiously bites Million Dollar Baby with Ashlee looking utterly ridiculous as a boxer. There's something to be said for watching her get her ass beat, but you don't even really get to see any of the other girl's punches land. This is the first bad Ashlee Simpson video.
Kelis: "Bossy" This is what I'm talking about: rich-people decadence, dyed-green poodles eating oysters, Jet Skis, Lamborghinis, outdoor canopy beds, Frank Gehry buildings, ridiculous sunglasses, ugly-ass grills, ice sculptures, drunk waiters, furtive makeouts, Too Short getting his Cary Grant on...This is pretty much what every music video should aspire to be; it creates a world that probably doesn't even exist but that anyone watching would love to visit. The whole thing is photographed like an American Apparel ad, and Kelis, unsurprisingly enough, looks insanely hot. My only complaint is that stupid dance she does at the beginning that gives her Tyrannosaurus arms. -- Tom Breihan
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