Thursday, May 27, 2010

Surprise! 'MacGruber' isn't terrible

“MacGruber” is the latest film to spin off from a “Saturday Night Live” character. Given that the sketches feature an inept version of “MacGuyver” who always ends up blowing himself up, it is amazing that a reasonably funny 90-minute film was able to be fashioned around the character at all.

With the exception of “The Blues Brothers” and “Wayne's World,” movies inspired by
“Saturday Night Live” haven't exactly been the pinnacle of film comedy. I have a guilty-pleasure soft spot for many of these films, but even I'll admit that calling them good would be a very liberal use of the word. These low expectations work to the advantage of “MacGruber.”

Following Kevin Smith's “Cop Out,” “MacGruber” is the second film of the year to pay homage to the 1980s action movies. But where “Cop Out” is a affectionate tribute to the buddy cop sub-genre, “MacGruber” is a gloriously over-the-top lampooning of bloated action movies.

The movie has a hard R rating, meaning that there's plenty of vulgar language, cringe inducing sight gags and one of the most awkward sex scenes ever put to film. “MacGruber” is infantile, crude and shameless. The film's gags are hit and miss, but some of those hits are riotously funny bull's eyes.

As the film opens, MacGruber (Will Forte) is retired in South America, but is coaxed back into active duty by a former superior (Powers Boothe) when it is revealed that the man who blew up his wife Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) has stolen a nuclear warhead. MacGruber teams up with a young lieutenant (Ryan Phillippe) and a former colleague (Kristen Wiig).

Most of the film's humor is mined from MacGruber's complete and utter incompetence. He is referred to as being “the best” and the recipient of an amusingly long lists of accolades, but either years of retirement have dulled his abilities or, like Maxwell Smart and Inspector Clouseau, he just gets very, very lucky.

Some of the best jokes are actually the smaller ones. Take for example a bit about parking a surveillance van 20 blocks away to avoid parking by a meter or providing a subtitle for “You're loco, man.” For those who don't speak Spanish the translation is "You're crazy, man."

First-time feature director Jorma Taccone is one-third of the comedy group The Lonely Island, which provides digital shorts for “Saturday Night Live." Taccone perfectly captures the look and feel of a slick 1980s action flick. The authenticity helps create a nice juxtaposition with the absurd verbal play and sight gags.

A lot of humor is drawn from gay jokes. Some of this works, some of it is painful. Action movies from the 1980s often had an odd homo-erotic tension (think “Top Gun”), and “MacGruber” is funny when it subtly mocks that tension. It is less funny when MacGruber openly offers to have sex with men as a bribe.

Forte, much like Will Ferrell, is completely without shame and is quite willing to do anything for a laugh including running around nude. Wiig, a fellow “Saturday Night Live” cast member, has stolen several movies with minor supporting roles, and she does much the same here. She is a master of deadpan delivery. Phillippe deserves credit for managing to keep a straight face throughout. Kilmer is clearly having fun hamming it up as the baddie.

“MacGruber” is most definitely not for all tastes, but fans of the character or of '80s action films who have taste for extremely lowbrow humor should get at least a few laughs.  

Dramatica presents new original play at Barnstormers

Rae McCarey's excitement about being part of the new original play “Bikers” can barely be contained. With the reliability of Old Faithful, she gushes every few minutes about how “jazzed” she is to be in the show.

“I keep telling people, you know I ask you to come see my shows, but you don't understand, you can't miss this one because you will miss something. You will miss an experience,” McCarey, one of the leads in “Bikers,” said.

“Bikers,” which opens tonight at the Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth, N.H. at 7:30 p.m. with additional performance May 29 and 30, June 4- 6 and June 11-13, is the second show from the theater company Dramatica. It has been a long time in the making. The company's first production, Harold Pinter's “Lovers,” was back in 2006.

“I didn't intend for it to be four years between productions, but it has been,” Tom O'Reilly, the creative force behind Dramatica, said. “Also, I wrote this play and it has taken my a couple years to talk myself into doing it. It is always easier to put a show up, with the amount of money it costs, to pick something that you know is great. This is sort of a chance.”

The play's name “Bikers” is somewhat of a misnomer. The title conjures up images of “Easy Rider” or “The Wild One,” but, while motorcycles are a key component of the story, it doesn't fall into the traditional biker stereotype.

“It is actually completely different than what the title alludes to,” O'Reilly said. “However, it does focus on motorcycling and cycling. There's a lot of reference there. There's a lot of draw there.”

The play is a comedy that focuses on a disgraced bicycle racer's (Dan Tetreault) journey back home to New Jersey and the rekindled friendship with a childhood buddy (Scott Katrycz) who is now a Harley fan. The impetus behind the show was when O'Reilly became aware of the number of people over the age of 30 who ride bicycles and motorcycles in the valley.

“I think the most important thing was knowing some Harley bikers and just watching conversation they've had with someone that takes something serious like cycling and have them like argue with each other,” O'Reilly, who is also producing and directing the show, said. “The idea just sort of popped in.”

For O'Reilly, “Biker” is a perfect example of what Dramatica is all about: a focus on scene work, characters, dialogue and the dynamics between characters.

“The Dramatica theory is scenes,” O'Reilly said. “Are the scenes working? It is like when you watch 'Saturday Night Live.' That one didn't, that one didn't work, wait, that one was going. I think a good play is an assembly of stuff that works.”

In the case of “Biker,” the stuff that works just happens to be of the may-not-be-suitable-for-younger-audiences variety. There's language, smoking, drugs and a bit of flesh, but it is always played for laughs.

“You know I've done a lot of comedy shows,” McCarey said. “This is different. This is something entirely special. He's got the right mixture. The word fleshy is perfect, but we don't got over the line to vulgarity and the comedy makes up for it, shades it a little bit so it isn't inappropriately shocking.”

In trying to explain the vibe of the show, O'Reilly compares it to a Steve Buscemi film or the work of playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, at least in terms of the level of vulgarity and the interaction of the dialogue. McCarey compares it to Quentin Tarantino “minus the violence and the guns, but it is the humor, the banter back and forth.”

“Bikers” captures another aspect of the theory behind Dramatica, which is that O'Reilly likes to handpick his cast from the best of local talent. He doesn't hold auditions, but rather seeks out specific people.

“It is like if you could form an ideal little jazz combo or rock band,” O'Reilly said. “You'd be like, 'Well I want this guy on drums, I'd like this guy.' And that's what I try to do and see if they can all get along and work together and, boy, there's some real magic when that happens.”

This was how McCarey got involved. She was shown a monologue and was instantly hooked. She told O'Reilly that he had her whenever he needed her for the show. She was in.

“The monologue was just too good to be true,” McCarey said. “I can take this monologue, which I plan on, and use it as an audition piece. It is that good. I already did. I was complimented on it, 'Wow, that was a really good monologue — where did you get that?' And I said, 'Thank you very much, a friend of mine wrote that.'”

In addition to Tetreault and McCarey, O'Reilly recruited several familiar faces from the local theater scene including Kevin O’Neil, Dan Phelps and Natasha Repass. For one of his leads, though, O'Reilly did reach outside of the valley. Katrycz, from Manchester, has been commuting four hours round trip to be a part of “Bikers" as the character Dean.

“I don't know if another actor would've been able to do it the justice and then take it beyond it,” McCarey said. “And Scott did that. He IS this Dean. He's really lovable and he's very funny, and I could see myself, as Rae, falling for him in a second.”

The modest O'Reilly isn't one to toot his own horn, and he qualifies things with phrasings like “I hope it is funny.” But with McCarey not only does he have his female lead, but an excellent cheerleader.

“It is hot, sexy, but funny, I can't stop laughing during rehearsals,” McCarey said. “I'm having a blast. Everyone is perfect. The casting is perfect. And the timing, I think we're on our game. I think we're doing great.”

Tickets for “Bikers” are $20. For reservations call 447-2537. For more information about Dramatica visit

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Soundtrack of the season: 20 songs for the summer

Summer has arrived in the valley, so below is a 20-song soundtrack to enhance your enjoyment of the season. The guiding factor in the compiling of this list is that every song features the word summer in its title.

“Summertime” — Billie Holiday (1936)
This oft-covered jazz standard was composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess.” Holiday's version is one of the earliest and most iconic.

“Summertime Blues” — Eddie Cochrane (1958)
A classic example of 1950s rock and roll teen angst. Years later The Who would crank the volume up on the song on the “Live at Leeds” album.

“Summertime, Summertime” — The Jamies (1958)
A one-hit wonder about putting your books away for, you guessed it, summertime. If you missed it the first time though it is repeated several times.

“Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer”— Nat King Cole (1963)
The title track of an album full of cheery, lighthearted songs about summer. The song's somewhat silly lyrics harken back to a more innocent time.

“All Summer Long” — The Beach Boys (1964)
What is the summer without The Beach Boys? Enough said.

“Summer In The City” — The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
This number-one hit remains one of the quintessential songs of the 1960s and with its use of car horns and jackhammers does indeed capture the vibe of summer in the city.

“Long Hot Summer Night” —The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
Most people associate Hendrix with wailing guitar anthems, but if you dig deeper you can find album cuts like this one that have a chiller jibe, but rock just as hard.

“Hot Fun In The Summertime” — Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
Released shortly after the band's appearance at Woodstock, this became a big hit that, thanks to powerhouse vocals and catchy horns, remains a classic of the era.

“One Summer Dream” — Electric Light Orchestra (1975)
A beautiful ballad that like many Electric Light Orchestra songs recalls John Lennon. Jeff Lynn has a tendency to over-produce, but when he let's the music breathe he can soar as high as Lennon.

“Lonely Summer Nights” — Stray Cats (1981)
Amongst the New Wave movement the Stray Cats helped to lead a rockabilly revival. This melancholy lament would sit perfectly next to many similar ballads from the 1950s.

“Summer Of Love” — The B-52's (1986)
One of the more idiosyncratic and enduring bands to emerge from the New Wave scene. This is a fine example of their colorful lyrics and fresh blending of sounds.

“Summertime” — DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1991)
Will Smith's goofy good-spirited rapping was an oasis when gangsta rap surfaced in the late 1980s. His brand of fun hip hop would ultimately sling shot him to mega wattage movie star status.

“A Summer Wasting” — Belle & Sebastian (1998)
This folky-pop band from Scotland is known for writing low-key wistful songs and this is a prime example of the cheery love songs that are their trademark.

“Summer Days” — Phoenix (2000)
A country-tinged song from the English-singing alternative French band that is as upbeat as a warm summer day.

“Feels Like Summer Again” — The Wallflowers (2002)
Jakob Dylan, the driving force behind The Wallflowers, will never be his father Bob Dylan, but he's a talented writer of crisp, clever pop songs. Plus he can sing better too.

“Summertime in Wintertime” — Badly Drawn Boy (2004)
An eclectic performer who throws different genres at will into a Brit-pop formula. This particular track jams along with Jethro Tull-esque flute wailing in the background.

“Summer In The City” — Regina Spektor (2006)
This is not a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful song, but a simple piano-based ballad that is full of yearning and Spektor's quirky singing style.

“Summer's End” — Foo Fighters (2007)
Foo Fighters remain one of the most reliable sources of pure, unpretentious pop-rock. Here frontman Dave Grohl adds a country flavor to a driving 70s rock formula to excellent effect.

“The Summer” — Coconut Records (2009)
This is actor Jason Schwartzman's one-man band. What sounds like a vanity fueled side project is actually quite the opposite. This is just one of many catchy, well-written songs from Schwartzman.

“Summertime” — Barenaked Ladies (2010)
Steven Page, one of the primary songwriters and co-frontman of the band, recently went solo, but as evidenced by their new album, it looks like the rest of the Ladies are doing just fine without him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Arts in Motion delivers laughters and tears with 'Steel Magnolias'

Barbershops and beauty salons have long been the place for lively conversation and uninhabited wisecracking. Robert Harling's “Steel Magnolias,” which Arts in Motion brings to the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H. May 22, 27, 28, 29, 30 at 8 p.m., runs with that idea and is a fine portrait of female camaraderie.

The tagline for the 1989 film version of “Steel Magnolias” was “The funniest movie ever to make you cry” and, while funniest is perhaps a slight overstatement, that is a fair description of both the play and film. Simply saying things turn tragic is a spoiler in itself. Once the wheels of the plot get moving it is clear exactly where it is going and yet it still proves to be quite emotionally affecting.

All the play's action takes place at Truvy's Beauty Parlor, a salon in Louisiana where everyone has a quick witted, sassy one-liner in the ready. It is as if a team of comedy writer is in the backroom feeding them material. To be sure there's some sharp jokes here and the cast delivers them well.

The parlor is populated by a motley crew of women. Truvy (Alex Bradford) is the larger-than-life owner of the parlor; Annelle (Shelby Noble) is Truvy's new socially awkward assistant; Clairee (Paula Sullivan Jones) is the wealthy widow of the former mayor; Ouiser (Pamela MacDonald) is the local curmudgeon; Shelby (Hanna Paven) is the bubbly pretty girl in town; and M'Lynn (Holly Reville) is Shelby's doting, over-protective mother.

The plot centers around Shelby's marriage and the complications of her becoming pregnant. There is also a subplot involving Annelle's transformation for a shy withdrawn girl to a wild child to a born-again Christian. Noble plays this metamorphosis well and is strong in the early scenes in which Annelle is painfully awkward.

Director Barbara Spofford has pulled good work out of all her actresses and there is a good sense of the bond between these women. They have good chemistry and comic rapport together. It helps that they have a believable environment in which to perform. Set designer Deborah Jasien has created an impressive recreation of a beauty parlor.

Bradford is very funny as Turvy who has a big, boisterous personality and an even bigger heart. MacDonald is suitably bitter and sarcastic, but still manages to make Ouiser likeable. Jones is consistent throughout, but has a bit with MacDonald late in the second act that is particularly amusing and that breaks some heavy emotionally tension.

At the core of the show is the mother/daughter relationship between Paven and Reville. Paven is perky and sweet and plays Shelby with a bright, resilient optimism. She butts heads with Reville throughout the play. Reville plays M'Lynn as a reserved, concerned, but loving mother. She has a monologue late in the show that should get the tear ducts going.

“Steel Magnolias” is a fine showcase for the women in the cast. The plot is manipulative, but effective. It is a “I laughed, I cried” kind of show, and Arts and Motion has done an admirable job mounting it.

For more information visit or call 356-5776.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Crowe and Scott get serious with 'Robin Hood'

“Robin Hood” is an evergreen story as sturdy as the trees that fill the forests of Nottingham. Going back to the silent era, the swashbuckling philanthropist has been played by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery and Kevin Costner. Now, under the direction of frequent collaborator Ridley Scott, it is Russell Crowe's turn.

Those expecting to see new versions of familiar scenes such as the archery contest and Robin's bridge battle with foe-turned-friend Little John will be disappointed. This is what in the comic book world would be called an origin story. The film is very much Ridley Scott presents “Robin Hood” in terms of the more brooding, somber tone of the film. Many audience members and critics are comparing this “Robin Hood” to Scott's “Gladiator.”

While Crowe seems to be playing Robin more or less the same way he played Maximus in "Gladiator," this new “Robin Hood” is closer in spirit to Scott's lesser seen “Kingdom of Heaven.” In fact, given that film was set during the Crusades, this could be seen almost as a sequel of sorts.

Those expecting the lighthearted antics of the merry men and swaggering heroics of Robin may be turned off by the switch in tone. There is action to be sure, but it is mostly contained to the beginning and end of the film and is on the scale of the epic battle scenes Scott has become known for in these sorts of films.

There is only one example of Robin and his men robbing from the rich to give to the poor and it is a welcome bit of familiarity. It would be nice if the film were looser and more rambunctious, but it is clear that Scott wanted to show an origin that was more serious. This is not to say this take on the early years of Robin doesn't work given the right expectations.

Scott's film, in terms of its revisionist tact, is similar to 2004's “King Arthur” which also attempted to give a mythic character a more realistic historical context. The difference being that Arthur had at least same basis on a real person, where Robin Hood truly is a man of legend.

In a way, this frees screenwriter Brian Helgeland to shape Robin anyway he wants as long as we have the backdrop of the Crusades that is associated with the character. Typical, Robin remains in England fighting for the poor and defending the good name of King Richard the Lionheart (played here by Danny Huston), but as this film opens Robin is a soldier returning from the Crusades and he is none too fond of Richard's choices as a leader.

Maid Marion, or in this case widow Marion, comes into the picture through a series of circumstances that has Robin posing as her late husband, Sir Robert Loxley, to prevent her lands from being seized by the government should the ailing Sir Walter Loxley (a delightful and warm Max Von Sydow) die.

In an ideal bit of casting, Marion is played by Cate Blanchett who brings the same sort of fiery independence and spunk that she did to her version of Queen Elizabeth in the two “Elizabeth” films. The device of having Robin and Marion posing as a married couple is a clever variation on their barbed courtship. The banter between Robin and Marion provide some of the film's few moments of levity.

Although never referred to as such, several of the merry men are present and also provide some of the few lighter moments of the film. Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes and Mark Addy as Little John, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck fill the iconic rolls well and with good cheer. They help hint to the Robin legend we all know so well.

Although Prince John (Oscar Isaac) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) are featured, the real villain of the piece is Godfrey (Mark Strong), a traitor who is working with the French in planning an invasion. Strong, who has appeared most recently in “Sherlock Holmes” and “Kick Ass” has become the go-to guy for this sort of villainy. It is typecasting to be sure, but the man gets the job done.

The film ends with a title card proclaiming the legend begins. If this is a teasing a new series of “Robin Hood” movies then I am in. Scott has done a good job establishing the characters and Crowe and Blanchett are perfectly suited for the role. A lighter touch would be nice next time around though.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Downey mixes it up with game cast in 'Iron Man 2'

It would be an overstatement to say that the first “Iron Man” was a revelation, but for the purposes of this review let's just go with it. The film had style, energy, surprising substance and, at its center, a star-making performance by Robert Downey Jr. It is a tough act to follow and while “Iron Man 2” doesn't quite match it, it is still a vastly entertaining film.

There's a lot going on in this sequel. Tony Stark (Downey), the billionaire playboy turned hero, revealed that he was Iron Man at the end of the first film and in the six months that have passed since he has more or less brought about world peace. All is not right for Stark, though.

The film opens with Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko working on creating his own suit. Vanko believes that Stark stole his father's work and he is out for revenge, that great motivating factor for so many villains. In the comic book the character's alias was Whiplash, but he is never addressed as such in the film.

In addition, the government, led by a smarmy senator played by Garry Shandling, wants Stark's suit, and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a competitor in the weapons industry, is desperately trying to make his own Iron Man suit. Hammer is so desperate in fact he enlists Vanko after watching him bang up Iron Man pretty badly in a fantastic action set piece set at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Oh, but there's more. The device that is keeping Stark alive is also slowly killing him. Stark has promoted his former assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to CEO and his new assistant (Scarlett Johansson) has her own agenda. Best bud Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) may be turning against his friend.

Samuel L. Jackson pops in for a couple scenes. These scenes are worked into the plot in a way that helps point Stark in the direction of a cure to his ailing health, but are really only here to help set up an Avengers movie, which will unite several Marvel comic book heroes in one film. Screenwriter Justin Theroux deserves credit though for finding a way to work what could've been perfunctory scenes into the film in a way that drives the movie forward.

The density of the plot probably seems overwhelming on the page, but it all makes sense on the screen and, as with the first film, that's largely due to the strong central performance by Downey. In the first film Downey struggled with Stark's growing pains of a sprouting conscience, here he struggles with mortality. It is just enough substance to give the film a little weight and Downey plays it for real.

This isn't to say the Downey isn't also very funny. Theroux's script is full of many great one-liners, and I'm sure Downey came up with a few of us own. Downey can delivery a fast paced, sarcastic quip like no one else. His idiosyncratic edge gives life to the whole movie.

Rourke, who has that same sort of quirky intensity, is fantastic as the villain because he underplays so well. Comic book villains are often played broad and cartoonish, but Rourke keeps the character brooding and quiet. He doesn't have much dialogue, but he says more with a slightly arched eyebrow than he ever could with a lengthy monologue.

Rockwell has been playing variations on his persona here since his big break as the baddie in 2000's “Charlie's Angels” and he does snarky villainy better than just about anyone. Rourke and Rockwell have an excellent dynamic together. Rockwell thinks he's the guy in control, but Rourke knows better.

Paltrow gets to once again banter feistily with Downey, although it gets somewhat lost in the mix this time. Johansson and Cheadle get to join in the action in the finale where director Jon Faverau, who has a fun supporting role as Stark's driver, delivers the sort of spectacle you expect in a big summer movie.

But for a blockbuster film, “Iron Man 2” is actually light on the big action set pieces and instead focuses on character interaction and that's a good thing. Downey is given plenty of new people interact with and watching him mix it up with a group of actors this good is a whole lot of fun.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Comic book movies without superheroes?

In honor of the release of “Iron Man 2,” let's take a deeper look at movies based on comics. Comic books typically bring to mind images of heroic feats by the likes of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and a seemingly never-ending list of superheros, but not all comics deal in super-powered heroics.

In the last three decades or so, the comic book, or graphic novel, has become, at least in some hands, a much more serious and respected medium with the potential to cover diverse and varied subject matters. With that in mind, here are five films that you'd probably never guess have their origins as a comic book.

“American Splendor” (2003)
OK, so given the subject matter is a comic book artist, it shouldn't come as surprise that this film had its origins as a comic book, but the film's protagonist, Harvey Pekar, didn't pen books of high-flying heroics, but rather about his own bitter, cynical, sarcastic view of the world. The film starring, Paul Giamatti as Pekar, is a completely original and unexpected blending of animation, bio-pic and documentary.

“From Hell” (2001)
Jack the Ripper is perhaps an unlikely subject for a graphic novel — but then, famed writer Alan Moore isn't your run-of-the-mill comic book writer. Moore, who also wrote “Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” has been notoriously displeased with the handling of his titles by Hollywood. Despite his protests, The Hughes Brothers' “From Hell” is a violent but compelling entertainment powered by a charismatic performance by Johnny Depp and fine support by Robbie Coltrane as the duo on the trail of the ripper.

“Ghost World” (2001)
Despite the implications of the title, this is not about a world full of ghoulish apparitions, but rather the tale of two snarky recent high school graduates (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) who play a mean spirited prank on a nerdy record collector (Steve Buscemi). Unexpectedly, an awkward, but oddly sweet romance develops. Based on the series by Daniel Clowes, this is an idiosyncratic look at adolescence that captures all the bittersweetness of those early formative years.

“A History of Violence” (2005)
Based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, the film starts out like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. In a small town diner, Viggio Mortenson seems like just another average guy behind the counter, but when a robbery turns violent he reveals shocking skills from a hidden past, a past that comes to town in the form of a scarred Ed Harris. Director David Cronenberg and screenwriter Josh Olson take the material into dark, psychological territory that attempts to address whether humans are violent by nature.

“Road to Perdition” (2002)
From a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, “Road to Perdition” is a depression-era story of a gangster on the run with his teenage son. The film is noteworthy as the first time Tom Hanks sort of played a bad guy and also features a brilliant performance by Paul Newman and a slimy, creepy one from Jude Law. Beautiful directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), the film explores the gray area of what is right and wrong and reminds that sometimes it isn't clear who the heroes and the villains really are.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ben Hammond returns to Stone Mountain May 6

Musician Ben Hammond, a 2001 graduate of Fryeburg Academy, realizes as a performer it is important to give the audience what they want, and that's exactly what he intends to do with his second appearance at the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine Thursday, March 6, at 8 p.m.|

“A common response from those who see my live show and then buy the CD is 'Hey, I love the record, but it isn't the same as what I saw you do live, I miss the vocal trumpet and looped vocal percussion and solo singer-songwriter vibe,'” Hammond said.
“Basically they missed my solo imitative versions of what I had real instruments do in the studio.”

Hammond intends to change all that with his Stone Mountain performance Thursday, which will be filmed and recorded for a live DVD and CD package.

“I have been eagerly awaiting a return to Stone Mountain Arts Center since our sell-out CD Release show in 2008,” Hammond said. “And realized I could get the best of both worlds: a high-energy live solo acoustic show and a recording of that show which showcases the one-man band element of what I do for my solo gigs.”

The man behind the camera will be Michael Dana, the film and photo instructor at Fryeburg Academy, who has worked on such high-profile films as “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Requiem for a Dream.”

“The idea to film and release the video on DVD was almost a no-brainer in this YouTube-driven world,” Hammond said. “That site is definitely the first place most people now look to check out new bands and it'll be helpful to have some high-quality, well produced video to help make my first impression.”

The show will consist of new original material, acoustic versions of songs from his first album, "[Reasonably] Honest," and songs he has gathered during the past few years of world travels, including tunes from Canada and New Zealand.

“The original material will explore some new areas, both in mood and in genre, while maintaining the overall acoustic soul-pop vibe that I tend to gravitate towards,” Hammond said. “Stylistically I have certainly been influenced by my extended stays in Florida and New Zealand. There are tinges of reggae and swampgrass poking their respective musical heads up throughout, quite often simultaneously.”

Hammond is also planning a tour of the United States that will include stops throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England. He is also putting plans together for his second studio album.

“As a composer and producer I can't wait for the next kid-in-the-candy-shop experience of sitting in a high-end studio with a roomful of talented musicians and instruments,” Hammond said.

That isn't to downplay his excitement about his upcoming live album. He is just as eager to show the solo performer aspect of his personality and to have that documented.

“Ever since that first cave-man wooed his special cave-lady with a stick and a bit of taut rope, the singer-songwriter vibe has been popular and I can't wait to present my 21st century version of this ancient art-form.”

Tickets for the show are $15 plus $1 handling fee. For more information visit