For Your Consideration…Back to the Future


Welcome to Week 39.

Okay, so I’ve been sort of MIA for the past several weeks after promising constancy, so let me start off by apologizing for that. You see, as much as I enjoy getting to do this column every week, things from the real world keep creeping into my writing time, and unfortunately sometimes take precedence. In the last few weeks, I wrapped up my exams for the semester and had to take two unscheduled trips away from my home, forcing column writing to take a backseat to my regular life.

With that said, let me welcome you all to my NEW slot here at I will now be bringing you my uncanny ability to be accurate about wrestling analysis on Thursday mornings as opposed to Tuesday afternoons. I have been told that this is a promotion, so let me give myself a Barry Horowitz-esque pat on the back. It has been a hell of a lot of fun writing for this great site for the past 39 weeks, and I look forward to taking over the Thursday morning slot.

I had every intention of kicking off the New Year with an exciting new Thursday morning column, but a post-New Years drinking binge kinda but the kibosh on that. Well, this week starts up yet another exciting semester of law school, so I will be back on my regular schedule. In the meantime, this is sort of a little bonus end of 2007/beginning of 2008 cliché-filled column. I plan on doing the ubiquitous “best of” lists that are all the trend right around this time, and then take a comprehensive look at what the WWE and TNA have in store for the new year. But before I get to this, here’s something I wrote a few weeks ago but still thought what somewhat relevant. Enjoy:

Raw 15th Anniversary a Month Later than the Show and a Week before the Actual Date

Since I wasn’t around to discuss Raw XV last week thanks to exams, let me give a brief rundown of what I thought. First, the opening of the show was the stuff that YouTube is made for. The mash-up of all of the old RAW openings was great (and I haven’t seen the one they shot on the roof of Titan Tower in forever!) and was also a reminder that the WWE really dropped the ball moving away from in-house opening theme music. You guys pay Jim Johnston a fortune, why not let him earn it?

The opening segment was one of those great tributes to the awkward openings that have crept their way into becoming habit on RAW. I wasn’t all that shocked that they opened it with Vince doing the “famous” “Welcome everyone to Monday Night RAW!” Then, going right into the McMahon family portrait sent the message that this evening was all about Vince and his storylines. Hey, that’s fine by me. The guy single-handedly built the longest running weekly television show in history (according to him), so let’s let him have his moment. Creative scripted yet another forced, awkward comedy sketch, but it worked. Why? Well-timed nostalgia. We got to see Shane and Hootie McBoob (not to mention spared seeing Linda and her solid acting prowess), we got to see the leprechaun and we got to see the underutilized ringside photographers. Then, the WWE gave Hunter the keys to the segment and let him chug along at his own pace. The whole him and Stephanie thing is cutesy and has moved so far beyond just winking at the fans that the joke is now dead. So he brought out the Divas and everyone had their giggles when he brought out the dudes that Vince slept with, but we all thought the same thing, “Damn Sunny still looks hot!” Sure, Sunny looked a little plumper than before and I was amazed at how short she truly was, but screw it, she looked damn good. I can’t believe we were subjected to a Sable return a few years ago when we could have been basking in Sunny. The segment as a whole was funnyish but forgettable, just like the last 5 years of RAW.

The rest of the show was great in the nostalgia department because they managed to make every segment pop. Each segment had something memorable (or memorable enough) and managed to encapsulate just how much fun watching RAW could be. Yeah, the ladder match was kinda half-assed and yeah, sticking Jericho and Bischoff in the ring with a live microphone and not letting them rip each other to shreds was a wasted opportunity, but so what? Everyone knew that the night was designed to build to a raging climax, so we would all just sit along for the ride.

The final segment of the show was not exactly a “surprising” segment. Everyone knew that Vince would be the superstar picked. In hindsight, it couldn’t have been anyone else. Vince, along with HBK and Taker are the only guys from show 1 still around. Unlike Shawn and Taker, Vince didn’t vanish for a year at a time or leave for Smackdown and never look back. Then you’ve got Austin, Foley and the Rock. Austin wasn’t much until he broke free and became Stone Cold, but he couldn’t have sustained that without Vince. Foley was never viewed by Vince as a main eventer, so it’s hard to make him the true RAW superstar. The Rock was born on RAW and raised to be the quintessential superstar, but he left for greener pastures. What about Triple H or Hulk Hogan or John Cena? Hunter wasn’t much at the start of his tenure, and his running roughshod over the roster for a few years doesn’t automatically make him the man. Same goes for Cena, who is still too young to be given what is essentially a lifetime achievement award despite his being on the brand for only about 3 years. Hogan was the anti-RAW and is not even a product of that era, so he’s out. Lastly, there’s Bret Hart. The Hitman busted his ass on RAW and gave memorable moments and matches despite being surrounded by Mantaur and Doink. The Hitman’s departure from the show sparked the most profitable period for the WWE ever. Unfortunately, the Hitman hasn’t been on the show for a decade, so no dice. In the end, it had to be Vince.

The segment itself was filled with anticipation. Would this be the most memorable RAW moment of all time? Would we finally get what we were waiting for? First, we get Mick Foley coming out in his Mankind gimmick. Good, great, get on with it. Next, we get Taker. He moseys down to the ring, hits a poor looking chokeslam and leaves. Super. Then, Austin. He talks, and then he talks, and then I look at what time it is and I realize the sad truth…Bret isn’t coming. Despite the internet reports to the contrary and even common sense, I thought that Bret Hart might show up to close RAW. So what did this event show me? That after years and years of watching wrestling and understanding the mechanics of the business, somewhere deep down inside me dwells that eight year old kid who loved wrestling and still believed “anything could happen in the WWE,” a feeling I haven’t had for the company in well over a decade. Yeah, it was anticlimactic, but it still elicited a bit of nostalgia for me, so I give them a big, solid A for effort.

Best of 2007

Best Movies of 2007

I suppose before I get into the “Best of Movies” 2007 I should make a note that I am still waiting to see “No Country for Old Men”. I have a feeling that will be taking a top spot on my list this year because I am a big-time Joel and Ethan fan (You’re killing your father, Larry) and everyone I know that has seen this movie went nuts over it. I also haven’t gotten to see “There Will Be Blood” yet, and critics have the balls to compare this to “Citizen Kane”, so I’m at the very least intrigued.

As I look at my list this year, I’m kinda surprised at how mainstream it is. I normally fawn over those small indie movies that you generally have to see in a 4-screen theater two towns over, but that didn’t seem to happen for me this year. One of the major detriments to me getting to see movies this year is the very fact that there is no good art-house theater within a 20 minute drive from be. Because of that, I had to miss “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”, “The Savages”, “I’m Not There” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” though rest assured they will be on the Blockbuster queue the minute they’re available. In the meantime, here are the 10 best (in my opinion) of 2007 following a weak, weak year for cinema:

1) Knocked Up – I think 2007 is the year that being a Judd Apatow fan went from a weird little club of people who “got” what he was talking about to a large mass of individuals pretending to “get” it. I’m-if nothing else-a snob. I can’t stand when people jump on bandwagons because it’s trendy or cool. I remember back when “Freaks and Geeks” premiered on NBC and I was the only one of my friends to watch it. Same for “Undeclared”. I had to drag my buddies kicking and screaming to go see “Anchorman”. Hell, even the “40 Year Old Virgin” was a struggle at first to convince folks to go see it. Now all of a sudden everyone is an Apatow-ite, yet oddly it doesn’t bother me. Why? Because it’s about damn time the guy got his due. “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” became these juggernaut megahits that you kinda hoped they would be, so the question shifted from ‘Why are you watching this?’ to ‘Which one’s your favorite?’ I had to give the nod to “Knocked Up” for a few reasons. First, the movie is outright hilarious. I saw it twice opening weekend and laughed harder the second time, which hasn’t happened since the sacred opening weekend of “Anchorman”. Second, this movie is closer to where I am in life than “Superbad”, which is not an easy thing to admit. Up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I was still part of that “Superbad” era, like I was still a kid. Then I turned 25. Yes, 25. OLD. Elderly. It’s then that I realized that “Knocked Up” was about so much of what I face now and will face soon that I grew to appreciate it even more. Lastly, my friend who hates every movie pretty much ever made loved this, which means it transcends good and bad taste.

2) Charlie Wilson’s War – Anyone who reads me on a regular basis knows I’m an Aaron Sorkin mark. Hell, I’m confident that if I would have seen this a few more times, it would have wound up number 1. I realized while watching it that this very well might be the last new Sorkin piece for quite some time. With “Studio 60” gone to the great abyss and the writers’ strike stopping him from making anything new, “Charlie Wilson” is the very last brand spanking new piece of fiction I’m getting from Aaron Sorkin for quite some time (unless I head back to New York soon to go see Farnsworth). Knowing that, I savored every single moment of that movie, and I was not disappointed at all. P.S. Hoffman is my favorite actor alive (tied with William. H. Macy), and hearing him deliver Sorkinisms was a pinnacle of 2007. Tom Hanks always brings the awesome with him, and this was no exception. Julia Roberts…well…at least she looked good in a bathing suit. The film was short but powerful, and had enough of that trademark dialogue to make me feel like I was moments away from Casey McCall and Dan Rydell were about to walk in through the door, which is about as good as it gets.

3) Superbad – Once you get past all the hype about McLovin and all the bits from the trailer, you realize that this is an incredible movie. “Superbad” was hilarious and vulgar and sweet and perverted; something that is not done easily. Seth Rogan did something starting at age 13 that most hacks in Hollywood can’t do now, and that’s write a funny movie (I’m looking at you, ‘Chuck and Larry’). The movie is identifiable for anyone that went to high school, even if you weren’t the biggest spaz on the planet. Everyone understands that universal quest to get laid, and if it means drinking detergent-stained booze and overcoming your inability to draw anything but dicks, so be it.

4) The Simpsons Movie – I dedicated like 10 columns to this movie, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that it’s on the list. It’s not #1 because the Apatow and Sorkin movies were better “movies”, but this was probably the better experience. As a Simpsons fan, I waited for this for a LONG time. The opportunity to see a Simpsons full-length movie is something that I never thought I’d get to see in my lifetime, so to witness it on the big screen was an indescribable feeling. Plus, I made a road trip weekend out of it. I drove up to Orlando to see it with my best friends (and experience the morphed Kwik-E-Mart, which was badass), and since all of us have been Simpsons nerds since we were 8, it was like completing a holy journey. For those of you who though the movie wasn’t that funny, I say go (fornicate) yourself. The movie was damn funny and about a million times funnier then anything they’ve put on the air since probably season 9. It had every classic character and managed to touch on every hallmark moment from the show’s history (broad physical gags, political humor, sight gags, blink-and-you-missed-it gags, superhero animal gags) and yet it has the power to stand on its own two feet and just be a funny as hell movie.

5) Juno – Well I heard for over a year about how funny this movie was. The screenplay was one of those rare “buzzed about” screenplays that everyone knew was gonna be big, but it then became a question of who had the balls to make a funny teen pregnancy movie in a pre-Knocked Up world? Thankfully, the uber-talented Jason Reitman stepped up and knocked it out of the park (again, I might add, since “Thank You for Smoking” is a modern classic of satire). If you see this movie and you don’t fall in love with Ellen Page, there is something wrong with you. She was the kind of girl you beg to meet (and let you sleep with her) and hopefully someday marry. What amazed me about this movie was the fact that it was almost completely absent foul language and full-on vulgarity, yet it seemed just as edgy as “Superbad”. Michael Cera has somehow been blessed with the power to pick the greatest projects on the planet. He has done one of the best television shows ever with “Arrested Development” and the follows it up with “Superbad” and “Juno”? Are you kidding me? He’s either got an incredible eye for scripts of a horseshoe up his ass. Either way, this is a great, simple movie that deserves to make Apatow-esque money and heaps of awards.

6) Grindhouse – Not the best movie(s) on the planet, but if you were smart enough to see it in theaters then you got to experience one hell of a flick. I’m almost kinda glad “Grindhouse” tanked, because that meant less people I had to hear bitching about how much they didn’t like the movies. Look, folks, these weren’t real movies. They were part of the whole package. That’s like saying “Airplane” didn’t have a believable plot. Where else do you get two pioneer directors making schlock movies with real budgets? Hell, Eli Roth is making a movie next year made up entirely of fake trailers just because he enjoyed doing one for this film. “Grindhouse” was about as close as these directors were going to come to making a full on porno on screen, and it was worth sitting there for almost three hours just to be a part of it. One side note: release the damn real DVD already!

7) Bourne Ultimatum – Best Bourne movie. Best action movie. Best suspense movie. Best blue-filter movie. It was realistic and crazy all at the same time and the kind of film you enjoy the first time and marvel at the second time. An awesome, awesome action flick in a year where people actually paid money for “Rush Hour 3”.

8) Gone Baby Gone – Affleck’s best movie since “Phantoms.” Not enough reason to go see this? How about the fact that this movie sneaks up on you, grabs you by the balls and won’t let go? I went in thinking this was one kind of movie, and halfway through realized that I was completely wrong and that this was almost like a mini-Departed. It is one of the best movies I never want to watch again.

9) Walk Hard – So this was the one that tanked, huh? Do I care? Not at all! This movie was hilarious and smart and surpasses “Talladega Nights” in terms of jokes and story. Everyone in this movie brought their A-game and I have a feeling in a few years this movie will get the recognition it deserves.

10) Rescue Dawn – I wasn’t expecting this one to make my top 10 anything before I saw it, since all I really knew was that it was gonna be Batman and Lenny from That Thing You Do! being held captive in the jungle. This movie turned into a surprisingly haunting film that really sticks with you well after you see it. Yes, it can seem slow for some folks (especially due to the lack of music), but for those of you who feel daring, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a well acted and authentic film.

There you have it. A conservative and probably unoriginal Top 10 movie list, but think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of people who would disagree with most of them.

Next up is the Top 10 shows of the year. This is kind of a hard list to compile because of the timing of the new year. 2007 saw use wrap up the 06-07 season and kick off the truncated 07-08 season, so there is bound to be overlap. Also, I wound up doing a Top 15 instead of a Top 10 just due to the sheer volume of new and old shows that were on this year. Either way, here it is:

Best TV Shows of 2007

1) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Shocker that this one would be on the top, right? Yeah, I’m a Sorkin mark in the worst possible way, so what? The show was so much better than the treatment it was given. NBC hyped this show to the point that nothing could match the buildup, then, at the earliest sign of trouble they dropped it like a big ball of oil out an office window. It was a move by NBC that I just don’t get in the slightest because they had a 3rd place show on a 4th place network yet opted to cut what was up to that point their only high-end, prestige drama. I understand that the show was costly, but so what? They were more than making up for it with the ad revenue. And for those people that said it wasn’t as good as the “West Wing”? Watch the finale. That finale clearly showed that season one was about putting the chess pieces on the board. It takes some time to develop the relationships that Sorkin can later play around with. Instead of being patient with the show, NBC pulled it for several weeks and then sporadically aired it to the point where I’m not sure their program director knew when it actually aired. “Studio 60” was far from perfect, but even B+ Sorkin is better than A+ anyone else.

2) Curb Your Enthusiasm: Life imitating art was sort of the theme for this season, with Larry’s on-screen divorce being the precursor for his actual divorce. Once you get over the slightly creepy fact that you might be watching an actual divorce play out on TV, you’ll be treated to one of the most consistently funny seasons of what has been a hilarious show. I was very worried about this year’s theme, with Larry taking in a black family named the Blacks. In the end, it turned out to be a welcome addition (namely because they didn’t focus too much on the Blacks). Perhaps the reason this season worked was because it was very much like a return to “Seinfeld” for David. He was no longer handicapped by the marriage storyline and was able to bring back his trademark ability to capture the disastrous world of dating. My personal favorite episode was his date with a doctor he meets while accompanying Jeff to his surgery, a simple premise that turns into one of the funniest, most racially inappropriate episodes of television ever aired.

3) How I Met Your Mother: Slap bet? ‘Nuff said. HIMYM is a show that you feel like you’ve always watched, even though it’s only 3 seasons old. The show handcuffed itself early on by revealing that Ted and Robin would never work out despite the fact that all they did was pine for each other, but now that they’re over and done with, we can move on to the quest for “Your Mother”. HIMYM is consistently funny and original, and until the strike hit it looked like we were about to get the best season yet.

4) Chuck/Reaper: Smart premise + brilliant casting = great show. “Chuck” and “Reaper” are two shows that have no right to be as entertaining as they are. You have two shows that are basically those hacky pitches that networks love but viewers despise. “You’ve got a guy who’s a superspy with a computer in his brain, but he’s…a slacker nerd!” “You’ve got a guy who’s the devil’s bounty hunter, but he’s…a slacker nerd!” Lame sounding? You bet! Thankfully, these two shows managed to avoid the pitfalls of their respective premises and turned into frothy, entertaining hour long dramadies that don’t insult your intelligence but also don’t require you to have to pause and rewatch frame by frame to understand what secret meaning is imbedded in the coffee pot.

5) South Park: I have a feeling that for as long as I do a list, “South Park” will be on it. It is always hilarious and always spot-on, and “Imaginationland” was just insane enough to work. Brilliant.

6) Lost: See, I said all that stuff about “Chuck” and “Reaper” because I can’t handle another mythology show due to my being completely glued to “Lost”. It’s cliché to say it, but the flash-forward may be the single best move the creators ever could have done. They took a show that was once a watercooler necessity that had devolved into an “X-files”-esque show and brought it back to the forefront again. The new episodes can’t get here fast enough in my opinion.

7) Heroes: Now I know I’m in the minority on this, but season 2 of “Heroes” so far has been great. Blasphemy? Probably. But I do have an excuse why I love it and most people probably hate it. Due to law school, I don’t have all that much time to watch television, and Monday night is pretty heavily dominated by “RAW”, so my DVR was crammed full of the entire season (so far) of “Heroes”. I managed to avoid every spoiler on the net and by a miracle I was able to watch the shows with ZERO surprises ruined for me. I also was able to watch all of the episodes in about 8 days. I have never been a guy to wait until DVD to watch a show, so this was a new experience. I didn’t have to suffer that whole wait a week to find out the cliffhanger thing, so I was able to watch stress-free. With that said, this season of “Heroes” so far was a live action comic book more so than last season. Why? Because comic books never paid off as quickly as season one of “Heroes” did. I didn’t really like the fact that you got a mystery and then got a payoff almost immediately afterwards. I liked the fact that this season was a little slower and a little more subdued, but again that’s the 11-year-old “X-Men” fan talking.

8) The Sopranos: Amazing. Simply amazing. I can’t say enough about how much I loved the last 9 episodes of the show. There has never been a more suspenseful 9 hours ever on television. Knowing that the gloves were off and anything could happen meant that no one was safe. And the finale? That was

9) The Office/30 Rock: I merged them because they are a seamless hour of comedy. Sure, those hour-long “Office”s were torture to watch, but the show is still probably the smartest comedy on network TV. “30 Rock” was a show I was really harsh to when it debuted, mainly due to the fact that it was “Studio 60”’s competition and the fact that Tina Fey single-handedly ruined SNL, but once I looked past my cynicism, I realized that this was a freaking hilarious show. Fey herself still is the weakest link of the bunch, but Season 2 has seen her character grow from grating moral center to just another member of the wacky clan.

10) Mad Men: I have a feeling TV Guide will name this the best show you’re not watching. Yeah, this one’s a shocker that it was good when you consider it’s from someone who did the “Sopranos” on a network with an insane budget and a can’t-miss premise. Stunning. “Mad Men” is nothing short of incredible and, combined with HIMYM, might bring suits back into fashion.

11) Extras: The “Extras” Christmas special was such a great hour and a half that I was almost tempted to just list it as one of the best movies of the year. Ricky Gervais showed that his talent is beyond pain-inducing humor and that he could produce an honest, emotional program that doesn’t feel forced or saccharine despite the fact that all of the characters are at best caricatures. I can’t wait until this show gets ripped off by FOX and they replace Ricky with Jonathan Silverman.

12) Californication: It’s about time Showtime gets some love in the column. I’m still waiting to get into the “Dexter” season one DVD on my shelf, but it would be hard to top this program. David Duchovny’s show could easily be dismissed as whiny softcore porn, but that’s the easy way out. This show is a complex and intriguing character study of a guy who has burnt out and sold out yet still won’t come to grips with all of those mistakes because he still believes that he’s indestructible and that broken is cool.

13) Dirty, Sexy Money: There are a million reasons why I should hate this show, starting with the fact that it’s an intercoursing soap opera! It doesn’t have any hipster cred and it isn’t a smart or well-written show, but for some reason I dig it. Lame? Probably. But at least I know when to admit that I like something that is obviously terrible, just like anyone who likes those “Harry Potter” things should.

14) Entourage: A great show, a good season and a hell of a blueprint for anyone about to become famous.

15) Boston Legal: Denny Crane.

Whew, two lists down, one to go. I’m gonna drop this one very quietly, with minimal exposition, so all I will say is here is my list for top songs of the year. If you don’t know any of them, go to iTunes now and just click on the samples. I guarantee you’ll dig at least one track on here:

Best Songs of 2007

1. Against Me! – Thrash Unreal
2. Eastern Conference Champions – The Box
3. Jimmy Eat World – Big Casino
4. Johnossi – Man Must Dance
5. Bright Eyes – Four Winds
6. Editors – An End has a Start
7. Spoon – The Underdog
8. She Wants Revenge – True Romance
9. Kings of Leon – Fans
10. Foo Fighters – Pretender
11. Linkin Park – Bleed it out
12. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
13. Radiohead – Bodysnatchers
14. The Killers – Tranquilize
15. Muse – Knights of Cydonia

Well that about wraps up my non-wrestling “Best ofs…” (Does that mean you’re finally gonna talk about wrestling? No.) I’ve got a bit of a bonus for you folks, an InsidePulse exclusive concert review. But first, more exciting bold text:

Concert Reviews

How much do I love bold text? Considering I have no real HTML skill, a whole lot. Now, with that said, I have a little explaining to do. You see, about two months ago, I got a chance to go see a concert thanks to the Broken Dial crew with the caveat that I would write a concert review. That was in November and here we are in January. Colossal intercourse up? You bet.

The show was Blue October, Yellowcard, Shiny Toy Guns and LoveDrug and it was at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater. For those of you who are loyal readers (and I will assume all of you are), you will realize that November was right around the time that I started to sort of flake out on my column times. Up until that point, you could set your watch to the consistency of my postings, but November was when an overloaded school and work schedule caught up to me. I actually started writing the concert review way back in November, but the joy of law school really prevented me from ever finishing it. Why am I addressing this concert now? Well I’ll tell you, you impatient SOB.

Tuesday night I attended a concert at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale and after seeing the show decided I would include a review of the concert right here as sort of a nice bonus for the new slot. Then, when I went into my document folder (creatively called My Documents), I found the old, half-assed review for a concert that Pulse was nice enough to send me to, and I realized I owed it to them to do it right. So you’re getting not one but TWO concert reviews for the price of…well…this site is still free, right?

Blue October, Yellowcard, Shiny Toy Guns and LoveDrug Concert Review…only Two Months Late

I was really excited about this concert, but not necessarily for the headline band of Blue October. I didn’t know all that much about Blue October and I quite frankly had never heard of LoveDrug, but I was a pretty big fan of Shiny Toy Guns and had more than passing knowledge of Yellowcard (my roommate in college was a big punk fan).

The show itself was at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, a venue that leaves quite a bit to be desired. Since this is Florida, the weather was hot and muggy despite the fact that it’s November, but even that couldn’t hurt the show. Our seats were pretty nice, right around row 12, so we were in the heart of the show. I was attending the event with someone who didn’t know anything about any of the bands, so I had a moral barometer to ensure that my biases didn’t come into play too much (though, for obvious reasons, she holds significant sway over me).

LoveDrug came out first and the large theater was relatively empty. It was almost as if I was watching a high school battle of the bands. There were maybe 30 of us in the place (which holds well over 2,000) when LoveDrug took the stage. This is due to two things: 1) they went on at 6:30 and 2) everyone in Florida shows up late. Despite there not being a lot of people, LoveDrug took immediate command of the stage, playing for the intimate crowd as if we were a crowded arena of screaming fans. Their sound is reminiscent of Maroon 5, but don’t hold that against them. They played piano rock music that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to listen to with friends but wouldn’t be mortified to play near your parents. They are very much an opening act in the fact that they constantly thanked the fans and hyped the bigger acts-playing more like giddy fans than a real band. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, I might add. Subsequent to hearing them, I downloaded their album “Everything Starts Where It Ends” and found it to be really pretty nice. These guys could someday be a Maroon 5 band, but for now they’re just happy to play for whoever will listen.

Next up was Shiny Toy Guns. Their staging was more of a techno set then that of a full on rock band, what with blinking rave-esque lights and more synthesizers then a Flock of Seagulls video. STG (for short) has two lead singers, a powerful male singer and a pixie-ish female singer. They were supporting their new album “We Are Pilots”, which is also out now online (and again worth the download). By this point, a significant number of people had poured into the theater and made their way down to a standing area at the base of the stage. STG started out with high energy and didn’t let up through a very solid 45 minute set. Their three big singles, “You are the One”, “Le Disko” and “Rainy Monday” were the high points of the show thanks to a voracious crowd that was more than happy to belt out the chorus. It was really nice to see that the relatively new band already had a loyal following. The biggest surprise for me was that STG was able to replicate their trademark sound live despite the fact that their CD sounds a bit on the overproduced side.

Yellowcard, before they took the stage, had a major mountain to climb for me to enjoy them. I tend to lump the band (however unfairly) with the teenish punkish bands like Sum-41 and Good Charlotte, you know those groups that make dull and unoriginal music that excites pre-teens. My fears were not assuaged by the fact that the front of the theater began to fill more and more with tiny Avrils, all ready to screech like they were at a boyband concert. Yellowcard came out with full-on intensity and an electric live energy, and my pretentiousness quickly evaporated and I just sort of let myself enjoy it. The two lead singers (whose names I’d look up if I were a better journalist) didn’t stop jumping like they were shot out of a pinball machine once throughout their entire hour long set. No one will ever mistake Yellowcard for The Clash, but they are hardly indicative of the cancerous pop-punk movement of this century. The band genuinely enjoyed performing out there, which was something that is always fun to watch. They were geeked out about the fans getting into it and went so far as to apologize for playing stuff from their new album “Paper Walls” because we weren’t going to know the lyrics. The highlight of their set for me was actually not one of their jump-around anthems but rather an acoustic version of “Only One” off of “Ocean Avenue.” The song could have wandered over to the emo side, but through sheer willpower alone did it stay on an honest wave and actually won me over. Well done, guys.

Blue October. This is going to sound harsh, but Blue October should not have headlined this show. The crowd, in one of the most inexplicable things I have ever seen, turned from preteen to middle aged as if it were a Copperfield trick. The kids that came to see STG and Yellowcard left, and from the back of the theater moved forward sad looking stock brokers and car salesmen dressed in denim jackets with clichéd leather gloves hoping that Blue October could reclaim their lost youth. The yuppie punks were just as enthused about seeing Blue October as the kids were about seeing Yellowcard, while I remained nonplussed. Up until this point, my beautiful moral barometer and I had really enjoyed the show. LoveDrug put on a set that showed that they had promise to be big, STG showed that they were more than a gimmick and Yellowcard threw enough positive energy to even turn my cynical heart. Maybe, just maybe, Blue October would convert me as well, even if they wouldn’t get a chance to do so to the throngs of kids who vanished as if it was closing time at the mall. So, after filling up on another scotch (that’s right, they were selling scotch at the show…so great) I sat down and waited to be blown away. Blue October’s lead singer looked like the lead singer for the Mighty Mighty Bostones, down to the black suit. The comparisons end there.

I never heard of Blue October before learning I was going to the show. It turned out that I had heard a few of their songs and they were filed under the category of “Oh yeah, I know this but no idea who sang it.” What shocked me was the legions of fans who seemed to revere these guys like they were the rock reincarnation of the Beatles. I assure you that they are not. Like Yellowcard, they have a violinist, but Blue October’s guy had horns coming out of his head like Rey Mysterio use to rock when he was near the end of WCW’s run. Upon seeing the horns, I knew that this was going to be a long set. Don’t get me wrong, Blue October was not all bad. In fact, some of their stuff was downright great. Unfortunately, Blue October is a pop band who wishes they were Henry Rollins. Their best stuff were songs that didn’t require unnecessary (and borderline sad) screeches and screams like they were lost Slipknot lyrics. “Into the Ocean” is on pretty heavy rotation right now and is a damn good song with a nice hook. The problem is that they bolster this song with unauthentic “hardcore” rock music that makes them sound like Matchbox 20 trying to cover Slayer. The high point of their show was when they sang “Calling You”, a song I not only enjoyed at the show but now have on regular rotation on my iPod. The one downside? Blue October let the fans sing too many lyrics. Doing that is fine when you’re Dave Matthews and anyone with a pulse knows the words to the chorus, but when you’re not THAT well known, it’s helpful to sing along every once in a while.

Overall this was a good show and a fine way to spend 4 hours on a random weeknight. Go now and download some of the songs mentioned above or, if you get the chance, see some of these bands live.

Louis the XIV; Hot, Hot Heat; The Editors

This show I caught this past Tuesday night at the famed Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. These three bands are touring the country on one of the biggest named club tours of the year. If they are coming to your town and you’ve got 20 bucks and a car, get your ass to the show. Did I tip my hat as to my review? So what?

Culture Room is one of those great dirty dive clubs that you think only exist in New York. Culture Room is famous for having been the breeding ground for Manson, who used to frequent the place before he became the famed musical antichrist. The venue is smallish and dark and there’s nowhere to sit and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Louis the XIV was the opening act, which just goes to show you how stacked this show is. Any of these three bands could have been a club headliner anywhere in the country (wow, I sound like Gorilla Monsoon). The guys come out dressed like a combination of the Hives and Arcade Fire, down to the monochromatic shirt and tie and the dueling violinists. They were also armed with glasses of wine and impressive facial hair. Louis again had that feeling of a band that just loved to play. They have a new album coming out at the end of this month and the show was one of their first chances to play their new songs. The lead singer was really getting into the new stuff, down to conducting the other members of the band when he wasn’t belting out his trademark sound. Much like with STG, I couldn’t believe how much Louis sounded the same in person as they did on their records. His voice has to be heard live to believe that the guy doing “Guilt by Association” five feet from where I was standing could sound like that with no production elements. The band played a nonstop set, not even pausing to banter with the crowd aside from a 10-second “Hey.” Louis got the crowd pumped up and never slowed down for anyone to realize just how impressive their energy level was. “Finding Out True Love is Blind” is their first ever signature hit, but they played it like it was just another song on the list as opposed to the way some bands tend to mug when they know they’re singing a well known tune. Their 55 minute set contained no slow moments and no filler, and it was over well before anyone was ready for it to end. If this alone was the whole show, it would have been 20 dollars well spent.

My friend Abi, who along with her sister accompanied me to the show, saw Hot, Hot Heat years ago as an opener for (IMO one of the greatest bands of all time) Weezer and she said that they were truly awful live. Thankfully, years of seasoning on the road has corrected whatever missteps they made back in Philly 4 years ago, because these guys give one hell of a live show. Anyone familiar with HHH (not Triple H, mind you) knows that their sound is energetic (there’s that key word again…I should make that a drinking game for this review) and fun. Their lead singer looks like a blonde version of Carrot Top, right down to the nose and the skin-and-bones physique. He came roaring out on stage with full energy and mugged and pranced like he was Mick Jagger’s illegitimate son. Say what you will about his mannerisms, he got the entire crowd into the show. He played to the person standing in the front row and the back balcony all at the same time, and the band didn’t stop once throughout their way-too-brief 40 minute set. The band’s madcap style served them well when they played hits like “Let Me In”, “Harmonicas and Tambourines” and “Middle of Nowhere”, though I would have loved to hear “You Owe Me an IOU”, which sadly didn’t make it into the setlist (though there was plenty of time).

The main attraction was The Editors (who you will notice made my top songs of 2007). They came out with minimal frills, just the desire to play, and that’s exactly what they did. They look and sound like what would happen if the cast of “Trainspotting” performed Coldplay’s greatest hits and their lead singer was twitching and juking like he was trying to get out of his own skin, but it all sort of worked somehow. The highlight of the set (and in my opinion, the show) was the performance of “An End has a Start”, which was about as pitch-perfect as anyone could have asked for. They put on one hell of a show for the people in attendance, and a haunting and at times disturbing performance that is hard to forget.

So, there you have it. No, Rolling Stone won’t be beating down my door to start doing their reviews, but it’s not too shabby considering this is my first concert review. If you liked it, good news because there are 2 more coming this month. If you didn’t? Well, go intercourse yourself (and have I mentioned yet this week how much I love not being allowed to drop the f-bomb anymore?).

Well, this is a WRESTLING column, so maybe I should put some wrestling related materials in here, so without further ado…

For Your Consideration…Back to the Future

Yeah, it’s time for another forward looking column, but I’m gonna get a little comprehensive here and go through the entire roster of the WWE and select guys for TNA. First off, let me talk about what the goals of the two companies are in general.

It’s almost laughable as we enter 2008 to think that anyone legitimately believed that TNA posed any kind of threat to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2007. I have made no secret for many, many months of my disdain for Total Nonstop Action and the fact that they squandered every opportunity presented to them in the calendar year 2007. What does TNA have to do to pull it together in 08? How about a little consistency?

That’s about it, TNA, consistency. I know this is hard considering Russo’s got the book but in order for the company to survive, they have to start doing something right and something right quick. In 2008 TNA needs to figure out how they want to handle their main event. Last year they relied too heavily on veterans and nostalgia to promote their show and failed to capitalize on the crop of talent right under their noses.

First and foremost, there’s Kurt Angle. Realistically, how many more good years can TNA get out of Kurt? He was let go by the WWE because he was broken down and needed time off. He hasn’t taken any time off in TNA, but he is not the same Kurt Angle that was kicking ass and taking names a few years ago in the WWE. Even at a quarter of the level he could be, Angle is the most valuable asset that TNA has because he is still perceived as a big time competitor. In 2008 he has the ability to still make the company money and be a leader because he can wrestle capable matches against just about everyone on the roster. Does this mean keep the gold on him? For the time being, sure, but know that he is veering into Jarrett territory and the last thing TNA needs is a second Triple H running around.

Next up is the guy that should have been the future of the company, Samoa Joe. Joe is the squandered opportunity that everyone always talks about, and one can only hope that in 2008 he either breaks out as the true main eventer or he gets the hell out of the company. Really, you say, have Joe leave? Hey, why not. If TNA can’t properly manage one of the best raw talents out there, then how can anyone expect them to be in business in 2 years? Joe might as well get out now, go to the WWE and get some bigger exposure. Could the WWE ruin Joe? Sure, but could it be much worse then the way TNA is now? Russo is branding Joe as some sort of poor man’s Steve Austin, which completely undoes all the work put in to make him seem like the next Kurt Angle. If Joe doesn’t get the belt in a serious, major program soon, he will forever be squandered in this company. Let Joe get in a legit program with Kurt and beat the man and hold the title for a good long while. Give the man the ball, because the ratings clearly aren’t skyrocketing right now.

Christian Cage in TNA for the most part in 2007 was the Christian in WWE. No, he wasn’t the entertaining promo machine that we loved, but rather the guy feuding with Orlando Jordan for the US Title. He was the stagnant Smackdown superstar that just sort of appeared on TV to go through the motions. Maybe Christian isn’t a true main eventer, but so what? The man is entertaining and he can put on a show in the ring, and TNA is a fine way for him to collect a paycheck and stay close to home. In 2008 I think he’ll be away from the main event picture, probably locked in a feud with a guy like Kaz or Eric Young. It sucks that he is going to be the go-to upper level guy to get people over, but he still doesn’t have the legit main event feel of an Angle.

A.J. Styles might be getting another shot at the top, and considering he’s young and dynamic and “almost” homegrown, there’s little to complain about. In 2008 he can hopefully be ready to work a world title feud with champ Joe and not be thrown back down into the X-Division for the hell of it.

Booker T is actually lower on the TNA card then he would have been had he stayed on Raw. Period. Good call, King Bookah.

The rest of TNA is in such a state of disarray that it isn’t even worth identifying too many others. Robert Roode was involved in the LONGEST go-nowhere feuds of any superstar ever and hasn’t risen above midcard guy. Kaz got the rocket strapped to his back and then got it snagged in Dustin Rhodes’s orbit and in ’08 could just be another missed opportunity. Kinda like James Storm. Or Chris Harris. Or the Murder City Machine Guns. Or Jay Lethal. Or Jimmy Rave. Or…you get the picture.

2008 could be the year that TNA wises up and relies on the talent on its roster to put on matches that outdo ROH instead of trying to recycle stories that floundered in the WWE and WCW. Will it happen? No chance in hell

The WWE in 2008 has an interesting dilemma to work through. John Cena was supposed to be front and center for the year, but his return doesn’t look like it’ll happen much before April. Until then, the WWE is dipping its big toe into the talent pool and seeing what happens. By the end of the year, the WWE needs to establish at least 2 new main eventers on RAW and two on Smackdown.

Starting at the top, we’ll kick off with Triple H. He’s getting yet another trip to the main event at Wrestlemania, and that’s fine considering he’s shown incredible restraint to not book himself in last year’s main event (despite being on the shelf). Yeah, the stupid rumors of his attitude seem to resurface, but considering he’s the heir apparent to the book, there’s little chance it’s all that true. Hunter is a main eventer, no question, but is he strong enough to still be a main event face? I would say yeah because he’s got enough cred to do the dorky humor promos and the intense promos that John Cena seemed to spit out yet the fans haven’t turned on Triple H yet. Best of all, as soon as they turn on him, boom!, heel turn.

Randy Orton is holding this title now because of the injury to John Cena. I have no doubt he was gonna wind up with the gold, but I’m sure the WWE envisioned him to be a transition champion from Cena to Cena. In 2008 he’ll be a top level heel…until Hunter turns.

Shawn Michaels hopefully won’t bury Mister Kennedy too bad and maybe will continue this newfound ability to make everyone he wrestles look incredible. In 2008 he doesn’t need the title but it’s good to know that if the WWE needs they can do HBK/HHH at Summerslam and still pull a good buyrate.

Jeff Hardy is finally getting his one and only shot at the main event. He has thusfar handled it well, but we all know he’s a flake, so who knows how long this will last? Thankfully, the WWE can bounce Hardy from the main event to the curtain jerking slot and the fans will still pop like crazy. I doubt that by the end of 2008 he’ll be the main event face he is (pretending to be) now.

Cena will come back with a vengeance and do his program with Orton before chasing for the gold. Once he’ll be back it’ll be like he never left and the fans will get bored. I’m sure he’ll be champ through year’s end.

Lashley seems pegged to come back as a monster heel, but he would need a serious mouthpiece to cover up the fact that he sounds like a small child. Maybe now is the time to put him back on Smackdown and let him be the youthful powerhouse face to challenge Edge.

Batista should probably ease into a heel turn around Mania to feud with Rey and could set up a nice Lashley/Batista match around Summerslam. Dave just can’t seem to carry Smackdown anymore as the #1 face, so why not freshen him up a bit?

Taker in ’08 will probably win the Rumble, go to Mania, win the gold and maybe lose it by putting someone over. Maybe Bobby? I think that if the WWE is serious about Lashley, let him beat the Undertaker and then let him feud with a heel Edge and a heel Batista. It’s sink or swim time for real for Bobby.

Speaking of which, Mister Kennedy needs to be a main event heel by the end of 2008 or it isn’t happening. Kennedy was the hottest heel in 2005 and now he’s in the same roster slot but with less heat. Hopefully his HBK feud will let management see that Kennedy is ready for the main event push he was due a year ago. By the end of 2008, hopefully he will have overtaken the position Orton holds now. Kennedy/Cena could be a great promo feud followed by a passable match that would kill Eric S.

Chris Jericho. Poor, poor Jericho. I said right before his return that he was screwed and he sure is. A JBL feud to start the year has all but killed his momentum. What could fix that? Maybe a Kennedy/Jericho feud to coast past Mania to allow both guys to trade verbal grenades for our amusement? By the end of 08, I think Chris might be back in the world of retirement.

MVP was my MVP of 2007 (lame? You bet!). Porter elevated every level of his game and his feud with Matt Hardy was my pick for feud of the year. When Matt comes back, we’ll FINALLY get the payoff match. Then Porter can move on to a nice feud with Rey or possibly Finlay.

Rey Mysterio is clearly the placeholder Rumble challenger for Edge and will probably wind up feuding with Batista for the mid part of 2008. Right around summer he can re-enter his feud with Porter or maybe even do a real feud with Edge. By the end of ’08 I’m sure the WWE will sell a lot of Rey masks without ever having to put the gold on him.

CM Punk is ECW. Unfortunately, ECW is the albatross around his neck. The WWE turned ECW into not only the home of misfit toys but also the home of Velocity castoffs. There is no one on ECW for Punk to really feud with, so maybe the draft will take him off the show and let him get into a real storyline for a real title. I’d love to see Punk/MVP or Punk/Kennedy or Punk/Hardy in 2008. The WWE could be making a fortune off of CM Punk, but as long as he’s on ECW he’s still looking like the #3 guy on a 2-man roster.

Matt Hardy may finally get his shot at a world title with another feud with Edge. Can he keep the momentum throughout 2008? Probably not. He’ll settle into the upper midcard slot he already occupies, but now when they move him up to the world title picture it won’t seem so jarring.

The WWE thankfully has somewhat deep rosters on RAW and Smackdown now, so barring injuries we should see a decent 2008. By year’s end, I would love to see MVP, Kennedy, Punk and Lashley firmly established as main eventers and maybe the WWE will start to trust the fans and challenge them with some new and exciting storylines. Will it happen? Meh. The WWE is too locked in the “don’t rock the boat” mentality that 08 will blend into 07 the way 07 blended into 06 and so on.

Whew, that is way too much writing. As always, comments are always welcome and encouraged at Send me your best of 2007 picks (for any categories) and what you think will happen in 2008 and next week I’ll post some of the best ones.

It’s the pancake breakfast, we do it every month.