Entertainment

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Bootz & Katz is a three-man band of Mercer students, senior Dixon Cassara and juniors, Ryan Walters and Michael Lirette. The group falls in the category of livetronica, a genre of music that mixes live musical elements, such as live guitar and drums, with a variety of electronic styles.

The band formed shortly after Cassara and Walters met in March of last year through Mercer’s chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. The two friends and fraternity brothers began to make music together, Cassara on bass and Walters on guitar.

After playing three or four shows as a pair they realized that something was missing. “We weren’t a band yet,” said Cassara, “we needed a drummer.”

They reached out to their friend, Lirette. Lirette, originally a guest artist for the band, became a full-time member. With that addition, the band changed to a new logo, even changing the spelling of its name from “Boots and Cats” to include a less conventional spelling, “Bootz & Katz.”

Lirette admits that the first time he sat in with the band as a guest artist in a performance it was a “complete disaster.” They learned through the experience, however, and were able to sort out “a lot of kinks.”

Not long after, the band performed together again, opening for Dopapod at The Hummingbird in downtown Macon. Lirette considers this one of his favorite performance experiences with the band, even though it was a short 25 minute set.

“We were super surprised by the support of our friends…we packed the Bird out,” said Walters.

The band plays a high energy show with a variety of music, producing all the music from scratch on the computer themselves, even designing the synthesizers and drums. The band creates the track used when performing live.

The band members agreed that it’s always a collaborative effort when producing original music. “It’s cool not being a singer-songwriter band,” said Cassara. The band enjoys playing its own music instead of having to play one person’s creations.

In addition to completely original songs, the band also produces edits, remixes, mashups and covers. “We never cover the same artist twice,” said Walters. They’ve covered artists including Nero, Bassnectar, A-Trak and Koan.

The band has a list of upcoming gigs on its facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BootzandKatzmusic/info and two shows during BearStock on April 12. The most recent gig was a performance for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The next step for the band is expanding its gigs outside of Macon, the first of those being a show in Milledgeville, Ga., on April 26. The band members are also busy “hitting the studio” and are planning to release their first single soon.

Walters said, “We’re going with the flow right now but we could see it continuing after college.” Cassara, plans to graduate this spring and continue playing with his bandmates, even if it has to be “on the side.”

“Noah” is just one of many “faith-based films” that Hollywood is churning out this year and is perhaps the most unique.

Director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Black Swan”) has a vision for this film that makes it closer to his previous filmography than the big-budget, large-studio release would seem to indicate. It creates an odd mash up of the eye-catching special effect event film that Hollywood is fond of and a more arthouse fare.

It is hard to say if it actually works, but it is so fascinating that it must been seen to be believed.

“Noah” is the story of one of the last good people on earth, chosen by the Creator to save the innocent animals from the flood that will destroy the evil of the world by building an ark. It is a well-known story in and out of religious circles.

What makes Aronofsky’s interpretation so fascinating is how he handles the source material. The story of Noah in Genesis does not go into great detail concerning the building of the ark, the gathering of animals and the time spent on the ark. Aronofsky fills in these gaps with giant rock creatures, a power-hungry king and family drama.

Rather than treating the story as history, Aronofsky instead treats it as any other text being adapted to the big screen. This allows a greater sense of freedom in explaining the in-betweens that are not touched upon in the text and creates a better sense of drama and suspense even for those familiar with the story.

There will certainly be people who call for the heads of everyone involved with the film, but it actually remains fairly accurate to what is in the text, only extrapolating things that are not found, save for the number of people on the ark.

Although marketed as a disaster film, it is the drama and internal conflict that Noah must deal with within himself and amongst his family that drives the film.

Noah (Russell Crowe) is not depicted as a perfect man, but one who wishes to follow the Creator’s instructions by any means necessary as he struggles with the guilt of being one of the few survivors in a massive tragedy.

He must overcome his own self-loathing and see that, although he is not sinless, there is more good than wickedness in him and his family.

Crowe has been hit-or-miss over the past few years, but he gives a fantastic performance, no doubt aided by a very strong supporting cast in Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins.

Although the effects were quite good and the performances mesmerizing, some people will simply not be able to get over the fact that this is a big-budget adaptation of a biblical text. Moreover, this is a big-budget adaptation of a biblical text that depicts evolution, giant rock people that fell from Heaven and a drunk, naked Noah.

It is actually quite astounding that the film was made, let alone that Paramount let Darren Aronofsky have his way with the final cut of the film.

It is not a perfect film by any means, sometimes delving a bit too deeply into the cliches of the disaster genre, but it is incredibly fascinating and worth viewing for the experience alone. Love it or hate it, “Noah” is memorable to say the least.

Mercer alumnus Ryan Kirkconnell, is an innovative musician and an unmistakable presence. Kirkconnell graduated from Mercer in spring 2013 with a degree in music education.

His distinctive deep and booming voice coupled with his ability to turn a brilliant phrase make for a promising product in his newest musical endeavour.

On April 14, Kirkconnell will be releasing his first EP titled “Cakewalk.” The EP consists of seven tracks of original rap songs. Kirkconnell compares his writing style to the parody and satire found in the creations of Weird Al Yankovic and The Lonely Island.

“Overall, my goal as a rapper has been to create humorous works by combining elements of gangster rap with non-gangster source material,” said Kirkconnell.

Catering to a wide audience, he said, “I’ve done my best to make sure that my work … won’t go ‘stale’ in the near future, a problem I see with parody music involving current trends or politics, etc.”

The main aspect of his music that sets it apart from other similar songs is the influence of classical music history, which is evident in two of the tracks on the EP.

“Those who have no background knowledge of that sort may find those tracks a bit esoteric, but I’m hoping that they’ll find them somewhat informative and nonetheless enjoyable,” said Kirkconnell. His favorite track from the album, “I’ll be Bach,” alludes to the famous 17th century composer Johann Sebastian Bach while simultaneously making a pun on a “Terminator” quote.

The creation of the EP was a result of collaboration with a small number of people. One track, about writing a term paper, features two of his friends. All the lyrics were written by Kirkconnell, with the exception of a few interjections. The title track, “Cakewalk,” features current Mercer senior and percussion performance major, Andrew Bennett, playing bongo drums.

The rest of the music was composed solely by Kirkconnell or as a collaboration between him and Joey Stuckey, owner of Shadow Sound Studio in downtown Macon. Stuckey was a key player in the production of the EP.

Kirkconnell is open-minded about the possibility of a second album, but otherwise he encourages interested listeners to find and subscribe to his YouTube channel.

There will be a release party for “Cakewalk” on April 14 from 6-8 p.m. at Shadow Sound Studio, 473 3rd St. It is open to the public and will feature free studio tours, free food, and a live performance from Kirkconnell. iTunes download codes will be sold with CD sized album art stickers for $8. 10 percent of those sales will go to Mercer’s chapter of the music fraternity, Mu Phi Epsilon.

It’s a rarity to find an artist who also spends their days helping design life-changing devices as a biomedical engineer. Yet that is exactly how third-year biomedical engineering student and art minor Monique Demers spends her time.

Demers, who came to Mercer from Barre, Vt., is a rare type of student. The average engineering student does not have the mindset to also study art, and due to time commitment, would not try to study both simultaneously. This is because an art minor is not the easy undertaking many seem to think it is.

“In a lot of ways, art is more challenging than engineering,” said Demers, “especially if you’re in an art class because you have to be constantly inspired and be producing art that is of excellent quality. It really takes its toll on you.”

As an artist, Demers specializes in graphic and charcoal works, though she has studied acrylic, oil and water based painting, as well as sculpture and photography.

“I like the simplicity of charcoal,” said Demers, “I like how it’s possible to create wonderful art without traditional colors.”

Demers went on to explain what art meant to her as an engineering student. “It’s an escape. Art to me is really fun and relaxing…when you’re in an art class it’s like having several hours of forced meditation per week. You’re not stressing over your other classes, you’re not worried about the other work you have to do, you are simply focused on whatever piece of art you are creating,” said Demers.

She first discovered her passion for art in the second grade, when the son of her school’s principal complimented a work she had completed in art class. By fourth grade, Demers had her very own art tutor and by the end of high school had taken every art class available.

As a student at Mercer, Demers has succeeded both as an engineer and as an art student. During her freshman year, she received an honorable mention in the university’s annual student art show.

During her second year, she was awarded first place for a sculpture she submitted to the show. Meanwhile, as an engineer, Demers traveled to Vietnam through Mercer on Mission and helped fit prosthetics to many of the local amputees. She described the trip as a “life-changing experience.”

Asked what she rates as her favorite work she has completed, Demers described the current favorite completed work, the charcoal piece that earned her an honorable mention in her freshman year.

“It’s a pair of hands that are held up to the sky, with one hand grasping the other forearm. They are placed on a black background. I really like the contrast,” said Demers.

However, Demers claims that the idea for the piece came to her at the last minute and shortly before the project’s deadline.

It would seem that inspiration is not something one can expect to happen with any regularity, but is one of those things one must trust when it comes along. Hopefully, Demers’ sense of inspiration will continue to serve her well in the future, both as an artist and an engineer.

College is the prime time for young adults to travel and explore. Proper tunes are necessary to accompany road trips and set the mood for such adventures. Each person is entitled to their own individual preferences. With spring break excursions fresh in Mercer students’ minds, it can generally be agreed upon that the key to any good road trip is music.  The sun is shining, the windows are down, and you are cruising down the highway. There are songs that can make the moment perfect.

Radio roulette can always be an entertaining substitute for a pre-planned playlist. Depending on the distance of your trek, the constantly changing radio stations provide a variety of songs from groovy gospel tunes to peppy mariachi music.

But there are certain songs that speak to the young and wild hearts of college students.

For you country fanatics, the newest tune that resonates with this editor’s wanderlust is Lady Antebellum’s “Compass.” The energetic instrumental introduction draws the listener in immediately and was perfect for kickstarting a spontaneous trip to Tybee.

If you have no appreciation for country music (each to his own), then maybe you are up for some classic oldies tunes. You can never go wrong with Elvis Presley or The Beatles, and no car ride is complete without a personal rendition of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” And despite obvious cliches, blasting the Beach Boys album “Sights and Sounds of Summer” is a perfect soundtrack for a trip down to Panama or Hilton Head.

If oldies aren’t your jam, this generation of college students can certainly appreciate music from their own decade. ‘90s hits from artists such as R.E.M., U2, Green Day and even the iconic boy bands such as ‘N Sync or Backstreet Boys, are sure to set the mood for any college road trip.

 

WWBD: What would Bach do?

Recital etiquette for the music enthusiast

Ever wondered if you’re “that guy” in a concert or theater performance? The person that doesn’t exactly know what to wear, when to leave or needs a general lesson in audience etiquette? We’ve all noticed those people. A few simple rules for audience etiquette follow. Hopefully next time you won’t feel out of place at a Mercer Music performance.

The first things to consider are decisions that should be made well before the performance begins, the main one being appropriate dress. This can change frequently from performance to performance depending on the venue and artist. If you’re attending a concert downtown, you more likely will not dress like you would for the opera. However, if you are going to be attending the opera or a theater performance you should dress more formally than if you were going downtown, for example to the Hummingbird. More formal programs can differ in dress as well, for instance attending a Mercer Opera performance you’d be safe in your “Sunday best” or business casual. However, if you plan on attending a professional Atlanta opera production you’ll want to be closer to semi-formal attire. The best advice is that, when in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Another recital rule of thumb is to arrive on time. However, in the world of theater performances 15 minutes early, on average, is considered “on time.” If you’re arriving right on time, you’re late. This rule will help determine when you’ll need to leave your house. It’s always a good idea to plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early to allow for any traffic or unwarranted delays you may experience. As an audience member you should always plan to be seated in time for the performance to begin.

Appropriate times to clap and leave the performance are commonly the same. Recitals and classical performance pieces are often grouped into sections; these are what are commonly seen in programs held in Fickling Hall by the Townsend School of Music. Audience members are expected to clap at the end of each section of pieces, though not necessarily after each piece, because it can cause the concert to last a little longer than intended. If you need to leave the concert or recital for any reason, it is best if you leave while the audience is clapping as not to draw attention to yourself. During the performance it is polite to remain seated unless absolutely necessary. You should never leave while a piece is being performed as it is rude to those watching, as well as the performer. In theater performances the best time to leave, as well as clap, is intermission. However, if you have to leave before intermission for any reason you should try to make it during a set or scene change so you do not break the concentration of the audience or actors.

These are a few simple rules that should be followed to ensure the audience and performers enjoy the performance. Cell phones should not be brought into venues such as concert halls and theaters, however more casual concert venues are exceptions to this rule. Food or drink is allowed at the venue’s discretion, but be aware of your fellow audience members. It’s not polite to leave during the middle of a performance and should be avoided if at all possible. Dress for the specific occasion. Most decisions can be made on a performance to performance basis. As an audience member, always try your best to be polite to those around you as well the artists onstage.

Everything is awesome as luck would have it. “The Lego Movie,” directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is a mix of computer generation and stop motion animation that takes the creativity and fun of Legos and puts it into cinematic form.

“The Lego Movie” follows Emmett (Chris Pratt), an ordinary Lego minifigure who learns he is the “special,” a chosen one who will stop Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the entire universe. Emmett is joined by heroine Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Batman (Will Arnett) of all people. Actors Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are just a few of the stars who round out this loaded cast.

The plot is extremely generic, resorting to every cliche found in the hero’s journey. However, like the generic plain Lego blocks that make up a playset, it is what Lord and Miller do with those elements that make the film exciting, hilarious and just plain fun. The movie makes fun of the cliched family film as much as it celebrates it.

It is hard to describe what makes “The Lego Movie” work as well as it does. When viewed among other toy based movies like “Battleship” and “Transformers,” the film should be dead on arrival. Instead, it overcomes the popular toy cash-in stigma and pokes fun at cliche while creating a unique and immersive world. Children will love the bright images, humor and memorable characters. Adults will also enjoy these things, including several more mature jokes that are sure to go over most kids’ heads, and a sentimental look at children’s playthings that never feels too overwrought.

Perhaps most impressive is the animation. While mostly computer generated, the film looks to have been animated in stop motion. Every single Lego piece used is a real piece that can be found in the various playsets, lending an air of authenticity that what you are watching could be played out on your living room floor. Even particle effects like fire and water are made of small lego pieces, further enriching the experience. Couple that with some impressive 3-D that makes the characters and settings come alive in a diorama-fashion, and you have a film that brings little plastic people to life in a way that has not been seen since “Toy Story 3.”

If you ever had a childhood or played with Legos, this film cannot be recommended enough. Most of the fun is seeing what Leog franchise character will show up next. What other movie has characters from “Harry Potter,” “The Simpsons” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in it? In a sense, this almost becomes the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” for the current college generation. Add a catchy theme song like “Everything is Awesome” (guaranteed to stay in your head as you leave the theater) and you have a bonafide experience on your hands. The only downside is that when the movie does end, you will realize that you are not 10 years old anymore. Then again, you are never too old to play with Legos, nor are you too old to enjoy what will go down as one of the best animated films in a very long time. They may not make animation like they used to, but if this is where we are heading that might not be a bad thing.

Next fall, Mercer’s Townsend School of Music will potentially welcome the largest incoming class in its history. Currently 66 prospective students have auditioned with additional auditions to take place in the next few weeks. With this influx of potential Mercer musicians, there are several factors contributing to the increased numbers. One major influencer is the growth of Mercer’s recognition in athletics. With a record-breaking season for football and the recent success at the A-Sun championship, the familiarity of Mercer’s name has had positive effects for recruitment. Townsend students specifically have also made a name for their school. The instrumental program tied for the most students in the All-College Band for the Georgia Music Educator’s Association. Students in the voice department have placed winners at the National Association for Teachers of Singing annual vocal competition. The organ department includes winners at the American Guild of Organists competition. McDuffie Center for Strings students have placed in and won a variety of national and international competitions. Townsend also received a significant amount of publicity for the nation-wide broadcast of “A Grand Mercer Christmas,” which successfully represented the abilities of Mercer musicians. The deadline for prospective students to commit to the school is May 1. Dr. David Keith, dean of Townsend School of Music, said, “Most of the students that we are attracting are excellent performers who are trying to decide between Mercer and other peer institutions.” He explained that college selection is an important process. “All schools are unique and there are many good institutions that will provide a great place for students to improve their musical skills. However, it must be the right fit,” said Keith. Townsend has its own unique qualities to offer prospective music majors. This includes smaller class sizes, one-on-one mentoring, a faculty that genuinely cares about the students and seeks to hold them accountable, outstanding performance opportunities in wind ensemble, jazz, choir, opera and orchestra, a comprehensive educational program, and a state-of-the-art building and an accoustically intimate performance space (Fickling Hall). “I’m sure there are others, but this is what I speak to parents and prospective students about what makes Mercer different.  I use the phrase ‘Music Matters at Mercer,’” said Keith.

Excitement for the potential growth is coupled with a desire to maintain quality of experience as well as level of student performance standards. Both Townsend faculty and students are recruiting and building up the reputation of TSM’s quality musical education.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that are in front of us and I’m grateful for the support of the administration, the office of admissions, faculty and students that are working extremely hard to show that ‘Music Matters at Mercer,’” said Keith.

 

If you haven’t seen Katie Elliot running around the music building, always with a smile on her face, you’ve probably heard her signature booming laugh. She’s one of those rare people who will take the time to stop and say hello, even if she’s in a hurry. If you’re not fortunate enough to have made her acquaintance, you’ll probably recognize her from one of her stellar performances with the Mercer Opera.

Elliot is currently a senior, and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in voice with a minor in theatre. A Macon native, she was first attracted to Mercer when she started taking voice lessons during her senior year of high school and her voice teacher, a Mercer alumna, encouraged her to audition. Although music has always been a significant part of Elliot’s life, her involvement in marching band and musical theater during high school were what really solidified her passion for the performing arts. “They helped me connect my leadership skills and musical talent, and showed me that music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Elliot.

Elliot is inspired by her friends and their successes in the arts, and seeing them push themselves to achieve their goals motivates her to work even harder to reach her own. Her greatest role model is her voice teacher, Marie Roberts. “She is the best thing that ever happened to me at Mercer. Roberts is not only an incredible voice teacher, she is also a wonderful mentor and guide in all aspects of life. I could not be more thankful that I could be a part of her studio,” said Elliot

During her opera career at Mercer, Elliot has brought a wide range of characters to life through her performances in the various Mercer Opera productions. Her favorite role to date was the Third Lady in the recent production of “The Magic Flute.” Elliot is committed to exploring and developing the characters that she portrays, and has a very meticulous approach with regard to this aspect of her performance. “The first step for me is research. I try to find information about the composer and/or playwright and their other works. I then read a synopsis of the show to get a feel for what happens and where my character fits in. I read the script, and if the show is a musical or opera I try and find a recording or video of it,” said Elliot. “It’s very important for me to read the script before listening or watching anything so that I can think of my character on my own without being influenced by another performance. I then ask myself: What motivates the character? Who exactly are they? Are they similar to myself in any way? The rest usually happens in rehearsal with the director.”

Elliot’s senior recital will be held on Monday, March 24 at 5:30 p.m., and she will also be singing in Mercer Opera’s one act productions from April 3-5 at 7:30 p.m. and April 6 at 2:30 p.m. All of these performances will take place in Fickling Hall at the McCorkle Music Building and are open to the public. This is one Mercer artist you definitely don’t want to miss.

The fourth midseason finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” left fans asking “So…What now?”

Season four returned to using walkers as a force of nature, unlike seasons two and three, which featured humans using walkers as tools and bioweapons. Many fans pointed out that walkers had become a mere background rather than a central character of the show. Season four was quite the aboutface — during the first half of season four, walker conflict was at an all-time high.

The devastation brought to Rick’s group of survivors at the prison is complete; the Governor’s tank-backed army destroyed every advantage the prison-shelter offered: food, shelter and security.

Episode nine of season four began in the aftermath of the battle; living combatants on both sides of the conflict have run away to escape the walker horde attracted by the sounds of battle.

As much as Sheriff-turned-farmer Rick Grime tried, he couldn’t recreate the life that was before apocalypse. Even more devastating, he couldn’t keep his son, Carl, from growing up in zombieland.

One of my friends frankly encapsulated episode nine, “It’s like Carl went through puberty all at once.”

Rick is truly at his weakest point in the series. He are Carl are on the run from the ruins of the prison and he is still recovering from a fierce fistfight and a bullet wound to the leg. He didn’t even have the strength to defend himself against a single walker and Carl no longer trusts his own father to be the leader of their duo.

Rick tries to reassure Carl, “Hey, We’re gonna be…” Rick can’t bring himself to sentence finish.

Carl spends most of the episode skirting around his father’s weakened authority. Carl is reckless for the sake of defiance against Rick. Carl blames Rick for the death of baby Judith and his mother, Lori, and the loss of the prison camp.

Even with all the hate welling inside Carl, he still fears his father. Carl can only bring himself to confront Rick after he slips into a coma.

“I still know how to survive, lucky for us. I don’t need you. You’re nothing. I’d be fine if you died.”

He’s trying so hard to be a real man, to be resourceful and cunning just like his father used to be. He sets off to find supplies, but settles for eating a large tin of pudding on the roof of a house, blissfully ignoring the zombie that moments before almost succeeded in killing him.

Carl can’t decide if he wants be a man or a child.

Later in the evening, Carl is confronted by the possibility that Rick died in his sleep and has turned into a zombie. Carl readies Rick’s own revolver, to put him down, but gives up. Even as a shell of a man, Rick Grimes is still daunting to Carl.

Rick wakes up and Carl breaks down sobbing. He’s ready to be the weak child his father wanted him to be. He wants his father to protect him and nurture him.

No matter. Rick, in a sudden bout of lucidity, becomes aware of his mortality.

“You’re a man. You’re a man, Carl,” said Rick. “I’m sorry.”

Rick knows he can’t be always be there for his son and makes it painfully clear.

Episode 10 of season four wasn’t nearly the tour de force of episode nine.  The episode served mainly to show that most of the main cast are in fact alive, but fragmented across the Georgia wilderness.

Episode 10 did introduce three interesting elements: the hope of sanctuary at a place called Terminus; the return of the exile, Carol; and the mysterious character, Abraham Ford.

The history-savvy among us know that Terminus was a moniker used for Atlanta, which was overrun with walkers at the end of season one. Could a portion of it have been reclaimed? Nonetheless, the name is a bit ominous.

Carol was exiled for killing Karen and David, even if she did it with the intention of preventing the spread of disease. Some fans speculate that Carol took the rap for 12-year-old Lizzie. Lizzie’s on-screen actions are getting darker by the episode.

I won’t taint your viewing experience with recounts of the Walking Dead comic books, but I can say that Abraham, albeit friendly, will be a serious threat to Rick’s authority over the group of survivors.