Soul Coughing Comes to Dirty Danny’s Defense

Written by Adam Heimlich on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

true to
my nature to neglect to remind readers that the Festival of Lights is not even
a real Jewish holy day (too new), and that candles to compete with Christmas
is a lame American invention. It doesn’t take an intensive study in comparative
religion to figure out that decorating a tree is more fun than spinning a stupid
dreidel, and that even the corniest Christmas carol is a better song than "Hanukah
Oh Hanukah." I say, give Jewish kids the Torah or give ’em a fucking
break. The widely insinuated message that December is the month when people
of all faiths come together to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
is, actually, impossible to respond to without being a lameass (Kwanzaa, anyone?)
or a Grinch. (See if you can guess which category my personal favorite response
falls into. It goes: "He was not even one of the hundred greatest rabbis
of his decade.")

Now for those Christmas
lightings: The 100-foot one in Rockefeller Center gets lit on
Wednesday, and you can bet your figgy pudding the place’ll be packed. (12/1,
7 p.m., 50th St. betw. 5th & 6th Aves.) Lincoln Center is throwing
its switch on Friday, and they’re also going to have live jazz and Jamaican
drumming. The evening’s hosts will include the very promising duo of Telly
Monster and Ernest Borgnine. (12/3, 7 p.m., B’way & 63rd St.) The Washington
Square Park
tree is scheduled to illuminate on Tuesday, in a ceremony that
will include a parade to the nearby Loewe Theater for NYU’s annual
Holiday Sing. (12/7, 6 p.m., starting in the Park, 5th Ave. just below
8th St.; Loewe Theater is at 35 W. 4th St., near 6th Ave.) And Brooklyn Botanic
’s "Blooming Lights" are on nightly from Thursday until
Jan. 2, and include 33 different displays. (12/2-1/2/2000, 5:30-9 p.m.–last
entrance at 8:30–at 1000 Washington Ave. at Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn.)

Lights and guerrilla warfare
are, to be sure, the common threads between Christmas and Chanukah. The only
exception is that Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with guerrilla
warfare. But Dirty Danny Hellman’s struggle against litigation-mad
Ted Rall does! Soul Coughing, Girls Against Boys, Furious George
and the Hangdogs are like the freedom fighters of Chiapas and their corporate-rock
representatives. They are heroes for righteously defending Hellman against the
deranged bully Rall, whose frivolous lawsuit is a grave insult to every real
victim of an actual smear campaign. Rall’s childishly vindictive nature
will be his undoing–his public statements make perfectly clear that this
rabid dickwad’s true goal is revenge, not restitution–and the light
of justice will shine. Just like the flame in the Chanukah story, and the one
referred to in a dozen heavy-metal power ballads, it will burn on through the
night. Unlike those, though, this fire needs mad fuel, so buy a ticket for the
Free Dirty Danny Benefit and support Hellman’s legal defense. (Sat., 12/4,
at Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 533-2111, $15.)

Speaking of punk-rock guerrilla
freedom fighters, Fugazi is at the Roxy on Friday. (12/3, 515
W. 18th St., betw. 10th & 11th Aves., 645-5156.) Tickets for that show sold
out a long time ago, partly because they cost $5 and partly because there are
a lot more punk-rock guerrilla freedom fighters around here than New York
editor John Strausbaugh wants to know about. Curiously, opening for
Fugazi is a band reputed to be something else Strausbaugh doesn’t believe
exists: old guys who rock extremely hard. The Ex, they’re called,
and they’re Dutch. Daniel Blumin of WNYU and Roomtone Records told me that
the Ex’s live performance is so powerful it can even make college-rock
kids give up faith in their own wimpy bands. Those who’d like to witness
such a badly needed public service but are shut out of the Fugazi show will
have two more chances when the Ex play the Knitting Factory on Dec. 10
and 11. (That’s Fri. and Sat. of next week, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church
St. & B’way, 219-3006, $10.)

Still speaking of punk-rock
guerrilla freedom fighters, only this time sarcastically, Rage Against the
will be flattering their tantrum-prone suburban audience at the
Nassau Coliseum on the very same night Fugazi’s at the Roxy. (12/3,
with Gang Starr, 1255 Hempstead Tpk., Uniondale, 516-794-9300, $23.50.) This
coincidence will spark an outpouring of arch humor in the local music press,
as faux-radical sellouts try to convince readers that exposing people as faux-radical
sellouts is passe. I haven’t been a big Fugazi fan since Repeater,
but the way the band affirms the possibility of real dissent–simply by
continuing to burn through the night–is about as Heimytown as it gets.
(Yet another punk-revolution moment on Saturday night: Brooklyn Babylon Cinema
presents a midnight screening of the classic 1981 concert film Urgh!
A Music War
at 57 Jay St., two blocks down the hill from the York St.
F station, 718-670-3719, admission free if you bring some footage of your own
to show.)

Still speaking of
tantrum-prone guerrilla types, Sen. John McCain will be interviewed onstage
Sunday night at the 92nd St. Y. Limousine Liberals’ favorite Republican
presidential candidate knows how to play the uptown crowd, but I bet a few in
the Y audience will be onto McCain’s bullshit (Keating Five implication,
bogus campaign-finance "reform," disingenuous tobacco bill), making
for an interesting evening. (12/5, 7:30 p.m., 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St.,
996-1100, $26.) The other high-profile speaking engagement this week is Tom
’s, Tuesday at St. Luke’s School. The NBC anchorman
might offer previews of his forthcoming followup to The Greatest Generation,
which will be called The Greatest Generation Speaks. I’m waiting
for the one where the Greatest Generation eats a puzzle piece and has to go
to the hospital. (12/7, 7:30 p.m., 487 Hudson St., betw. Christopher & Barrow
Sts., 924-5960, $20.)

A few more underdog heroes
and modern-day Maccabees, and then we’ll forget the holidays and get to
the art: Our friends Last of the Juanitas will deliver a set of mostly
instrumental metal as part of the Monday-night free series at the Cooler.
(12/6, 416 W. 14th St., betw. 9th Ave. & Washington St., 645-5189, free.)
On Tuesday, trips to Bhutan, Mongolia and Nepal, tickets to next year’s
Grammys plus antiques, jewelry and "celebrity items" will be auctioned
off to benefit Tibet House. It’s a Sotheby’s event hosted by
Philip Glass, Ethan and Uma. (12/7, 6:30 p.m., 1334 York Ave. at 72nd
St., 807-0563, $100 adm., $75 kids under 35.)

The "Miracle
on Madison
" carnival is Sunday afternoon along Madison Ave. from 57th
to 79th Sts.–every store along that stretch will donate 20 percent of the
day’s take to the Children’s Aid Society. And charitable Film Forum
presents a double feature of The Wild One and Easy
on Friday and Saturday, right across the hall from where James
Marsh’s Wisconsin Death Trip is showing through Dec. 14.
(209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.) See Jim Knipfel’s
article in this issue for what you need to know about that one.

Strausbaugh weighs in:
"Some fine-sounding chamber music concerts are going on this week. Two
are at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre: On Wednesday, the New
York Woodwind Quintet
and others perform works by the late Ben Weber to
commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, and premiere new tribute pieces
by composers including Ned Rorem and Milton Babbitt. Then on Friday, the Miller
hosts the avantish FLUX String Quartet in what should be a coltish concert
of lively works by John Zorn, Ornette Coleman and Conlon Nancarrow. (12/1 &
12/3, 8 p.m., B’way at 116th St., 854-7799.)

"Also, in what may
be the most idiosyncratic concert space in town–the faux-Egyptian Temple
of Dendur hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art–flautist Paula
Robison, pianist Kenneth Cooper and Chamber Orchestra are going for pure
fun and frills in a concert called ‘Mozart and the Italians,’ the
latter being Rossini, Donizetti, Paisiello and Cimarosa. Given all the expanses
of glass, stone and rippling water in the cavernous room, the sound isn’t
nearly as good as in the acoustically warm wood-paneled auditorium down the
hall–but visually, the setting’s a riot. If the music gets dull you
can just let your eyes and your mind wander. You get two chances to check it
out–Friday and Saturday, both at 7 p.m. (12/3 & 12/4, 1000 5th Ave.
at 82nd St., 570-3949.)

"And on a completely
different note, our pal Steve Bonge–motorcycle customizer, movie actor
and photographer–celebrates the 30th birthday of the New York City chapter
with an exhibition called ‘Hells Angels, New York City,’ opening
Friday, 6-9, at Greeley Square Gallery. Along with Bonge’s photos,
a selection of club memorabilia will be displayed. It’s only up for a week,
Dec. 3-9. (32 W. 31st St., 2nd fl., 868-6610.)

Lastly, there’s a
screening of Election with the cowriter present, Sunday at the
American Museum of the Moving Image. It’s one measure of this 1999
film’s greatness that New York Press critics Armond White and J.R.
Taylor both found it to be a parable conveying their own, diametrically opposed
political opinions. Other reasons to see Election include the most devastating
and hilarious attack on Generation X ever leveled–via Matthew Broderick’s
Ferris-Bueller-10-years-later character–and Reese Witherspoon’s nuanced
portrayal of a complex teenager every one of her hot-young-actress peers would
have played as one-dimensional. Jim Taylor, who wrote the Election
screenplay with director Alexander Payne, will speak after the 2 p.m. screening;
the museum’s teen film series concludes at 5 with Richard Linklater’s
artfully anthropological Dazed and Confused. (12/5, 35th Ave.
at 36th St., Astoria, 718-784-0077.)

Free Dirty Danny! (And
Happy Chanukah.)