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House of Tudor 

A rap-war documentary, the old new wave, and Gypsy-fied French noir

Wednesday, Sep 18 2002
In Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt & Courtney, Ms. Love is portrayed as a greedy, manipulative, vicious, untalented bulldozer of a woman who will threaten anyone who stands in her pathway to bigger cars and smaller noses. It's great fun to imagine Love being as dangerous as she thinks she is, but in the end, all the rumors, threats, and hysteria fade like high school dramatics. Never once do we believe Broomfield is actually risking anything more than a lawsuit. Not so with his latest documentary. In watching Biggie & Tupac it is almost impossible not to physically cringe in the face of the English director's seemingly foolhardy naiveté (or his inability to pronounce Tupac), but beyond all the characteristic shenanigans -- absent-mindedly speeding through red lights, deriding lawyers, paying interviewees, running out of film, and feigning blind ignorance in order to wheedle unguarded remarks -- Broomfield actually displays something akin to courage in trying to tie Death Row Records head Suge Knight to the shooting deaths of bicoastal rap rivals Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Of course, Broomfield's crew does not always exhibit the same pluck. During an unannounced and unwelcome prison visit with Knight -- just one of many nerve-racking moments in the movie -- Broomfield's cameraman finally gets cold feet, leaving the director to run the interview and the camera. From the look and sound of the footage, you might guess Broomfield had never seen such a contraption, but, predictably, that fact only serves to increase the tension. There is little doubt that the frequent on-screen presence of Smalls' mother, and the conspicuous absence of Shakur's, reeks of bias by convenience, but the interviews Broomfield has gathered -- including former members of the LAPD and hesitant players from both sides of hip hop's national divide -- are compelling nonetheless. Any way you slice it, there are gonna be some pissed off gangsters when Biggie & Tupac opens Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Roxie Cinema (3117 16th St. at Valencia) with screenings at 2, 4:30, 7, and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 863-1087 or visit for additional show times (it continues through Oct. 8).

When "New Wave City" began 10 years ago, new wave was not retro and "New Wave City" was not cool. The club night was the happy stomping ground of the "Friends of Numan," those progressive graduates from the Class of 1984 who were unabashed in their adulation of Gary Numan and unashamed of their want for a musical time capsule in which to admire their treasures. Sure, the bachelorette parties came and went, along with the men who follow such flocks, but luckily these groups could never go the full duration. They might have a couple of shots and bounce around to Adam Ant, but they couldn't really fathom the darkness and depth of Joy Division, the power of Kraftwerk, the aggressive pep of the Buzzcocks, the necessity of the Ramones, or the pure absurdity of Soft Cell. Now, there's a whole new crop of people interested in broad stripes and pointy shoes, those lovers and creators of the "newest wave" who claim a lifelong allegiance to Depeche Mode, Human League, Duran Duran, and Haircut 100, but the poof is in the padding, you might say. When this new new wave has crested and crashed, rest assured "New Wave City" will still be standing, the bastion of all that was danceable from the '70s and '80s. Happy birthday, you wacky kids. "New Wave City" celebrates 10 years on Friday, Sept. 20, at Space 550 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 675-LOVE.

Led by Dean Pean, a scraggly, barefoot, melodica-playing troubadour with a voice as thick as Serge Gainsbourg's beard on day four, Lo'Jo carries the smoky savoir-faire of French ballad-noir into the realm of Gypsy camps, African drum circles, East Indian mountain ranges, and Caribbean cookouts. Since 1982, more than 300 musicians have contributed to the core sextet's sound, offering instruments such as the obus (a World War I bombshell used in similar fashion to a Tibetan bowl), orgue à soufflet (something similar to an Indian harmonium), boîte à son (a wooden "sound box" equipped with a microphone that is worn over the head of a singer who manipulates various effects), panier (a willow basket containing grains that resonate when shaken), and cristal baschet (a rack of crystal tubes rubbed with moistened fingers and amplified by metal cones), all of which have been incorporated into Lo'Jo's vast, passionate sound.

Every year, the group joins forces with the Tuareg rebel guitar band Tinariwen to produce the movable Le Festival au Désert. Next January, the roving conglomeration of circus performers, actors, pyrotechnicians, street performers, painters, cabaret singers, and musicians will fill up a desolate expanse of sand somewhere outside of Timbuktu. Until then, you may enjoy Lo'Jo at the terribly exotic Fairfax World Music Festival, which features more than 30 groups, including Morocco's Hassan Hakmoun, France's Les Yeux Noir, Jamaica's Don Carlos, Congo's Ricardo Lemvo, and Cuba's Makina Loca, as well as familiar U.S. transplants like Shabaz, West African Highlife Band, and Sister Carol. Lo'Jo performs at the Fairfax World Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22, at 4:30 p.m. in Fairfax Park (down Sir Francis Drake, you can't miss it). Admission is $35 each day, but you'll be able to hear the music for free anywhere in Fairfax; visit www. for directions and a complete schedule.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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