<p>J.J. Abrams</p>

J.J. Abrams

Credit: AP Photo

J.J. Abrams talks 'Super 8' inspiration, '70s rock and Area 51

The man really, really doesn't like wearing a suit

At the "Super 8" preview in Manhattan last night, J.J. Abrams made it abundantly clear that he's not really a suit-and-tie guy. After a flattering introduction from Paramount mega-brass Brad Grey, the "Star Trek" revitalizer plucked confidently at his black suit collar, shaking his head and the quasi-formality of the "road show"event. That was right before he dropped the f-bomb a half a dozen times.

When I asked Abrams during the reception why the stop-off was scheduled for New York and not L.A., he laughed. "What, did I not dress the part?"

Aside from the wardrobe compunction, the director/writer/producer displayed a sense of ease during the event, and after the extraordinary sneak-peak, there's no reason for him to feel otherwise. With Steven Spielberg on board as producer, "Super 8" has the elements of wide-eye mystery and the promise of intimidating creatures of "Cloverfield" capacity, all through the lens of middle school-aged kids and small-town folk. (Heck, and the "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" looked fun, too.)

Check out my full thoughts on the footage here.

Abrams met Spielberg back when he was but a teen, working with collaborator Matt Reeves on Super 8 films. They in one way or another got roped into restoring the "E.T." director's early 8mm clips "Firelight" and "Escape to Nowhere." Fast-forward a couple dozen years, and Abrams found himself ultimately pitching Spielberg on "Super 8," the coming together of two different ideas.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa</p>

Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa

Listen: Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa's 'Weed Iz Mine' from 'High School' flick

Future stoner film collaboration is smokin'

It was inevitable that Snoop would star in his own stoner comedy. So it will be so. The hip-hop vet has linked with rising Wiz Khalifa, for the flick, dubbed "High School," a title which itself has been puffed and passed around.

Naturally, the two will be releasing a collaboration soundtrack to the effort. No word when an actual drop date is, though efforts are obviously under way.

Below is a stream of "The Weed Iz Mine," which bums it's title off of "The Boy Is Mine" and "The Girl Is Mine." If you're gonna be like that, then nobody gets the weed/boy/girl, OK kids?

Khalifa told Rolling Stone that "High School" is "about pot, of course... But it’s about me and [Snoop's] relationship, spin-off of us being cool in the industry, smoking a lot of weed, and being around a lot of weed. We’re going to try to have fun with it and also try to enlighten people at the same time, not just get everybody high."

Just transcribing that sentence got me high.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>From Rise Against's &quot;Help Is on the Way&quot;</p>

From Rise Against's "Help Is on the Way"

Watch: Rise Against reveals compelling 'Help Is on the Way' music video

Footage from Hurricane Katrina doesn't fail to inspire, remember

This week Rise Against celebrates a No. 2 start of "Endgame" on The Billboard 200, but also remembers with solemnity a fearful part of American history.

The music video to "Help Is on the Way" follows the general lyrical thread of the single, featuring a family struggling with the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina over a day during the disaster.

"Directed by the esteemed Alan Ferguson, our film crew went to New Orleans and filmed what became a dramatic and compelling narrative of Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a family. As a band, we opted out of being a part of the piece for fear our role might diminish the importance of this video and skew it's reception. What follows is another video we are proud to put our name on," reads a statement on the punk-inspired rock act's website.

The story is simple and simply told, a poor family pushed up through its home as the waters rise, after the levees break. They pray for rescue and flip through their own family history as dead bodies float in the water and other stragglers seek refuge on their roof. Rise Against leave it off with a message to encourage donations.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Rebecca Black: black &quot;Friday&quot; indeed</p>

Rebecca Black: black "Friday" indeed

Rebecca Black's 'Friday' and the spoils of our dumb internet

SXSW couch-surfing and inane cornballing: We did this to ourselves

I've quipped this before, but in the future there will be courses in college devoted to Internet Classics. One man's "Shreds" is another man's "The End of the World," is another man's "Shrimp Running on a Treadmill with the Benny Hill Theme," and only time will tell which intentionally funny clips will remain embedded in our short little attention spans long enough to make it into the canon.

Of the unintentionally hilarious front , we've just added Rebecca Black to the 101 coursework. In less than a month -- and mostly over the past week -- her "Friday" video has logged more than 36 million YouTube view (and good for the top of Melinda Newman's Power Rankings last week).

I don't need to go in much as to why "Friday" is funny, but it's worth talking about why it's sad.

Going beyond the fact that Black's mom paid a bunch of hacks $2,000 to pop out a pop turd and matching video, her family gets to line those pockets with even more padding. Forbes and Billboard have weighed in on the statistics, and it looks like digital sales of "Friday" could fetch $25,000 a week at this rate, moving around 43,000 units on Amazon and iTunes. The millions of YouTube views could be $20,000+.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Will Butler</p>

Will Butler

Arcade Fire's Will Butler fields 'Suburbs' film questions at SXSW

Multi-instrumentalist talks Spike Jonze and the gap of time between albums

AUSTIN -- For those who sought shelter from the heat and Spring Break insanity of 6th Street in Austin for South By Southwest, there was always the option of heading to the "Suburbs," inside a movie theater.

"Scenes from the Suburbs" -- the short film by Arcade Fire brothers Win and Will Butler and director Spike Jonze -- made its debut during the movie and music fest, included in a shorts program. The 30-minute clip mixed nostalgia, teenaged dreams and a city at war with other American cities.

The younger Butler was on hand to take questions about the clip, which he said sprung in part from an image that came to Jonze's head, of “kids riding around on BMX bikes with BB guns." It's a scene that opened up "Scenes," and an indicator of the interpersonal strife between friends that erupts later on. He said that he and band had really wanted to work with Jonze, and it all started with the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" music vid. Jonze had famously said that he was inspired by Arcade Fire as he developed "Where the Wild Things Are."

The multi-instrumentalist said that they recruited the young actors from Austin skate parks and schools, and allowed those new friendships to take their natural course over two weeks. The result are some silly and sincere riffing in the scenes. “When you have to shoot a scene with four teenagers in a car talking, it’s hard to get them to focus,” Butler explained. He and Win grew up in Texas, before making their way to Montreal.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: VEVO

Jay-Z joins Kanye West in ‘Beautiful, Dark’ fan-friendly SXSW finale

John Legend, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, marching band, emo on hand for un-Austin, late-night set

There’s no word yet when Kanye West and Jay-Z collaboration set “Watch the Throne” will finally drop for sure, but live, things are definitely underway. 

Hov met Ye around 2:30 a.m., the beginning of the end of the South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin. The get-together poised West and his G.O.O.D. label cohorts in a unique position, literally: West’s concert was hosted at an abandoned power plant on the edge of downtown, a private party apparently out of the bounds of the Texas capitol’s typical Saturday required closing hour.
The high, metal, rib-like rafters and white-washed stairwells were host to reverberations and modern Go-Go dancers, respectively, the G.O.O.D. festivities started well after midnight, then blasting ‘til 4,
West’s repertoire almost exclusively stuck to “My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy,” his self-reflective 2010 opus, and from opener “Dark Fantasy” to “So Apalled” each opening strain forced a couple thousand revelers to yowl. (The wee hour and the week’s general strain could’ve been a factor, too.)
Guest Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, showed no wear even after an appearance earlier in the day at Fader Fort with his old-old band DeYarmond Edison, with refreshing backing vocals on “Get Much Higher” and beautifully looping his famed “The Woods”/”Lost in the World” sample. Openers Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi and Kid Cudi were all around to aid on their particular spots.

[More after the jump...] 

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<p>Wu-Tang Clan at SXSW</p>

Wu-Tang Clan at SXSW

Credit: Village Voice

Wu-Tang Clan joined by Erykah Badu at rattling SXSW show

Yelawolf howls, Fishbone breaks and Austin's entire stash of pot

Gambino aka Donald Glover gets paid to talk, but he'd better watch what he says at his next high-caliber event: the rapper claimed that all hands were on deck for the Village Voice's South By Southwest show featuring Wu-Tang Clan, but at least three major names were missing from that legendary roster.

Not to bash on the bash: the legendary New York troupe made for one of the biggest names at the Austin festival, headlining music hall and sating hundreds of fans, cheeks rosy from sun, the great North American amateur hour known as St. Patrick's Day and Austin's entire armory of weed. It was Wu-Tang's night, but nothing feels as low as undelivered high expectations.

Yelawolf performed as though it was his, though, as he howled through a satiating set of Southern rap party anthems and laments. The 'bama native gradually worked his way through a knit cap, then his plaid, then his T-shirt to reveal his infamous canvas of tattoos, the script "Heart of Dixie" ironically and prominently featured on his stomach.

"F*ck that bitch," he spewed after sending some heat to the "Abercrombie-wearing" squares that always seem to land The Girl. "I just wanna party," then launching into the "Trunk Muzik 0-60" (Interscope) track of the same name and spitting with the speed that put him on Eminem's Shady Records' map.

And a word of advice, for that new major label future: to borrow from your yearbook, never change, stay the same and keep in touch. He picks up the dude-ish banner that Kid Rock left behind, with all the lightning-fast raw talent of pre-Bieber Luda, those Southern gents that took a good thing and made some money off of it. "Love Is Not Enough," "Daddy's Lambo" and "Good to Go" are enough to get fans laughing and wailing.

After was Fishbone, whose legacy of more than 25 years has caught up with them. Granted, where Yelawolf would throw his hands at the crowd, Angelo Moore would throw his entire person into the crowd, three times, surfing like it was ska's hey-day.

The funk/soul/reggae/rock troupe peaked with "Alcoholic" and "Everyday Sunshine" but with the increasing mania opted for the feel-good tunes than the socially-conscious. The setlist veered toward tracks like "Fat Chicks" and a cover of Sublime's "Date Rape," causing some second-guessing my own credibility in the fact that I knew every word.

One by one, enter the Wu. Starting on schedule (and on schedule, I mean an hour late and around 1 a.m.), U-God stepped out to a sea of Ws, fingers pointing up and a swirling crew of superfans hugging the barriers. Taking a cue from between-set DJs Eclectic Method, Wu-Tang pushed the big numbers, for about two minutes each from there on out.

Missing was RZA (check), Method Man (who's been nurturing his recent solo effort lately) and Raekwon, and I'd like to hear his excuse. But there were hot minutes of all big hits and some small, from "Bring Da Ruckus" to Ghostface's "Winter Warz" to Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode" and "As High As Wu-Tang Get" (with green lighting, natch). "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F*ck Wit" got its spare minutes, sending the stoned crowd into an elbowing frenzy before the horn sample sounded and Cappadonna came in with something that wasn't as fun.

What was fun was a cameo from Erykah Badu (who was on hand to DJ the after-hours), as she aided on "Chechez la Ghost."

Wu-Tang's appearance overall wasn't the "Triumph" that they sent everyone home on: they sounded like business and less like pleasure, perhaps fueled by the predilection that all nine weren't on hand. But they said hi to Method with "Method Man" tipped their hats to Nate Dogg and to the late Ol Dirty Bastard with "Shimmy Ya." They did the hits, which showfolk like Duran Duran (from Wednesday) have taught themselves to do: that repertoire, plus the given rapport with their die-hards, ain't nothing to f*ck with.

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<p>The Strokes at SXSW</p>

The Strokes at SXSW

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Plunkett

SXSW Music Day Two: Strokes stumble, Justin Timberlake's a Yelawolf fan

The Joy Formidable, The Antlers, Jeffrey Jerusalem and more from Austin

Day two at the South By Southwest Music Conference has finished and I am convinced that, were the truism "you are what you eat" a reality, I'd be a street meat edible of some sort, either a taco or a hot dog.

If I were in a band based on the mish-mash of music I consumed today (March 17), it'd be a mutt of dance-pop, hip-hop and droning guitar rock. Actually, I would have liked to feel more rocked, period, which was a job for The Strokes, who disappointed in many regards.

Free and open to the publc, the show was held away from the strip, and was instead at Auditorium Shore at Austin's Lady Bird Lake and it required a shuttle to get there. Many more than 20,000 people actually made the trek, but the capacity was apparently around that number and many were turned away. The result was hoards of people jumping and crashing the fence, climbing on top of port-o-potties to scale to the other side.

And their wiles were to a mixed end. I'm all for a dry, too-cool detachment from frontman Julian Casablancas, but there are times when that snotty attitude feels like a gift. He clearly was in no mood to be giving anyone anything at all on this warm Thursday night, nor was the rest of the band. Albert Hammond, Jr., would stalk about but only what looked like out of boredom. No thank you, no hey Austin, no funny asides about the sound troubles from the wind.

The setlist still borrowed heavily from The Strokes' first "Is This It," despite that their new album "Angles" is out in Tuesday. They played five of those tracks, including the deceivingly old-school "Under Cover of Darkness" and "You're So Right." And frankly, it's fine that it was that way: those first two records are hard to equal, and to be a fuddy-duddy in advance, I'm non-plussed by "Angles," which is streaming now in full on the band's website. Tracks like that first single were the rock act's winning formula, but those new wave and electro influences that plagued Casablancas' tiresome solo debut last year have segued into this fresh set, and the result is a multiple personality disorder.

Now, this was a first for me, to see more than even 10,000 revelers at a SXSW show, and the Strokes will be playing to arenas and festivals of more than that all summer. Songs like "Take It or Leave It," "Last Nite" and "You Only Live Once" still blaze, but this overall  anti-climactic combination of an uneven recorded effort and wet blanketed showmanship aren't good early omens.

I'll be pulling out my thoughts on the Village Voice showcase featuring Wu-Tang, Fishbone and Yelawolf separately, but I do want to point out that the schedule for this one ran behind -- which surprises me none, though the former headliner went up close to 1 a.m., an hour later than their slotted time. I felt primed and happy, though, even with the wait, due to the high-energy of Yelawolf, who has more than a few famous friends (um, Eminem anyone). One of these includes Justin Timberlake, who could be seen on the wings of Austin Music Hall's stage expanse.

The "Social Network" actor and musician has apparently been bumming around Austin even with the film conference over; he attended to help promote one of his new films, "Bad Teacher."

Another stand-out (and standalone) act of the day was The Antlers, performing their second show of the fest, but playing their forthcoming new album "Burst Apart," out in May. I'll be going more in depth on this one, too, but I will say off the tip that this performance beyond impressed me and has me looking forward to the recorded version. The Parish was cool and dark during this NPR day party, and many patrons exited looking sated -- perhaps the free PBR helped. Or they were still crushing on The Joy Formidable, who played before The Antlers. While these London-by-way-of-Wales pop-rockers don't make the kind of music that makes my usual rotation, they did manage to have a full room of hangover recoverers smiling and moving, and perhaps composing love letters to platinum siren Ritzy Bryan in their head. Great stage chemistry.

My day bowed with Alex Winston, whose "Sister Wife" I'd heard a few times last year and concluded that this New York-based singer can be rather cloying. Her eight-piece band battled the metal showcase next door, though, and her pure, showy voice pierced that conception, and even with her Stevie Nicksian ensemble, I felt endeared to her music much more than I did when I heard her mp3s. Color me impressed.

I had skip Hunx and his Punx because after about four minutes of that flailing and vamping I was feeling stabby.

Class Actress, who I've already highlighted, did their electronic best against the mid-day heat and the dust bowl conditions of Moby's Vegan BBQ at Cheer Up Charlies. They were followed by someone named Jeffrey Jerusalem, who played on a number of electric toys and threw down some slick, crisp and sensual original beats mixed with samples. For as tiny as the crowd was, he worked his ass off, bounded around with joy, and would have put those Strokes guys to shame.

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<p>Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran</p>

Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran

Credit: AP Photo

SXSW Music Day One: Michael Cera's band, Duran Duran (and Jon Hamm)

Parts & Labor, Sharon Van Etten, Okkervil River, Mister Heavenly, more from Austin

AUSTIN -- If my math is right, this marks my fourth visit to Austin for South By Southwest, but pacing will always remain a problem. With day parties kicking off at noon, I felt already behind by time I was off a plane and unloaded into a room by 3 p.m.

First stop included the eMusic party, with a straightfoward set from Ty Segall and then the Obits, whose volume and whiff of nostalgic rock singed the eyebrows off the first row. It was about this time that the Lone Star began to flow.

This is the part where I'd joke that if Michael Cera's band sounded anything like Michael Cera's acting, they'd only play one note. But Mister Heavenly was actually pretty decent. Nick Diamonds, fronter for Islands and formerly the Unicorns, sings just as loud and as well as Kings of Leon bro Caleb Followill. The Sub Pop-signed band is rounded out by Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Honus Honus from Man Man, who I love like no other.

Cera's on the docket on bass -- a hexagonal one at that, which has the sound to fill an arena. But the group, alas, was only at Emo's and had to gently tolerate screams from young girls whenever the flannel-shirted "Scott Pilgrim" actor showed anything other than a motionless bass-face.

Sam Amidon is a treasure.

Duran Duran are were hokey as hell, but they certainly are "Wild Boys." Opening with "View to a Kill," they really stepped up on "The Chaffeur," "Notorious" and, of course, "Hungry Like the Wolf." ""There's nothing you can say about the next song, is there?" Simon Le Bon smiled as he introduced the latter.

The line in was egregious and crowd skewed older, unsurprisingly, though at least one particular attendee brought some more esteem. Mad Man Jon Hamm was in queue in front of me after I dipped out of Stubb's, and he and girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt headed next door to Red Eyed Fly (for Pulled Apart By Horses or Pete and the Pirates?). The Bangles were in the house as well.

I caught next to nothing from Raphael Saadiq, but he is one good-looking man.

Meanwhile, I caught about an inch of Sharon Van Etten, who in the latter part of her set said, "I'd like to thank you all for not seeing Duran Duran tonight" Tough, Sharon, tough. Her album 2010 "Epic" has held up pretty well from last year, and in person, she doesn't try to overpower the room -- she becomes part of it. Her voice is easy going, slipping into high registers and floating like someone who's lived a charmed life. Check out "For You" and keep your eye out for her next effort, which is being produced by The National's Aaron Dessner.

My current favorite indie label trifecta (trio? triumvirate? trilogy?) of Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans and Jagjaguwar hosted their showcase at the two stages at Red 7 and really highlighted their somewhat diverse roster. I was able to catch a hot minute of 2010 album faves Small Black, who were far more dance-heavy of a live act than I thought they'd be.

Okkervil River has been carefully poised to get to that Next Level, with their last album "The Stand Ins" the most commercially successful so far. And if the numbers of fans pressing together in the concrete yard is any indication, there are plenty of fans willing to help get them there. Will Sheff's mouthfuls of lyrics were suddenly singalongs, the first ten rows gently bobbing and mouthing in tandem.

The frontman always looks like a Muppet to me as he sings, his big ol' mouth and mop of hair swinging easily and cartoonishly around the mic. I've liked what I've heard to the new one "I Am Very Far."

The same could be said for Parts & Labor's "Constant Future," out earlier this month. This loud band took the banner home for tonight's Best in Show, in my opinion, as they've honed their noisey nature down into a tight set that punctuates the hooks at times more than the recordings do. BJ Warshaw can really play the hell out of his instrument.

Last call is at 2 a.m. on a school night here. The gently sleeping couple of drunks that were posed outside the door when I went in had cloned, and now a couple dozen gutter punks and bleary-eyed teens had set up sleeping bags on the sidewalk, munching on pizzas and rubbing their feet. I asked what they were all congregating there for. They said they were waiting for a show. What show? "I dunno, like, 17 really good bands." Perhaps nobody had told them that the whole rest of Austin was flooded with 1,700 good bands elsewhere.

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Credit: Warner Bros.

HitFix Interview: Mastodon on first ‘Live’ set, ‘Jonah Hex,’ new album

Watch clips from the DVD: Metal band’s Brann Dailor is never sick of you guys
Mastodon’s last album “Crack the Skye” may have been all about adventuring outside of one’s body – a metal narrative to existentialism and The Beyond – but in mid-October in 2009, the four-piece was very much on a stage, in Chicago, and playing their asses off.
During that year, Mastodon enjoyed some of the greatest touring and commercial success in their decade-long history, as they were on the road for half the year. At The Aragon in the Windy City, there were 10 cameras pointed at the stage and surrounding to get that moment, and the result is “Mastodon: Live at the Aragon,” a DVD and concert album out today (March 15).
“We’d been wanting to do one for a while,” drummer Brann Dailor told me in an interview this week, speaking to releasing the band’s first live set. “We’ve played hundreds and hundreds of shows but [the Crack the Skye tour] was our biggest production to date. We took a snapshot – it was nothing out of the ordinary.”
[More after the jump...]
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