Sasquatch Festival: Day Two
Here's the rub about covering a rock festival: Writing about what you've seen always takes time away from actually seeing anything—and therefore the first day will always be the best. In my case, Saturday's bounty of interviews and copious notes on every act I caught were the albatross hanging around my neck on my midnight drive back to Moses Lake, with my actual work day beginning somewhere around 1 a.m. as I tried desperately to make sense of unhelpful notes like "Supremely noisy—I see what you did there." Add to that the taped ramblings of various rock stars—none of whom speak in the rapid, His Girl Friday pace that it translates to in text, by the way—and you're looking at hours and hours of constant rewinding, typing, and staring at the slowly rising sun like a prisoner about to be hanged.
I say this not as a ploy for sympathy, but as an explanation for why Saturday's "insanely long" (to quote Josh Modell) entry will probably be my most thorough work of the weekend. After nabbing only four hours of guilt-ridden sleep early Sunday morning, I still find myself pounding away as the clock passes 2 p.m. and I miss my scheduled interview with Rogue Wave. Near 3 p.m., I finally throw a Hail Mary pass to Josh and ask him to finish polishing my fevered scribblings while I book it out the festival grounds. Then it's a series of one middle class disaster after another: I realize I accidentally left the window of my rental car cracked last night, and the rain has soaked the leather seats, so I waste even more time wiping that down (and worrying that maybe I should have bought the extra insurance). Then I flip open my phone to find that I forgot to charge it, so I'm going to have to survive on less than half a battery today. Then I remember that I've forgotten my wedding ring on my hotel room nightstand, near a sign that says the hotel is not responsible for stolen valuables (including, oddly enough, "railroad deeds") —so all day I get to worry about the maids at the Ramada Inn and their apparent carte blanche to take whatever the fuck they want. Then my wife calls to say that my dad just dropped her an email to say he just got remarried. All in all, it feels like the world is spinning far too fast for me and I have no chance of catching up. Today is going to be tough, I can already tell.
4:15pm I finally arrive at the Gorge, having missed both Cold War Kids and White Rabbits, the only two bands besides The Cure I actually wanted to see today. (Of course, by some cruel twist on the programmer's part, these two bands who definitely appeal to the same fanbase were scheduled concurrently anyway, so I would have had to make a difficult choice.) I'm a little depressed and more than a little exhausted as I check in, but I get an extra boost from seeing that my What Made Milwaukee Famous buddies have left me a backstage pass for today. Even better, it comes with an extra ticket I don't need, which I sell to some desperate kid outside for an easy $70. OK, maybe this day is looking up already.
4:25pm I head over to the backstage area near the Wookie to find the Milwaukee guys, and by way of thanks, I play the tape of yesterday's Kathleen Edwards interview for Michael, which is sort of like the rock journalist equivalent of passing notes in junior high. If these two wreck their marriages for each other, it's going to be all my fault.
4:40pm I find White Rabbits hanging out near their tour van, looking expectedly natty in their pressed slacks and Ray-Bans, and—since I've already spoken to Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson in the past—I grab bassist Adam Russell for an interview next to a creek that's alive with burping frogs.
AVC: How's the festival going for you?
Adam Russell: It's been going all right. We had kind of a long night because we finished our set at 1 a.m. last night, got to where we were staying at 2 a.m., then had to be back up at 6 a.m. So yeah, it's been a long day. But Sasquatch is really beautiful, and it was amazing that we played to that many people. I think that was the most amount of people we've ever played to, ever.
AVC: When I interviewed you guys last year for the New What's Next, you were just sort of up-and-coming. What has the rise to being a bona fide festival band been like?
AR: It's like a rectal thermometer. We were the band that opened up for everyone, the one that sussed out the crowd, the ones who would stick it in just to see what's going on. It was all right, but of course it's much more rewarding to go out and headline your own thing. There's merits to both.
AVC: Are you finally able to step on people on your way up?
AR: [Laughs.] Oh, no. We're not that type of band. We always find something we like in the bands we tour with, because it's always better to get along with people you're going to be around 24/7 than to start forming grudges.
AVC: Have you made any new friends out here yet?
AR: Not yet. I really haven't had time, and I haven't eaten yet, so that's really all I'm focused on. I went down to the VIP area and found some fruit, which is really all I can eat, and that's what I'm thinking about mostly. Getting food.
AVC: Are you looking forward to catching anyone?
AR: I think Stephen Malkmus is an intelligent guy. I haven't really heard his new record yet, though. I saw him back when he opened for Radiohead after Hail To The Thief came out, but I only saw the last half of his set. If we stick around, I'd really like to see him.
AVC: If you had to share a tent with anyone playing, who would it be?
AR: Tegan And Sara. I want to know what goes on backstage.
AVC: Yeah, what does go on backstage with them? Do you think they're really sisters?
AR: That's what I'm saying. They're perplexing. One of the most perplexing things in music in the past year to me was those spots they did for MTV. You know, where MTV set up some shitty digital camera and let them talk about stuff that had nothing to do with MTV—like, "crows." "'Yeah, you know. Crows. Don't you like crows?' Then, boom: MTV." Like, what the fuck? How about, "What goes on in your songwriting process?" Normally bands drink beers and write set lists—do they do that? That would be interesting to me, to find that out.
AVC: Do you want to someday get to the point where somebody just wants to hear you talk about crows?
AR: Um Not really. Getting to the level of Tegan And Sara I don't know.
AVC: You'd have to get your music on Grey's Anatomy first.
AR: Exactly. You have to shake a lot of hands and sell your souls to a lot of people to get to the level of Tegan And Sara.
AVC: If this were Woodstock, who would White Rabbits be?
AR: Didn't The Band play Woodstock? The Band. I mean, I don't think we have enough chops or anything, but that's the pinnacle band, collectively, for all of us. Those first two albums and most of Stage Fright are so amazing.
AVC: If you were The Band, though, one of you would have to get throat cancer.
AR: Yeah. And I'm sure one of us is going to have some sort of affliction down the road and be a stereotype. It's gonna happen.
AVC: But hopefully not this weekend.
AR: No, I don't think we'll be hospitalized this week.
AVC: Well, that's a good goal to shoot for.
AR: Yeah, right?
5:15pm I'm making my way down to the yurt (that word still sounds like an inside joke, by the way) in search of my daily sustenance of Busch Light and pita bread when a security guard stops me and suggests I take off my "Media" sticker, since they don't take kindly to my type 'round these parts. "You've got that backstage pass, so you're all right, but we don't want people to get the wrong impression about who can be back here." Right. God forbid us journalists be allowed to mingle with the musicians, and then help justify their huge opinions of themselves by asking them questions and publishing their answers for all the world to see so people can say, "Wow, he's so down to earth!" "Thanks for the tip," I say.
5:30pm The scene outside the yurt is crawling with cuteness: The Ice Cream Man is passing out Pink Panthers while an impromptu round of double dutch lures in kids and rock stars and kids of rock stars. Adding to the saccharine overload, Tegan And Sara are taking photos with fans over by the gate looking pixie cute as ever. That's when I get a hot tip from an inside source that settles my earlier debate with Adam from White Rabbits: Their former soundman, who leans over to me and says, "You know, I asked them once if they were really sisters, and they said, 'No.' Then I asked them if they were really gay, and they said, 'Sometimes.' Seriously. It's a great marketing technique, but that's all it is." You heard it here first?
5:45pm Here's another revelation: The Presidents Of The United States Of America are still a band—commanding a plum late-afternoon slot on the main stage, no less. Apparently they've even been putting out albums within this decade. Who knew? Of course, nobody gives a shit about that; they want to hear "Lump," and on that the band delivers. I'm not going to sit here and grade the merits of "Lump"—it's a dumb song, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise—but to their credit, POTUSA seem perfectly ecstatic to be playing it. On my recent side trip to Seattle, I visited the Experience Music Project for the first time—a semi-interesting way to kill an hour, by the way, but still basically a glorified Hard Rock Café—and was somewhat amused to see so much space dedicated to POTUSA, including various props and instruments and (the Holy Grail of POTUSA arcana) the handwritten lyrics to "Lump," encased in bulletproof glass. I guess they command more respect in the Northwest than I knew. Me, the only other song I know is the dreaded "Peaches," which the band turns into a long wankfest that ends in a pretty terrible cover of "Kick Out The Jams." Sadly, there was no surprise appearance of Sir Mix-A-Lot to do a few Subset songs.
6pm One of my WMMF companions freaks out, saying, "That's Peter Buck eating a popsicle!" I rush over to try to snag an interview, thinking I'd landed an incredibly fortuitous coup. As it turns out, it's actually Bumbershoot organizer Chris Porter—and yeah, he gets that a lot. "Also Andy Garcia." He then offers to do an interview pretending to be Peter Buck in which he describes Michael Stipe's various disgusting sexual proclivities, but that's an idea that's only funny until the lawyers get involved.
6:10pm It's time for my daily scheduled run-in with Eugene Mirman, who tells me that he spent most of yesterday renting a boat with his girlfriend and cruising up the Columbia River—which was way better than being at a rock festival. I kind of envy him: That splendor I described yesterday has more or less blurred into a picture postcard, a painted backdrop to just another crowded concert full of shirtless screaming yahoos and a rising tide of discarded bottles and cans. Escape seems just a quick jump over the fence away—but of course, I'm not getting paid to write the next Into The Wild. (Although if I were, I promise it would be a lot zippier and not so up its own ass.)
6:55pm Michael Franti takes the main stage to save the world one jammy ballad at a time. Did you guys know that war is bad?
7:15pm "How many people forgot to take a shower today?" Sean Conroy says, launching into an abbreviated, greatest hits version of his set from yesterday at the Comedy Tent. Fortunately the mic problems that reduced his last performance to an avant-garde expermient have all been resolved, so the response is far better than last time. Conroy is here to introduce Brian Posehn, who takes the stage by calling out his bleed-over competition from the Wookie stage, saying, "You may be wondering, how do you compete with the British, pretty boy faggotry of The Kooks? With a giant retard, that's how." Posehn's set doesn't have so much as a missed beat, the self-described "bunch of farts who put on a man costume" riffing on the disturbingly puffy result of too much plastic surgery on the faces of Los Angeles girls ("I call it 'Hot Girl Down syndrome.'") and how, being a metalhead, he can only admit to liking The Cure with a certain tinge of shame in his voice, as though he's saying, "The only way I can cum is with a dead 12-year-old." He also improvises some bits about how much he hates Belle And Sebastian and The Polyphonic Spree ("If you like them, you like shit") before admitting he's never actually heard them, among other gems ike: "If your buddy blows you, it's not gay if you shout out 'Slayer!'"; "You notice how you never see a shirtless guy yelling, 'Whooo! Indie rock, faggot!'"; and how, ever since downloading a George Michael song as a goof from his iTunes, his iTunes recommendations are skewed ("If you like George Michael, maybe you'll like balls on your chin.") Posehn seems genuinely surprised at the effusive reaction from the audience—even though making kids at a music festival laugh with jokes about indie rock bands and iTunes seems like a pretty can't-miss strategy. I bug him for an interview shortly after he leaves the stage (although he warns me "It's probably not going to be very good, because I just got stoned").
AVC: Who's the shittiest band playing this festival?
Brian Posehn: You know, I don't even know this world enough to even comment on that. To me they're all the worst. Except for The Cure. I don't really keep up with what the kids are listening to, except for heavy metal. I'm kind of a big, dumb 15-year-old that way.
AVC: Which band that peaked in popularity in the '90s are you looking forward to?
BP: Well again, The Cure. I am actually a big fan. I know you'd never think that to look at me.
AVC: If you had to share a tent with anyone at this festival, who would it be?
BP: Robert Smith. I'd nerd out on him and make him super uncomfortable. Make him start writing in his diary with his head down.
[A guy passes by with his hand up for a high five. Brian gives him an awkward slap in return.]
BP: Uh. I'm never good at the high fives with hipsters. I don't know what to do.
AVC: If this were Woodstock, who would you be?
BP: Limp Bizkit.
AVC: No, come on. Classic Woodstock.
BP: [Laughs.] Limp Bizkit. They would have fucked the '60s up! Are you kidding me? That would have been the shit. Fred Durst—I just saw that guy backstage at a Metallica show.
AVC: What did you say to him?
BP: Not a goddamn thing. [Laughs.] I've got nothing to say to him. The whole time I was secretly hoping that he wasn't a fan. If he came up and said, "Mr. Show!" I wouldn't know what to do. Because you've gotta be nice, but he made music douche-y.
AVC: Has anyone rescued music since then?
BP: I'm not really a good judge of that. I'm so in my own world about that. For me, Lamb Of God and bands like that are keeping it alive—making commercial metal with big hooks, like Pantera and that kind of stuff.
AVC: What about that "operatic metal" stuff?
BP: I like some of that stuff too, but I can only take so much. My wife calls me on it, too. I recently had some "pirate metal" playing in my car by this band called Hailstorm. [Laughs.] She was like, "You've crossed the line. This is not good music—quit kidding yourself." She was kind of right.
AVC: Is there anyone you wish were playing this festival?
BP: Megadeth. Megadeth would fuck this place up.
AVC: Megadeth, like today's Megadeth?
BP: No, like 1988 Megadeth. Or even 1990, like Rust In Peace era.
AVC: Do you think Dave Mustaine should have been kicked out of Metallica?
BP: Yes! He was definitely a dick. [Laughs.] And an alcoholic. And they were about to be signed and they didn't need somebody dragging him down. I know the whole story from both sides, and I'm actually happy because I'm a Megadeth fan, and I got a lot of good music out of those two bands. I wish I could talk to Mustaine. He's one of the few guys I haven't met from that world. I don't know if I would really get up the balls to drop this on him—but maybe the second or third time hanging with him I would—but you know, in Some Kind Of Monster I felt so bad for him, and I just want to give him a hug and say, "Dude, people really like you too. Don't sweat it." Hey, who's this band setting up?
AVC: Death Cab For Cutie. What do you think of them?
BP: I've never heard them. I know girls like them. My wife likes them. I think I've heard their songs in my car.
AVC: Are you sure it wasn't while watching One Tree Hill?
BP: [Laughs.] No! No it was not while watching One Tree Hill. They're okay, I guess.
AVC: They're nice guys.
BP: Yeah? That's like what you say about a horrible comedian.
AVC: It works for bands you don't really like, too.
BP: [Laughs.] Right. They're not so great—but they're super nice! So Are we done?
8:15pm There are lots of reasons to hate The Kooks: They're another batch of fresh-faced British teens climbing off the same post-Libertines evolutionary line as Arctic Monkeys; they make lightweight Brit-pop that touches on all of the established touchstones, from the bouncy Kinks rip-off to the sensitive jangly ballad; they've pulled their wardrobe out of the cliché closet, from the schoolboy vests to the guitarist's floppy-hatted Keith Richards ensemble; and, most annoying of all, they keep insisting that they "want to see everybody dancing." But here's a new reason to hate them: They took approximately an extra hour to set up their gear and have an incredibly indulgent soundcheck, throwing everybody's schedule off for the night. Half of that time was probably spent making sure their ridiculous fog machine added just the right touch of presumption to their rock 'n' roll fantasy. Nevertheless, the crowd—and by "crowd" I mean mostly teenaged girls—ate it up, bobbing and dancing to the pitter-pat beat of their hearts.
8:45pm I know I'm going to get slammed for this, but I have absolutely no feelings one way or the other about Death Cab For Cutie. I've owned several of their albums over the years (mostly because they've been given to me), but no matter how much I concentrate, their songs always blend into a sort of aural wallpaper whenever I hear them. It's a lot like watching an episode of Law And Order—a show a lot of people I know like, but which for me always blurs into a dull recitation of legalese and cop show conventions until I realize I haven't even been paying attention for 15 minutes and now have no idea what's going on. I know. I should probably try harder. But who cares what I think: The crowd—and by "crowd" I mean these beaming youngsters linking arms to form one giant, swaying cuddle puddle—is in a state of pure heart-on-sleeve euphoria, hanging on Ben Gibbard's every word. And while I can't ever seem to focus on what he's singing about, I do like Gibbard when he talks; he seems genuinely sharp and funny. Plus, he repeatedly expresses his excitement about seeing The Cure tonight, an emotion I definitely second.
9:05pm I glance to my right and notice I've, once again, somehow managed to accidentally bump into Sean Conroy (who's mouthing along to the lyrics of whatever Death Cab song this is, the big softy). I take this as a sign that it's time to do a proper interview with him.
AVC: So you finally had sound at your set earlier, which was probably nice.
Sean Conroy: Yeah, well. I just felt like everybody was there to see Brian, which I totally get. I was happy to do a couple of jokes, but I felt like there were a lot of comedy nerds there who had already heard all my jokes, so.... But yes, it is good to have a sound system.
AVC: Anyone you're looking forward to this weekend?
SC: I love Death Cab For Cutie, and I'm really looking forward to The Flaming Lips. And The Cure, even though I'm not a big fan of them, this is such a beautiful spot that it sort of changes your perspective on music. R.E.M. was really my highlight, with how energetic they were even though it was pouring rain and people were leaving. It kicked ass.
AVC: Who's the worst band playing this weekend?
SC: [Laughs.] There are no bad bands at Sasquatch.
AVC: Really? You're going to be that diplomatic about it?
SC: Only because there are so many that I've never heard. I like the same stuff that everybody else likes. I'm not very ahead of the curve.
AVC: So you like, say, Billy Joel.
SC: [Laughs.] Billy Joel actually is one of my favorites. I've probably seen him live more than any other band—except for Ben Folds. I once got into a fistfight at a Billy Joel concert. I went to see him at the Worcester Centrum, and the people in front of us wouldn't sit down, so I went down and said, "Hey, if you want to stand up while everybody else is standing up, cool, but we're not." And this guy just took a swing at me, and it started a huge brawl in our section. The guy got kicked out.
AVC: Do you remember what song was playing when he hit you?
SC: It was on that horrible album during the Christie Brinkley years. The one with "Uptown Girl."
AVC: An Innocent Man?
SC: Yeah, it was when he was touring with that. I was in college at the time, you know.
AVC: Billy Joel is kind of due for a revival, don't you think? I'm actually not being ironic.
SC: If he would do that, it would be amazing. I do think he's an amazing songwriter. If he could get back to what he was good at—story songs and so on. He had some great lyrics, and he's also a very good piano player.
AVC; I interviewed Michael Showalter recently and he says he's the "Billy Joel of comedy." Do you buy that?
SC: Showalter? I don't understand the analogy. I would hope he's not the Billy Joel of comedy. Maybe he just means he drinks, like, 10 pints of wine a day. If he's happy with that, than good for him. I think he's better for comedy than Billy Joel is for music.
AVC: Really? But you can't say that Showalter has earned the respect in the comedy world yet that Billy Joel commands in music.
SC: True, but he's been involved in comedy for a long time, and he's had an influence on people outside the stand-up realm for a very long period of time. There's so many different ways to do comedy. It'd be like if a classical musician, or a producer started doing pop music.
AVC: That would make him more like the Was (Not Was) of stand-up comedy.
SC: I don't even get that reference.
AVC: Who would your analogous musician be, if you were "the (blank) of stand-up comedy"?
SC: I'd be the guy who's trying really hard but still hasn't made it. Out there trying to do the work knowing that it could all pay off some day, and doing his best. That, or Prince.
AVC: That's kind of a big jump between the two.
SC: Yeah. But I feel like I've earned that jump.
9:25pm "The Kooks Uh, great music and all, but they took so long to get ready. Us tiny Americans—10, 15 minutes is all it takes." Stephen Malkmus very democratically introduces his band as simply "The Jicks," but it's obvious from the various calls for Pavement songs I hear from the audience who they're here to see. I can't help but (quietly) hold out my own secret hope for a nugget or two, but Real Emotional Trash has been a grower for over the last few months—and I always relish the opportunity to see Janet Weiss play drums—so I'm perfectly content to hear songs like "Dragonfly Pie" and "Gardenia." Plus, Malkmus is still the king of bizarre between-song patter: He teases the crowd by remarking that he heard yesterday it was "raining sideways—like, crooked rain," then goes off on a tangent after one of his many lengthy solos (you'd certainly never mistake Malkmus for Santana, but he does seem to love the wanky classic guitar workouts these days) saying, "During that solo I was thinking about things you may have missed, like the American Idol finale. It wasn't the smug little Latter Day Saint who won, you know. That's an update on humanity from outside the tents. Those rave strip clubs you go to." Whatever misfiring synapse he has in his brain that causes random words to connect like that, I hope he never gets it fixed. Unfortunately, his attempt to start a pro-Hillary Clinton chant doesn't go over as "big as it did at Reading"—and in fact, people start to leave directly after. Guess this is a mostly Obama crowd. Or maybe they're just leaving to get a good spot for The Cure. That's what I'm doing.
10pm The stage is bathed in azure and violet lights, setting an appropriately blue mood for The Cure, who emerge out of a rolling cloud of fog. It's no secret who most of today's crowd is here to see today: There's an overwhelming number of kids in jet-black hair and smeared lipstick; really, this concert could be taking place pretty much any year between 1982 and now and the audience would look exactly the same. Of course, Robert Smith looks a bit, er, larger than life these days (one of my backstage pals who asked not to be named says that when Smith got off the tour bus this afternoon, he looked like "John Belushi in clown makeup"), which is probably why there are no close-ups of his face on the video screens. That puts the focus on guitarist Porl Thompson, whose bizarre spaceman make-up, spiked boots, and a kilt/trenchcoat combo makes him resemble a post-apocalyptic transvestite.
The Cure opens with new song "Underneath The Stars," one of those shimmering slow-builds that they pull off like no one else, followed by Disintegration's "Prayers For Rain" and Head On The Door's "Night Like This"—which serves to illustrate how much the brand new material slots in with the "classic" Cure sound. The set is heavy on old favorites; here are some highlights: "Lovesong," "Lullaby," "To Wish Impossible Things," "Fascination Street," "Hot Hot Hot!", "The Walk," Push," "In Between Days." And here's where I admit that no band on this earth can reduce me to a big goopy mess like The Cure—particularly when they break out sentimental favorite "Pictures Of You," which always leaves me more than a little misty. (And having just recently danced to it with my wife at our wedding isn't helping me maintain my usual stoic façade.)
10:20pm Hey, you know what doesn't belong at a Cure concert? Beach balls.
10:40pm While I've totally regressed into mopey goth kid nirvana right now, something about the sound seems off. Somewhere around "Lullaby," I figure it out: There are no keyboards, and Smith is playing all the synthesizer lines on guitar, which makes for a rougher overall sound. But the biggest disappointment for me is the band's reconfiguring the tempo and key of "From The Edge Of A Deep Green Sea"—a song that is still guaranteed to leave me a weepy mess no matter how many times I've heard it over the years—into a sluggish wash of noise dominated by Smith's overzealous strumming on an acoustic guitar, robbing the song of its soaring lead line. Still, maybe that's for the best; I don't need to be crying here all alone, "miles and miles and miles away from home again."
11:20pm Naturally, "Just Like Heaven" gets the biggest response, as seemingly half the mountain comes alive with people dancing. Smith once again changes things up, continuing to strum long past that iconic final chord, but that's just more quibbling. I would gladly sit here until dawn listening to whatever he chose to play, however he wants to play it. Unfortunately, I'm due to check in at the press tent for the Flaming Lips movie, Christmas On Mars, and that's the biggest downer of all.
11:45pm And here's yet another reason for me to fucking hate The Kooks: Their soundcheck shenanigans have forced everything to be delayed by an hour, meaning the first showing of Christmas On Mars is still creaking along. Those of us who came to this mostly press screening are asked to hang around, assured that it will be over very soon and we'll be escorted inside momentarily. In reality, we stand there for nearly 30 minutes, afraid to wander off lest we miss our opportunity to slip inside before the public. Just down the hill, The Cure is running through an encore of greatest hits that I can barely hear over the chattering of the various other journalist types trying to network—missing "A Forest" cuts especially deep, because I've never heard it live, but when I find out later that they did a closing run of "Boys Don't Cry," "Jumping Someone Else's Train," "Grinding Halt," "10:15 Saturday Night," and "Killing An Arab" I'm pissed for hours. (Still pissed, actually.) This better be one hell of a movie.
2:05am Well kids, I have seen Christmas On Mars, the long-fabled Flaming Lips movie that's attained almost mythical status for the seven years it's supposedly been in production. I can assure you that it exists: I saw it tonight at a screening inside a tent with a specially designed—and yes, very impressive—surround sound system, introduced personally by Wayne Coyne himself. But what I can't tell you is what it's about. And I don't mean that I'm not at liberty to divulge plot information; I mean I really don't know what the hell I just saw. Contrary to early reports, Christmas On Mars is not a rock opera, or even a visual approximation of the high-concept weirdness of albums like The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Instead, The Lips have made a low-budget sci-fi movie that's something akin to Dark Star as directed by David Lynch, a ponderous tale of space madness set inside an orbiting craft filled with foulmouthed rednecks that includes disturbing visions of bloody fetuses, squirming brains and other assorted viscera, and even "vaginal-headed marching bands from hell." But while that all sounds perfectly fine and whacked-out on paper, for all of its occasional flashes of surrealism, it's mostly just kind of a slog: Other than a few bursts of the Lips' signature candy-colored weirdness, the primarily black-and-white Christmas is often as ponderous as your average student film, drunk on its own philosophical pretensions and befouled by dumbed-down dialogue—not to mention an unfortunate scatological obsession that wouldn't be out of place in a Troma film. While it's somewhat amusing to see Coyne playing a stoic alien sporting cheap latex antennae who may or may not be God, and cameos from ringers like Adam Goldberg (owner of the only solid performance in the film) and Fred Armisen (the only one who does any singing, by the way), Christmas On Mars was neither as funny or—as Coyne put forth in his infinitely more entertaining intro—as freaky as one would expect. It does, however, make for a pretty good mindfuck at 2 a.m. But then again, I'm so sleep deprived at this point, that goes for pretty much everything.