The Brilliance of the Blue Jean Committee

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Perhaps no comedian has a better grasp on the music world than Fred Armisen, who was a drummer for Chicago indie-punk band Trenchmouth before becoming a weird comedy star on Saturday Night Live. Since SNL, Armisen has now become the drummer and bandleader for The Late Show with Seth Meyers, as well as one-half of the brilliant Portland spoof Portlandia.

Thus there might be no better person for  a music documentary spoof, and he and the amazing Bill Hader knock it out of the park in their new Documentary Now series, a new IFC TV series that spoofs classic documentaries. The last two in the series are on the Blue Jean Committee, Hader and Armisen’s made-up Cali soft-rock that’s based loosely on the Eagles. The two-part documentary is a quality spoof of The History of the Eagles, a 2013 Showtime documentary that famously cast band members Glenn Frey and Don Henley as complete jerkoffs. Hader and Armisen, as well as show executive producer Seth Meyers, pick up on the irony of such a gentle and soft band made up of a bunch of macho alpha-males that want to kill each other. That, in addition to Armisen’s complete takedown of classic music documentary clichés, is what makes the Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee so hilarious.

Building on the macho men playing delicate music idea, the bandmembers Clark Honus (Hader) and Gene Allen (Armisen) are made into Chicago tough guys from sausage families that first tried Chicago blues, before deciding to opt for a SoCal soft-country sound. As cultural critic Chuck Klosterman says in the documentary, the Beach Boys sing about surfing and never surfed, so why can’t the Blue Jean Committee do the same with California.

In the documentary, the Blue Jean Committee has one breakthrough record in Catalina Breeze, which is really their Hotel California. Songs like “Mama, You’re a Dancer”, “Catalina Breeze”, and “Gentle & Soft” perfectly capture that corny California soft-rock sound. The documentary also includes other AM radio giants that Armisen and Hader are spoofing talking about the fake band, including Kenny Loggins of Loggins and Messina, Michael McDonald of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates.

Blue Jean Committee is quickly becoming a reality as well, as the two performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and put out Catalina Breeze on Drag City Records. While there have been plenty of spoof bands, this is the best take I’ve heard on that cheesy 70’s rock sound, so definitely check out the Documentary Now episodes  (currently on IFC.com to watch and will be coming to Netflix soon) as well as the music itself. It’s rock parody at its best.

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2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings

2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings

Not only are movie and stage actors flocking to TV for more stable and quality roles, musicians have begun to get in on this golden age of television. Musicians are putting down their instruments and picking up their acting chops, getting major and minor roles on sitcoms and procedurals. We have always had late night television performances, but those have even been ratcheted up with the help of the Roots and more artists eager to collaborate on live television.  So in honor of this trend, I decided to put together a 2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings. One disclaimer is I clearly can’t watch everything, so things like E-Street guitar player’s Steven Van Zandt’s starring role in the crime-drama Lilyhammer and Ice-T’s ongoing role in Law & Order: SVU are outside my purview.  Also, I decided to leave off reality and live TV shows, so the late night magnificence of the Roots won’t be recognized on this list, either will any role from anything like The Voice or American Idol. So this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s my best attempt based what I’ve seen and what I enjoy.
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