I have long admired and respected John Carpenter as a creative force. This is a man that wrote, produced, directed, edited and scored many of his own movies, as well as wrote screenplays for others. Not many people have the talent, let alone the fortitude that Carpenter exhibited throughout his storied career.
Back in February, 2015 Carpenter released an album entitled Lost Themes and a follow-up Lost Themes II, was released April, 2016. Quite a surprise for a movie director? Well maybe not for this one, but in a change of direction (pun unintended), JC is now on tour to support of his albums. The current tour sets include a good bit of the new material which blends in perfectly with the more famous movie themes that the fans want to hear.
Carpenter’s themes feature synthesizers used with minimal fuss. This grabbed my attention early on (many years ago). Simple, repetitive themes help to build the spooky and creepy moods that permeate his films.
My favorite of his themes are from Assault On Precient 13, Escape From New York, and of course Halloween (check out my cover…link down below).
My favorite of his films however, are Big Trouble in Little China (featuring Kurt Russell), and They Live (the literary themes and warnings within this film are even more appropriate for today’s audiences, I think).
The theatre is called, Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater. This is a state-of-the-art live music venue that seats just over 2,700 and serves as the home for the PBS TV series, Austin City Limits (the longest running music series in American television history, according to their web site). It’s a fantastic sounding venue, certainly one of the best I’ve encountered (and I’ve been to quite a few concerts over the years).
John Carpenter was front and center playing a keyboard controller, while his son, Cody Carpenter, handled the lead synths on at least two different keyboards, and Daniel Davies provided exciting and emotional lead guitar. They had a solid backing with Scott Seiver, John Spiker, and John Konesky (so that’s three guys named John on stage, I wonder if anyone ever gets confused with that?)
As far as I could see, the synthesizers were all softsynths played via MIDI keyboard controllers and both Cody and John had laptops off to the sides. My research reveals that John uses Logic Pro but beyond that I couldn’t find any other details as to plugins or what exactly was used for the synth sounds. There were also two keyboard controllers stage left that were occasionally used by the guitarists.
Daniel, on lead guitar, was able to shine on a few numbers, I thought his performance on the bluesy theme from They Live was outstanding. The percussionist kit included the usual rock setup along with some electronic pads which made for a great combination of percussive sounds. And I was glad the distinctive electronic drums and hi-hats were played live and not from a backing track.
The backdrop was a simple framed movie screen upon which clips from the movies were displayed as they played the theme. For songs from the Lost Themes albums, the screen border lit up with some visual designs but the main screen remained blank and just reflected the stage lights. It was a cool effect and helped those new pieces to stand apart from the well known themes. The minimal onstage lighting consisted of modern LEDs with an interesting set up of a stand with thre circular fixtures and another stand with two or three rectanglular banks of color changing LEDs. These were very effective along with the house lights.
The sound was fantastic. All of the players were more than solid with some spectacular shining moments. The set list can be viewed below but the biggest surprise for me was when they launched into one of the very few themes that Carpenter did not write — Ennio Moriconi’s The Thing. It is a very Carpenter sounding piece and they kicked it in another gear for this one. The tremendous low frequency synth bass raised the hairs on my arms; it was really powerful.
My seat-mates and all of the fans that I met were just the best. This was a crowd of horror film fans and every one that I spoke to was as nice as could be. This was one of the best and most positive crowds that I’ve been a part of.
This being Austin, I wasn’t surprised that I ran into some celebrities (not an everyday occurance, but it does happen). I met film director Robert Rodriguez. He was very nice and allowed me to take a picture of my friend Jason with him. No, I didn’t get one of with myself…duh and oops! (I do recommend finding the Robert Rodriguez interview of Carpenter on YouTube, it’s a good one).
Also, I was delighted to see and have a moment to speak with Harry Knowles from Ain’t it Cool News (the long running website dedicated to entertainment news). His was one of the first sites that I ever followed when the web was still pretty much in its infancy. Harry is a long time horror and Carpenter fan so it was great to see him there.
Some of the other folks I met were filmmakers from San Antonio who, as a group, were quite impressive. I have their film lined up on Amazon ready for me to watch, it is called Sanitarium and apparently contains three short films by three different directors. I hope to watch this soon, I’m thrilled to help out some budding artists.
This was one Hell of an evening. One that wasn’t creepy or scary but rather was full of great feelings as it was a celebration of a man and his wonderful and powerful music.
Many have been inspired by John Carpenter’s films and music over the years. My friend Doug at TheSoundTestRoom.com did an excellent homage:
My cover of the Halloween Theme on Soundcloud here
Thanks for reading and…
Be seeing you
— Bourne 25Jun16