SXSW 2016: Andy Puddicombe, Born to Be Blue, Gallant
Meditation for the masses, a new Chet Baker-esque film and the first musical hit of SXSW 2016
If you’ve ever listened to the Headspace meditation app, you’ll know Andy Puddicombe’s voice. Giving the final keynote at SXSW Interactive, the former Buddhist monk succeeded in doing something that no-one else had done all week and getting a full ballroom of a couple of thousand people to stay completely silent and still for ten minutes. Before he guided the room though the mass meditation, Puddicombe talked about his own experiences with discovering and dealing with silence and mindfulness at monasteries and beyond. It was a likeable and casual engagement, one which may even have persuaded some of the more cynical people in the room – and yes, there are cynics at SXSW – to pay some heed to what Puddicombe was preaching.
Born to Be Blue
Chet Baker bas been on the big screen before in Bruce Weber’s Let’s Get Lost, but you could argue that Born to Be Blue by director Robert Budreau is not really about the great, haunted jazz player and singer. Sure, Ethan Hawke is playing a jazzer called Chet Baker and there’s much in the storyline with Baker’s own life, but Budreau also takes many chances and asides from the accepted narrative. Call it an impressionistic jazz suite (it’s billed as an “anti-biopic”), it’s a film which uses elements of Baker’s life to create a film which is vivid, engaging and beguiling. Once you accept that you’re watching fiction not fact, you can enjoy Budreau’s glides from West Coast big sea to the wintry big skies of Oklahoma when Baker goes home to the dark menace of New York. Hawke is superb as Baker, protraying a flawed, emotional, often funny character battling with demons and his own talents. A much better jazz-on-screen affair than Don Cheadle’s muddled Miles Davis in Miles Ahead.
Last night was first night of SXSW Music, a relaxed enough start to five nights and four days of live music all over the city with only a few venues open for business. Even still, there was still the usual jumping around from venue to venue in search of that something special, that often undefineable something, that something which stops you in your tracks. You always know that something special when it appears in front of you and, as soon as he started to sing last night, you knew that Gallant was it. Based in Los Angeles and straight out of Maryland, Gallant has a tender, strong, dramatic voice which embues his electro-soul and r’n'b with huge dollops of emotion and power. He’s a damn compelling performer too and tracks like “Weight In Gold” and “Talking In Your Sleep” keep you rooted to the spot. A hit.