Black man pointing to the left

Dave Chappelle

As the noose of political correctness strangled what's left of our culture, 2019 nevertheless had a few last gasps of great art emanating from its twitching body.

Dave Chappelle grandly escaped the hangman's noose with his Netflix comedy special, laying the blame for p.c. culture right where it belonged: the audience. It's a bad idea, political correctness, but bad ideas don't mean a thing until they're put into action. He's the one comedian who stood athwart neutered comedy and nailed Jussie Smollett as the great French actor who was a really bad liar.

That skit alone might not save American popular culture from the p.c. censorship movement but I'm telling you, it is one of the most brilliantly pitch-perfect sketches in comedic history. Chappelle peaked with it. And so far he's still employable as far as I know. There is justice.

As for Hollywood, which has seen so many of the good storytellers depart for cable where the fields of free expression are far greener, there were still a couple who stuck around. Well, sort of, anyway.

I thought Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Todd Phillips' Joker and Martin Scorcese's The Irishman three of the most powerful movies ever made. Tinsel town's last gasps or a sign deep artistic impulses still flow?

What each director did was what is needed to any film to be exceptional: create a world you can inhabit either with fascination or fear, or both. Tarantino's lengthy Hollywood skittered around the Manson murders but was hardly the point. Brad Pitt's scene battling Bruce Lee and Leonard DiCaprio's holding the little girl hostage I believe will stand as two of the greatest QT scenes in movie history.

Joker on the other hand had more to say about how America's fosters madness and then leaves it unloved thus making it a social message movie the likes of which we haven't seen since Scorcese's Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, two epics of social fallout. All these movies are canaries in our cultural goldmine, telling us something some people would rather not hear.

The bitter irony of gangster epic The Irishman, about the end of Jimmy Hoffa, is that it feels like the end of an era – the Scorcese Era, to be sure, but perhaps more. I made sure to see on the big screen at The Gateway, knowing the battle between Netflix and Hollywood may mean the end of theaters as we know them (or not). But a three-and-half-hour gangster flick with DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci will never come our way again.

The gods of change have aligned, culturally and digitally, perhaps permanently.

As for music, there isn't anything more intense than the volcanic Jack White whose Raconteurs put on one of the most fiery rock show I have ever seen at PromoWest's outdoor stage. Like a great movie director, White is such a force to experience you realize it's Jacks World, we're just living in it. I swear, like Ray Liotta without the top of his head intact in Red Dragon, White dominated that full-moon Friday-the-13th-night with his skull in permanent eruption.

It was euphoric to be smothered by his molten rock lava.

NRBQ at the Rumba Cafe back in June came dang close to being Show Of The Year. I'd have to say, if you haven't ever seen the quartet live, well, you just haven't lived. And if you have, it was probably years if not decades ago. So I say this to you, my brothers and sisters with or without berets: they are the most powerful bar band experience in zee whole vide voild!

And that goes double for all you Blasters fans. The Blasters are fantastic live, true; but NRBQ smokes 'em!

Man of the Year, however, goes to our own Bruce Nutt whose Crazy Mama's 40th Anniversary was a helluva blast. But who also deserves big credit for leading his one-man campaign to convince the city fathers to commemorate our fine female contribution to the music world with his Nancy Wilson Way street-naming initiative. I like that idea.

Surprise of the Year: seeing League Bowlers at the Grandview Ox Roast and thoroughly enjoy every heartland rockin' rollin' minute of their 4/4 guitar rock set. Drummer Jim 'J.J.' Johnson totally is that band's secret weapon and I'm tellin' ya, speakin' of city fathers, I hope they play at every Grandview Ox Roast. Little kids were dancing!

My favorite album of the year I'm not sorry to say was from 1967, Nina Simone Sings The Blues, which seldom plays the blues straight but rather jazzy, folky, a little poppy and very passionately. Things like Langston Hughes' civil rights poem set to jazz-blues accompaniment, Backlash Blues; Gershwin's My Man's Gone Now from Porgy and Bess; Bessie Smith's I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl; and an amazing House of The Rising Sun show her genius with every tune a different tempo and shade of blues. Highly recommended.

And as I write this, 2019 isn't over yet, speaking of surprises. Our town's Beatles-a-thon I am told by its main man, the irrepressible Joe Peppercorn, will be featuring a sweet little surprise treat that I assure you, is one of the greatest little happenstances I have ever had the pleasure of being tipped off about in my entire writing life.

Insider information? You could say. I'm no Martha Stewart but I do have advice for Beatles fans.

Go, people, go. Be there at noon. The Bluestone on East Broad, December 21st.  A lovely bit of undeniable Columbus music history the likes of which this town has never seen, will be seen.

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