John Carpenter, Seattle

UPDATE: King Newbs kindly transcribed this for me. Scroll to the end if you need a readable version.


HELLO. This is Vern. I can’t type for shit on a phone, so here is a hand-written missive from the sky on my way to Knoxville.

Last night’s “John Carpenter Live Retrospective” at Paramount Theater in Seattle was one of those great life experiences you never see coming. After decades of enjoying Carpenter’s movies and their scores, who would ever have guessed that he’d use his retirement from films to go on tour and perform that music? Not me. It never occurred to me to dream of it.

But there he was with his grey ponytail, standing in the center of the gigantic stage beneath the ornate ceiling, playing the familiar synth bass lines and atmospheric sounds of so many of our favorite movies. His son Cody played lead synth, the rest of the band (guitar, drums, bass, I think another guitar?) looking about his age.

There was a time since I started writing that some people used to trash John Carpenter. They (incorrectly) thought VAMPIRES was bad and (even more incorrectly) started questioning the canonization of his masterpieces, his style, etc.

Today it’s nice to see that those people have faded into the rear view mirror, and that this tour has created an unusual opportunity for us to come together and celebrate our love for this man and his body of work.

Opening with my two favorite themes back-to-back — ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 — Carpenter and his band did a great job of re-creating the original sounds before opening them up a little with extra rockin drums and guitars. Sometimes he’d do a little dance, which was amazing — he was having fun! But my eyes wandered away from him often because of the huge screen showing highlights from the movies. The rockin theme and insane clips from IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS reminded me I really need to see that again.

In between songs, Carpenter would make little announcements of the songs, not conversational, but always receiving great love from the crowd. Though only playing about an hour and 15 minutes, they spanned I think 6 songs from the lost themes albums and every movie theme I wanted to hear except the Coup de Villes song from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. (The main theme got maybe the biggest reaction from the crowd.)

For me the highlights were THEY LIVE — an all time favorite movie, once derided, now honored, and with special applause for the late Roddy Piper — and HALLOWEEN. That’s gotta be the least listenable out of context, but it was a once in a lifetime experience to feel it rumbling in my chest as the director of the movie plays it, the crowd around me seeming to shift up and down with the strobing of the orange floodlights.

I bet it will play even better in smaller venues. The Paramount is too big, and didn’t sell out. But its glorious architecture seemed appropriate for the occasion of honoring one of our greats, the type a lesser world would’ve left unsung.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 at 10:37 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

43 Responses to “John Carpenter, Seattle”

  1. Sorry guys. I tried.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    June 15th, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I really wanted to catch his show in Portland with my brother. Unfortunately, with a new kid and work shit there was no way to make it happen. Needless to say I envy you, sir.

  3. That’ll do, Vern. That’ll do. (quietly wipes tear)

  4. He’s playing his only German concert in November during a horror convention, but from what I’ve heard, it’s already sold out. Too bad.

  5. So cool Vern. So. Fucking. Cool.

  6. This was great to read. It felt genuinely personal with the handwriting. The way the pictures are presented here I thought at first you were writing on toilet paper But I am glad it was a notepad.

  7. Seeing him in October in London. Cannot f***in wait. This is going to be so awesome.

    Can you imagine a director nowadays writing the score to his own film AND releasing a music video on MTV?

  8. Did you write this on a roll of drywall tape? That’s fuckin’ dedication, man.

  9. Listening to Lost Themes II right now. I haven’t spent as much time with it as I have with the first album. I just love that Carpenter has used music as a way to reinvigorate himself creatively.

  10. Yeah, this is fucking perfect to read the handwritten version of this.

  11. This is a brilliant, one of a kind post that feels totally appropriate to covering a show on the road. Jealous of your handwriting. I have to type everything because my handwriting still looks like I’m in first grade.

  12. Vern, this was beautiful.

  13. Crushinator Jones

    June 16th, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    This post made me realize that despite the trappings of my life, I’m an analogue man at heart.

    Well done, Vern.

  14. Fred- I wish my handwriting was still of that standard I had in first grade.It got progressively bad for some reason

  15. Yeah my handwriting looks like I composed a letter during a tornado. While having a severe epileptic fit. Then falling off a cliff, while still writing. And landing in a concrete mixer.

    Jealous as a motherfucker at not getting to experience this one-of-a-kind show. Australia has a lot of JC fans.

    Have been rotating Lost Themes I and II in the car the past few days, dreaming of a dozen new JC films and Snake Plissken adventures that we’ll never get to see. It’s been wonderful. I love how each song switches gears into two or three different themes. Current favorite on LTI is Abyss. At about the 3:20 mark the synth slides in to an Escape From New York type groove and takes off. Virtual Survivor on LTII is a standout also.

  16. unfortunately I have trouble with reading handwriting and my phone squishes the images in a bad way, making matters more difficult. I will try the other devices I have or see if I cant hop on a compy for a minute to see if I fair any better interpreting the scrawl but if all else fails I will have to wait for the disability edition in clear, computer fonts.

    either way though, the dedication of this post is baller as Hell. youll get used to typing on your phone eventually, I havent had a computer for a few years so everything I do is done on a shitty touchscreen interface. hang in there!!

  17. I think I’m the only person on the planet who actually uses cursive. I have issues when I try to print. I don’t know if it’s that my brain and muscle memory are constantly struggling to keep me from going into cursive or if cursive really is easier to write in, but when I try to print it seems to take 3 times as long and looks like a serial killer’s letter to the press.

  18. You’re going to spark the back-to-ink revolution, brother. The next step is replacing emojis with hand signals.

  19. First ever time commenting BUT long time reading… Just had to say that was THE most perfectly presented review for what i can only imagine was a heck of a show and for that i say thank you, thank you so much!!

  20. So dope and so lucky. He comes out here in early July but I won’t be able to make it which is a real bummer.

  21. Okay, I’m sold. The second I get my taxes back I’m going see if tickets are still available for his SXSW here in Austin. Why do I always procrastinate on doing my gorram taxes?!?

  22. I love LOST THEMES. It is easily one of my favourite albums of the last few years. I like to listened, enjoyed them and and imagined what kind of awesome movies Carpenter could have made backed by these rocking tunes. They are very moody and atmospheric, but also incredibly catchy and rocking. LOST THEMES 2 was a bit of a disappointment. Not as many memorable themes. But I´ll try to give the album another shot.

  23. I was rewatching THE FOG a while back and was stunned at how atmosperic that movie is with the cinematograhy and the lighting. Damn! That is a cool looking movie. This might be controversial but I think THE FOG holds up better than HALLOWEEN in some ways. It is kind of hard to explain, but when I watch HALLOWEEN nowadays I can only appriacte the technical aspects of it, not the moody inevitable boogey man story. The moody, atmospheric inevitable ghost story of THE FOG does not feel as worn out to me somehow.

  24. It’s probably because THE FOG wasn’t the proto-type ghost movie that was copied one million times. HALLOWEEN was the proto-type slasher movie that birthed every other one to come, and that was a lot.

  25. Well, yeah. But I think it is also just me who does not care for slashers at all. Ghost ship storiesyou can argue are just as much a cliche but it has not to such an extent being exploited.

  26. So stoked to read this! I’m seeing him in Oakland tonight and I couldn’t be more excited! We’ve got some good seats too so it should be a helluva show!

  27. Is he gonna play in Europe?

  28. Probably not, but if he did, he would fucking shred that keyboard riff in “The Final Countdown.”

  29. This is the kind of snarkiness I want to see! Good job, Majestyk!

  30. Although, I am concerned your American ass somehow accidently misplaced The Final Countdown with 99 Luftballoons, Seriously did you even know The Final Countdown was Swedish?

  31. Of course I did. You’re talking to a guy with four entire Europe albums on his computer.

  32. I gotta ask – did they play “Benson, Arizona” or anything else from DARK STAR? I would guess no, but it would be cool if they did.

  33. The show in Oakland last night was amazing! Tickets weren’t too expensive and the seats I got were pretty close! It was so awesome hearing some of the classic songs played with a full, modern arrangement. And oh man every time Carpenter gets into it and starts dancing his old-man-dance you can’t help but get so excited. The dude is 68 years old and he’s fucking Rocking It!

    Another especially cool thing is seeing how hard the band starts rocking when they play the new stuff from his albums. They stop projecting film footage during those songs so the band has your full attention, and they really deliver. It’s fantastic.

    I’m so hoping he continues with this, putting out another album and hopefully doing another tour. They played all the big songs that you’d want to hear but it would be cool to see them mix it up and throw in something like Starman or Ghosts Of Mars on another go-around.

  34. This inspired me to check if JC was playing Denver, and I saw it was tomorrow!!! So I went to buy tickets.. show cancelled. Too bad, would’ve loved to see it.

  35. Wow! Carpenter actually performs in Sweden. Only once, but whatever. Hopefully he does not open with The Final Countdown, though.

  36. There’s a LOT I would do to see Carpenter live.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to discover the opportunity to put this to the test.

    I love — LOVE — Lost Themes, and after nearly a month with II, gotta say that I think it’s even better. With the first, as amazingly fantastic as it is, most of it feels kind of like every track is an overture, or sampler of all the themes for a non-existent flick. Which is great, and I thought that was excellent…but the tracks on this new one feel like actual pieces of music. More cohesive on a one-by-one basis. You know, like REAL SONGS. Instrumentals, but complete songs nonetheless. And I think for me, I just dig that more.

    How lucky we are to have even one of these types of albums from JC, much less two? It’s just wonderful, really.

  37. hey, thanks King Newbs. great piece, Vern.

  38. You’re welcome.

    You know I think I dreamed about John Carpenter last night because of this article. Sounds like a cool show.

  39. Hey CJ. Depending on where you are in Germany you might be better popping across the border to Switzerland. Carpenter is guest of honour at the Neuchatel Film Festival next month and he’s playing a gig as part of that.

    Really enjoyed this post Vern.

  40. No, sorry, Switzerland would be a way too long ride for me, while Oberhausen, where he gives his only German concert, is more or less around the corner. Apparently the tickets for his concert are still available, although my main concern is currently if I have the money at all. (Had some surprise bills, just before my trip to Canada started and have way too many birthdays coming up. Also The Chemical Brothers are giving their first German non-festival concert in decades in August, so that’s TWO equally priced tickets, that I have to worry about! My last concert was in 2009, so normally I don’t have that problem, ARGH!)

  41. An extra ticket VERY unexpectedly fell into my hands and I got to see it last night in Austin with two of my closest movie-nerd friends in a sold-out show in just about the most acoustically perfect venue in Texas: The Austin City Limits Moody Theater. There was so little time for me to even anticipate the show that I simply was not prepared for what I experienced…none of us were. I am not ashamed to admit that I repeatedly teared-up (all three of us did) at the unbelievable awesomeness on display…of having, what seemed like, your entire childhood somehow distilled and displayed before your eyes. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience (my two buddies and I haven’t been able to stop texting about it all day). I guess I’m getting sentimental in my old age (42), but there was also something so damn sweet and affecting about seeing a father and son rock-out so hard together on stage. It was such an “irony-free” experience…which made it kinda ironic to find out that the other non-Carpenter-family members of the band also tour with Tenacious D (actually, upon reflection, maybe that’s kinda perfect too).

    Vern, your review of The Killer really struck a chord with me (but it relates to this live experience so that’s why I’m mentioning it here) with regards to the changing viewing habits of the next generation of film-goers; you’re absolutely right, if you don’t get exposed early enough, it’s likely you’ll just never get it…the context/historical frame of reference will be missing and it will require just too damn much legwork on the part of the viewer. I just started dating a woman 13 years my junior who has never seen a single Carpenter movie but, and this is one of the many reasons why I am dating her, she was so impressed by our post-show enthusiasm that she wants to start rectifying that omission immediately. Wish me luck.

    Dammit, that was such a take-it-to-your-grave show…glad you got to go.

  42. Got to see him in Oslo tonight…wow, what a great concert, moving swiftly from one highlight to the next. Apart from Coup de Ville, the only thing I missed was the theme from Vampires. All the tracks I wanted to hear from Lost Themes were played too. A wonderful evening.

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