On May 29, 2024

A rock in a hard place


My wife and were out shopping recently when we stumbled upon a small concert taking place in a nearby park. It was one of those early evening performances that most cities sponsor throughout the summer months. There were people sitting on blankets in the grass while others had brought beach chairs. A few daring folks were dancing while the majority of kids were running around in wild abandon. 

The song that was playing as we walked by was Pablo Cruise’s “Whatcha Gonna Do,” a groovy late-’70s hit that climbed to No. 6 on the Billboard charts. You don’t often hear that song played live so I stopped to take in the musicianship. 

As is my custom, I turned to my wife and stated, “Name the band.” She listened carefully, her mind transfixed on trying to match the melody to an artist. She’s pretty good at naming classic rock artists, but if you dig deeper into the more obscure bands and songs, she runs amiss.  

Whenever she’s stumped, she always responds, “Bruce Springsteen,” knowing there’s a good chance it could be him given how much I listen to his music. She did that here and immediately admonished herself because it was obvious the disco-ish sound could never be the Boss. 

By the time I was filling her in on Pablo Cruise, the band had begun playing their next song, which turned out to be “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree. After a few bars, I casually mentioned that this must be a yacht rock group, to which my wife replied, “What’s yacht rock?”

I was shocked to hear her say that she had never heard the phrase prior to that moment. I, of course, gave her an extensive definition, explaining that yacht rock was a term used to describe a style of smooth, soft rock music that was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The genre, I explained, was characterized by a mellow sound with sophisticated production, often featuring elements like lush harmonies, smooth vocals, and jazzy instrumentation (think, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Toto, and Kenny Loggins).

I was curious about the origin story, so I went online and discovered that the term “yacht rock” was coined in the mid-2000s by JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, and Lane Farnham, creators of a satirical online video series called “Yacht Rock.” The series humorously chronicled the fictionalized lives of musicians from that time, with the name “yacht rock” playfully referencing the affluent, leisurely lifestyle that the music often evoked. 

The show was set in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles and followed the lives and interactions of prominent yacht rock musicians. Characters in the series included exaggerated portrayals of real-life musicians such as Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Daryl Hall, John Oates, Steely Dan members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, and others. The series humorously depicted the creation of famous yacht rock songs and the relationships between the musicians, often involving comical rivalries and collaborations.

Each episode of “Yacht Rock” is around 5 minutes long and uses a mockumentary format, blending fictional narratives with actual music history. The series not only parodies the music and culture of the era but also affectionately celebrates the unique sound and style of yacht rock.

The underground success of the “Yacht Rock” series helped popularize the term and led to a renewed interest in the music of that era. The series remains a beloved part of internet subculture and has had a lasting impact on how this genre of music is perceived and enjoyed. 

I watched a few episodes of the series, and while it did have its moments and was overall a great concept, it was far from a competitor to “Saturday Night Live.” And given that the episodes were made over 15 years ago, the production quality left much to be desired.

This week’s feature, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” did not lack on production quality and, in fact, took the concept to new levels as we once again visit director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic world of chaos and mayhem.

There is a particular energy inherent in a Mad Max film and “Furiosa” had this working in overdrive. Miller’s machines, stunt driving actors, and feverish pace took his unique filmmaking style to an entirely new level.

Check this one out if you’re a fan of the Mad Max franchise. I’m partial to the first two films, but this installment does a good job keeping the energy alive while also intriguing the viewer with a new storyline. 

A rock-solid “B” for “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” now playing in theaters everywhere. 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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