The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 30, 2011

Epic Wins: 2011's Great Moments

It might seem frivolous to pick out the best in entertainment in a year where real life played such a prominent role in the lives of Joplin residents.
But it's because of that real-life tragedy that made us cherish the entertainment even more.

Epic new event: Joplin Running of the Bulls

The tornado didn't stop residents' drives to push new festivals, features and other fetes, from Oktoberfest to a Glee-style sing-off. But our favorite was a great twist on a Spanish tradition. A group re-enacted Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, using members of a roller derby team as the bulls. More than 100 ran in the fundraiser for St. Mary's Elementary School. Can't wait to see how big this gets in 2012.

Epic breaking big for a local band: LiveWire

This is a good year for the tater-fed band from the Joplin area. Videos for their songs "Tater Fed" and "Miracle of the Human Spirit" are in rotation on CMT. The band has been featured in Billboard magazine, signed with Way Out West in Nashville and were featured in segments on the "Breaking Out" show on The Country Networks.
We're expecting to hear "Tater Fed" on the radio any day now, and 2012 looks bright for the Joplin-based band.

Epic tornado-related song: "Naked Trees," by Me Like Bees

It's almost unfair to pick a best tornado song — so many artists have poured their heart and soul into music to help Joplin residents deal with the tornado.
Ross Gipson's "Wounded Town" is sublimely written with just the right amount of feeling --no bombast, no balladeering, just raw emotion. LiveWire wrote "Miracle of the Human Spirit" and recorded a video underneath the cross at St. Mary's Church. Mark Laperle's "Sing Again" was used by the city as a motto and a keystone for a memorial.
But the one song that nails it for us: "Naked Trees," by Me Like Bees. It's slow-yet-upbeat rhythm and poetic lyrics made us feel better than we had in a while, in the way that a good song becomes a personal anthem. Which is odd, because the lyrics are some of the most painfully honest we've heard.

From breathing in fallen walls to not being able to sleep during rain, "bracing for that howl again," the lyrics seem to come from right beside wherever we were when we survived the tornado.
"Naked Trees" is different from all of the other songs. While others songs sought to soothe us and comfort us, Me Like Bees heard us say, "This sucks," and they agreed. They covered everything about our experience, from the "heroes and suitors" to the "villains and looters."
But they didn't TELL us everything was going to be all right. They just pointed to some of Joplin's strange new trees -- the ones with broken branches and green leaves sprouting like Chia pets near the trunk.


Winning post-tornado celebrity visit: Carlos Mencia

Joplin has received a lot of attention from big names, as big as Katy Perry, Barry Manilow and members of the Kansas City Chiefs.
But one of the biggest names came with the right medicine at the right time.
This was a tough call for our staff. Some of our contributors were not so quick to forgive Carlos Mencia for charges of joke stealing (Joe Rogan has something to say about that). Others, who happen to be big fans of the city of New Orleans, remembered his controversial post-Katrina comedy which bordered on racism. Considering the racial edge of Mencia's comedy, that's saying something.
Mencia booked a series of smaller shows to try out material for an upcoming Comedy Central special. Joey Thumbs was one of his stops, booked long before the tornado.
Considering the Katrina controversy in his history, he could have canceled. But instead of backing down and canceling in the face of disaster, he came to Joplin and made a packed house completely lose their minds.

Epic Moment: JHS lip dub video

There's plenty of awesome moments to go around, and all of them seem to stem from the tornado.

  • The emotional speeches by President Barack Obama, Gov. Jay Nixon and Rev. Aaron Brown during the tornado memorial service.
  • The ESPN special about Joplin's football team, and the trip to Kansas City.
  • All the great fundraising concerts, from a Fourth of July celebration to a comedy show.
  •  That circus elephant that helped remove tornado debris.

But for us, we were suckers for a lip dub video on YouTube.
Video producer Simon Jayes flew out from Hollywood and organized a nine-minute video that brings tears to our eyes every time.
The video features Joplin High School students in the 11th and 12th grade center at Northpark Mall. The camera basically takes a tour of the whole thing, but every hall is filled with students dressed up, dancing and singing along to "Let's Get it Started" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Firework" by Katy Perry.
You want resilience? Look in the faces of each of those kids having an absolute ball singing along. Even as they trip over themselves to keep up with the camera while walking backwards, the exuberance and energy shines like a sunny day. By the end, we're yelling "JOPLIN EAGLES!" and clapping with them.

Winning online app: Spotify

Music's large role in our lives is a big reason we love Spotify so much in the newsroom. It makes sharing music between friends so much easier. But Spotify's service goes way beyond letting the world know how great that new "Foster the People" album is.
Spotify's database of streaming music is tremendous, with a solid mix of new and old albums. Indeed, it's the trips we've taken down memory lane with Spotify that's given us so much devotion. We can listen to the old Depeche Mode or Genesis albums in their entirety without buying them --we get that one listen, remember all the great times and then won't need to hear it again for a few more years, meaning we can save that $10 for the new Black Keys album.

Epic tribute to longevity: 25th anniversary of the Kitchen Pass

Back when the worst weather-related thing on our minds was snowmageddon, one of Joplin's longest-running nightspots celebrated a milestone.
The Kitchen Pass has hosted a wide variety of entertainment over its 25 years, and has grown into almost a complex.
True, the names aren't as big as they used to be, but the music is always good and the times are always memorable. We'll raise a glass to 25 more years of the Pass.

Epic moment in history captured by locals: Joplin High School students witnessing history in Washington D.C.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. As the Constitution Team celebrated a well-earned trip to nationals in Washington D.C., its trip coincided with the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death, and the crazy, street-filling celebration.

Joe's favorite album of 2011: "The Experiment," Art vs. Science

Ever since its February release, I've listened to "The Experiment" countless times. (I guess I could check my iTunes play count. Meh.) Every song on this album is strong.
Part Devo, part dance, part rock and all energy, "The Experiment" is, in my view, the catchiest album of 2011. The combination of electric, keyboard driven rock with acoustic drums is awesome. Any one of the first six songs could catch fire on American radio.
From the driving beat of "Higher" to the grungy funk of "Magic Fountain," this is an album full of great music. By the time the last chords of "Before You Came to This Place" fade away, you'll hit the repeat button.

Scott's favorite book of 2011: "Ready Player One," Ernest Cline

I enjoyed a number of new books in 2011. I welcomed the look back at Jack Reacher's early days in Lee Child's "The Affair"; got wrapped up in the latest Harry Bosch outing in Michael Connelly's "The Drop"; marveled at Stephen King's ability to sustain a story for nearly 900 pages in "11/22/63"; and cheered on the human resistance in Daniel Wilson's "Robopocalypse."
On the non-fiction front, I loved the strange but true story of a moon rock heist at NASA in "Sex on the Moon" by Ben Mezrich, and the chilling front-row view the Dodd family had to the revelation of Hitler's true nature in Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts."
But the one book that blew my socks off was "Ready Player One," the nerd-tastic first novel from Ernest Cline.
It's set in a future where people spend most of their time plugged into OASIS, a virtual reality world that most find preferable to their own meager existence. After the death of the creator of OASIS, it is revealed that he left behind hidden "easter eggs" and quests that will bequeath his empire to whoever can find and solve them.
What makes Cline's debut novel such a kick are the easter eggs there for the reader ... references to 1980s music, movies, video games and RPGs designed to wrap you up in a nostalgic haze even as you cheer on Wade and the other characters living in a futuristic society.
And as with any good game, Cline knows the importance of replay value. It's a book designed to have you looking up references you missed to see how they figure in to the puzzle, and scrambling to your iPod to cue up some of the music integral to the story.

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