LA Trip: “Everything Is Festival” and John Maxfield Music
I recently traveled to Los Angeles to attend Cinefamily and EverythingIsTerrible.com’s “Everything is Festival III: The Domination” with my brother John Maxfield. We managed to get a couple of appearances for John while we were in the area on local radio and a headlining performance at the world famous Whisky A Go-Go!
- Everything Is Festival III: The Domination (overview)
- 8/19/2012 7PM – EIF: Cinematic Titanic “The Doll Squad” @ Saban Theatre
- 8/20/2012 8PM – EIF: Show & Tell w/ Joel Hodgson
- 8/22/2012 3PM – “Not So Shy John Radio Series” KillRadio.org live show/podcast with host Not So Shy John featuring John Maxfield, Tucker Booth and Dale Maxfield
- 8/22/2012 8PM – EIF: The 100 Most Outrageous Action Scenes (featuring “Lady Terminator”)
- 8/23/2012 8PM – EIF: An Evening with Cynthia Rothrock (in person interview, featuring “Yes, Madam”)
- 8/24/2012 7:45PM – EIF Talent Show (featuring Acapellasqatsi, Nick Offerman and Bob Baker Marionettes)
- 8/24/2012 midnite – EIF: Heavy Hitter Midnites, Alamo Drafthouse and Drafthouse Films present “Miami Connection” (director Y.K. Kim in person)
- 8/25/2012 6:30PM – EIF: Monsters of Found Footage
- 8/25/2012 9PM – EIF: Everything is Terrible Presents “The Rise and Fall of God”
- 8/25/2012 11:30PM – EIF: Off The Air (creator Dave Hughes in person)
- 8/26/2012 2:30PM – EIF: Jeff Kruliks Parking Lot and Other Treasures
- 8/26/2012 5PM – EIF: Schrab & Harmon’s Found Crap 7: 2012 Festival Edition
- 8/26/2012 7PM – John Maxfield show at Whisky A Go-Go with Party Animals, Purple Mafia and Johna
- EIF – All the stuff we missed and additional thoughts
A lot of the information about the EIF events including the images and videos were taken from Cinefamily’s web page here: http://www.cinefamily.org/films/everything-is-festival-2012/ At the time I made this post, the page was hiding past events behind a “View Past Events” button at the top. In the event that this post gets changed somehow and to avoid links breaking, I copied several of their images to my page and/or directly linked to the videos on Vimeo/YouTube. All credit for creating these awesome trailers and images goes to the Cinefamily directors and the various filmmakers!
I’ve long been a fan of the terrible monsters at www.everythingisterrible.com. They compile hilarious found footage and regularly post wonderful edits of everything from bad movies to training videos to outrageous TV commercials. They’ve made several feature-length footage collages including “2 Everything 2 Terrible: Tokyo Drift” and “Doggie-Woggiez Poochie-Woochiez,” a retelling of “The Holy Mountain” made entirely from dog movies. They’re amazing and you should check them out. They have a few members directly associated with the Cinefamily, an arthouse theater based in Los Angeles’ Silent Movie Theatre at 611 Fairfax. While they do have great events year-round, Everything Is Festival is something special – this year it included 10 days of programming running the gamut of found footage, bad movies and general awesomeness. Here’s the festival trailer:
Cinematic Titanic is the current incarnation of MST3K creator Joel Hodgson’s movie riffing show. They perform the riffs live in front of a theater audience, typically touring a movie across the country before releasing it on DVD/download from their website http://www.cinematictitanic.com/ Cinematic Titanic is Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl.
“The Doll Squad” is a 70’s exploitation movie that went on to inspire “Charlie’s Angels.” It features an all-female spy squad doing some spy stuff. It’s an absolutely horrible movie featuring really cheesy special effects (lots of composited explosions), almost no exposition or character development, and a shameless use of its female cast not even bothering to NAME most of them, let alone give them dialog or a reason for being there. As a special treat, Francine York (who played the only named “doll,” Sabrina) came out for a curtain call after the show dressed for the Oscars. It was a nice touch and a really fun show. MST3K fans got a great dose of a Joel trademark – “Sleep!” yelled any time something kaleidoscopic appeared on the screen… which was almost every scene transition for the first 20 minutes of the movie until it was randomly abandoned.
I believe they’re doing this movie again on 11/17 at the Family Arena in St. Charles, MO.
Cinefamily’s trailer for the event is here:
The original trailer from YouTube has a lot of the “highlights”
Here’s a Cinematic Titanic trailer for one of their first releases:
I have been a fan of Joel Hodgson for many years now. My first exposure to him dates back to MST3K’s original run on (what is now called) Comedy Central. I’ve since become a fan of his brilliant prop/ventriloquism/stand-up and, having done a couple of movie riffs myself, consider him the creator of the form that MST3K set as the standard for making fun of bad movies.
This show was really something special. Joel did a full Q&A with the audience, walking us through his career. We started with his childhood obsession with ventriloquism, his creation of a “wearable” ventriloquist “mouth” that has since become an industry staple, his creation, development and departure from MST3K before watching his pilot for what was to be his follow-up series, “TV Wheel.” The show was an incredible feat – a sketch comedy show within the conceit of a fixed camera, single shot episode featuring a rotating stage to change scenes. The entire 22-minute show was done in a single take and featured several players who have since become big names: David Cross, Brian Posehn, Paul F. Tompkins and Doug Benson.
A few highlights included Joel explaining his departure from MST3K in more detail than I had previously heard. It came down to a “final straw” with MST3K: The Movie where Jim Mallon was listed as the director, while Hodgson and the other main talent listed as “Associate Producers.” Joel’s issue was that he created MST3K – he wasn’t just the host or a featured player. Next time you hear someone arguing the age-old Joel vs. Mike ridiculousness, remember this: Joel Hodgson created MST3K. Mike Nelson was the head writer. Joel wants to be remembered as the creator of the show, rather than the original host. I think he deserves it.
TV Wheel was amazing – ambitious as hell, and certainly a harder trick to pull off than MST3K. I’ve seen the early KTMA-TV episodes of MST3K as well as the first two seasons. The show really didn’t get into its stride until Season 2 on the Comedy Channel, the third season overall. That’s how long it took to get the number of jokes per minute right, the invention exchange and all the other hallmarks to the level of polish continued until the end of the series. It’s fascinating to imagine what TV Wheel could have been had it gotten the extra time and episodes to develop. BadAssDigest.com did a great article on the Show and Tell here that goes into better detail on what it was like to see TV Wheel as originally intended (what we saw was what the HBO execs saw but never aired.) http://badassdigest.com/2012/08/23/the-tv-wheel-joel-hodgsons-lost-attempt-to-reinvent-television/
Wayne White was also in the audience, and Hodgson called him up to make an announcement. White’s mainly known as the art director of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The show’s cartoony feel from it’s sets to the puppets were his creations. Both men took a moment to tell the other, in front of the audience, what an influence they had been to each other and that they were mutually “huge fans.” After Joel’s confession about crying over TV Wheel, the announcement that the two had met for drinks a few nights before and were planning to collaborate on an art installation it felt like two like-minded talented men had found a friend in each other. There were a lot of moments similar to this at Everything Is Festival, but this may have been the most wonderful to witness. We were the first to hear that these two icons had become fast friends and planned to do something together in the future. The spirit of camaraderie and collaboration became a recurring theme for the rest of the festival.
After the show, I met Joel and talked with him for a few minutes. I mentioned that I thought TV Wheel, even more than MST3K was a show that needed time to develop and was sorry he didn’t get the chance. We talked a little about YouTube and how doing something that ambitious now would be an easier thing to market and get in front of people. It was a common theme throughout the week – it’s easier than ever to get your stuff in front of people, you just have to be willing to do it for free and grow your audience. I mentioned that I had written a few riffs of my own. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” Joel said. It is – with a partner. I told him that for my experience was that trying to write, let alone perform the riffs solo just didn’t work. I needed that extra voice in the performance and someone else’s insight in the writing to know what was funny and what was killing time. Joel adamantly agreed. “I’ve never seen someone do it successfully solo. You definitely write better with a group, and performing alone always comes across as self-indulgent – the equivalent of laughing at your own jokes.”
MST3K was born when Joel brought a few fellow comedians from a writing group into help him film the first episode. It started out as complete improv, with the other performers (Trace Beaulieu and J. Elvis Weinstein) voicing and performing two puppets Joel created just before taping began. Knowing what I did about this process, watching TV Wheel and hearing Joel say, in his own words, how he cried earlier in the day remembering how hard he worked on the show and regretted its non-start I could really feel for him. He’s a comedy pathfinder and I hope that the current state of media with the free distribution and artist-direct movement makes it easier for him to connect with a new audience and blaze more trails for those of us who love his work. I suppose it goes without saying, but I felt the fire light back up to write some more movie riffs.
I introduced myself to Dimitri “Ghoul Skool” Simakis, co-director of the Festival and one of the minds behind EverythingIsTerrible.com. Dimitri and I managed to talk a few times during the festival even though he was obviously very busy keeping things running, calling guests and holding things together. Most of the events were introduced or presented by Simakis and/or Cinefamily’s executive director Hadrian Belove. John and I were very impressed with Hadrian and Dimitri’s work and how they made an effort to make everyone feel at home. There were many shows where I got to talking to people in line or sitting around me in the theater.
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Our friend and fellow St. Louis escapee Tucker Booth got us an appearance on Not So Shy John’s radio show on KillRadio.org. Tucker had played there before, and when he found out we would be in town he asked the host if we could appear on the Wednesday program to help promote John’s show the following Sunday.
Not So Shy John, the host of the program, met with us shortly before we went on at 3pm. He was incredibly nice and made us feel right at home. I originally planned to say little if at all and let the focus stay on John Maxfield. However, it wasn’t long before Tucker and I started cracking jokes and getting into one of my pet projects, promoting the idea that sharing music with your friends through copies and downloads is the greatest thing you can do as a fan.
We talked about how we were using YouTube to generate some attention to John, particularly with the “Smile” music video. The plan we’ve been using the most successfully is getting people to the music video and asking them to download the album “One Word is True” for free from a link below the video. If they like it, we ask them to share it. It seems to be working – we’ve heard music from John’s new album on radio stations unsolicited including a college station in South Bend, IN and as we found out in the coming days, from LA’s famous KROQ.
“Smile” video on YouTube:
Not So Shy John deserves more listeners. You can hear him live on Wednesdays at KillRadio.org or download his show in podcast format. Our show seems to have been a hit – it was downloaded over 1200 times in the first 48 hours after going up and is over 2000 downloads as I write this. You can download it and read an index of the songs and silliness here: http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/62347
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Both Not So Shy John and Tucker Booth came along with us as this event started a few hours after our radio appearance ended. Our friend Zac Eubank (director of “Smile” and others) also attended with us. The five of us ended up being the largest group I brought at one time to a show, and we all had a blast.
Being a fan of bad movies and having grown up during the heyday of 80’s action cheese, there were a lot of movie scenes I had already seen, but it was no less fun celebrating them as a group with the Cinefamily. One of the best moments was right at the beginning when they put up a loop of Jean-Claude Van Damme, gaping and looking from left to right as if trying to follow the conversation between the presenters, Hadrian and Tom(?) (I apologize for not getting the name of the co-presenter. He ran the Pioneer VJ machines at a lot of the events.)
Here are a couple of the subjects they touched on (these were found on YouTube and were not shown directly – they had their own sources and compilations.)
Van Damme’s Splits:
Hilariously bad climax scene (stay for both of the closing one-liners…)
Bollywood’s answer to “The Matrix,” 2010’s INSANE “Endhiran” (I actually watched this last year with my Indian mother-in-law!):
Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for “Lady Terminator.” I had hoped that it would start directly after the action scenes, but they took a break between. This became something of a regular situation, where there would be a bunch of downtime between events. It worked well after events with guest presenters where people wanted to get pictures and so forth afterward, but here it was a little awkward after 2 1/2 hours of movie scenes to have to wait another half hour or so to watch the next movie. Even so, I would have stayed but didn’t feel right about asking Tucker and Not So Shy John to stay another 2 hours as I was their ride home. So we missed that one – I’ll have to remember to circle back and check it out sometime.
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This show turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. I’ll admit to knowing nothing about Cynthia Rothrock prior to this show, but I went anyway as the idea of the EIF crew interviewing a female action movie star and martial arts expert was intriguing. They also selected “Yes, Madam,” her first movie and Hong Kong debut to watch after the interview and patio reception.
A few highlights from the interview included how she went from being a teenager in Pennsylvania to a Hong Kong movie star. She was chosen to star in a movie with Sylvester Stallone just after Rambo was released, but the movie was shelved after the director rejected the script. The movies she made after returning to America were universally panned – bad scripts, acting and little use of her martial arts expertise as the movies had almost no choreography close to her early work in Hong Kong. I also was surprised to learn that the original Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat was modeled after her.
“Yes, Madam” was an absolute treat. It’s a strange movie with this sort of twist/anti-climax ending, focus on different characters at different times and some uneven characters. None of this holds the movie back from being an excellent and creatively choreographed action movie. Rothrock’s fight scenes are top-notch, and outside of Jackie Chan’s movies I’ve not seen much on par or better. They’re inventive, funny and spectacular.
Here’s one of the best:
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This show was full of surprises. Acapellasqatsi and Nick Offerman were announced beforehand, with Bob Baker Marionettes and several other Cinefamily and EIT cohorts doing all kinds of fun and goofy stuff on stage. One act involved everyone in the audience putting on “ghost costumes” – hand-made props handed out before the show.
The Bob Baker Marionettes were a great surprise, and they quickly cycled through over a dozen marionettes singing various songs. The performers were both on stage and running through the audience, setting silly birds and other marionettes on people’s laps.
Here’s a short film about the Bob Baker Marionettes and their Los Angeles Theater:
We were also given what we were told was a “super-secret” prop and that we’d know when the time was right to use it. It was a plastic bag full of confetti. Dimitri Simakis and fellow Cinefamily colleague Suki-Rose Otter presented the acts, pretending to be high school administration. After Nick Offerman finished his set of stand-up comedy mixed with music, “principal” Simakis took the stage again to sing karaoke to Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” After the chorus, he produced an engagement ring and asked Otter to marry him. She said yes, and we joined the audience in showering them with cheers and confetti. It was really sweet.
Afterward, I heard a woman telling her boyfriend “Don’t ever do that to me.” My wife would have almost certainly said the same thing had she been there – she hates being the center of attention. I congratulated the happy couple and hung out for a bit with our friends, director Zac Eubank and actress Becca Scott.
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After the talent show, we were pretty tired and although we wanted to watch Miami Connection, one by one we started chickening out. It was only about 10:15 and the movie didn’t start until midnight. John and I decided to rush back to our friend’s house (we stayed 90 minutes away from the theater in Dana Point, CA) and try to catch it on the livestream. However, just as we were getting onto the highway, my other brother Joe Maxfield (who lives in Hollywood) called and invited us to hang out with his friends at a bar. I decided to drop John there for the night, and then headed back to the Silent Movie Theater. With the delays, drive back up to the bar and so forth, I got back about 15 minutes before midnight. I am SO very glad I did.
Y.K. Kim’s martial arts students did a demonstration before the movie. It was a great mood-builder leading up to the movie. “Miami Connection,” saved from obscurity by Alamo Drafthouse’s Drafthouse Films is a cheesy 80’s masterpiece. The rival gangs in the movie are also in rival new wave bands. The name of the hero gang’s band is Dragon Sound. Their members include a guy who looks like Yanni (and this was before Yanni.) John Oates also came to mind.
There are bad movies that are so bad they’re good. There are bad movies that are flawed and easy to make fun of. “Miami Connection” is 100% pure entertainment. It doesn’t need context or commentary to be hilarious. Every scene is funny, and with the ensemble cast all leading to hilarity in their own way, it never gets boring. The lyrics to the 80’s music are horrendously trite (of the ‘friends forever we’ll stick together’ ilk) but the music itself hits all the right notes of nostalgia. Pun intended. This movie may as well be called “RealUltimatePower.com The Movie” for how perfectly ridiculous it is. Drafthouse Films is touring the film across the country right now, and a DVD release is slated for later in 2012. See it however you can – I think a theater full of silly film fans is pretty much the perfect way to experience this.
“Miami Connection” trailer by Cinefamily:
This was a panel hosted by Dimitri Simakis including the guys from Animal Charm, TV Sheriff and Craig Baldwin. It was an interesting look at some pioneers of found footage who were creating the montages we find so readily today on YouTube and Vimeo back before non-linear editing and video sampling was so prevalent. In fact, it was barely possible!
I found the discussion interesting and the overarching message seemed to be about the rebellious nature of using someone else’s work to create something new. Some of the videos were hilarious, others were more thought provoking or outright incendiary statements about copyright law.
After talking a bit with Joel Hodgson earlier in the week, I remembered that one of the things I identify with in MST3K is that it is, at it’s core, observational comedy. I asked the panel about the role of humor in their work, my main point being that the videos that tend to go viral are usually funny vs. serious. Even when there’s a serious message, contextualizing it as humor seems to be a popular (if not necessary) means to getting the message in front of people. (For example, The Daily Show provides real news in a humorous context.)
The panel seemed split as to whether they actively use humor. Certainly, observation could be argued to be at the heart of the found footage spirit, but the Animal Charm guys and Craig Baldwin went out of their way to say that they actively choose serious topics to explore; That “the bummer” is important to get the message across too, if not more important. I didn’t push past the initial question, but respectfully disagreed inside. Using humor to attract repeat views and make people more likely to share it widens the audience and primes them for the message. You don’t have to depress people to teach them something. At least, that’s my 2¢.
This presentation was Everything Is Terrible at the top of its game. There were two “sketches” performed live by the EIT crew. One was a presentation about an armageddon survival compound featuring three characters providing equal parts religious-militia ravings and something akin to a timeshare speech. Then “Rev” Commodore Gilgamesh introduced the film, “The Rise and Fall of God” which is a mashup of religious videos featured on their site. It beared something of a resemblance to EIT’s full releases, such as “2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift” and “Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez!”
After the film, Gilgamesh reappeared for some “healing” which included a Duane carrying a 10′ cross made entirely out of Jerry Maguire VHS tapes. (It’s an EIT tradition) Bananas, craziness and everything you would expect from the Terrible Monsters.
“The Rise and Fall of God” trailer:
This was a very pleasant surprise. I did not know much about Adult Swim’s Off The Air prior to this showing. The 11-minute episodes feature short films and music based around a common theme. We watched one called “Body” and another (that premieres on Adult Swim this week) called “Falling.” Watching these in a theater in HD with the sound way up seems like the best possible way to experience these short bursts of art. “Falling” was definitely my favorite, but they were both very good.
Here’s Cinefamily’s trailer for the Off The Air event:
“Falling” aired at 4AM today, so I’m hoping to provide a link to it once it goes up online.
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I got to this one slightly late as John’s sound check at the Whisky was scheduled for 3pm. I dropped him off at 2 and went to catch this show. Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a classic among musicians, and was an early example of a film that had an underground, VHS copying and trading history. It’s right up there with “This Is Spinal Tap” as required viewing for serious musicians.
Krulik told some great stories, and we saw some pieces from a TV show with people holding vigils or protesting Michael Jackson’s court case. We also watched a delightful film he made about Ernest Borgnine driving around the Midwest in his very own bus!
Heavy Metal Parking Lot:
Ernest Borgnine On The Bus
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This was a hilarious compilation of found footage mixed together with some presenting by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab. One of the funniest parts of this show was their use of a licensed psychiatrist to analyze the people in some of the more awkward and ridiculous videos. One was a father singing a song to a pre-teen boy. The song mentioned how the kid liked to wear makeup, and the kid had a look of dread/anger/humiliation from start to finish. The psychiatrist concluded that his chances at mental health were pretty much screwed, but that at least he had a public record of the most embarrassing thing his dad ever did to him.
Another showed a guy doing terrible impressions/stand-up alone in front of a camera. He was laughing at his own “jokes” which were essentially sound bytes from movie trailers put into a sketch context. The psychiatrist explained that here, as with the overbearing father, this was so hard to watch because the guy had no insight into his audience. We were ashamed for him because he couldn’t tell by the reactions of people around him that they were NOT encouraging more of his “comedy.” “Can’t you hear the no in my voice?” Funny stuff, and a nice way to show how important insight and reading people are to being entertaining rather than exhausting and unfunny.
Found Crap 7 trailer:
As much as we wanted to stay and see the nearly lost and unseen “Rock n’ Roll Hotel,” John’s show at the Whisky was coming up and we wanted to be there for the opening bands as a professional courtesy. We tend to give CDs to other bands automatically, and usually give them away to the audience toward the end of John’s set (handing them out was my job at this show.)
John’s set was great, well-attended and sounded really good. For 11:30PM on a Sunday, the draw was also very good and the other bands mostly stayed to see him. The bands included (in reverse order from the headliner to the first opener):
- John Maxfield – representing the USA
- Party Animals – a metal band from Italy
- Purple Mafia – an indie rock band from the UK
- Johna – a singer/songwriter from Germany
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Overall, we had a blast! The festival, meeting new people, playing on the radio and on Sunset and meeting lots of great people was well worth the price of airfare. (Don’t get me started on parking tickets though – nearly $500 in 3 tickets and a near-miss with the tow truck – OUCH!) Next time I’d like to get the chance to spend some more time with people outside the context of the festival. Dimitri, Hadrian, Not So Shy John and Tucker are all people I only want to know better and share some more of my own music and wackiness with.
- The opening party on 8/18 featuring “Wet Hot American Summer” – we already had plane tickets for the next day when this show was announced
- G.L.O.W.: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” – this show sold out by the time we got our membership numbers from Cinefamily. They later added an encore screening later the same night, but by the time we noticed it it was too late to drive up from Dana Point in time.
- The Feline Gaze and Outsider Filmmakers A Go Go – these fell by the wayside after the very late night the night before and retrieving John after spending the morning with Joe.
- Star Wars: Uncut – I woke up at about 11AM and we didn’t get into town from Dana Point until it was nearly over.
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel – I really tried to see this one, but we were nervous about being too late to see all the bands at the Whisky and thought that would be very unprofessional. I’m really hoping Cinefamily managed to get a screen grab or a copy of this one – it looked hilariously awful and was shown using the only known copy! I’ll have to remember to ask Hadrian and Dimitri if they got a copy of this one.
- Found Footage Battle Royale – again, one I would have really enjoyed, but it was during John’s show. However, the VERY NSFW winning videos have been put up on YouTube and they are gloriously wrong!
- Doug Benson’s Movie Interruption – The Village – we left town and flew back a few hours before this one. I would have liked to see it
- Members-only secret “long-lost 35mm” show – I’m dying to know what this was. My best guess was “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” but it could just as easily have been “Troll 2,” or maybe even Birdemic. I’m intrigued – I suppose I’ll find out eventually how big an event I missed out on.
- The Adventures of Pete and Pete reunion – We were out of town the day before this one. I hope everyone that went had a great time. I’m a little too old (and never had cable as a kid) to remember Pete and Pete – Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was more of my time.
In Conclusion – if you ever get the chance to see a Cinefamily show, any of the movies or compilations I talked about above or next year’s Everything Is Festival, I highly recommend it. As I write this, Tucker Booth has officially joined up to co-host Not So Shy John’s radio show, so hit him up on Twitter and Facebook on Wednesdays and listen to his shenanigans. I look forward to future work with everyone I met and partied with this week. Hopefully Google Hangouts and Facebook will hold me over for a while before I have to make an inevitable return trip to Los Angeles.
Stay awesome, everyone – HOLY WATER!