Archive: November, 2012
In my recent pick on Bad Braids, I attributed their lofty, dreamy, cartoon-ghost sounds to the ol’ singing saw. Last night I discovered that was a theremin I was hearing, played with seamless finesse by Mike Bruno. He also plays one of those spooky brass Tibetan singing bowls, a tin whistle type thing and this sort of hub cap that chimed like a church. And yet, for all those bells and whistles, Bruno’s playing was more about mood-setting than spotlight-getting. Indeed, the ears most often went to singer Megan Biscieglia whose singing charmed the room with urgency and passion. Check them out.
I’m glad I got there in time to catch Chelsea Mitchell’s ambitious and assured singer-songwritery stuff. It mighta been a tough sell in a noisy bar, but I was intrigued enough to buy her CD, If I Got Mine.
[CORRECTION: That was Mike Bruno playing with Bad Braids, not Jared Stafford-Hill.]
In 1985, the Tiberino family of Poweltown Village filmed The Mural, a noisy, lively look at Philly’s Beat generation of contemporary artists, poets and musicians who hung out at Joseph and Ellen Tiberino’s Bachanal bar. Along with The Mural being a giddy tour guide to the then-battered area, the grainy black-and-white film examines Joseph’s legendary painting The Liberation of Women, and delves into the mythology surrounding the Tiberino clan. Twenty-five years later, that family started filming Tiberino, an autobiographical mockumentary that finds their patriarch searching for an allegorical pot of gold at the end of an imaginary rainbow. Tonight, the Troc will screen the former in hopes to raise funds to finish the latter.
TONIGHT, Thu., Nov. 15, 8 p.m., $10, The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, troc.com.
We didn't even put anything in the paper about this show because we were like 100 percent certain it'd sell out. But Sean Agnew says there are still some tickets available. More info here.
On Saturday night, Philadelphia’s The Low Road — the much-loved folksy pop five piece that ruled our weird mellow ’90s — played two packed-tight reunion gigs at the Tin Angel on S. Second Street. They grooved. They moved. Their harmonies were intact and the way the harmonica floated through its wall of violin and stringed bass was heartbreakingly impeccable. When their “Devil’s Pocket” was emptied, the Low Road’s cast came into the crowd and hung with their old friends.
This month the Tin Angel celebrates its 20th anniversary. Long live the Angel and all who sail her.
The Tin Angel defined that ’90s folk freaky scene as well as being defined by local acts such as The Low Road, Jeffrey Gaines and several solo Hooters as it was equally by nationally known-and-growing punk folkies such as Ani DiFranco, Alejandro Escovedo and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. “I don’t think you’re off the mark,” says booker/curator Larry Goldfarb who was busy dancing up a storm on Saturday at the Crystal Tea Room during the wedding reception of his son David Goldfarb to Dr. Candice Leah Gollomp while the Low Road ruled his roost.
The Tin Angel was a perfect spot for that sound. Cramped, dark, yet airy and always homey is what Tin Angel was at its start. Shows there are always a funky family affair that artists and audiences are driven to. Plus, it’s a great place to get trashy drunk in as long as you can keep a civil tongue about it.
“That’s probably why in the whole time that we’ve been here we’ve had only two sound people, three managers, two owners and me booking the room for 20 years — that’s stability,” says Goldfarb. “That’s family.”
A veteran of the booking biz for 43 years, Goldfarb had done scads of shows at venues such as the Academy of Music (50 shows including several of all time personal faves with Tom Waits, Chic and Nina Simone), the Trocadero and the Empire Rock Club before coming to the Tin Angel before its opening. “When I walked upstairs to that little fucking narrow room and got asked if money could be made doing original music, I figured yeah, if we did everything right.” Goldfarb knew that he had to find an intimate niche to suit the small space.
“The singer-songwriter revolution of the ’90s. David Gray, Jeff Buckley, Brandi Carlisle, Ray Lamontagne... that was and is us.” Goldfarb says it has been tough to maintain the strength of the Tin Angel’s initial decade what with the erection of the New Hope Winery and World Café Live. “It’s hard to go up against millionaire realtors. We can’t get the state to build out a gorgeous venue. We’re the little guys.” Goldfarb makes one truly great analogy between himself and the Oakland A’s. “We’re the Money Ball. And we soldier on.”
What Goldfarb has is personal integrity, the love of artists who know him well and dig his vibe and that of the Tin Angel. “I’ve befriended guys like Citizen Cope, Raul Malo, people who are way bigger than the room. They dig it, man. They dig the Angel. I remember asking Gil Scott Heron that question the last time we had him here — why play the Angel when you could fill a much bigger space. He told me that he trusted me, a quality that he thought rare in this business and that he personally valued. That’s great. That’s why I do this. I have a love for it. And I’m a pro guy — I’m not paying a guy $4,000 when they’re a $500 act. We know what we’re doing here.”
More info on the Tin Angel at tinangel.com.
Megan Biscieglia’s got a voice like a sleep-deprived Appalachian angel. It’s heavenly high and earthily robust, but there’s also an unfakeable weariness to it — a strain here, a whispering trail-off there — that gives Philly folkies Bad Braids their edge. Lovely.
Wed., Nov. 14, 8 p.m., $8, with Company, Company, Chelsea Q. Mitchell and The Suicide Magnets, North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St., 215-787-0488, northstarbar.com.
The man who invented jackass comedy is still kicking, and has been on tour performing standup comedy for about two years. True to form, his standup act is very strange. It’s funny in the same vein as his patently asinine antics, thanks to an unfathomably weird delivery. The subject matter of his act is fairly unoriginal (“Things were better when I was a did, before texting.”) Still, Green's honest chaotic mania lets you know he's genuine, even if it’s unsophisticated.
For all his weird "alien inhabiting a human body" shtick — which he's still unofficially doing at 42 years old — there are a few surprising and impressive nuggets of cerebral philosophy to be found in his routine. A bit about how robot servants and texting will start to reverse evolution recalls the existential backdrop of Wall-E. And his rant about how married people shouldn't have Facebook has roots in Judeo-Christian ethics, despite being intentionally buried in overtly obnoxious profanity.
We asked Green what it was like moving from his online talk show on The Tom Green Channel to the world of standup comedy. "The transition to standup was real good. I did it for a while as a teenager and loved it, but stopped doing it when I started the original Tom Green Show. There are some similarities between standup and what I was doing on the show. After doing the show for a decade, you really get into the rhythm of understanding what it is that my audience likes, what kind of weird things make people laugh. You have to work hard to come up with ideas, they generally don't write themselves — not the good ones, anyway. So you have to get into the work ethic. But I always loved getting on stage and performing, so it was pretty seamless."
Classical music in the 20th century went through a whirlwind of style battles, but for now, the kind of modernist tonality that was championed by composers such as England’s Benjamin Britten and Russia’s Dmitri Shostakovich seem to hold sway as the voice of the era, in terms of both audience reception and academic acceptance. The music of both men is on the program of the superb Takács Quartet, including the 1940 Shostakovich Piano Quintet (with the amazing Marc-André Hamelin at the piano) and Britten’s late-in-life String Quartet No. 3. The concert opens with Schubert’s magically beautiful Rosamunde.
Wed., Nov. 14, 8 p.m., $24, Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St., 215-569-8080, pcmsconcerts.org.
Ani DiFranco coaxes atypical sounds from her guitars with her percussive and staccato strumming and picking patterns. Unlike any other performer I've ever seen, Ani also told the audience, "You're welcome," during the cheers after several songs. But she can get away with that because of her dedicated fans that have followed her for 20 years or so. And, of course, Ani also chatted with the audience about politics, genderlessness, and patriarchy. She shared one anecdote about her five-year-old daughter's obsession with gender. Her daughter named each student in her class at school describing each one as "boy" or "girl" until she got to the last student and described her as "both."
Ani opened with the title track from her latest album, ¿Which Side Are you On? (released by Righteous Babe in January), and followed it with another two from that record ("Promiscuity" and "Splinter"). She also played some of her classic oldies like "Fire Door," "Shameless," "Napoleon," and "Coming Up", joking with the audience that she can barely remember how to play some of them. After a discussion about The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess, a book Ani recommended, she shared a new song/poem inspired by the book. Although she played most of the songs with bassist and percussionist, she did do two songs solo ("Rain Check" and "Two Little Girls"). For her two-song encore, Ani played "Both Hands" and "Overlap."
More photos at davetavani.com.
We have way too much fun with our Instagram account (follow us @phillycitypaper!), but City Paper staff photographer Neal Santos (@nealsantos) is the real deal when it comes to snapping gorgeous shots of people and places around the City of Brotherly Love. Every Friday, in this space, he shares a handful of his week's favorites.
One of the headlining acts at Philly Improv Fest — running now through Sun., Nov. 11 — is BillyHawk, an L.A.-based duo of iOWest-trained improv-ers Brian O'Connell and Jeff Hawkins. This week, O’Connel sat down with me over a pint of fine local Märzen to explain why he thinks you might shit your pants if your attend their show tonight at the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.).
City Paper: So what's the BillyHawk back story?
Brian O'Connell: Jeff and I [took] classes together at iOWest in Los Angeles. We both really seemed to click in Level 5 with instructor Miles Stroth. He coached us on a team called The Happy Time Rainbow Bunny Squad, where we dove pretty deep into the long form known as “The Deconstruction.” That team faded away and we sort of drifted into other stuff, [until] one day I just called him up and was like, "We should play together again." And now here we are!
CP: What type of character does your improv have?
BO: The "work" we like tends to be harsh but not abrasive. We enjoy laughs and entertaining an audience, sure, but what we really want is for an audience to care. We want you to cheer and shit your pants in wonder. Part of the reason we do this show is because we don't have the opportunity to explore many dark truths with our other groups. We tend to put ourselves out there [by] talking truthfully about our lives, so that can be a little scary. We got a pretty good review in Phoenix a few years back: "Billyhawk was even able to mine the comedy gold from a scene about blood cancer, which is not easy to do." We felt pretty good about that.
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