Archive: October, 2007
The latest edition of the Sounds of Future Soul Series by Boombastics, Inc. and Walking Bear brought us an artist that is so flawless musically that he is easily in the upper echelon of modern talent (male and female) - Mr. Frank McComb. Before I get to his performance, let me give respect to the openers, DJ Junior from Eavesdrop radio and Philly funk/blues band, MOKA. Eavesdrop is one of the outlets that play the music I dig - European soul and house, so I figured I was safe with going early and enjoying some grup (fyi - the mustard BBQ wings are deeelicious). I went crazy when Junior played a track from UK Artist Ben Westbeech (who I like more than rice and beans). The musicians of MOKA have such good chemistry. I think the lead singer connected with the audience as far as lyrics, but her personality was a bit distant at times - like she forgot there were people watching and listening. Not necessarily a bad or good thing. Now on to Frank McComb! His band - which included a percussionist, drummer and bass player came out first and played this funky instrumental jam for about 3 minutes before McComb took the stage and started a piano and voice seduction of Stevie's "Superwoman" (the end of the song actually when it transitions to "Where Were You When I Needed You"). It was impeccable. I mean, many people have attempted Stevie before and it has been mediocre, but this was indeed beautiful. All the notes were hit, the emotion conveyed and the background music properly placed. McComb's smooth voice, clear articulation and passion was so smooth and welcoming. He continued on to his own material, often interacting with the audience - making jokes and even commenting to and amateur audience filmer that he didn't want to see that footage on YouTube (???). There was also a brief moment when the sit-down crowd started shouting suggestions and he would tease them with a verse or the chorus and then laughing he'd say, "But y'all don't know nothin' bout that!" McComb also acknowledged his blessing of being an independent artist (he had bootlegs that he printed up himself for sale) for over a decade and having such a loyal fanbase and the opportunity to tour. What he does on the piano with the addition of his solid band is something missing in music today. It was all natural, without machines and big gadgets. It was musicians making music from scratch. McComb's relationship with the Rhodes was deep. His manipulation of each key made it hard not to constantly just stare and vibe in those uncomfortable dinner seats. I had to leave 40 minutes into his set to be to work super early, but if he ever comes back to Philly - I am there. If the music coming out of this city can reflect McComb, we could once again be on top of the soul chain. There's always hope, right? More Pictures Frank McComb Music DJ Junior - Eavesdrop Radio MOKA Music
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
The Hold Steady do not command the people. If that were the case, then this show never would've been moved from the Electric Factory due to poor ticket sales. If you ask me, the Hold Steady are one of the best things going and yet I was quite prepared to skip this visit to Philly precisely because there's no way that airplane hangar was gonna do this band justice. The moment the show got moved, however, it became top priority. And if the TLA wasn't sold out, then it was damn close and that, I will insist, is the people commanding the Hold Steady: Rock for us in a place where you can be seen and heard. And they did rock, sweating and spazzing through highlights from their three LPs and a trio of new songs. You know, the smart riffs and smart lyrics actually keep their power in the live setting. How often can you say that? Still, it's energy, not words, that carry the night. Like Art Brut, who played before them, the Hold Steady enthusiastically and confidently do what they do under orders from we the people. So the people did what we do best, storming the stage to dance with the band for the final notes. And, knowing their place, the band helped us up.
|The Hold Steady perform a new one.||Art Brut name-checks Spinto Band during "Good Weekend"|
|Video | Brian Howard|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|The Hold Steady|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Patrick Rapa|
|Photo | Emily Davis|
The evening started off with a kinda surreal/fringe fest feel to it. Here's a group of 20 strangers sitting on folding chairs in the living room of a twin in Media waiting for a show to begin. But as soon as the barefoot Danielle Howle with her raspy southern drawl started to play the crowd sat transfixed.
This show was the latest installment of the Neil and Andi's Sixth Street Concert series. All of the guests were followers of the series — I'm pretty sure I was the only one who had ever heard of Danielle Howle. Neil had met Danielle at a concert in London in the mid-’90s and followed her career. When the opportunity arose, he invited her to the series that he and his wife host in their home.
Although Howle indulged me with a couple old songs (by request), she played mostly from her recent album, Thank you, Mark produced by Mark Bryan (lead guitarist of Hootie and the Blowfish).
She spent a lot time in between songs interacting with the audience and telling stories: sharing the inspirations for her songs and the process of bringing them to life, as well asking us for our feedback and impressions, it gave the night an artist’s workshop feel. She remarked how meaningful this exchange in an intimate venue was for her because the life of being a working musician on the road can be rather isolated and lonely.
For a fellow South Carolinan who's followed Danielle's work over the last decade, it doesn’t get any better than hanging out in a living room and listening to her play for nearly two hours.
Well actually maybe it does. she's agreed to come back in April to play at my place.
Grow Island is the latest in the venerable Grow series of games, which have been around almost as long as free Flash games have, and is arguably its best. The latest installment is more of the same deductive puzzles, though this time around the developer, Eyemaze, created it for Shibaura Institute of Technology and you can definitely feel the school’s influence in the choices you need to make.
On your little island, you’re given eight types of technology to choose from - civil engineering, architecture, mechanical engineering, etc – each represented by simple forms such as a pile of logs, a bolt, or a pickaxe. As with the rest of the Grow games, you’ll need to figure out the correct sequence in which to place them on the island and get them to level “Max” in order to win. If you do it right, you’ll feel like a unicorn pranced into your room and farted rainbows. Seriously.
With Grow Island, the game has taken a much more logical tack. In the other games, there wasn’t always a lot of logic involved and trial and error was your best bet in solving the puzzle. On the island, you can see how each bit of technology works with the others and it’s all optimistic and happy. The best part about the Grow games is that they’re still fun even if you don’t get the correct sequence down. The icons on the island will grow and interact in different ways, and the resulting animations are very amusing.
I admit I'm by no means an expert skater. Terms like “ollie” (some type of jump), “goofy foot” (a way to stand on the skateboard) and “axel” (beats me) are not in my vernacular. Therefore I approached Skate by EA Sports (who else) with some skepticism. After 10 minutes, I had to admit I may have made a mistake not olliying on the skateboarding bandwagon. Skate is flat out fun.
Whether you’re going through the tutorial (which I suggest) or freestyling through the city, this game’s a good ride. Frankly, nothing is more fun then shooting in and out of traffic only to be hit by a taxi head on. Though the graphics are not spectacular the sound effects are pretty realistic. I particularly liked the music (N.W.A. and Cheap Trick) during practice but wished there was more music during actual play. (During the freestyle sessions you know you are in a superior skateboarding area when you hear music but I found these to be too few and far between).
My biggest complaint would be the Live option, which was basically a few guys skating around, oblivious to each other. I imagined a more competitive environment.
All and all I highly recommend this game for both shredders and posers.
Last night, the Urban League Young Professionals hosted Philly Mayoral candidates Michael Nutter and Al Taubenberger at the PECO Building in a friendly conversation that was led by media personalities Colby Colb (100.3 The Beat) and Natasha Brown (CBS 3/CW Philly 57). The room was set up for about 100 or so people, but at best, 50 bodies filled the venue. The pre-determined questions were a bit predictable ranging from the Philadelphia educational system, SEPTA, affordable and quality housing, customer service within the city, and retaining students after they finish at an area college. Nutter seemed to have the best answers for everything, even prompting Taubenberger to piggy back on his opponents' answers by simply replying to half the questions as "I agree with Mike", before adding his own commentary. The funniest part of the night came when an audience member stated, "I wanna know who is getting fired -because in order to fix things, the people at the top have to change." While comical, there was much truth in that statement. Nutter was honest in saying that he expects significant amount of changes, but also added, "This isn't the Donald Trump show. This is a city with a million and a half people that needs support and I take that seriously." Taubenberger's answer wasn't memorable or good enough to write down. Click below to see some boring pics, Al and Mike websites, and to read a brief outline of things discussed. Don't get too excited though -it was a basic and clean discussion, that even prompted Colby Colb to remind the candidates that they are allowed to disagree. I was quite surprised about the lack organizations represented. I do know there are a million and one debates or conversations happening like this before election day, but I figured the motivation from Sunday's 10,000 men Call to Action would have spilled over and some would have came out last night. Guess not! Both candidates agreed that SEPTA needs an overhaul and that if we are paying the most for service in the country, the transportation should be the best. Nutter plans on attacking this issue by re-opening the office of transportation in the city, and having more discussions with political leaders in the city who help choose the SEPTA appointees to make a clear and informed decision about who they choose. Taubenberger spoke of getting more input from riders to make them comfortable. As far as affordable and quality housing, Nutter made the point that half the property the city owns, it has no idea what to do with it. He would like to have the perspective communities work with developers to figure out what will and won't work and he wants to diversify construction contracts. He also said that if the city can build luxury condos in no time, then why is it that we haven't figured out how to build affordable housing for low-moderate communities across the city? As far as the customer service that is lacking in public service offices like L&I (the most obvious), Nutter said that he wants to have every public service employee go through extensive training while Taubenberger said he would have constant audits and more input from city residents. When the topic of retaining college graduates was posed, Nutter stated that he thinks the city should encourage more to go into public service and have incentives for such like help with college debt reduction. He also spoke of more internships, fellowships and mentoring programs that could happen at Philadelphia businesses and such that could influence students to stay here. Taubenberger agreed. The issue of violence wasn't mentioned and I chalk that up to people sick of hearing about what 'might' happen to curb it. Now that I think about it, the topic was indirectly addressed through discussion on jobs and education. The candidates were whisked off to another forum at around 730 p.m., clocking their appearance at about an hour. Above is just an outline and I suggest if you want to know more, then check out the candidate links below or email them (Taubenberger - firstname.lastname@example.org, Nutter - email@example.com). They said they will get back to you. Good Luck with all of that. FYI - Voting takes place on November 6, 2007. More pictures from Conversations with the Candidates Michael Nutter website Al Taubenberger website The Next Mayor website
This was a busy weekend in Philadelphia as far as charitable events is concerned including the annual AIDS Walk, which was yesterday. The weather couldn't have been any more beautiful for the 12K Walk/10K run that started at the Art Museum. I heard a report on KYW that stated $350,000 was counted so far and that wasn't even the final. There were all types of people there from the elderly, elementary - high school students, fraternities, sororities, and other various organizations throughout the Delaware Valley. Those that didn't run or walk took to riding their bikes or rollerblading. Because of federal budget cuts, the state of Pennsylvania is expected to lose several million dollars for HIV/AIDS services. That is obvious evidence why this walk is still a necessity 26 years after the epidemic started. It's not too late to donate by the way....see link below. I gotta go soak my tired bones...all so, so worth it. OUCH!! Pictures from 2007 AIDS Walk Philly ActionAIDS
|Photo | Char Vandermeer|
The standard take on Spoon casts them as a band always almost ready to break out. They’ve ridden a steady slow upswing in buzz over the last few years and their last few albums; they own a handful of hooks instantly recognizable from soundtracks and commercials; they write songs with meticulous arrangements and release increasingly spare slow-burning records. It’s easy enough to make the leap to metaphor as they’re touted over and over as the next dues-paid breakout on the strength of a catalogue of restless songs that reach for release but build carefully to frustration and paranoia.
This always-almost status puts them at the top of festival bills, and put them in front of the Electric Factory Friday night, doing the difficult work of translating a series of scrupulous studio songs into a four-man show in a concrete hangar. Sans opener — the scheduled Ponies really tried to make it, they explained — they ran through two dozen songs in a long set and a pair of encores in front of a very full yuppie-indie house. Clearly, this is a band that values their live show as much as their impeccably-produced records: Jim Eno’s drums conquered the echo of the space, and retained much of their studio crispness, the lighting synched carefully with the songs (one production value almost never done right in rock and roll), the couple of missteps (a jumped drum fill toward the end of the set) were quickly noted and passed over by the band.
The midset pairing of Gimme Fiction’s “My Mathematical Mind” and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s “The Ghost of You Lingers” brought this thoroughness into relief: They moved from one of their most-tightly coiled pieces to a track greeted, when it leaked, with dismay over its formlessness. Both songs moved perfectly, close to the album versions — as they should, because there are no unearned crescendoes or abrupt transitions in their sound. Neither had the abandon of a performance by a road-warrior band like the Hold Steady or the Drive-By Truckers, bands able to put the performance and the moment over the song. Instead, the performance became like nothing so much as watching Roger Federer play tennis — there’s effort and engagement, but there’s also the sense that even in the moment, they’ve got one eye on perfection.
How did we almost miss this one? Tonight Media PA hosts Jazz By Night with 16 venues offering live music. Legendarey sax man Bootsie Barnes plays at the very high tone Brodeurs with guitar phenom Giga Shane as part of the group. Shane can tear up some Gypsy jazz in addition to Philly style jazz. Down State Street at Picasso the ratio of Gypsy to straight ahead jazz is inverted with the Stephane Wrembel Trio. Under 21 listeners should try 7 Stones Cafe where Elliot Levin, who has added sax and flute to everything from Klingon Klez to Odean Pope, holds forth. The latter appears tonight with the Hummrummers at Quotations. Western swing is on the far edge of jazz and it's a pleasure to see Media making room for local Bob Wills disciples Beats Walkin' at the Plumstead. Check the event website! I'm not gonna reiterate the whole list, though they are all worth seeing.At $15 ($10 in advance if you scoot over to one of the clubs early!) you can't beat the price.
Full lineup after the jump.
* Charles Fambrough Quartet @ Sligo (9:30)
* Bootsie Barnes Quartet w/ legendary guest vocalist Don Gardner
(“I Need Your Lovin’ Every Day”) @ Brodeur’s on State Street (9:30)
* The Humrunners featuring Odean Pope @ Quotation’s Bar & Restaurant (9)
* Denise King Quartet w/special guests @ Iron Hill Brewery (9:30)
* Soulfuego @ Joclyn’s Deck Bar (9)
* Dave Wilson Quartet @ Stephen’s on State (9:15)
* Beats Walkin’ @ Plumstead Inn (8:15)
* Steve Green & The Elevators @ John’s Grille (8)
* Elliot Levin w/Supercam & Dirty Focus of The Mighty Paradocs
@ 7 Stones Café / Plum St. Mall (7:30) Sax/Poetry – All Ages
* Stephane Wrembel Trio @ Picasso (9:30)
* Barbara Martin & Liz Barnes @ Towne House Forge Room (8)
* Stephanie Klein & Nocella Brothers w/Howie Thompson
@ Coffee Beanery (7:30) – All Ages
* Mike Kennedy @ Margaret Kuo’s Media (7:30) Dinner Seating Only – All Ages
* * Line-up subject to change.Paul Jost & Jim Ridl @ Media Gourmet Café (7:30) – All Ages
* Background Image ©2007 loisimages.com™Frank Tucci @ B Gross Menswear's Per Lei Boutique (7–11)
Lights up, dancers on stage, Pennsylvania Ballet invited its audience back into its world of tour jetes, sassy social dance, and experimental moves out of nowhere. For its Merriam opening, PAB began with George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco, a deceptively simple intertwining of bodies to Johann Sebastian Bach's gorgeous Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins. This is a dance of pure abstraction which requires the ladies of the corps to be perfect, and they were. In the principal roles, Arantxa Ochoa, Amy Aldridge and Sergio Torrado were excellent as well. Torrado is a fine partner, strong, confident and responsive to his lady. Keep in mind this abstract ballet which looks so pretty today was considered almost offensively experimental in its day.
As It's Going, choreographed in-house by Matthew Neenan, is generations away. Balanchine extended and speeded up the ballet line, Neenan wants to play with it. This ballet from 2006 is set to challenging Shostakovich music and, like Barocco, uses only colored lighting to create its setting. Neenan turns ballet lines upside down and sideways. Ballerinas get dragged across the floor by their feet, or tossed out from the wings into their partner's arms, or held aloft horizontally like lumber. Dancers even suddenly stop and pant. Julie Diana and partner Zachary Hench got a lovely almost traditional romantic pas de deux. Ian Hussey, just promoted to corps, showed speed and flare. Neenan's mixture of somber, dramatic music with easy-going, playful movement works. This generation's experimentation could easily end up the next's classicism.
Polishing off the evening was Company B, a crowd-pleaser from modern great Paul Taylor. Using nine Andrews Sisters songs from the World War II era, Taylor incorporates the social dance steps, swing and fox trot, from that era into a mix of modern and ballet. Silhouetted dancers move slowly across the stage back in postures of soldiers slowly marching, kneeling to raise a rife, or falling, thus underlining without hitting the audience over the head that this great joyful music was being sung in time of war. The music is so inviting the audience squirms around rhythmically with the dancers. Corps members Abigail Mentzer and Andre Vytoptov had a great romp with Pennsylvania Polka. James Ihde got the Latin beat just right in Tico-Tico. But it was Matthew Neenan whooping it up, and hitting every leap as the Bugle Boy of Company B who brought down the house.
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