Archive: October, 2011
Reporter Meg Augustin takes you inside some of Philly's most fab dwellings to showcase our city's unique grasp on design and architecture.
Because of the city’s historical richness, old (read: haunted) homes are rampant in Philly. Today, with the help of a team of paranormal investigators, I’ve rounded up some of these creaky old abodes that — if rumor stands true — contain supernatural remnants of owners past.
Local medium Marisa Liza Pell has toured many of Philadelphia’s supposedly haunted houses in her 15 years of paranormal work. She has been asked speak to dead residents in private homes and has walked through some of Philadelphia’s richest cultural centers in the hopes of communicating with the other side. Take for instance her visit to the Philadelphia Zoo. Part of the current zoo complex, The Solitude House (pictured right) was built by William Penn’s grandson John Penn in 1784. When Pell approached the house, she felt the presence of a man, alone and private — the image of the hermit-like John Penn. Inside, she received messages from him about his love of birds. A few moments later a feather was found on the doorstep and a parade of peacocks strutted to the front door.
Sometimes ghosts stick to a house, Pell explains, for the same reason the living do: time and effort. Many of us put a lot of work into our homes and have specific ways we’d like to see them run. For some spirits, that very task has kept them from crossing over. In the case of Lemon Hill Mansion, Henry Pratt, the original owner of the home, has been seen and felt by current caretakers. When Pell visited the mansion, she received messages from Pratt not only of his existence but also of the to-do list of repairs and changes he wanted to see accomplished.
But not all ghosts are so congenial. According to local Ghostbusters Free Spirit Paranormal Investigations, there are several classifications of paranormal activity:
While David Dye was celebrating the 20th anniversary of radio show Friday night with sets by John Hiatt and the Indigo Girls at the World Café’s Philadelphia flagship, over at the Wilmington outpost, a different 20th anniversary was being marked. Even though Matthew Sweet’s latest album, Modern Art, came out at the end of September, his biggest success remains 1991’s Girlfriend, and so his current tour finds him revisiting it every night.
The songs stand up, and the mostly 40-ish crowd was intimately familiar with its 15 tales of romantic woe and yearning. Though Sweet acknowledged after the title track — only three songs in — that the record’s frontloaded with hits, some of the best (“Evangeline,” “Holy War”) were yet to come.
Sweet’s voice is as boyish as it ever was, so while he’s a much bigger man at 47 than he was when he was creeping up on 30, he’s still convincingly winsome on songs like “I’ve Been Waiting” and “Thought I Knew You.” The only musical drawback was that the frontman and his band — lead guitarist Dennis Taylor and drummer Ric Menck, who also play on Modern Art, and Menck’s old Velvet Crush partner Paul Chastain on bass — played almost every song as hard rock, and too many heavy solos sometimes overpowered the pop. Holding back on “Your Sweet Voice” was a nice touch, and a trick they could have employed more often.
CP music critic Brian Wilensky rounds up this week's sure-bet live acts.
Monday: The World/Inferno Friendship Society are a bunch of sharply dressed, loud, horn-blowing Brooklyn “gypsies” that once had Geoff Blythe from Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the band. He won’t be at this show, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be that guy yelling for “Come on Eileen.” 8 p.m., $15, w/ Melt Banana & Mischief Brew, Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100.
Tuesday: He looks like Jeff Bridges’ cowboy brother and sounds like he has actually lived through the stories he sings about. The White Buffalo may be one the rise, but don’t worry about keeping your ear to the ground. 8 p.m., $12, w/ Emily Greene, Tin Angel, 20 S. 2nd St., 215-928-0770.
Wednesday: Le Butcherettes’ recent album, Sin Sin Sin, was produced by Omar Rodriguez Lopez. According to their Twitter account, he’ll be filling in on bass for their East Coast tour. You won’t get to see him back up an indie/punk band like this too often. 8 p.m., $12, w/ The Black Belles & Break It Up, Milkboy Philly, 1100 Chestnut St., 215-925-6455.
Thursday: Still listening to Meat Puppets II because Kurt Cobain told you to? Cowpunk is still around on the Meat Puppets’ 2011 album, Lollipop, and maybe this time you can be the one to tell your friends about what they’ve been missing out on. 9:15 p.m., $14, w/ Dex Romweber Duo, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of a pop culture-loving Philly dude.
Happy Halloween! Over the weekend I dipped into Mad River in Manayunk for its maximum-occupancy-defying costume party. But the bulk of my weekend was spent taking in some of my favorite horror-flicks.
Dead Alive — Some folks are still unaware that before Lord Of The Rings, director Peter Jackson was a gore-tastic zombie fiend. This cult-y gnaw-athon is my personal favorite zombie flick. If you're into priests who "kick ass for the Lord!" and gruesome lawnmower-slayings that could make Quentin Tarantino nauseous, this modestly hilarious bloodbath is for you. Make sure you get the unrated version. It's important.
The Omen — The tagline from this 1976 gem is "If something frightening happens to you today, think about it." What a groovy way to vaguely amp up the atmosphere of cinema terror. This tale about the coming of the antichrist features one of the scariest movie motifs in horror history: a young kid. The scary thing about a kid who grimaces at you and then you die in a terrible accident is that it could really happen. This is a stark contrast to most of the other films in this list.
Alien — Easily the scariest sci-fi flick ever made. By not showing you much of the monster for most of the film, the frights are less visual and more visceral. Get out of there, dude!!
Evil Dead 2 — If horror-comedy is indeed a cult, then this classic is the Kool-Aid punchbowl. One of the truly asinine films of the ages, Evil Dead 2 is perhaps the most classic film in cheese-terror history. Unlike its predecessor, which attempted more straight horror than comedy, and its successor, which attempted more comedy than horror, this movie is pure WTF.
Armed with droning synths, astro-sized vocals and thickly distorted guitars, Austin’s Black Angels rocked Union Transfer Thursday night. They opened with “Haunting at 1300 McKinley” from last year’s Phosphene Dream, the album from which much of their set was picked, but it was Passover’s “Bloodhounds on my Trail” that seemed to move the crowd the most. There was a live video feed of them with day-glo colors pojected onto that backdrop, reminiscent of a ’70s music video.
Dead Meadow’s opening set prior was a little less droney and more fuzzy, wah-pedaled and sludgey. Their long, down-tempo songs such “Sleepy Silver Door,” from their self-titled release and “At Her Open Door,” off of Feathers gave their set a more improvised, guitar-driven feel. Sadly, technical issues forced them to cut their set short. Before their set was Spindrift’s spaghetti western rock full of train sounds created by the drummer, whistles, ‘hey, hey hey!s’ and wind blowing tumbleweed duplications. They even dressed the part, wearing hats that could hold a couple gallons and cowboy boots.
When Snoop D-O-Double-Gizzle made the izzles a full-on craze, a lot of people assumed he originated it. Then critics stepped up to claim he yanked it from E-40. But according to John Hopkins linguist Joshua Viau, the phrasing could have originated as far back as the Harlem Renaissance. “The definitive origins … elude me and, as far as I know, everyone,” he explains. “The earliest [English] example [I've seen] of an iz-type infixation is in the early 1930s.”
The first hip-hop track to feature it was Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus.” In the early ’80s, Smith (pictured) and his producer Bill Bloom — both Philadelphia International alums — saw potential in the hyper-local trend of iz-ing. “Actually the kids in Philly were using [izzle slang] at that time,” Bloom explains. “We actually brought in some of Frankie’s neighbors to use the slang. We told them what we wanted them to say, and then they said it [and] we worked in it rhythmically so it would fit the track.”
Bloom and Smith began piecing the song together in 1981, using leftover studio time from a group called Fat Larry’s Band. “We had never written a song like this … For “Double Dutch Bus” we literally made it up as we went along,” Bloom reveals. Before the song, both men had worked as schoolteachers. Bloom notes, “We wanted to do something for kids. Ironically, though, the song broke in the clubs.” It hit number No. 1 on the R&B charts in early July and stayed there for eight weeks straight. It has been sampled continuously since, but Snoop took it to another level. Now even the samples get sampled. (Example? Girl Talk’s “Get It Get It.”)
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what's giving Philly the giggles.
This week, over a small repast of scones and soda, I had a brief chat with Aaron Hertzog about his Philly comedy website, WitOut.net.
City Paper: How long has WitOut.net been in operation?
Aaron Hertzog: It's probably about a year old. I think it was late winter or early spring that Luke Giordano launched it. And I took it over when he left for L.A. in May or June. Luke did all the page design. I just followed the template. I'm basically the editor, I do most of the writeups and sometimes people contribute.
CP: I hear rumors about an upcoming WitOut.net comedy awards.
AH: We don't have a date yet, but we just figured out how to do the whole voting process. We want to keep the voting insular: a "for us by us" thing for Philly comedy. The original idea, when Rob Baniewicz first proposed it to me, was, for example, when Philly comedy groups and performers are applying for festivals in other cities, they’d be able to add a little flair to their resumes if they've won a WitOut.net award. People will [be able to} nominate their favorite performers, shows, sketches, etc ... Then, based on those nominations, we'll make simpler surveys for voting on the website.
CP: Will there be an actual award show or will this be online-only?
AH: We're trying to find a venue and make it fun, or try to do a formal thing. We're still figuring it out. Cost will be a factor since we have no budget.
CP: WitOut.net covers everything Philly comedy, right? Not just standup?
AH: We try to cover everything, I will write about standup, improv, sketch and storytelling. I also did some plays and such. Updating the calendar is so tedious. There's a page for weekly open-mics. I hope people look at it. I hope at least one person is looking for something to do and finds this site helpful.
When Jason DiEmilio died in 2006, the Clifton Heights native didn’t just leave behind a rich catalog of experimental drone-psychedelia. The 36-year-old guitarist/composer left a loving assemblage of friends and fellow players devastated by his sudden departure and desirous of keeping his music alive.
For those of us who witnessed Azusa Plane’s music in real time — shows across Philadelphia, singles on his own Doorstep Vinyl label, the raw silken America is Dreaming of Universal String Theory (1998) through his Colorful Clouds for Acoustics imprint, countless cassette appearances like Resonating Subtleties and compilations galore — the sensation was awesome. I don’t mean “awesome” as “nice” or “cool.” The Azusa Plane was mesmerizing and all-encompassing. Nothing DiEmilo did was a casual listen. Writing about him then was never a job. It was an honor, a genuine joy to behold as you were entranced by every layered lick and sonorously avant-orchestral brushstroke.
Back in the mad bad 1990s, Vinita Joshi was one of the people most devoted to keeping DiEmilio’s music alive then and now. As a co-founder of Che Records (she also started Rocket Girl, and was integral in Cheree from which Che sprung) carried a large selection of limited editions, split singles (like Azusa’s half of “Siempra Azul” with Loopdroop) and deep-underground albums. “We bought the Doorstep Vinyl releases from Jason which is prob when we were first in touch,” says Joshi who recalls first meeting the home recording enthusiast and Fender-fond guitarist at the first Terrastock festival in Rhode Island in 1997.
Rather than compile that which is readily available, Joshi’s Rocket Girl is releasing an Azusa Plane retrospective, Where the Sands Turn to Gold, and sponsoring a listening party and retrospective gig featuring friends such as Asteroid #4, Mariner Nine and Fuxa. The handsomely produced double-disc set features over two hours of music with a DVD of a 30-minute live set that will screen as part of this Saturday’s event. Never and rarely heard tracks, an interview with DiEmilio and a gorgeously expansive booklet of essays fill the package.
“The rarest find for me was prob that interview with Jason on a DAT he had sent me with a track when I was trying to do an album for Silver Apples,” says Joshi. “Hearing the unedited version and Jason's voice was a real find I think.” Any excuse to hear the Azusa Plane and gather in the name of Jason DiEmilio is fine by me.
Sat., Oct. 29, 8 p.m., $10, with Fuxa, Asteroid #4 and Mariner Nine, Johnny Brenda's 1201 N. Frankford Ave., johnnybrendas.com.
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Like the characters in the pretty good but maybe not so long-lived new show Once Upon a Time, you might feel as if time is standing still. If you pay attention like the little hero of the story, though, you’ll see the town clock start to move.
Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Enjoy your homecoming, brief though it may be. Settle into your bones, you childhood bed, the cats you used to sit for. Pray to the light-up subway map in your heart, think how all the trains are always just going back and forth, back and forth.
More than a mere hair salon, American Mortals utilizes its space as a constantly evolving tribute to local art and design, changing their décor as often as you change your hairstyle. Their next transition revolves around Armed and Dangerous, an evening of libations and Lyons. Kevin Lyons, that is. The local artist — famous for his balloon-shaped creations that recall Roger Hargreaves’ “Little Miss” characters — has doodled all over American Mortals’ neatly wallpapered walls. And for fun, he incorporated classic hairstyles into the work, so expect the wall art to humorously teeter the line of unexpected and fitting.
Lyons, who has been a creative force behind Urban Outfitters for seven years and, in 2001, was named one of the “Top Forty Designers Under Thirty” by ID Magazine, will also bring copies of his new art book, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.
Other activities on the menu/agenda? Drinks served by Art in the Age, hot chocolate chip cookies from Cookie Confidential and Julian from Pink Skull will spin a live DJ set to keep things peppy. Rock a fierce hairdo.
Fri, Oct. 28, 6-9 p.m., free, American Mortals, 729 Walnut St., 215-574-1234, americanmortals.com.
Photos by David Bond
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