â¤ Jeff Rotwitt has a very warm handshake in that his actual temperature was hot.
â¤ The Sun Center Studio at present has three structures, one of which will be finished in December, the other probably in January, the middle space is shaped like an onion and the whole deal, from height to acreage is fuuuuuuuucking huge.
â¤ Newtown based writer/actress Tatiana Bachus'St. Lewis Productions has a show (Life with Alicia) they're trying to push to the networks. But for now, they'll commit to webisodes with Vivica A. Fox as one of its starts.
â¤ Tony Danza's Teachproducer Leslie Greif (also produces Gene Simmons' Family Jewels and Walker Texas Ranger) was once a Sweathog on Welcome Back Kotter, and a runner for Dean Martin and Bob Hope.
â¤ Tom Turner, the kid who won SIP's Best Feature Length Screenplay prize for Sweet Jane, looked so young I was surprised he could write, let alone type.
â¤ I found out the first time Kaitlin Olson met Danny DeVito he told her she had nice breasts and asked her to show them more in her scenes. SURPRISE! That's how DeVito psyches himself up for a scene
â¤ Rob McElhenney wore the same leather jacket to the GPFO party as he did at last week's Philly Style Men's Fashion cover bash. Hmm.
â¤ "Tequila" sounds great when played by three harps.
â¤ Damn near everyone who hung at the party genuinely thought it was the best bash they'd been at all year (from post reports as well as on site), and that mostly everyone thought the butane-torched caramelized desserts were the bomb.
â¤ Those who didn't realize that Tony Luke Jr. was an actor were genuinely afraid of him.
A Tribe Called Quest. Jungle Brothers. De La Soul. If these names are familiar to you, skip ahead to the time and date, cause you already know what kind of party it's going to be. Behind the wheels at this tribute to The Native Tongues the definition of the '90s hip hop collective will be Philly mainstay DJs Mike Nyce and Sonny James. Dance, party or just reminisce.
Tonight, Tue., Nov. 16, 10 p.m., $5, with DJs Mike Nyce and Sonny James, Silk City, Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St., 215-592-8838, silkcityphilly.com.
I was in the salon last week for a haircut, and just as my stylish was about to finish up she asked if I'd ever tried sea salt spray. I told her I had and that I loved it, but it seemed like a too-frivolous addition to my already cluttered supply of hair products. She sprayed some from the sample bottle in my hair and it looked fantastic, but I was still leery of forking over the money for it. She can always do things to my hair that I'm never quite able to duplicate at home. "Well, you know you can make it on your own," she said. "It's really easy." Then I had a total "duh!" moment. How hard can it be to make sea salt spray. I can't believe I've never thought of that.
Back at home I Googled "sea salt spray" and got a result from eHow.com that seems simple enough. All you need is a spray bottle, 3 tbsp. of sea salt (Dead Sea salt preferred) and 2 cups of mineral or spring water. The process goes like this:
Warm the water to just below boiling point
Add one tablespoon of sea salt at a time, stirring until it dissolves completely
Allow time for the mixture to cool
Pour it in a bottle and you're all set
See, it's easy as pie. And everyone's going to be dying to learn how you've kept that shore hair all winter long. Tell them you just woke up that way. It'll be our little secret. Wink!
Monday: Since they don't make the rounds too often, make a special trip to go see Pink Martini. The "little orchestra" is readying a new Christmas album, so there may be some early holiday tunes on display, but last year's stunning Splendor In The Grass remains both timeless and fresh. Their classy, old-fashioned approach to songwriting makes their original numbers just as deeply affecting as the standards they take on. Even without the Christmas tunes, Pink Martini exude a celebratory, festive feeling that'll make you feel like you're living the last few scenes of a Frank Capra movie. 8 p.m., $36 - $50, Grand Opera House, 818 N. Market St, Wilmington, DE, 302-652-5577.
Tuesday: Dormant for nearly four years (and taking another two years to release a new album), Azure Raymake a return that's characteristically hushed and understated. That's not to say that the dream pop duo's reemergence is not something to get excited about. Maria and Orenda's new record, Drawing Down The Moon, came out in September and offers itself less as a reinvention than as a comforting reassertion of presence. Gently constructed beats mesh with the duo's cooing harmonies, creating a sound that's at once organic and otherworldly. w/ Tim Fite & James Husband, 8 p.m., $12, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Wednesday: Their self-deprecating tag might be "Peggy Who?," but Brighton's Peggy Sue are a group you're not soon to forget. Leaders Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw give the band's blues-leaning tunes a generous helping of gritty swagger. The vocal interplay between Rex and Klaw is set atop instrumentation that falls somewhere between folksy and rocky. I'm not sure when all these British kids started listening to American homeland music, but if their interpretations and interpolations continue to bring us groups like Peggy Sue, then let another British Invasion begin! w/ Kate Nash, 8 p.m., $29, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.
Thursday: Some bands go out of the way to be moody, emotional and glum, and then there are bands like The Russian Futurists. With enough pep and brightness power a small town, the Canadian quartet isn't just another knuckleheaded dance band. Songs on their newly released The Weights On The Wheels (as well as older records and 7" EPs) use a ton of clever wordplay, giving you plenty to think about while you're resting from bopping. The Russian Futurists are also strongly informed when it comes to their musical past, as their sound draws from psych-pop of yore as much as modern electronica. w/ Penrose, Arches & Caboder, 8 p.m., $5 - $10, Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave.
Friday: Talk about an aural assault on a regular basis. Brooklyn's Earl Greyhound should be considered an honorary local band for all the time they spend in our fair city. You might have already seen them this year, but despite their well-crafted albums (including this year's Suspicious Package), these guys need to be seen live. The riffs, the grooves, the neck-vein-busting guitar faces; Earl Greyhound's big sound comes with plenty of entertainment value. No matter which of the three members you choose to focus on, you'll be casting your eyes on someone who really knows how to squeeze every last drop of rock out of his or her instrument. w/ Frost Watson & Knights on Earth, 7:30 p.m., $10, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919.
Saturday: Har har. Yeah, there's a band called Bonerama and, were it not for their sassy brand of funk, jazz and rock, the name would be the first and last thing you'd ever hear about them. The New Orleans combo boasts a full brass section and a repertoire that ranges from Dixieland classics to psychedelic rock gems. They tend to get a little on the extended jam side, but with so many players, it's only fair that everyone gets a chance to strut his stuff. Bonerama's brassy ranks will be augmented with members of The String Cheese Incident and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, as if there weren't enough people in this band already. w/ Nate Wilson Group, 9 p.m., $20 - $25, North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St. 215-787-0488.
Sunday: In what could be one of the most delightfully bizarre shows this year, the Sun Ra Arkestra and West Philadelphia Orchestra will do what they both do best: subvert, enlighten and create joy. The age gap between each bands' members might be awfully wide, but the likeminded experimentation is shared bountifully. Sun Ra made it a point to create music that challenged preconceived notions of jazz and tonality, and his horn-playing friends carry on that legacy. The WPO represents the next generation of world music: equally inspired by authentic folk music and globally warped versions. Combined, it's a whole bunch of strange and beautiful. 8 p.m., free, The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street, 215-573-3234.
While you wait for the mega-IceCube featuring news bits (the private Jeff Lurie-party in Wynnwood for Sharon Pinkenson starring Jonathan Demme and M. Night Shyamalan ) and fun faces from the Greater Philadelphia Film Org's 25th anniversary party, and the "Shoot in Philadelphia" screenwriting award ceremony at the new Sun Studios in Aston, Pa (with a TAXI reunion of Dannny DeVito and Tony Danza, yet), here's some quick stuff on Saturday night's gala opening of the National Museum of Jewish American History. The potency of shofars and mezuzahs reign, but the pop and socio-cultural aspects of "Only in America" play an equally respected part of the NMoJAH. On that night, while Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler took the tented stage, Barbra Streisand (who was spied checking out her donation to the museum collectiona dress she wore in Yentl ), who ate with her husband, James Brolin, Sidney Kimmel and his wife Caroline, stood only when Comcast-Spectacor boss Ed Snider introduced her. Mahzel tov, Babs.
Still beating the crap out of his piano.Tomorrow night, songwriter extraordinaire Ben Folds (minus the 5) takes the stage at the Tower Theater. We chatted with him (via e-mail, as he was having some voices issues) about going solo, William Shatner, and his new record, a collaboration with writer Nick Hornby. If memory serves, I saw Ben Folds 5 for the first time in 1996 at a little place called the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach, Fla. It was right around the time "Underground" started getting some radio play. And I remember thinking the band had this fantastically sincere-but-quirky vibe to it; the heartfelt songs with a punk-rock, overdrive bass and a singer who was not afraid to beat the shit out of his piano. And I'm wondering, as you look back, how do you think you've changed?
Wow, that's a book if I'm really going to answer it well. And it's complicated, because since the person asking the question has grown and changed, too, we have absolutely no perspective, haha. I feel as though I put everything into music that I have. I have always done that. And circumstances change, and I react to them musically. I try to concentrate on my craft first the reason that I am lucky enough to have a job. Then I try to relax everything that is not being engaged in order to let something new happen. If the comet passes I want to let it illuminate something uncharted if possible. So I'll find myself making up songs on the spot to ChatRoulette, or making an album with a novelist. These to me seem very much like the same person you described, reacting in new circumstances. I don't have the pressure of making people like me so much. When you start out, you have no gig until you can impress enough people. I enjoy having passed that. But I still feel the need to put everything I have into it. Beating the crap out of the piano is of course somehow still a part of that.
I think everyone who had even a cursory knowledge of BF5 knew you were beyond solid on the piano. I don't think that many people certainly not I knew how strong you were with other instruments, at least until you started releasing solo records. I read somewhere that actually studied percussion at the University of Miami, and if I'm remembering right, you left one credit short of graduation or something like that. I'll get into Lonely Avenue in a second, but for instance, there's some great drum work on "Doc Pomus" and a few other tracks. Now that you're basically tracking almost everything yourself in studio, how has that changed your approach to recording?
Well! Since you mention it, that drumming on "Doc Pomus" is my very capable drummer Sam Smith, who plays on tour with me, too. I did play a lot of the instruments on this album, but quite a bit of it was also captured live in the studio on analog. Oddly, some of the slickest sounding tracks were live and done quickly. I played everything on "Your Dogs" and [lead single] "From Above," for instance. They're a little rawer-sounding probably. I like the freedom to do both. Sometimes I just want to get my hands on the instruments. Other times I enjoy just being a live pianist, singer and having it all happen immediately.
I'm curious, speaking of this new record, how the collaboration with Nick Hornby came to be. What, in particular, made you want to work with him?
It was bound to happen. We're very much like brothers artistically. I love his books and he's been listening to my albums since the beginning even knows all the obscure stuff. It simply would have been a shame not to have eventually collaborated. We see things very similarly, and when we don't, we have a great discussion about and I learn something.
The record, for those who've yet to hear it, is more or less 11 short stories set to music. Tell me a bit about the writing process: Did you create a melody and have Nick fill in the words, or did he present you with words and you hammered out the music? Was he actively involved in the studio sessions, or did he hand it off to you at some point?
Nick sent me lyrics by e-mail. I returned an MP3 usually the next day with most of the song completed, and most often what he heard were the album tracks. Of course, I had to then do the necessary work to make those rough tracks into an album. Nothing manipulative, as we were staying mostly on tape. But, you know, just the right minimal sound here or there, or often orchestration to make it a record. I kept Nick abreast of these things, but he didn't feel the need to have input any more than I felt the need to change his lyrics. I didn't edit and he didn't direct music.
The record's finale, "Belinda," is to me, anyway perhaps the most striking on the record. It's bittersweet and achingly earnest. What went through your mind when you first read Nick's lyric to that?
Well, I thought that it was classic Nick. Firstly, the character has weakness and is admitting the weakness. But some of the character's weakness, in my opinion, has gone over the character's head. He's got one hit and its about his ex from years ago. So now he has to sing her name every night and he regrets having been an ass and having left her. But maybe he wasn't an ass, and he just can't let go of the past as easily as he suggests he has. We don't know Belinda, maybe she's a horrible con artist who's managed to have her name immortalized in a song while he tours the world thinking he made a mistake. Who knows. His character obviously feels that he messed up the love of his life. So it's about regret. And regret is a tough emotion. Nick captures it well, and with enough nuance and depth that we can agree or disagree with his character and still remain engaged.
You've been fairly prolific since going solo, and doing a lot of interesting stuff: A few months ago, I came across a DVD of you performing reconfigured version of some of your songs with a symphony orchestra in Australia. There was the record you produced for William Shatner; this record with Nick Hornby; you've spent some time promoting a capella groups; your insanely fun cover of "Bitches Ain't Shit." You've been covering a lot of musical ground. What is it that attracts you to some of these projects that are, in a sense, off the beaten path for many pop-music songwriters?
Quite simply, I go where my heart says. And that rarely steers me wrong. I mean, these are not all hugely commercially successful endeavors but they feel very alive to me and it's why I do what I do. My gig as I see it is simply to react musically to the opportunity or the situation before me.
You're playing Philly Saturday night: I'm wondering how you go about creating setlists. Do you go about the same list every night, or do you wing it? Also, the last time I saw you perform was last year, I think April 2009, in Orlando. And there, I noticed that you did some different versions of some of the songs on Way to Normal, the record you were promoting at the time, like "Bitch Went Nuts" and maybe a couple others. What variations might folks get to hear Saturday? What should we expect?
We're getting a new album out there, so the setlist in those phases are designed to welcome the new music and keep that thread between the now and the past. You could really make your new stuff sound stiff to place them in the set list the wrong way! I love playing a set and enjoying a song like "Landed" being received as a classic, when it only seems like a few days ago that I had to wheel that song out and play it for the first time. It took amazing discipline to incorporate "Brick" into the setlist years ago. It stopped the show from rocking, and since nobody knew it, they talked through the whole thing. I try to play the news ones like they're old hat. I try to play the old ones like they're new ... if that makes any sense. Anything is up for re-arranging but I never want to do that to the point they are not recognizable.
Sarah Palin's grandbaby-daddy Levi Johnston has become something of a fame-whore the last year or so. Any chance of you asking him to star in a video about the song about him, "Levi Johnston's Blues?"
I realize that his fame is good for the promotion of the song and so I don't discourage it. But the song doesn't come through completely when it's eclipsed by the celebrity part. I find that a little distracting just for the song's sake. The song is about growing up. Levi is a powerful symbol, as many people don't grow up in one night on stage with their mother-in-law's speech to the RNC. But we all feel our lives are dramatic and important, and that moment you find yourself traversing the line from child to adult can be quite a big deal. But you need a moment that resonates in order to get that across in a song. So Levi is a good subject in that way. It's not about him. We don't know him. We only know the bravado behind his Myspace page ("I'm a f-ing redneck," etc. this was taken word for word from his Myspace page and it's our chorus!). And we know that he looked pretty scared in his first public appearance. Boys make outrageous claims about kicking asses and so forth, or find some way to be obnoxious. That's our job when we're boys. But we lose that job the moment we have to stuff ourselves into a suit. We wrote that song before Levi became a household name, so yeah, Nick picked a winner! Haha. But I think the song will mean more years down the line.
That record you produced and recorded with William Shatner a few years back, called "Has Been," was, well, amazing, and everybody should get it. I saw the clip of Shatner on George Lopez's show doing the Cee-Lo song "Fuck You" a short while ago, and I was thinking how incredibly awesome it would be if he recorded that with you. So ... what was it like working with Shatner? And any plans to do it again?
No plans. I felt like that was a special moment that I would be nervous repeating. "Has Been" was about Bill's life and the strength of his being in the public eye for so long and having not really told his story was our fuel. I think we could do something good, but I kind of feel like we did it.
A bunch of friends want to know: Any chance of The Bens regrouping?
I think we're all too caught up and busy. Tell your friends, thanks for the thoughts!
Ben Folds plays Saturday, Nov. 13, 8 p.m. at Tower Theater.
This weekend studly dudleys from towns across America are rolling into Philadelphia to fight for the title of Mr. Gay U.S. 2010. Hosted by Sirius/XM radio personality Frank Decaro and drag mistress Brittany Lynn at Voyeur Nightclub, this will be the first time Philadelphia has hosted the event and the handsome gent representing our city hopes the home court advantage will give him the edge he needs to walk away with that sash.
Twenty-eight year old sex biscuit Ryan Mattis has lived in Philadelphia for nearly eight years. He came here from Central, Pa to study accounting at St. Joseph's University, and is currently a homeowner near Passyunk Square. With his all-American good looks and butterfly-in-the-gut-inducing charm aside, he says he never considered himself the pageant type, but when a local travel agency approached him earlier this year about representing them in the Mr. Gay Philadelphia pageant, he thought he'd give it a shot. And he won.
It was his well-roundedness and non-stereotypical approach, he says, that helped him win the first time. "The point is to bring recognition as gay men being an everyday guy, and to be a role model for my generation and to the generations who came before us."And come on, let's cut to the chase, he can wear a swimsuit like it's nobody's business. "[Swimwear] is where I feel most confident," he says without a stutter. "Fitness is a big part of my life." Ouch!
To get prepared for the big night, Mettis has amped up his workout routine and focused on eating right and getting plenty of shut eye. Though he's had several local businesses offer to donate clothing, he finally decided on a sharp suit from Metro Men's Clothing on E. Passyunk Ave.; and, as far as the swimsuit is concerned, he's keeping mum. "People will just have to come see that for themselves," he says. Double ouch ...
The competition kicks off tonight at Q Lounge at a preliminary event where judges (Michael Musto, David Evangelista, Terry Noonan) will have a chance to eye-up the competitors before they take the stage for the final competition. At the main event each contestant will have a chance to strut their stuff in formal and swimwear before being whittled down to the five who will go on to the Q&A round. The winner will then go on to compete in the online International Mr. Gay competition.
Mettis says his boyfriend of one year and several carloads of family members will be in attendance tomorrow night to offer their support. And if he wins, he says he wants to use his title to put himself forth as a rolemodel for the younger folks. "It's hearbreaking when you turn on the news," he says in reference to the recent increase in gay teen suicides. "I want people who are going through that to know that they're not alone and that things will continue to get better." Aw, he's hot and he has a sensitive side, too? He's got this thing in the bag. Good luck tomorrow, Ryan!
Preliminary Round, Fri., Nov. 12, 8 p.m., $10, Q Lounge, 1234 Locust St., 215-732-1800; Main Event, Sat., Nov. 13, 8 p.m., $35-$65, Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St., 215-735-5772.