Theatricality can mean different things to different bands. For some, going that extra entertainment step simply means buying a matching article of clothing or similarly-designed instruments for everyone in the band. Others employ elaborate effects, props and wild onstage behavior. Neither one is better nor worse than the other, since it all comes down to the music.
Photo | Eric Schuman
Liverpool's Clinic falls into the more conservative style of performance art. The psych-fuzz quartet returned to Johnny Brenda's after a multi-year absence with a new batch of tunes and a slightly altered band uniform. In addition to their signature cloth surgical masks, the men of Clinic donned busy dashikis, not a far cry from last tour's Hawaiian shirt theme. The pseudo-mystical bent befits the group's latest offering, Bubblegum; a more atmospheric effort than previous albums. Unsurprisingly, the set was strongly occupied by new songs, with album highlights like "Lion Tamer" and "I'm Aware" standing out just as much as on record. Clinic dug into their impressively expansive catalogue plenty of times throughout the night, unearthing several early cuts including "I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" (their first single) and "Distortions" (their breakthrough). Throughout, the masked men remained unsettlingly quiet, with frontman Ade Blackburn simply introducing songs or thanking the crowd for their applause. For those not accustomed to Clinic's shtick, their impersonality might have come across as, well, impersonal, but when you've committed yourself to hiding behind a mask for a living, mystery is something you've clearly embraced.
Photo | Eric Schuman
MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?
If Clinic has learned to control their onstage lunacy in the years they've been together, then Man Or Astro-Man? has been bottling it up in the years they've been apart. As it's been 10 years since their last album (and just as long since their last Philly date), the interstellar surf combo received a tremendously warm welcome in the stuffy catacombs of the First Unitarian Church's basement. Flanking the cramped stage with projector screens, coiled plastic tubes, static-glowing televisions and other technological doo-dads, Man Or Astro-Man?'s white jumpsuit-clad crew turned the popular DIY spot into a space station. The band emerged in orange space suits and launched into a set of their best material. It was a show for fans, with favorites like "Escape Velocity" and "Television Fission" appearing right alongside their closest thing to a hit, "Destination Venus." While their stuff is mostly instrumental, guitarist Star Crunch sings every now and again and bassist Coco The Electric Monkey Wizard's keyboard (like, computer keyboard) controlled the signature vintage movie samples. To cope with some mixed-up setlists, the guys poured on the between-song chatter, with gripes about having to cope with our planet's gravity and how things have changed since they first went into cryogenic storage. In true theatrical fashion, they saved their best stunts for the very last song. After climbing through the audience and passing their guitars through the crowd, Coco set his theremin ablaze before wheeling out a massive Tesla coil to send lightning bolts crackling over the stage. It was a moment that filled the audience with joy, terror, intrigue and wonder, and it was all thanks to four reckless guys in jumpsuits.
In First Friday Focus this week, Carolyn Huckabay told you about First Person Arts' First Person Museum. The exhibit focuses on real people by showcasing random, everyday relics kept by 16 Philadelphians, and the stories behind their meaning. To give it a push, First Person Arts has designed and launched a cute ad campaign on SEPTA that features three of the participants from this summer's StoryCircles event. The next time your on the train, keep your eyes peeled for Nakiyrah, Grace and Jon, who were photographed with objects that mean something to them, and a small blurb about what it is.
And if you're interested in sharing something of your own, First Person Artshas a website that allows anyone to submit stories and photos about the trinkets in their life.
Monday: Stodgy, pompous and incredibly influential, Roger Waters has made a career out of being a total downer. Like many of his fellow elder statesmen of rock, Waters has come to terms with the fact that his audiences are only interested in hearing his most well-known material. To that end, the former Pink Floyd bassist is once again presenting his tale of fame, paranoia and war, The Wall, in its entirety on this tour. Waters is occupying the Wells Fargo Center for a few nights this week, so you can sing along with a different character in "The Trial" if you wish. 8 p.m., $78 - $253, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 1-800-298-4200.
Tuesday: Hailing from Ontario's young folk scene, Dala is a delicate duo that is sure to win your heart. Amanda and Sheila have been making music together since 2002, and are readying their fifth album, Girls From The North Country. As the title implies, the ladies are keen on their musical roots, which run well beyond the conventional folk canon. Covers of songs by The Cure, Donovan and Neil Young pepper their albums of gentle, jazzy originals. Cutesy for sure, Dala earn their sweetness by being instantly likeable. w/ Liz Longley, 7:30 p.m., $25 - $35, World Cafe Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
Wednesday: If Roger Waters is a rock icon for one generation, then Bob Mouldis an icon for the following generation. The former HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ and Sugar guitarist has forged an impressive, mostly commercially ignored solo career. You can tell that Mould is in this game because he loves it, though, and his devoted fans love him right back. Mould has plenty of solo albums to draw from (he'll probably write some new songs on the way to the show), so expect an engaging array of stories presented in an arresting solo acoustic performance. w/ Dave Hause, 8 p.m., $25, Sellersville Theater, 24 West Temple Ave., 215-257-5808.
Thursday: Everyone I know is always trying to find that mythical Next Big Thing. While Twin Sister's friendly, hushed pop might not be the most explosive sound out there, the group is one of the most refreshing to emerge in some time. The Long Island quintet has only two EPs to its credit so far, but that handful of eclectic material is enough to get them noticed nationwide. With some electronic influences and lo-fi bounce, Twin Sister shimmers enough for summer, but coos enough for autumn. They may get you to dance, but they're more likely to get you to smile. w/ The Morning Benders & Oberhofer, 8 p.m., $12, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Friday: Freaks of all ages unite! One of today's most notable outsiders (is that even possible?) returns to Philadelphia with one of psychedelic rock's pioneers. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti bubbled just below the radar for years until releasing the more polished (but no less strange) Before Today earlier this year. Last September, Brazil's preeminent progressive tropicalia band, Os Mutantes, released their first new album in 35 years. Seeing either one of these groups on their own would be mind-frying enough, but together, I can only imagine what kinds of mystical neon madness they'll conjure. w/ Old King Cole Younger, 9 p.m., $17 - $19, Trocadero, 10th St. & Arch St., 215-922-6888.
Saturday: When not performing and touring with Wilco, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone keep warm in The Autumn Defense. More in line with vintage pop than Wilco's ever-changing sound, The Autumn Defense's latest album, Once Around, expands on the duo's tender style with fuller arrangements. As they spend a good portion of their lives in one of America's most beloved bands, you can imagine the stories that John and Pat have to offer. But don't be surprised when you find you'd rather hear more of their endearing songs than any Tweedy gossip. w/ Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, 10:30 p.m., $15, Tin Angel, 20 S. 2nd St., 215-928-0770.
Sunday: Caught somewhere between the power pop legacy of Big Star and the industry-fueled guitar rock of the '90s, The Posies brought a unique voice to their scene. The Posies have been slightly dormant lately, as both Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were part of the most recent lineup of Big Star, but Blood/Candy marks their first release in five years. Sticking to the simple springboard of melodic, rocking tunes, The Posies bring over 20 years of songs and experiences. Also appearing is another power pop acolyte, Brendan Benson, whose work both with and without The Raconteurs shows a reverence for many of his predecessors, The Posies included. w/ Aqueduct, 7:30 p.m., $21.50 - $23, Trocadero, 10th St. & Arch St., 215-922-6888.
Charismatic stage presence, stunning tonal beauty, and flawless technique
As a professional flutist, I have attended hundreds of flute recitals over the years. The very best ones James Galway in Budapest in 1995, Jeffrey Khaner with the Syrinx Trio at Curtis in 2001, and Christina Jennings in New Orleans in 2010 come to mind combine virtuoso and lyrical flute playing, and diverse programming. Marina Piccinini's recital last Friday night at the American Philosophical Society hosted by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society achieved all of that, but especially excelled in the quality of flute playing. Despite the venue's poor acoustics and accompanist Benjamin Hochman's occasional overpowering playing, Piccinini captivated the audience with her charismatic stage presence, stunning tonal beauty, and flawless technique. I know it's a great flute recital when I'm inspired to go back home and practice with new energy. Marina Piccinini is one of those unique performers who have a great talent for showing their audiences just how much they love their instruments. She keeps herself busy by teaching at Baltimore's Peabody Institute of Music, recording CDs regularly, and touring the world as a recitalist and pedagogue.
Piccinini immediately got the audience's attention with the opening of Aaron Copland's Duo for Flute and Piano. The piece opens with a long, sinuous flute solo, which she shaped with impressively controlled vibratoeven turning the vibrato off at timesand a commanding dynamic range. Hochman accompanied with technical precision, yet often played too loudly for the flute lines to come through, especially with the piano lid all the way open. The Duo, in addition to another on the program, is closely linked to Philadelphia; students of legendary Philadelphia Orchestra flutist William Kincaid commissioned the work from Copland, and Elaine Shaffer premiered it in 1971 at Settlement Music School.
Composer and Curtis faculty member David Ludwig, who was born in Pennsylvania soon after the Copland premiere, composed Canzoniere in 2010 on a commission from the Anthony P. Checchia Composers Project of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. Inspired by early-Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi's music, Canzoniere presents a unique combination of tonality, dissonance, serene flowing phrases, and virtuoso writing for both flute and piano. Piccinini's world-premiere demonstrated Ludwig's talent, and we should look forward to him finding more of his own voice in the future.
Both Felix Mendelssohn and Sergei Prokofiev wrote sonatas that are better known for violin, but Piccinini showed us just how well they work for flute. Mendelssohn composed his Sonata in F Minor, Op. 4, in 1825, when he was merely 16 years old. Piccinini's arrangement for flute sounded perfectly idiomatic for her instrumentnow I can't imagine it any other way. Prokofiev's Flute Sonata in D Major, Op. 94 is part of the standard flute repertoire, as is Lowell Liebermann's Flute Sonata, Op. 23. Piccinini performed both with enthralling musicality, riveting virtuosity, and total command and obvious love of her instrument. Now I better get back to practicing!
Upcoming PCMS concerts this month include the Juilliard Quartet on the 14th, violinist Midori on the 16th, and pianist Emanuel Ax on the 17th. See pcmsconcerts.org for more information.
Would you like a little more ice with that?
In accordance with the Chuck Berry classic of the same name, "it's a brown eyed handsome man that won the game." They always do. This week, it comes down to a few dark eyed gents from the Philly/Jersey area presenting their newest jawns to wildly enthusiastic, if not drastically different crowds. On Wednesday, we spied Iron Chef and mega-restaurateur Jose Garces during a supper at his just-opened JG Domestic at the Cira Center with his pal and Profile publicist Jennie Hatton in tow (NBC-TV 10's Bill Henley and his missus just happened to be eating at a table nearby). My wife Glamorosi and I ate in the open-air front section of JGD and fell in love with the living wall of plant life, the manner in which the rustic woodsy JG vibe ran in opposition to the Cira's swank modern design, and of course food stuff like the wood oven flatbread (with Oregon Chanterelles, Black Truffle and Shaved Cheddar) and the wild boar.
Speaking of bores â snarrrrrrrrrrrrrrf â the next day found us driving into New Jersey and foraging for wild native fare. What we came up with was Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino at a book signing. He.wrote.a.book. I guess The SituationHere's The Situation isn't just a pretty set of abs, a proponent of GTL and a lousy dancer. He's the author of . I promise I'll read it and tell you about it if you want. Apparently, the crew at Barnes & Noble thought it was hot. Or thought he was hot. I wasn't paying that much attention.
Jason Ager's grimy blues guitar and spitfire lyrics might lead you to think that he hails from a place with a name like "The Central Basin," but he's a Philadelphian through and through. There are two different sides to Ager's music: heartfelt, acoustic solo tunes and groovy jams with his trio, The C.O.P.O. Both show off his rhythmic delivery and self-taught guitar techniques. On the more polished end of the spectrum is Bronze Radio Return, who take a more roots-rock approach to their music. The Hartford sextet uses plenty of percussion to impart a tribal feel, while Chris Henderson's weathered vocals and fingerpicked guitars and banjos bring the rustic tones. If you still haven't found the right music to keep you warm, either of these two sets will make you want to hold someone real close. Tonight, 9 p.m., $15, World Cafe Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
Critical Mass welcomes devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady to the fold; her weekly horoscopes will run in this space every Friday morning.The Drunk on Civility Edition: Starring Tim Gunn and the Rally to Restore SanityScorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): My wife and I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity last weekend and I found that being an exemplar of politeness (albeit a somewhat smug one) for the day was very spiritually rewarding. I still hate anyone with a "wag more, bark less" sticker on their car, though.
Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): In his book Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work, Tim wonders if maybe it's "too tough to behave well under all the crazy circumstances life throws at you ... you wonder if you should become an advocate not for manners but for living in a cave with a boulder rolled in front of it." You can try that, but only this week.
Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): Some favorite rally signs: "Everyone here is CUTE!" "Plurals don't need apostrophes" and "Save Ferris." What would your sign have said?
Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): Veering off the civility theme for a moment Gretchen?!!? Really?! I will continue to wear as many simultaneous patterns as possible just to continue supporting Mondo. You were ROBBED!
Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): "Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary." Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style. Buy yourself a page-a-day calendar and a bottle of nice wine. Wake up loquacious and delighted.
Aries (March 21-April 18): This morning a reader of mine breached etiquette by calling me up repeatedly and breathlessly to worry about something that I wrote on my blog. Dude! That's what comments are for! I said, "What are you, my father?" Then realized that my father would NEVER tell me what not to write. Thanks for being awesome, Dad!
Taurus (April 19-May 18): Running out of steam? Tim Gunn says: "As long as we have Netflix, Turner Classic Movies, Amazon, YouTube and bookstores, there is no excuse ever to lack inspiration." Googling "Kittens Inspired By Kittens" is a nice place to start. (It never stops being funny.)
Gemini (May 19-June 21): A loving message from Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy: "An open hand /and open heart/there's no need to be afraid. /Open up, this is a raid /I want to get it through to you: /you're not alone."
Cancer (June 22-July 23): From the best band to see at a rally, The Roots: "Out on the streets /Where I grew up /First thing they teach us: /Not to give a fuck. /That type of thinking can't get you nowhere /Someone has to care."
Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Jon Stewart says that every-other-person merging is proof that we are inherently civil. Meditate on this at every entrance, exit and construction zone: You go and then I go, you go and then I go, you go and then I go ...
Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): This week I achieved my dream of being mentioned on my favorite podcast, Too Beautiful to Live. It just goes to show that if you pick little, reasonable dreams, they can come true every day.
Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): One more message from Tim Gunn. He says that when you hold a door open for someone, you are telling them you care enough about your fellow human beings not to want the door to hit them in the face.
In this week's Agenda section, we tell you about Amy Sedaris' appearance tomorrow at the Free Library. She'll be reading and possibly whipping up some knick knacks from her new book, Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People. The event is currently sold out, but there is still simulcast seating available.
Last week she took some time to answer some questions. Read below to hear her dish about the book, Martha Stewart, and she may have even revealed a secret. Is Amy Sedaris preggers?
City Paper: Hey there. How are ya?
Amy Sedaris: Very well thank you. I'm excited about the new book. I really, really like it. I just hate crafting now-but I have the book.
CP: So, this is your second book dealing with home entertainment. You're inching awfully close into Martha Stewart territory. Aren't you a little scared?
AS: Martha doesn't scare me, he -and yes I said he- and I are very different we have completely opposite audiences.
CP: What gave you the idea to make a book about crafting for poor people?
AS: I had a small craft section in I LIKE YOU and I wanted to expand it so I thought I would do a craft book. I like that poor people are resourceful and they tend to craft out of necessity.
CP: If it's for poor people, why does it cost almost $30?
AS: Don't poor people steal? Last I heard they did.
CP: What are some of your favorite crafts in the book?
AS: I like the marshmallow stars, the crap caddy, I like the typewriter made with wine corks. the peace pipe. ,I love the tin foil bracelet that Todd Oldham made.
CP: In the intro you mention that ugly people craft and pretty people have sex. So, how did you find time to do all this crafting?
AS: I hired a lot of people with no std's.
CP: What's your idea of a perfect Saturday night?
AS: I enjoy being alone, maybe have a small project to work on, maybe watching "Mad Men" or "Friday Night Lights" or catching up on my Bill Maher. Did I mention I have a volcano? I like to curl up next to that.
CP: Can you let us in on what it's like to be at a Sedaris family gathering?
AS: We all get along-so it's lots of talking and show and tell.
CP: I just saw your film The Best and the Brightest. What was it like working with Doogie Howser?
AS: Neil Patrick Harris is a very special person he can do anything, he is very professional and really, really funny. He reminded me a lot of Stephen Colbert. He does magic tricks, too, and that is what inspired me to put the magic wand and mustache in the book.
CP: You've done a lot of different things in your career. Any dreams that you haven't accomplished yet?
AS: I want to be a country and western singer and I'm not kidding.
CP: Will you be spending some time in Philly while you're here? If so, what do you have planned? Wanna get a drink?
AS: I like Philly but I'm pretty much arriving before the show and leaving right after. Thank you for the drink offer but it's not going to happen, it wouldn't be good for the baby oh that's right ...
Look, I love Mad Men as much as the next gal so much so that if I could have found a blond wig on short notice I totally would have gone as a murderous Betty Draper for Halloween. But this? This is a stretch even for the loyalest of Mad Men followers.
I just received a copy of Sterling's Gold, "by" Roger Sterling yes, the fictitious debonair ad man on Mad Men in the mail from Grove Press. It's just a book of Sterling quotes, with some color screenshots thrown in to break up the monotony. Some of Roger's gems:
When all you have to do is hold their hands, jerk 'em off. Is that so hard?Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.
Bleh. This is the kind of book that makes me angry I haven't published a book yet (because obviously anyone, even a not-real person, can do it), but I digress: I'll give this copy away to any reader who can send me a comment with an argument for why anyone would possibly want this book.
Even if your answer is "OMG my [random friend or relative] is obsessed with Mad Men and would totally love this!!!" then it's yours. This thing shouldn't go to waste. Or should it?
Leave your comments below, and in the meantime, watch this hilarious video of Don Draper saying "What?" 46 times. You are welcome.