Archive: April, 2011
MEGA LIVE REVIEW: Yawn, Cold Cave, The Kills, Gaslamp Killer, Kid Sister and A-Trak @ First Unitarian Church, TLA and Voyeur 4/27
Oh My Goodness What That Man Can Do With A Crossfader
Along with the sudden onset of sweltery (pretend) summer, this Monday kicked off one of the most dizzying and jam-packed weeks of shows this town has seen in months. Maybe it’s the apex of the post-South-by-Southwest touring frenzy; in any case it’s truly been the stuff of R5 e-mail hyperbole (not that that’s exactly hard to come by). As a devoted freelance guest-list junkie, I arranged my weeknight plans accordingly. I ran into some unexpected trouble the first two nights of the week and ended up actually buying tickets to see Low on Monday (see my review for Cowbell Magazine’s Cowblog). and the unanticipated pair-up of YACHT and Lightning Bolt on Tuesday (a last-minute show conflation; multiple shades of sweaty euphoria ensued). But on Wednesday night I decided to take my chances, go for broke (well, at least, free) and play a little one-man game of “let’s pretend it’s SXSW”: scoring comps to three separate shows and attempting to take them all in in a single night.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
Though it sounds like it, Happy Magic Fun-Time Show is no place to bring your kids. But that's the shtick. An attempt at a Mr. Rodgers, Sesame Street and Lambchop's Play Along gone terribly wrong because the hosts are bumbling, vulgar idiots.
The Hopper Brothers are played by Brandon Libby (33) and Mike Conner (29). You may recognize them as the founding members of The N Crowd — a local short-form improv troupe where they met in 2005. They started out doing yearly Christmas shows with the personas (and sweaters) that would go on to become the Hoppers. The very Steve Martin-inspired duo would "wear stupid sweaters and say ridiculous things in between singing Christmas carols." In 2008, with casting help from Philly Improv Theatre CEO Greg Maughan, they put together a full-length musical called The Hoppers Hit the Road. It premiered to solid reviews at the 2008 Fringe Fest.
"The name comes from the HBO show The Wire, which we are both fans of," says Libby. "The little drug runners are referred to as 'hoppers' so I decided that would be a perfect name. And yes, we are aware of the North Carolina family gospel ensemble, but not until after our creation had existed for a bit."
With that in mind, the Hopper Brothers forge on to do a monthly "kid's show" at Philly Improv Theater. Libby says one of his favorite parts is how the puppeteers are not hidden. They wear black but their faces are white so their reactions really pop out.
"We host and sprinkle in a few Hopper Brothers' songs, but we are rounded out by a motley crew that includes a talking dog, our curmudgeonly stage manager, and a band of puppets. The real joy of the show is watching our insanely talented cast (B.J. Ellis, Vegas Lancaster, Alan Williams, and Steve Cohen). The Happy Magic Fun-Time Show asks a lot of its actors. It's a mix of long-form, short-form, sketch, music, puppetry, video, and anything else you can dream up. With all these elements, it's fortunate that we have a group capable of pulling everything together."
Usually performing on a Friday, the Hopper Brothers are getting PHIT's prime Saturday night slot (9:30 p.m.) while a bunch of Philly's improvers are headed out to the Chicago Improv Festival. Tickets are $10 and you can stay for PHIT's free late-night improv jam at 11 p.m.
For tickets, visit phillyimprovtheater.com. In the meantime, enjoy a video of The Hopper Brothers performing "The Grandma Song."
After hearing John Faye play at the Grape Room a few weeks back, I knew I had to check out the open mic at the Legendary Dobbs, which Faye hosts. The South Street bar is a great place to play music, with a well-equipped stage that regularly hosts great acts. Players look out onto a long room with only three walls; the fourth side is open to the street, so that passersby will, one hopes, stop in for a beer and a listen.
Maybe it was the weather; maybe it was the Flyers’ victory the night before. Either way, the atmosphere felt remarkably jubilant. The welcoming bar staff served $3 drafts and $2 bottles of Coors Light. Faye himself is one of the friendliest open mic hosts I’ve met so far, and he’s got talent to match. He opened the show promptly at 9 p.m., belting out a pair of original tunes, which might be called punk folk. The lyrics were as good as his voice: “I’m on life number eight out of nine/ and I’m running out of time.”
Following Faye was an impressive lineup of local performers. The talent at the past few open mics I’ve attended has been very consistent. At this show, the energy never flagged; with aggressive strumming and some powerful vocals, most performers seemed about ready to blow the speakers. Among the highlights was John Muccino, who brought down the house with some intensely sung, densely lyrical tunes. When, later, the crowd’s focus started to drift, Callie and Tony pulled it right back to the stage with stark, minor key pieces; Callie’s dark voice and confident stage presence demanded attention. Aaron Hehl offered some big, open chords accompanying a gruffly intimate voice. Desiree launched into two a cappella numbers with a giant voice that filled the room and beyond. Lucas and Ben were a guitar and vocal duo who traded lead vocals and sang rich harmony. They offered some good lyrics, too: “I dedicate this song/ to all the times I’ve been wrong.” Their talent was no surprise, since they take a songwriting class at Drexel taught by none other than Faye.
Dobbs was a perfect open mic for those looking for some upbeat acoustic rock on a warm spring night.
The nitty-gritty for performers: Wednesdays, sign-ups at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m., The Legendary Dobbs, 304 South Street. Free entry; two to three songs each.
WHO: Wattie Green, Deep C, Christian James, Joy aka Ken Hankins, Arrow Chrome, Nate Dark, Empress, Dave Mass, Ghost and many more!!!
WHAT: With a sick array of decorations, lighting, enhanced sound, live art, fire performers and more assorted bells and whistles, ROC Philly and Bangarang will pack three rooms of music with a costume carnival twist on Saturday. This is a full-featured party atmosphere with a first-rate lineup of excellent local and out-of-town talent, including Wattie Green, Deep C and Dave Mass. And it's all going down just up the street from the carnival street fair on the Avenue of the Arts, so get dressed up and get ya ass over there.
WHEN & WHERE: Sat., April 30, 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $20-$30, Arts Garage, 1533 Ridge Ave., 215-765-2702, theartsgarage.com.
WHY: You work hard all week, so you know you want to lose ya inhibitions in the rave!
Mural Arts' Journeys South program has already received big praise and big press (like the cover of this week’s City Paper) for its interactive outreach into the immigrant tales of South Philadelphia. Everything from walking tours to installation art will tell the stories of this area’s known and unheralded cultural touchstones. But just the other day, a series of black news paper boxes sprouted up in my neighborhood offering a take-away version of the Mural Arts program. While I spied the first on my morning walk with my greyhound Django (the black box featuring the wood carved-looking illustration of Bill McIntyre at the corner of Passyunk and Dickinson) the second box at 9th & Washington starring cover gent “Frank Snock” of Snockey’s Seafood fame was easier to photograph when I wasn’t being pulled by a long, lean pooch.
What is in these boxes are newspaper broadsides — 11 1/2 by 13 inches in diameter — dedicated to several icons of South Philly immigrant culture. Along with a brief paragraph that tells, in brief, the biography of said icon (Snock was a Polish immigrant who boxed under the name “Johnny Coffee” to earn money to open a restaurant) with drawings by Eric Ruin and poems (or “Neighbor Ballads”) spread across two pages written by Frank Sherlock. Each box — whether in tribute to Joe Tayoun or Ba Nyugen or Fabiola Canto — is a welcome surprise. I won’t tell you where to find them. Just be on the lookout.
This week, Inis Nua Theatre Company opened its two-and-a-half-week run of Dublin By Lamplight. Tom Reing, Inis Nua's artistic director, was first blown away by the show when he saw it in Dublin in 2004. Back then, his theater company was basically a once-a-year fringe festival enterprise. Now they have momentum and are able to finish their 2010-11 season properly with Michael West's play as part of the Philadelphia Irish Theatre Festival.
Reing directs Dublin by Lamplight in "Corn Exchange" style, which is named for a theatre company in Dublin where artistic director Annie Ryan developed the style. "She was fascinated by Irish actors who could tell a story till the cows come home but could not physically embody it," says Reing. "So she developed a style which would increase their physical potential while retaining their storytelling elements."
The style utilizes heavy mask-like makeup which starts off with four emotional states — happiness, sadness, anger and fear — a range which doesn't sound very complex, but the actors add and subtract to those feelings like shades on a primary color wheel.
"At first this style might be very jarring," he says. "But once you know the rules it's actually quite freeing. The mantra of Corn Exchange is 'You have to dance on a razor's edge between the grotesque, the heartfelt... and anything for a cheap gag."
The show is set in Dublin 1904 at the Irish National Theatre. Its cast features Inis Nua regulars Mike Dees, Charlie DelMarcelle, Kevin Meehan and Jared Michael Delaney — and introduces Megan Bellwoar and Sarah Van Auken (Sarah is soon to graduate from Philadelphia's University of the Arts).
Through May 14, various times and prices, Broad Street Ministires, 315 S. Broad St., 215-454-9776, inisnuatheatre.org.
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Taurus (April 19-May 18): “We are strong, we are faithful/ we are guardians of a rare thing/ we pay close careful attention/ to the news the morning air brings/ we show great loyalty /to the hard times we've been through” (The Mountain Goats). Gather everybody up, Taurus, and hang on till your knuckles are white.
Gemini (May 19-June 21): Velcro your feet to the ground and wait for the mail to come. You can hope for be-stickered, handwritten letters, on time and with stamps marked “Celebrate.” So celebrate!
Cancer (June 22-July 23): Switching from winter clothes to summer clothes reminds me of you, all lacy and bright, all glittered and optimistic. Fold up all the sweaters and throw out bedraggled boots. Keep out only the most flowered scarves.
This should be excellent. Brian Christinzio — aka BC Camplight — is an angel-voiced pop star in a bowler hat. Harry Nillson was the brilliant folk-pop genius behing "Everybody's Talkin' At Me." Tonight the former takes on the latter (with a band up to nine people strong) in a loving tribute at JB's. And holy crap: Illinois opens. If you can make it, Philly, go.
TONIGHT: Thu., April 28, 8 p.m., Illinois, Johnny Brenda's, Frankford & Girard aves., 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.
Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala played in front of a sweat-soaked crowd at the First Unitarian Church last night. The crammed basement was littered with broken bottles and spilled beer, and the sauna-like temperatures ensured that everyone present was feeling the heat. The venue wasn’t the only thing on fire, though, the four-piece group from down under shredded in a series of psychedelic delights that blasted the audience into outer space and back.
Harking back to the glory days of trippy tunes, Tame Impala’s set featured effect-heavy riffs and astral synth lines — think early Pink Floyd with a good dose of Revolver-era Beatles thrown in for good measure. The band succeeded in moving the crowd with their fuzzy but fluid set with songs like “Solitude is Bliss” and “Lucidity” that got the entire floor swaying and jumping. Their dilated pupils all were focused firmly on the giant projector screen behind the band as it responded to sound and morphed to the pulse of the song, entrancing the starry-eyed crowd until the show’s conclusion at midnight.
Overall, Tame Impala put on a really impressive show. Expanding upon their recorded catalogue of tracks, the four bare footed bros from Perth took each song and brought it to new levels — exploring various jams, breaks, and tempos that showed of their musicianship and improvisational skills, especially in their epic closing number. Some songs that run for four minutes on the album went on for eternities, yet still managed to stay fresh and captivating without any dull or dragging moments. Although the mild mannered and soft-spoken Aussies didn’t take over the stage with overwhelming charisma or antics, their music was a more than adequate way to capture the crowd in a technicolor haze of sounds and visuals that left the audience craving more.
- Arts Events
- First Person Fest
- Last Chance
- On the Fringe
- Philly Artists
- The Curator
- Visual Art
- Arts News
- Artist Profile
- Arts Preview
- Street Art
- Been There, Done That
- Big Ups
- LOL With It
- Critical Mass
- Friday Fill-in
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Just Do It
- Just Opened
- Art Phag
- Film Fest
- Movie Review
- On set
- 10 Track Mind
- Album Review
- Concert Review
- Local Support
- Now Hear This
- One Track Mind
- Philly Bands
- Somebody Else Was There
- The Showdown
- concert photos
- DJ Nights Blogged
- Night Watch
- Now See This
- Poetic License
- Printed Matter
- What We Heart
- Idol Hands
- Mad Men
- True Blood
- Useless Lost Recaps
- Couch Potato
- Shore Trash
- Turned ONN
- Video Games
- Free Online Game
- PlayStation 2
- The 1-Upper
- Web Junk
- CAGE MATCH
- Free Online Toy
- Weekend Omnibus