Archive: April, 2011
For those of us who don't know squat about baseball, CP contributor Matt Cantor breaks down last night's game in a way we all can understand — like it's a TV show!
Every summer, I try to catch all 162 episodes of my favorite show, now in its 142nd season. Some call the series boring, but it puts me on the edge of my seat — and yesterday’s episode, filmed in San Diego, was no exception.
This latest installment, directed by Charlie Manuel, was fairly predictable if you’d seen the previous three. It opened, as usual, with a lone figure perched in the center of a grassy field. The central character, Doc, played by Roy Halladay, appeared at first to be a fairly flat persona — but a certain intensity in his eyes suggested a tide of powerful feeling under the calm surface. Indeed, Halladay has been widely recognized for a string of excellent performances over the years. But the stakes have lately risen ever higher, as the press has fueled sky-high expectations for him and his three fellow leading men.
Our hero had a clear task before him: he had to keep an onslaught of camouflaged figures at bay while his red-capped comrades launched an attack of their own. They had just nine chances to crack their enemies’ defenses, and they made little headway during the first five. That meant continued pressure on Doc, who had to remain as impenetrable as the antagonists.
Monday: Together since 1993, Minnesotan dream-gazers Low are perhaps both the epitome and antithesis of rock music. On the one hand, their glacial tempos and lush arrangements do many things but rock. Swaying, not dancing is the preferred motor reaction to hearing their music. Then again, redefining boundaries is what rock music is all about. Even if a band plays slow or fast or loud or quiet, they’re still making sounds that resonate in people (often very literally). 8 p.m., $15, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Tuesday: Musically influenced well beyond their years, Smith Westerns have quickly risen to the forefront of indie rock’s furiously crowded landscape. Their recently-released second album, Dye The World, is a masterful reinterpretation of ‘70s power pop and glam rock. Those who didn’t catch on to the young band around the time of their debut should have no fear: there’s still plenty of time to witness Smith Westerns’ rise to glory. From over-processed guitars to precise percussion rolls, the new songs sound like old favorites from a faded transistor radio. Looks like the future is in the past, after all. w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra & Ports Of Call, 9 p.m., $10-$12, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Wednesday: Seeing as how they are also a garage-blues outfit centered around a dynamic (and ambiguously related) guy-girl duo, The Kills must get the whole “White Stripes” thing a lot. Now that Jack White’s band has come to an end, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince can carry on their sludgy mission with (hopefully) fewer surface-scratching comparisons. The pair’s latest, Blood Pressures, is the result of some time spent apart. Mosshart and Hince’s reunion is about as volatile, thrilling and brutal as the music itself. w/ Cold Cave & The Entrance Band, 8 p.m., $16-$25, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.
Thursday: Balkan Beat Box might hold the distinction as the world’s only gypsy/funk/hip-hop/electronica collective. Impressive, for sure, but the New York by way of Tel Aviv group hasn’t been letting their unusual influences be their only defining traits. An ever-changing crew of DJs, emcees and musicians brings their party-starting records to life at their carnivalesque concerts. Aside from getting bodies moving, BBB aim to bridge cultural divides with their fusion-friendly style. Not a bad way to stimulate the mind, heart and booty. w/ Uproot Andy & Joro Boro, 8 p.m., $18.50-$21, Trocadero, 10th & Arch Sts., 215-922-6888.
Fluid Philly and local clothing line Babylon Cartel joined forces on Saturday night for “808s is Back,” featuring DC born DJ Sylo on the turntables. The party focused on fashion and hip-hop with the DJ spinning just a smoothly as the disco ball revolving above the club’s cavernous dance floor.
DJ Sylo played a low-riding mix of '90s G-Funk and other hip-hop classics that made the crowd bump, grind, and straight up feel gangsta all night. It was “nothing but a G thang” as his nostalgia-inducing set had the crowd of hipsters, blipsters, homies, and bros acting a fool until the lights turned on at 2 a.m.
A hip guy just trying to make his mark on the Philly DJ scene, Sylo loves connecting with his crowd during the set, often acting like a goof and dancing around up on his DJ perch, feeding off the energy of both the music and the people romping around below him. Sylo’s about to “get ready for the next episode” when he crosses the pond in the fall with plans to hit London in September and spread his brand. But look for him in the future spinning around the Philly area at local clubs, bars and events.
Morgan Spurlock takes no crap. That fact was readily apparent at the Q&A session after the April 14 screening of his new film, POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (check out Sam Adams' review). While he is snarky, silly, and genuinely funny — watching him giggle in his film about the equine/human shampoo brand (yeah) Mane ‘n Tail was a bit like watching a five-year-old giggle about poop — he has made himself known through this film as the sort of director who won’t be trodden upon. And in the advertising world, that’s all anyone wants to do to you.
After the screening, Spurlock stood before the audience wearing his custom-made suit emblazoned with all the logos of the corporate sponsors who financed the film. The suit has been making the rounds with the director on the late night circuit, and is yet another tongue-in-cheek stab at the ad industry. Maybe he believes that one day we’ll all wear suits covered in ad logos. Don’t we already, what with Nike, Abercrombie, et al?
Just as the Q&A got going, three people got up and began to walk out. Spurlock paused from answering a question to call out the ditchers. “Oh, thanks for coming you guys. Don’t worry, the Q&A will get much more interesting once you leave. Hurry on out of here so we can all talk about you behind your backs.” They shamefully walked out and the audience wolf-whistled like the abandoners were elementary school kids getting called to the principal’s audience.
Far beyond that sort of no-nonsense shtick, Spurlock answered questions primarily about his relationship with the advertisers in the film and whether he had “sold out.” He said that he would have if he had he let the brands get final cut of the film (which they didn’t), and he sacrificed no control over the movie. “The brands wanted a monetary return on their investment,” he said. “I said hell no! Your return is being in this film!” The audience burst into applause at the point.
When asked how a budding filmmaker can maintain artistic integrity, he said the most important thing is maintaining one’s vision and creative control. No easy feat, surely, in the shark tank of advertising. That’s what makes the film so genius. Spurlock doesn’t really offer a solution to the problem, though. He doesn’t even seem to think, from the answers he provided, that a city with no advertising (in the film we see Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city that has outlawed any form of outdoor advertising) can even happen in America. He thinks it can happen from people getting fed up enough and making it happen.
He wants to make us see that advertising is everywhere, and maybe that will frustrate us enough to try to change things. “I’ve ruined TV and movies for you,” he said. “You will see ads more now than you ever did before.” So the solution really, is his film. Now we’ll really see that advertising everywhere, and it’s up to us to get fed up enough to try stop it. If that’s what we want, of course.
Jon Dore's a tough guy to pin down. On The John Dore Television Programme (a Canadian mockumentary-style show viewable round here on IFC), he comes off like a likeable guy, well-meaning, flawed, always looking like he just woke up. Each episode starts with him deciding to improve himself in some way — stop drinking, or get tested for STDs — so he seeks out friends and experts to discuss the issue. Then he usually says and does thing that are really funny that make these helpful people uncomfortable, perhaps regret getting involved. Sometimes there are gallons of fake barf or blood.
His standup is similarly disarming. He's got that affable Canadian accent, the plaid shirt, the bedhead, the beard, the bottle of beer in his hand at all times, and then he'll make some surprising lewd abortion joke or something, and it's twice and impactful because you just don't expect it to come from him. At least at first. He had the Helium crowd laughing the whole time with a casual, occasionally improvised show. Afterward, he could be found in the bar area, in the seat closest to the television, watching the Habs/Bruins game.
If you let IFC just play and play, somewhere between the Mr. Show reruns and Portlandia you might've caught Jon Dore's mockumentary/reality show. Originally broadcast on Canadian TV, The Jon Dore Show is a strange brew of funny, awkward, gross and adorable. Dore's in the midst of a run at Helium right now. Recommended.
Fri. and Sat., April 22 and 23, $25-$30, Helium Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., 215-496-9001, heliumcomedy.com.
Every week, singer/songwriter Matt Cantor gives you the skinny on a local open-mic night so you'll know which stages to call home.
Last night, I decided to check out the open mic scene in Media, at a classy local bar called Picasso. A stage had just been installed at the back of the bar, in an adjoining room, which provided a cozy nook for the open mike. A giant Picasso painting dominated one wall, while others were neatly hung with squares of various patterns. I’m told that the number of attendees varies hugely from week to week; this time, a sizable crowd trickled in by around 11 p.m., drinking cocktails and beers.
The feel was very relaxed, as host Kendric Conn opened with a few songs, then kept track of performers largely in his head rather than on a sign-up sheet. The comfortable vibe led to a lot of banter both onstage and off; it was easy to get to know the very friendly regulars. They formed a crowd: the Picasso open mic has clearly developed a loyal following. Meanwhile, Conn was generous with his equipment, allowing other performers to play his shiny Martin guitar and even use his vocal pedals, the likes of which I’d never seen before: One doubled the sound of your voice, while the other actually created harmonies so that it sounded as if others were singing along, right on key. It did this, Conn said, by analyzing the chords you were playing and using them to build the harmonies. The PA system was crisp, and there was an onstage monitor—always infinitely helpful.
I was impressed by the consistency of the talent. Conn played folk tunes like “I’ll Fly Away” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” with a rough-edged, emotive voice and a clean and well-defined strum. Later came Dan Howard, who ripped through some string-bending blues as well as lyric-packed John Prine and Paul Simon songs. Grimbridge, a guitar, bass, and percussion trio, filled much of the evening with a mix of originals and covers. Their aggressive and intriguing minor-key structures stood out from the usual open-mike fare.
This warm and relaxed open mic provides a great atmosphere for new open-mikers and old hands alike—and you get plenty of stage time. Definitely worth a visit.
The nitty-gritty for performers: Thursdays, 10 p.m., Picasso Restaurant and Bar, 36 W. State St., Media, free, 610-891-9600, Picasso-bar.com. 4-5 songs each.
It's been a long week and you deserve a treat. Luckily, CP's here to help you decide where to take your cutie — in case you haven't picked up a paper copy, here's a quick roundup of who to see, what to do and where to go tonight.
MOVIES >> Another one bites the dust — Super was only around for a week before getting bumped for POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Morgan Spurlock's new snarkumentary on product placement. To elicit warm and fuzzy feelings in your significant other, catch African Cats (about, er, African cats); if you're "stupid for historical costume dramas," there's The Princess of Montpensier. Also playing: Ceremony (D), Madea's Big Happy Family, Water for Elephants (C, thanks to Robert Pattinson's inability to do much else than look sexy) and White Irish Drinkers (C-).
MUSIC >> Bee Mask and Oneohtrix Point Never, two bands that make up for their regular-dudeliness with "hypnotically spacey drifts and drones," play the International House; for something smoother, Philly jazz dude Ari Hoenig's at Chris' Jazz Cafe tonight. For something a little more country, Birdie Busch headline's the Philly Opry at Johnny Brenda's.
CULTURE >> Hey, it's Earth Day! Go plant a tree with your sweetie. Afterward, visit the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center's "East of Eden" exhibit, see 1812 Productions' Laughter on the 23rd Floor or InterAct's Two Jews Walk Into a War (pictured), or let Karen Gross woo you with her Black Cat Cabaret.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
This week, I had the chance to chat with Matt McCarthy, who you know as the competing cable installer to Verizon’s Fios. What you may not know is that he’s a knockout stand-up comedian and he's performing at Connie’s Ric Rac tonight at 9 p.m. He opened up to be about his best and worst gigs and his stand-up hero Bill Hicks.
City Paper: What was that one gig that made you realize *DING* this is happening; I can get ready to quit my day job?
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