Archive: April, 2011
Around 9 p.m. last night I stopped in to visit the Laughs on Fairmount open mic, which is happening every Monday in the Urban Saloon's (2120 Fairmount Ave., 215-232-5359) back room. Co-hosted by Carolyn Busa and Mary Radzinski, Laughs on Fairmount is a free show that offers Philly's working comics a chance to hone their acts for the weekend. The room is comfortable with an outstanding ambiance and, for a Monday, usually has a pretty decent turnout.
Aaron Hertzog talked about how the Welfare System and crappy jobs inherently bring out the worst qualities in people. Luke Giordano joked about his neurotic preoccupation with fratty Nickelback fans. Matt Lally told a hilarious story about buying rubbers at Wal-Mart on a day when the aisles seemed to be flooded with old couples and Catholic Kindergarten daytrips.
Laughs on Fairmount is open to first-time comics, but is also one of the better free shows to check out if you're just a comedy fan looking for some Recession Era free entertainment. The Saloon has yummy grub and a solid selection of drink specials. So next Monday jangle your spurs, push through the swinging double doors and order yourself up a Sioux City Sarsaparilla.
Wow, I need to get a life.
Yesterday it was announced that University of Pennsylvania Class of 1985 alumna Jennifer Egan has won a 2011 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her 2010 novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad. (For a full list of Pulitzer winners, click here.) She won $10,000, beating out Jonathan Dee (The Privileges) and Chang-rae Lee (The Surrendered).
Egan will read from her award-winning novel next month as part of the Kelly Writers House Alumni Weekend (Sat., May 14, 4 p.m., free, RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-746-POEM, 3805 Locust Walk, writing.upenn.edu/wh); till then, read what Dead Milkmen frontman/City Paper scribe Rodney Anonymous had to say about her work in our June 2010 Book Quarterly, and feel free to argue with him in the comments.
Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad would have worked quite nicely as a collection of short stories (which is really what the world really needs right about now). Sure, it wouldn't have exactly been on par with Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge, but with Egan's considerable gifts for constructing interesting, quirky characters and her skill at capturing the feel of a given time and place, this could have been a tremendously satisfying read.
Instead, the author gives in to the temptation to employ the gimmick of creating fragile links between the characters and moving them about in time and space — allowing a teenager to attend a concert in San Francisco and then, a few chapters later, to be on safari in Africa with his children and new, younger wife. Someone should have told Egan that what worked for Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Slaughter House Five, is not necessarily applicable to a 35-year-old kleptomaniac living in Tribeca. And as for the entire chapter made of Power Point presentations, well, Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel hit the nail on the head when he said, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of an everyday, pop-culture-loving Philly dude.
In between a bachelor party in A.C. and a housewarming party on 42nd and Chester streets, I squeezed in a couple multi-hour sessions with House M.D. I am currently feeling generous enough to offer you a brief rundown of each season. But be warned: There are spoilers.
Season 1: Fox introduces the world to Greg House, M.D., a cranky genius with a team of hungry young doctors and a friendly foil named Wilson. Wanting to create a medical Sherlock Holmes, creator David Shore made him morally ambiguous, misanthropic, and addicted to pain pills — a great leading character.
Best Episode: "Three Stories"
House agrees to do a lecture in exchange for fewer clinic hours and weaves a series of hypothetical diagnostics scenarios together (SPOILER!) in a way that reveal his own history with leg pain and subsequent Vicodin addiction.
Season 2: Things are starting to get interesting with House and his ex-wife Stacey. Stacey is now a lawyer at the hospital, and therefore involved with the ramifications of House's regular guideline stomping.
Monday: Whether you’ve been anxiously waiting for them to release new material (which they did earlier this year) or you just want to hear “The Distance,” Cake are here to please. On the second night of a two-night stint, the quirky Sacramento quintet will draw from January’s Showroom Of Compassion, which was the #1 album on the Billboard charts for a little bit. Sure, it wasn’t a big seller, but blame the ailing industry rather than the band itself. Showroom boasts some instantly-recognizable Cake-isms. They’re not retreads, but rather the sounds of a band picking up right where they left off. 8 p.m., $36.50 - $43.50, Keswick Theatre, 291 Keswick Ave., 215-572-7650.
Tuesday: This past March marked the 100th anniversary of the legendary Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. The tragedy claimed the lives of almost 150 young women workers, but the resulting legislation for workers’ (and women’s) rights were indispensable. 100 years later, acoustic rockers Triangle Shirt Factory probably picked their name because it sounded cool. Names aside, their dramatic pop surges hit with the air of revolution. w/ Bad News Bears, The Haunted Continents & Hero Campaign, 8 p.m., $8, M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave., 215-739-5577.
Wednesday: Whatever ‘math rock’ is, it doesn’t sound like much fun. I mean, who wants to do math while trying to rock out? Put down your calculators and graphing paper and join the charmingly shambling company of Maps & Atlases. With last summer’s debut, Perch Patchwork, the gang stitched together a multitude of worldly sounds into a boisterous and rustic quilt. Aside from this main group, each member has dabbled in various solo projects, including thrash metal, filmmaking and club DJing. Mathematical! w/ Delicate Steve & Gypsyblood, 7:30 p.m., $12, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Thursday: Dig the recent trend of girl-group revival, but feel a little left out because you’re a guy? And gay? Seth “Hunx” Bogart, formerly of exclamatory electropopsters Gravy Train!!!!, has assembled a group of shoop-shoop backup singers to form Hunx And His Punx. The group’s full-length debut, Too Young To Be In Love, sounds like it could’ve been recorded back in Phil Spector’s production heyday. Playful songs about “Lovers Lane” and “The Curse Of Being Young” all carry a universal romanticism, ready to be lapped up by lonely boys and lonely girls alike. w/ Shannon and the Clams, Dry Feet & DJ Dennis Wolffang, 8 p.m., $8 - $10, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919.
Friday: If your dreams at night are of sepia-toned rendezvous at the Ryman Auditorium, then a night at the Philly Opry should be on your Earth Day agenda. Hosted and curated by beloved local songstress Birdie Busch, the second annual showcase is both a tribute and homage to the legendary variety program in Nashville. The Philly Opry still has plenty of years to catch up to the Grand Ole Opry’s almost 90 years of country gold, but a new tradition is a tradition nonetheless. w/ The Defibulators & The Silver Ages, 9 p.m., $12, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
We all know that Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy live happily ever after at the end of Pride and Prejudice. But things aren’t always what they seem.
In Steve Hockensmith’s final installation of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series, readers get a full-on sequel to the original — plus plenty of twists, turns and blood to boot. The story begins several years after Elizabeth has put away her katana in exchange for wedded bliss with Mr. Darcy. Incredibly, by the second chapter, he has succumbed to the bite of a 6-year-old "unmentionable" — aka zombie. It's a rush to a cure for Darcy throughout the rest of the novel: Elizabeth, with the help of her father and sisters (Mary and Kitty), leave Darcy in the care of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the hopes of obtaining an anti-zombie cure that may not even exist.
WHO: Stretch Armstrong, Emynd and Bo Bliz
WHAT: Pabst Blue Ribbon and Crossfaded Bacon bring you a special edition of this monthly party. The legendary Stretch Armstrong is gonna throw it down real proper for ya, Philly! Stretch is an internationally acclaimed DJ based outta NYC, and has been an extremely important figure in the hip-hop scene since the '90s. He’ll be alongside the resident boys on the decks and its sure to be a rockin’ night!
WHEN & WHERE: Fri., April 15th, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St., 215-592-8838, silkcityphilly.com.
WHY: Yer ass is gonna shake, your heart is gonna race, and your gonna have an amazing time.
Sid Ceasar and Milton Berle may have brought audiences to television throughout the dawn of the 1950s, but Ernie Kovacs was a one-man band, acting as producer/director/writer and visual presence whose creations inspired sketch comedies like Saturday Night Live and beyond.
This month, those innovations can be found in the Shout Factory’s newly released six-DVD release, The Ernie Kovacs Collection. Kovacs’ primary collaborator and wife, Edie Adams, gets her due, too, with the re-release of her autobiography, Sing a Pretty Song, most of which discusses her wild times on air and off with Kovacs.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
The Philadelphia Joke Initiative presents Stage Fright: An Improvised Homage to Alfred Hitchcock. This week, I spoke with director Matt Nelson about the work that went into bringing the work of this spook master to the Philly stage.
Critical Mass: How did Stage Fright get started?
Matt Nelson: For some time now I’ve been circling the idea of adapting film to the stage with an improvised twist. Initially, I considered tackling a specific genre of film, but kept coming back to the realization that there are far too many sub-styles within any given genre. To properly mount any kind of adaptation – especially improvised – requires a clear viewpoint from the source material. After all, we don’t want to simply retell stories that exist on celluloid … we want to create new and imaginative works for audiences all while capturing the essence of what we’re basing our show on.
CM: How did you settle on Hitchcock?
MN: Once I decided to forgo genre and focus more on a director’s body of work, the choice became very clear to me. Over the course of 53 films and more than half a century, Hitchcock commanded cinema like few directors before or after. He pioneered so many techniques, styles and themes that were at one time revolutionary, and are now standard.
CM: What was casting like for Stage Fright?
MN: A large difficulty in translating his style to the stage is that Hitchcock was a very visual storyteller. He much preferred editing and symbolism to verbal storytelling. To this end, I was looking to cast improvisers who not only fit well with the 1940s/1960s aesthetic, but also who demonstrate an excellent command of nonverbal performance. Hitch was very clear that he felt the chief requisite for an actor is the ability to do "nothing" well; that they should be willing to be utilized and wholly integrated into the project. So without the use of cinematography, I wanted to handpick improvisers that I knew could push each show forward not only through character and story, but also through moments of aggressive visual silence to create what I hope will be a truly voyeuristic spectacle.
CM: How overwhelming was the preparation for this show?
MN: For the last four months, the cast has immersed themselves in the world of Hitchcock. Watching, analyzing and deconstructing the films, understanding and exploring tension and suspense, and bringing to life the types of Hitchcockian characters that are so definitively the cornerstone of that world. We looked for the Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart personas, villainous characters and, of course, the heroines.
CM: How much of the show is serious vs. comedic?
MN: Folks see improv as something funny, and Hitchcock as something much darker. This project aims to show that the two are not mutually exclusive. His films have moments of terrific levity and humor - and that is not an accident. The audience needs a break from the suspense. It's in those moments that they let their guard down, and great things can happen.
CM: Who can we look forward to seeing in Stage Fright?
MN: Mary Carpenter, Rob Cutler, Nate Edmonson, Kristin Finger, Jessica Ross, Joe Sabatino, Alli Soowal, Jason Stockdale and Ashley Villanueva.
April 15-May 1, 8-9:30 p.m., $10, Latvian Society of Philadelphia, 531 N. Seventh St., ticketleap.com.
Up-and-coming Bean Town-native DJ Taaj bumps a mix of classic hip-hop and modern rap every Thursday night for ‘So Far Out Thursdays’ at Pub Webb in North Philly. Spinning a number of tracks that outdate him in age, DJ Taaj is proud to announce that he’s a “young bull who’s gonna be rockin’ with some old tunes” right at the start of his set. Featuring classics from Notorious B.I.G. and L.L. Cool J as well as fresh Top-40 tracks from Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne, DJ Taaj manages to keep the place bumpin’ and grindin’ all night.
Expect a diverse crowd of college students and North Philly patrons at Pub Webb on Thursdays. Specials for the night include the “Pub's Famous Slap Yo Mama Sauce” hot wings and $1 Bud Light bottles to help fuel the bass-lovin', booty bouncer in all of us.
Every Thursday, 10 p.m., Pub Webb, 1527 Cecil B. Moore Ave., pubwebb.com.
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