Archive: May, 2011
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles.
Every year, Helium Comedy Club hosts the Philly's Phunniest comedy competition. Hundreds of hungry young comics come from all over the metropolitan region to tell jokes for glory and cash.
And one of the best parts is that you can help judge; the preliminary rounds are voted on by audience members via secret ballot. The top four from each preliminary round, held every Sunday after June 2, advance to the next round. The semi-finals are Aug 28 and Aug 29. The Finals are Aug 30. The final rounds are judged by local radio and TV personalities, and sometimes-headlining comedians or associates from Comedy Central.
The contest, which has grown every year, is up to 153 comics. Helium reports a lot more brand new names and faces this year than ever before."We try to keep the contestants to Philadelphia, South Jersey and the Philly suburbs, and we don't go near another major comedy scene," says Helium manager Jeff Lewandowski. "We don't want guys coming down from New York."
I asked Jeff whether he thinks this is the year Chip Chantry (pictured) will finally take the win. "I hope so, I feel like it's his time. There's a lot of good talent out there, but Chip Chantry has to be the lead. I'm probably a little biased towards Chip just from seeing him for so many years. There are a lot of new names and new faces, so there could be someone that comes out of nowhere. Kent Haines did that. He was only on the Philly scene for about a year, and he took the contest by storm and won it."
The preliminary rounds will be hosted by last year's winner, Doogie Horner.
I’m normally more of a novel reader than a short story guy; I like plotlines and characters that stay with you for many pages, so that a book becomes a world unto itself. But despite the fact that Julian Barnes’ Pulse is a batch of stories, the book as a whole seems remarkably unified. It’s not just Barnes’ latest stories collected in a single volume. Instead, it’s the literary equivalent of a concept album like Sgt. Pepper, with all its pieces built around common themes.
The primary theme here is human relationships. Sure, every book is about human relationships. But Pulse is particularly insistent on examining the details of how people forge and maintain intimate connections — particularly romantic ones, but also among friends and family. Barnes uses the short-story format to examine a wide array of different kinds of relationships. Though some of the characters are fairly eccentric, there are no real “psychopaths” here, to borrow a word often used in the book. The stories emphasize how wildly different each relationship is from every other, even within the range of what we call normal.
There’s the story of the English man who meets a German woman at a restaurant. Against a beautifully-painted backdrop of the bleak English coast—“the bored sky and the lifeless sea” — their relationship develops despite a language barrier, even as the woman reveals little about her past. There’s the love-hate relationship of two authors, whose words to each other only scratch the surface of what they’re feeling. They’re viciously competitive yet deeply admiring of one another. And there are relationships acted through a medium of some pastime: gardening for one couple, hiking for another.
The first half of the collection is also linked by a single storyline interspersed between the others. “At Phil and Joanna’s” is a four-part story revealed in sections among the other tales. It’s the transcription of a progressing conversation held on various nights among a group of friends. They chat, often wittily, about various tipsy dinner-table topics, from sex to politics. There’s hardly a word in “At Phil and Joanna’s” that’s not dialogue. The idea is an interesting one, but I found myself groaning a little each time I came to the next “Phil and Joanna” section. Sitting through dinner parties with people I actually know is hard enough.
The second section is largely united by a secondary theme: each story deals with a different one of the five senses. There’s the story of a painter who can’t hear; a musician who can’t see; a man fascinated by the touch of a hand. And while the first half of the book appears to be set entirely in modern England, the second half occasionally darts around in time and place. The painter might be a 19th-century Englishman, while the pianist lives in 18th-century Austria. The fascinating latter story is an imagining of a real historical medical event—though in accordance with a “routine literary mannerism of the time,” the names of its characters are never given in full.
The second-to-last piece isn’t so much a story, it seems, as an autobiographical essay about love. Barnes breaks through the fiction to speak directly to the reader about his personal history and thoughts. Suddenly, in a book about intimacy, we’re provided with an intimate glimpse into the head of the author himself. It’s an honest account, sentimental without being saccharine, that helps tie the whole book together. (Barnes even refers to some of the preceding stories.)
In the essay, Barnes calls falling in love a “moment of passionate taste.” Though all the senses are represented here, taste might be the most relevant: in each story, Pulse delivers a taste of another intimate bond—tastes that might help us reflect on our own human connections.
WHO: Jellybean Benitez, Venus 7
WHAT: D24K brings more heat to its Mightly monthly this time out with a truly iconic NYC DJ/producer — Jellybean Benitez. For four decades, he's produced timeless classics for Madonna, Whitney Houston, Talking Heads and countless others, all while continuing to wow crowds all over the world with his skills on the decks. The house party vibes will be flexing real prooer on this night, don't be left out of a historic event.
WHEN & WHERE: Fri., May 27, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $10, Silk City, 435 Spring Garden, 215-592-8838, silkcityphilly.com.
WHY: My first memory of the word “remix” was in reference to Jellybean, and now that word/concept is synonymous with club music and dance culture.
The American Swedish Historical Museum is introducing a new gallery space that's dedicated to New Sweden (aka pre-Philly) and the Delaware Valley's earliest residents. The venue, getting its name from original settlers Sven Gunnarsson and Jonas Nilsson, will bring together artifacts that help guests visualize what was happening in Philadelphia before William Penn swooped in and chartered it. “Previously these items were throughout the museum,” says ASHM's Caroline Rossy, “but this exhibit brings them all together.”
On display, Rossy says, are beads, letters, Lenape Indian artifacts, tobacco pipes, woven baskets and a painting of Johan Prince, a governor of New Sweden. And for those who like to get hand-on with their art perusal, ASHM is unveiling a Google Map of shows where churches, museums and other New Sweden sites that still exist throughout the city.
Gallery opening: Tue. June 7, American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Ave., 215-389-1776, americanswedish.org.
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Gemini (May 19-June 21): In upstate New York, the lilacs are blooming, reminding T.S. Eliot and the rest of us that life is finite. The smell of lilacs means: If you need something, get it. If you miss someone, call. If you love someone, and I KNOW you do, celebrate!
Cancer (June 22-July 23): See you in the fall, says a favorite Cancer, cryptically, by email. I hope it does mean he’ll visit, but “See you in the fall” is also what you can say to most of your inhibitions, most of your practicality, to most of your loneliness. Summer is for busy and sun.
Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): You are an evening walk in rainy sun. Put down your rainbow umbrella and let the drops and beams smooch your wonderful face. You are hereby awarded the dragonfly of bravery, the humidity of love.
Prolific singer/songwriter Willie Nelson is rolling into Philadelphia tomorrow night to headline his national Country Throwdown tour, starring newcomers like Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Jack Ingram. The show takes place at the Mann Center at 3:30 p.m., and we have first-come-first-serve tickets available to whoever sends an email HERE with the phrase "Smoke one, Willie!"
Ready, set, Willie Nelson!
Each week, Emily Apisa puts together a rundown of book-centric events that’ll keep you “lit” like a firecracker all week long.
[ Thursday ]
➤ Saturnalia Books Poetry Reading
This Ardmore-based book publisher is bringing their inked pages to life. The reading and book signing will feature Saturnalia authors, including Martha Silano, Star Black and Dorothea Lasky. These contemporary poets draw inspiration from the mundane to the sublime as evidenced in Silano’s “The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception” and Black’s “Velleity’s Shade.” Thu., May 26, 6 p.m., free, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 S. 6th St., 215-925-2688.
[ Friday ]
➤ Po/Jazz Connection
Poetry and jazz both emphasize feeling over meaning, and this event brings the similar art forms to the same stage. While poets read their works, Philadelphia-based jazz band Warren Oree and The Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble will accompany the recital, offering an additional component to the traditional spoken work performance. Wine and cheese will be served, and guests will gain free entry to the museum’s special exhibits. Fri., May 27, 6-8 p.m., $15- $20, Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave., 215-247-0476.
[ Saturday ]
➤ Fourth Wall Arts Salon
Creative minds from all walks of life will be contributing a little bit of this and a little bit of that to this potpourri of performances. Philly-based musicians, dancers and poets including Nina ‘Lyrispect’ Ball and Carlo Campbell will not only perform, but also engage the audience by speaking on their craft. Sat., May 28, 7-9 p.m., $15, The Media Bureau, 725 N.4th St., 215-645-2424.
[ Sunday ]
➤ Happy Birthday, Mr. President
Today is our 35th president’s would-be 94th birthday. John F. Kennedy’s life was a short, but interesting one. As a member of American aristocracy his personal life was thrust into the limelight, and his political life was examined under a close eye. Check out these JFK biographies to learn more about the birthday boy: An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek, John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O’Brien or JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass. Sun., May 29.
[ Monday ]
➤ Memorial Day
On this unofficial kick-off to the summer season, take time to set some summer reading goals. Might I suggest getting around to reading those books you should’ve read, but never actually got around to it? Skip the summer blockbusters and give the classics a chance. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is a funny take on science fiction, and it’s as easy to take in as that mojito you’ve been sipping on. If Philly’s got you down, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is set in exotic Spain and uber-chic Paris. Let Hemingway’s sparse prose parade you down the streets of Europe. Mon., May 30.
[ Tuesday ]
➤ Books Through Bars Packing Cafe
Share your passion for books with those who do not have the luxury of a library or bookstore. Every Tuesday this group responds to book requests from prisoners by sifting through their library of donations. After books are collected, the packages will be mailed off. According to Books Through Bars’ website, the program receives about 1200 letters from prisoners a year, so volunteers are an integral part the program’s success. Tue., May 31, 7:30- 9 p.m., free, The A-Space, 4722 Baltimore Ave., 215-727-8170.
[ Wednesday ]
➤ IYC Book Club
As part of the International Year of Chemistry, this bi-monthly book club hosts speakers and discusses book selections each meeting. This meeting’s selection is “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust. Using the Civil War as a reference point, Faust explores the impact of death on America’s society including how people coped with trauma and grief and the expansion of the embalming industry. Wed., June 1, 7:30-9 p.m., free, Headhouse Books, 619 S. 2nd St., 215-925-2222.
Just a reminder: Tonight we're hosting a drag party at Woody's (202 S. 13th St.) in the Gayborhood to commemorate the release of our annual Summer Fun Guide. There'll be legs, fake tits and lip syncing galore. You don't want to miss that, right?
We're arriving around 9 p.m. for drinks and mingling, then, at 10 p.m., we're heading upstairs where Brittany Lynn will host a drag show starring three of her fellow cover girls: Diana Dharling, Navaya Shay and The Goddess Isis.
After that, we're thinking about jaunting around the corner to Tabu Lounge (200 S. 12th St.) to put on a performance of our own. Sara Sherr will be there hosting a Morrissey Birthday- and British-themed karaoke night.
It'll be a whirlwind summer evening. Hope to see you there!
Weird that I ran into Shannon Webber Wednesday morning. I hadn’t seen the Philly punk mistress in some time. First thing she said to me was that she had been to visit the long ailing Philly punk-before-you-were-a-punk Mikey Wild in hospice at 18th and South the night previous. “He’ll be in rock ‘n’ roll heaven soon,” said Webber. She couldn’t have known how soon, as The Mayor of South Street passed away that morning. The outsider artist will be celebrated starting on June 18, 5-8 p.m. at Pageant Soloveev Gallery, 607 Bainbridge St. You can scan City Paper’s back issues for scads of stories that I wrote on Wild, and drop off condolences at the gallery space.
Philly expatriate Johnny Makeup’s adopted father/rent dad Dov Charney of American Apparel fame has his cock all over Gawker.com right now. Whee. See it here.
Queen Village’s house of meatballs Village Belle starts its “Behind Belle’s Bar” series this Thu., May 26, with Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Bros. slicing cheeses from his shop and chatting about food, life in the Italian Market and whatever else guests are interested in learning about.
Everyone remembers that David Grasso was ready to launch two different House of Blues venues in the Philly area: one at 15th and Chestnut (where he wound up putting a Del Frisco’s Steaks) and one between 16th and 17th on Washington Ave. Eh. They didn’t happen. But that space at Beach and Richmond that he got to book with Live Nation’s backing, all 8,000 square feet, is going to be the House of Blues he always wanted. Live Nation owns the HoB brand, and Grasso got the nightclub zoning variance that Frank DiCicco pushed through before Council’s seasonal session ended. All they need is to finalize the parking arrangement.
Every Thursday, singer/songwriter Matt Cantor gives you the skinny on a local open-mic night so you'll know which stages to call home. This week, he wraps up his tenure as our open mic columnist by saying a few parting words about why open mics matter.
Philadelphia is a city that celebrates public art, from Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics to the Mural Arts Program. The phrase “public art” conjures up images of paintings on recycling trucks, sculptures at the airport — all important work that helps make Philly a great city. But public art doesn’t have to be visual.
Open mics are music’s public art. They’re not restricted to exclusive performance spaces; they take place in bars and coffee shops, and every one I’ve attended in Philly has been free.
What’s more, they provide an entirely democratic opportunity for local voices to be heard: There are no restrictions besides showing up on time; no auditions standing in the way of performance; no need for self-promotion to get a spot. Open mics provide a stage for those who might otherwise never have a chance to be heard. They also provide a venue for rising stars — a place where performers can get their first taste of the spotlight or learn to be comfortable onstage.
All this is particularly important in a world where music, like other arts, can be difficult to “break into.” Performers shouldn’t have to know the right people, or have good business acumen, simply in order to share their music with a crowd. Open mics mean music by the people and for the people.
Since there’s no money involved, the audience at an open mic is treated to real passion from performers. These are people who want to play purely for the sake of playing, most of whom make time for music in their lives despite career or school pressures. And even though they get less time for music than professional musicians, that passion translates into an impressive array of talent. Attending open mics around the city, I’ve frankly been taken aback at the quality of many of these shows. Don’t think open mics are for people who can’t make it in the music industry — Philly has open mikers who rival any pro.
The city’s not just rich with open-mikers; it’s rich with open mics. There are multiple events almost every night of the week. My favorites are HERE and you can find others in our weekly event listings.
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