Archive: June, 2009
Monday: Jenny Lewis, the voice of Rilo Kiley, released her second solo album last year, entitled Acid Tongue. Although most of the album is not even close to psychedelic, the graceful trip is through a folk-infused past of influences, from Bob Dylan to gospel verse. At the Trocadero with Deer Tick, 7 p.m., tickets are $21-$23.
Tuesday: With a noisy slacker aesthetic, Robes sound like My Bloody Valentine's whiny little brother. Tonight is the first in a month-long residency. With the Picture, the Brothers Geida and DJ Robair, at Silk City, 10 p.m, tickets are $5.
Wednesday: Eleanor Friedberger may be the coolest chick in indie rock, but that's beside the point. Bro-sis duo the Fiery Furnaces plays quirky blues-inspired rock with lyrics that are so stream-of-consciousness, they create everlasting tales out of mere nonsense. This is a super-small show with only 120 tickets sold ' so don't miss it! At Kung Fu Necktie, 8 p.m., Tickest are $15.
Thursday: Gwen Stefani finally got over her solo career and brought the band back together for their first tour in five years. I wonder if she'll still coax No Doubt into performing "Holla Back Girl" as an encore. With Paramore at the Susquehanna Bank Center, 7:30 p.m., tickets are $10-$82.
Friday: Fast and noisy hardcore punk Paint it Black is like Philly's Black Flag. This is their record release show, so you get a free 7-inch just for coming out. With Ceremony and Crime in Stereo at the First Unitarian Church, 7:30 p.m., tickets are $10.
Saturday: Upbeat glamy indie-rock from Montreal, akin to frontman Spencer Krug's other band Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown sounds triumphant with beating rhythms and the melodies of a medieval string band. With Elfin Saddle, at Johnny Brenda's, 9 p.m., Tickets are $12.
Photos | Brian Howard and Patrick Rapa
The Roots closed out their picnic with the final set of the evening.
Photos | Brian Howard and Patrick Rapa
TV on the Radio played the penultimate set of this year's Roots Family Picnic. The New Yorkers got an assist from the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, who easily win this year's picnic's "Most Stage Time" award. Hyperkinetic frontman Tunde Adebimpe pinballed around the stage as stoic, hirsute bassist Kyp Malone held down stage right and guitarist David Andrew Sitek bunkered down behind the horn section. (Check out the pants on Antibalas' trumpeter Jordan McLean.)
From the department of "Well, We Were Half Right Anyway," Point Entertainment main man Jesse Lundy announced yesterday that the theatrical celtic-maritime story songs of Colin Meloy and The Decemberists will round out this year's Philadelphia Folk Fest lineup, as I predicted two months ago. They will close the festival's Saturday
night afternoon concert.
Excellent choosing, I must say. It gives this lineup the punch that was absent before; it stays within the broader interpretation of the whole "folk" idiom (listen to The Tain if you doubt this); ruffles the feathers of the stodgy, stubborn contingent of the crowd who doesn't care to venture beyond circuit mainstays; opens the festival up to the broader audience that it needs to cultivate in order to survive; and if nothing else, it guarantees a super well-attended Saturday
night afternoon concert.
Still, it's not quite as mind-blowing as hearing that Espers was playing last year's festival. But it's triumph all the same.
Other late additions include Derek Trucks Band (meh), Heartless Bastards (a not-unexciting buzz band from blogoland), and a pairing of local acts that mirror the fest's zenly balance of tradition and growth: the lively celtic string band trio Burning Bridget Cleary and the very cool anarchic klezmer of West Philadelphia Orchestra. Well played indeed.
|Photo | Brian Howard|
|Flavor Flav at the Roots Family Picnic (slideshow below)|
Lots more coverage to come from the second annual Roots Family Picnic as yours truly and Patrick Rapa were on the scene snapping pics like mad in the photo pit.
But let's start, shall we, with a report from the evening's big event: the much hyped Public Enemy performance of their classic 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back backed by both the legendary Roots crew and the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. It was both an amazing and bizarre spectacle.
For starters, there's Flavor Flav, for whom each of the last 21 years since the album seems to have taken it's toll. Then there was Chuck D. who looks maybe a few years older. And finally Professor Griff who looks almost exactly the same. (I honestly didn't get a good look at Terminator X while in the photo pit. ed.: Apparently because he wasn't there.)
The set was tight. Very tight. No long speeches by D. and no loopy tirades by Flav (during the run of the album at least). Track after track of classic late-'80s rap flowed forth, given new life thanks to a backing band that managed to capture the harshness of the album's sound while also managing to give the songs a new dimension. Even "Bring the Noise" ' the definitive version of which may indeed be P.E.'s instrumental team-up with Anthrax in 1991 ' felt enhanced by its new, organic foundation.
There aren't a whole lot more words beyond it being a sort of transformative experience, especially for someone who never caught P.E. live during their heyday. The album is classic. The performers classic. I'd forgotten just how many really big, important tracks were packed into that disc. "Fight the Power," (ed. "Fight the Power" came out on the Do the Right Thing soundtrack, not on Nation of Millions) "Bring the Noise," "Don't Believe the Hype," "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," "Rebel Without a Pause," "She Watch Channel Zero." All huge, huge, vital songs. I was moved even more than I'd expected to be.
The performers' reverence for the material was evident, and the set ran smoothly thanks to ?uesto up on the drum riser. Once "Fight the Power" concluded, Flavor Flav, as predicted, went off on a bit of a buzz-killing rant, referring to this too often as his "most legendary moment" and making a weird analogy about peace, unity and power then following it with a rant about how you're the only person you can trust. And then he brought Beanie Sigel out on stage despite Beans seeming to want no part of it.
None of which really ruined the moment; but letting the set linger on the closing of "Fight the Power" may have been a more powerful way to close.
Stay tuned for Pat's P.E. pics, as well as snaps of TV on the Radio and the Roots concluding set.
"I like to eat white butt," convicted murderer Mubia Abul Jamal (ahem) says before the switch is thrown and he's executed in the opening scene of Black Devil Doll. A slick James Bond credit sequence follows with a funky track that recalls classic exploitation and '70s drive-in films and sets the tone for all to follow. It's a cue you're about to watch some fine-ass muthafuckin' exploitation in this Blackula-meets-Chuckie mash-up.
Mubia, summoned by the Oujia board by Heather, an unsuspecting white girl, emerges anew to wreak havoc on the world, but this time in the body of a puppet. Murder, rape, necromancy and drugging ensue. Puppet Mubia quickly wins Heather over with lines like, "Niggas wanted to be me and all bitches wanted to be with me." In regard to dropping the n-word, he says, "It's the only thing that keeps my teeth white."
Just when you think Mubia is going to add to his body count, he falls in love with Heather. A hilarious R&B backed montage ensues, capped with a raucous sex scene. As these scenes retread, there's more fun in imagining the direction given to the actresses. This flippant irreverence continues ' well-captured with split screen ' with an impromptu car wash scene involving four of Heather's friends, joyously backed by a song called "Pussy Dripping."
Of course, not everything is perfection. Puppet Mubia soon lets Heather know that he just needs to fuck (and subsequently kill) some new ass. They work out an arrangement for her to leave at the "right moment," Heather's friends are stalked one by one. Unlike Heather, all of her friends are silicone beneficiaries, leaving one to conclude at this point that a new metric for survival has been introduced.
The film, however, soon revels entirely too much in its own stupidity (think Eli Roth meets American Pie III). It knows what it is ' the production company is called Lowest Common Denominator ' but without playful subtlety, we're left with predictability and shit jokes. Other than the brilliant use of a Grey's Anatomy poster, the conclusion doesn't offer much. But this is exploitation, so maybe that's part of the point. The free beer will definitely help for the entirety, though there are some corkers in the first half.
In anticipation of The Hangover (read Drew Lazor's review), I got to talk to star and Jenkintown native Bradley Cooper about his role in the film. Cooper was slick and comfortable talking to the four journos in the room, but when asked his most salient memory of his Jenkintown roots, all he could think to say was trains (dude, trains?) and SEPTA (mentioned with equal parts fondness and disgust ' a true native).
What I find most interesting about Cooper is his career switch. Like most who actually remember his name, I first saw him as Ben in Wet Hot American Summer (husband of Michael Ian Black's McKinley) and, from that, Alias (I wasn't an avid viewer, but got that he was playing token nice guy). But then there was a shift, not only in his role choices, but physically, as well. Cooper beefed up and stole the show as Lodge, Rachel McAdams' popped collar fianc' in Wedding Crashers. He's worked as a mean guy ever since ' namely in He's Just Not That Into You, where he essentially plays douche epitomized (and gets to bang Jennifer Connelly and Scarlett Johansson in the process). What's the deal with all the asshole roles, Brad?
First off, he doesn't think his Hangover character, Phil, falls into the same Lodge category (Drew calls him "rakish"): "I don't see him as that. Look, he's an alpha male but his bark is a little bit bigger than his bite. To me at least, he's the whole reason why they find [groom-to-be] Doug. He'll go to the end of earth to help these guys. At the end of the movie, and I'm so glad we kept this in, you gotta show that he's a father and that he's a good father."
Touche. OK, Phil comes through in the end ' but that doesn't explain everything else. Give it a whirl:
"I actually stayed away from a lot of asshole roles after Wedding Crashers," say Cooper. "After Alias, where I played the nicest guy in the world, no one would see me for roles that are at all edgy, at all. Like, 'Oh Bradley, he's such a nice guy.' But I was acting! I was playing those guys! Then I got Wedding Crashers and [director David] Dobkin didn't know anything about Alias. Something clicked in the room and he took a chance on me. After Wedding Crashers was a success, it was always, 'Isn't he kind of an asshole?'"
More Cleaver, Less Clever
The premise of The Meatpackers Book Club, which is handily encapsulated in its title, is a moderately intriguing one.' Unusual, at least; quirky, certainly.' It raises a few questions: Why are these meatpackers forming a book club?' What might be interesting (or at least different) about a book club made up of meatpackers?' What can book clubs tell us about meatpackers, or vice versa?' There may be some worthwhile and surprising answers to these questions; unfortunately, Kathy Anderson's new play, currently being premiered by the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop, doesn't quite manage to come up with them.
The why is somewhat shakily established in an opening scene, set on Halloween, wherein Harry (Jerry Rudasill), the play's de-facto thinking man and perhaps most sympathetic character, convinces his co-workers (who enter dressed as a cow, a hamburger, and a giant sausage) that rather than humiliate themselves by parading in costume before their corporate bosses, they should...well... start a book club.' Because it would be fun: "Not karaoke night fun, but fun."' (He also offers them $100 apiece to sweeten the deal.)' Through the course of this conversation, we also learn of the serious bodily tolls that factory work has taken on each of the characters: the slow-witted but sweet-hearted Augustus (Daniel DeRosier) lost an arm in an on-the-job incident, while the conceited and fairly meatheaded Red (Nick Suders) begrudgingly reveals the persistence of an old leg injury.
Which brings us to what's (potentially) interesting about this concept, as facile as the play's justification for it may be: the exploration of injustice and human suffering are central ' perhaps the most central ' themes in the literary canon, yet we tend to think of great literature being read and discussed primarily by those whose lives have been relatively free of suffering.' To be sure, the play draws out some parallels there: the meatpackers relate wholeheartedly to the struggles depicted in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, while Harry sees his life reflected in the prison setting of Dickens' Little Dorrit and Red declares his direct likeness to Yann Martel's Pi.' But they're much too busy bickering with one another, and too embroiled in their own melodramas ' primarily a workplace love triangle revolving around the romantically susceptible smarty-pants Tiny (Kristen Schier), who, in one of the play's better gags, is won over by a recitation of Pride & Prejudice's opening lines ''to truly bond over these recognitions, much less to find some form of mutual empowerment through them.
Despite repeated references to the indignity and inhumanity of blue-collar labor and the hazards of the packing plant in particular (as represented by increasingly outlandish, inexplicable eruptions of sci-fi sound effects, colored lights, and odors from the mysterious "Sector 8" adjoining the breakroom ' an unresolved and inscrutable sub-plot), any sustained sense of social commentary is undercut by the play's vague, sophomoric soap-opera plotting and buffoonish attempts at comedy.' There's nothing wrong with this being a comic play, even if the "wackiness" of its premise (whose apparent absurdity is more sad than it is strange) is hardly enough to sustain the humor for long.' And it's merely unfortunate that these characters essentially come off as stock types.' But the fact that their ignorance, befuddlement, and small-minded infighting ' the ramifications of the very class oppression and lack of education which the play elsewhere seems to highlight ' are generally played for crude laughs gives the play a surprisingly nasty streak.
Though there are moments of nonsensical wit (particularly an exchange wherein the characters discover and discuss the covert surveillance of the book club's activities on the part of the plant's shadowy and under-developed managerial figures), and flashes of a curiously existential black humor that suggest a blue-collar version of The Office spliced with sadistic whimsy of Waiting for Godot.' But they're mere flashes: on the whole Meatpackers Book Club is neither funny, nor fun, nor interesting enough to merit recommendation.' Might I suggest karaoke night?
Through June 14, $18, Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut St., 215-316-1361, philadelphiatheatreworkshop.org.
Koko died yesterday at the age of 80. This video is her performing "I Cried Like A Baby." The picture quality is eh, but the sound is sweet.
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