Archive: June, 2011
Overheard: “This is the only venue around that the building sweats.”
The sweating started when Philly folk artist, Meg Baird drew the crowd right to the front of the stage as if magnetized by her soothing voice, simple guitar playing and soft harp accompaniment. Her short set didn’t do her justice, since her somewhat long songs only let her get through a few. Taking things into a dramatically different direction, Allentown’s Pissed Jeans hit Church-goers right between the ears with their hardcore-punk and guitar noise. Suddenly people were scaling the house speakers next to the stage, jumping into a circle pit and swinging their arms at any crowd-surfing body that happened to cross their path. Pissed Jeans seemed to grab most of the remaining air in the room and choke it right out of its lungs, forcing almost everyone out onto the street for a short breath before the main show.
Opening with “Society is My Friend,” Kurt Vile & the Violators ripped through most of Smoke Ring For My Halo. “Ghost Town,” from Halo, was a standout moment, staying true to Vile’s signature spacey sound with little low-end, feeling like it was cascading down from the ceiling. Wait, that was just sweat. “Freeway” and “Hunchback,” were received pretty warmly by the hometown crowd, happy to hear some deeper cuts. “Any requests?” Kurt asked mid-show while tuning his guitar. A barrage of song titles ensued. “Don’t worry, I knew what I was going to play all along.” Things got weird as the show ended with a wall of sound proceeding, “Freak Train,” in which Kurt wasn’t even visible through some of as he was on his knees playing with a variety of effects pedals on the stage.
“Thanks for sweating it out with us tonight,” said Jesse Turbo, guitarist and saxophonist for the Violators. Apparently it was pretty hot on stage too, despite the stripped down look they had without any stage lights, only the soft white house lights of the Church.
Add up all the adjectives ever applied to Paul Simon and “difficult” will come near the bottom, but his latest album, So Beautiful or So What, actually takes a few spins to grab hold. Songs like “Rewrite” are built around spiraling guitar figures that never settle into a comfortable strum, as if they’re swirling around a center that never materializes.
His show at the Merriam Theatre followed suit, using an eight-piece band whose ever-shifting lineup pushed even Simon’s greatest hits into new territory. Half the ensemble switched to guitar to back Simon on “Rewrite,” while the drumsticks came out for “The Obvious Child.” The sound of a grand piano pushed “Slip Slidin’ Away” into melancholy territory, befitting a song written when Simon was half his current age. Perhaps most transformed was “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” whose parade-drum rhythm was pushed to the front. The song seemed to send out tendrils, expanding like smoke, wiping away its millions of radio plays and allowing the audience to hear it anew.
Simon is a solid but rarely revelatory songwriter; there’s still a trace of sophomore coffee-shop poetry in his lyrics. But he has exquisite taste in backing musicians, even when he’s not raiding exotic traditions wholesale. Drummer Jim Oblon proved himself capable of laying down a bass drum and hi-hat beat while using his hands to play a mean guitar solo during a cover of “Mystery Train” — not a great choice for Simon’s vocal style, but an entertaining run-through all the same. If Simon’s show didn’t break much new ground, it showed great aplomb in retracing his steps.
Opa (1311 Sansom St.) is already a hot spot for a great, modern Greek meal (love the four-week marinated grilled octopus with chickpea fondue) and a cool cocktail (another Antho with cucumber vodka, lemon and fresh dill, please). But its Thursdays just got a little steamier with the start of Glendi. The party, DJ'd with love by our good friend Rahsaan of AfroTaino Productions and created by Opa’s owners Vasiliki Tsiouris and her brother, George Tsiouris, will always have a live arts and fashion lean with the occasional nod to body painting and photography.
On Thursday, June 9, Glendi started with a bang when longtime friend of Icepack, “Dr.” Noel Zayas debuted Noel Zayas Events with a flashy fashion show on Juniper Street. Along with emcee/scarf wearer Thom Cardwell, Hamels Foundation mouthpiece G-N Kang (the other emcee) and Antoine Johnson (the boss of House of Talent PA models), the show was a smash, with fashion faves from Priscilla Costa, Matthew Izzo’s clothing (he borrowed a few 611 tees and tank tops) and hot weather couture men's suits courtesy of Commonwealth Proper, the custom clothier I wrote about long ago. Snazzy.
For further Thursday events, visit opaphiladelphia.com.
Reporter Meg Augustin takes you inside some of Philly's most fab dwellings to showcase the city's unique grasp on design and architecture.
When Jay Lamancuso opened Hello World at 12th and Pine streets twelve years ago, he was carving out his spot on the famous Antique Row. Back then, the street was a haven for shop-happy tourists, which meant he could expect streams of antique lovers flooding in on the weekends. Today, however, "Antique Row" seems like a misnomer. There are only a handful of true antique shops left in the neighborhood, most of them with “flexible” hours. The few doors that are open offer a mix of items — with very few of them being antiques. To find out what happened to this Philly landmark, I spoke to Lamancuso’s at his current Hello Home location on Pine Street.
Hello World originally started as a vintage furniture shop. When it began, it fit nicely into Antique Row as a mid-century modern dealer. Their inventory was 90 percent vintage and 10 percent new. But times changed and Jay Lamancuso, being an astute business owner, changed with them. While his heart may have been set on being Philly’s portal to all things mid-century, he turned his business into a tourist attraction of handbags and trinkets. “Today they want the look of old things, but they want them new," says current shop manager Kyra Ellzy of the new merch.
Monday: Originally part of the 1980s burgeoning pop scene, Lloyd Cole's career has since blossomed into a very eclectic and sophisticated one. The former leader of The Commotions and avid golfer returned last year with a new album called Broken Record. The album provides the groundwork for the Lloyd Cole small ensemble, which Lloyd is debuting on this tour. 8:30 p.m., $30, World Café Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
Tuesday: As the name might lead you to believe, Those Darlins started out as a kind of country fried punk band. Over the years their sound has expanded, incorporating psychedelic and classic pop styles. Their live shows remain as volatile as ever and, appropriately, their new material draws heavily from their copious time on the road. They’ve spend that time fine-tuning their material to work best in a raucous (if not hoe-down) setting. w/ Natural Child & Tin Horses, 9 p.m., $10-$12, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Wednesday: Seeing as how they burst onto the scene years ago as a group of brainy folk enthusiasts, it's no surprise that The Decemberists’ latest turn draws heavily from good ol’ Americana. Recruiting members from various folk and bluegrass acts, The King Is Dead is a departure from the more epic prog leanings of the group’s past few albums. Despite the relative lightness of the acoustic-based new recordings, The Decemberists’ performances remain engaging and celebratory. w/ Best Coast, 8 p.m., $40, Academy Of Music, Broad & Locust Sts., 215-893-1940.
Thursday: Marina & The Diamonds are far from another pop princess group from the UK. Sure, they’re from the UK and Marina herself is a pop princess, but that shouldn't make you think they're just a Florence And The Machine copycat group bringing electronic influences and, of course, bubbly pop songcraft into the mix. Marina and the diamonds present a lovely mix of joyously off-kilter pop that’ll curl the corners of your lips. Upwards, of course. w/ GANG, 8 p.m., $18-$27, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.
Friday: By the time you read this, Robert Pollard will have amassed enough material for at least 10 or 12 new solo albums. Thankfully you probably won't hear any of those songs when Guided By Voices take the stage for the second time in a surprising short span. Once again assembling the lineup of the group’s creative and commercial peak, Pollard and his band will present their whiskey-fueled live show, which plays like a series of “oh hell yes” and “oh man, I forgot about this song” moments. Plus, tickets are 2-for-1 until Thursday morning! w/ Wavves, 6:30 p.m., $29.50-$39.70, River Stage at Penn’s Landing Great Plaza, Columbus Blvd & Chestnut St., 215-629-3200.
Saturday: Australian pop combo Architecture In Helsinki spent the better part of the last few years working on will become Moment Bends, their fourth studio album. After heavy remixing and reimagining, the fruits of their work have manifested in a funky but breezy pop collection that evokes new-wave sounds as much as tropical-flavored funk. The collection is an expectedly grown-up triumph from the playful group, but their youthful buoyancy thankfully remains. w/ Hooray For Earth & Norwegian Arms, 8 p.m., $19-$24, World Café Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
Sunday: There are few people who can boost a career as illustrious as Sade’s. Just last year, the British pioneer of “quiet storm R&B” released Soldier Of Love, her first album of original material in 10 years. The Grammy-winning disc and its Grammy-winning title track highlight the pensive sensual sounds of Sade’s celebrated early albums. Bring someone along to this show; you’ll want to hold them very tightly. w/ John Legend, 7:30 p.m., $52.50-$152.50, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 1-800-298-4200.
This past Friday’s show at the Naval Yard reaffirmed Avicii as one of our generation's hottest electronic music artists. The 21-year-old Swede, Tim Bergling (a.k.a. Avicii and Tim Berg) presented a sweet mixture of house electronic synthetic tracks that attracted a mostly college-age crowd dressed in little-to-nothing neon and toting Dollar Store glow sticks. His performances of popular singles like “Seek Bromance” and “My Feelings For You,” peaked the crowds' enthusiasm, creating a nonstop dance party reminiscent of an old school rave. But it was his encore mix of Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World” that left Philadelphians in a frenzy for future performances by this Swedish stud.
There aren’t enough community initiatives promoting peace in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. That’s why it’s important for those that do exist to be recognized. The Community Arts Center (CAC) of Wallingford recently received a $12,000 grant from Impact100, a philanthropy organization that specializes in awarding grants to nonprofit organizations.
On Martin Luther King Day this year, the Community Arts Center embarked on an effort known as "Pieces of Peace." Their goal with this project — which is still on-going — is to spread a message of non-violence through a series of murals throughout the city of Chester. The murals will depict times in the life of Martin Luther King Jr, from 1948-51 when he worshipped at Cavalry Baptist Church in Chester.
“We will be installing them in eight different spots around the city of Chester,” says CAC's executive director Debby Yoder. “We chose these particular spots because they’re known for being in areas of violence and we’d like to promote peace there.”
The mural itself was put together with many pieces of quilt-style art. Students from Chester High School painted on individual pieces of cloth and wove them together to create a larger mural. “It is based on the idea that every person in the community has a piece of the peace,” Yoder adds.
The first mural will be installed on a wall facing the Chester YWCA parking lot. It is completed and expected to be installed at the end of June.
For a television show that goes to such lengths to present a diverse cast, the Glee Live audience was about at white-bread as it gets
If you plan on catching Glee! Live! In Concert! on one of their U.S. or international tour dates in the next few weeks, I recommend ear plugs. Not that the music is lacking — it’s actually pretty good, with a few truly powerful performers — but the hysterical screaming of tweenage fangirls (and boys) combined with mega-speakers produced more sonic waves than the average human eardrum should withstand.
The sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center was at least 80 percent women on June 8, when the tour made its Philadelphia stop. For a television show that goes to such lengths to present a diverse cast, the Glee Live audience was about at white-bread as it gets: families, couples on the gayest dates ever, and gangs of teenagers wearing homemade and official Glee attire. This monochromatic effect may be a function of privilege, as tickets ran about $111 each.
As an opening act, the LXD (League of Extraordinary Dancers) performed a sort of musical pantomime, complete with a range of gymnastic dancing from breaking to Broadway hoofing. The young dancers were splendid, but the overall narrative obscure and boring. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, though, and gave the LXD an appreciative ovation. A long wait followed, punctuated by high-volume commercials on two giant screens for Chevy, Samsung, and the new Glee app.
Tension built within the arena as the lights were dimmed, and sections 122-123, who had a view behind the stage, screamed in undulating waves over something the rest of us could not see. A troupe of costumed Cheerios (the cheerleaders of fictional McKinley High) circulated the arena handing out branded “Sue Sylvester barf bags” on behalf of the show’s sociopathic villain, played by Jane Lynch. A short video lead in played, and the Glee cast took the stage.
Matt Cantor puts our generation on blast.
There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin tells his tiger he likes “to verb words” — meaning he likes turning nouns into verbs. “Remember when ‘access’ was a thing?” he asks. “Now, it’s something you do. It got verbed.”
Lately, it seems like the Internet is verbing everything. It was a big deal when people started saying they would “Google” something. Somehow, that manner of speaking has begun to apply to every major website. You don’t look at someone’s Facebook page; you Facebook them. You don’t search for videos on YouTube; you YouTube them. You can also IMDB actors or movies, and ideas can be Wikipedia’d (how would you even spell that?).
I’ve always found emoticons annoyingly trite. “I broke my leg :( ,” “I got a new puppy :),” “We needlessly and illegally invaded Iraq :( .” But what’s even weirder is the fact that people are now actually speaking emoticons. You’ve probably heard it: “I have a rare disease. Sad face!” Meanwhile, we’re orally spelling out Internet shorthand, as in “Oh, bee tee double-you, I have to work tomorrow, slash I need to buy some food, but we can hang out later.”
This all brings in a whole new generation of communication. I’m pretty sure my grandparents wouldn’t understand it if I was all like, “Bee tee dubs, Grandpa, you know how you were talking about the lives lost in Dub Dub 2? Total sad face. Anyway, I didn’t know who Dwight Eisenhower was, so I tried IMDBing him, but he wasn’t in any movies, so I just Wikipedia’d his name and found out he was a general-slash-president. Oh and PS, you need to YouTube this hilarious video of a talking dog.”
Yeah, my grandparents wouldn’t get that. But hey, there’s no real need to talk to my grandparents about this high-tech stuff anyway. They’re so old they still use MySpace. JK.
As we get ready to publish it looks like this year’s Blues Stroll has the weather odds in its favor. That’s a particular blessing for the bands like Kim Trusty and Johnny B who are kicking off the event at the all-ages, outdoor stage in Veteran’s Square. The music starts at 6 p.m. so it’s easy to give the kids or other uninitiated listeners a little taste without investing in an admission wristlet. Same goes a couple blocks down on the Plumstead Mall outside 7 Stones Cafe where local acts like Norman Taylor and Johnny Never promise to show their acoustic side.
In contrast to the free outdoor stages for all ages and the crowds wandering from one adult watering hole to another to taste dozens of bands, it is quite possible to have one single jewel of a concert experience, seated inside the Media Theater. There Catherine Russell, the direct link to Louis Armstrong’s ’20s and ’30s sound, will swing the house. No, she’s not that old! But her daddy, Luis Russell, who was in charge of Armstrong’s arrangements and also a songwriter, was no spring chicken when she was born. Ms. Russell can turn on the old sound when she wants to and the energy of the early jazz crackles in the air. Her show is scheduled for 8:15-9:45 p.m.
The off-the-hour sets are designed to leave wandering time — there are literally blocks and blocks of music all for the price of a wristlet. For example, do we still mention that Randy Lippincott was Johnny Copeland’s main man? OK, maybe, but for sure he has his own rep in the area. Look for him and the band at Quotations. Wanamaker Lewis Band will smoke the Towne House, just south of State, up until midnight. Twenty-four bands in all in seven hours. Such a deal. There is a complicated scheme of advance/online/XPN member discounts. Best to check the website to shake it all out.
State Street Blues Stroll, Sat., June 11, 6 p.m.-1 a.m., statestreetblues.com.
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