Archive: July, 2009
Monday: Tortoise creates sonic atmospheres using glitchy beats, sometimes somber melodies, and powerful compositions. As far as 'Post Rock' goes, they make Explosions in the Sky sound like Fall Out Boy. With Grey Reverend, 8pm, $15, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980, r5productions.com.
Tuesday: The pop-punk powerhouse has some new album out with probably way more political commentary than everyone would care to hear from these Cali dudes, but remember when Green Day used to be awesome? I remember rocking out to Dookie and Nimrod all the time on the school bus. And even though I had to hear "Time of Your Life" at every graduation, wedding, bar mitzvah, final Seinfeld episode, funeral, etc for, like, five years I still think it's a pretty catchy song. With The Bravery, 8pm, $42-$54, Wachovia Spectrum, 3601 S. Broad St., 215-336-2000.
Friday: Sparsely composed folk with eerie vocal melodies land Caroline Weeks close to the Freak Folk movement. With Lewis & Clarke and Corridor, 8pm, First Unitarian Church (Chapel), $10, 2125 Chestnut St., r5productions.com
Saturday: Black Moth Super Rainbow craft psychedelic and electronic sounds with upbeat dancey rhythms. They are often compared to AIR, but are way more energetic. They are an exceptional live band, do not miss. With Dan Friel, 9pm, At Johnny Brendas, Frankford & Girard, $10, r5productions.com
Sunday: Progressive NJ metal band Suspyre wail away on riffs like Dream Theater or Dragonforce. With Seasons of Mourning and Steadfast, $10, 7pm, at North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar Street, northstarbar.com
|Sam + Daphne = Shapeshifters 4 eva|
Recapping True Blood each and every Monday.
The bar was set high after last week's fantastic sex-romp of an episode. But this week's episode, 'Don't Let Me Go' produced more fizzle, less sizzle.
Turns out, clumsy Daphne can morph into a deer, which isn't that surprising as there had to be some reason she wasn't bothered by Sam's own shape-shifting tendencies. And whereas Sam was just mildly interested and more often frustrated with his new waitress, the idea that they can both become four-legged creatures makes this dog-man go buck-wild.
Jason remains the star soldier for the Fellowship of the Sun and Ryan Kwanten once again is a scene-stealer. He bumbles like an excited hillbilly at the sight of Reverend Newlin's vampire-slaying artillery (complete with silver throwing stars and a bazooka). Meanwhile, things start to crack in the pretty little fa'ade that is the Newlin marriage, as the Reverend won't let Sarah in on his plan for vampire-domination. Mrs. Newlin seeks out Jason as an outlet for her frustration, offering a naughty hand as he soaks in the tub.
Maryann is still behaving like a leech from the Bon Temps swamp. It's really time for her to go, but she's got a vicious, suckling grip. She attempts to overstay her welcome at Gran's house, but Tara rightly declines. Not to be deterred, Maryann stalks outside Merlotte's, inducing angry tension (instead of the typical orgy) with her enigmatic powers, pushing everyone in Merlotte's to harass Tara. All goes as planned when the distraught Tara comes back to Gran's insisting that Maryann and her gang can stay.
In Dallas, Sookie tries to bully bellhop Barry into being her mind-reading bosom-buddy, but he'll have none of it. The history behind Eric's transformation and the key to his homoerotic tendencies is also revealed. We're treated to a vignette of Eric's making at the hands of his alluring elfin sire, Godric (newcomer Allan Hyde).
Eric insists that the kidnapped Godric be found at the risk of all involved, proving that even vampires have a hard time letting go. Also, in a rather lame cliff-hanger, Bill's lady-sire breezes past his hotel room and gets all toothy when she hears him getting hot and heavy with Ms. Stackhouse.
So, 'Don't Let Me Go' wasn't all bad. There were probably enough bow-chica-wow-wow moments to fill a pubescent boy's daily quota, and while that's all well and good, nothing really happened in this episode.
|Photo | Brian Howard|
|Mac from Superchunk|
Playing a free show with Versus at New York's South Street Seaport on Friday, indie rock legends Superchunk, the flagship band of the turning-XX Merge label, ripped off a veritable best-of set, drawing primarily from the first half of the band's catalog.
Name a hit from Superchunk, No Pocky For Kitty, On The Mouth, Foolish and Here's Where the Strings Come In or the interstitial singles and chances are Mac, Laura, Jim and Jon played it, and played the shit out of it.
- "Driveway to Driveway," "Water Wings" and "The First Part" from Foolish.
- "Detroit has a Skyline" from Strings
- "Cast Iron," "Throwing Things" and "Seed Toss" from Pocky
- "I Think I Remembered it Wrong" (I think) from On the Mouth
- "On the Mouth" from Incidental Music
There were others but they're not springing to mind. As great as the blast from the past was, equally exciting were two rocked-out new songs: "Learned to Surf" from the recent Leaves in the Gutter EP and an as-yet unreleased single called "Crossed Wires" ("You can't touch me, I've got crossed wires, crossed wires!").
Mac, who is Superchunk's leader as well as one of the Merge label's founders, bemoaned not having the "Crossed Wires" single available for sale yet, blaming the "consistently disappointing" performance of their label.
"I think we should drop 'em," cracked Jim Wilbur, the band's dry-witted jester in a band full of them.
"We'll see you real soon," said Mac to crowd as the band put the finishing touches on its encore/anthem, "Slack Motherfucker," giving hope that the band's spare touring schedule in recent years will pick up again.
After the performance, as the crowd drifted away from the Seaport, Mac hung around the front of the stage, signing autographs and posing for pictures. It's nice that after 20 years as the hardest working band in indie rock, Mac hasn't lost his sense of humility.
Photos of Versus' opening set after the jump.
|Photo | John Vettese|
So Spank Rock was dragged offstage at Siren Festival this weekend.
I'll get to that in a moment. But first, to explain - I've done a decent job of ignoring the Philly hiphop act since catching his/their opening set for Beck in 2006. For me, it seemed too silly, too sensationalistic to take seriously. Then again, I was in a brooding mopey bastardly frame of mind that fall, and I'm sure that shaped my reaction.
Whichever the case, Spank Rock closed the Village Voice's annual Siren Festival this year, and the time felt right for another shot at appreciation. And their act did make more sense this time. The crew - two DJs, a percussionist, a hype guy, and MCs Spank and Amanda Blank, flanked by a few dozen hangers-on and fans - didn't play a standard rock-show set as much as they turned the rock show into a huge party. Bits of recognizable songs peeped out here and there, but mostly what we saw was stuff like DJ battles, braggart chants, percussionist solos, and dance-offs between people in the wings that spread to bring the larger crowd on Stillwell Ave. into the fold.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
To anyone with even a cursory knowledge of hiphop, it should be obvious that this is how things would go down. The scene reminded me of seeing Plastic Little at Sal's a while back; an eradicated boundary between spectator and performer, where they're all in it to have a crazy good time on equal terms. On a critical note, because of this, there was naturally more than a bit of shallowness to the rhymes. Then again, the aim here wasn't conveying a message any greater than "let's have fun." So what the fuck?
Maybe there's a disconnect from that fun when the party is taken out of a club and put on a large stage before a few thousand sweaty people, above them and largely distanced from them - another possible reason, perhaps, why the Tower show rubbed me the wrong way. But it wasn't then or now surprising, and shouldn't have been. Nonetheless, it did surprise the Coney Island security crew.
|Photo | John Vettese|
Here are my rough recollections of the order of events, a day and some after the fact: just over a half hour into the set, a woman from the wings sashayed to center stage, took off her tanktop and momentarily danced around. She still had a bikini top on, but it was enough to ruffle the feathers of a burly security guard, who promptly stepped in front of her to block what he apparently viewed as a ribald display of skin from the audience. He took her by the shoulders and ushered her offstage.
The set continued, and soon this repeated with a different woman. From here, it was fewer than five minutes before the show went from high energy to shutdown. Some dudes and ladies from the front of the crowd climbed onstage to join the dancing fray, and although their clothes stayed on, the security guard rushed to force them off. They protested, he barked at them. A third bikini-top dancer (maybe the same as the first, repeating her thing) had to be removed. The guard looked like he got in an argument with the percussionist, but I'm not sure. All this happened as the music played, mind you. Finally the engineer at the side of the stage rushed out front and motioned to the main soundboard operator to cut the PA. Everything whirred to a halt, lights went down and the stage was hastily vacated.
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Bikini kill: The second of the dancing fans is removed (center).|
|Photo | John Vettese|
|Photo | John Vettese|
The perplexed crowd first booed, then a chant of "One more song!" emerged. After a pause, Spank and a few others came out, holding microphones, thinking they'd be allowed to deliver. But when he tried to speak into the mic, he found it was still shut off. Turning around, the MC found the security guard was behind him. Words were exchanged, and the guard's arms soon gripped the performer's shoulder's, unceremoniously leading him offstage as well.
Now, it should be noted I know nothing of how entertainer and promoter contractually agreed the set would go. Considering Monotonix raised hell while set up in the epicenter of the crowd earlier that day, I imagine the Voice's people are relatively permissive as far as each performer's artistic freedom. Maybe Spank's crew was a bit overwhelming; perhaps they imbibed an excess of complimentary Jim Beam in the backstage hospitality tent. Maybe, in all fairness to the security guard, it was simply too much for one person to handle. Whatever snipes I might take at the guy's sour attitude, I absolutely recognize that the stage was seriously understaffed and this sole fellow, gruffness notwithstanding, should not have been the only person responsible for maintaining order. He was in over his head and became understandably flustered.
But from my vantage point up front, there was nothing really wrong with the scene onstage before the guard stepped in. As far as the dancing bikini women were concerned...come on, dude. The festival's on Coney Island; it's a beach. As far as the crowd climbing onstage is concerned...the security's job is to protect performer from spectator, but when performer invites spectator onstage, doesn't that mean all bets are off? Certainly it raises the possibility that all whatever-thousand people from the larger throngs of audience might join in the rush, but there was a big metal barrier those people had to climb across - a mass-riot might be plausible, but hardly seems probable.But I'm honestly not sure how that works; maybe my buddies who work security for EFC can clarify. In general, though, it seemed clear that the scene wasn't nearly as chaotic as it appeared, and the situation escelated unnecessarily, even if Spank Rock isn't your thing.
To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure Spank Rock is my thing. I don't know how much closer I am to taking him/them seriously as musicians or artists. As a performer, though, I am convinced. And it's a shame that what was otherwise such a high-energy, electrifying set had to be cut short.
|Photo | John Vettese|
When I write Last Chance, a bi-monthly arts column highlighting exhibits and performances that are about to close, I always leave stuff out. It's inevitable ' the constraints of print keep it at about 350 words. Which is a shame. Because, this week especially, there's usually more stuff that I want to highlight.
Take "Three Headed Presents: Adventures in the Land of Smoke in Mirrors," which is currently up at FLUXspace. I was only able to mention one piece in the article: "The Room of Mirrors," a trippy installation that's covered with mirrors and gold-painted carousel horses. But there was a whole warehouse full of weirdo stuff like that ' for instance, pictured above is an image you see while looking into a set of rigged binoculars, through which it appears 3-D. Rika Hawes, Kim Harty and Charlotte Potter, the three artists in the exhibit, are fond of optical illusions like that. Upstairs at FLUXspace, they created several peepholes that you look through to see things like this:
Only, of course, it's much smaller through the peephole. Also, in an effort to get the audience interested in how art's made, they allow you to go into the rooms behind the peepholes to see how the projectors work. One of these is called "The Room of Heartbreak," which is absolutely precious ' there's a glass "stomach" in which living butterflies flit around. (Get it?) Well, they were living for a while, anyway ' butterflies enjoy this planet for about four weeks before dying.
Want to see more images from the exhibit? Check out this slideshow.
|Photos by Jesse Delaney|
Long Live the Mastodon Vans!
Nike effectively put a nail in the coffin of the Chuck Taylor mythos when they bought Converse.
The Chucks are dead, long live the Mastodon Vans!
Normally I wouldn't give a shit about packaging, but the tissue paper wrapping the shoes is imprinted with the crazy antlered monster (also on the shoe box). It's like wiping your ass with a Van Gogh print (oh yeah, I reuse, reduce, and recycle).
Shoes worthy of crossing the "Siberian Divide," ascending to the "Capillarian Crest," and climbing Blood Fuckin' Mountain!
More pics below. Damn, my legs are pasty!
It's derby time! For her directorial debut, Drew Barrymore takes on a coming of age story set against roller derby culture, starring Ellen Page, who I haven't fully decided whether I want to beat the living crap out of her or drink some whiskey and discuss how much we hate Manic Pixie Dream Girls. This could be a complete and utter disaster. Barrymore is obviously untested behind the camera when it comes to features and something about her inspires the same kind of dichotomous feelings I have toward Ellen Page (kick her in the shins or go rock star trolling? Decisions, decisons). But, Barrymore has had more musicians go through her than the backstage area of the Whiskey A-Go-Go so the tunes will most certainly rock (does she get the starlet-groupie discount?). No to mention this is a rare treat in Hollywood: A completely female driven movie. You've got Barrymore, Page, Kristin Wiig, Alia Shawkat (aka Maebe Funke!), Juliette Lewis (who was really awesome before she went fucknuts) and Eve. Show me someone who doesn't love Eve and I'll show you someone with a hardcore sass deficiency.
And 'cause it's Friday and you all deserve a treat, here's the trailer for my number one all time favorite movie about roller derby ever:
For me, it's Reed Dollaz, an MC from Philly. Actually, his 'location' field says 'bitch im on mars!' He tweets all the time. And he tweets for people to wake up. And he RTs himself. I'm not sure how long I can subscribe to this much crazy, but right now I'm digging his enthusiasm. Click on the below to read all his mad tweets.
Last we heard from Matt Haffner, he was making wicked mixed-media works inspired by our city's overlooked neighborhoods, and exhibiting them at Proximity Gallery. Lauren F. Friedman covered the opening back in March:
Haffner ' who was a Philly-based street photographer before moving to Atlanta ' came back to his hometown, armed with a camera and an intimate knowledge of the city's architecture and culture. He then took photographs from that trip ' of dilapidated buildings, telephones wires, crumbling storefronts, back alleys and train platforms ' and layered them under ink drawings of people and things that were not actually there. Beneath a sheet of white mylar, the photographs themselves look doused in milk and not quite real, and the black-line drawings ' of facades that have disappeared, children jumping rope in abandoned streets, birds in an empty sky ' force you to wonder what could have been.
Now, it turns out, he's gotten all big on us and is exhibiting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia, which gave him several rooms to work with. Haffner doesn't stray too much from his formula ' he projects video onto massive pieces of cut-up paper, essentially creating a larger, living version of the photographs that he layered on top of line drawings at Proximity. Also, the videos move ' birds chirp, planes fly by and hawks circle around ' making me wish I could see it for myself even more. Click the jump to see more of Haffner's stuff from MOCA, including his incredible, huge paper works.
The pieces above and below are completely made up of cut-up pieces of paper. Crazy, right?
And another work using video projection:
'Then you need to read this NYT article about lion in winter film critic Andrew Sarris by Michael Powell. For hardcore film geeks, Sarris is a well known name. He, along with critics like Pauline Kael (swoon!), brought a new intellectuality to a medium that, in its American form, was seen solely as escapist. These critics (like John Simon and Manny Farber) also fucking hated each other and would battle it out in print like the good ol' nerds that they are.
Sarris, who did time at the Village Voice in its critical heyday and the Americanized Cahsiers du Cinema, was recently fired from his long held position at the NY Observer. For a young writer interested in film, this was one of those holy-shit moments. You just don't fire Andrew Sarris. That would be like firing dean of rock criticism Robert Christgau (oh wait'). I'm not even a "Sarrisite," as the article refers to them, who whole heartedly believes in the auteur theory ' "which holds that a great director speaks through his films no less than a novelist speaks through his books" ' because I think movies are too much of a collaborative process. But the idea that one of the greatest in his field could be considered expendable is depressing.
While a lot of film critics that followed Sarris' lead can be staid and boring, Sarris and co. were working in uncharted waters ' ascribing importance to fluffy American cinema. Plus, he's funny. As described in the Powell piece, Sarris and Simon had a war of of the words in the Pages of the Arts & Leisure section of the Times:
One Sunday in 1971 The New York Times devoted acreage in the Arts & Leisure section to a mano-a-mano between Mr. Simon and Mr. Sarris. Mr. Simon's pen came acid dipped, and his disdain for auteurism, which he believed devalued narrative, was fairly overwhelming. 'Perversity is certainly the most saving grace of Sarris's criticism,' he wrote, 'the humor being mostly unintentional.'
To which Mr. Sarris later rejoined, 'Simon is the greatest film critic of the 19th century.'
As I said before, I'm not a Sarrisite, but I do love Pauline Kael, the New Yorker film critic. (Sidestory: When I'm on planes/long bus rides, I have a penchant for lying to the people I'm sitting next to out of sheer boredom. The name I often give people: Pauline Kael). She essentially built her own cult of personality, wrote with daggers (lady could be a BITCH, albeit a hilarious one) and just loved the shit out of movies. If you like to read about film, get Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I Lost it at the Movies and read some real film analysis that doesn't make you want to scoop your own eyes out with a spoon (aka, pretty much everything else I read in film school). Here's why she's awesome:
She wielded style like a stiletto. 'The auteur theory is an attempt by adult males to justify staying inside the small range of experience of their boyhood and adolescence, that period when masculinity looked so great and important,' she wrote of Mr. Sarris.
Ms. Kael's devotees note that she seldom attacked him after that, even as he fumed. But that is like knocking a fellow flat then puzzling at his foul mood.
When Mr. Sarris married Molly Haskell, a fellow critic, in 1969, they invited Ms. Kael, Mr. Sarris said. 'That's O.K.,' she replied. 'I'll go to Molly's next wedding.'
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