Archive: July, 2011
Beautiful World Syndicate (1619 E. Passyunk Ave.) has been serving P'yunkers with a high-quality vinyl selection for the last six years. Their collection of over 20,000 records covers their impressive space with new and used reggae, soul, jazz, soundtracks, world, folk, blues, rock and hip-hop releases. The albums are divided between new arrivals and their main stock, so regulars should have an easy time finding out what’s just come in. Additionally, they have a big collection of 45s to choose from and a plethora of DVDs, as well. Their strength probably lies in their rare LPs that sit behind the counter and along the walls. They’ve got some that are rare simply for being old, famous and in good condition — such as a mint Sgt. Pepper press — but they’ve also got very rare records that are almost impossible to find anywhere else, including a Perry Leopold Acid Folk record valued at $500.
The store has a great vibe, with multi-colored vinyls coating the walls and the prices for the non-collectibles are some of the lowest I’ve seen anywhere in the city. In addition, BWS has managed to supply two listening stations in the front of the store, a fading trend that shouldn’t be overlooked. As usual, I was told that all types of vinyl fans, from young hip kids to old jazz guys, are served at Beautiful World Syndicate and I believe it. Their selection is diverse and strong in all the main categories and it’s easy to see why they consider themselves a neighborhood favorite. Anybody who wants to bring home a wax record should pop into Beautiful World Syndicate.
Summer's in full swing and that means cookouts, swimming pools and summer adventures. For most people, weekends and vacay time means outdoor treks to explore and pretend you're in better shape than you actually are. But if you are growing tired of the tailgating campgrounds and ski resort mini-golf, you’re in luck. Philly is playing host to numerous serious summer adventures.
Take TerraMar, for example. The “broker of expeditions” sets up wild adventures both abroad and locally. Developed by Carl Ewald, an adventure enthusiast who left his attorney-at-law gig to be a full time explorer, this group lives for adventure. But you don’t have to quit your job and grow a beard just to get involved. TerraMar offers quick day trips nearly every Saturday and Sunday. Unlike the typical camping and hiking groups, TerraMar wants to take you off the beaten path. One upcoming event follows a waterfall hike with wolf-watching (Sun., July 24, 10 a.m., $29) on a little-known wildlife preserve.
Wolf-watching not hardcore enough for ya? G.O.A.L.S presents races that require both endurance (think 12 to 24 hours worth) and technical skill. Put together by Bill and Anne Gibbons (who will also host a Wilderness Survival class with TerraMar), G.O.A.L.S. uses the expertise of the top search-and-rescue trainer in PA to put together their challenging events. The upcoming Krista Griesacker Memorial Adventure Race (Sat., July 30, $130 ) is a 50-mile, 12-hour mountaineering-style course set amongst the awe-inspiring scenery of Hawk Mountain. The course takes you through 20 miles of orienteering, 20 miles of biking (road and mountain) and seven miles of canoeing, all while rappelling and working on assignments with fellow teammates.
On-Point Tactical is for those who prefer their excursions less mountain-man and more James Bond. The military-like tracker and survival school is geared toward law enforcement and military professionals, but eagerly takes ready civilians. This August, take the Urban Escape and Evasion (Thu.-Sat., Aug. 11-13, 7 a.m., $795) class to brush up on your MI6 skills. The course runs all-day, Thursday through Saturday, with “homework” such as lock-picking to keep you occupied in the evening. The real-life scenario begins with you being handcuffed and thrown into the trunk of a car, so faint-of-heart need not apply.
It looks like comic book heroes are as recyclable as cinematic cardboard. We recently had an X-Men reboot. Batman's having a more successful run under Chris Nolan's direction. And who can forget the awkward back-to-back Hulk features from the mid-aughts?
The Amazing Spider-Man, set for release in 2012, stars Andrew Garfield (dude from Social Network who got screwed in the merger) as Spidey, Emma Stone (Superbad) as Gwen Stacey, Denis Leary as George Stacey, Martin Sheen as Ben Parker and Sally Field as May Parker.
Oh, and the real star: 3-D glasses, baby! Spidey's gonna be swinging through the theater like a Broadway musical (except with fewer injuries).
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): As soon as you get home from work, pack up the car with blankets, pillows and beach books. Wait until late at night when the traffic dissipates and drive to the nearest shore. Have an ice cream cone with sprinkles, find some pretty shells and kiss the nearest salty face.
Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Give your face and art a break from trying to be lovable. Stop ruminating on the funhouse mirrors you keep in your heart for yourself. Fold every unrequited love into paper airplanes and fly them until they turn to birds.
Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): To my Libra friend whose hearing is unwell — we can hope that soon your ears will open like umbrellas or flowers or like your heart and you’ll hear every 808 in every dance remix of every festive song so clearly it’ll be like Morrissey is tattooing love letter endorphins directly onto your brain.
Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Alyssa, the blond roommate in The Real L Word, never seems to have her own plotline — she seems to exist only to narrate the “heartthrob” Whitney’s shenanigans. You are the opposite of that — you know there are storylines enough for everyone, so go out and thicken the plot.
Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Your choice to create a new thing or two daily is such an admirable one—take time to thank every pigeon you ever apologized to, every holey sock, every friend whose request for help you’ve ever granted. Write it all down and arrange it neatly.
CP's Brian Wilensky is on a mission to hit up every karaoke haunt in town — and then share all the mellifluous details.
It isn’t very often that the bartenders get involved in the karaoke debauchery. But why not? Like I’ve said before, the best karaoke nights are the ones when everyone gets involved.
Station Bar & Grill wasn’t too crowded Monday night, but in spite of that, spirits were high — in more than one sense. Early on, both bartenders attempted "Fame" by Irene Cara from behind the bar. They had other more important tasks at hand, as you can imagine, and one quickly put the mic down on the bar in a hurry and walked away. It quickly rolled off into an array of liquor bottles behind the bar, making a thud projected from the karaoke system.
“What’s up, Statiooooonnn? Let me hear you roar!” was heard soon after said thud. It came from some guy who seemed ready to party — then he picked "My Girl" by the Temptations ...
Later, one of the bartenders was seen making what had to be a Long Island and was blatantly missing the glass, pouring tequila onto the bar as she was looking the other way trying to sing the lyrics on the karaoke teleprompter behind her. “That’s what I get for trying to make a drink and sing karaoke at the same time,” she laughed.
Weird Al’s “Eat It,” was a karaoke first, and a pretty weird choice at that. Few people payed any attention to the singer. Now you know to pick the real song by Michael, man. Next came Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” from a guy who sang “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” earlier in the night while trying to channel the Lizard King.
J.Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” was the high point of the night, though, and that’s just because it wasn’t even a karaoke selection. It was was simply just one of the songs the KJ played between singers but it got everyone sitting around the horseshoe-shaped bar singing.
Nitty Gritty for performers: Mondays and Thursday, 10 p.m., free, Station Bar & Grill, 1550 McKean St., 215-467-1871.
In 1990, Oscar Hijuelos became the first Hispanic author to win the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. Yet he never set out to break down barriers through his work. In fact, Hijuelos felt estranged from his Cuban heritage for most of his life. The author discusses his struggle to bridge the gap between two worlds — Cuba and the United States — in his memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes (Gotham Books, June 2), a chronological account of his life and transformation from introverted child to award-winning novelist.
Growing up in a mixed-race New York City neighborhood, Hijuelos considered himself something of a misfit. His blond hair and fair complexion hardly fit with his Latin-sounding last name, his physical appearance rendering him self-conscious and awkward. Inside his family’s cramped apartment, he felt like just as much of an outsider. He describes his father, who passed away while Hijuelos was still in high school, as “muy muy Cubano.” His mother, speaking broken English only when absolutely necessary, longed for her childhood home of Holguín, Cuba all her life — never feeling truly at ease in the United States. His parents were stuck in Cuba while he could hardly imagine a world outside of New York City.
Hoping to change this, his mother took him and his older brother, José, to Cuba in 1955. The trip proved disastrous, however, when Hijuelos contracted nephritis, a life-threatening disease causing inflammation of the kidneys. He was taken back to New York, hospitalized and subject to a barrage of treatments that would last for years to come. Logical or not, Hijuelos would later interpret the incident as a sign that Cuba itself had not wanted him. Worse still — surrounded by doctors and nurses speaking English for months on end — he lost the ability to speak Spanish fluently. His mother never forgave him. The fact that her son refused to speak more than a few words strung together in her native language proved devastating for her, creating a rift between them that grew deeper over the years.
Hijuelos went on to earn a master’s in creative writing from City College, where he studied under such literary greats as Susan Sontag and Donald Barthelme. During this time, the author recalls, everything he wrote led back to either Cuba or his father — the two concepts eventually becoming intertwined. (On one occasion when he composed a short story devoid of any self-referential material, his agent flat-out told him it was the “worst and most pretentious thing” she had ever read.) Hijuelos published his first novel in 1983, a semi-autobiographical work titled Our House in the Last World. In 1985, Our House won the Rome Prize for Literature, and, just like that, he had made a name for himself.
Yet Hijuelos continued to be plagued by self-doubt. Still struggling to come to terms with his Cuban roots, the author set out to write what would become his most celebrated novel to date — The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The book took shape as Hijueos pieced together stories from his childhood, his mother’s life, things family friends had told him and his own imagination. When it was finished, the narrative recounted the fictionalized life of Ceasar and Nestor Castillo, two musicians who immigrate to the United States to escape the political turmoil of Castro’s Cuba.
Kung Fu Necktie housed flag-waving members of The Committee to Keep Music Evil, The Asteroid No. 4, Tuesday for what was a night of sizzlingly loud, mostly hard-hitting, distorted Philly psyche-rock. Lantern, self-proclaimed “best band in Philadelphia,” (they’ll probably never live that down) opened with a set of guitar driven proto-punk knockers like “Do You Wear You Love” and “I’m Not Alright," which is a play on Bo Diddley’s, “I’m Alright” — it just rocks a hell of a lot harder. Far-Out Fangtooth slowed down the pace and changed the vibe with their sludgy, angered psyche-rock. Their minimalist drumming combined with crunchy guitar helped lead the Kung Fu Necktie crowd through the “Red Hawk Desert.”
The Asteroid No. 4 touched on many of their albums: Highlights included “The Outside” (An Amazing Dream), “Got Nowhere to Go” (Hail to the Clear Figurines) and “Let It Go,” (These Flowers of Ours). Their energy on stage was high from start to finish, playing hard through their spaced out shoegaze. Their volume was high but they knew how to make it work to their advantage as the echo-y vocals and high-register guitars blended just right. They played amidst a colorful psychedelic backdrop, reminiscent of the trip-y oil lights and day-glo at the acid tests following The Dead your parents told you about. Except the Kung Fu Necktie wasn’t full of a bunch of flower children gyrating and flailing around like a flock of injured birds. Instead, the crowd just stood, nodding to the beat, staring into the colors on stage, ears ringing with approval.
Remember a few weeks ago I previewed the 2011 Pew Fellows in the Arts by mentioning that Philly poet CA Conrad had been awarded a wad of cash? The rest of the list just came out and it’s a basketful of avant-guards what with Buchla synth musician/composer Charles Cohen, set designer Jorge Cousineau, choreographer Tania Isaac, architect Brian Philips and harmolodic kingpin Jamaaladeen Tacuma on the list.
Speaking of free jazz and beyond, guitarist Stephen Buono was reminiscing to me about the once wild and formidable avant jazz series at Gojjo in West Philly. “That gig had a lot of momentum and became a great scene,” says Buono. “A lot of great artists came from there.” Now, Buono and many of those familiar Gojjo pals will get together for the “first time after a two year break” to hit the Green Line Café, 4500 Locust on June 21. Buono’s own Split Red is on the bill with special guest Rick Iannacone as is Philly’s Matt Stein and his Hope & Feathers, the Jeff Davis/Landon Knoblock Trio and NYC’s Oscar Noriega (of Tim Berne, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz fame). If this one works, Buono may make this a monthly of “PHL ensembles, with the occasional out-of-towner.”
Want to smell like Taylor Swift in anticipation of her Aug. 6 Linc date? The Berks County-born 21-year-old just partnered with Elizabeth Arden to create her first perfume, Wonderstruck. Stay classy.
Talk about staying classy: Professional dad/Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew star Michael Lohan joins forces (again — we have snaps of the pair at South Philly Tap Room) with the icon of local celebrity boxing Damon Feldman for a reality-show pitch that kicks off this weekend in Havertown, The Lohan Project. Go to W.C. Murphy’s (1254 West Chester Pike), July 22, 7-10 p.m., and you who want to be models, singers or actor/actresses can be mentored on television (if the series gets picked up) by a man who knows how to handle kids.
CP's Kelsey McGlynn embarks on a hood-specific summertime boutique crawl. This week, she peeps the "fun, friendly" fashions in sister stores Knit Wit and Plage Tahiti.
Knit Wit, 1718 Walnut St., 215-564-4760
As I walked into Knit Wit the entire store was cool, and so was the clothing! I was overwhelmed in all the right ways by the extensive collection of designer brands such as Michael Stars and Seven Jeans.
Annie, a store employee, shared with me that Knit Wit “is great for women of all generations, shapes and sizes.” The store features sizes ranging from 0 to 14 and offers “jeans and shorts for teens, and more serious suitings for older more conservative shoppers,” Annie explained.
Each week, Peter Chawaga breezes past those big-name theater companies to turn a spotlight on the region's indie stages.
The Actor’s NET of Bucks County is dedicated to highlighting the relevance of classic American plays and musicals in a contemporary theater society — something they've proven in over 180 shows. Their mission continues as they wrap up their 15th season with a production of Cabaret. Co-founder Joe Doyle believes that this production is perfectly suited to serve as a lens for our contemporary lives. “Cabaret is a classic example [of our mission], if you look at the economic turmoil and how fanatics rose to power by blaming a minority for their problems.”
The Actor’s NET 70-seat performance space creates an intimate setting similar to the show’s Kit Kat Klub and Joe says that each performer has “developed their own storyline and as the show progresses, you’ll see that reflected in the player. As the Nazis take over, you’ll see the impact the turmoil is having on each character. Because of our space, anyone sitting in the theater will swear they’re in the Kit Kat Klub and I think they’ll be transformed by the production.”
In addition to this final production of the season, Actor’s NET will host their annual Summer Stars Program, where kids from ages 7 to 17 can hone their acting skills and get the chance to perform in a tailor made show written by Joe himself, and he promises that “nobody is a spear carrier so everyone feels it’s worth their time.” Next season, which begins in September, they're set to perform Mark Violi’s World War II drama Riding the Comet.
The Actor’s NET is one of the best and most enduring theater companies outside of the immediate Philadelphia area and it is well worth the short trip to see some classic American productions brought to life.
Cabaret runs through July 31, various times, $20, Heritage Center, 635 N. Delmorr Ave., 215-295-3694, actorsnet.org.
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