|Courtesy of The Fire|
We told you about L&I's destruction of all things fun and good in this world, including puppies and puppy cams closure of The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) last month. The Fire is a great venue, especially for up-and-coming local acts, so we're glad to hear it'll be hosting a benefit show at the World Caf' Live (3025 Walnut St., 215-222-1400) on Sun., Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. for $20. Toy Soldiers, Drink Up Buttercup and George Stanford will be performing; there will also be an art auction and a "Day in Philadelphia" raffle, featuring a Honey's breakfast, carriage ride tour, Ritz Theater tickets, a concert at World Caf' Live and dinner at a NoLibs restaurant. What guyz, no cheesesteaks?
|Photo | Mark Stehle|
It looked dire for the 941 Theater for awhile. The NoLibs movie theater/concert venue/weird-ass event space was shut down by L&I in October, making things like rent, bills and daily operative costs nearly impossible to cover. But the boys at 941 are picking themselves and holding a series of fundraisers. They've already raised $1000 via private donations. If they raise another grand, they have found an investor who will match the donations dollar-for-dollar.
The string of events kicks off tonight with a Mad Division DJ night featuring Joker, Nomad Subdivision Crew and more at the Mausoleum (12th and Spring Garden), where there will be a $2 suggested donation going to the 941. In fact, K. Ross Hoffman gave you the skinny on it in this week's issue.
Without venues like 941, filmmakers, musicians and other artists lose an important avenue to present their work. Go out and support your local art scene!
11/27 Starlight Ballroom, 460 N. 9th Street - 7pm, 18 to enter, 21 to drink ' $20 at door
Sideshow Prophets, The Old Souls, Three Four Tens, Anchor Boys, Tsunami Rising, a performance by Christa Dagger and Scott Johnston of the Peekaboo Revue, Comedy by The Pickle Man, DJ Dev79, Bikini Oil Wrestling and more TBA. Buy tickets here
11/28 Connie's Ric Rac, 1132 South 9th Street, Italian Market - 8pm, 21+ BYOB - $10 at door
Jam Band Showcase with Bodega and DJs
11/29 M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave, Fishtown - 8pm, 21+ $8
Metal and Punk Showcase with Trasher, Omnious Black, Nassau Chainsaw with Disgraceland Hook Squad, Death Bed, Vulcan
11/30 Green Rock Tavern, 2546 E Lehigh Ave, Port Richmond - 8pm - 21+ - $5
Acoustic music (Brad Carney and Chalk of Old Souls) and Comedy (The Legendary WID & Danny Bee) more TBA
12/1 Cantina Dos Segundos, - 931 N 2nd St No Libs - Free and open to public
DJs Flufftronix and more TBA - Portion of bar proceeds go to 941 Theater
12/5 - 2424 Studios, 2424 E. York St, Fishtown
Philly Indie Craft Market - Noon-7pm - $2 Suggested Donation
Over 30 vendors, live music from Toy Soldiers, Spinning Leaves, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, The Great Unknown, Homophones
To make a donation anytime, go to projectedarts.org/donate.htm.
Related: 941 Theater in danger of closing
In this week's City Paper, I interviewed Miro Dance Theatre choreographer Amanda Miller about her upcoming work-in-progress, How Am I Not Myself? The piece, which she performed last night with classical Indian dancer Viji Rao, is a reflection on the two dancers' realization that, despite their differences, they're really quite alike:
When Miller met Rao, she probably felt like she was stuck in a modern-dance Parent Trap: Despite their differences in race, gender and hemisphere, the two had led eerily identical lives ' same birth week, same dance background, same shift from classical to contemporary.
Even if you missed last night's Open Studio Series at Girard College, you can still follow Miller and Rao on their travels to India ' they'll be video-blogging, and we'll be stalking them and reporting back periodically on their experiences. Till then, check out my Q&A with Miller, and visit mirodancetheatre.org if you want to help them in their fundraising efforts. (Donate $250 or more and Miro will take a personalized photo for you each day they're in India; donate $1,000 or more and you'll get your own dance video. Pretty cool.)
City Paper: How did you come to the realization that despite being from such different backgrounds, you had a lot in common with Viji?
Amanda Miller: Viji and I met when Miro was putting together Principles of Uncertainty for the 2007 Live Arts Festival. Miro was looking for dancers from all disciplines who were interested in experimental work and Viji fit that bill perfectly. Curing the process she and I started talking about our work and our dance traditions and then it became clear that we were having some of the same dilemma in terms of our work. Some would say it was too conventional or classical and others would say it was too modern or experimental. I think it was actually Tobin [Rothlein] who started asking us questions about our lives and how we each got to this point in our careers and that is when we found the stranger similarities ' born a few days apart, started dancing at the same age, had our first big performance at the same age, both started working with more contemporary work in London, and so on.
CP: Where's the piece now in terms of theme and content? Where do you hope the piece will be in the coming months?
AM: The show contains elements of our dance histories from the story ballets and dance dramas of our particular training, to our own style of contemporary choreography. The main theme is about transformation, about creating something new for yourself. We hope that this piece will go beyond our personal stories and resonate with audiences both in India and the U.S.
CP: Since you're both moving from classical to contemporary, and since the piece is a work in progress, should audiences expect a lot of improvisation and/or experimentation in your work? It almost seems like,' after years as classical dancers, you'll be finding your contemporary feet together, which should be interesting.
AM: Part of the creation process has actually been about finding our contemporary feet together. We have been having a true dialogue, through dance, where we found that in order to understand how the other thinks about contemporary we needed to understand the rules of their classical. If it is about breaking free from the rules then it is important that we know what those rules are. So I have learned some Bharatanatyam and Viji has learned some ballet. In addition to that we have been challenging each other to go further in our contemporary explorations. This process has allowed us to play with the other's style and find something within ourselves or our own style that might relate. And that sparks a nice conversation about how each of us thinks of contemporary, and how each of us uses or discards the classical in that thinking. From these conversations Viji and I created a dance that melts and morphs between classical ballet, traditional bharatanayam, and our own contemporary dance styles. It is challenging for us both and has been a lot of fun to put together.
CP: Anything else you want us to know about the work?
AM: Tobin Rothlein is writing and directing, and making sure that we don't get too serious. Viji and I can get deep into our conversation and Tobin reminds us that it is all a bit absurd and that we should keep acknowledging that aspect of our stories. We also have a commissioned score from Indian composer Praveen D. Rao that is a lot of fun and very special. Because we have been looking at our dance histories we have each choreographed a classical variation. I have not even thought of dancing like this for many years, and yet there it was- like riding a bicycle! Sort of.
|Photo | Lauren Seibert|
|Dancing to Rihanna.|
Every kid should get the chance to revel in the cheesy glory of a circus' clowns, magic and acrobatic feats on large animals. Now, as a young adult, let me modify that thought: Everybody, appropriate-age or not, should see the UniverSoul Circus at the Mann Center, performing through Nov. 15. My friend and I were not accompanied by the safety net of a small child to justify our presence at this circus this Sunday. But I'm not gonna lie ' we had a ball.
As the only "Big Top" traveling circus in the world that's owned and operated by African Americans, UniverSoul spins its name two ways: It's definitely universal, with performers from as far as China and Brazil, and it's got soul (it opens with a James Brown number, after all). Instead of your typical top hat-wearing white guy with a mustache, this ringmaster was the tottering, cackling, bossy Aunt Maggie, who played up the old-school versus new-school dynamic with her sidekick and nephew, Lucky. She scolded, she danced to Beyonc', she attempted to do the stanky leg, and she had the audience up in the ring doing the Soul Train Line. When she orchestrated a dance-off between an older couple and a younger one, old-school won by a mile. All this occurred at intervals throughout the night, keeping the audience constantly involved with the show.
One thing that seemed out of place were the constant plugs for President Barack Obama. UniverSoul repeatedly beamed his face on the walls of the tent to the explosion of music and confetti. But all in all, the show presented such a flood of energy that it practically dared you to be skeptical. Not possible. We were grinning just as hard as the little kids when the beautiful women magically turned into tigers. When the horses came out and tore around the ring, sporting their standing riders. When a troupe of young Chinese acrobats laid on their backs and flipped each other through the air with their feet ' five, 10, 15 times in a row, and all I could see was a tower of spinning children. When feathered, sparkling Caribbean dancers sashayed under flaming limbo sticks. And when the elephants came out and danced to Rihanna ' well. I don't think I'll ever see the circus quite the same way.
Runs through Nov. 15, $12-$28, Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, 800-316-7439.
|Timothy Bieniosek via Flickr
Girls Rock Philly, the empowering rock 'n' roll camp for young girls that makes me wish I were 12 again (until I recall what being 12 was actually like), is releasing its first album this Sat., Nov. 14 at Johnny Brenda's (1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684) at noon. (If you can't make it, you can still purchase Who Rocks? Girls Rock!: Philly 2009 Camper Band Compilation for $10 on CDBaby.) Look above for a peek of the Girls Rock Philly DVD, which the little ladies say will be out wihin the next month or two.
|Photo | Josh Middleton|
The final presentation of the eighth annual First Person Festival was a screening of Still Bill by filmmakers Damani Baker and Alex Vlack. The film, which was shown to a packed house on Sunday night at the Painted Bride, is about soul great Bill Withers, who unexpectedly fled the music scene after penning a slew of R&B classics, including 'Lean on Me' and 'Ain't No Sunshine.' I went expecting to see a movie that focused on the reasons why he left the business, but instead saw a bio-doc of a genuinely good-natured, deeply philosophical man who somehow managed to escape the sparkly, mainstream music world untainted. Molly Eichel gave a thorough review last week on Critical Mass, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time. It made me giggle, it made me sob and it inspired me to want to be better at what I do. What more could you ask for from a film? I loved it.
When it was over, Baker and Vlack came onstage for an impromptu Q&A session. They mostly talked about the process of making the film, which began with an e-mail to Withers nearly 10 years ago. When they finally got the go-ahead, Withers led them on a spontaneous filming spree across the country, including locations like his family cemetery in Slab Fork, W. Va., and a large tribute concert in New York. Though there was a slew of footage to weed through, Baker and Vlack pieced together a film that moved cohesively throughout. Their purpose, they said, was to live inside of Bill Withers so they could create a film that felt natural and true. One of the most interesting tidbits of information they shared was of a hard drive in Withers' studio labeled 'Unreleased Bill Withers Tracks.' Um, hello, could someone get around to releasing those please?
Because the film started a little late, there unfortunately wasn't enough time for the filmmakers to present much of a discussion. They were promptly ushered off to make room for the boisterous Johnny Ingram and his band, who were slated to perform music by Bill Withers. They began with a cool rendition of 'Ain't No Sunshine,' which eventually flowed into 'Lean on Me.' At this point the dancefloor was flooded with people from the audience. Everyone was groovin' and shakin' until the next song, 'Use Me,' started for a silent Ingram, who didn't know the words. This awkward flub was quickly remedied, though, when a spunky lady from the audience grabbed the mic to finish it for him. She was definitely feelin' it, as was everyone else, until Ingram made the unfortunate decision to ditch the Withers numbers and start in on Barry White's cheese-tastic 'Can't Get Enough.' I thought Ingram and his band were great, but I wish they had stuck to Bill Withers' songs ' there are plenty to choose from. I can't do much complaining, though; everyone seemed to be having a ball. The dancefloor was packed not only with the audience, but employees of First Person Arts, including Executive Director Vicki Solot, who busted some moves that would freeze you in your tracks.
Over the past weekend I've learned that this is the true charm of First Person Arts. This is a company that presents raw, honest varieties of art in a way that is unpretentious and warm.
|Photo | Josh Middleton|
|Brian Rafferty on the wonders of an off-key obsession.|
On Friday night I went to see Brian Rafferty's 'Karaoke Obsessed,' part of the eighth annual First Person Festival at the Painted Bride. Now, before you see the word "karaoke," roll your eyes and decide to scroll to the next post, you may want to give it a second thought. As Rafferty explained in his hourlong discussion, karaoke may be more than the country's cheesiest pastime, but a hobby that could alter your life for the better.
Rafferty's presentation began with an explanation about his childhood as a starry-eyed tot who dreamed of becoming a famous singer. It wasn't until he was in his early 20s in a dingy karaoke bar in the Village that he finally found his voice and therefore an obsession that would change the tune of his life forever. He immediately dropped some extra weight, developed a swagger on the streets and became an instant hit in K-Boxes (individual karaoke rooms) around Manhattan. Next he explained how his fascination with karaoke eventually led him on a worldwide excursion to document its history and influence around the world. (As much as I enjoyed his talk, I have to admit the history section grew a little stale.) It was interesting to learn the meaning of the word karaoke, which is 'empty orchestra' in Japanese, but I was entertained most when he shared his personal experiences, which were enhanced by a couple of embarrassing videos and snapshots from his early days on the karaoke circuit.
|Photo | Josh Middleton|
|Vashti sings Tina Turner's "Private Dancer."|
When he finished he passed the mic to Sara Sherr, who you may recognize as the KJ (Karaoke DJ) from the Khyber's Monday night singfest, Karaoke that Doesn't Suck. She gave a quick, charming talk about her stint as a KJ, which began in 2006. She also rattled off two tips for aspiring karaoke singers: 1. Pick songs you are comfortable with and 2. Have a few drinks. The drinking part was easily taken care of courtesy of an open bar serving free gin and tonics from Pennsylvania gin distiller Tub Gin.
The highlight of the evening, though, was when the stage was opened to the audience. In true First Person Arts fashion, each singer was asked to tell their karaoke stories before breaking into their well-chosen ditties. For nearly an hour people performed a line-up of show-stopping numbers that ranged from Ellen's rowdy, head-banging take on the Dead Milkmen's 'Punk Rock Girl' to a sultry, microphone humping performance of Tina Turner's 'Private Dancer' by Vashti. To end the evening, Rafferty climbed back onto the stage to perform a rousing rendition of 'And We Danced' by the Philly band The Hooters. The best part about the night was the audience's enthusiastic support of all the performers. This helped cultivate a comfortable evening of singing, sharing and storytelling that I believe would bend the strongest of karaoke skeptics. Go ahead, grab a mic. You just may walk away a better person.
The Yes Men Fix the World opens with its protagonists frolicking in green, sun-dappled waters, dressed head to toe in business suits. Before the end of the documentary, they've manufactured candles ostensibly made from human remains, distributed a version of The New York Times with entirely good news and roamed lonely landscapes dressed in 'Survivo-balls,' inflatable, 'disaster-proof' suits they marketed to a frighteningly receptive audience of Halliburton product scouts.
In their more, erm, legitimate lives, the Yes Men, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, are professors of media arts and design, respectively. The Yes Men Fix the World, which was screened at Painted Bride on Nov. 5 as part of the First Person Festival, documents how they apply those disciplines and their Monty-Pythonesque spirit to a special brand of political activism they call 'identity correction.' Briefly, this entails impersonating corporate figures to perform acts that are remarkably socially responsible, environmentally conscious or simply absurd, to get at larger truths about the corporation.
But The Yes Men Fix the World also shows the more private, authentic aspects of their work. We see Bichlbaum on the morning of his visit to the BBC studios in Paris, about to pose as a Dow Chemical spokesman in front of 300 million viewers, curled up in the sheets of his hotel bed and groaning with anxiety. His BBC performance goes smoothly, and he temporarily convinces the world that Dow has decided to compensate the victims of the Bhopal disaster in India, in which poisonous gas leaked out of a factory and killed thousands. Bichlbaum performs so well, in fact, that reports start coming in of how crowds of Indians celebrated the broadcast with tears of joy ' then bitterly angry tears when they found out it was a hoax.
Bonanno and Bichlbaum are suddenly stricken by guilt. 'Had we really hurt the people we'd been trying to help?' asks Bonanno in a voiceover. They go to a Bhopal to find out ' and what do you know, the locals in Bhopal welcome them gladly. Turns out they were bitterly disappointed, but when Bichlbaum sheepishly asks, 'Was it worth it?' an old man assents vigorously: 'Totally worth it!' For longtime fans of the Yes Men, many of the exploits covered in the documentary may already be dearly familiar. But these glimpses at their real identities are delightful, and give a fuller sense of who, in fact, the Yes Men really are.
Bichlbaum opened up even more in a question-and-answer round after the screening. He winced when describing some of the pair's failed stunts, including an effort to parody the Bush presidential campaign in multiple skits: 'We got a grant for it, too,' he recalled wistfully. He spoke bluntly about his fears for the future of journalism, declaring himself 'worried about a future in which news is only told by bloggers.' But of the lawsuit recently filed against the Yes Men by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose identity they recently corrected, Bichlbaum was buoyant. The case would attract the Chamber a lot of bad publicity, he said, and besides, 'We're raring for a fight.'
There are probably more direct ways to actually fix the world than impersonating corporate figures, as Bichlbaum himself said during the post-screening Q&A. But before being dismissed as distracting jokers, the Yes Men should be credited for focusing global attention on some grievously neglected injustices.
Plus, who else will insert images of sodomy behind a filmed interview with a free-market pundit who requests that he be shown against a backdrop of 'free men freely pursuing their desires'?
|Photo | Lauren Seibert|
|Nimisha Ladva reads an essay about
her relationship with her mother-in-law.
We never left our seats at the Painted Bride, but we might as well have hopped a plane and spun around the world. In the space of two hours Thursday night at the Salon du Festival, the sixth event of the First Person Festival, the audience found itself carted off to Sinai, England, New Orleans and even Philly's own Northern Liberties. Four presentations of memoir and documentary art drew us into four very different worlds.
Erica Hoffman kicked off the night with a presentation of her essay 'Mom's New Deal,' a saucy little piece describing her relationship with her penny-pinching mother. The latter apparently lived for two days on a can of green beans in her younger days, and later could be found 'wielding her coupon-cutting scissors like a back-alley surgeon,' as Hoffman recalls.
Philadelphia photographer Laura Jean Zito opened our eyes to a world rarely seen through the lens of a camera ' especially a camera in the hands of a woman. Though the Sinai Bedouin people rarely allow themselves to be photographed, somehow Zito managed to overcome this cultural barrier in her travels through Egypt's peninsula. Her striking images of harems, robes billowing in the wind, rolling sands, and scarves covering all but a woman's piercing eyes made the exotic seem tangible ' if only for an instant. Zito's descriptions of the culture had me hooked, from the fact that the Bedouin consider the mouth the most sensual part of a woman, to their 'waste nothing' desert mentality, to the slow infiltration of the West into Bedouin life. How did Zito gain access to all this? 'I believe I was at the same time a mascot, an anomaly, and a role model for the Bedouin,' she told us.
|Photo | Lauren Seibert|
|Jennifer Baker discusses 1980s NoLibs.|
In a joint presentation, artist Jennifer Baker and her husband, Inquirer journalist Stephan Salisbury, took us back time to the Northern Liberties neighborhoods of the '80s and '90s. As her paintings of the old and new buildings flashed across the screen, the two alternated in telling the tale of the fires that burned down much of neighborhood.
Finally, photojournalist Ryan Brandenberg spoke about his fascination with Katrina and its aftermath for the people of New Orleans. Over a span of several years and several visits to the Ninth Ward, one of the most damaged neighborhoods, Brandenberg shot 27,000 photographs and recorded 118 hours of audio. Putting it all together in a slideshow, he gave us a glimpse of the motivations ' in their own words ' of the people who returned to start over again.
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