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Win Tix To See Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here

July 31st, 2014


Chances are  if you are reading this you have seen Garden StateScrubs star Zach Braff’s 2004 updating of The Graduate for the indie-rock generation, starring Natalie Portman as The Biggest Shins Fan On Earth. Or at least you know about it. Wish I Was Here is Braff’s crowd-funded follow-up. IMDB summarizes the plot thusly:

Wish I Was Here is the story of Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He winds up trying to home school his two children when his father can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.”

Kate Hudson co-stars as his love interest and The Shins, Bon Iver and Cat Power provide the soundtrack. What’s not to like, right? We have a handful of passes to see it at the Ritz East this week. To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us a much, with the magic words WISH I WERE GOING TO SEE WISH I WAS HERE FOR FREE in the subject line. If you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much. Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. The first five Phawker reader to email us with the magic words win a pair of passes! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!

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U.N.: Israel Shelling School Shelter And Killing 16 Sleeping Children Is A Disgrace To Humanity

July 31st, 2014

THE GUARDIAN: United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday. At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was “outrageous and unjustifiable” and demanded “accountability and justice”. The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel. A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries caused by an Israeli strike. Fighting in Gaza continued through the day despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire called by Israel from 3pm. A crowded market in Shujai’iya was hit in the late afternoon, causing at least 17 deaths, including a journalist, and injuring about 200 people [SEE VIDEO, BELOW], according to Gaza health officials. They said people had ventured out to shop in the belief a ceasefire was in place. Witnesses said several shells struck as people were running away. Israel said rockets and mortar shells continued to be fired from Gaza. Israel on Thursday was showing no sign of scaling back Operation Protective Edge, with the military reportedly calling up an additional 16,000 reserves as the offensive entered its 24th day.

At the UN school the first shell came just after the early morning call to prayer, when most of those taking shelter were asleep, crammed into classrooms with what few possessions they had managed to snatch as they fled their homes. About 3,300 people had squashed into Jabaliya Elementary A&B Girls’ School since the Israeli military warned people to leave their homes and neighbourhoods or risk death under intense bombardment. Classroom number one, near the school’s entrance, had become home to about 40 people, mostly women and children. As a shell blasted through the wall, showering occupants with shrapnel and spattering blood on walls and floors, Amna Zantit, 31, scrambled to gather up her three terrified infants in a panicked bid for the relative safety of the schoolyard. “Everyone was trying to escape,” she said, clutching her eight-month old baby tightly. Minutes later, a second shell slammed through the roof of the two-storey school. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 injured. Most were women or children. MORE

RELATED: The United States issued a firm condemnation of the shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza that killed at least 16 Palestinians on Wednesday, but also confirmed it restocked Israel’s dwindling supplies of ammunition. MORE

WARNING: This video contains distressing images and audio. Israeli strikes killed 17 people, Palestinian authorities said, in a Gaza market as a TV crew was filming a crowd gathered near an ambulance. The area of Shujai’iya has seen some of the heaviest bombardment since Israeli forces began an offensive with the declared aim of curbing rocket fire by Hamas militants. Residents say shells and two missiles hit the area as a crowd gathered to observe a fire at a petrol station. In the footage people can be seen and heard lying on the ground and praying as a succession of blasts cover the area in debris. [via THE GUARDIAN]

RELATED: The video begins with the arrival of two ambulances on a scene where strikes have already happened. Soon a set of strikes leaves the scene obscured in dust. When the view and sound return, there is blood and screaming all around. The camera moves from body to body, some wounded, some apparently dead, as the strikes continue, sending up smoke and flames. There is a lot of blood. The footage passes over the body identified elsewhere as that of Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, killed in the attack. MORE

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INCOMING: The Blue Velvet Underground

July 30th, 2014


Beginning in September, the Philadelphia Film Society will take you on a two month journey through the acclaimed film works of David Lynch.  Through moderated discussions and in-depth conversations, we will immerse you into Lynch’s universe, featuring an on-stage conversation between Lynch and his long time friend, American journalist Kristine McKenna at the Prince Music Theater during his week-long visit to Philadelphia. This series is presented in conjunction with David Lynch: The Unified Field at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the first major U.S. museum exhibition of PAFA alumnus David Lynch, on view from September 13, 2014 to January 11, 2015. Organized in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition features over 90 paintings and drawings from all periods of Lynch’s career. It includes rarely-seen early work from Lynch’s time in Philadelphia (1965-70), a critical period in his creative development.

September 3rd: Eraserhead
September 10th: Conversation w/ David Lynch & screening of ‘ Lost Highway’
September 17th: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
September 24th: Inland Empire
October 1st: Film TBD
October 9th: Elephant Man
October 16-26: ‘From the Vaults’ at the Philadelphia Film Festival celebrates David Lynch. Films include Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story & Mulholland Drive.

ALL ACCEESS: $60 General // $50 Members
A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID LYNCH: $25 General Admission // $20 Members
INDIVIDUAL FILM TICKETS: $7 General Admission // $5 Members


In 1981 George Lucas approached David Lynch to direct the final installment of the STAR WARS trilogy. For years fans of Lynch and Lucas have wondered what that surreal vision would look like. Now we finally know.

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LANA DEL REY: Ultraviolence

July 30th, 2014

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FBI Charges Six Philadelphia Narcotics Cops With Kidnapping, Assault & Battery, Robbery & Extortion

July 30th, 2014


INQUIRER: Six Philadelphia police officers were arrested Wednesday in a predawn roundup and charged with robbing, kidnapping, and extorting drug suspects over a nearly seven-year period. The officers all were veterans of a narcotics squad that came under the scrutiny of a joint FBI-Police Department Internal Affairs investigation. According to a 42-page indictment, some of the officers allegedly took part in a game involving beating drug suspects for points. Others held one suspect from a balcony 30-feet above the ground and knocked out his teeth.

The arrests come seven months after Ramsey first acknowledged a federal probe was underway and said he had pulled at least four of its targets, all narcotics squad veterans, off of street duty. The probe intensified after former officer Jeffrey Walker pleaded guilty to federal counts of attempted robbery and using a gun during a violent crime in January. Prosecutors said during his last court hearing he had been cooperating with the investigation. Questions have dogged the narcotics officers’ work since at least 2012, when District Attorney Seth Williams said his office would no longer used their testimony in drug cases, a decision that resulted in the dismissal of scores of cases. The city has since paid at least $777,000 to settle lawsuits claiming the officers framed suspects with false testimony and evidence. Dozens more remain on court dockets awaiting resolution.

Walker, 45, began cooperating with the investigation almost as soon as he was arrested last year in an FBI sting operation, his lawyer said. An undercover informant caught the former officer on tape scheming to set up a South Philadelphia drug dealer by planting nearly 28 grams of cocaine in his car. Walker later took his mark’s keys, broke into his house and stole $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana. MORE

PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Today July 30, 2014, the United States Attorney’s Office unsealed an indictment charging six members of The Philadelphia Police Department with RICO conspiracy, robbery, extortion, kidnapping and drug dealing. United States Attorney Zane David Memeger announced the charges against the six police officers this morning after their arrest. 

The case was investigated by a joint task force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.  The names of those arrested and charged are:

Thomas Liciardello – 38yrs old, 19 year veteran of the force, appointed 06-26-95 – 12yrs in Narcotics
Perry Betts – 46yrs old, 19 year veteran of the force, appointed 01-02-95 – 13yrs in Narcotics
Norman Linwood – 46 yrs old, 24 year veteran of the force, appointed 09-11-89 — 16yrs in Narcotics
Brian Reynolds – 43yrs old, 20 year veteran of the force, appointed 08-13-93 — 13yrs in Narcotics
John Speiser – 42yrs old, 19 year veteran of the force, appointed 10-17-94 — 5yrs in Narcotics
Michael Spicer – 46yrs old, 19 year veteran of the force, appointed 05-22-95 — 12yrs in Narcotics

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey is suspending these individuals for thirty days with the intent to dismiss.

PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER CHARLES H. RAMSEY: “It’s never a good feeling when you have to deliver this type of news about members of your department; however, it shows the ongoing efforts of our FBI/Internal Affairs Task Force to rid the department of individuals who don’t belong in our ranks. We don’t tolerate this type of disgraceful behavior, and these officers don’t represent the majority of this department. The majority of our department is represented in the dedicated police work displayed daily by working endlessly with the community and getting wanted criminals off the street. We will continue to be transparent; we will continue to pursue those involved in corruption, and remove those who don’t belong in this department. We will continue to make strong efforts in developing a trusting relationship with every community as we build a safer Philadelphia for our citizens.”

INQUIRER: All the officers, except for Speiser, face up to life in prison, officials said. For Speiser, the maximum term is 40 years. Ramsey suspended all six for 30 days with the intent to dismiss. MORE

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TEMPLES: Shelter Song

July 30th, 2014

Temples play Morgan’s Pier on August 6th. They’ll be Jimmy Fallon’s guest on the Tonight Show tonight.

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MARIJUANA PROHIBITION: Keeping Brown And Black People Down Since At Least The 1930s

July 30th, 2014


NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD: The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason. The cannabis plant, also known as hemp, was widely grown in the United States for use in fabric during the mid-19th century. The practice of smoking it appeared in Texas border towns around 1900, brought by Mexican immigrants who cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes as they had done at home. Within 15 years or so, it was plentiful along the Texas border and was advertised openly at grocery markets and drugstores, some of which shipped small packets by mail to customers in other states. The law enforcement view of marijuana was indelibly shaped by the fact that it was initially connected to brown people from Mexico and subsequently with black and poor communities in this country. Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of “immoral” populations who were promptly labeled “fiends.” As the legal scholars Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread explain in their authoritative history, “The Marihuana Conviction,” the drug’s popularity among minorities and other groups practically ensured that it would be classified as a “narcotic,” attributed with addictive qualities it did not have, and set alongside far more dangerous drugs like heroin and morphine. By the early 1930s, more than 30 states had prohibited the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. The federal push was yet to come. MORE


PREVIOUSLY: New York Times Editorial Board: Repeal Prohibition, Again

PREVIOUSLY: New York Times Editorial Board: Smash The Prison Industrial Complex

RELATED: Highlights from the Editorial Board’s changing view of marijuana over six decades

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WORTH REPEATING: How Dylan Got His Weird On

July 29th, 2014


NEW YORK MAGAZINE: You have to start by disregarding the well-told narrative: The soi-disant vagabond’s rise through folk music to a place of utter domination at the highest level of literate, passionate, and difficult pop and rock music, all by 1966; a retreat and Gethsemane until 1974, when he came back, roaring and vengeful, more passionately focused than before, adding a remarkable personal dimension to his ’60s work. After that, depending on how generously you view his career, there has been either a long decline or decades of remarkable and kaleidoscopic creativity, culminating in the triumphs, late in life, of his five most recent albums.

For an artist as rooted in our musical culture as Dylan, the linearity of a narrative works more to disconnect him from the influences and traditions his work comprises than to explain him. First, you have to appreciate the many layers that make up his peculiar but unmistakable aesthetic. His work is grounded in acoustic folk-blues—­ballads, chants, and love stories, populated with mystical or just plain weird meanings and themes, rattling and farting around like tetched uncles in the attic of our American psyche. To this add the dread-filled dreamscapes—unexplainable, ­unnerving—of French Surrealism, and then, arrestingly, the punchy patois of the Beats, who originally intuited the substratum of social stresses that would whipcrack across the ’60s and into the ’70s. Then factor in personal songwriting, a strain of pop he basically invented, doled out first with obfuscations, payback, tall tales, and lies—some by design, some on general principle, some just to be an asshole—and then the signs, here and there (and then everywhere, the more you look), of autobiographical happenstance and deeply felt emotion.

And remember that some of his narratives are fractured. Time and focus shift; first person can become third; sometimes more than one story seems to be being told at the same time (“Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower” are two good examples). And then there’s plain sonic impact: Even his earliest important songs have a cerebral and reverberating authority in the recording, his voice sometimes filling the speakers, his primitive but blistering guitar work adding confrontation, ease, humor, anger, and contrariness, presenting all but the most unwilling listeners with moment after moment of incandescence. [...]

He came to New York in early 1961, telling anyone who’d listen he’d ridden the rails, played with Buddy Holly, all sorts of nonsense. In reality, he was a fairly middle-class kid who’d hitchhiked, in winter, from the far north of Minnesota; in a way, this single act of propulsion toward reinvention by a 19-year-old is braver and more interesting than all his later tall tales of travel. He arrived in New York on the coldest day the city had seen in many years. He was a prodigy, with a natural affinity for a medium that would, unexpectedly, afford a few people like him international acclaim and a permanent place in the cultural firmament, and lots of money too. His uncanny musicianship—producing enduring melodies and lovely harmonica solos—included an ability to effortlessly transpose keys that would impress professionals throughout his career. He also had a first-class mind, quick (almost too quick) of wit and relaxed enough to let inspiration flow without forcing it, yet also wiry, retaining permanently the complex wording of many hundreds of tunes. He soaked up the songs and the lore of folk and blues, cobbling together a shtick—an Okie patois, a shambling affect, and a fixation with Woody Guthrie, the socialist troubadour of the ’30s and ’40s and the author of “This Land Is Your Land,” who at the time was dying in a New Jersey hospital. It all served to disguise, at first, a mysterious charisma—with eyes, as Joan Baez remembered them later, “bluer than robin’s eggs”—and an apparent ambition that left a few damaged friendships, and egos, in its wake. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Sometimes I think Dylanology — the obsessive study and consumption of all things Bob — is the new (and improved) Scientology. Think about it: Both are non-denominational pop cults formed in the latter half of the 20th Century that rally around a charismatic leader and rake in boatloads of believer money. Both have celebrity acolytes and promise extraordinary insight. But there is one vast and crucial difference, as vast and crucial as the difference between The Old Testament and The New Testament: L. Ron Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth and Bob Dylan wrote “Like A Rolling Stone.” And that, kids, is why your mother and I are not Scientologists. That, and Tom Cruise. Besides, as L. Ron Hubbards go, you could do a lot worse than Bob Dylan. Plus, the music’s better. To prove my point I got Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists: Adventures In The Land Of Bob, on the horn. It went something like this:

PREVIOUSLY: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bob Dylan

RELATED: An Open Letter From ‘Mick Jagger’ To Keith Richards

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DON’T ASK/WON’T TELL: City Tells Man Asking For Data On ‘Look Up, Speak Up’ Anti-Terror Citizen Reporting Program To ‘Look Up, Shut Up!’

July 29th, 2014


THE DECLARATION: The Philadelphia Police Department and city solicitor Shelley Smith’s office are refusing to release documents pertaining to an intelligence-gathering program called “Look Up, Speak Up”. The Declaration filed a public records request in May with the intention of gaining a stronger understanding of Philadelphia’s version of The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI), a jointly-administered Department of Justice/Information Sharing Environment counterterrorism program. The city has refused even an informal mediation session to settle this dispute. The Office of Open Records in Harrisburg will issue a final determination regarding The Declaration’s appeal by August 7th. “Look Up, Speak Up” was launched in January of this year and is geared specifically towards public transit riders, encompassing SEPTA and New Jersey’s PATCO system. The program was implemented through homeland security grant funding. The Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) program is facing heightened scrutiny and generating growing controversy from civil libertarians and some law enforcement officials for legally-problematic reporting standards and its questionable contributions to public safety. The collection, storage, and dissemination of so-called threat information, some of which is gathered and entered into federal databases, violates the Justice Department’s own regulations on criminal intelligence gathering. MORE

USELESS INFORMATION: What NOT To Do In The Event Of A Terrorist Attack

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THE LOOMING TOWER: Fear & Loathing Inside The Black Heart Of Comcast’s ‘Customer Service’ Dept.

July 29th, 2014

THE VERGE: When AOL executive and Comcast customer Ryan Block recently tried to cancel his internet service, he ended up in a near-yelling match with a customer service representative who spent 18 minutes trying to talk him out of it. [...] Block posted a recording of the call online, where it has been listened to more than 5 million times. During the ensuing media frenzy, The Verge put out a call and sought out current and former Comcast employees, hoping to shed light on the inner workings of the largest broadcasting and cable company in the country. More than 100 employees responded, including one who works in the same call center as the rep in Block’s recording. These employees told us the same stories over and over again: customer service has been replaced by an obsession with sales, technicians are understaffed and tech support is poorly trained, and the massive company is hobbled by internal fragmentation:

The pay was great and everything else about the job was a nightmare. I remember when a 90-year-old woman called to add phone to her account and my boss told me afterwards, “She was probably senile… but you should have upgraded her cable. I don’t think you are going to be sitting in this seat for very long.” -Sales, 2011-2014, Massachusetts
Eighty percent [of our training] was sales training. From time to time they would pull us from the phones for in-depth training on how to sell. [They told us] to say how much better Comcast is than the rest of the competition. “Why would anyone leave us?” I would be frustrated because I would tell them we need customer service training as much as sales training, but it came from Philly [Comcast’s headquarters] so that’s what we had to deal with. [Managers] would listen to the call, even have secret shoppers call in. If we didn’t ask [customers] to get more products we would be spoken to. Eventually, selling became part of tech support and billing. -Tech support, 2003-2013, California
I was there for almost seven years. The last four years or so, everything went downhill. It all began with the “integration” of sales department into our customer service department. They told us we would never [have to] become sales representatives. [The sales department was] just there to help us grow. Well, that was a big fat lie. We slowly became sales. We were given quotas. We were at one point told if it’s not a sale, direct them to the 800 number. -Customer service, 2007-2013, California
You can only fail one scorecard. Then you’re fired. Most people live in permanent fear, checking their numbers after every call. I decided to quit before I shot myself in the head out of desperation. -Sales, February 2014 to July 2014, Florida MORE

PREVIOUSLY: COMCASTIC: The Customer Is Always Raped Wrong

PREVIOUSLY:  When Is Comcast Buying Time-Warner NOT A Monopoly? Apparently, When David L. Cohen Hosts A Couple Obama Fundraisers At His Mt. Airy Manse

PREVIOUSLY: Sign Petition, Help Netflix Find Its Spine & Stop The Internet From Becoming Another Cable TV Rip-Off

PREVIOUSLY:  Comcast, Where The Internet Goes To Die

PREVIOUSLY: Spielberg In Town To Honor Comcast For Doing Something Nice And Un-Evil For A Change

PREVIOUSLY: WORTH REPEATING: 8 Reasons Why Comcast Sucks

PREVIOUSLY: WEASELS RIPPED MY INTERNET: Cowardly House Dems Cave On Net Neutrality, Cut FCC Off At The Balls

THE VERGE: In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.We’re really, really fucking this up.  But we can fix it, I swear. We just have to start telling each other the truth. Not the doublespeak bullshit of regulators and lobbyists, but the actual truth. Once we have the truth, we have the power — the power to demand better not only from our government, but from the companies that serve us as well. “This is a political fight,” says Craig Aaron, president of the advocacy group Free Press. “When the internet speaks with a unified voice politicians rip their hair out.” We can do it. Let’s start.


Go ahead, say it out loud. The internet is a utility. There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion. Internet access isn’t a luxury or a choice if you live and participate in the modern economy, it’s a requirement. [...] It’s time to just end these stupid legal word games and say what we all already know: internet access is a utility. A commodity that should get better and faster and cheaper over time. Anyone who says otherwise is lying for money. MORE

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N.Y. TIMES: Smash The Prison Indstrial Complex

July 29th, 2014


NEW YORK TIMES: In October 2010, Bernard Noble, a 45-year-old trucker and father of seven with two previous nonviolent offenses, was stopped on a New Orleans street with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. His sentence: more than 13 years. At least he will be released. Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man, was arrested in December 1993, for participating (unknowingly, he said) in the purchase of a five-pound brick of marijuana. Because he had two prior nonviolent marijuana convictions, he was sentenced to life without parole. Blacks and whites use marijuana at comparable rates. Yet in all states but Hawaii, blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana offenses. Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. These are disproportionately people of color, with marijuana criminalization hitting black communities the hardest.Meanwhile, police departments that presumably have far more important things to do waste an enormous amount of time and taxpayer money chasing a drug that two states have already legalized and that a majority of Americans believe should be legal everywhere. MORE
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BEING THERE: XPoNential Festival 2014

July 28th, 2014


One of the must-see musical events of summer is radio station WXPN’s annual XPoNential Music Festival, which features alternating sets on two outdoor stages at Wiggins Park during the day and a main stage show at night at Susquehanna Bank Center adding up to 12 hours of non-stop music each day. This year’s edition carried on the tradition of an eclectic mix of music featuring less heralded but worthy acts and more famous acts like this year’s headliners Ryan Adams and Beck. Philly based Strand of Oaks set the bar high early on Saturday for the fest with a passionate set of their pedal-to-the-medal guitar and keys jams including a blistering “Goshen ’97” and a moving “JM” — a tribute to deceased Songs: Ohia songwriter Jason Molina –  that sounded like the best Neil Young song Neil Young never wrote and included a stunning guitar solo by Oaks’ Leader Tim Showalter that echoed Young’s muscular solo on “Cortez The Killer.”

Ingrid Michaelson and her band played an entertaining and breezy set of her piano and ukulele based pop interspersed with amusing banter between her and her band on the main stage. Veteran rocker Dave Hause and a full band blitzed the second stage with a feisty set of rootsy rock that drew from his two solo albums. Folk rock group Dawes were supposed to play the last outdoor set on the main stage at the 2013 XPoNential fest but their performance was cancelled after seven inches of Dylan-esque hard rain fell in a flash. They returned this year, thankfully playing indoors (undoubtedly to appease the weather gods) and played a solid set of their mix of 70’s singer-songwriter sensibilities with Band-like harmonies and technical perfection topped off by some stunning guitar work from Taylor Goldsmith. Jenny Lewis and her band delivered a beautiful version of Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining” and a rollicking “Next Messiah” alongside a handful of cuts from her new The Voyager. Lewis was joined by her band and Dawes (as her backing choir) on Acid Tongue and Ryan Adams for new song “She’s Not Me” that featured some incendiary guitar work from the former Whiskeytown frontman. Adams  headlined the Saturday night show, playing with a full band (which he has only done a handful of times since 2009) and thrilling the crowd with a fourteen song set that kicked off with his excellent new single “Gimme Something Good” and encored with a driving and memorable cover of The Wiper’s “Straight Ahead.”

The Sunday lineup was impressive too, with Jersey-ite Nicole Atkins delivering an early crowd-pleasing set that included a moving “The Way It Is,” the song that helped launch her career. The Old 97’s celebrated fifteen years since they first played at XPoNential with a loud and raucous set of their frenetic country rock to one of the biggest crowds of the day.  Percussive pop anarchists Man Man delivered an energetic set led by singer Honus Honus who arrived on stage wearing a dark grey cloak bedazzled with red sequins and layed his hands on fans in the front row causing them to react like they were being raptured. Man Man drummer Pow Pow made like his name says and banged on the drums with precision and ferocity while wearing the biggest grin.  Their set climaxed with a loud and rowdy crowd sing-along to “(Head On) Hold Onto Your Heart”  and the crowd begging for an encore which the festival heads sadly denied (booo!).

Super-group Trigger Hippy led by former Black Crowes guitarist Jackie Green and singer Joan Osbourne delivered a set of powerful bluesy and funky rock n’roll from their forthcoming debut album. Band of Horses played long, dull set that was redeemed by an excellent cover of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” and an elegiac “The Funeral.” Beck closed out the XPoNential Fest 2014 with a lightning-flashed set that mixed choice cuts from the often-zany Odelay-era with the meditative, funereal vibe his more recent work. The highlight of the night, and perhaps the entire festival, was a show-stopping version of the R. Kelley satire “Debra.” Girl, 15 years after the release of Midnight Vultures, Beck still wants to get with you, and your sister — I think her name is Debra. – PETE TROSHAK

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BEING THERE: Nick Cave @ The Mann

July 28th, 2014

Nick Cave, Mann Music Center, 9:01 pm Friday by DAN LONG

DAN DELUCA: Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Australian punk-goth songwriter Cave was in the early stages of what has become a legendary career, I was a Nick Cave skeptic. Sure, I was attuned to the sheer force of the music he made with The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, with its combustive mixture of gospel, blues, and early rock and roll influences, and the way his sound was shot through with intermingling gangsta-outlaw and Biblical imagery. But it all seemed a too humorless and heavy handed to me, too willfully bloody and macho, as if Cave was always trying to show off his abiding enthusiasm for the Louvin Brothers by killing off another woman in song and dragging her body through the woods. Decades later, Cave is a different kind of animal. And animal is the operative word, because on stage, Cave and the band (featuring feral violinist Warren Ellis) play with primal, animalistic fervor, delivering songs of brooding, measured grace that burst out in sustained sections of explosive rage. They’re not fooling around up there. But Cave, at 54, is much more playful with his persona than he once was. (Or who knows, maybe I missed the self awareness the first time around.) What’s incontestable is that he’s a remarkable front man, working the stage like a demon as footlights cast his giant shadow on the walls of the Mann, and as he put the world’s longest microphone cord to good use as he spent about 1/4 of the band’s galvanic set (which lost a little steam during an encore in which he took requests) moving about in the crowd, a good 10 rows in, while he encouraged reserved seat holders to move down and fill up the aisles around him. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: If you heard a distant rumble or saw a flash of light on the Northwest horizon last night around 9 p.m., that was Nick Cave, like a bat out of hell, smiting Glenside to a crisp as per his satanic majesty’s request. And it was good. Very good. How could it not be? Everyone knows Heaven has better weather but Hell has all the best bands. Cave looked and sounded in peak form (good hair, great suit, whipped himself about the stage like an electrocuted Elvis), and his voice contained multitudes. Deep, dulcet, and strong like bull. Part angel-headed hipster, part Pentecostal preacherman, part medicine show barker, part lounge singer lothario. All pomade and sweat and jive and Old Testament gravitas. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Nick Cave is sitting across from me in a hotel room in Denmark, hours before his appearance at the Roskilde Festival, where he’ll share an audience of 60,0000 with the likes of Dylan, Neil Young, Beck and PJ Harvey (with whom he shared brief romantic dalliance, the rise and fall of which he chronicled on 1997’s The Boatman’s Call). Although he was born in Australian 44 years ago, Cave has lived the latter half of his life in London or on the continent. He is, for all intents and purposes, a European son, and he’s treated like royalty. People take off hats and open doors when he walks by. Ever the clotheshorse, Cave is sporting a cranberry paisley shirt; snug, wood-colored pants wrap his long toothpick legs. He’s tall and needle-thing, his eyes clear and intensely blue. Though Cave has been described as the only man who can pull off a mullet, his hair is bobbed short and, as always, dyed ink black. For the first and possibly last time in his life, he has grown a beard. He’s warm and courteous and, by his own admission, quite shy. He’s also—and this is something he rarely gets credit for—quite funny. Years ago, he would think nothing of punching out journalists if they crossed him, and he still does not suffer fools gladly. Just graciously. MORE

RELATED: After opening the show with a handful of long, slow-burning potboilers from the new Push The Sky Away, Cave and co. released the bats and let rip with the classics (“The Mercy Seat,” “Deanna,” “Red Right Hand,” “The Weeping Song”) as well as some deep-catalog nuggets for the devout (“From Her To Eternity,” “Your Funeral, My Trial” and a hellfire-and-brimstone “Tupelo” for an encore). But the real revelation last night was “Higgs Boson Blues,” a song that, sequenced eighth out of nine songs, gets lost on the new album which suffers somewhat from an overabundance of meditative midtempo-ness. On record, the song is largely notable for the metaphysical cleverness of its title, but last night “Higgs Boson Blues” was a long, sweaty noir-ish hallucination that somehow combined Lucifer, Robert Johnson, the Large Hadron Collider, speaking in tongues, Hannah Montana crying with the dolphins, the assassination of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and the God Particle into a dream narrative whose surreal profundities, as they are wont to do, defy literal explanation. But it all ends satisfyingly with Miley Cyrus floating face down in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake like William Holden at the beginning of “Sunset Boulevard.” Let us pray. MORE

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