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CINEMA: In The Sky With Diamonds

July 25th, 2014

LUCY (2014, directed by Luc Besson, 89 minutes, France/U.S.)

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC After Snowpiercer, here comes another foreign filmmaker showing us how to do big action right. Lucy is the latest from producer/director Luc Besson and the sci-fi actioner is a welcome return to the sort of flashy fantasy cinema he created in films like La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional. At a fleet 89 minutes, Lucy discards franchise-building, city-leveling and unnecessary exposition, instead following the fetching figure of Lucy (movie star Scarlett Johansson) as her brainpower begins surging to unimagined heights .

Who is Lucy? We don’t know much. From appearances she is a young woman sewing her club-going oats while studying in Taipei, Taiwan. She’s been hanging with some shady dude for a week when he suddenly asks her to drop off a briefcase at the front desk of a high-rise. When she balks he handcuffs the briefcase to her wrist and sends her in. Suddenly people are getting shot, Lucy is dragged off and after some quick surgery she and three others are transporting packets of weird blue crystals sewn into their bellies. After getting punched in the gut by her handlers, Lucy’s bag begins leaking inside her, making her brainpower expand to wholly new frontiers.
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Kenney Slams Former Daily News Reporter Mark McDonald For Going Over To The Douche Side When He Quit Journalism To Become Nutter’s Spox

July 25th, 2014


PHILLY NOW:  As part of his effort to decriminalize marijuana, Councilman Kenney has promoted a hotline for citizens to call detailing how arrests for minor pot possession have negatively impacted their lives. Folks are encouraged to call 267-570-3726 and leave voicemails detailing their own personal experiences with marijuana criminalization. The councilman hopes these stories will motivate Mayor Nutter to sign Kenney’s municipal decriminalization bill. [...] In response to Kenney’s vox populi pressure on the mayor, Nutter’s office seemed unimpressed. Nutter press secretary Mark McDonald [pictured, below right] is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, saying, “The first thing I would recommend is maybe [Kenney] should urge people to not walk the streets carrying pot.” The Inquirer also reports that McDonald antagonized Kenney with the not-so-blind item by calling Kenney’s bill, “legislation a particular Council member, who does not have a very extensive history of legislative victories, is attempting to promote as he tries to figure out if he has the resources and vision to run for mayor.” PhillyNow contacted Kenney for a response to the jab. “You know what’s sad,” Kenney says to PhillyNow. “When Mark McDonald was a reporter for the Daily Newshe was one of the more decent, fun people I dealt with in journalism. He’s turned into a bully, and that’s the hallmark of this administration. They’re generally bullies, and they love to try to muscle people. As opposed to taking a sophisticated approach and dealing with things in a rational way, they’d rather be snarky.” [...] Kenney concluded, “Mark McDonald’s probably the most unfortunate mayoral spokesman in the history of Philadelphia. He’s the master of disaster.” MORE

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LION KING: Strand Of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter

July 25th, 2014


BY NODYIA FEDRICK Strand Of Oaks’ mainman Timothy Showalter looks like a biker meth-lab chemist — long hair, tats, long beard, sleeveless Ts, all wrapped up in black — but in fact he’s this big pussycat/sensitive guy with low self-esteem who loves thrift-store shopping for vintage synthesizers and writes these amazing guitar-rock anthems. HEAL, Strand Of Oaks’ amazing new album, is wowing critics and blowing up on radio. and it could not have happened to a nicer guy. “Goshen, Indiana,” HEAL’s unstoppable lead-off single, gets our vote for Song Of The Summer. Resistance is futile. Strand Of Oaks plays WXPN’s XPoNential Fest on Saturday, so we got him on the horn. DISCUSSED: Pennsyltucky; the night his house burned to the ground; the beard; how you communicate with J. Mascis; teaching arithmetic to Orthodox Jewish second-graders; why he finally made an album that sounds like he looks and how good it feels to finally just rock the fuck out.

PHAWKER: You’re playing the XPoNential Festival on Saturday, is this the kick off of your tour?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Yeah, it’s kind of the official start of the world tour we’re about to embark on. There’s no better way to start it. XPN has been so good to us, it’s kind of nice to start it at home.

PHAWKER: Now I thought home was in Goshen, Indiana?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Yeah, it’s kind of confusing. I grew up in Indiana; I lived there until I was probably 17 or 18 – basically lived up and down the 476 corridor for the past 14 years. I lived in Wilkes-Barre, up in the Poconos for a while. I moved to Philly officially in 2009.

PHAWKER: I was going to ask you about the 570 area code. That’s where I’m from.

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I know, I saw the Scranton area code and I got super pumped. I was like, “All right! 5-7-0 style!”

PHAWKER: The band name, Strand of Oaks, why does it best rep what you’re trying to do musically?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: It absolutely doesn’t rep what I’m trying to do musically. It’s one of those things that it was kind of named on a whim like 10 years ago. I’m not in love with the band name, I guess I like it, but I didn’t even name my band. I remember being at a party and my friend was like, “You should name the band Strand of Oaks.” And I was like, “Okay.” Ten years later it’s my band name. Symbolically it represents how a strand of oaks is a group of oak trees, but especially with the new record, it doesn’t have a woodsy feeling and there’s still that folk connotation to the band name and it’s just like, “Well, this is my band name. It served me well for such a long time.” It’s too late to change.

PHAWKER: The new album is a lot heavier than than your first two. Was that intentional?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I think I just finally made the record I always wanted to make and I just didn’t know how to make this record before. I don’t think I had the courage to just totally go for it, you know, turn the guitars up and play as loud as I’ve wanted to. I don’t really listen to a lot of folk music. I’ve always listened to a lot of heavier music and more epic music. It just seemed inevitable because I feel more comfortable playing loud songs. I was destined to play rock music. I just feel so comfortable and happy on stage.

PHAWKER: Maybe if The Metro was still around you could’ve played there.

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Oh, I’ve played there 20 times. I played the last show that the Metro ever put on. That’s where Strand of Oaks got started. We played our first show there 2004. I was basically a regular there. I opened for more bands than I can remember. That was like my home-base.

PHAWKER: So just to backtrack a bit, you’re playing Xponential. How do you feel going into this?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I feel better about playing music than I ever have in my life and it’s funny because there are some sad elements to the record, but I just pair that with how good I feel about playing music. With this group of musicians I have I feel so safe and confident. I’m itching to play. With each show we play we get better as a band. I think we give the audience a better experience and it’s still all so new because I haven’t played with these guys very long. I just love my band. I truly love the people I play with. Very inspired by it.

PHAWKER: Do you ever regret being so revealing about your personal life in your songwriting or do think that’s why it connects with so many people?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: If I hadn’t been this honest on this record I would’ve been lying to myself and the people buying it. I came to a point in my life when I needed to be this open. I just wanted to give everything I could to this album and just share my life and although it’s very centered around my life, I feel it’s very relatable. We all get up in the morning and feel pretty similar emotions sometimes. I’ve seen how much it connects with people and it’s encouraging for me to know I can feel comfortable writing the kind of songs I want and people will react the way they are. It validates putting so much of myself into the songs and having people react the way they are.

PHAWKER: You’ve got the biker-rocker-meth-lab chemist tough guy look going on. Do you think that ever conflicts with who you are as a person? Because you’re obviously a sweet guy.

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: It’s kind of the way I grew into myself. I’ve always kind of looked different. My friend said, “Finally, you made a record that sounds the way you look.” It seems like such a true statement. I think sometimes when I play shows people think I’m the bouncer and not the guy playing in the band. I grew up with guys that were head banging and rock and roll dudes. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to look like the guy who belongs on stage. I’m not going to wear cargo shorts and flip-flops on stage. I want people to get the full experience of the concert. And plus I don’t shave and I don’t know how to cut my hair so I might as well just let it all grow out.

PHAWKER: The current single from the new album is called “JM,” it’s the epic, seven-minute ode to Songs: Ohia’s Jason Molina who passed away last year. Can you talk a little bit about why his music is so important to you?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Basically everything Jason Molina has ever done, it’s basically been the soundtrack of my life and during so many different experiences good and bad his music has been in the background. On the surface it can be very depressing, but actually it’s very empowering. He talks about being depressed and about the hardships of life, but it’s never self-pity. It’s saying, “Yes, it’s really bad right now, but I won’t let this get me. I will defeat the dark beast that’s trying to bring me down.” I’ve always used the same mentality of my own life. It’s difficult for me to talk about because to have your favorite band no longer exist and to know that he won’t be making any more records, it’s a shame. I think the world lost one of its best artists and best voices. It’s just difficult. I can’t listen to his music as much as I used to. He was such a part of my life and to know he’s not here anymore, it’s challenging. I wrote a song just to say thank you and to be honest with my influences.

PHAWKER: How did J. Mascis wind up guest-shredding on on “Goshen ’97″? Can you tell me a little about working with J., he’s notoriously a man of few words.

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Guest-shredding — I love it! Well, he’s such a man of few words I never spoke to him once throughout the whole interaction of this song being made. He’s on a sister-label of mine, JAGJAGUWAR, and I wrote “Goshen,” I have my own solo, and when I turned it into the label they were like, “Oh man, it sounds like a Dinosaur Jr. song. We should have Jay play on it.” And I was like, “Really? That’s possible?” And they said, “Yeah, totally. He’d be down.” And 48 hours later, we sent it to him and he sent it back and it was just the ultimate guitar part I’ve ever heard. It was awesome. I’m still kind of in awe of his playing on it. I tried to learn the solo, but there’s no way I could do that solo. It’s what Jay does that no one else can do.

PHAWKER: So you never told him what you were looking for?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I just said I want Jay to be Jay and do what he does best. “Turn the guitar up and shred face, dude.” There were no deep deep talks about, “What does this song mean?” I was just like, “I want you to play the notes man and play them loud.”

PHAWKER: Is it true that you used to teach at an orthodox Jewish school. Is that true?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: Yes, second grade.

PHAWKER: What did you teach?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I just taught everything we were taught in school. You know, reading, writing, and arithmetic. I was a teacher at a school in Kingston, on the other side of the river Wilkes-Barre, and I taught at a tiny little amazing school, I don’t know why they let me, but they let me teach there for six years and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

PHAWKER: When was this?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: It was from about 2004-2009.

PHAWKER: If you could travel back in time and play on any rock classic, which one would it be?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I would really love to be in the studio when Led Zeppelin came out with Led Zeppelin IV. I wouldn’t have to play anything, I would just like to hang out with those dudes and see that album created. That’s probably one of my favorite albums ever. See how they laid down their parts, see their process. That to me would be a magical part in history.

PHAWKER: OK, another hypothetical: You wake up in the middle of the night and your house is on fire and there’s only time to grab one album, which one do you grab and why?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: It’s funny because I did wake up one night and my house was on fire. I didn’t get to grab any records, so that was the sad thing. They’re all gone. I think though I would grab Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love. That’s also one of my favorite records ever. That’s something that should be preserved.

PHAWKER: Are there any bands you are looking forward to seeing at XPoNential Fest?

TIMOTHY SHOWALTER: I want to see Beck. Definitely. Morning Phase is a fantastic record. I really want to see him play, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to see him.


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Win Tix To See Nick Cave @ The Mann On Friday

July 24th, 2014


BY JONATHAN VALANIA In the beginning, there was the Birthday Party. And it was good. Rock ‘n’ roll as sonic aneurysm: screeching, cataclysmic and cruel. The Birthday Party was scary. Not in the silly Count Chocula way of the Goths who would follow in its steps, but, like, Exorcist scary. Danger was the Birthday Party’s business, and in the early ‘80s, business was good. Nick Cave was the human cannonball at the microphone, the band would light the fuse and run for cover. When the audience demanded blood, Cave could open up and bleed with the best of them. When he got bored with that, he would jump into the crowd for a good punch-up or maybe just drop-kick the head of any audience member who dared to stand in the front row. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Birthday Party nicknamed one tour the “Oops, I’ve Got Blood On The Tip Of My Boot” tour. And there were drugs—bags and bags of drugs. The worst drugs money can buy. It wasn’t long before Cave was willing to cut off his leg to feed his arm, and things only grew more ghoulish and dastardly. He literally wrote lyrics with a blood-filled syringe. Until one day the Birthday Party ran out of blood and the willingness to extract it from others. All things move toward their end, as Cave would later write, and the Birthday Party had stopped moving. So ends the first chapter in the Book Of Nick.

“Things changed when Nick stopped reading the Old Testament and started reading the New Testament,” says Mick Harvey, Cave’s musical co-conspirator since the beginning of the Birthday Party.

You can pretty much understand the entirety of the New Testament by reading the shortest sentence in the Bible: Jesus wept. At some point, somewhere deep in his coal-black junkie heart, Cave did, too. He still had demons to exorcise when he went solo in the mid-‘80s, backed by charter Bad Seeds like guitarist/drummer Harvey, Einerstüzende Neubauten anti-guitarist Blixa Bargeld and bassist Barry Adamson.And yet slowly but surely, the hellfire and brimstone of the Old Testament gave way to the sorrow and the pity of the New Testament. There were still trials and tribulations, to be sure. The quality of mercy could still be strained. One album was called Your Funeral…My Trial, and Cave wasn’t kidding. Another album was called Murder Ballads, and he was totally kidding. Along the way, something miraculous happened: Cave became a great songwriter. While many probably still think he sleeps in a coffin and still blame him for goth, the standard by which he measures himself as an artist is the work of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen—before which, he’ll tell you, he stands humbled. Although he’ll deny it, the songs he’s written and released since 1997′s Boatman’s Call through last year’s Push The Sky Away breathe the same rarefied air of brilliance those iconic songwriters once exhaled. At times stripped nearly to the bone of silence—and devoid of the morbid posturing and dark intent that would occasionally mar his previous work—these psalms of love and devotion lift their skinny arms toward heaven, where they once pounded the sands of the abyss. And it is very good.

We are giving away a pair of tickets to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds play the Mann Center tomorrow night with local heroes Kurt Vile & The Violators. 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 RELEASE THE BATS 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 14th Phawker reader to email us with the magic words wins! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!

NEW YORK TIMES: “As far as work goes, I’m something of a megalomaniac,” Cave told me later that day. “But a megalomaniac with extremely low self-esteem.” We were sitting in the restaurant of his hotel in Berlin Mitte, trying to have a conversation in the face of frequent interruptions from festival staff, acquaintances and a seemingly never-ending stream of admirers. Tall, gaunt and slightly ungainly, in his snakeskin shoes, chunky rings and rakishly well-tailored suits, Cave resembles nothing so much as a postmillennial hybrid of bookie and peer of the realm. His long, backswept hair, dyed black since the age of 16, frames a face that has been described both as “angelic” and “hideous to the eye,” the latter by Cave himself, in song. It’s the kind of look only a rock star could get away with, especially at his age, but on Cave it seems as dignified — as inexplicably appropriate — as those rhinestone-studded jumpsuits did on Elvis in his later years. Cave’s public persona has been called “theatrical,” but a more precise term might be cinematic. Like many self-mythologizers, charismatics and plain old eccentrics, he has always appeared to be performing in a movie only he himself could see. The closest the rest of us may come to seeing that movie may well be “20,000 Days on Earth.” Cave co-wrote the film with its directors, the artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, with whom he has collaborated on a number of smaller projects — music videos and short films. It’s unorthodox, to put it mildly, for the subject of a documentary to be given a screenwriting credit, but very little about “20,000 Days” could be described as orthodox. As its title suggests, the film is an investigation into the passage of time, into memory and aging and artistic survival, as dramatized by a single imaginary day in the life of its subject, the musician Nick Cave. While working on a song, Cave began to play with the idea of measuring his life in days instead of years, and Forsyth and Pollard, who were documenting the band as they recorded “Push the Sky Away,” saw potential for a film. When I asked Cave what drew him to the notion of Day 20,000, he regarded me dryly. “ ‘Fifty-four Years and Nine Months on Earth’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it, somehow.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Nick Cave @ The Keswick 3/19/13


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.

So too, The Bad Seeds, who these days paint within the lines and with much more subtle strokes thanks in no small part to the addition of The Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis a decade back. With his enchanted fiddle on “God Is In The House,” magic flute on “We No Who U R” and his chiming, incandescent, Velvetsoid guitar thrum on “Jubilee Street” Ellis made grown men cry in their souls — this grown man, anyway. Prior to Ellis, the Bad Seeds seemed to come with only two settings: Mellow and Maelstrom. Last night they mapped out all the emotional peaks and valleys in between with nuance and precision.

Cave was wickedly funny. During the gangsta-rific “Stagger Lee,” he mocked a loutish woman up front whose incoherent shouting marred more than song. “Where the fuck is my husband in this fucking place?” he whined, though it was unclear if he was merely mimicking her outbursts or pleading with the missing husband to come fetch his trainwreck wife and spare us all this indignity. When some goober shouted out repeatedly that the stage volume was “too soft” (get a Q-Tip, Goob, they were loud as fuck) Cave silenced him with “‘Too soft?’ You deaf cunt!” Ah, good times. Glad to see that Cave still doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

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. – JONATHAN VALANIA


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BECK: Ramona

July 24th, 2014


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BEING THERE: Slasher Flicks @ Johnny Brenda’s

July 23rd, 2014


Arriving at the spooky little dimly-lit venue that is Johnny Brenda’s last night, I definitely felt like I was in the right place to hear Avey Tare’s Slasher Flick’s play a set. I got there around the time doors opened, which is basically when the major dweebs with too much free time arrive for these affairs. It was pretty empty except for a few other people, so I had time to check the place out. The mini-skeletons hanging along the bar provoked the kleptomaniac in me, while the broken photo booth in the back left me brokenhearted and three bucks richer. It only took a few minutes of trying to kill time by spinning around on barstools before I looked up and across the room, and realized that Avey Tare was sitting directly across from me. After a few seconds of debating whether that was him and if it would be ok to blow his cover in such a quiet setting, I went for it. He kindly introduced himself to me, which I thought was humble and totally breaks that whole “don’t meet your idols cause they’re probably disappointing jerks” rule. I asked if he would take a selfie with me, ’cause it’s the 2014 thing to do, and he obliged. I could have left happily at that point, but of course I didn’t. Slasher Flicks took the stage before a decently packed audience. I’m horrible with numbers— to illustrate, It was easy enough to do a little two-step if you felt like it, but there wasn’t enough space to do a full-on dance solo if that was more your thing. Slasher Flicks played all 11 songs from their debut album, Enter the Slasher House, but changed things up by playing in a different sequence than what is on the album, and leaving tons of space for jams during songs. Avey Tare belted out his distinctive helium-pitched vocals, with a wild range of expressions that made it easy to see how invested he was in the performance. Particularly insane was Jeremy Hyman’s drumming — pounding out the eccentric beats on Enter the Slasher House seems like no easy task with just two arms, but he did that and a few outrageous solos like clockwork. Angel Deradoorian’s haunting and heavenly vocals added another layer of pleasant derangement. – MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ

PREVIOUSLY: Talking Cats & Drugs & Slasher Flicks With Animal Collective’s Avey Tare
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Win Tix To See Ryan Adams @ XPoNential Fest

July 23rd, 2014

Artwork by ENCORE

Ryan Adams is one of those love him or hate him artists. I go back and forth. Sure, he’s an inveterate attention whore, a piss-poor editor of his own creativity and a drama queen man-child too in love with his own legend. But when the planets do align, and The Fates allow it, he is also a top-shelf singer-songwriter in the grand tradition of the great denim bards of Laurel Canyon. His last album, 2011′s Ashes & Fire is one of those occasions (a new LP, 1984 drops in September). It is not, as the growing consensus would have it, as good as 2000′s Heartbreaker, his previous highwater mark — it’s better. Much better. Reportedly clean and sober and happily married, Adams seems to have finally grown the fuck up. There is a master class precision to the writing and execution of the songs on Ashes & Fire  — an exacting attention to subtlety and nuance, a perfectly calibrated modulation of mood and dynamics — that simply cannot be faked.  Unlikely as it might seem on so many levels, it would appear that Mandy Moore (yes, that Mandy Moore) has succeeded where so many have failed and finally made an honest man out of Ryan Adams. We have a pair of tickets to see him Saturday at the XPoNential Fest to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. 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 EASY TIGER 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 14th Phawker reader to email us with the magic words wins! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!

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BEING THERE: Veruca Salt @ The TLA

July 23rd, 2014


In the mid-1990s, Veruca Salt released two well-received albums of post-Breeders girlie grunge-pop before a 1998 cat fight between co-lead singers/guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post [pictured, above] caused Gordon to abandon ship and the original lineup to dissolve. Post recruited new members and carried on under the Veruca Salt banner, releasing a few albums that failed to capture original lineup’s magic while Gordon embarked on a solo career that included one successful album and undoubtedly the greatest N.W.A. cover ever. Ten plus years later, Post and Gordon reconnected via email and buried their hatchets, paving the way for an upcoming new album and current tour with original members drummer Jim Shapiro and bass player Steve Lack. Last night at the Theatre of Living Arts a re-united Veruca Salt thrilled a packed crowd with an epic two-hour show that included almost every track from their first two albums and a few surprises. The secret to Veruca’s success lies in the Yin and Yang of Gordon and Post. Gordon supplies light to their sound with her sugary sweet voice and chugging rhythm guitar and Post throws shade with her caustic vocals and piercing guitar solos. That magic blend was in full effect on last night, as the duo energetically pogo-ed, head banged and harmonized their way through twenty one songs backed by the precise and thundering rhythm section of Lack and Shapiro. Their set included impressive new songs “It’s Holy” and “The Museum of Broken Relationships,” and Gordon announced (with tongue in cheek) that they were considering naming their just completed but unnamed album Veruca Salt’s Sexploratorium in honor of a risqué store across the street from the theatre. The band played B-sire “Aurora” live for only the second time ever, with Post and Gordon’s gentle vocals and guitar playing wrapping around each other to delivering three minutes of stark, delicate beauty. Veruca Salt’s overlooked second album Eight Arms To Hold You was well-represented with the Driving Metallica-lite riffage of “Don’t Make Me Prove It, and an encore that included an explosive “Volcano Girls” and a the rumbling loud and soft dynamics of the Philly-referencing “Shutterbug.” Veruca Salt also ably recreated the sludgy lo-fi glory of their debut album with a raging “Seether,” the song that started it all. –PETE TROSHAK

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

July 23rd, 2014



Knitting, the ukulele, Wes Anderson movies, cats, Zooey Deschanel, J.D. Salinger, and Vampire Weekend – all are a part of the so-called “twee” aesthetic that quietly permeates today’s pop culture landscape.  Today, we take a look at how all things precious, precocious, and affectedly cute, have gone from uncool to mainstream. Our guest is MARC SPITZ, author of the recently-published book on the topic, Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film. We’ll also get the origin of the word “twee” itself from English-language expert, AMMON SHEA, author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. MORE

RELATED: The Twee food fads come and go, as do the tribally sanctioned T-shirts and the weekly musical subgenres. But I am grateful to Spitz for reminding me that Twee has, beneath all the chirping, something passionately affronted and defiant; that its embrace of underdogs—their flops, their freak-outs, their difficult third albums—has an actual moral application. Spitz plants the British singer Morrissey upon the throne of Twee. I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour / But heaven knows I’m miserable now. The yearning, the susceptibility. But Morrissey is too sleek and magnificent an ego for that ambiguous seat, I think. (He is also responsible for the radically un-Twee couplet When we’re in your scholarly room / Who will swallow whom?) Spitz is on firmer, which is to say much more unstable, ground with Kurt Cobain. Here was the Elvis of Twee, a complicated angel, “rock’n’roll’s own Little Prince,” not only a shockingly potent performer but a militant Twee ideologue. He inveighed against sexism and homophobia; he loathed jocks; he sang Grandma take me home; he painted his toenails; he used his fame to promote unpromotable bands. It may have been the massive drumming of Dave Grohl—nothing could be less Twee—that powered Nirvana into the mainstream, but Cobain, like all great figures, had already invented his own historical inevitability: he was, briefly and tormentedly, the bursting-through of generations of Twee. MORE

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Win Tix To See Beck @ The XPoNential Fest

July 23rd, 2014


PAPER MAGAZINE: We were shooting Beck [for the cover of our 1996 music issue] and he had been very picky. He wanted Ellen Von Unwerth to shoot it and his team was just very high maintenance about the whole experience. And at that time in our history we were very much not into having a celebrity make requests like that. We resented it. If someone even suggested a photographer who they wanted to shoot them, we were outraged. Now we realize that, of course, that’s totally normal and happens a lot. So we had the photographer Dah-Len shoot him, who’s a little nutty, but was doing a lot of our covers at the time. And they just did not hit it off at all. It was our summer music issue and we were trying to do something to make the photos more music-y. At the last minute we got permission from a very fancy guitar place to borrow a $6,000 guitar for the shoot. An intern was on his way, in a taxi, from the guitar place to the studio but Beck decided he was leaving early. He was not into it. So, anyway, in real life one of his front teeth is a teeny bit longer than the other, but we lengthened it more. I don’t know if we did that out of spite, because we were pissed that he left the shoot, or because we thought it was cute and quirky and wanted to exaggerate it even more. I’m sure it was more that than spite. It’s one of my favorite covers ever. I’m not sure if Beck liked it. We never heard back about it. MORE

PHAWKER: We have a pair of tix to see Beck at WXPN’s XPoNential Fest on Sunday July 27th to giveaway to some lucky Phawker reader. 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 I GOT A DEVIL’S HAIRCUT 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 14th Phawker reader to email us with the magic words wins! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!

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THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Talking About Cats, Drugs & Slasher Flicks w/ Animal Collective’s Avey Tare

July 22nd, 2014


BY MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ It is fitting that my interview with Animal Collective’s Avey Tare (a.k.a. Dave Portner) would begin with me talking about my first drug experience — namely trying pot for the first time and listening to AC’s Strawberry Jam and finally understanding what the word ‘transcendental’ means.  I was hooked and there would be no turning back. Turns out marijuana is just a gateway drug to Animal Collective, a far more potent hallucinogen. The good news is that unlike marijuana, Animal Collective is still legal. Since 2000, Portner has been  a very reliable dealer, doling out nine wonderfully weird albums, eight EPs, two live albums, and a mind-blowing visual album, all released on the band’s own Paw Tracks imprint. In addition to a number of collaborative efforts, Portner has released two solo albums: 2010′s Down, and more recently Enter The Slasher House  recorded under the name Slasher Flicks, along with former Dirty Projector/current Portner GF Angel Deradoorian, and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman. Enter The Slasher House, named after Portner’s love of stabby, Z-grade ’80s grindhouse fare, brings a colorful new dimension to what Animal Collective fans might be familiar with,  namely those emotive hard-hitting Avey vocals, along with some fun, irresistibly catchy and intensely energetic backing vocal shenanigans plus the usual swirling sonic swoon. This interview took place back in the spring in advance of a Johnny Brenda’s show that wound up being cancelled due to illness and was re-scheduled for tonight.

PHAWKER: First of all, why the name? There’s nothing remotely slasher-like about this music.

AVEY TARE: I just like the aesthetic of the name Slasher Flicks, I think it sounds good. I think it’s tough to come up with cool band names these days with so many bands, so many titles. It just came to me, and I thought, “Aw, yeah.” Everyone else in the band liked it, we thought it was cool. It’s better than The Avey Tare Trio or something like that. [laughs].

PHAWKER: What are your top five slasher films of all time?

AVEY TARE: I’m surprisingly not a huge slasher movie fan, actually. I like horror films, and more of the supernatural kind.

PHAWKER: OK, what are your Top 5 horror movies of all time?

AVEY TARE: Okay, let’s see. I think Alice Sweet Alice, Deranged. My top two are definitely The Exorcist and The Shining. One more I’d say is Xtro.

PHAWKER: Aside from the fact that the other Animal Collective guys don’t play on it, why isn’t this an Animal Collective album? Which is a long way of asking what prompted this project and how did it come together?

AVEY TARE: I think as far as it being not an Animal Collective record, there’s a couple reasons for that. Animal Collective gets pretty intense working on records like our last one, Centipede Hz. We did that, and then we toured a bunch. I feel like whenever we’re in that process, we always plan to take time off. In that time it’s usually because of Noah and his Panda Bear records. This time, my other bandmate, Brian, had a baby. So it’s sort of letting us have space to do all of this other stuff that’s kind of important for us to do. If we did Animal Collective full-time I don’t think it would have lasted as long. In terms of my songwriting style and what I like to do creatively, as much as I love working with Animal Collective, and we work together so well, there’s still things within each of our personalities that I feel like it’s such a group effort when we’re working together. There’s things that we don’t really get to express sometimes that we would like to express, maybe because the other guys wouldn’t really do that or something. It’s hard to say. Doing solo stuff for me just gives me opportunity to do other kinds of records. It also gives me the opportunity to play with other people, which is kind of what I was up for doing this time. I’m really excited to play with Angel and Jeremy.
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THE MAVERICK: Jim Rockford Had A Dream

July 22nd, 2014


WASHINGTON POST: When actor James Garner decided to help organize and attend the March on Washington in 1963, he wasn’t just listening to his conscience. He and other actors who attended may have been embarkingon Hollywood’s first large-scale political act since the days of McCarthyism and Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklist.After years of viewing the government with suspicion, many felt emboldened to participate, joining forces with black actors such as Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee and Diahann Carroll. Garner and other celebrities in attendance, including Paul Newman and Marlon Brando, openly defied J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was keen to stop the march. In “Nobody Turn Me Around: A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington,” Charles Euchner wrote:

The FBI attempted to exploit fears about violence and Communist infiltration of the civil rights movement — fears that were partly the result of J. Edgar Hoover’s long campaign against the movement. FBI agents made last-minute calls to celebrities. Do you know, the agents asked, that many of the march’s leaders are Communists? Do you know that Communists and other leftists could create chaos at the march? Do you know that it’s not too late to pull out of the march? Stay away! MORE

LOS ANGELES TIMES: With a thick head of hair and a Cary Grant cleft chin, Garner, who died Saturday at age 86, was in many ways a more approachable and easygoing version of the tall, Rdark, midcentury leading man — Rock Hudson come down to Earth (as Hudson himself eventually would). Indeed, he played twice opposite Doris Day, in “Move Over, Darling” and “The Thrill of It All” (both from 1963), only one film fewer than did Hudson. Garner had the authority of a person who put no stock in his authority, and the air of not taking life too seriously, which is perhaps why drama — which he could play, and often did — is not what we’ll remember him for. He was not made for tragedy, really, but to bounce back, like a punching-bag clown; many of his straight roles have more than a little comedy in them. (“Rockford” was comedy flat out.) Nor was he fashioned for villainy; there was too much goodness in him. MORE

TIME: James Garner’s most famous role, as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files in 1974, was the perfect meeting of Garner’s talents and the spirit of the age. Like Bret Maverick, Rockford was a screen-hero archetype who became all the bigger for being cut down to size: a private detective who’d spent time in jail on a bad rap, always one step ahead of the bill collectors and one good night’s sleep shy of his peak. He was not a pressed suit; he was a rumpled jacket that could use a dry cleaning. And that was what made him wear so comfortably. The Rockford Files was a crime show where the characters were finally more important than the action: it had its share of brawls and car spinouts, but you really tuned in for the ping-pong dialogue between Rockford and con man Angel or his dad Rocky. (It was a precursor of the more character-based dramas of today’s cable-dominated TV era, and in fact the show was one of the first writing jobs for David Chase of The Sopranos.) Rockford might get his man in the end, but what made him loveable was less his triumphs than his ability to roll with defeat. He could throw a punch if he had to, but what made him a hero was his ability to take one. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: “Maverick” had been in part a sendup of the conventional western drama, and “The Rockford Files” similarly made fun of the standard television detective, the man’s man who upholds law and order and has everything under control. A sucker for a pretty girl and with a distinctly ‘70s fashion sense — he favored loud houndstooth jackets — Rockford was perpetually wandering into threatening situations in which he ended up pursued by criminal goons or corrupt cops. He tried, mostly successfully, to steer clear of using guns; instead, a bit of a con artist himself, he relied on impersonations and other ruses — and high-speed driving skills.

Every episode of the show, which ran from 1974 to 1980 and more often than not involved at least one car chase and Rockford’s getting beaten up a time or two, began with a distinctive theme song featuring a synthesizer and a blues harmonica and a message coming in on a newfangled gadget — Rockford’s telephone answering machine — that underscored his unheroic existence: “Jim, this is Norma at the market. It bounced. Do you want us to tear it up, send it back or put it with the others?” MORE

JAMES GARNER: I started smoking marijuana in my late teens. I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn’t like the effect. Not so with grass. Grass is smooth. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving. … “I smoked marijuana for 50 years. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now it’s active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain. I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal. But, good luck with that. MORE

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EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Neutral Milk’s Jeff Mangum

July 21st, 2014


BY JONATHAN VALANIA In 1998, Neutral Milk Hotel released an album of hallucinatory folk-rock called In The Aeroplane Over The Sea that is, it can be said without fear of exaggeration, nothing short of a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Like Pet Sounds or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Love’s Forever Changes, it is lightning caught in a bottle, one of those rare perfect albums that come along maybe once a decade. Or once a lifetime. In 1999, Jeff Mangum — Neutral Milk’s singer, songwriter and primary guitarist — disappeared from public life without explanation, declining all entreaties to perform or discuss the album or record a follow-up. Over the course of his decade-long Salinger-like hermitage, succeeding generations of Holden Caulfield-types have discovered and come to revere the album, and as such it has become something like The Catcher In The Rye of indie-rock. Four years ago, Mangum emerged from seclusion and started performing again, refusing to offer any explanation for his mysterious disappearance or sudden return and denying all interview requests. Late last night I got the scoop of the century: A phone call from Jeff Mangum. That’s like getting a phone call from JD Salinger — dude does NOT talk to the phonies in the media. The call came in the middle of last night, thank god I record all my phone conversations for the benefit of future historians. It went like this:

PHAWKER: Hello? Who the hell is this?


PHAWKER: Tweedy?

JEFF MANGUM: Ha! Keep dreaming. No, Mangum. Jeff Mangum.

PHAWKER: Jesus, what the fuck time is it?

JEFF MANGUM: Four in the morning.

PHAWKER: Four in the…Are you drunk dialing me?

JEFF MANGUM: Kinda sorta.

PHAWKER: Every journalist would give his left testicle to interview you. Why are you talking to me?

JEFF MANGUM: You are the only one who answered his phone.

PHAWKER: Why did you go away after In The Aeroplane Over The Sea?

JEFF MANGUM: Don’t ruin this for me.

PHAWKER: OK OK, I’m sorry. Um, have you been writing new songs?

JEFF MANGUM: Every day.

PHAWKER: Can I hear the new songs?



JEFF MANGUM: That’s not why I wrote them.

PHAWKER: How many are there?

JEFF MANGUM: Multitudes.

PHAWKER: How many?

JEFF MANGUM: Enough to release a new album every year from now until the year 2525.

PHAWKER: If man is still alive.

JEFF MANGUM: Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s why I left.

PHAWKER: What do you mean?

JEFF MANGUM: So many words were put in my mouth it took me 10 years to swallow them.

PHAWKER: Will these new songs ever be released?

JEFF MANGUM: Yes, but not until everyone now living is dead.

PHAWKER: What about the rumor that you were Raptured?

JEFF MANGUM: That’s above your pay grade. You have time for one last question, I have to call Chuck Klosterman and pretend to be Ace Frehley. He gets such a kick out of that.

PHAWKER: What is the meaning of life?

JEFF MANGUM: Strawberry fields, forever.

PHAWKER: I thought so.


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