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CINEMA: The Wind Cries Mary

September 23rd, 2017


WIND RIVER (Directed by Taylor Sheridan, USA, 2017, 107 minutes)

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC In the more militaristic branches of American culture, there is a belief that society can be broken down into three categories of people: sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. The sheep are ordinary people who go about their lives with no understanding for the world’s dangers. The wolves are anyone who preys on the weak and takes whatever they want. The only line of defense between the sheep and the wolves are the sheepdogs, protectors of the flock who tirelessly hunt down bad guys and never ask for praise. Anyone with half a brain for historic materialism might point out the flaws in this theory, but militarism is largely unconcerned with such trifles. Wind River, which will probably go down as one of the best murder mysteries of the year, makes use of this social theory, but not in a familiar way.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), is a tracker for the Fish and Wildlife services who hunts predators. His introductory scene, protecting a herd of goats from a pack of wolves, shows us his place as a ‘sheepdog.’ However, instead of a condescending protector of helpless communities, Cory’s motivation is personal. His ex-wife’s family, and by extension his own family, lives in the Wind River reservation. Through helping them, he helps himself. When a steer from his father-in-law’s herd is killed by a lion, Lambert has to track it down. Instead, he discovers the body of Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow), a young woman from the reservation, dead in the snow. Clearly a predator is stalking Wind River.

Besides Lambert, our principal protagonist is FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who is assigned to the case. That both of our protagonists are federal agents, outsiders to the reservation, and European-Americans is a trope excessively common to this type of movie. While on the one hand this allows the film to target a broad audience, it is also a racist trope used to deny agency to the Native people, making them seem incapable of solving their problems without some benevolent white man to support them along. Here, however, the support is interrogated when Natalie’s father (Gil Birmingham) asks why help always starts with insults, and as Banner must slowly earn the trust of Ben, the Tribal Police Chief (Graham Greene).

What we get is a snapshot of a larger problem. Banner’s investigation follows the usual route of raiding the local drug dens until Lambert tells her that she is missing the forest for the trees. Instead of looking for clues, she should follow the tracks in the snow. The snow is probably the film’s most effective metaphor, as pervasive as it is powerful. The snow is a hazard — it threatens lives, makes travel harder, even makes you go crazy after too long — but it is also a blessing. Snow keeps bodies fresh, if they are not eaten by scavengers. Snow keeps the imprints of feet, and surely the girl who died running in the snow must have come from somewhere. Once Banner can follow the tracks, she can find her killer.

In communities like Wind River — poor communities, with no structural support, barely even any law– there is no justice, only survival. The film presents us a reality where even if a community can band together in a herd, they will still be at the mercy of wolves who consider themselves outside the rule of law. The only way to protect a community is for vigilant defenders, from both inside and outside, to take an active role in protecting each other physically and emotionally from the ravages of the world.

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September 21st, 2017

cover - gopnik


It’s a classic story: local boy, born and bred in West Philly, moves to New York at the dawn of the bombed-out, post-punk ‘80s with gal pal/fiance seeking fortune and fame as Art Garfunkel’s songwriter*, fails miserably, weathers marginal employment and postage stamp-sized apartments, grumpy art snobs and kooky magazine editors, plumbs the Platonic ideal of summer shirts for the pre-initialized Gentleman’s Quarterly, befriends Richard Avedon, Jeff Koons and Robert Hughes, cracks the genetic code of Talk Of The Town pitches, lands New Yorker staff gig plus book deal, and a rent-controlled SoHo loft lease, marries, procreates, publishes well-received collections of essays and criticism and novels for children, wins National Magazine Award three times, wins a George Polk Award, moves to Paris where, eventually, he is awarded the French Republic’s Chevalier de l’Ordre et des Lettres medal, whose previous recipients include William Burroughs, Rudolph Nureyev and Ang Lee. Nearly all of which is relayed with generosity, drollery and vividly-observed mis en scene in At The Stranger’s Gate by the man who lived it, Adam Gopnik, arguably one of the most elegant and evocative prose stylists currently scribbling. In a homecoming of sorts, Mr. Gopnik will discuss his new book at the Free Library on Friday. (For more on his Philly back story, check out our 2011 Q&A.) On Wednesday, writing from Paris, Mr. Gopnik responded to our questions via email:

PHAWKER: One of my favorite lines in the book is: “In an era of cocaine and punk we were champagne and Gershwin.” Can you unpack this a bit for readers? (Also, I love the fact that you got married in ripped jeans and a suit jacket)

ADAM GOPNIK: WELL, we arrived in New York in rhapsodic love with the great songs and color © Brigitte Lacombesongwriters of the earlier, pre-rock dispensation: Rodgers & Hart and the Gershwins and Harold Arlen and the rest. This wasn’t as commonplace then as it is now, when even Rod Stewart records “The Great American Songbook”. (Not that I wasn’t a rock aficionado of a kind; you recall our dissection of when it was exactly that Jimi Hendrix played the Electric Factory and I saw him. But by twenty something my tastes had altered.) That’s why we called our tiny basement apartment “The Blue Room”, in honor of that song, which I had heard on the Ella Fitzgerald R&H songbook (at that moment still only available as an LP in England!) . . So a certain dream of a lost , lyrical New York – a New York you could hear at the Café Carlyle (not that we could afford it) or still glimpse at Bradley’s, downtown – represented by sad and swinging music, was at the heart of our vision of the city. When we met, and were spiritually adopted much later by the photographer Dick Avedon, this vision suddenly seemed plausible – he came from that time, yet was still very much of this time, and his favorite tipple, from his years in France, was champagne. We got that habit, and still have it. It’s cheaper than coke, and I suspect more beautifully labeled. ((Good for the digestion, too.) Anyway, that image of life was central to us, however anachronistic—and one of the joys of life is discovering that anachronisms are yours to end with enough reviving energy. You take the curse off ‘nostalgia” by living it intensely.

PHAWKER: Another great line: “the rancid ambitions of Julian Schnabel.” If I recall correctly, that wasn’t you saying it, let the record show, but can you briefly speak to the fact that in New York bohemian circles in the early 80s, ambitious people had to mask their ambition for fear of being designated inauthentic or insincere. Seems to me that young people of a similar station these days feel no need hide the fact that they want go places, as it were. That anxiety about authenticity doesn’t seem to bedevil artistic youth of today the way it did previous generations. Why do you think that is?

ADAM GOPNIK: I don’t recall who I’m quoting there, or whose position its characterizing. Certainly, not my own; his ambition was no more rancid than mine. As to the larger question, I’m not sure it’s so…sometimes I have the sense that we could pursue our ambitions with less guilt – or just more plausible hopes – than twenty somethings can now. But certainly, thirty plus years in which the parody of the thing has become indistinguishable from the thing, and in which the whole idea of ‘selling out’ seems like an incomprehensible ambition (who would you sell out to, now, if you were a young writer?) has made authenticity seem quaint, not to say juvenile. In fact, you rarely see the word out of scare quotes:”authenticity”. Any display of worldly ambition was frowned on in artistic circles in the fifties; the wrong display was frowned on the sixties; now no one can tell the display from the art. That may be too cynical. But it doesn’t feel wrong.

PHAWKER: You talk about how back then you could more or less blunder into cool jobs and you mention that early on your wife got a job as D.A. Pennebaker’s archivist. As an avowed Dylanphile and Bowie freak, hoping you might be able to tell of intriguing footage from Don’t Look Back and/or the Ziggy Stardust doc that never made the final cut.

ADAM GOPNIK: Would that it were so! My memory suggests – and now Martha herself confirms from the other side of the room – that while there was a lot of unused footage from those great films, it was mostly left on the cutting room floor because it was less vital than what went in. Generally speaking, things left out of art are left out for a reason – ‘recuts’ are often fascinating, but rarely better than the original. (See Apocalypse Now Redux) What is funny is that there was a piece in the Times just a couple of years ago about the Pennebaker Archive, and they’re still ongoing — now thirty plus years! — attempts to organize it. Apparently, it is the Augean Stable of documentary; each generation must try and cleanse it.

PHAWKER: *You write amusingly about trying unsuccessfully to sell a song to Art Garfunkel via an informal network of proxies. What can you tell us about that song? Did you ever get any feedback on the song from Mr. Garfunkel?

ADAM GOPNIK: No, I never got the cassette back, or heard a word. But I did eventually begin to write songs professionally: my musical show, The Most Beautiful Room In New York, with music by David Shire and book and lyrics by me, debuted at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven Adam + Martha Gopnikin April, and had a satisfying month long run. We’ll see where it goes next. Nothing in my creative life makes me prouder than that Shire-Gopnik score.

PHAWKER: You talk about your decades long friendship/mentorship with photographer Richard Avedon and mention that other friends had similar relationships with William Maxwell and Nora Ephron and an unnamed ‘great movie critic.’ Can you ID this critic and share an interesting aside about your friend’s relationship with him/her? And speaking of Avedon, I see that the amazing photo on the cover of the book was shot by Blake Gopnik, who I am assuming is a relation. Can you talk about that photo — is that you and Martha — how came about and why it was selected for the cover?

ADAM GOPNIK: The movie critic was simply David Denby, who has written movingly in The New Yorker about his adoption (and eventual disowning) by Pauline Kael. I’m not sure why I didn’t name him – perhaps because that relation brought The New Yorker into the conversation in a way that distracted from the larger point. Almost all of the other protégés were taken up, turned around, and never rejected; David, by his own account, had a more dramatic exchange.

The kissing couple on the cover is indeed us, and was indeed shot by my brother Blake on the day of our wedding – not our official city hall wedding in New York, but our decorative wedding the following summer in Montreal – and he was working very much under Avedon’s star, that white background and black and white graphics, though of course without ever having met him. It was Martha who made the photo, though. In the rest of the series we were beaming innocently at the camera [SEE BELOW, RIGHT], and then she suddenly reached over and kissed me, passionately, for what still seems no good reason. As I say in the text, I thought at that moment, I don’t deserve her; her mother thought, He doesn’t deserve her, and Martha may have thought, No one deserves me, but at least he has a destination. When Chip Kidd, the designer, came to root through our old pictures in search of material for a cover collage, he saw that and said, “That’s the cover.” “This with other things?” I suggested. No, he said. Just that. Obviously, he was right. I like the fact that it is both entirely us, and entirely anonymous. It’s us, but could be any young couple starting life in nice clothes and love.

PHAWKER: Given your background in art history, and long friendship with Robert Hughes, I feel like you are a good person to ask this question: Does that fact that Jeff Koons entire body of work makes my skin crawl make me a bad person? (And let the record show I love/’get’ Duchamp and Warhol)

ADAM GOPNIK: Well, part of the point of Koons’ work is to make your skin crawl. I think Peter Schjeldahl once started a piece in praise of Koons saying “Jeff Koons makes me sick.” Warhol crossed the now innocent looking line between demotic imagery and high art; Koons crossed the line between kitsch and Warhol. He fascinated me then, as he does now, because he was genuinely committed to his own kind of craziness, not a smooth operator but an obsessive. And what obsessions! All I can say is that when one looks at his famous metallic bunny of the eighties, it is, exactly, the demon of Trump Tower. He trapped his time; a wiser artist might have trapped less.

PHAWKER: As someone who has worked most of his professional life in publishing (both book and magazine) in one capacity or another, can you share your thoughts about the state of the business, where you see things heading and what advice re: all that you would offer to young writers just starting out?

ADAM GOPNIK: As I wrote not that long ago, there has never been a time when it has been easier to be a writer, never a time when it has been harder to be a professional writer. I’ve had a series of brilliant apprentice-assistants in the past decade, and all of them, mostly young women, have set out to make lives in the writing world – and have by and large succeeded, though not without perhaps more dead end frustrations than my generation knew. (The very fact of so many ‘internships’ is dubious. I worked at dumb jobs, but never ‘interned’.) Malcolm Gladwell’s famous ‘ten thousand hours’ really breaks down to six years of effort – and I think that six years of steady effort in the literary world will be rewarded, perhaps not with the job or publication of your dreams, but at least with some job near that job, some publication close to the dreamt-for one. No one asked us to write, remember, and so in a sense even a professional life as fortunate as my own has to be accepted as a thing given , not earned, or not entirely earned — perpetually on loan from the muses, who may call it back at any time and give it to the as fortunate as my own has to be accepted as a thing given, not earned, or not entirely earned — perpetually on loan from the muses, who may call it back at any time and give it to the next guy, or girl.


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OFFICIAL TRAILER: Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs

September 21st, 2017

The cast includes Yoko Ono, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johannson, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, F. Murray Abraham, and more. In theaters March 23rd 2018.

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WORTH REPEATING: We’re All Socialists Now

September 20th, 2017



PHILLY SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE: As soon as Amazon announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters outside Seattle, elected officials from across the nation predictably responded to its ‘request for proposals’ by tripping over each other in a race to offer massive public subsidies and tax incentives to woo Amazon. Philadelphia’s elected officials from both the Democratic and Republican Parties have behaved no differently.

Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney slavishly tweeted, “We think Philadelphia would be a PRIME location for Amazon that would make people SMILE! Look forward to submitting a proposal!” This week, the Kenney administration had taxpayers buy a plane ticket for a city envoy to visit Seattle and “help understand Amazon culture” and demonstrate our city is “serious about competing for the headquarters.”  At-Large Republican Councilman David Oh introduced a bill to City Council on Thursday that “reduces the business net income tax to zero” of relocating “mega-businesses” like Amazon that employ over 50,000 workers.

Amazon is worth $460 billion, and its CEO Jeff Bezos will soon be the wealthiest man in the world. Bezos’ person net worth is $84.4 billion dollars. He is one of 8 men who control half of the world’s wealth. Bezos and Amazon have accrued this massive wealth by ruthlessly exploiting workers in the US and abroad, crushing attempts to unionize, using its monopoly power to gobble up real estate and push up land value and housing costs in Seattle, and pushing small business owners out of markets.

In any city it expands to, Bezos and Amazon can afford to pay business taxes, income taxes, and property taxes. They can also afford to pay decent wages, and provide healthcare benefits and pensions for all of their workers. Instead of ‘wooing’ Amazon here with the promise of low wages, subsidies and tax breaks, Philadelphia’s political establishment should be taking the fight for a $15hour minimum wage, statewide single payer healthcare, and full funding for our schools. As badly as we need to address structural unemployment and poverty in Philly, spending millions of public dollars in exchange for a ‘promise’ to bring thousands of low wage, part time, dead end jobs will only result in increased corporate profits at our expense.

We need to stop to the nationwide corporate tax rate race-to-the-bottom. When cities compete against each other to offer corporations like Comcast and Amazon tax incentives, the big losers are our own residents. One third of Philadelphians live in poverty and our schools face enormous budget deficits. SEPTA is unreliable and one of the most expensive public transit system in the country. Public housing is being cut while gentrification and a shortage of affordable housing is pushing us out of our neighborhoods and threatening low-income residents all over the city. Should we really be competing with Chicago, Denver and Baltimore over who can give Amazon the most public money? MORE

RELATED: Should Philly Screw Over Its Schoolkids To Make World’s 2nd Richest Man Even Richer?

RELATED: Nearly Every Person I Worked With [At Amazon Headquarters], I Saw Cry At Their Desk

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EXCERPT: The Devil & Jack Posobiec

September 19th, 2017



PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Jack Posobiec — born in Norristown, proud “Philly kid,” Temple grad, onetime Santorum intern, former WPHT account exec — is a relentless, ruthlessly effective pro-Trump political dirty-tricks operative/fake-news ninja/social media assassin who salts the fields of the Internet with alternative facts and dank counter-factual memes that he blasts out to his 199K Twitter followers at least 20 times a day. Posobiec studied the dark arts of ratfuckery — a Watergate-era term for Nixonian political dirty tricks — at the feet of the master, GOP strategist Roger Stone, who regards him as the torchbearer for his toxic legacy. Stone’s prime directive is, “Attack, attack, attack. Never defend. Admit nothing, deny everything” — a mantra Posobiec has honed like a razor.

Posobiec’s infamy stems in part from his status as one of the prime figures in the #Pizzagate hoax, the viral dissemination of French President Emmanuel Macron’s leaked emails, and the RAPE MELANIA protest-sign fiasco. All of which, when lumped in with the rest of his exponentially expanding body of work — filing a human-rights complaint against a Brooklyn theater’s ladies-only screening of Wonder Woman; standing in front of Auschwitz and lecturing the Anti-Defamation League about the Holocaust; tweeting fake news that fired FBI director James Comey “said under oath that Trump did not ask him to halt any investigation”; smearing net neutrality advocates as satanic porn fiends; tweeting fake news that pro-Trump neo-Nazi James Alex Fields, charged with the second-degree murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, was an “anti-Trump, open borders drug addict” hours after Heyer’s death — has made him the Trump troll the Internet loves to hate.

Young, hip and telegenic, Jack Posobiec is part of a new breed of far-right social media “influencers”—Twitter trolls, YouTube monologists, Medium town criers, Periscope Platos, and the fake newsboys of Facebook. They’ve built massive six-figure online audiences to which they endlessly evangelize the gospel of #MAGA—“Make America Great Again”—over hot cups of liberal tears. Posobiec’s known associates include: date-rape denialist and white genocide alarmist Mike Cernovich; flamboyant controversialist/fame whore/pedophilia apologist Milo Yiannopoulos; tinfoil-hat haberdasher Mike Flynn Jr., the Hillary-hating scion of Trump’s disgraced national security adviser; and Alex Jones, conspiracy nut job whose show, Info Wars, Posobiec has guest-hosted.

“These guys are all proponents of information warfare—a hybrid of regular warfare and psychological operations, or psy ops,” says David Carroll, associate professor of media design at Parsons School of Design. “Their willingness to militarize the media space in the spirit of political warfare, I think, is extremely disturbing and characteristic of what makes these guys different from anything else that’s come before them.” MORE

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Win Tix To See David Gray & Alison Krauss

September 19th, 2017



Nobody saw this coming! Out of nowhere we have a coupla pairs of tix to see laid back electro-folkie David Gray and sweetheart of the nouveau Nashville rodeo Alison Krauss at the Mann Center tomorrow night. To qualify to win, all you have to do is follow us on Twitter — @PHAWKER — and send us an email at telling us you just did (or already do). Put the magic words I WANT THOSE TICKETS! in the subject line. Include your full name and a mobile number for verification. Good luck and godspeed!


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BEING THERE: Father John Misty @ The Mann

September 17th, 2017


Photo by DAN LONG

Josh Tillman, AKA Father John Misty, has carved a place for himself in the hearts of many of the indie music audience with his beautiful singing voice, ability to craft accessible songs, and with lyrical content that smashes the veneers that society force feeds us. He’s done all of this after leaving Fleet Foxes because of an inability to work with frontman Robin Pecknold. Tillman’s beef with Pecknold would be the first of many controversies that Tillman would find himself embroiled in. Ryan Adams called Tillman out, saying, “He sounds like shit Elton John but if he was just sitting in a corner staring at his hands on LSD.” If nothing else, Tillman is an outspoken character who’s written songs as Father John Misty that draw attention to issues concerning toxic masculinity, entertainment addiction, and the chaotic, fluid nature of morality, to name a few. A decidedly postmodern act, Father John Misty often turns on all the lights and raises a mirror to himself as well as the audience, an exhausting but liberating experience.

Accompanied on stage by a string section, horn section, pianist, multiple guitarists, bassist, and drummer, Father John Misty cut through the humidity at the Mann Center on Friday night with a show that proved his acumen as a performer. Touring his latest, Pure Comedy, he began the set playing the first four tracks from the album, while sketches of petroglyphs depicting the evolution of civilization was projected onto the stage’s backdrop. In an interview he gave a few years back Tillman said that he’s not a great instrumentalist but he, “Can sing like a motherfucker.” Self-deprecation thinly veiling an outright brag. This is Josh Tillman in a nutshell. The thing is, he really can sing like a motherfucker. He has perfect pitch and seamlessly transitions between registers, without putting too much strain on his voice, allowing him to sing like a motherfucker throughout the set, while accenting lyrics with body flourishes, sometimes twirling his mic stand like a baton.

After playing the first four songs on Pure Comedy, Tillman began interweaving songs from his first two records, but at that point his poignant observation that historians would find our skeletons sitting on couches, our phones in our hands, our jaws contorted into grins, had overwhelmed me, so I spread out a blanket and lied down, staring up at the sky, fighting off the urge to check my phone. Tillman gets criticized for being bombastic and pretentious, but his ability to insert his thought provoking sociology into accessible folk songs is remarkable. It was funny imagining the guy on stage tripping on mushroom while writing “Hold Up” for Beyoncé, pontificating about the implications of writing for a strong, black woman. The whole show was sort of funny, but like I said, it knocked me on my ass. Staring up at the few stars that were visible, my mind moved from questions like, is human intellect overdeveloped? To wondering what it’d be like to have T. Swift in the Oculus Rift every night. The paradoxes and juxtapositions that Father John Misty expressed on Friday night delivered a microcosm of what it feels like to live today, which in itself is a reminder that in a postmodern world, it’s often a struggle to feel alive. – DILLON ALEXANDER

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ZEN ARCADE: Q&A W/ Arcade Fire’s Will Butler

September 14th, 2017



BY DILLON ALEXANDER In 2004, Montreal-based Arcade Fire gifted the world their debut album Funerals, which has since been compared to heralded indie classics like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The electricity of the earnest expression of pain, loss, and alienation pulsed through the indie rock album. It caught the attention of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, David Byrne, and U2, all of whom, Arcade Fire would go on to perform with. After their success with Funerals, the band has evolved over the course of four records, straying increasingly from their indie rock foundation to genre-bending electronic, disco, and even reggae. Like a Phoenix, Arcade Fire has seemingly treated their albums as life cycles, reinventing themselves in the ashes of their past for each new record. At the heart of the band is Win Butler and his Haitian wife, Régine Chassange. Adding to the idea of Arcade Fire as a family band, Win’s younger brother Will is a multi-instrumentalist in the band. Phawker got him on the horn to get some fresh perspective on the band. Discussed: being a professional musician studying policy at everything-nowHarvard, fraternal tension in the creative process, the new album Everything Now.

PHAWKER: I was surprised to see that you — well not that surprised — that you studied Policy at Harvard. Can you tell me what made you decide to study Policy in the first place and how what you learned has informed Arcade Fire?

WILL BUTLER Yeah, I actually just graduated this past May. Mostly I went because, for the last ten years, the band has worked with Partners in Health which is based in Boston, but they’re a global health organization. They’ve been in Haiti for 35 years, and their Haitian organization has 9,500 patients, nurses, and doctors. They’re trying to build up the actual state health care system. They work in Rwanda, they work in the Russian Prison system. Humanitarian work. Community building. I was originally thinking I would go to learn skills to be more useful to them. Just because we have been useful to them. We’ve donated a dollar a ticket from all of our shows for the last ten years. Mostly going to partners in health. Some going to their partners. I thought, in my position as a rock and roller with a fancy master’s degree from Harvard, I would be able to talk to Congressional Aides and be like, “Hey guys! What do you think about Paragraph 2C, line 4? Want to have a couple of words? Ya’ know, save 100,000 lives?” I thought it’d be a useful tool in the toolbelt. I also knew it would be an election year. I thought it would be interesting…I didn’t realize how…Hard to think of a term…”

PHAWKER: Upsetting? Cataclysmic?

WILL BUTLER Yeah, how awful it would be. I was also very happy to be in a place that was very formally dedicated to puzzling over what the hell happened and what the hell to do. And to do it with a bunch of really smart, interesting people was really great. And how it relates to the band…Well, until recently, I didn’t think of myself as a musician. I thought of myself as an artist, but I kind of just thought of myself as a human, doing human things. And great, people pay me for it. But now, I’m like, ‘huh, I guess I am a musician. I’m better at music than other things.’ And if you’re a human and you care about where you live and the people around you and far away from you, then you want to figure out how to help them and be of direct service. So I was trying to couple that out. And I think that music is a great service to people and it directly impacts people’s lives.album_funeral_arcade_fire_by_bastianminaj-d8x5knv

PHAWKER: Absolutely. It can be therapeutic. I worked at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents, and there were times that hearing a favorite song would help someone who was having a manic episode find a sense of calm and peace.

WILL BUTLER Yeah, that’s totally amazing. I’m very proud to be a musician, but I’m also like, ‘well, I’ve got other skills, so I should figure out how to use them.’

PHAWKER: So how old were you when Funerals came out. In your early 20s?

WILL BUTLER Yeah, I was a senior in college, so I was 21? When did it come out, 2004?

PHAWKER: Haha, yeah, as far as I know. So that’s a pretty pivotal age, when people are still really in the process of formation and securing a sense of self. And Funerals was received so well so quickly. So, has it been difficult to cultivate and maintain a sense of self having been involved in such an iconic band at such an early age? Have you ever craved a simpler life, or are you more just grateful?

WILL BUTLER I’m insanely grateful. It’s been such a pleasure. To play music for a living. For people to buy our records. It’s been really amazing from the get-go. Our goal was to play for 100 people. And when 100 people came, we were like, ‘oh we made it! Awesome!’ It’s all been a great bonus since then. We’ve never had a radio hit. We were big in certain circles early on, but we were never giant. And unless i’m in the ‘cool’ neighborhood, like the day before the show, I’m so anonymous that I’m hardly recognized by anyone. So, it’s felt like a normal life. But I think it’s been different for Win and Régine, whose relationship is at the center of the band. They’re the singers and everything. I think they have a slightly different relationship to that. But it’s been very easy on my end.

PHAWKER: That segues into another question I wanted to ask. I’m a younger brother myself and I have a decent relationship with my older brother. But I know that we’d never be able to maintain a coverparadise.toprofessional relationship of any sort, much less that of professional musicians. So, I’m wondering about your dynamic with Win. Do you ever get jealous of his having the frontman’s limelight, or do you more feel like you’ve dodged a bullet and you can have the best of both worlds. Part of this big beautiful band, while not having to deal with being recognized?

WILL BUTLER Yeah, 90% I have the best of all worlds. Hahaha. Obviously, though, friction comes up. Any creative endeavour has a lot of friction. Any fraternal endeavor has lots of friction. For the most part, it’s just that I know where he’s coming from. So, even if I really disagree with him or think he’s being totally crazy, I know what he’s getting at, so I know that he’s arguing something in good faith, which I think is partly why our band has lasted for so long. Even when I really disagree with an idea, it’s not like an evil idea.

PHAWKER: Right, it’s sort of like there’s empathy built-in. It’s in your blood. You see where he’s coming from, even if you consciously disagree with it.

WILL BUTLER Right. And I think it works both ways, which I don’t think always happens with brotherly relationships. I think there’s sometimes an assumption of ill will, but, for some reason, we were raised such that we’re able to get along with each other.

PHAWKER: I saw an interview where Win calls your grandfather his hero. So, yesterday I spent about an hour watching videos of him on the pedal steel guitar and others of his amazing performances. I’m wondering if you think that having Alvino in your blood and conscious has allowed for you and Win to get along, which has allowed Arcade Fire to be a successful entity over the years?

WILL BUTLER I would say even further. My grandma was in a group called the King Sisters and she was married to Alvino. So it was literally a family band, where it was the four sisters, who were the singers, and then Alvino had the band. They literally all lived in a mansion in New Jersey together. Like Neon_Bible_(Front_Cover)the whole big band. They’d all live there together and then go on tour. Then, in the 60s, when my mom was a kid, they briefly had a show on ABC, like a variety show, where it was 6 sisters, 2 brothers, Alvino running the orchestra, and 40 cousins doing like a song and dance variety show. So, yeah, there’s definitely like a family band element to it. It just lets you know that it’s possible.

PHAWKER: Right, these stories of successful families bands had already been down. Their arcs had already been realized. Getting through the difficult times with Win must be so much easier, keeping that in mind.

WILL BUTLER Yeah, totally.

PHAWKER: I’ve always been impressed with the storytelling of the band. I’m wondering if, growing up, there were any particular stories that captured you or your brother’s imaginations?

WILL BUTLER Our grandmother on our other side, our dad’s mom, used to read us this book called Little Arlo. Just a little kid and his dog going out on adventures. He always called the dog comrade. Like, “come on comrade, let’s go!” And that idea of a boy and his dog going out in the big, wide world has resonance in lots of other art, and also resonance, I think, in some of our music. Nothing else immediately springs to mind. Well, the old lullabies, the “Skyboat Song,” which is about Prince Charles being buried away from Scotland? It’s got like something to do with Monarchs killing each other, but it’s got a little boy on a boat, being taken away so that the people don’t kill him. Or maybe he’s being taken back, while murderous crowds are waiting on the shore?

PHAWKER: So now, more specifically about the new album, I’m wondering if you and everyone else in the band personally struggled with themes like information overload and managing the presence of instant gratification. Personally, I have to actively manage those things, or they take over. I’m wondering if that’s the same for you?

WILL BUTLER I mean, Win and Régine write the lyrics, but I have a 5-year-old, and my Arcade Fire Reflektorrelation to material culture has changed a lot over the last 5 years. Both in that you see all the garbage in the world and how instantly everyone wants garbage, but also the vast web of vaccines, surgery tools, and everything keeping people alive. These supply chains with antibiotics. There’s this whole system that keeps people alive, while at the same time there’s a garbage pipeline from everywhere to your house. So you become conscious of all that more acutely.

PHAWKER: There’s cognitive dissonance in trying to reconcile the double-edged sworded-ness of all these technological advances.


PHAWKER: So with the way the band approached the promotional campaign for this album — the usb fidget spinners, the spoof premature review, and the dress code for a show — it’s directly lampooning music media and consumer culture. Would you say that Everything Now is Arcade Fire’s most political album to date?

WILL BUTLER To be honest, I have no perspective on how the album feels because I approach all our records with a dual mind. They come from the world that we live in. That’s how we’ve always made art; we plug into the community and the people around us. What emerges is intimately tied to that both in the artistic and political aspects. I think part of the emotion has just been having fun and part of it has that you gotta’ dance to keep from crying a little bit. It’s difficult to tease out the specific aspects of that in my brain. A lot of that was instinctual. It wasn’t plotted out.

PHAWKER: So it’s more emotionally driven and then intellectually explained after the fact?

WILL BUTLER I think so.

PHAWKER: It’s always difficult for me to feel emotionally connected to music when I haven’t heard it live and have only heard recordings. Can you tell me what the songs on Everything Now have felt like, playing them live?

WILL BUTLER It feels really good. I don’t know if it’s just because we’re better musicians, so we’re just playing the songs faster. You know, everything now has been on the radio a little bit, so people know the songs more. But it’s felt more instantly familiar playing these songs than songs in the past, so that’s been exciting.


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Win Tix To See Father John Misty @ The Mann

September 14th, 2017



EXCERPT: Joshua Michael Tillman is largely estranged from his family. He has contact with his parents about once a year, if at all, and it’s been that way since he left home at 18. He just turned 32, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon, if ever. Up until he turned 18, and as far back as he can remember, he chafed under the heavy yoke of evangelical Christianity administered by his parents. “My situation at home was troubled,” he says. “I don’t really want to talk … I just never … I’ve left this out, I’m very careful to leave this out of the narrative of the music thing because it’s like, how much do you want to bring into the public square? But my situation at home was really troubled; it was a very unhappy situation underneath the suburban gleam.”

Most of his schooling was at religious institutions where the histrionics of belief were stressed over basic academics. “I have a really poor education,” he says. “I went to a Pentecostal Messianic Jewish Day School that had 30 kids, K-8. There were two people in my eighth grade class. They believe in the ‘gifts of the spirit’ as they appear in the Book of Acts: speaking in other tongues, speaking languages you don’t know, healing FJM MAGNET COVER ARTpeople, prophecy, all that shit. They are like, that is still happening, everyone can do that, all you have to do is get baptized in fire, which is what they did to me the first day of school. Everyone in the school gathered around me and, like, put hands on me and started praying in their prayer language, which is like—if you’ve seen Jesus Camp, you know what I’m talking about. People are like [makes gibberish sounds], speaking in tongues. And that went on until I made up some gibberish sounds, which is what everyone else was doing. There was a lot of ‘slaying of the spirit,’ with kids praying over other kids, and then they would fall backwards and other kids would catch them, and they’d just be like having a seizure, which probably some of them were, like, having anxiety attacks because it was so intense.

“That never worked on me, and I was told it was because I was possessed by demons and that the demons had to be extracted. So, I’m walking around as, like, a fifth grader, thinking that I am like possessed by demons, and I’m like, ‘What did I do? How did this happen?’ Eventually, that turns into resentment, and for me it was like, ‘Fuck you, I’m full of demons—what the fuck are you talking about?’”

At the end of his eighth grade year, Tillman was cordially invited to never return. He got that a lot as he was growing up. His parents took him to a Christian therapist. “He diagnosed me with seasonal affective disorder and prescribed that I sit in front of a light box and read the bible for an hour every day,” he says.

When Tillman turned 11, he found a constructive way to channel his existentialist angst. “My teachers came to my parents and said, ‘Your son is hyperactive. He won’t stop tapping,’” he says. “I was constantly tapping on my desk and just running around and whatever. They’re like, ‘Maybe you need some extracurricular outlet for all this fucking energy.’ They said, ‘If we buy you a drum set, will you stop tapping at school?’”

Secular pop-culture artifacts were forbidden in the Tillman household. “It really was the McCarthy era in our house,” he says. “I didn’t see any movies that weren’t Christian, and my dad had a sign up by the TV that said … it’s like a King David quote, and it said ‘May my eyes only behold that which is holy and pure,’ or something to that effect.”FJM MAGNET COVER ART

Likewise, non-Christian rock was verboten, which of course had the effect of amplifying its allure. In addition to drums, Tillman began teaching himself to play the guitar, and pecked away at the family piano, but this too was fraught with peril. “We had a piano in our living room, and I would sit at the piano and play a G chord and then a D chord, and then my mom would come tearing around the corner and accuse me of playing ‘Hey Jude,’” he says. Still, he found ways to access the forbidden. At night, he soaked up the latest alternative rock like a sponge, with the proverbial transistor radio turned low and pressed against his ear under the blankets. He befriended schoolmates he didn’t really like and mutely endured their insufferable company while availing himself of their excellent record collections.

To hear Tillman tell it, his father was Ned Flanders with a Pentagon security clearance. He is currently in the business of selling telecomm systems to repressive regimes around the globe, the kind that can be used as an internet killswitch or to pinpoint the location of dissidents for arrest and god knows what else. “He would meet with, like, generals and shit,” says Tillman. “(Tracing the location of dissidents) isn’t what it’s intended for, but it does get used for that. So, you get a lot of bang for your buck when you put in a telecommunications sytem for the people of your country all the while … just to be clear, that’s just my synopsis of it. I’m sure he would not want me to reveal that, and I’m sure it’s more complex than I am making it seem.”

His mother was the daughter of missionaries, and she spent most of her formative years in Ethiopia. She was a stay-at-home mom given to wild mood swings and sometimes scary outbursts. “This was like a severely manic parent who can’t be reasoned with, an unbelievably angry person,” he says. “And the religion thing was like putting all that anger on steroids. She was prone to really irrational outbursts—pushing and provoking me, throwing juice in my face. Having said that, she is like a really fascinating person to me the further I get from it. I very much identify with her, the pain and the despair; a lot of it I chalk up to despair on her part.”

Despair from what?
Not being loved.

Was your father like that?
No, my father had kind of a different take on despair—he really wanted all of this stuff to just not be the case.

What stuff?
The family stuff, travelling around the world and then coming home to the nightmare.FJM MAGNET COVER ART

He was kind of like a passive guy?
Yeah, but I remember him intervening one time, and it was like boom! Picking [my mom] up and throwing her in another room. Talk about a primal scene, like I am being defended from my mom. Crazy.

How old were you when that happened?
That was the morning of my birthday in fifth grade, so I must have been turning … how old do people turn in fifth grade? Like 10 or 11 or something? Yeah. These things always had this really intense trajectory where it was, like, crazy anger with all the trimmings, and then intense, like, ‘I love you, I’m sorry!’ This constant kind of crazy. By the time I was in high school, I had fully emotionally disconnected from them.

In his mid-teens, Tillman started planning his escape. When he turned 18 and was legally emancipated, he would open the front door, walk the one mile to the train station and never look back. But upon graduating high school, his parents strong-armed him into enrolling at the Christian Nyack College in upstate New York.

“That was when I just really lost it,” he says. “I didn’t go to class, I slept all day and walked the streets chain-smoking all night and just didn’t see anyone. It culminated in this sort of sleep-deprived, two-day crying thing where I couldn’t stop crying and I was just thinking, like, ‘I have to get the fuck out of here. All I want to do is play music. I will move to Seattle and go fail at that.’”

And so he did. MORE


Father John Misty plays the Skyline Stage at the Mann Center tomorrow night (Friday September 15th). We have a couple pairs of tickets to give away to some lucky duck Phawker readers. To qualify to win, all you have to do is follow us on Twitter — @PHAWKER — and send us an email at telling us you just did (or already do). Put the magic words PLAY MISTY FOR ME in the subject line. Include your full name and a mobile number for verification. Good luck and godspeed!


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CINEMA: Get Money

September 13th, 2017


Directed by Steven Soderberg, USA, 118 minutes)

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC Everyone loves a good heist movie. Whether the planning is minutely perfect or rather haphazard, we dole out mass amounts of money to see them go down on screen. Taking other people’s money is an American pastime, and heroes from Robin Hood to Danny Ocean have provided smash hits for box-offices almost everywhere. Sometimes we love our righteous liberators of wealth, but sometimes we just like to see a clever hero tweak the nose of someone richer. Logan Lucky brings a hilarious, fresh take to take to the classic genre by interrogating the dynamic between capital and labor in 21st Century America.

Most of the time in America, the film tells us, people living on the poverty line and below face an almost insurmountable battle to become financially stable. Our hero Jimmy (Channing Tatum) loses his job because of bureaucratic machinations. His brother Clyde (Adam Driver) has indignities heaped on him by rich asshole Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane doing a ridiculous British accent) for his war wound; when Jimmy tries to intervene, his beating only reinforces the metaphor of the rich beating down the poor. They are trapped in the perpetual Catch-22 of poverty, where they do not have enough money to have enough money to escape. Their labor brings no long-term security, either in money or respect. The only way to guarantee security, then, is an illegal injection of capital. No method within the law can help them or their community.

To pull off their heist, our heroes assemble a grassroots movement that uses some of the poorest individuals to hoodwink the rich. They need people in prison to help them smuggle out convicted criminal Joe Bang (Daniel Craig doing a very convincing American accent). They rely on friends at the speedway to distract the security team. They need a woman inside the vault to unwittingly help them. Each of these people is rewarded for their part, work that society traditionally considers unpaid labor. Our heroes are able to give them the payout that society denies them. Though the Bang brothers insist that stealing from NASCAR is like ‘stealing from America,’ the redistribution of wealth to the lower echelons of society is something that would never occur to either NASCAR or America as necessary.

Logan Lucky is about the impossibility of moving from poverty to security within the bounds of the law. None of the characters dream of being rich, like the Oceans boys. They dream of seeing their family regularly, of being happy, of finding stable work and being able to hold onto small but precious dreams. If they stayed in their ways, working for poor wages or slaving in prison, nothing would change. The system would win. Only by taking action that society censures of can they gain the modicum of capital needed to escape total poverty.

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BEING THERE: Mount Eerie @ Union Transfer

September 11th, 2017

Mt. Eerie-7630 copy


I expected to feel naked and vulnerable at the Mount Eerie show, but I never suspected that, hours before the show, I would literally be naked in Center City Philadelphia, and it wouldn’t feel like a nightmare at all. The weather was too beautiful to ignore on Saturday, so my cousin and I decided to go on a bike ride. He’s a seasoned city biker, so I ate his dust as I have in the past, but when I finally caught up to him on Kelly Drive by the art museum I didn’t even get the chance to ring him out because there was some naked dude on a bike in the middle of the road. “Naked bike ride! We’re 5,000 strong. Join us!”

We took our shirts off and joined the brigade biking up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, down 19th street around Rittenhouse Square, east down South Street clogging city streets with our naked, cycling jubilance. My cousin, Ben, and I talked about how glad we were to have joined. How we would have regretted it if we’d passed it up. About five minutes later, he pulled off to the sidewalk and put on his birthday suit. We rode five minutes more, turning onto Arch street. He told me that he just had to do it because he knew he’d end up regretting it if he hadn’t. I pulled off on the sidewalk and took off my shorts.

Everyone’s had that oh shit I’m naked in a time/place where I really should not be naked stress dream, right? Well, if you had described this situation to me, it’s possible that I would have thought it sounded like that, but FUCK, was it liberating. In a world that can be so dark and heavy, the naked bike ride gifted its participants and observers with levity and the often obfuscated truth of nudity. We made it to the art museum, where Ben and I put our clothes back on, and I headed over to Union Transfer where I expected to see Phil Elverum present the grim nudity of loss.

A somber, seated affair, on Saturday night, Elverum played through Mount Eerie’s latest A Crow Looked At Me, a journal of an album, describing his attempt to survive through the grief of losing his wife Genviéve to pancreatic cancer one year ago. While so much music is diversionary and escapist, turning concerts into parties, this show couldn’t have been more confrontational of that inescapable dread of our mortality. Despite its macabre subject, the show was sold out, filled with members of Elverum’s devoted following from his years releasing music as The Microphones and Mount Eerie. I felt at one with the crowd, who was there to support an artist through his pain. Unlike the bike ride, everyone at the show was wearing clothes, but throughout the show, we would all be stripped naked from our necessary but insidious delusions that life is not trauma; that we won’t lose our loved ones; that we will live forever.

Elverum stood center stage alone, in front of a black backdrop. “Harsh,” he commented, looking at the void, before beginning the set with the devastating, paradoxical first line, “Death is real//Someone’s there and then they’re not//And it’s not for singing about.” But he sang, and at the end of songs, pain and empathy resonated throughout the venue, before hesitant applause broke out. “It’s okay to clap. I know, this is all fucked up, but I’ll tell you when to clap.” I started crying during the second song, thinking about those I’ve lost, those I will lose, and feeling Elverum’s pain through the vibrations of his music.

It’s difficult to communicate this without sounding sensational, but Elverum’s performance was the most authentic I have ever seen. It says it all, right there in that first line of the album, Elverum doesn’t want to sing these songs, he has to because they’re the only way he can survive the loss of his love. He was overcome with shudders throughout his set, often needing to look away from the audience, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and the terrible weight of his loss.

No, the show was not fun. But it was spiritual, and real, and necessary to help a genuine artist survive the absurdity of his life after the loss of his wife. Elverum proved that truth, even when it is terrible, is beautiful. I left the show with a renewed sense of appreciation and vulnerability. So lean into living. So get over the petty shit that gets between you and your loved ones. So when you’re on a bike ride and run into 5,000 naked cyclists asking you to join them, take off your clothes and join them. Because, fuck. Death is real. – DILLON ALEXANDER

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NAKED CITY: Portraits Of The Naked Bike Riders

September 11th, 2017

Photos by JOSH PELTA-HELLER/Body painting by Matt Deifer/Bodypaint.Me


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NEVER FORGET: Never Forgive

September 11th, 2017

Trump Lies About 9_11 Donation

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Via BuzzFeed