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BEING THERE: MONO @ Union Transfer

May 22nd, 2019

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Delicate placidity often led to sudden uproar when the streams of dark-wave singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and the ethereal post-rock of Japan’s MONO were crossed at Union Transfer Sunday night. Rundle and her touring band, comprised of Wovenhand’s Dylan Nadon on drums and Jay Jayle members Evan Patterson on guitar and Todd Cook on bass, kicked off their set with “Races” from 2018’s On Dark Horses. Rich with reverb, Rundle’s guitar sounds hung in the air as she leaned toward the microphone, her voice gentle and softening the music beneath. Before transitioning into “Light Song,” Rundle produced a bow and dragged it across her guitar strings as the group wrapped the audience in an interlude of pure, droning dissonance. A deep bass groove followed, joined by isolated and ghostly guitar sounds that eventually morphed into an adrenalized melody. Rundle thanked MONO for bringing her band on the tour and then closed out her set with a scorching rendition of “Heaven” from 2016’s Marked for Death.

MONO is touring in support of their latest release, Nowhere Now Here, and celebrating its 20th anniversary. Sunday night, guitarists Takaakira “Taka” Goto and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu sat in chairs on opposite ends of the stage while bassist Tamaki Kunishi took center stage a little to the left of drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla. As red lights shone down upon them, MONO began their set with the blissful layering of tonal swells that introduce “God Bless,” the first track from Nowhere Now Here. MONO’s set was a veritable blanket of flowing sound, often verging on cacophony at points, but never abrasive or alienating. Even at their most turbulent, the group manage to weave some degree of beauty into their arrangements, be it monoliths of plucked melody (“Sorrow”) or an unexpected surge of raw sound (“Meet Us Where The Night Ends”) that was absolutely breathtaking. As an exit strategy, MONO treated us to a powerful rendition of “COM(?)” from 2002’s One More Step And You Die. As the minutes elapsed, the song structure began to crumble. As band members began to depart the stage one by one, leaving behind a maelstrom of sonic debris as Goto, the last of the group to leave, leaned his guitar against the amplifier setting off a squall of feedback before waving to the crowd as he headed offstage. A tech emerged, flipped a switch, and the venue went dark and silent. – SEAN CALDWELL

Setlists after the jump…
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INCOMING: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

May 21st, 2019

VARIETY: Hippie Hollywood is in full swing in the official trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Sony released the new footage ahead of the movie’s highly anticipated premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino’s ninth feature stars Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie. The premise of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has been kept mostly under wraps, though Tarantino says it’s set in the late 1960s against the backdrop of the Manson family murders. DiCaprio plays washed-up TV star Rick Dalton, while Pitt portrays his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth. The two are struggling to find their place as they attempt to navigate the final days of Hollywood’s golden age. “It’s official, old buddy,” Rick admits to Cliff after an on-set meltdown. “I’m a has-been.” Things take a darker turn when the down-on-his-luck actor realizes his new neighbor on Cielo Drive is Sharon Tate (Robbie), the up-and-coming actress and wife of director Roman Polanski. The young star is seen buying a ticket to “The Wrecking Crew,” her movie that was released shortly before she was murdered at the hands of Manson’s followers at her home in 1969. Spahn Movie Ranch, the residence of the Manson cult ahead of their killing spree, also makes an appearance. At one point, Margaret Qualley’s character Kitty Kat tells Rick, “Charlie’s going to dig you.” MORE

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

May 21st, 2019

[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

FRESH AIR: Cult filmmaker and self-described “filth elder” John Waters, 73, has plenty of ideas about what older people should and shouldn’t do. The worst thing, he says, is to get a convertible: “Because believe me, old age and windswept do not go hand in hand. It’s really a bad look! You can’t be trying too hard to rebel [when] you’re older.” Waters knows about being a rebel. He became famous for his 1972 film Pink Flamingos, in which the characters compete for the title of filthiest person alive. That film became a midnight movie classic and led to other films, including Female Trouble and Hairspray. Along the way, Waters became accepted in the mainstream more than he ever expected. Hairspray was adapted into a Broadway musical, and he has also given a commencement address and had museum retrospectives. Though he jokes that he can’t be anarchist — “I have three homes!” — he adds, “There’s plenty of rules that you can still break. … I think you have to use humor and you can’t be so angry about it.” Waters looks back on his unlikely path to respectability in his new book, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder. MORE

RELATED: Q&A With John Waters, Lord Of The Trash DISCUSSED: LSD, outsider porn, fuzzy sweaters, uptight gay bars, Charlie Manson, Johnny Mathis, censorship, why the Chipmunks are far superior to the Beatles, and why he hasn’t made a film in years.

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FUNNY: Will Ferrell Eating Disgusting Things

May 21st, 2019

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WORTH REPEATING: This Is How Democracy Dies

May 19th, 2019

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THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: For the American right, Donald Trump’s inauguration as the forty-fifth president of the United States was a moment of political rebirth. Elements of American conservatism had long fostered a reactionary counterculture, which defined the push for civil rights as oppression, resisted the equality of women and the transgression of conventional heterosexual norms, pilloried the hegemony of the liberal media, and was suspicious of globalism and its corporate liberal institutions, including the UN and the WTO. Already in the 1950s this reactionary politics had secured a niche on the right wing of the GOP. It was reenergized by the Goldwater campaign and the conservative backlash against the social revolutions of the 1960s. Reintegrated into the mainstream GOP by Ronald Reagan, it then flared into the open in the ferocious hostility to the Clintons in the 1990s. With Trump it finally claimed center stage. For the right, the explosion of “truth-speaking” by Trump and his cohorts, the unabashed sexism and xenophobia of his administration, and its robust nationalism on issues of trade and security need no justification. His election represents a long-awaited overturning of the consensus of liberalism.

Centrist Democrats also view the administration as historic, but for them it represents the betrayal of all that is best about America. The election of a man like Trump in the second decade of the twenty-first century violated the cherished liberal narrative of progress from the Civil War to the New Deal to the civil rights movement to the election of Barack Obama. This was a self-conception of the United States carefully cultivated by cold war liberalism and seemingly fulfilled in the Clinton era of American power. The election of a man as openly sexist and xenophobic as Donald Trump was a shock so fundamental that it evoked comparisons with the great crises of democracy in the 1930s. Parallels are readily drawn between Mitch McConnell and Paul von Hindenburg. There is talk of a Reichstag fire moment, in which an act of terrorism might be exploited to declare emergency rule. Such references to the interwar period are both rousing and reassuring. They remind us of good battles decisively won. Not for nothing does the anti-Trump movement refer to itself as “the resistance,” recalling memories of midcentury antifascist heroics.

But though this rhetoric is based in history, what is surprising is how recently it developed. Only a few years ago the mood in the Democratic Party establishment was not one of defiant resistance. What prevailed was bland futuristic complacency. The evolving diversity of America and the manifest political preferences of the Californian digital oligarchs would guarantee the Democrats’ grip on power. Trump’s supporters were not just deplorable, they were doomed to extinction. On both sides of the Atlantic, it was the job of centrist intellectuals to swat down critical talk from the left about the rule of undemocratic technocrats and the hollowing out of democracy.

America’s revived left wing, mobilized by Bernie Sanders and drawn to organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), does not doubt the disastrous consequences of the Trump presidency. Yet for the left he represents not a historic rupture but a continuity. As Jed Purdy put it in Dissent last summer, Trump is “not an anomalous departure but rather a return to the baseline—to the historical norm.”1 Trump exposes starkly what the civility of Obama and his administration obscured—the subordination of American democracy to capitalism, patriarchy, and the iniquitous racial order descended from slavery. MORE

RELATED: The Republican Party’s rejection of liberal democracy will not end when Trump leaves office. A recent Gallup poll found that 91% of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance in office. Trump is not an anomaly within the GOP, he is the central figure that defines Republican identity. The Republican Party will not suddenly embrace liberal democracy simply because Donald Trump is no longer in office.
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The toughest question facing all Democrats in 2020 isn’t who they nominate to take on Trump. The toughest question is how the eventual nominee will deal with an illiberal opposition party that will certainly control the Supreme Court in 2021, that will most likely control the Senate, that will almost definitely control enough Senate seats to filibuster any legislation under that body’s current rules — and that will use whatever power it has to sabotage Democrats and to sabotage democracy. MORE

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FEARS OF A CLOWN: Q&A W/ Bobcat Goldthwait

May 17th, 2019

AOL Build Presents: "Call Me Lucky"

 

meAVATAR2BY JONATHAN VALANIA Born in Boston in 1962, Robert Francis ‘Bobcat’ Goldthwait has been trafficking in frantic, anarchic punk rock comedy and, later, thoughtful subversion for more than four decades. His highly-combustible early stand-up persona — shouty, sweaty and stammering — was akin to a scared Chihuahua on bath salts: Hulk-smashing, fire-starting and definitely not housebroken. He was banned from The Tonight Show for lighting the set on fire.

After his early success in stand-up, acting and extensive voiceover work — including a recurring role as more or less himself in the Police Academy franchise — he transitioned to the other side of the camera, writing, directing and starring in 1991’s Shakes The Clown, a tar-black comedy that jammed econo about a depressed, alcoholic clown who works children’s birthday parties for a living, the high point of which is a rumble between a gang of clowns and a rival gang of mimes (more on this below). It remains a landmark of boozy gallows humor that was among the first films to pull back the curtain on the notion that clowns, and by extension comedians, are often dark and desperate characters, crying-on-inside, needy and self-medicating. The Boston Globe’s Betsy Sherman called it “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.”

His 2012 film God Bless America is about an unlikely duo that go on a cross-country killing spree wasting assholes, bigots and sociopaths of every The Show With Two Headsstripe that foretold the grimly darkening onset of Trump’s America. His 2015 documentary Call Me Lucky told the true story of Barry Crimmins, a veteran Boston comic/childhood sexual abuse survivor turned online pedophile hunter. He is currently touring The Show With Two Heads with fellow stand-up comedian Dana Gould which stops at Underground Arts on Sunday. Last week, I got Bobcat on the horn.

DISCUSSED: Impeachment, Shakes The Clown, Reverend Horton Heat, time machines, Nirvana’s Bleach, pedophiles, Little Murders, AOL, prophecy, the Whiskey a Go Go, Kurt Cobain, the fall of the New Rome, Robin Williams, nude rappelling, Judd Apatow, RuPaul and The Psyclone Rangers.

PHAWKER: Howdy! How are ya?

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Okey doke!

PHAWKER: So let’s just jump right into it. You probably have no recollection of this fact, but you and I have a history. We met in 1993 backstage at the Whiskey a Go Go, where my old band The Psyclone Rangers were opening for Reverend Horton Heat. And you came up to me after our set and offered to direct a music video for us.

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Wow!

PHAWKER: Don’t know why it didn’t happen, or why we didn’t take you up on that — probably because we just assumed you were the crazy shouty, high-pitched-voice guy of your stand-up act back then, but then you turned out to be a deep cat and an in-demand director — but it was one of the band’s many, many regrets.

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: [laughs] Let’s go back and do it!

PHAWKER: We could go back in a time machine and get it done. So I want to start out asking you a few things about the distant past and then I want to talk about the current moment we are in since you have proven to be such an insightful and incisive social critic of American life.

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Well, thank you.

PHAWKER: First, I want to just say for the record that the line from Shakes The Clown — where the clowns get into a rumble with the mimes, “you silent motherfucker!” — remains among the top ten funniest lines in the history of Hollywood comedies.

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: I can’t even take credit for it. That was an Adam Sandler ad lib.

PHAWKER: Oh really?

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, most of that movie was ad libbed, so I can’t really take much credit for the dialogue.

PHAWKER: I was reading up on you and I didn’t realize that you had been hand-picked by Kurt Cobain to open up the west coast dates of the In Utero tour, which proved to be Nirvana’s last shakes_the_clownhurrah…

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: I was in Ann Arbor and Kurt wanted to interview because he liked my stand-up so he interviewed me on a college radio station. He gave me a copy of Bleach, and my friend Tony and I were listening to it in the rental car, and we were saying how this is really good and rock n’ roll kind of sucks these days because we’ll probably never hear from them again — and then a year and a half later I was opening shows for them.

PHAWKER: I read that one night in Oakland that you were lowered down onto the stage on a rope stark naked while Kurt counted down or something…do tell?
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CINEMA: Point Break

May 17th, 2019

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 — PARABELLUM (Dir. by Chad Stahelski, 130 minutes)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the third and surprisingly not final installment of the action franchise directed by Keanu Reeves’ Matrix stunt-double-turned-action-maestro Chad Stahelski. The film once again stars Reeves as the namesake Russian hitman who was first sent down this dark path of vengeance when a group of thugs not only stole his car, but killed the puppy that was gifted to him by his recently departed wife. About a week has passed in Wick’s world since his rampage began so far resulting in roughly 205 on-screen deaths. The hard thing about making a sequel to a film like this is not only the requisite BIGGER, BETTER, MORE, but where do you go from here? While John Wick 3 exceeds all criteria in a sequel that feels right up there with the original, its level of absolute carnage and excess makes it a hard/impossible act to follow.

Parabellum, taken from the famous 4th century Roman military quote “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” which means, “If you want peace, prepare for war” is very poignant given the fallout of John Wick 2. After killing a member of the High Table (which rules over this world of assassins) on the consecrated Continental grounds (No business is ever to take place on Continental grounds), Wick has now forfeited his life and is “excommunicado” from this world. If that wasn’t enough there is a 14 million dollar bounty on his head that has the unstoppable hitman also known as the “Baba Yaga” (translated in the film as Russian for “Boogeyman) on the run from everyone who is out to try to kill him — remember, the operative word here is “try.” Wick isn’t the only one in trouble here when the High Table sends an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to hold accountable those that aided Wick in the previous film’s killing of one of their members. What this ends up being of course is bad news for anyone that crosses John Wick or any of his friends, as those that thought Chapter 2 was a master class in action cinema now have to raise the bar again two or three more notches.

Much like the first two films, there are three primary strengths to a John Wick film that this film is careful not to stray too far from. Firstly, it continues to cast great actors, especially strong women (Angelica Houston, Halle Berry) in strong roles which translate into interesting characters. Secondly, the world building here that is almost unheard of in action films, and finally the action set pieces that are often times breathtaking for both their choreography and horrific over the top violence. I watched this film with a packed house of action junkies like myself and it was audible to anyone listening that we were bearing witness to some of the most face-melting action committed to celluloid in recent memory. Its Wick’s ability to improvise in almost any given circumstance that delivers some of the film’s most gnarly kills, since any and everything is a weapon to John Wick, from library books to horses.

Like Mad Max: Fury Road, which was essentially a two-hour car chase, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an adrenaline soaked two-hour fight sequence that somehow manages to top what we witnessed in Chapter 2. It’s a film that while light on story and character development still delivers a few more parcels of backstory on Wick himself to let us get a little closer to what birthed this unstoppable force. These details also work to further the world here that will no doubt live on in some other form once Wick’s story comes to its final conclusion. Parabellum is a flawlessly paced ass-kicking tour de force that will no doubt leave fans both exhilarated, exhausted and wondering what these guys could possibly do to keep this momentum going? I mean short of having Reeves showing up and personally punching everyone in the face who buys a ticket one by one. I mean we can wish, right?

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TRIBUTE: Let Us Now Praise Joe Henry

May 16th, 2019

Joe_Henry_by_Charles_Burns

Illustration by CHARLES BURNS via THE BELIEVER

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following appreciation was written by the author in response to the sad news that acclaimed singer/songwriter and three-time Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry is battling Stage 4 prostate cancer.

Houlon2BY JON HOULON Got word yesterday that Joe Henry has begun a different sort of journey.  So I wanted to send a love letter, get well card, fan’s note, or whatever you want to call it as a form of support.

As bad as the 80s were, they still gave us Nebraska, Sign of the Times, Infidels, Let It Be, King of America, Sandinista and a few other records that somehow counter-balanced U2, REM, Spandau Ballet, Flock of Seagulls and a whole lot of dreck in general.

The ’90s seemed an end to me:  Seattle?  Please, no!  I couldn’t see a light at the end of the grunge tunnel.  And then around ’93 or so I picked up a cut-out cassette of Shuffletown by Joe Henry at Amoeba Records in LA.  At the time, it seemed like a way forward and Joe, who I have followed very closely over years, became a continual source of inspiration.

Sometimes his accomplishments as a producer (Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello, and Allen Toussaint among others of equally profound stature) overshadow his recorded work.  But make no mistake:  Joe Henry is an incredible songwriter, musician, and singer with a body of work that I would compare to that of anyone who emerged in the 90s (or really to any one at all).   There are few artists who have their own jurisdiction in terms of sound and vision – Joe Henry is one of ‘em.

I drove up to Maxwell’s in Hoboken once to see Joe.  I found him standing at the jukebox and went up beside him.  “Have you heard of this guy Joe Henry?” I asked.  He looked at me like I was crazy (I was and am), chuckled, and said, “No, is he any good?”  “I like his old stuff better than his new stuff,” I replied.  He offered to buy me a drink and tolerated my fanboy nonsense for a little while.

So, Joe, I’m sending 10 prayers your way.  After all the prayers you’ve sent me and many others over the years in the form of your incredible catalogue, it’s the least I can do – send ‘em, back.  I’ll start with two songs each from the first five records (Talk of Heaven and Murders of Crow don’t count, right?) and, if there is any demand, maybe I’ll write up ten from the next five.


 
1.”Spent it All” (audio n/a)  Shuffletown sounds, to these ears, like a shadow version of Astral Weeks.  It’s got the same light touch but deep deep waters at its core.  I picked it up because I saw that T-Bone Burnett produced it.  Turns out that Joe was his intern in the ’80s.  Running errands.  Learning.  “I’d rather be done than to have to be stronger.”  I doubt it!  I once called out for this song at the World Café Live.  Joe said he loved this song but would have to practice it in order to play it and would get to it next time.  I’m holdin’ you to that, maestro!
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TRAILER: David Crosby Will Not Go Quietly

May 15th, 2019

ROLLING STONE: David Crosby reflects on drug addiction, personal tragedy and conflicts with former bandmates in the new trailer for David Crosby: Remember My Name. The Cameron Crowe-produced documentary — which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival — will open in New York and L.A. on July 19th. The clip opens with an interviewer asking the rock legend, “Do you ever wonder why you are still alive?” Without even a moment’s pause, he fires back, “I don’t know, man. No idea.” The 76-year-old songwriter proclaims that, despite his three heart-attacks and eight heart stents, he isn’t planning to slow down. “The last few years, I’ve made four solo albums,” he says. “I’m going for five.” From there, the teaser jumps back to the darkness that shrouded his early career — from the tragic death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton to crippling substance abuse. “There’s just this emptiness,” he says of Hinton’s death. “It’s like a rip in the fabric. A friend of mine gave me a shot of heroin. Feels great, only the first time. After that, you’re just trying to catch it. And you never get back there, ever.” MORE

DAVID CROSBY HEADLINES THE 2019 PHILADELPHIA FOLK FESTIVAL AUG. 15-18TH

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

May 15th, 2019

Howard Stern REVISED

Illustration by DREW FRIEDMAN

FRESH AIR: Looking back on his early career, Howard Stern remembers being “petrified” that he wasn’t going to be able to make a living. “All the sexual antics, the religious antics, the race antics — everything that I talked about, every outrageous thing that I did — was to entertain my audience and grow my audience,” he says. “Whether you liked it or not, or the person down the street liked it or not — I didn’t care as long as I kept growing that audience.”

Stern ultimately grew an audience of millions over a four-decade career, first on terrestrial radio and now on satellite radio. At 65, Stern says he’s not the raunchy shock jock he once was. “If I hadn’t grown and evolved and changed … I don’t know that I could still be on the radio,” he admits. Stern’s new book, Howard Stern Comes Again, is a collection of some of his most memorable interviews with celebrity guests, including Madonna, Mike Tyson, Jerry Seinfeld, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.

With two years left in his contract at SiriusXM, Stern says he’s not sure what’s next for him. “I’m kind of afraid of retirement,” he says. “It’s like on any given day I don’t know — and this disturbs me that I don’t know myself well enough. … I don’t really know what it is I want, and what I want to do.” For now, Stern is the happiest he’s ever been in radio: “I think where I’m at now is the perfect place,” he says. MORE

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EXCERPT: Requiem For A Tow Truck Drivin’ Man

May 14th, 2019

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Tow Truck King Lew Blum photographed by GENE SMIRNOV

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: One day, Lew Blum calls and says he wants me to ride along with Ray, his best tow-truck driver, to get a taste of what it’s like out there. This sounds like a capital idea to me — I’m picturing a scene out of Repo Man where we’re driving around all day snorting bathtub speed and blasting Black Flag while looking for aliens and rogue cars. Sadly, none of those things come to pass.

Bright and early one morning in late February, I show up at Lew Blum Towing HQ on North 40th in West Philly. When you walk in the front door to get your car back, you enter a dungeon-esque anteroom where the floor, walls and ceiling are all covered in reinforced steel diamond-plate. There’s a bulletproof service window that’s entirely blacked out except for a mail-slot-shaped peephole. It’s like walking into a secret society, or a snuff film. These structural impediments to direct human contact between the towee and the tower are intended to protect Blum’s employees from harm. Turns out, right or wrong — and nobody ever admits to being wrong — people get really, really mad when you take their cars and make them pay you $200 to get them back. There are often threats of violence, curses and imprecations. One time, a woman registered her extreme displeasure by urinating in the corner. Another time, an elderly man beat his cane to splinters swinging it like a baseball bat over and over against the blackened service window.

Two disembodied eyes appear in the peephole and want to know what I want. When I explain that I’m here to ride with Ray, the eyes tell me to wait a sec while he locks up two bluenose pit bulls, Marco and Princess. The door opens, and a young, dreadlocked man beckons me in. His name is Julian. He’s 27. He’s lived his whole life in West Philly. Before he started working for Lew Blum, he worked at the airport. “Believe me, this is 10 times better than working at the airport,” he says. The office is spartan in extremis, just the dingy light of a naked lightbulb illuminating an old chair crushed into submission by the dungaree-muffled thud of a million asses taking a load off and a matching desk that also looks ready to give up. Julian’s been monitoring the impending arrival of Bryce Harper. “He’s the LeBron James of baseball — no question about it,” Julian says, standing up and offering me the only chair in the room while we wait for Ray to show up for his shift.

Ray Sierra is, I think we can all agree, a perfect name for a Tow-Truck-Drivin’ Man. Ray is a sweet-natured, 50-something half Italian/half Puerto Rican guy who started out in retail before transitioning into towing when his knees started to go. He lives in Levittown — “Takes me an hour each way with traffic” he says — with his wife. Somehow, they’re putting two sons through Kutztown on a tow-truck-drivin’ man’s salary. Ray’s father was a Philly cop turned bounty hunter. Every week or so, a man would show up at the front door and drop off a yellow envelope filled with mugshots of bail-jumpers, and Dad would disappear for a few days or a few weeks. If you squint, you can almost see the Venn diagram where towing illegal parkers intersects with hunting fugitives from the law.

Ordinarily, Ray doesn’t go out until there’s a call from a lot owner to tow an illegal parker. When no calls materialize, we pile into a shiny cherry-red Ford 450 wrecker, load up on coffee at the nearest Dunkin’, and go looking for trouble. “At any given point in time, 80 percent of the cars in private lots are illegally parked,” Ray assures me. “It’s invisible to most people, but I drive around all day, I can see it.

“You see, nobody is afraid of getting towed because they know the cops don’t show up for hours, if at all,” he continues.

For the next four hours, we drive around looking for action. We hit a couple Rite Aids, the lot at Wing Phat off Washington, and the lot next to Aircon Filter near Edgar Allan Poe’s house — and alas, there’s no action to be found. To pass the time, I ask Ray to tell me some Tow-Truck-Drivin’ Man war stories. He doesn’t disappoint.

“We run into some hairy situations. People think that parking-lot enforcement is just a regular tow job,” he tells me. “We put our lives on the line. We run into some hairy situations. I mean hairy.”

He’s not kidding. One time, he cut a guy parked illegally in a Wells Fargo lot a break and lowered his car off the hook; the guy followed him for seven blocks before pulling up next to him near the Home Depot on Roosevelt, rolling down his window, pointing a 40mm at him, and pulling the trigger twice. Ray says one bullet went through the passenger-side door, through the seats, and nearly out the driver-side door, narrowly missing his legs. The second shot whizzed past the back of his head.

A couple months ago, at a different bank parking lot, a guy snuck up behind Ray, pulled his hood over his head, and put him in a headlock, all the while working the lever to lower his car. Ray throat-punched him, and they wrestled for a while until the cops showed up.

Then there was the time two summers ago that he was towing a black Toyota Camry “with very tinted windows” from a lot in the projects around 13th and Girard. “Five young men walk up to me — very young, like 15 to 18,” says Ray. “All five pull up their shirts to show me the 9mm [pistols] tucked into their waistband. They were like, ‘Let it go.’ I’m shaking my head: not gonna happen. And then two of them pull out their guns and smack back the chamber: ‘Don’t make us ask you again.’ We just stared at each other, and finally I just decided it wasn’t worth it.”

Plus, his wife would have killed him if he got shot. Unlike Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man, Ray doesn’t pack heat. “It would just escalate the situation,” he says. “Safety is priority one. If there’s two guns, one of them is going to go off sooner or later.” MORE

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INCOMING: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

May 13th, 2019

Tuscaloosa_Cover- FINAL_

 

Neil Young will release TUSCALOOSA, from his ongoing live archival series, on June 7th. The previously unreleased, 11-track recording features Neil Young & Stray Gators recorded live at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa on February 5, 1973. The album can be pre-ordered now and will be available as a double album over 3-sides with etched artwork on side 4, as well as a single disc CD and on high resolution digital audio via NYA. During 1971 – 1973, between solo shows and dates with Crazy Horse, Young would switch up his sound to suit the material he would focus on when touring with Stray Gators. Comprised of Tim Drummond (bass), Kenny Buttrey (drums), Jack Nitzsche (piano) and Ben Keith (steel guitar) this lineup, most notably, would record Harvest and Times Fades Away with Young. Tuscaloosa features live versions of songs from Young’s self-titled 1969 debut (“Here We Are In The Years”) plus classic songs from his two most commercially successful albums of his early career, After The Goldrush (1970) and Harvest (1972). The album also contains a stunning version of the title track from the live album Time Fades Away that would not surface until later in 1973, as well as songs from the seminal classic Tonight’s The Night that would eventually be released in 1975. TUSCALOOSA is essentially a live greatest hits package with a stellar set comprised of some of Young’s best-loved classic songs.

Tuscaloosa Track listing after the jump…
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MUST SEE TV: ‘Safety Glasses Off, Motherf*ckers!’

May 13th, 2019

PREVIOUSLY: On Friday April 21st, 2017 Bill Nye — bow-tied science communicator, advocate for reason and critical thinking skills, wouldbe astronaut, bane of creationists and climate science denialists, not to mention superstitious kooks and cranks of every ideological stripe — returned to the small screen with Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves The World. To mark the auspicious return of reason and fact to American airwaves, we present this encore edition of our 2014 interview with Dr. Nye. DISCUSSED: Why he believes in evolution and you should too, Carl Sagan, marijuana, why he wouldn’t sign up for the one-way trip to colonize Mars, why better batteries and sea water de-salinization technology are crucial to the survival of the human race, the moral cowardice of climate science denialism, the societal dangers of literal interpreters of the Bible, whether or not UFOs have been visiting Earth and probing the rectums of rednecks, why GMOs make him nervous, and why he is the U.S. patent holder for the ballet slipper.MORE

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