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N.Y. TIMES: Smash The Prison Indstrial Complex

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

 

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

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Photos by PETE TROSHAK

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

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

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

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

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BEING THERE: Nick Cave @ The Mann

Monday, July 28th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 28th, 2014

 

FRESH AIR

Many fans know George Takei from his role as Mr. Sulu on the 1960s show Star Trek. But in the past decade, he has drawn followers who admire him because of who he is — not just who he has played. Now, the new documentary may interest more people in Takei’s life. Takei’s personal story offers insights into a couple of key chapters of American political and cultural history. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Takei and his family were among the 127,000 Americans of Japanese descent forced into internment camps. He was 5 years old. “We were first taken to the horse stables of San Anita racetrack because the camps weren’t built yet and we were housed there … narrow, smelly, still was pungent with the smell of horse manure. And we were housed there for about three months while the camps were being built,” Takei tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “And then [we were] put on railroad cars with armed guards at both ends of each car and transported two-thirds of the way across the country to the swamps of southeastern Arkansas. There [was] barbed wire fences there — tall sentry towers with machine guns pointed at us.”

“I desperately and passionately wanted a career as an actor, so I chose to be in the closet. I lived a double life. And that means you always have your guard up. As an adult, Takei became active in the civil rights and peace movements. But he couldn’t support the movement that most directly affected him, the gay rights movement, because coming out could have ended his career. It wasn’t until after former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation for marriage equality in California in 2005 that Takei decided to break his silence. “That night, [my now husband] Brad and I were watching the late night news and we saw young people pouring onto Santa Monica Boulevard, venting their rage against Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he says. “And we felt just as angry as those young people. We discussed it and we decided that I should speak out. And for me to do that, my voice had to be authentic — so I spoke to the press for the first time as a gay man.” Now, Takei is a forceful spokesperson for gay rights. He has been with Brad since 1985. They were married at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 2008. To Be Takei, directed by Jennifer Kroot, was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival. MORE

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LORD OF THE STRINGS: Q&A With Dick Dale

Monday, July 28th, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted on July 16th, 2012

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Surf music? Dick Dale invented the stuff. Pure mainlined adrenaline, it is. Like a pocketful of white lightning. Nitroglycerin on hot wax. Surely you’ve seen the opening moments of Pulp Fiction. Easily the most thrilling marriage of profanity, felony and surf music in the history of American cinema. Rock guitar? He re-invented it. He is more or less the bridge between Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. He worked closely with Leo Fender — godfather creator of the essential machinery of rock, the Fender guitar and the Fender amp — to advance the power and the scope of the electric guitar. He pioneered the idea of guitar as nitro-burning funny car. He made it a fast machine and louder than it had ever been before. When you are packing out the ballrooms of Southern California with 4,000 kids a night, as Dale routinely did in the early 60s, you’re gonna need a lot of firepower. Before Dick, guitar amps didn’t go to 11. After Dick, they did. Now 75-years-old, Dick’s been rocking’ and rolling for more than 50 years. Nothing — not cancer, not diabetes, not renal failure — can stop him. Long may he rock. Dick Dale plays the North Star tonight, which is why we got him on the horn. Discussed: How to surf, Quentin Tarantino, Gene Krupa, surfing, beating cancer, Leo Fender, John Travolta, surfing, going blind, Egyptian medicine, and the angels of mercy.

PHAWKER: Unlike, say, The Beach Boys, you actually used to surf correct?

DICK DALE: Sun up to sun down.

PHAWKER: What advice would you offer to non-surfers?

DICK DALE: Well, you should certainly get someone who has been surfing a long time to give you tips on what not to do with your board as you’re walking out into the ocean. Many times, some people will put the board down horizontal to their body on the water and the water will come real, real slow, you won’t even see it happen when it happens, and it will push the board upward right into your face. So you should always have the board pointing out towards the ocean, the nose of the board, and you should stand beside it with your hands on the board. When you go out in the water and you’re paddling out, I used to always start out paddling fish style on my stomach and when I was tiring I’d get up on my knees and paddle then go back down on my stomach. You’ve got to be careful sometimes when you’re grabbing the rails of the board when your hands are wet, a lot of the times a person put wax on the board and on the rails there was the wax, and your hands will slip off out into the water and you’ll just smash your face into the board and you could break your cheek or get injured that way. Another thing, I don’t want to take up all your time …

PHAWKER: No. Go ahead.

DICK DALE: When you’re paddling out to the water and the waves are coming at you, one’s going to come over you. Well what I used to do was to lean forward, grab the nose of my board with both hands so that I’m laying on it and I’d roll over and pull the nose down towards my head so that the waves would go right over the top of me and continue rolling as I went through the wave. Some people, they’ll sit forward and they’ll kind of duck their head down and push the nose up but I don’t advise that. I advise them to, if they’re laying down or just kneeling paddling, just grab the nose with both hands, like 10 or 12 inches down from the tip of the nose on each side of the rail, and then just spin over upside down in the water and pull that nose down so that the waves go over you. You don’t want that wave to break on you and slam the board up into your head.

PHAWKER: It sounds like a good way to get knocked unconscious.
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NEW YORK HIGH TIMES: Repeal Prohibition, Again

Monday, July 28th, 2014

 

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD: It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. [...] We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition. MORE

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MAD MAX: Fury Road

Monday, July 28th, 2014

MSN: A dynamic new lead and an epic-scale chase will be at the center of the new “Mad Max” reboot, as Australian director George Miller reignites his explosive action thriller franchise as the fight for survival in the wasteland rages on. “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the fourth installment of the “Mad Max” franchise that began in 1979 with Mel Gibson in the lead role, saw a post-apocalypse dystopian Australia where police officer Max Rockatansky battles hardened criminals of the outback.Time Warner Inc-owned Warner Bros’ “Fury Road,” due in theaters next year, is set 45 years in a post-apocalyptic future, and Miller said the whole film is a “105-minute chase scene through the wasteland.” MORE

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BEING THERE: Ryan Adams @ XPoNential Fest

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Ryan Adams, XPoNential Fest, 9:31 pm last night by PETE TROSHAK

Tune in tomorrow for complete XPoNential Fest coverage.

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CINEMA: In The Sky With Diamonds

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Photo by DUSDIN CONDREN

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.

STRAND OF OAKS PLAYS XPONENTIAL FEST ON SATURDAY @ 3 PM

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Win Tix To See Nick Cave @ The Mann On Friday

Thursday, 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

Photo by PETE TROSHAK

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

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS PLAY THE MANN CENTER ON FRI. July 25TH

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BECK: Ramona

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

BECK HEADLINES SUNDAY NIGHT OF THE XPONENTIAL FEST

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