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WORTH REPEATING: How ICE Went Rogue

Monday, August 6th, 2018

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THE ATLANTIC: Settling into a sense of safety is hard when your life’s catalog of memories teaches you the opposite lesson. Imagine: You fled from a government militia intent on murdering you; swam across a river with the uncertain hope of sanctuary on the far bank; had the dawning realization that you could never return to your village, because it had been torched; and heard pervasive rumors of former neighbors being raped and enslaved. Imagine that, following all this, you then found yourself in New York City, with travel documents that were unreliable at best.

This is the shared narrative of thousands of emigrants from the West African nation of Mauritania. The country is ruled by Arabs, but these refugees were members of a black subpopulation that speaks its own languages. In 1989, in a fit of nationalism, the Mauritanian government came to consider these differences capital offenses. It arrested, tortured, and violently expelled many black citizens. The country forcibly displaced more than 70,000 of them and rescinded their citizenship. Those who remained behind fared no better. Approximately 43,000 black Mauritanians are now enslaved—by percentage, one of the largest enslaved populations in the world.

After years of rootless wandering—through makeshift camps, through the villages and cities of Senegal—some of the Mauritanian emigrants slowly began arriving in the United States in the late 1990s. They were not yet adept in English, and were unworldly in almost every respect. But serendipity—and the prospect of jobs—soon transplanted their community of roughly 3,000 to Columbus, Ohio, where they clustered mostly in neighborhoods near a long boulevard that bore a fateful name: Refugee Road. It commemorated a moment at the start of the 19th century, when Ohio had extended its arms to accept another influx of strangers, providing tracts of land to Canadians who had expressed sympathy for the American Revolution.

Refugee Road wasn’t paved with gold, but in the early years of this century, it fulfilled the promise of its name. The Mauritanians converted an old grocery store into a cavernous, blue-carpeted mosque. They opened restaurants that served familiar fish and rice dishes, and stores that sold CDs and sodas imported from across Africa.

Over time, as the new arrivals gave birth to American citizens and became fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they mentally buried the fact that their presence in America had never been fully sanctioned. When they had arrived in New York, many of them had paid an English-speaking compatriot to fill out their application for asylum. But instead of recording their individual stories in specific detail, the man simply cut and pasted together generic narratives. (It is not uncommon for new arrivals to the United States, desperate and naive, to fall prey to such scams.) A year or two after the refugees arrived in the country, judges reviewed their cases and, noticing the suspicious repetitions, accused a number of them of fraud and ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ice let their cases slide. They were required to regularly report to the agency’s local office and to maintain a record of letter-perfect compliance with the law. But as the years passed, the threat of deportation seemed ever less ominous.

Then came the election of Donald Trump. MORE

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LORD OF THE STRINGS: Q&A With Dick Dale

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

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 81-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 Ardmore Music Hall on August 16th, 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.
(more…)

The 10 Thoughts I Had During Radiohead Last Night

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

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Photo by MATT SHAVER

1. As the shadowy members of Radiohead took their places on the darkened stage, the PA played a live recording of some drone-y, vaguely Eastern-sounding trance music that may or may not have been the Master Musicians of Joujouka. The recording ends with a sound bite of local-girl-made-good Nina Simone telling an interviewer: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.” That, in two words, is the definition of white privilege: no fear. No fear of being beaten, bullied, abused, blackballed or murdered in cold blood live on Facebook by the police for the unspeakable crime of not being white. OK, I will get down from my soapbox now and on with the jokes.

2. When you are guitarist Ed O’Brien, sometimes being in Radiohead means just standing there with your teeth in your mouth watching Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood push buttons and twirl knobs. As with jazz, being in Radiohead is about know what not to play and when not to play it.

3. Their light show is way better than War On Drugs’ light show. To put it another way, if Radiohead’s light show and War On Drugs’ light show ever gets into a West Side Story-style back alley rumble there will be blood. Because when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day. Look it up.

4. In addition to the balletic shafts of pure white light of said light show, there was a giant moon-shaped-pool-looking screen behind the band upon which a flickering cubist montage of band member close-ups danced subliminally, handily solving the eternal riddle of how to make pasty middle-aged Brits pushing buttons and turning knobs visually exciting. Can’t speak for the other 21,000 or so people in attendance last night, but over in Section 113, we were impressed.

5. ‘Idioteque’ is the word that comes to mind when Thom Yorke does his man-bunned dance-like-nobody’s-watching thing even though everybody is watching. On a related note — and I say all this with unconditional love and all due respect for the band’s art and legacy — Yorke is really lucky this Radiohead thing took off because while he may be a genius-level singer/songwriter, as a tambourine player I am sorry to say he couldn’t even get hired by Josie and the Pussy Cats.

6. Jonny Greenwood is like a brunette Brian Jones with better cheekbones in that he has that same mystical ability to pick up just about any instrument and conjure some magic out of it. Which is why he is allowed to comb his hair any way he bloody well pleases.

7. Speaking of which, there is an old Jonny Greenwood joke that goes: When Jonny Greenwood goes to the barber he says, in the Borscht Belt voice of Triumph The Insult Dog, ‘Just a little off the bottom…OF MY NOSE!’ and then they both break into howling laughter that, unnervingly, lasts a few seconds longer than “Stairway To Heaven” start to finish. In the ensuing silence, Jonny and the barber exchange knowing nods and then he exits wordlessly stage left. Hilarity ensues.

8. Phil Selway is a motherfucker on the drums. There is no higher compliment. Then there’s that mysterious nameless second bald guy on percussion who just showed up a couple years ago and never left. Lucky for them, because best I can tell the double-bald headed drummer thing is completely unprecedented in the entire recorded history of rock n’ roll.

9. Colin Greenwood has the roundest eyes in rock n’ roll. Look, I don’t want to get into an argument about this.

10. There is an unconfirmed rumor going around that Paul Thomas Anderson was in town filming both Philly nights of Radiohead’s tour for his next movie. Even though I have this on good authority, I saw no evidence of this from my vantage point in section 113. However, I so very badly want this to be true I am willingly suspending my disbelief for this one. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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FEEDBACK: State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe Responds

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

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PREVIOUSLY: Fear & Loathing In Pennsyltucky

 

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EXCERPT: Fear & Loathing In Pennsyltucky

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

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Illustration by BRITT SPENCER

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: December 5th, 2017, started out as just another low and mildly contemptible day in Harrisburg. But by midmorning, it had metastasized into one that would live in infamy. In the bowels of the State Capitol building, in the midst of an undoubtedly fascinating debate about landlocked easements before the State Government Committee, something both unforgivable and endlessly hilarious happened: Representative Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery County), in a futile effort to stave off interruption long enough to finish his sentence, briefly touched the arm of the man seated next to him, Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County), the committee’s glowering, authoritarian chairman. Although the man-on-man contact lasted less than one second, it sent Metcalfe into a full-blown gay panic and triggered the following cringe-inducing pronouncement:

Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might. But stop touching me all the time. It’s like, keep your hands to yourself. Like, if you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle that might like it. I don’t.

There were gasps of disbelief as those present checked to make sure they hadn’t been transported back to their fifth-grade lunch line. The committee’s executive director, Kim Hileman, averted her gaze as if from a grisly crime. But on closer inspection — you can watch on YouTube — she was trying not to laugh in the chairman’s face.

It was the tap on the forearm heard round the world. What became known as Touchy-Feelygate made international news and was dissected on late-night talk shows. Neil Patrick Harris explained to America while guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live that homosexuality isn’t contagious: “You don’t turn gay if a gay person touches you; we’re not like zombies.” (Bradford, for the record, is straight, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But the rant was hardly out of character for Metcalfe, who for the past 20 years has been holding up the far-right “God, guts and guns” end of the political spectrum in Harrisburg. He’s railed against “fake news” while sounding false alarms about voter fraud and libtard crusades to confiscate guns. On Facebook, he puts quotes around the word “students” when referring to the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. During 10 terms in office, he has successfully opposed multiple versions of a bill that would offer LGBT people the most basic protections from housing and employer discrimination. He thinks mass transit is a taxpayer-funded people-mover for welfare queens. He once invited a white nationalist to testify at an English-only bill hearing.

Since 2010, Metcalfe, who’s 55, has chaired the powerful but dysfunctional House State Government Committee, which reviews legislation that broadly impacts government, such as election law. It’s also where all good Democrat-sponsored — which is to say Philly-friendly — legislation goes to die. That isn’t some anarcho-leftist exaggeration; it’s a statement of fact, one Metcalfe proudly acknowledges. “When [Democrats] oppose us on my committee, they lose every vote and we win every vote! I block all substantive Democrat legislation sent to my committee and advance good Republican legislation!” Metcalfe cackled on Facebook in April. “Liberals continue their lying attacks in an attempt to stop my work in defense of taxpayers and our liberty!”

It would be easy to dismiss Metcalfe as the troll prince of Western Pennsylvania, where he lords over a relatively paltry fiefdom of the roughly 70,000 residents of Pennsylvania’s 12th State House district, a bucolic patchwork of farms and suburbs north of Pittsburgh. But as chairman of State Gov, Metcalfe lords over all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians. And given that he’s been waging a two-decade-long proxy war on the people of Philadelphia through our lawmakers, Chairman Metcalfe is most certainly our problem. Which raises questions: Who the hell is this guy? And how does someone like him keep getting elected? MORE

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BEING THERE: My Bloody Valentine

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

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Photo by JONATHAN VALANIA

Last night, The Fillmore was levitating three feet high and rising by shoegaze progenitors My Bloody Valentine. The original MBV line-up is currently touring the US for the first time in five years, and, as last night demonstrated, they are still more than capable of blowing minds and melting faces with thick walls of fuzzy reverse reverb. Openers Heavy Blanket, J Mascis’s new three-piece instrumental stoner-rock band, Heavy Blanket, warmed us up for the ear-blasting volume that lay in store. The band seems like a fun little project for Mascis to solo the entire time with the same power trio configuration as Dinosaur Jr.

When MBV finally walked onto the stage they were dwarfed by their amp speaker stacks. Lead guitarist/vocalist, and My Bloody Valentine mastermind Kevin Shields was plugged into six amps, each pushing a 4×12 cabinet – I kid you not. They had enough gear for five bands, and their sound was just as immense. They began with “I Only Said,” a foreshadowing of the set containing more Loveless songs than anything else – six songs out of the twenty played, to be precise – and nobody was complaining. As Shields and vocalist/guitarist Bilinda Butcher stood there, whammy bars never released from grip in the fabled “glide guitar” fashion, I was in utter stupefaction that I was actually witnessing this miracle of music.

MBV wowed the crowd with two new songs but nobody knows what they’re titled yet, presumably we will find out upon the imminent release of two EPs of new MBV music. The set list was everything the superfans wanted to hear, short of the band playing their entire discography from start to finish. A rear-screen projector flashed a barrage of psychedelic imagery behind the band, but I sometimes preferred to close my eyes and dissociate to the swirling symphony of heavenly noise. On “Wonder 2,” drummer Colm O’ Cíosóig and bassist Debbie Googe strapped on guitars and joined Butcher and Shields to create a glorious, heart-racing sonic racket of pure transcendence. Closing the set, they played “You Made Me Realise,” from the 1988 EP of the same name. Injected into the middle of the song was a seven- or eight-minute wall of mostly unchanging fuzz that cast a meditative high upon the crowd, and undoubtedly the band as well. My Bloody Valentine didn’t come out for an encore, but the crowd had already been satiated to the point of intoxication. – KYLE WEINSTEIN

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ICYMI: Obstruction Junction What’s Your Function?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

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THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: Previously undisclosed evidence in the possession of Special Counsel Robert Mueller—including highly confidential White House records and testimony by some of President Trump’s own top aides—provides some of the strongest evidence to date implicating the president of the United States in an obstruction of justice. Several people who have reviewed a portion of this evidence say that, based on what they know, they believe it is now all but inevitable that the special counsel will complete a confidential report presenting evidence that President Trump violated the law. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work, would then decide on turning over that report to Congress for the House of Representatives to consider whether to instigate impeachment proceedings.

The central incident in the case that the president obstructed justice was provided by former FBI Director James B. Comey, who testified that Trump pressed Comey, in a private Oval Office meeting on February 14, 2017, to shut down an FBI criminal investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey has testified the president told him.

In an effort to convince Mueller that President Trump did not obstruct justice, the president’s attorneys have argued that the president could not have broken the law because the president did not know that Flynn was under criminal investigation when he pressured Comey to go easy on Flynn. In a confidential January 29 letter to the special counsel first reported by The New York Times, two of the president’s attorneys, John Dowd (who no longer represents Trump) and Jay Sekulow, maintained that the president did not obstruct justice because, even though Flynn had been questioned by the FBI, Trump believed that the FBI investigation was over, and that Flynn had been told that he’d been cleared.

On its face, this is a counter-intuitive argument—for if Trump believed that Flynn had been cleared and was no longer under investigation, there would have been no reason for the president to lean on Comey to end the FBI’s investigation—telling Comey that Trump hoped that Comey would be able to “see your way clear to letting this go.” Yet Trump’s attorneys have pursued this line of argument with the special counsel because perjury and obstruction cases depend largely on whether a prosecutor can demonstrate the intent and motivation of the person they want to charge. It’s not enough to prove that the person under investigation attempted to impede an ongoing criminal investigation; the statute requires a prosecutor to prove that the person did so with the corrupt intent to protect either himself or someone else from prosecution.

If, therefore, Trump understood the legal jeopardy that Flynn faced, that would demonstrate such intent—and make for a much stronger case for obstruction against the president. Conversely, if Trump believed that Flynn was no longer under criminal investigation, or had been cleared, the president could not have had corrupt intent. But previously undisclosed evidence indicates just the opposite—that President Trump was fully informed that Flynn was the target of prosecutors.

I have learned that a confidential White House memorandum, which is in the special counsel’s possession, explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides—his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn—that Flynn was under criminal investigation. This memo, the existence of which I first disclosed in December in Foreign Policy, was, as one source described it to me, “a timeline of events [in the White House] leading up to Flynn’s resignation.” It was dated February 15, 2017, and was prepared by McGahn two days after Flynn’s forced resignation and one day after Trump’s meeting with Comey. As I reported, research for the memo was “primarily conducted by John Eisenberg, the deputy counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council,” who, in turn, was “assisted by James Burnham, another White House counsel staff member.”

During my reporting, I was allowed to read the memo in its entirety, as well as other, underlying White House records quoted in the memo, such as notes and memos written by McGahn and other senior administration officials. My reporting for this story is also based on interviews with a dozen former and current White House officials, attorneys who have interacted with Mueller’s team of investigators, and witnesses questioned by Mueller’s investigators.

In arguing in their January 29 letter that Trump did not obstruct justice, the president’s attorneys Dowd and Sekulow quoted selectively from this same memo, relying only on a few small portions of it. They also asserted that even if Trump knew there had been an FBI investigation of Flynn, Trump believed that Flynn had been cleared. Full review of the memo flatly contradicts this story.

The memo’s own statement that Trump was indeed told that Flynn was under FBI investigation was, in turn, based in part on contemporaneous notes written by Reince Priebus after discussing the matter with the president, as well as McGahn’s recollections to his staff about what he personally had told Trump, according to other records I was able to review. Moreover, people familiar with the matter have told me that both Priebus and McGahn have confirmed in separate interviews with the special counsel that they had told Trump that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI before he met with Comey. MORE

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INCOMING : Tanukichan

Monday, July 30th, 2018

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San Francisco’s Hannah Van Loon, a.k.a. Tanukichan, has captured the melancholy essence of end-of-the-week not-wanting-to-do-anything on her debut wonderful debut album, Sundays, following on the heels of her 2016 EP, Radiolove. Produced by Chaz Bear (Toro y Moi) at Company Records, the album is rich in moody dream pop tones, and Van Loon’s drowsy falsetto vocals are compellingly reminiscent of Julee Cruise and Bilinda Butcher. But, Sundays is more than just a haze-cradle to lull the listener into deep space; the album’s sonic repertoire ranges from temple-massaging silk to brow-furrowing fuzz. The ten-track, 31-minute album opens with what feels like the July sun beating down through the window onto your helplessly limp Sunday body. Yes, this is the fuzz I mentioned earlier. Just when mirages threaten to plague your vision, the drum beat is introduced, followed by Van Loon’s breathy vocals to cool things down as the hot, bassy fuzz slinks off… for now. A screeching lead guitar, a fuzzy rhythm, and a solid bass come together with layered Van Loon harmonies in a glorious send-off into the rest of the album. Although this first track, “Lazy Love,” is my favorite on the album, the satisfaction-value of the songs following was left unharmed. Sundays is a worthy ode to summer sadness through polarized sunglasses in an endless meadow, and, at the same time, its every blade of grass bears a glistening dewdrop of hope that nostalgic moments are still ever in the making. – KYLE WEINSTEIN



TANUKICHAN @ KUNG FU NECKTIE WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1ST 8 PM

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BEING THERE: Smashing Pumpkins @ Wells Fargo

Monday, July 30th, 2018

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Photo by MATT SHAVER

The Smashing Pumpkins need no introduction, so I will be brief. By Siamese Dream (1993), arguably one of the greatest albums of the ‘90s, The Smashing Pumpkins had become an unstoppable force in the alt-rock firmament. 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, blew fans away once again. Their fourth studio album, Adore (1998), was exactly that: a door – a door into an entirely new nightmare realm of Pumpkins, an intimate shadow dance with lead guitarist/vocalist/prophet Billy Corgan’s goth side. Their next venture, 2000’s Machina/The Machine Of God were the last recordings put out before the big breakup. Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, fully 64.5 percent of the setlist was comprised of songs from those albums. Yes, I did the math. This emphasis on the classics makes sense, with three-quarters of the original Pumpkins lineup — Corgan, guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin — reuniting for The Shiny And Oh So Bright tour.

Saturday night, the Wells Fargo Center faded to black and an enormous screen on the stage displayed a five-or-so-minute animation showcasing archival Pumpkins esoterica, including the ice cream truck from the “Today” music video, Mellon Collie, and other nostalgia to give the audience an idea of the epic trip down memory lane that awaited them. Once the introductory video was over, the two halves of the screen parted like the red sea for Corgan, who stood alone with an acoustic guitar, wearing a strange black and silver half-robe-half-suit thing. He looked like Pinhead sans pins.

Opening the set, Billy stabbed us with “Disarm,” and it was lovely. Then, the full band came out and played “Rocket,” a clever way to blast off into the long journey ahead. The fifth song of the set was a real treat: a worthy cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which was when the on-screen visuals displayed a colorful array of cosmic imagery, and a shiny, hooded silhouette of Billy struck poses and sang atop a fifteen-foot-high bridge in front of the illuminating brilliance of the venue’s monolithic screen. After “Drown” the big screen lit up with a pre-recorded speech by Corgan that was as insufferably pretentious and egotistical as you might expect. His giant face preached about The Smashing Pumpkins being “the dreams you stopped dreaming oh, so long ago. Yes do all colors mixed and marred make up the black, as do all numbers fix up to zero, zed, and null.” If you guessed that the resulting song was “Zero,” then you are correctamundo. But wait – there was an important message at the end of this speech: “So let’s blow out fading embers to boast about things near, forgotten, and buried. Tis the end, tis the end, tis the end.” It was all done in a cringy, melodramatic Shakespeare-meets-Poe manner, but it made one thing very clear: tis the end of The Smashing Pumpkins.

All night long, Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming was abso-fucking-lutely on point; James Iha and Billy Corgan shared that divine guitar synergy they forged at the dawn of The Pumpkins in ’88; some things never change. After “Zero,” the band went Machina, playing “The Everlasting Gaze,” “Stand Inside Your Love,” and “Thirty-Three,” all in succession. Next up was “Eye,” originally recorded in 1997 for the soundtrack of David Lynch’s Lost Highway. After a song written for a dream-logic film, what would be a more fitting follow-up than the dream-rock classic, “Soma”? This was followed by another on-screen interlude, this one featuring Mark McGrath in Vaudeville attire hyping up the audience. At first, I thought it was a set break and the man on the screen was a cheesy advertisement, but I was wrong, and he soon faded away for the band to play “Blew,” which was followed by the set’s first Adore songs, “For Martha” and “To Sheila,” back to back, with Billy playing piano high atop a 25-foot podium. The two soft pieces were beautifully and appropriately paired, being the closing and opening tracks of the album, respectively.

Next came “Mayonaise,” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” “Tonight, Tonight,” and – get this – “Stairway to Heaven”! Very well done, might I add. Then came “Cherub Rock”. Then Vaudeville McGrath came back on the screen to introduce the next song, the beloved hit, “1979,” followed by “Ava Adore”. Billy then dedicated “Try, Try, Try” to the City of Brotherly Love. He also expressed how stoked he was to be playing under Doctor J’s swag, pointing up at the famed 76ers player’s banner. He said that, growing up, Doctor J was his favorite player.

“Today,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and “Muzzle” ended the set, but Philly wasn’t going anywhere without an encore, so The Pumpkins came back out with one of their new songs, “Solara,” during which Chamberlin had to stall with a drum solo as Billy beckoned for a mysterious off-stage figure to make an appearance. That figure remained unknown until the final song, a cover of Betty Noyes’s “Baby Mine.” Yes, another thoughtful addition to the brilliant list of songs, as Billy returned to the stage after a quick disappearance, carrying his very own ear muff’d toddler. In the middle of the song, he put little Augustus Juppiter Corgan down to stand in front of the sea of ogling fans. The little rascal made a break for it as soon as his father’s head was turned, disappearing backstage. – KYLE WEINSTEIN

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BEING THERE: Body/Head @ PhilaMOCA

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Bathed in blood-red hot lamps at PhilaMOCA on Thursday night, art-rock co-conspirators Kim Gordon and Bill Nace sculpted the dystopic psychedelia of their now seven-year-old project Body/Head: a twin complement of electric guitar distortion, at turns cauterizing, captivating, cacophonous. For roughly forty minutes, Gordon writhed with her low-slung stratocaster, occasionally chanting unintelligible mantras into her mic, and hurling fuzz and feedback at Nace to reshape and return. Where Steve Gunn’s instrumental opening set was a sprawling release of scale meditations and soaring solos, Body/Head was the sonic obverse, with noisy chord-warps, urgent incantations and a dark, unsettling dissonance that managed to offer a sense of catharsis without ever careening out of their control. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER

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BEING THERE: Beach House @ The Tower

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

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Photo by MARK LIKOSKY

Under the oppressive hair-frizzing humidity of midsummer in Philadelphia, swarms of indie music blog readers dressed in overalls and pinstripes filed into the massive Tower Theater for, yes that’s right, a fully seated show. But whether it was this heat, or astrological patterns like the approaching lunar eclipse and beginning of Mercury’s retrograde, a calm head-rolling evening felt like the perfect way to absorb every frequency of energy this Baltimore duo had brought with them to Upper Darby.

After a charming and surprisingly comedic opening set from fellow Baltimore artist, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, the room went full dark in preparation for the comparatively far-reaching seriousness and intensity of Beach House’s keyboard-anchored wall of sound. The lights soon rose enough to illuminate the silhouettes of vocalist-keyboardist Victoria Legrand, guitarist Alex Scally, and a third dimension of percussion on the drums. But while lighting was second only to the music itself in terms of what it contributed to the audience experience, it never once shone upon Legrand’s face.

Instead, bright white spotlights sliced through and across the audience like some mega lightsaber, all the while with live video projections of Legrand’s hands at the keyboard on the background screen. Dressed in what appeared to be some sort of black latex trench coat, Legrand occupied the focal point at centerstage with a wide-legged power stance paired with dramatic hair whips at the exact right beat of the electronically elongated rhythms.

For all the sonic power in the layered foundations of a Beach House song, especially in the newer songs “Lemon Glow” or “Drunk in LA,” it felt relaxingly easy to breathe during their live renditions, as if the band had evolved low, heavy notes into ones that could lift and float the listeners that they entrapped with their synthesized hooks. Along with another track off of their new album 7, “Pay No Mind,” and “Space Song” from 2015’s Depression Cherry, Beach House rode the waves of a sequence of songs until they reached an ultimate crest in a completely ethereal delivery of “Elegy to the Void.”

Emphasizing stage effects like the monochromatic displays of psychedelia or green starlight helped Beach House create more than just a concert, but a spiritual experience that would’ve brought the room to its knees had we all been standing. In her own deja-vu moment midway through the evening, Legrand shared with the crowd that she had first been to the Tower Theater at age fourteen as an audience member, commenting on how the unpredictable and inexplicable mysteries of human life and pattern continue to amaze her. Despite the omniscient quality of her Nico-esque contralto, Legrand remains gratefully awestruck by the fame it continues to bring her.

Ending in an encore with “Dive,” that finally brought the crowd to its feet, Beach House accelerated to the close as if they never had any intention of stopping. The bright strobing lights flooded the entire room as the audience rippled in a long-awaited dance of twisting and deep head-bobbing. In a time when large concerts like this are increasingly more commercialized in Las-Vegas-style entertainment, Beach House found a way to transcend this characterization to give a performance the prioritized spirituality over materiality. And for that, we can thank our lucky stars. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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BEING THERE: Raphael Saadiq @ Union Transfer

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Late last night, Raphael Saadiq and his band took their seated places onstage at Union Transfer, under deep blue lights, and treated a capacity Tuesday-night crowd to a soaring instrumental, a sort of somber pre-meal prayer. It was as formal as the night would get, as the magnetic master of ceremonies rose to spark an enduring discourse with frenetic fans, trading dialogue and taking requests — even offering up his mic for a verse — as incandescent stage lights alternated with house lights throughout as if to cue continued conversation.

Saadiq engaged with lengthy stories and stage banter, some context for his compositions, and praise for the city’s rich culture and arts legacy as he cited influence from Philly soul stirrers like The Delfonics and The Stylistics, and peppered his set with covers of Bilal’s “Soul Sista” and The Roots’ “What They Do.” “That’s what Philly is to me, Philly is a lotta music,” noted the singer with a promise, “I’ll try to give it all to you, because the people before me gave it all to me.” There was a whole lotta love in that room, and in the end it was difficult to discern who was charmed more.

Saadiq may only have played just a handful of songs in full, offering up a few performances from his celebrated R&B career, like “Movin’ Down The Line (Don’t You Go Away),” “Be Here,” “Still Ray,” or the new gospel-flavored “Rikers Island.” Aside from that, he casually stutter-stepped his way through the evening, with purposeful false-starts and popular hooks designed to provoke fever-pitch responses, often just to buttonhook the crowd and then pivot onto the next with a shit-hot rhythm section in tow and kept alert throughout by the singer’s discursive set.

It was less a conventional concert than a live mixtape, a kinetic mirror of Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s warm-up set earlier that night, with impromptu renditions of crowd-pleasing cuts like Solange’s “Cranes In The Sky,” or “Anniversary” and “Lovin’ You,” from his days with Tony! Toni! Toné!, many of which he seemed to decide to play right there on the spot as he graciously juggled a preponderance of impassioned pleas from the crowd. “Make a list and leave it at the door,” he relented, suggesting, perhaps entirely in earnest, “I’ll come back, and we’ll go through the whole catalog.” – JOSH PELTA-HELLER

PREVIOUSLY: If there is anything that Raphael Saadiq can’t do, it is only a slight exaggeration to say that scientists have yet to discover it. Sing? Check. Pipes of gold. Write songs? Check. Everything from classic old-school soul readymades to new-school R&B bump-and-grind. Play guitar? Check. He shreds like Ike Turner minus the coke and violence. Produce? Check. In addition to giving his own records a vintage Motown flavor, he’s twiddled the knobs for everyone from D’Angelo and Joss Stone to Macy Gray and Mary J. Blige.Perform? Check. That was more than proven during his 2 1/2-hour tour de force Thursday night at the Electric Factory. Oh, and he can also dress himself impeccably. Saadiq, 45, who got his start in the late ’80s with Tony! Toni! Toné!, looked Thursday night like he had stepped out of a Botany 500 ad from the June ’67 issue of Playboy. MORE

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Win Tix To See Beach House @ The Tower Theater!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

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Beach House, the Baltimore-based shoegaze duo comprised of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, is an unceasing storm of brilliance with an impressive catalogue of seven albums spanning 13 years. The just-released 7 is by far the dream pop duo’s most complicated and mature record yet. They play the Tower on Thursday and we have a pair of tix to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. All you have to do to qualify to win is follow us on Twitter and send us an email saying you have done so (or already follow us) to Phawker66@gmail.com along with your full name and mobile number for confirmation. Put the magic words SEVEN AND SEVEN IS in the subject line — 54th person to email us wins. Please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

BEACH HOUSE PLAYS THE TOWER THEATER ON THURSDAY JULY 26TH

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