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BEING THERE: The World Is A Beatiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die + Pianos Become Teeth

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

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Photo by SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

There’s almost nothing so darkly cathartic as an emo concert. Though many bands of the genre have drawn criticism for their controversial and cliched lyrics, those at the forefront are more serious and skilled than ever. Two such bands are Pianos Become the Teeth and Philadelphia-based The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP), who last night performed their final show of a joint tour in support of their new albums, Wait for Love and Always Foreign, respectively. The bloated lineup also featured emo-punks Teenage Wrist and soft rockers Queen of Jeans, technically giving the night three openers for a show that ended up being nearly four hours in length. Yet somehow, the pace of the performance kept things moving.

With a glowing blue background and a shining white light from below, Pianos Become the Teeth took the stage following the other openers. Lead singer Kyle Durfey immediately ripped into a fit of head-banging, sometimes grabbing the mic stand with all of his strength or tossing it aside to whip the cord of the microphone around his contorting body. Durfey no doubt always delivers the songs of his formerly hardcore band with such intense physical expression, but I can’t help wondering if the imminence of Father’s Day brought an additional twinge of sorrow to his approach considering that his father’s death was the main inspiration for the 2014 album, Keep You. Though the band’s newer music is a little easier on the eardrums, their live performance was nonetheless relentless as they let the amps wail with an unending distortion between songs, never allowing for a moment of pure silence in the entire set. These days the sound and look of Pianos Become the Teeth are a lot more digestible for the mainstream audience than they were before Durfey became a family man, but the subtle hints of their hardcore days that remain are what make the band an emo standard-bearer.

If the night had ended there, it would have been more than sufficient, but TWIABP still had to take their turn. Where Pianos Become the Teeth drew from the ever-reliable power of a four-piece rock band, TWIABP attempted a more orchestral sound, featuring a trombone, saxophone, trumpets, and a keyboard synthesizer. They followed a similar technique to Pianos Become the Teeth, leaving almost no moment unfilled with some sort of amp noise, building a wall of sound that would collapse in a mid-song emotional release with every break of the rhythm.

A gap formed between those crowded at the edge of the stage and those who moved to the center of the room for the writhing mosh pit that’s characteristic of every emo concert. Playing songs from albums old and new, lead singer David Bello used his confessional lyrics to discuss personal and public criticisms of himself and the world at large. Two plastic skulls at the base of the drum kit served as a haunting memento mori, suggesting perhaps, just as the band’s newest album does, that the world is actually not so beautiful right now. Though the long-haired darkness and depression of emo is a genre I don’t often indulge in, the sheer talent of these two bands is undeniable and unshakeable, having withstood transformations in sound, style, and lineup. Despite the divisive opinions surrounding emo style and subject matter, it’s indisputable that for those who cope by wallowing in their pain, these two bands will be there to light the path. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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BEACH HOUSE: Black Car

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Beach House @ the Tower Theater on July 26th in support of their just-released seventh album, 7.

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BEING THERE: Hockey Dad @ Everybody Hits

Friday, June 15th, 2018

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Photo by DYLAN LONG

Australian rock bands are killing it right now. The Australian rock scene is chock full of bands that are sick as hell and on the come-up, and I will not hold back my enthusiasm. Eclectic jangle rockers Dune Rats just wrapped up touring as main support for the well-established surf-rock group Wavves in the UK. The joyful garage rock trio Skegss are riding a gnarly wave of sold-out shows in pretty much all major cities across Straya, with solid support from local bands Dumb Punts & Los Scallywags . Which leads us to one of the biggest acts currently on the rise from down under: Hockey Dad. The duo hailing from good ol’ Windang, Australia, has embarked on a sizeable North American tour, making a stop at Everybody Hits, Philly’s one and only batting cage by day, DIY musical space by night.

California dudes Mt. Eddy kicked things off in the dimly lit room with some fine tunes to get the crowd stirring. The christmas lights hanging in the corner of the room designated for the bands illuminated the five young musicians’ faces, as the already healthy amount of equally young concertgoers bopped around. The crowd was mostly teenagers and young adults, all hitting away at their Juuls like it’s their job and chatting each other up in between tuning breaks. Up next came Philly natives Cold Fronts, a group of guys whom I’ve seen before and quickly learned don’t come to disappoint. They cranked out tunes from old records and their most recent release, Fantasy Du Jour, while frontman Craig Almquist frequently jumped into the crowd to douse himself in beer and give the kids a turn to sing. Their stage setup came with a bright magenta neon sign reading out the album title in cursive, serving as a nice touch to complement their established vintage sound.

After killing the main venue lighting leaving the dangling Christmas lights as the only source of light, Hockey Dad walked down from the green room to give the kids what they came for. The ultra-dim lighting made it a great challenge for me as a photographer, but as a guy there to see the show, it made for the perfect atmosphere. The duo was recently named the top-played band on Australia’s famous Triple J radio so far in 2018, so it was safe to say I had high expectations of them. They ripped through melodic, high-energy songs like “I Wanna Be Everybody,” “Seaweed” and “Babes,” giving off a surprisingly full sound for just a guitarist/vocalist and drummer. Billy Fleming’s bright blond, definition-of-surfer-hair flew around in every which direction from behind the kit as he and frontman Zach Stephenson rocked along until close to midnight. Taking advantage of the intimate DIY setting, they invited both the opening bands to come on stage for their remaining songs, which quickly turned into one big party with the crowd and artists all jumping around together, sharing laughs and sweat. Ending with the ripper “Homely Feeling” and encoring with the much softer, sweeter balad “Be With Me,” Hockey Dad proved themselves as one of the finer Aussie up-and-comers, and that power doesn’t always come in numbers. – DYLAN LONG

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ALBUM REVIEW: Neko Case Hell-On

Friday, June 15th, 2018

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Neko Case is a singer-songwriter known for her uncommonly clarion vox, acerbic whimsy, nature mothering, and fiery red hair. But after the public exorcism of the #MeToo movement and the burning down of her Vermont home, the soft rock singer was forced to confront a new set of ugly and harsh realities. And she uses her new album, Hell-On, to help her do it. There is some serious introspection on the record, with the the lead-off title track diving right in to question who or what God is, finally defining him as “a lusty tire fire” – a line that is perfect in its poetic murkiness. But most amusing is “Bad Luck,” a song Case kept in her back pocket for several years, that she ironically recorded in Sweden on the morning of her house fire. Mocking ridiculous superstitions like breaking a mirror, Case uses her gift for curious phrasing to make up her own idioms of bad luck, showing the unreasonability of using faith in such events as explanation for the discomforting enigmas we encounter through life. In this lighthearted-sounding song, we start to see the way her dark wake-up call infects her empathy for the natural world with a lack for the human one in the verses, “Right here in human time / My heart could break / for a one-legged seagull / And still afford nothing to you.”

She reaffirms the creeping presence of this darkness in the nearly 7-minute center of the album, “Curse of I-5 Corridor,” that deals with nostalgia and the loss of innocence as a young woman. It was this song that most moved me in my first listen, as I heard an echo of my own thoughts in her words. In it, she spins imagery that is both familiar and foreign, maintaining a poetic distance that proves sometimes words are more about the feelings they evoke than their literally translated meanings. “Curse of I-5 Corridor” also helps explain the wickedly dramatic cover for Hell-On. Case wears a crown of cigarettes that hides her signature feature, while flames start to lick up the ends of her hair. Cigarettes are one of the many sources that fuel her nostalgia in that middle song of the album, and the fire on the cover no doubt refers to the burning of her possessions by Mother Nature – someone to which she has spent her whole career paying tribute.

Per usual for Case, each track has enough substance to garner its own lengthy review of the modern folktales in her languid yet piercing voice. At 52 minutes, the energy and clarity of Hell-On ebbs and flows, anchoring around the vocals of Case and other guest collaborators from her previous bands and projects, like The New Pornographers or case/lang/veirs. In her quirky vein of writing on this mostly self-produced album, the carefully crafted phrases all but let you drift away before once more grabbing you with a familiar line like, “The sweet, sweet burn / Of the first drink of the night, underage / Knowing that you’re gonna get away with it.” I’m still not quite sure if such words pull you into a comforting hug or a stinging slap in the face with the pain of remembering a more mysterious time. Hell-On is Case battling her own mysteries, uncovering their sometimes dark underbellies in light of the aforementioned harsh realities. With a song inspired by the strength of the Amazon women and another detailing a relative’s mistreatment of animals, Case ends the album unable to decide if she’s made “Pitch or Honey” with her music. Regardless, she shares in the final verse that her place in the wild beauty of nature has always been and still remains to be her rescue from the darkness. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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BEING THERE: U2 @ The Wells Fargo Center

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Entering the U2 Experience at the FU Center last night (yeah yeah, I know, but c’mon – it will ALWAYS be the FU Center), I did little in the way of recon. I have not heard these so called Songs Of Experience nor those of Innocence. I don’t know if the Line On The Horizon even had a lead-off single, and heaven knows, my ex can tell you with all honesty that I have no idea How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

In other words, I haven’t listened to the entirety of an actual U2 album since Bill Clinton was on his way out the door.

Actually, I’m lying. I did land some recon, that being the fact that I was not Pa Phawker’s first, second or even third choice to cover this sold-out spectacle.  Obviously, he was unable to convince the usual intern gang of concert reviewing Millennials (gross assumption, not fact) that seeing THIS band at THIS moment was worth altering plans on a perfectly sublime Wednesday eve. So here I was – a 40-something tasked with investigating whether a bunch of near 60-somethings were worth the live dime, even if they haven’t released anything I’d consider pertinent in nearly 20 years.

Thank god for the world’s largest TV screen. The visuals at first seemed intentionally overwhelming, seeming distractions to the new material’s lack of purpose. Yes, Bono is still a consummate showman, The Edge a perfect engineer of “that sound”, and Larry Mullins Jr. still one of – if not “the” – great drummers of modern rock history, but the medley of new tracks that shall remain nameless were rather inert. Their lack of firebelly carried over into a string of rote renditions of catalog favorites – tracks like “Gloria” and “I Will Follow” seemingly pitchshifted a hair for an easier haul against Bono’s aging pipes.

The Generation once defined by an X are no different than the Boomers that birthed them. Nostalgia’s warm bosom is always the safest place on the planet to just lose yourself. They ate up every emotional swing for the fences, something this band has and still –  begrudgingly – excels at. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a tinge of upswell during either a touching ode to Bono’s mum or a subdued take on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” but much of the evening’s successes had more to do with the visual presentation than the aural one.

At this point, I’m not going to an arena show for the sound but the spectacle, and on that level, the band remains ahead of industry curves. The immense video screen that cuts their stage footprint lengthwise is a spectacular tour inclusion, engineered with moving catwalks, lifts and performance zones that actually played well into the evening’s down tempo execution. Slowly, over it’s nearly two-and-a-half hour span, the set revealed itself to be shockingly intimate, continually finding ways to seperate the band members around the arena in ways that made proximity to rock gods attainable to all.

In that sense, the populist removal of the bite and snarl of tracks like “The End of the World” revealed itself slowly as seeming intent. Perhaps this wasn’t a band changing arrangements to acclimate aged skill sets, but rather modified to elicit feelings of intimacy in times where constant bombast has become the vernacular of the day.

But that simply isn’t the iconic image and feel of the band from its lengthy heyday. They can still wear hearts on the sleeve with ease, but what was missing from the evening was a sense of peril. They let the visuals do most of the obvious heavy lifting – most lazily on the transition between “Staring at the Sun” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, where color imagery of America’s current terror class – armed with burning tiki torches and MAGA hats – gave way to evocative B&W shots of rainbow coalitions carrying on the legacy of MLK. Got that?

Weaving through the parking lot on the way out, a woman passed with her son, who looked all of 10. “Now how was that for your first rock concert?” she asked. In the moment, I projected myself, wanting to telepathically send the perfect response to his tongue: “More firebelly.” – JAMES DOOLITTLE

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Win Tix To See Stephen Malkmus @ The TLA

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

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Illustration by OLAF HAJEK

Being Stephen Malkmus is … easy. You’re born upper-middle class in Los Angeles, the son of a general property/casualty insurance agent. You live on Citrus Avenue in the City Of Angels, where the sun shines all the time. When you’re eight, you move upstate to the tony suburban subdivisions of Stockton, where you’ll live out your formative years. You meet this kid named Scott Kannberg on your soccer team. You play wing. You learn to play guitar by aping Jimi Hendrix on “Purple Haze,” which features this tricky E chord. When you finally pull it off, you realize you can now play the guitar. You spend your puberty at all-ages punk shows. You even start a punk-rock band called the Straw Dogs, which sounds like a cross between the Adolescents, Wasted Youth and Dead Kennedys, as was the style at the time.

At age 18, you depart cross-country for the University of Virginia, because it’s the best school that accepted you and, besides, your old man went there. You have the distinct feeling you were one of the last students accepted because you’re assigned a room in the basement of the freshman dormitory, which you call a “ghetto for all the dumb kids.” You don’t complain, because even though you fill out the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink, you don’t test well and you only scored 1180 on your SATs. After a couple of years, you declare a major in history because you get the best grades in those classes._You meet David Berman, who will one day be regarded as one of the finest poets of your generation. You will one day make albums with him under the name Silver Jews. (You aren’t Jewish.) You will also meet a super-nice guy named Bob Nastanovich, who will one day talk you into co-owning a racehorse named Speedy Service with him. Who knows, you might even ask him to join your next band if you ever get Malkmus_Sparkle_Hard_around to starting one. The three of you become DJs at the college station and sit around drinking beer while raiding the deepest depths of the record stacks: Can, Chrome, Swell Maps, the Fall. These records will serve you well in due time. So well, in fact, that the Fall’s Mark E. Smith will one day curse you in the pages of Q magazine for riding his style to the bank. If someone told you this back in college, you would’ve never believed it.

You record an album under the band name Lakespeed, which even you have to admit sounds a little too derivative of Sonic Youth and the other college-radio superstars of the time. You send it around, but no label is interested. After graduating with a respectable 3.2 grade-point average and not even a vague clue as to what you want to do with your life, you go back to Stockton. You team up with Kannberg, because he’s the only one of your acquaintances who still lives there. He’s learned to play guitar. You make up aliases for each other: You call him Spiral Stairs, he calls you S.M. You record some songs for a seven-inch single you purposely try to make sound really bad, like Television Personalities or Chrome or Pere Ubu. Later, people will call this “lo-fi.” On the day you record, you’ll learn later, a grisly mass murder happens downstate, which is odd because you’ve already decided to call the seven-inch Slay Tracks.

You leave all the pedestrian details of pressing the singles and mailing them out to zines and record labels to Kannberg—who decides to call the project Pavement—and head out on a year-long backpacking trip across Europe. You’ll also visit Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, where you’ll hike out to the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which, in the Bible, is called Eden. When you get back, you’re amused to learn Slay Tracks has been well-received. You record another single called Demolition Plot J-7 and follow it up with a 10-inch called, rather archly, Perfect Sound Forever. The buzz builds. You move to New York to live with good ol’ Nastanovich. You and Berman get jobs as security guards at the Whitney Museum Of American Art, and to fill the endless ennui of standing for hours babysitting some of the greatest artistic achievements of Western culture, you make up an album’s worth of songs in your head.

Spending Christmas back in Stockton with your family, you record these songs. You call it Slanted And Enchanted. It will change music. It will change people’s lives. It will change your life. You’ll become the slacker prince of indie rock and, as befits the title, you’ll never have to work another day in your life. As leader of Pavement, you will, over the course of five well-received albums, spend the better part of the 90s zigging whenever your fanbase zagged, and the better part of the past decade cranking out the kind of wanky, Asberger-ian solo records that scare off women and try men’s souls. The latest is Sparkle Hard, his seventh, in support of which he is currently on a tour that brings him to the TLA on June 16th.

We have a couple pairs of tickets to give away to some lucky duck Phawker readers. To qualify to win, all you have to do is 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 PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM telling us you have signed up (if you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much), with the words THE KAISER HAS A CYST (if you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much) in the subject line, and the the answer to the the following Malkmus Jeopardy question: Who is “the son of a Coca Cola middleman”? Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS @ THEATER OF THE LIVING ARTS JUNE 16TH

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ALBUM REVIEW: TV GIRL Death Of A Party Girl

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

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It was a brutally cold February in my sophomore year when I stumbled upon TV Girl somewhere in a Spotify rabbit hole. French Exit, their debut album, drove its catchy hooks into my ears and dragged me from the bitter, isolated cave of hibernation that I bury myself in every winter. French Exit was a splatter of color in the dismal, grey cityscape. It was a humid exhale into still lungs, the world ballooned with breath. TV Girl’s latest album, Death Of A Party Girl, sustains the dream pop, neo-psychedelic feel of previous work. Petering delivers prosaic storytelling in third-person narration, recounting tales of wistful, romantic flings and mini-dramas starring various shades of the archetypal manic pixie dream girl. The songs are echoing and surreal, cut with samples of dialogue from movies and radio shows that convey a grainy, vintage feel.

Standouts include “King of Echo Park,” its beachy vibe conjuring images of skinny palm trees, graffitied skateparks, and humming lowriders. The lyrics seem to speak on the superficial nature of culture in L.A., the chase for fame and descent into destructive forms of escapism. “Cuz if you can’t be good / You drink in the name of art / And as the sun sets on sunset again / The stars come out so it don’t get dark.” “7 Days Till Sunday” is a swaying, upbeat bop. The speaker reminisces of rooftop parties and one night stands in Manhattan, fleeting affairs with girls in bands, and the self-conscious narcissism of teenagers. “Lonely Girls” deals a similar hand of cards, describing the nagging feeling of discontent even after you get what you want. Petering seems to take a more cynical view of relationships, describing meaningless casual sex and the restless dissatisfaction that follows these encounters.

“Blue Hair” embodies the romanticism of female characters that seems to plague films and books of pop culture. It’s easy to picture the eccentric Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as the protagonist of this song, linking her mutable identity to the ever-shifting color of her hair, crying in a pitiful display of vanity. Here, Petering’s writing begins to tire, redundant in the way it projects unrealistic, idealistic notions on some vaguely defined silhouette of a girl. The final track, “Death Of A Party Girl” is hazy, a song with vacant stretches you have to wade through like swimming through a Lynchian dream sequence. It encapsulates all of the Laura Palmers of the world, the whirlwind energy of youth spiraling into ruinous habits. It seems like a callback to one of TV Girl’s earlier singles, “Natalie Wood,” suggesting an obsession with tragic death and the pitfalls of fame. = MARIAH HALL

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SPIRITUALIZED: I’m Your Man

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

RELATED: Spiritualized have announced news of their new studio album, And Nothing Hurt, out September 7th via Fat Possum in the US and Bella Union in the UK/Europe.  Spiritualized have also announced select live performances in support of the album, including two U.S. datesFrom the opening lullaby of “A Perfect Miracle” through to the Morse Code fadeout at the close of “Sail on Through,” Spiritualized wrap layer upon layer of gloriously transcendent sound together to create a mesmerizing and cinematic collection of songs. There are points where the waves of blissful noise are almost overwhelming – the thunderous climax of “On the Sunshine”; the spectral waltz of “The Prize”; the towering guitar solo on “I’m Your Man” – where one can imagine the studio’s speakers vibrating themselves off of the walls. Which is an incredible feat when you discover that the album was conceived and recorded almost entirely by one man – Jason Pierce, AKA J.Spaceman – in an upstairs room in his east London home. Sat in an edit suite in Whitechapel a month or so after finishing recording, Jason talks honestly about the painstaking, frustrating process of creating And Nothing Hurt.  

“Making this record on my own sent me more mad than anything I’ve done before. We’d been playing these big shows and I really unnamed-11wanted to capture that sound we were making, but without having the funds to do so, I had to find a way to work within the constraints of what money I had. So I bought a laptop and made it all in a little room in my house.” Whereas bedroom recording is commonplace for a generation of musicians who’ve grown up with horizon-expanding tech, Spiritualized have long used the studio as they would an extra member of the band – as a vital building block in the construction of some of the most cherished records of the modern era. This time would be very different. With no grounding in digital recording, Jason had to learn everything from scratch.

“The biggest thing for me was to try to make it sound like a studio session. But I was new to it all, I didn’t have all the short cuts people use as when they’re making records – I just sat there for weeks… for months… moving every level up bit by bit just to try to get the sounds right.” For the listener, the nine tracks on And Nothing Hurt effortlessly replicate the scale and power of Spiritualized’s previous releases, whether it’s the sonic blowback of “On the Sunshine,” the last dime in the jukebox love letter of “Let’s Dance” or the swell of an imaginary orchestra that seems to lift “Damaged” towards the heavens as it plays out.
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HOT DOC: Open Letter From Rose McGowan On Behalf Of Asia Argento Regarding Anthony Bourdain

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is any open letter penned by Rose McGowan on behalf of Asia Argento re: the sad passing of Anthony Bourdain

Dear Fellow Humans,

Sitting across from me is the remarkable human and brave survivor, Asia Argento, who has been through more than most could stand, and yet stand she does. She stood up to her monster rapist and now she has to stand up to yet another monster, suicide. The suicide of her beloved lover and ally, Anthony Bourdain. I write these truths because I have been asked to. I know so many around the world thought of Anthony Bourdain as a friend and when a friend dies, it hurts. Many of these people who lost their ‘friend’ are wanting to lash out and blame. You must not sink to that level. Suicide is a horrible choice, but it is that person’s choice.

When Anthony met Asia, it was instant chemistry. They laughed, they loved and he was her rock during the hardships of this last year. Anthony was open with his demons, he even wrote a book about them. In the beginning of their relationship, Anthony told a mutual friend, “He’s never met anyone who wanted to die more than him.” And through a lot of this last year, Asia did want the pain to stop. But here’s the thing, over their time together, thankfully, she did the work to get help, so she could stay alive and live another day for her and her children. Anthony’s depression didn’t let him, he put down his armor, and that was very much his choice. His decision, not hers. His depression won. Anthony and Asia had a free relationship, they loved without borders of traditional relationships, and they established the parameters of their relationship early on. Asia is a free bird, and so was Anthony. Was. Such a terrible word to write. I’ve heard from many that the past two years they were together were some of his happiest and that should give us all solace.

Anthony was 61, the same age my father was when he died. My father also suffered from intermittent deep depression, and like Anthony, was part of a “pull up your bootstraps and march on” generation. The a “strong man doesn’t ask for help” generation. I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor’s advice. And that has led us here, to this tragedy, to this loss, to this world of hurt. Do NOT do the sexist thing and burn a woman on the pyre of misplaced blame. Anthony’s internal war was his war, but now she’s been left on the battlefield to take the bullets. It is in no way fair or acceptable to blame her or anyone else, not even Anthony. We are asking you to be better, to look deeper, to read and learn about mental illness, suicide and depression before you make it worse for survivors by judging that which we do not understand, that which can never fully be understood. Sometimes we are stuck in the unknowable, and that is where we are now, a massive wave of darkness that threatens to swallow everyone in its wake.
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THIRTY YEARS AFTER: Q&A With The Posies

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

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SOPHIE_BURKHOLDER_BYLINERBY SOPHIE BURKHOLDER Thirty years ago, the Posies recorded their debut album Failure in a small amateur home studio in Bellingham, Washington. In 2016, they released their eighth studio album, Solid States, and now they’re off on a 30th anniversary tour (which stops at World Cafe Live on Wednesday) in celebration of reissues of Dear 23, Frosting On The Beater and Amazing Disgrace that will feature previously unreleased bonus tracks. Though they’ve gone through a series of line-up changes in their rhythm sections, the Posies have always included core members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. We got them both on the phone to talk about growing up power-pop prodigies in the high rainyland of the Pacific Northwest and the world-beating ambitions of youth, battling depression and the death of bandmates in middle age, playing in the re-activated Big Star with Alex Chilton and joining R.E.M., and how it feels to have one of their songs covered by former Beatle Ringo Starr.

PHAWKER: So, the first question is actually from my editor. He said, “I’ve been to Bellingham and fell in love with the place. It was the first time I ever saw a whale in the wild, and it really struck me as about as Twin Peaks as it gets.” So he was kind of wondering what it was like growing up around there, assuming that you did? And what impact, if any, do you think it had on the art you’ve made since?

KEN STRINGFELLOW: Well, that’s a big question. Oh boy. First of all, I should point out that David Lynch is Posies FAILUREfrom Spokane. So, if you want, I think, the inland part of Washington is even more Twin Peaks-y. But, I would say that Washington for me, like moving to Bellingham and the Seattle area, etc., was a real breath of fresh air, despite the fact that Bellingham’s a small town. I was living in the burbs with my folks, and my folks were, you know, like preppy, basically. They were not, my folks were not bohemian. They were the opposite of bohemian. And we lived in white-people land. You know, outside of Chicago, outside of New York, outside of Detroit, you know we lived in, I would say culturally sterile environments. And I was hungry for culture. So, moving to Bellingham, which is where I moved with my mom when my folks divorced, I mean it was funky, and it was the first time I’d ever been anywhere funky. And Bellingham’s like a great hippie refuge. And it wasn’t Connecticut. The lawns weren’t all neat and tidy, it was just more interesting. And you know there was a mix of everything. There was a college there, so you had the student population and the interesting professor population. You had the aforementioned hippies and all the things that they brought in, which in the 1970’s, you know we didn’t have Whole Foods, we didn’t have an organic supermarket every 500 yards. I mean, organic stuff was very underground, and the fact that Bellingham was kind of a known spot for people to run away from San Francisco and all the cops and heroin that was kind of getting the hippies bummed out – they moved up to Bellingham because it was peaceful and you could do your thing. And they brought all the primitive ways of thinking that had come from that generation. So that was all there, and it really expanded my mind I think.

JON AUER: It was a pretty amazing place to grow up, because there were a couple different things happening there. You had the regular population, but there’s also a very nice university there called Western Washington University, and actually my father ended up working and teaching there for 33 years. So I was kind of a kid on a university growing up around that kind of culture. My parents at the time were both into music, and they were responsible for bringing musical acts for a concert series to the campus. You can imagine, you know, colleges tend to attract arts and music and all kinds of interesting things, so I had a serious influx of culture at a pretty early age in an area of the country where most people wouldn’t think it would have existed. I was super fortunate. It was also safe, and it was also close to Seattle, and also Vancouver. It’s right in the middle basically, so we got the crossroads of culture from both places and could also visit those places on a regular basis, which we did. I lived in Seattle for a while when I was a kid. But Bellingham, it was just a great place to be a kid, really. It was also an interesting place. It wasn’t just about the norm. It did have its fringe elements and its artistic types, which is what I benefited from, I think. My father was really into music, so for my part of the equation in The Posies, he put a recording studio in our house. A modest one, but this was back in the day before things like GarageBand existed and everyone had a laptop. It was pretty unusual, so my house was kind of the hub for people to come make music at and record music. That’s actually where I learned to make records, and I recorded the first Posies record at my house. That got us deals with the big labels. It was kind of the thing that started everything for us. It was just done in a very modest place in Bellingham. You could say that Bellingham has been exceptionally good to me, personally.

PHAWKER: Well, also more specifically, because you’re from that Northwest area and in the 90’s you were making music, but your sound was so different from those other grunge bands, so do you think that hippie influence helped it be more pop-ish?

KEN STRINGFELLOW: Not really. I think what that is is that Bellingham is not Seattle, and we didn’t have the Posies-Dear-23same access to everything that people in Seattle did. You know, the people who you know from the grunge world, I mean they almost all went to the same private school. Half of Pearl Jam, guys from the Presidents of the United States, and a couple guys from other bands – they all went to the same private school in Seattle. They had a different life, and they were older. They had cool, punk-rock record stores on every corner in Seattle, and Bellingham, you know, we didn’t have hardly anything. I mean, we could hardly get the radio. It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere. And there’s no Internet at this time, of course, so information was not so easy to come by. So, our first album, Failure, is a cross between our parents’ record collections and what we could discover on our own, which is why it’s a little bit retro. I think that’s why that 60’s vibe is there because our parents’ record collections were one of the biggest sources we had in that small town.

PHAWKER: Speaking of the ’60s, what does it feel like to have Ringo cover one of your songs? My editor said that it seems a bit like having God quote you in his grad-school thesis.

JON AUER: That was insane. I wrote the lyrics to that, and that’s one of my songs. Because Ken and I, we write stuff together but we also write stuff apart. I gotta say that when we heard that, you know there’s that old show The Twilight Zone. That’s the kind of vibe. It’s just so surreal. And then I read an interview from Ringo saying that he was presented the song by his manager at the time, and he wasn’t totally sold. But then he read the lyrics, and thought the lyrics were very good, and that’s what convinced him to do the song. So, you can imagine that for me, that was pretty special. To think of this band that I grew up on, that my parents grew up on, and because of them I ended up loving them. The song itself is a play on a Beatles song titled “Golden Slumbers.”
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Q&A W/ Anthony Bourdain, The Lou Reed Of Eating

Friday, June 8th, 2018

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[Illustrations by ALEX FINE]

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally ran back in November of 2011. Good night Mr. Bourdain, wherever you are.

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Anthony Bourdain is a man who needs no introduction, but for those not in the know or without a consumptive cable habit, understand that he is the enfant terrible of the foodie world who came of age on the Punk Rock Planet of New York ‘77 simultaneously pogoing to the likes of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, and Patti Smith and shooting smack in the shithole bathrooms of CBGBs. Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978, he ran the kitchens of various fancy Big Apple eateries — including the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s — before winding up the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998. In 2000, he penned the gonzo fin de siecle memoir Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which expanded on his infamous New Yorker piece, Don’t Eat Before Reading This, that begins thusly:

Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger–risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese and shellfish. Your first 207 Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your 208th may send you to bed with the sweats, chills and vomits. Gastronomy is the science of pain.

Kitchen Confidential soon occupied the New York Times best seller list and led to Bourdain hosting his own show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, wherein he trots the globe sampling the outre customs and exotic cuisines of various indigenous peoples and, for fear of offending his hosts, and in the pursuit of damn good television, bravely chomps down just about everything put in front of him, including: sheep testicles, ant eggs, seal eyeballs, a whole cobra with its heart still beating, and, most disgustingly, a wharthog’s anus, which required him to take Cipro for two weeks. In my book, he is pretty much The Coolest Man On Earth. Given that chefs are the new rock stars, I hereby dub him ‘The Lou Reed of Food’ — just remember you heard it here first, folks.  Recently, Phawker got Bourdain on the horn to talk about eating dog, shooting smack, dissing Philly and, of course, hating on Billy Joel.

PHAWKER: You caused a bit of a ruckus a few years back when you sort of dismissed Philly as a “two-horse town,” Stephen Starr and George Perrier. Would you take that back if you could? Do you still feel that way?

bourdain_2.jpgANTHONY BOURDAIN: I certainly would take it back in a hot second. The only thing that’s in my way is there are increasingly large numbers of really good restaurants there or interest places for sure, a large number have come to Philadelphia since I made that comment. But having great restaurants only is not generally what I do. I’m looking for something different. If you had a huge Cambodian community, that would be interesting. Good fine dining which Philadelphia has, good Italian food which Philadelphia has, that’s not making a show for me yet.

PHAWKER: Aside from the fancy-pants restaurants in town, which there are more and more of these days, there is interesting stuff out in the neighborhoods.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I don’t know anything about it. It’s a personal failing that we haven’t found a way into yet. We will, there’s no doubt about it.

PHAWKER: Where are you planning to eat when you get to Philly?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I’m in the middle of a tour so generally I pull in late in the afternoon, all I have time for is to check into the hotel, throw some water on my face, take a bite of cheese from the complementary cheese tray, do my gig, by the time I’m doing the signing and the picture taking afterwards I collapse into my bed at 1 AM, wake up at 4:30 or 5 and I’m off to the next city. So unfortunately this time around I will shamefully not be getting around.

PHAWKER: Let’s talk about some of the stranger things you’ve eaten – sheep testicles, ant eggs, seal eyeball, whole cobra with it’s heart still beating, wharthog’s anus, which required you to take Cipro for two weeks – where do you draw the line? Is there anything you wouldn’t put in your mouth?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I try to avoid dog, that’s for sure. I’ve managed to gracefully avoid having that presented to me. I try to be a good guest. I try to eat whatever’s put in front of me. But at the same time, I’ve made efforts to not find myself in a position where my host is surprising me with dog.

PHAWKER: There is a Mexican place here in Philly called Los Taquitos De Puebla that sells eyeball tacos.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Oh yeah, that’s very classic, I’ve had a lot of that in Mexico. That’s very ordinary food. I’ve had a lot of it. It’s good.

PHAWKER: Touché. Is it cow eyeball?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Yes.

PHAWKER: A couple things here I wanted to check off in the true/false column. Did you really tell your kids that eating at McDonald’s causes retardation?
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CINEMA: All In The Family

Friday, June 8th, 2018

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HEREDITARY (Directed by Ari Aster, 127 minutes, USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Hereditary is the feature length directorial debut from Ari Aster who made a name for himself with a disturbing viral short about a family harboring a dark secret called The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011). It is also arguably the best horror in the last five years. Hereditary premiered at Sundance in January, and quickly became the film to see this year for horror fans when the buzz surround it hit a fever pitch with some calling it the scariest horror movie in years. While that sounds a bit like hyperbole, I will say for those that love a dark mix of psychological and supernatural horror, they aren’t that far off.

Hereditary is the story of Ann Graham (Toni Collette), an artist known for creating intricately detailed dioramas, who is struggling to come to terms with the recent loss of her estranged mother Ellen. Towards the end of her life, Ellen developed dementia and lived with Ann, her husband Steve, their son Peter (Alex Wolff) and their borderline autistic daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Ellen’s death triggers into motion a bizarre series of events as the family struggles to cope with the matriarch’s death while battling with their own literal demons. When Ann meets a woman dealing with the loss of her son who offers her a chance to speak to the other side, things somehow go from bad to worse as Ann begins to unlock the secrets of her family’s history.  Aster has crafted the kind of horror film that weaponizes your own senses against you to devastating effect. The film’s disarmingly gorgeous and surreal cinematography lulls the viewer into a false sense of security, while the jittery soundtrack establishes an underlying sense of unwavering tension, in much the same way that Christopher Nolan employed a ticking clock in Dunkirk to such unnerving effect.

If you removed all the supernatural elements freom Hereditary you would still have an intensely moving story of a family spiraling out of control as they process their grief. This is by and large due Toni Collette whose performance gives the narrative a captivating baseline of reality that locks the audience in before the film brings the supernatural underpinnings to the forefront. Alex Wolff, who starred in Jumanji, paired with the scene stealing newcomer Milly Shapiro bring this cycle to full circle as we can see the heartbreaking toll Ann and her mother’s relationship has had on her children. The film’s nuanced take on family and how we sometimes struggle with those we love the most is a theme that is echoed throughout the film, even in its most sinister moments. Hereditary is a super effective slow burn shocker, a perfect blend of art house sensibilities and transgressive surreal horror that coalesces into a modern classic of the genre.

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BEWITCHED: Q&A With Hereditary‘s Milly Shapiro

Friday, June 8th, 2018

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Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC One of the most striking aspects of the supernatural horror thriller Hereditary is the performance by 15-year-old newcomer Milly Shapiro as Charlie, the daughter of Ann Graham (Toni Collette). In the film, Charlie is her Grandmother’s favorite and because of that intense relationship, when she passes away the young girl is lost and retreats inward. As Ann begins to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s legacy, Charlie is left to figure out what life without her grandmother is as she struggles to find her way in this strange world. It’s a subtle performance filled with quiet nuances and an amazing breadth of understated emotions. The unrelenting melancholia she conjures onscreen is utterly mesmerizing. I got a chance to chat with Milly in anticipation for Hereditary’s release and I have to say I was even more impressed with her performance after learning what went into the performance and discovering how different she was from Charlie.

PHAWKER: I have to ask first off this being your first feature length, what has it been like seeing the response Hereditary has gotten from not only critics, but audiences as well?

MILLY SHAPIRO: It was so cool! I always knew that Hereditary was going to be great from the second I read the script. So, seeing everyone’s reactions to it was really amazing, because everyone put their all into this film. It’s been great to see that so many people loved it.

PHAWKER: Did you parents have any reservations when they read the script since Hereditary is a pretty dark film?hereditary_ver5

MILLY SHAPIRO:  Not really. My mom and I read it and she came to me and asked if I was okay with everything. I told her yes, I personally love horror. She asked me if I was going to be freaked out by anything and asked me a bunch of questions, and when I gave her my answers; she said, “do you really want to do it?” and I said yes, I really do. Then she said, “okay, you can do it.” My mom was there with me the entire time to make sure I was okay with everything and everyone else was really great about making sure I was okay as well, because there are a lot of dark scenes in this film. I felt completely comfortable all through filming, and that’s not something you always hear from an actor in a horror movie.

PHAWKER: I didn’t know you were a horror fan, what are some of your favorite horror films?

MILLY SHAPIRO: My favorite horror films are films like The Exorcist, The Shining, the original IT.I usually like the older horror movies, because they take their time to develop. It’s not just about being scared in the moment, it’s about sitting in your house at night and not being able to sleep, because you can’t stop thinking about it. That is something I really love about the horror genre.

PHAWKER: What I liked about Charlie is she is very much an outsider. She’s different, but she’s confident in herself. What was your take on her from the script in what makes her tick?

MILLY SHAPIRO:  I when I read the script, I think I had an idea of who Charlie was. But once I got the part Ari and I got together a bunch of times to really develop the character. She is really otherworldly, is how I would best describe it. She is an outsider. She is almost like an alien in her own world. But to her everyone else is different, weird or strange, she is the one acting how she is supposed to.

PHAWKER: Was there any direction you got from Ari on the character that you’d want to share that was maybe in the scripthereditary_ver6 or mentioned in these discussions?

MILLY SHAPIRO:  We talked a lot about what Charlie thought. You don’t get to really experience that because she isn’t very expressive. We worked hard to really develop what her relationships with the other family members were and how she would react to them. It was very complicated because her way of thinking is very different from how the normal or average person would think. So I had to develop a whole new way of thinking for Charlie. So that way when I stepped into the character I would see the world through different eyes and Ari really helped me with that. For me Charlie was so hard to do because she was so different from myself.

PHAWKER: Charlie’s introvertedness is the result of the damaged relationship between Ann and Ellen, and when Ellen passes Charlie is pushed over the edge. Do you think Charlie knew deep down inside what Ellen was grooming her for?

MILLY SHAPIRO:  I think in a way she did. I think she always knew the body she was in, the way people treated her wasn’t the way she was made to be treated. I think Ellen treated her in a very different way than a normal person would treat someone, to Charlie that just felt right. When Ellen passes away she sees no one else is treating her like that and she does not like that. She thinks it’s very odd and strange the way she is being treated. So she simply retreats further into herself.

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