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GEEK SQUAD: Black Power

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Black Lightning


The CW is loaded with middling DC Comics superhero fare like Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and even iZombie. Yet among this bloat of spandex Black Lightning stands out. The show is about Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) coming out of retirement as the electricity slinging hero Black Lightning to fight The 100 street gang. Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), the former senator who killed his father, is back in Freeland and running The 100 as he did 10 years ago. As Black Lightning returns, Jefferson’s older daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) stumbles upon her own powers to make herself bullet proof and strong enough to run through a wall. Behind The 100 is a shadowy government organization known as the ASA who are supplying the gang with Greenlight, a new drug that is a derivative of the same vaccine that gave Jefferson his powers.

Jefferson Pierce is a family man who cares about his two daughter and his ex wife. He isn’t a 25 year old in the prime of his physicality without a care in the world. He is an old man whose body aches after every patrol. And unlike most CW shows the drama is less about who is dating who and more about things that matter, such as the ever-widening racial divide in this country. For example, Thunder (Anissa) uses her superpowers to destroy a confederate statue on her college campus. Likewise, Black Lightning elects not to call the cops on a low-tier drug dealer to avoid sending him to jail for 30 year. The show’s villains also deserve mention. Both Whale and Jill Scott’s Lady Eve bring fear in completely different ways. Whale can crush a person’s throat with his bare hands while Lady Eve holds a conversation while dissecting a live body. Overall Black Lightning is just a well written show that goes the extra mile in a genre that often seems to be resting on blockbuster laurels. Black Lightning currently airs on Tuesdays at 9 pm. Season 1 wraps up April 17th. – RICHARD SUPLEE

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CINEMA: I, Gamer

Friday, April 6th, 2018


READY PLAYER ONE (Dir. by Steven Spielberg, 140 minutes, 2018, USA)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Ready Player One is director Steven Spielberg’s cinematic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 best selling novel of the same name. Considering the book itself was a love letter to a decade in which Spielberg reigned supreme, it is something of a meta move for Spielberg to helm the film adaption. Curiously, Spielberg chose to tone down the book’s dozens of references to the his own work, while taking some fascinating liberties with the material. The resulting film is Spielberg doing what he does best: Spectacle with a heart of gold.

Ready Player One takes place in 2045, in world that “is trying to outlive its problems, rather than fix them.” Terminal pollution, overpopulation, and catastrophic climate change have driven most of the world’s inhabitants to escape the dystopia  of IRL in an online VR simulation called the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) where they can do anything and be anyone they want to be. When its architect James Halliday passed away, he willed his creation to the first player to complete three hidden challenges that will earn him/her the three keys to his kingdom. This is where our protagonist Wade Watts aka Parzival (Tye Sheridan) comes into the picture, he is one of millions of Gunters (“egg hunters”) trying to not only find, but also complete the challenges before the evil mega-conglomerate IOI (Innovative Online Industries) can. Using an army of indentured gamers called the “Sixers,” IOI connects users to the OASIS and supplies the best VR gear for accessing it and is intent on completing their monopoly by winning ownership of Halliday’s creation.

The challenges have the Gunters not only culling through the pop culture that inspired Halliday for clues, but also poring over every recorded moment of his life that is available for players to view. As a result, Halliday’s obsessions prove to be a gateway to the kids’ indoctrination in 80’s culture. Chief among them is Wade Watts who hails from The Stacks,  a trailer park on steroids in dystopian Columbus, Ohio, where the grimyy double-wides are stacked atop one another in a dizzying mosaic of futuristic rural American poverty. Wade sees winning ownership of OASIS as his ticket out from beneath his abusive aunt and her rogues gallery of white trash boyfriends.

REVIEW: Hop Along Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Friday, April 6th, 2018



Hop Along, a locally-sourced Philadelphia band fronted by the gilded growl of Frances Quinlan, is best defined as undefinable, not quite punk and not quite folk. Their first two albums, Get Disowned and Painted Shut, are marked by lyrics that read more like short stories, grounded in the majesty of the mundane and smothered in a gorgeous squall buzzing guitar riffs. Quinlan’s songwriting evades the cliches and corniness that 21st century punk rock so often falls prey to, while maintaining its rasp and verve. The new Bark Your Head Off, Dog maintains Hop Along’s warbly effervescence, but this time the guitars step lightly on the distortion pedal and the songs land in a clean, well lighted place, colored with strings and powered by new rhythms. The lyrics have similarly evolved. Each song takes on a story-like structure, lending themselves to one overarching narrative: overcoming the abuse of male power. One particularly striking lyric, “Strange to be shaped by such strange men,” appears on a couple of songs, and serves as a throughline theme for the album. On “Not Abel,” the line is framed in the story of Cain and Abel, a tale rooted in love’s propensity for destruction. In “What the Writer Meant” the context is more nebulous, and shot through with gore and detachment. The songs on Bark Your Head Off, Dog draw their spell-casting power from the will to overcome, to demand change, to refuse to be shaped by the misdeeds of strange men, and not go gentle into that bad night. – KEELY MCAVENY


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

Thursday, April 5th, 2018



FRESH AIR: Four years ago, Eels founder Mark Oliver Everett decided to take a break. After 25 years of making music, he says, “I got to the point where if you do any one thing too much in your life, it catches up to you and makes it clear that you need to do something else.” Everett went on what he calls a project of self-improvement, during which he got married, got divorced and, at the age of 54, had a son. He also spent time reckoning with the losses he’d experienced earlier in life, including his sister’s suicide, his mother’s death from cancer and his father’s fatal heart attack. Now he’s back, with a new album, The Deconstruction: a reflection on both the pain and joy of life. He says the point of the record is that “life is constant motion.” “We spend most of our lives after we’re born slowly building up these defenses and walls around ourselves,” Everett explains. “I just thought, ‘What’s underneath all that? What would happen if you tore down those defenses?'” MORE



Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes herself as an “optimist who worries a lot.” And lately, it seems, there has been much to worry about. Albright’s new book, Fascism: A Warning, starts by describing how Hitler and Mussolini came to power in the 20th century, then warns about today’s authoritarian rulers in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Turkey and Russia. Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia and fled with her family after the Nazis occupied the country in 1939, notes that the United States has traditionally been viewed as a nation that opposes authoritarianism and supports democratic principles and human rights, but that perception is changing — in part because of President Trump. While Albright does not call Trump a fascist, she says that he is “the most anti-democratic leader that I have studied in American history.” MORE

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Q&A: With Hampton Sides Author Of “Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the International Hunt for His Assassin”

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018


Hampton Sides is an acclaimed bestselling author and a National Magazine Award nominated journalist. He won the PEN USA Award for nonfiction and the 2002 Discover Award from Barnes and Noble for Ghost Soldiers, a historical narrative following the rescue of WWII Bataan Death March survivors that was later adapted into the Miramax feature film The Great Raid. His next book, Blood and Thunder, was adapted into an episode of the Public Broadcasting Service’s American Experience series. Hellhound On His Trail, is a taut and thrilling account of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 65-day manhunt for his killer, the longest in American history.

PHAWKER: The book is called Hellhound On His Trail, which is a variation on the title of an old Robert Johnson song. Why did you choose that for the title?

HAMPTON SIDES: Memphis plays such a huge role in the book and in the life of Martin Luther King — it was were he came to recruit for his Poor People’s Campaign and it was where he was assassinated. And Memphis is Robert Johnson country, it’s blues country. The song is all about being pursued, either by fate or history or death, depending on how you read the song. It’s all about looking over your shoulder. The book is really about how the FBI is chasing King, and then Ray is chasing King, and then the book changes emotional valence when the FBI is chasing Ray. It’s meant to work on multiple levels.

PHAWKER: In broad strokes, can you explain James Earl Ray’s worldview, specifically as it applies to race.ap_james_earl_ray_080403_ssh.jpg

HAMPTON SIDES: Well, he was a racist. He talked while he was in prison about how killing King would be his retirement plan. He called him Martin Luther Coon. He was contemplating moving to Rhodesia [after killing King], which was a racist/segregationist  breakaway state that didn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. He was doing volunteer work for the George Wallace campaign in 1968. None of this necessarily explains why he would pick up a gun and stalk King and try to shoot him. There is some mental illness there, aggravated by long term use of amphetamines. And the idea that he had that he was going to be the ambitious one in his family, I think he did view this as a business proposition, because there were various bounties on King’s head, and I think he hoped that eventually he would collect one of them.

PHAWKER: But he was not a join-the-KKK kind of a racist…

HAMPTON SIDES: No, but he wasn’t a joiner period and he spent a good portion of his adult life behind bars anyway, so it would be hard for him to go to meetings of the local Klan. Also, once he was out he was a fugitive so he was reluctant to get too familiar with any group. And the volunteer work he did for the George Wallace campaign was done under an alias.

PHAWKER: For the benefit of our younger readers, could you explain the George Wallace phenomenon?

HAMPTON SIDES: George Wallace was the former governor of Alabama, who was quite articulate, in his redneck way, at articulating the frustrations of the white underclass. So when he ran for President in 1968 as an independent candidate he enjoyed an initial surge in popularity. It was the most successful independent campaign since Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party. Wallace was a stone cold racist, he was the guy who stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama to prevent integration. He was governor of the state where Martin Luther King enjoyed most of his Civil Rights victories — wallace.jpgBirmingham Alabama, Selma, Alabama — so there was a sense that MLK and Wallace sort of played off each other and I think that this was a duality that was going on in Ray’s mind.

PHAWKER: How would you compare the mindset of the average George Wallace supporter with the virulent anti-Obama sentiment of the Tea Party?

HAMPTON SIDES: The culture of hate is still alive and well. Only now it’s armed with technology, specifically the Internet, which has become sort of an echo chamber of hate. These people are out there. There is a lot of chatter, loose talk about taking on politicians and police men. People packing heat at political meetings. Talk about taking the country back, violently if necessary. It’s scary. So I think there is a lot of similarity.  I guess Mark Twain was right when he said that history does not necessarily repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. And it’s rhyming right now in a lot of stark ways. Demagogues like George Wallace don’t always understand the effect that the poison they are putting out into the world effects certain people. Especially lost souls like James Earl Ray who will take the message literally and pick up a gun and change history.

NICK LOWE: Tokyo Bay

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

On June 15, Yep Roc Records will release Nick Lowe’s ‘Tokyo Bay/Crying Inside’ EP, the “elegant and nearly devastating” (New York Times) songwriter’s first new music in five years, and first non-holiday recordings in some seven years. The four-song EP features the two new Lowe originals of its title, plus covers of songs popularized by Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker”) and Cliff Richard (“Travellin’ Light”). Lowe is backed by his Yep Roc label mates and frequent touring partners Los Straitjackets on all four songs, which were recorded at the Diamond Mine in Queens, NY in late 2017 (Lowe’s first New York sessions in decades). The EP will be released via all digital platforms and as a double vinyl 45 featuring exclusive artwork with each disc.

Lowe tells NPR of the new song: “Anyone who has ridden the sixty-odd miles from Narita (Tokyo’s main airport) to the city will have experienced that part of the journey where for what seems like an eternity, the main road follows the bay shore. The bay itself is a vast bight dotted with rust-caked commercial vessels, fringed with port facilities and industrial sites featuring giant chemical storage containers and ranks of tall chimneys belching out clouds of smoke in a variety of sinister hues. Contemplating its awesome bleakness through a bus window a while ago I thought it might be fun to try to write a song where the bay is presented as a romantic and desirable destination; palm trees, coral reefs, maidens on the sand etc. in fact the polar opposite of the way it actually is, and this little rockabilly number turned up.”


PREVIOUSLY: Q&A With Nick Lowe, Elder Statesman Of Pure Pop

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Monday, April 2nd, 2018



NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It is certainly not a surprise that Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns. What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense, indulging in lavish travel for personal reasons (including a trip to Fort Knox to witness the solar eclipse) and designing their offices with $31,000 dining sets and $139,000 doors. Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion.

It is hardly a coincidence that so many greedy people have filled the administration’s ranks. Trump’s ostentatious crudeness and misogyny are a kind of human-resources strategy. Radiating personal and professional sleaze lets him quickly and easily identify individuals who have any kind of public ethics and to sort them out. (James Comey’s accounts of his interactions with the president depict Trump probing for some vein of corruptibility in the FBI director; when he came up empty, he fired him.) Trump is legitimately excellent at cultivating an inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples. These are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to work for him.

It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed. […] Trump’s campaign followed his patented human-resources strategy, filling its ranks with other rapacious and financially precarious men. Paul Manafort was deeply in debt to a Russian oligarch when he popped up on Trump’s doorstep. Michael Flynn was selling his credentials to Russian and Turkish dictators while advising Trump. Jared Kushner was flailing about in an effort to make good on a massive loan he took out on a white-elephant Manhattan building and seems to have used his access to Trump to leverage potential investors who might bail him out. Even as he has wielded enormous influence, Kushner has been unable to obtain a top-secret security clearance, because he may be vulnerable to foreign influence.

The virtue of bribery is a subject of genuine conviction for Trump, whose entrée to politics came via transactional relationships with New York politicians as well as Mafia figures. Trump once called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American corporations from engaging in bribery, a “ridiculous” and “horrible” law. Enforcement of this law has plummeted under his administration. Trump’s vision of an economy run by tight circles of politically connected oligarchs has reshaped America’s standing in the world. The same effect that applies at the personal level with Trump has appeared at the level of the nation-state. Small-d democratic leaders have recoiled from the Trump administration, while autocrats have embraced him. Similarly, the president and his inner circle feel most comfortable in the company of the wealthy and corrupt. They have built closer ties to Russia, the Gulf States, and China, all of which are ruled by oligarchs who recognize in Trump a like-minded soul. They share the belief that — to revise a favorite Trump saying — if you don’t steal, you don’t have a country. MORE

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HAPPY EASTER: David Lynch’s Rabbits

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

WIKIPEDIA: Rabbits is a 2002 series of short horror web films written and directed by David Lynch, although Lynch himself refers to it as a nine-episode sitcom.[1] It depicts three humanoid rabbits played by Scott Coffey, Laura Elena Harring[2] and Naomi Watts in a room.[3] Their disjointed conversations are interrupted by a laugh track. Rabbits is presented with the tagline “In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain… three rabbits live with a fearful mystery”. Rabbits takes place entirely within a single box set representing the living room of a house. Within the set, three humanoid rabbits enter, exit, and converse. One, Jack, is male and wears a smart suit. The other two, Suzie and Jane, are female, one of whom wears a dress, the other a dressing gown. The audience watches from about the position of a television set. In each episode, the rabbits converse in apparent non sequiturs. The lines evoke mystery, and include “Were you blonde?”, “Something’s wrong”, “I wonder who I will be”, “I only wish they would go somewhere”, “It had something to do with the telling of time”, and “no one must find out about this”. The disordered but seemingly related lines the rabbits speak suggest that the dialogue could be pieced together into sensible conversations, but concrete interpretations are elusive. MORE

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

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 11.29.52 PM


NPR FRESH AIR: Comedian Bill Hader is adept onstage and doing live performances. But he’s scared to death of standup. He says he remembers watching Chris Rock’s 1996 HBO special, Bring the Pain, and thinking, “I don’t know how people do that.”

“I need a character,” Hader tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I need people out there with me.” So Hader has stuck with sketch comedy — where he has been wildly successful. He joined the Saturday Night Live cast seven years ago along with Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, who both recently left the show. And he’s garnered quite a bit of laughs and attention — including a recent Emmy nomination — for his role as Stefon, an obsessive New York clubgoer and nightlife critic.

“The majority of people come up to me and say ‘I’m a Stefon,’ or ‘I’ve been called a Stefon,’ or ‘I used to date someone like Stefon,’ ” Hader says. He cites one person who approached him to say he “liked that Stefon was gay, but it’s not the joke that he’s gay.” Hader says that he and John Mulaney, a writer for Saturday Night Live who co-created the character of Stefon with Hader, appreciated that comment, because it meant the viewer got what they were going for. The joke is “more about how [Stefon’s] doing a bad job and on a lot of drugs,” Hader says.

Hader says that as a child, he loved watching old movies with his family — and he was always interested in what was going on behind the scenes. So when he moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in entertainment, he intended to direct films. He found work as a production assistant on both low-budget and expensive Hollywood films for nearly four years before joining the sketch-comedy group Second City. Hader was eventually noticed by actress Megan Mullally (formerly of Will and Grace), who recommended him to Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels. Hader was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. The last Saturday Night Live cast member to be nominated in this category was Eddie Murphy in 1983. MORE

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CINEMA: Dog Day Afternoon

Thursday, March 29th, 2018


ISLE OF DOGS (Directed by Wes Anderson, 101 minutes, USA, 2018)

meavatar2BY JONATHAN VALANIA Near the end of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Snoopy, a wire-hair fox terrier owned by Sam Shakusky, the bespectacled, coonskin-capped orphan-on-the-lam at the center of the film, is accidentally killed by an errant arrow. By way of eulogy, Sam is asked if Snoopy was a good dog. Unwittingly channeling the louche moral relativism of a Left Bank existentialist, Sam shrugs wearily and asks “Who’s to say?” Anderson’s new film, a stop-motion animated puppet pageant called Isle Of Dogs, dispenses with any and all such moral ambiguity: it is the cleanly-drawn story of good dogs and, with a few strategic exceptions, bad humans. Set in the mythical Japanese city of Megasaki 20 years in the dystopian future, Isle Of Dogs imagines the unthinkable: a world without Man’s Best Friend.

All the dogs in the Megasaki have mysteriously contracted the dreaded Dog Flu, which is threatening to make the species leap into the humans. As a protective measure, the city’s corrupt, cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi signs a decree banishing all canines to Trash Island, a massive putrefying  garbage dump off the coast of the Japanese Archipelago. A dog’s life is hard on Trash Island, where they sleep in a cubist mosaic of toxic detritus and wander its vast rancid wastes competing with rats and each other for maggot-riddled scraps. We soon learn — thanks to a muckraking student newspaper reporter/foreign exchange student from America named Tracy Walker, voiced by Greta Gerwig —  that Dog Flu was actually created by evil scientists in the mayor’s employ and unleashed on Megasaki’s dog population as a pretext for their eventual banishment and replacement by robot dogs. You see, Mayor Kobayashi just so happens to own the factory that makes robot dogs.

Back on Trash Island, we soon make the acquaintance of a small posse of exiled curs — voiced by the likes of Edward Norton (Rex), Bill Murray (Boss), Bryan Cranston (Chief), Bob Balaban (King) and Jeff Goldblum (Duke) — who are sick, starving and on the verge of giving up. Suddenly a small prop plane crashes into the island, and the dogs pull its pint-sized aviator out of the wreckage. His name is Atari, the 12-year-old ward of Mayor Kobayashi. Atari has come looking for his beloved best friend/bodyguard, Spots (Liev Schreiber), who was exiled to Trash Island while his young master was in coma after surviving a tragic bullet train wreck that has left him an orphan. Together they embark on a film-long odyssey across Trash Island in search of Spots and in the process, with the help of  haystack-haired Tracy and — wait for it — Yoko Ono, thwart the Mayor’s evil plan to genocide the dogs with weaponized wasabi, and reveal the miraculous discovery of a cure for Dog Flu.

As always, the latest installment of Wes World is an impeccably-curated, semi-precious, eye-dazzling display of aesthetic prowess. Like Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle Of Dogs was filmed in painstakingly artisanal stop-motion by Tristan Oliver — think Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer or Davey & Goliath —  and production designers Adam Stockhausen and Paul Harrod have invested the post-apocalyptic mis en scene of Trash Island with a scuzzy splendor and rendered Megasaki a sinister noir shadowland. Visually, the film pays homage to samurai epics, late period Kurosawa and peak Kaiju, the cinematic genre that brought us the stompy likes of Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. Andy Gent’s dog puppetry is a four-legged marvel of matted fur, wagging tails, canine incisors and impossibly sad cobalt blue eyes that are forever trying to break your heart. Alexandre Desplat’s score channels the sonic tropes of the Land Of The Rising Sun, most notably the majestic taiko drums of Kabuki theater. However, the soundtrack is absent the usual ‘60s Mod-psych deep cuts, with the exception of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s high lonesome “I Won’t Hurt You” which is used to devastating effect at the tipping point of the film’s epic sadness.

On paper, the storybook unreality of stop-motion film-making seems like a perfect match for the high twee snow-globe artistry of Wes Anderson. In reality, the downside of stop-motion is that puppets, no matter how artfully they are mastered and manipulated, rarely evince the kind of emotional buy-in you get from watching the trials and tribulations and triumphs of an ensemble cast of homo sapiens. This is why the anthropomorphized furries of Fantastic Mr. Fox, for all their charm and whimsy, will never come close to evoking the broken, sad-eyed pathos of a Richie Tenenbaum or the unearned triumphalism of Max Fischer, the soulful foppery of Monsieur Gustav H. or the quiet desperation of Steve Zissou in twilight. Still, Isle Of Dogs has many clever tricks up its sleeve, lots of yucks to be had and the narrative resonates on multiple levels. On its face, it seems like a classic story about a boy and his dog — or more accurately a boy and some dogs that help him find his dog — set in Japan in the near-future. But beneath the surface, it hits a lot closer to home in the here and now. At heart, Isle of Dogs is a cautionary tale about people and how easily they can be deceived and misled by demagogues and enlisted to assist in the demonization and eventual but inevitable genocide of The Other. And that, tragically, is a story that never gets old. NOW PLAYING AT RITZ-FIVE


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RESEVOIR DAWG: Meet Folktronica Prodigy Gordi

Thursday, March 29th, 2018



BY KEELY MCAVENEY Here’s what you need to know about Gordi: she is a 25-year Australian old singer-songwriter who combines folk and electronica with striking results. Her debut album Resevoir came out last summer, described by one critic as “At once cavernous and claustrophobic, substantially assembled from gloomy electronica and echoing drums, all of which provides an appropriate backdrop to a rich voice appealingly laced with melancholy.” She is currently touring with the likes of S. Carey, Bon Iver’s drummer. He’s featured on her track “I’m Done,” a breakup ballad that is both emotionally fragile and empowering. Not only has she mastered lyrical and melodic balance, but also occupational. When she’s not touring, she’s ardently pursuing her studies at med school. Her U.S. tour with S. Carey made its way to Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia last night. Here’s what she had to say to Phawker:

PHAWKER: I’m sure you get asked all the time about the stage name Gordi? But, where did it come from, and why did you choose it for your stage name?

GORDI: Yeah, it’s a family nickname that, like, yeah, my brother started calling me when I was a kid, and we don’t know gordi_1290_1290_90where he got it from. He just like picked it out of nowhere. He was a weird child. [laughing] And, yeah, it’s, I don’t know, I kind of like, I thought of… it was suggested to me a few years ago that maybe I think about playing under another name, and I kind of wasn’t keen on the idea, and then, yeah, eventually, like, I don’t know, I came around to it. And, yeah, I feel like I’m too far down the road now to go back. Unfortunately, I sort of started going by it at the same time as Lorde and Birdy were coming around. I thought it looked like some weird imitation.

PHAWKER: Tell me about your reasons for titling the album Reservoir.

GORDI: It’s one of those things that I was thinking about what I was going to call the record, and I’d made a list of all of these different words that I liked, and lines from the songs. And none of them were really kind of sticking for me, and then I have my best mate who lives in New York. We actually talk on the phone all the time, and she and I often would use the expression that if someone’s a bit like, sort of, if one of us is a bit like reflective or contemplative, or a bit like down, then we would talk about being like, “in the reservoir.” And it was just like this real colloquial thing we talked about, which we eventually shortened to “res,” like I feel like I’m a bit in the “res” today.

VICE: The Rise & Fall Of An Alt-Right Gladiator

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

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TOMMY GETS HIS TONSILS OUT: Q&A With The Replacements/GNR Bassmaster Tommy Stinson

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018



BY JONATHAN VALANIA Tommy Stinson was the bass player in the The Replacements. He also played bass in Guns N’ Roses for nearly 20 years, and Soul Asylum for two albums, and played guitar and sang and wrote songs for Bash N’ Pop and Perfect and made solo albums. (For the in-depth 411 on Tommy Stinson’s life after The Replacements, check out this Rolling Stone profile from a couple years back.) But above all things Tommy Stinson was — along with his brother Bob on guitar, drummer Chris Mars and singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg, arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years — in The motherfucking Replacements. You kids gotta understand what a big fucking deal that is/was. At the height of their powers, The Replacements were a perfect storm of glitter, hairspray and doom. Live, they were shambolic and alcoholic, on record they were dog-eared glory, the original inglorious bastards. They were junkyard dogs with hearts of gold. The Replacements were made to be broken. And they were good at breaking things: themselves mostly, but also the will of their audience, their unshakable bond with rock critics, their indie cred, the unrealistic expectations of major labels and the maxed out expense accounts that went with them, and on a good night, the ceiling on greatness. Because when the booze was in the seventh house and Westerberg and the Brothers Stinson aligned with Mars — The Replacements were the greatest rock n’ roll band on Earth. Period. The end. In advance of Stinson’s performance at South Philly Van Club on Wednesday with his acoustic duo Cowboys in the Campfire, we got him on the horn to talk about the past, the present and what comes next.

PHAWKER: Alright, we’re rolling. This the interview with Tommy Stinson. It is March 12, 2018. So we finally speak. Long time a fan. First time a caller. Thanks for doing this. Excited to speak with you.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, sorry it took so long to hook it up.

PHAWKER: No worries, it happens sometimes. Where are you guys right now?

TOMMY STINSON: We’re in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’m out by the pool, trying to hide from the rain here, so you’re gonna hear a little music in the background. Is that gonna be alright?

PHAWKER: That’ll be fine. So, let’s start with the obvious question. Tell me a little bit about Cowboys in the Campfire [pictured, below]. What is this all about?Tommy+Stinson+Press+Photo

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, the Cowboys in the Campfire came from collaborating with Chip Roberts for the last ten years. We decided if I had some time down the road that we’d, you know, do a duo thing, where it’s just him and I stripped down and play some songs, write some songs, stuff like that. I was busy with Guns ’n Roses and the Replacements and things like that, and we didn’t really get a chance to do it. Literally sat down to do it about two years ago. And, you know, we both found ourselves coming up on summer and going, well, what have we got going on? We’ve got nothing going on this summer, so we got in the van, booked some shows, and went out as Cowboys in the Campfire and had a lot of fun doing it. And, you know, we’ve done it now for a couple of years, trying to build a little following for it, and we’re gonna work on a record here over the next month or so. Then hopefully put that out by the summer.

PHAWKER: So is it mainly covers? Originals?

TOMMY STINSON: Originals. I mean we do “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” That’s an old folk song that we joined up. And, you know, some other things, original stuff. We might do a couple covers here and there as we go along. We might throw in “Working Man’s Blues” by Merle Haggard at some point. We like that one a whole lot.

PHAWKER: Will there ever be another Bash & Pop album down the line?

TOMMY STINSON: Yes, there will be. I will probably—we’re gonna start working on a new Bash & Pop record in April.

PHAWKER: Excellent. So I’m calling you from Philadelphia. You were living here a few years back. I thought I’d ask you the obligatory question. What, if anything, do you miss about the Philadelphia area?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, I don’t really miss where I lived when I lived in Philadelphia. We were living in Media. I likedBASH+N+POP_REG.+ED+PROOF it okay over there, but, you know, it’s not my kind of scene, you know, a little older, kind of retiree community for the most part.

PHAWKER: It’s pretty Trump-y out there, yeah.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, but I got some friends there, you know. Some friends that I’ve known a long time. My buddy, Matt Cord [who DJ’d at WMMR for many years and now works at 95.7 Ben-FM]. I’ve known him for thirty some years. He’s a good old buddy. Yeah, but other than that not really missing a whole lot of it.

PHAWKER: Are you still living up in Hudson River Valley?

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, live in Hudson, New York.

PHAWKER: Can I ask you some Replacements questions?


PHAWKER: Okay. My friend, Bob Mehr wrote, in my opinion, the definitive Replacements biography, Trouble Boys. I was wondering if there’s anything in that that you’d like to correct or address otherwise?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, he pretty much did the job on that. I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t read it. I lived it, so ITrouble Boys Cover figured that’s probably all I need to do is that. Probably some time on the road I’ll read it, but I lived it. A lot of the stuff in there that starts off the book is kind of painful, so I don’t really want to retrace those steps. But, you know, I trust Bob did a very accurate accounting. He researched it long enough and did his very best to make sure he got everything as right as he could, and I think that’s probably close enough.

PHAWKER: I thought he really did your brother [Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson [pictured, below, in dress], who passed away in 1995]  justice. He really created a very rich and complex portrait of your brother, he didn’t just paint your brother as some kind of rock ’n roll casualty or just a fuck up or something like that. A real person came through there.

I was also surprised to learn that your brother came up with that awesome lead on “I Will Dare,” which is my all-time my favorite Replacements song. And your brother’s lead on that is one of my favorite guitar parts of all time — that deep, dulcet Duane Eddy vibe.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, well he had a lot of different things going on inside of him that would be surprising if you go back and look step by step at the early history [of the Replacements]. He was—when he was into something, he really put his all into it and was quite an amazing guitar player actually.

PHAWKER: So, I wanted to share a live Replacements anecdote, I’m sure you get this kind of thing all the time, so please indulge me. Saw you guys at the Ritz in New York City in 1986 when Tim came out. You guys were in the middle of playing a slow, quieter song. Paul has a lit cigarette dangling from his lip, and this is back when clubs still trusted you with the actual can of beer instead of pouring it in a harmless plastic cup. This guy throws a can of Rolling Rock from the back of the room, which was really far away, and it must’ve been really full for it to travel that far, and it hit Paul right in the forehead. He didn’t miss a note. The cigarette didn’t even fall out of his mouth. I was just like: ‘Rock ’n fucking roll!’

TOMMY STINSON: That’s a good one.Bob Stinson Dress

PHAWKER: I’ve always wanted to ask you guys, what was the deal with loud plaid suits?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, we all just kind of had a thing for plaid and like that, just always had a thing for it. We were always looking at the Slade videos and pictures. They’re all wearing, you know, crazy plaid outfits. That might’ve had something to do with it as well.

PHAWKER: Slade. That makes sense. I wanted to ask you about working with [legendary producer, best known for his work with Big Star/Alex Chilton] Jim Dickinson on Pleased To Meet Me. I actually interviewed him for a Big Star story years ago, and we got to talking about his time working with The Replacements and he was telling me about you guys had punched a hole in the wall at Ardent Studios [in Memphis, where all the Big Star tracks were recorded] somewhere, then, when you guys were totally drunk, you would just like puke in that hole in the wall. You remember this?

TOMMY STINSON: No, he’s full of shit on that one. We definitely didn’t punch a hole in the wall, and we definitely didn’t puke in the studio. That was—he kind of liked to spin some lies back then about different things just for, you know, comic relief.

PHAWKER: He was a master raconteur.

TOMMY STINSON: But, yeah, no, that didn’t happen. [laughing] He was a fun cat to work with and also could be very fucking cantankerous. And when he got cantankerous, we actually kind of got a kick out of it. Like ‘He’s just kind of having an existential meltdown right now, and it’s kind of funny.’ We’d kind of watch with slight amusement. No, I mean, he was all Jim, all day, every day, and I mean that with great reverence.LET IT BE

PHAWKER: What do you remember about making Let It Be?

TOMMY STINSON: Oh, that’s so long ago. I can’t even [laughing]. We might want to steer away from tour stuff because, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t remember a whole lot. It was so long ago. I really have to pick my brain too much for that.

PHAWKER: Where do things stand now with the Replacements reunion? I thought the shows were great.  I was just astonished at the size of the crowd when you guys played in Philadelphia. It was like the Replacements were ten times more popular in death than they ever were in life.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, that surprised us as well, and we had a lot of fun with that. It was fun, you know, but I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again.

PHAWKER: So, there’s no plans to do shows some time in the future?


PHAWKER: Sorry to hear that. Last question: The Replacements raised a lot of hell and got into a lot of trouble in the name of punk rock or rock ’n roll rebellion and left behind a long trail of wreckage. What is your one big regret from all that time? If there’s something you could go back and do over again and not do or do differently?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, I don’t have any. I have no regrets about what we did, how we did it, because I think we were as honest as we could be, and sometimes honesty comes with a price.


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