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BEING THERE: Pixies + Weezer @ BB&T Pavilion

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018


I have no control over the Spotify playlist when cruising the highways and byways with my wee men, and while I am afforded at least one or two selections over a 40-minute span, the majority of my time behind the wheel is scored by the likes of Drake, Post Malone and Logic. Yet the most inexplicable queue add of late was Toto’s “Africa,” which only after a cursory screen-face peek revealed itself to be a Weezer cover. From 2018. If you read the backstory on why THAT cover, it all but underlines the band’s enduring appeal. They give the kids exactly what they want.

Yet when the band opens a set with what one identifies as their biggest hits, it’s hard to gauge whether you’ve gotten your fill some 30 minutes in. The shadow of their “Blue” album weighs heavy on those who haven’t maintained a rhythm with the band’s output since their “Green”, but based on the youthful crowd at the BB&T Pavilion on Saturday night, this is a minority view. The further Rivers Cuomo and company strayed from their perceived roots, the more impassioned the capacity crowd got. Pouring rain be damned.

Weezer are one of but a handful of ’90s outfits who actually managed to strengthen their arena rock headlining cred between Gens X and Y, and Camden was filled to the brim with millennials only a decade-plus away from their high school hallways – where the strains of “Beverly Hills,” “Half Pipe” and “Pork & Beans” were insecurity boosting benchmarks, not unlike a prior decade’s collegiate daydreamers, whose spliff rolls were scored by “Undone” and “El Scorcho.” The mid-catalog soft rock pull of an “Islands in the Sun” perfectly encapsulates Weezer’s enduring appeal; they were always easy-to-swallow pop stars without the boy band looks, with heavy leans on enduring “simpler time” harmonies – which is why they can slide in multi-generational covers with ease. They laced their set with everything from The Turtles “Happy Together” to A-Ha’s “Take On Me” to the aforementioned “Africa,” all to the total adoration of an audience who finds escapism in karaoke. Populist jams, hence the sweaters.

Historically, Weezer has been WAY more successful than every other band who maximized the groundwork laid by The Pixies. Some 25 years on, the formula is now more than apparent – those bands that embraced Black Francis’ artsy menace are now mere footnotes against those who leaned more heavily on the pop perfection of their loud-quiet-loud dynamics. In their current live incarnation, the band can still snarl through a perfect rendition of “Gouge Away” and then illuminate the room with the perfect harmonies of “Here Comes Your Man,” but there is no denying two obvious truths – their new material sticks out like a sore thumb against their legendary catalog, and that legendary catalog NEEDS Kim Deal to make the prophetic strains of their heyday complete. To see them even with someone as accomplished as Paz Lenchantin on bass is like having an affair on the love of your life.

In a perfect world, Sleigh Bells would’ve played to at least, say, even a half-packed house. More so than Weezer, the three-piece taps into what made the Pixies tick with a sexy abandon. It’s what the twenty-somethings of 1994 envisioned as “the future” – the sound of what we thought would sell out arenas and keep the world on its toes. Alas, pop won. It always wins. Bless the rains down in Camden. – JAMES DOOLITTLE


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

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Cambridge Analytica


THE OBSERVER: Journalists are natural egotists. Even so, we generally prefer not to be at the centre of the news we are reporting. Yet as George Orwell knew, there are times when the journalist cannot avoid being part of the story. Carole Cadwalladr, winner of this year’s Orwell prize for journalism, has made a virtue of this necessity. Not only has she broken some of the most important stories of the last two years, she has also involved her readers in her own voyage of discovery, taking us with her as she navigates the murky waters of the Brexit and Trump phenomena. Carol CadwalladrThere is a large personal cost to this: Cadwalladr has been exposed to the wrath of the forces she has been exposing. But it has been a vital demonstration of the power of real journalism. She has not just demanded transparency – she has shown in her own brilliant reporting what transparency looks like.

As the appalling massacre of journalists in Maryland has reminded us, the free press is fighting for its life. One of the preludes to authoritarianism is the undermining of the legitimacy of independent media. The purpose is obvious: to clear the field for far-right propaganda machines. Donald Trump’s systematic targeting of reporters as “enemies of the American people”, the dismissal of all inconvenient reporting as “fake news” and the organised online contempt for the “mainstream media” (which of course does not include approved media giants such as Fox News and the Daily Mail) all serve this same grim purpose. Orwell, of course, would have recognised all of this from the 1930s, and one suspects therefore that he would also have recognised that the bile that has been directed towards Cadwalladr is the ultimate tribute to her effectiveness. She has had to withstand the full range of attacks, from openly sexist sneering to accusations of professional incompetence, from legal menaces to “jokey” incitements to violence. When Leave.EU posted a video of a sequence from Airplane! in which Cadwalladr’s face was substituted for that of a “hysterical” woman who is repeatedly smacked about the head, the message was as clear as it was crude. MORE

FRESH AIR: The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit has led her to Russian connections and the Trump campaign. She says British investigators are now “working very closely with the FBI.” MORE

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BEING THERE: Beck @ Festival Pier

Saturday, July 21st, 2018



As a rule, I hate concerts with hand-clapping. The one and only exception to my rule is Beck last night at the Festival Pier on the final stop of Colors tour. Having long worshipped the 90’s experimental rock god from the first time my dad played “Loser” for me on a car radio back in 2008, finally seeing him live was surreal to say the least. As the band opened with an earth-shaking rendition of “Devils Haircut,” the stage lit up with a colorfully morphing visual display on the two-story back screen. The vibrant 90’s designs of said display, paired with the bright purple suit Beck was rocking, gave the night a time-capsule-like feel that I feared would end in a nostalgic and gimmicky disaster for superfans.

But I am happy to report that my fears were unfounded. While it’s true that Beck is by no means the same angsty manboy slacker of “Loser” nor the suggestively sultry narrator of “Debra,” he has found a way to continually reinvent his sound and himself in a decades-long musical odyssey without losing the bounce in his step — bopping, pogoing rhythms of newer songs like “Up All Night,” and “Dear Life” were some of the most high-energy moments of the two-hour show. Beck’s trip through the last thirty years of his back catalogue was mirrored by multiple costume and instrumental changes. Going from a Willy Wonka suit to an edgy black leather jacket to a regal white one (all with matching Panama hats), Beck zigzagged from techno distortion to an acoustic duet of “Girl Dreams” with opener Jenny Lewis to an impressive cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.”

The futuristic side of Beck was repped by the warped sound effects and robotic dance moves. And the strobing colors on the back-screen during his more recent songs resembled the hypnotic visuals of an EDM rave. But what was more interesting perhaps was his willingness to embrace old school show biz rituals like introducing the band. And for a brief and shining moment, with his hat slung low over his shaggy hair and sandy mustache during a harmonica solo, I could’ve sworn he was Bob Dylan. Teetering on the border of two millennia, Beck has an audience that is equal parts high schoolers and folks old enough to be their parents. So despite the initial gag reflex at all the arena-rock stage antics, they enabled Beck to bridge the widening age gap and entertain two different generations at the same time, while remaining free and clear of the dreaded dad-rock tag.

Ending with a prolonged delivery of an awesomely techno “Where It’s At,” Beck took a moment to give an extended thanks to all the fans that have stuck with him through the many twists and turns of his career. As the band passed around a fern during their final moments on stage, I couldn’t help but think how intentionally corny some parts of the night were. But then again, when you’re an artist on your last night of tour for your thirteenth successful studio album who not only helped set off a rock revolution twenty years ago but also actively contributes quality material to music of today, well you can afford to be just about as fucking corny as you want. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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HOW TO GROW UP TO BE A DEBASER: An Intensely Personal Q&A w/ The Pixies’ Black Francis

Friday, July 20th, 2018

pixies - 011 CROPPED


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the complete and unabdridged version of my 7200 word Q&A with Black Francis of The Pixies’ for the cover of the March 2014 issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE. We’re reposting it now on the eve of the Pixies’ performance at the BB&T Pavilion tomorrow night with Weezer and Sleigh Bells. Enjoy.

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA The year is 1988. I’m a college DJ stranded in the middle of Pennsyltucky. Entranced by the naked boob on the cover of Surfer Rosa, I slap it on the turntable and…they had me by the first 20 seconds of “Where Is My Mind?” They never really let go. Shortly thereafter I got a gig working for a Pennsyltucky daily. They asked me one day if I wanted to interview some guy named Black Francis from the Pixies. Would I? Man, this was a dream come true! I could finally learn the WTF of lyrics like, “He bought me a soda, he bought me a soda/ And he tried to molest me in the parking lot.”

When I got him on the phone, he was no doubt bone-tired from endless touring and weary of answering stupid fanboy questions. He insisted I call him Charles and pretty much refused to give me a straight answer to any question. “Who cares?” he’d say. “We just try to make cool rock music.” I remember thinking: what a dick.

It’s 1993. In the wake of a dispiriting trail of tears across North Ameria as U2’s opening act, and years of low-intensity inter-band strife, Black Francis breaks up The Pixies via fax,PIXIES MAGNET COVER rechristens himself Frank Black and proceeds to release a steady string of increasingly irrelevant solo albums. Kim Deal managed to land on her feet, but after a few seasons of success, the Breeders’ career collapses under the weight of the Deal sisters’ substance abuse and related baggage. Joe Santiago managed to eke out a living scoring films you never saw along with the occasional episode of Weeds and the second season of Judd Appatow’s Undeclared. And the drummer gave up music to become…wait for it…a magician.

In some ways — ways he is still not fully ready to cop to — Black Francis suffered the most. Breaking up the Pixies was Black Francis’ original sin. The world — at least the part of the world that had any bearing on the life of Charles Kittredge Thompson — loved the Pixies and decided that he would be punished for his sins with a long twilight bar band exile of dwindling record sales, half-full concert venues and diminished cultural relevance, despite making music that was, almost without exception, as good, if not better in it’s own way, than his Pixies work. “Everything I do as a solo artist will always be overshadowed by this other band called the Pixies,” he says in the documentary Loud Soft Loud. “It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s always going to end in tears.”

The cold hard fact is, people like bands, not songwriters. A band is a narrative – with archetypes, the cute one, the funny one, smart one, and so on — a songwriter, in the public’s imagination, is just some guy who bangs out jingles to make the mortgage every month. Barry Manilow is a songwriter, The Beatles are a narrative. People love good stories more than they love good songs. Frank Black didn’t have a good story.

It would take him a decade to figure that out.


LORD OF THE BROS: Talking Comedy, Tragedy, Entourage & Louis CK With Actor Jeremy Piven

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Piven + Dog


BY JONATHAN VALANIA “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” arguably Raymond Carver’s most beloved and depressive short story, is about a broken down, bottomed-out alcoholic supervising a yard sale on his front lawn where he’s selling off the sad pieces of his shattered life, and it’s not really clear if he’s selling off his belongings to so he can start his life over or because he plans to end his life. Hence the tantalizing ambiguity of the title — Carver doesn’t tell you what we talk about when we talk about love, that’s for the reader to figure out. The point, I think, that Carver was making is that whenever we talk about something, we are always talking about something else at the same time, something subliminal.

When we were booking the interview with Jeremy Piven you are about to read, his publicist drew an explicit line in the sand: We were only to talk about stand-up comedy and not, by implication, the elephant in the room of this introduction — the fact that eight women have accused him of sexual misconduct spanning the shitheel continuum from harassment to assault, according to BuzzFeed. Piven has never spoken publicly about the allegations, but he issued a blanket denial through his publicist, and cited the fact that he passed a lie detector test administered by a member of the American Polygraph Association. Still, in the wake of the allegations, CBS declined to renew The Wisdom Of The Crowd, the crime drama he produced and starred in, after just one season. He has one movie in post-production and another filming, but since the BuzzFeed story broke back in January he’s kept a very low profile, having been banished to The League Of Awful Men by the court of public opinion. His four-bedroom/3.5 bathroom, 4,404 square foot beachfront Malibu crib is currently on the market (a steal at $8.5 million, a nearly two million dollar climb down from the original asking price).

It is probably no coincidence then that at the age of 52, after a long and rewarding acting career that netted him a Golden Globe and three consecutive Emmys for his portrayal of Ari Gold, the profane, hard-charging, alpha-bro Hollywood vulgarian from HBO’s Entourage, Piven is currently re-inventing himself as a stand-up comedian. He is currently in the midst of a maiden voyage stand-up-tour-cum-charm-offensive that brings him to Punchline Philly for a five-show stand that starts tonight and runs through Sunday. The tour has reportedly drawn legions of bro-dawgs, and the ladies who love them, looking to get loud and liquored up and touch the hem of the garment of super-agent Ari Gold, Lord of the Bros — or at least the man who plays him. It’s also become a #MeToo flashpoint, and Philly is no exception. When we accepted an invite to interview Piven we foolishly expected he wanted to come clean only to be told that anything other than stand-up comedy was off limits. But a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the 30-minute interview: We did talk almost exclusively about comedy and all things funny, but at the same time we were, with tantalizing ambiguity, talking about the unspoken and the unspeakable. Because in Philly, that’s what we talk about when we talk about love.

DISCUSSED: Louis C.K., Second City, Chris Farley, why now, being Ari Gold, swearing at his mother, zen and the art of Garry Shandling, Dave Chappelle, Shakespeare, nieces, the Piven Theater, the secret of laughter, the City of Big Shoulders, Mark Wahlberg, Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Pryor, Monty Python, the fearlessness of improv, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the possibility of second acts in American life and whether or not the mighty who’ve fallen can find redemption in laughter.

PHAWKER: Your publicist was very specific in clarifying that the conversation should be restricted to stand-up comedy…

JEREMY PIVEN: Yeah, I mean stand-up comedy, family, acting – anything you want, you know. Except what they talked about, yeah.

PHAWKER: Okay, fair enough. So, at the age of 53, after a long high-profile career in film and television, you are reinventing yourself as a stand-up comic. Why now?

JEREMY PIVEN: Sorry, sorry brother, one more time. I just had a bad connection.

PHAWKER: I said at the age of 53, after a long and high-profile career in film and television, you are reinventing yourself as a stand-up comic – why now?

JEREMY PIVEN: Well, what’s fascinating is that it’s not a reinvention. What’s interesting is that I grew up on the stage, and I’m a stage actor, and always have been. And then kind of figured out a way to navigate film and TV. But from the time that I was 8 years old, I was onstage. And that’s what I did all through school. And then as soon as I got out of college – I went to NYU and the National Theater in Great Britain to study Shakespeare, and various places, I won’t bore you with all the details – but as soon as I got out of school, my first job was at Second City, doing sketch comedy and improv. So that was my first job. I went on the road back in the days with Chris Farley.

PHAWKER: Oh, wow.

JEREMY PIVEN: Yeah, a million years ago.

PHAWKER: I love Chris Farley, I did not know that.

JEREMY PIVEN: Yeah, that’s why we’re having this conversation. That’s why we’re here, brother, because we’re actually knowing the truth, in my opinion. And that’s, by the way, that’s why I’m doing standup. Because after having the privilege and the honor of playing fictional characters that have been scripted, I get to get up on stage and perform my story, my own story, from my point of view. And I’ve never performed as myself. And that’s what’s so fascinating, and daunting and beautiful and exhilarating about stand-up comedy. It’s you either live or die up there, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher. There are no second takes. You get one take. And instead of doing a scene in which the lines are written, and you get to navigate and play off other characters, you are the screenwriter and star and producer and editor. You’re up there doing it. And I’m loving it.

PHAWKER: So, you were at Second City at the same time as Chris Farley, you just said – correct?


PHAWKER: That’s awesome. Like I said before, I love Chris Farley, and I still miss him to this day. Could you tell me something about Chris Farley that I might be surprised to know, or um…?

JEREMY PIVEN: Yeah, thank you so much brother. This interview is about….obviously me coming out there and doing stand-up myself. It’s not a tell-all story about Chris Farley.

PHAWKER: No, I’m not asking you for dirt.

BEING THERE: Arcade Fire @ Festival Pier

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Arcade Fire-3075

Under the ethereal light of a half moon, I kicked up sand with every step closer to the stage at Festival Pier. The six members of Arcade Fire wove a path through the crowd under glaring spotlight, mobbed on either side by ecstatic fans. There was a blip in the beginning of their set, as Win Butler paused the show to summon First Aid for a concertgoer, a typically conscientious and empathetic gesture.

Recovering, the band launched into “No Cars Go,” off Neon Bible. A diverse range of instruments were used to create their dynamic, ever-evolving sound, including an accordion, cello, violin and keytar. The entire set was accompanied by fantastic visuals on double screens, a trippy light show of shifting patterns and vibrant, almost 3D video effects. For “The Suburbs,” clips of the Spike Jonze-directed music video played, while “Put Your Money On me” was accompanied by flashing graphics, a Matrix-like column of floating numbers and television ads for fidget spinners.

Régine Chassagne was magnetic to watch, bringing a theatrical element to the show with enchanting dance moves and wild costume changes. During “Afterlife,” she apparated on a separate stage in a glittering, iridescent cape shawl, like a cross between Bjork and Blondie. Win Butler gave an equally charismatic performance, strutting across the stage in a denim-on-denim jacket emblazoned with the Everything Now logo and bright red boots. The disco ball descended for “Reflektor,” sending splintered diamonds and fractals of light into the air.

“Creature Comfort” is an anthem heavy with images of mania drawn with brutally straight-forward lyrics: “Some girls hate their bodies / Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback.” The song describes feelings of self-hatred and social pressures felt by teens, who today have an ever-watching audience in the form of social media followers. Building to a hysteric, synth-propelled breakdown, the song sent ripples throughout the crowd, a single, unified voice echoing the lyrics back at Butler, connected over shared hurt.

“Everything Now” served as the long-awaited encore, the crowd swooning at the intro piano riff, backed by island-sounding melody on what sounds like a bamboo flute. The song is a culmination of themes Arcade Fire has touched upon with both 2013’s Reflektor (2013) and on last year’s Everything Now; human nature, vanity, the ruthlessness of modern world, the entwined feelings of love and fear. In their social activism and in their music Arcade Fire reminds us of the importance of compassion and being entirely present in our shared experience of the world.–MARIAH HALL

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UNDONE: The Complete Oral History Of Weezer

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Artwork by Fuzzysocks102.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A vastly shorter version of the following oral history of Weezer appeared in MAGNET MAGAZINE in 2014.

“The best history of Weezer I have ever read.” – PAT WILSON, DRUMMER

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA This year the Blue Album turns 20, and Pinkerton is old enough to vote. Two decades-plus of being Weezer hasn’t all been Buddy Holly glasses and hash pipes for The Last Band Standing, Alt-Rock Class of ‘94. At various points along the way Weezer has been at war with the haters, the fans, the industry, and themselves — wars that have ended in victory, surrender, a cease fire, and a lasting peace, respectively. As such, the Weezer saga has its share of death, insanity and betrayal. And shredding. Always with the shredding. Speaking of which, Weezer’s new album, Everything Will Be All Right In The End, is not just a return to form, it’s at least as good as the Blue Album, if not the best thing they’ve ever done. They all deny it’s a swan song, but it sure feels like one. Which is why we tracked down all the living band members past and present, and, with the help of some special friends (Ric Ocasek, Rick Rubin, Johnny Knoxville and Karl Koch, aka The Fifth Weezer), and jigsawed together the magnet_weezercombo_114 copytragicomic puzzle of the last 22 years.

RIVERS CUOMO (singer, guitarist, songwriter): My parents were Buddhists, they were part of the Rochester Zen Center, which is one of the very first centers for Buddhism in the United States. It was a very rural and agrarian environment. I had chores like feeding ponies, clearing weeds and gardening, cooking and cleaning. Yoga, meditation practice everyday, and then some traditional academics, and a lot of self-lead creative projects. I couldn’t imagine a more nurturing, safe and supportive environment for a kid to grow up in. Years later when my brother and I went to public school, we had to teach ourselves how to swear and talk shit so we could fit in better.

PAT WILSON (drummer): I grew up in Buffalo. I didn’t get a drum set until I was 19, but I had a couple of friends that did. So, I was always at their house. They were semi-uninterested and I was like, ‘Let’s set up those drums, man.’ For some reason I just loved playing them. I dropped out of college after two months. Then I sat in my house in the basement I grew up in for a solid year and a half, smoking weed, drinking coffee, and learning how to play Rush bass lines.

RIVERS CUOMO: I was born with one leg shorter than the other so I had to wear special shoes, one with a lift, just one more reason I wasn’t as cool as everyone else. Whether by nature, or by the environment I grew up in, I found myself completely incapable of fighting I just couldn’t bring myself to defend myself physically. I’d rather just be pushed around and picked on. Usually it just petered out, because I wouldn’t fight them back. Turns out it was a good defense.

MATT SHARP (bass player, 1994-1998): I was born in Thailand but only lived there for a year before moving to the suburbs of DC. My father worked for the U.S. government during the Vietnam war and he was interviewing insurgents in Thailand to find out why they were rebelling. I got a chance to go back to Thailand for one of the last shows I played with Weezer. The touring company we were with seemed to be interlinked with the Thai Mafia. Wherever we went people were terrified of the company we were keeping, just this uneasiness from all the people around us. I remember landing and the touring company meeting us at the gate and ushering us past customs, the guards were carrying M-16s and they turned their back so we could walk through. We had a police escort wherever we went. We got out of the airport and there was a TV reporter with a big light on his camera and he points it at me and says ‘How does it feel to be home?’

RIVERS CUOMO: The first time I heard Kiss, I was living at the Ashram. There were all kinds of people who would just come through and visit the Swami there. People from all over the world. One time, when I was seven years old, this girl showed up. I remember her name was Shanti, she was black, and she had KISS Rock And Roll Over and somehow, as the record was playing, we recorded ourselves running around in circles listening to it. So, for years after, all I had was this cassette tape of KISS playing in the background with us kids screaming and running around. Years later, I met Gene Simmons. He came to one of our concerts. And Ace came, too. It was pretty mindblowing.

PAT WILSON: One day I got introduced to this kid called Pat Finn, the first bass player I ever played with. He’s like, ‘I’m moving to L.A.. I’m gonna be in a band.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna go with you.’ Pat wound up getting a job at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip where Rivers worked.

JASON CROPPER (guitarist, 1992-1994): When I got to LA, Matt and Pat were working at this telemarketing place selling dog shampoo. Pat was like, I can get you a job.

PAT WILSON: Rivers had a ponytail and could shred with the best of them. He was like the Valley metal-jock. I don’t know if you know about those guys, but at that time it was a distinct breed of long-haired, semi-athletic, and really proficient on an instrument.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE (friend, that Jackass guy): The guys in Weezer were part of a larger group of friends that were fairly new to Hollywood and flat ass broke. I think I was the only non-musician out of everyone. Didn’t matter though, we all swigged cheap beer together and played a lot of pickup games of basketball. Pat wilson had a hook shot that was virtually indefensible, and Rivers was scrappy as hell. A good shot too.

RIVERS CUOMO: Working at Tower Records was where I was first introduced to ‘cooler music.’ All of the employees there had much better taste. I was exposed to Sonic Youth and the Pixies, and early Nirvana. Even old records from the ‘60s like The Velvet Underground & Nico and Pet Sounds. At first I was pretty nauseated by all that, but after repeated listenings, my own taste started to change.

ALBUM REVIEW: Dirty Projectors Lamp Lit Prose

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018



Since their inception in 2002, Dirty Projectors have undergone a multi-stage evolution from charmingly freaky lo-fi balladry, to orchestral experiments, to rhythmically glitchy compositions of juxtaposed sounds, and beyond. The band has reached a new stage on their latest album, Lamp Lit Prose. Dirty Projectors’ fourth studio album, 2005’s The Getty Address marked the introduction of ideas most fundamental to their current sound, which features the glitchy rhythms, spooky vocal harmonies, and unconventional percussion found on most of their work thereafter, including Rise Above (2007), an album consisting of outlandish interpretations of Black Flag songs. A factor in the ever-evolving sound of the Dirty Projectors could be their constantly shifting lineup, with the only consistent member being founder David Longstreth. Past members include (but are far from limited to) Rostam Batmanglij of Discovery, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.

Last year’s self-titled album featured an unusual amount of hip-hop influence. I might even go so far as to call it Kanye-esque; lyrics on the album’s third track, “Up In Hudson,” even reference Kanye and Tupac. Compared to Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose feels like a more natural companion to the rest of their more recent discography. It’s got all of the charming qualities of their previous works: soothing male-female vocal harmonies, occasional pitch-shifted vocals, bright and deft acoustic guitar riffs, and unsuspected combinations of strange timbres. What feels different about this album is its catchiness; it’s not as challenging to listen to as albums like Morning Better Last! and The Getty Address, and I think part of this comes from a decreased emphasis on the more experimental elements that carried through from The Getty Address forward: fewer glitches, less dissonance, and a more pop-oriented palate of sounds. Indeed, Lamp Lit Prose is a shift in the direction of pop for the Dirty Projectors, and it’s accomplished without sacrificing their creativity, a rare feat for musicians.

One of the album’s singles, “Break Thru,” is probably the album’s catchiest track, and is held together by an orgasmic synth hook. Just listen to its sticky texture and I’m sure you’ll know what I mean by “orgasmic”. The album’s gently grand opener, “Right Now (feat. Syd),” welcomes the listener into the latest stage of the Dirty Projectors with more of a hint than a blunt declaration that the band have molted. The guitar-fuzzy “Zombie Conqueror (feat. Empress Of)” gets nice and loud with a bright and sunny bridge into a chorus that has real attitude. A warm organ colors the verses of the slow “Blue Bird,” whose chorus grows into Longstreth’s self-harmonies backed by deep swells of what sounds like a tuba and a percussive collage that leaves nothing to be desired. “What is the Time” sounds like a Vulfpeck tune – in a good way, of course. The Dirty Projectors have successfully landed another solid record – and, despite its eclectic mélange of musical styles, it’s even aux-cord-friendly! Intelligent pop music, if you will. Its Jolly Jolly Jolly earworms are the type that just might improve your day to have stuck in your head, making it one of the best releases 2018 has yielded us. – KYLE WEINSTEIN

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EXCERPT: Anthony Bourdain’s Last Interview

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018



ANTHONY BOURDAIN: If you wanna burn down Washington to the fucking ground, you know, I’m with ya. I’m just waiting for a mob to assemble. I don’t quite see that happening. And who will be leading this charge? Because if Susan Sarandon is anywhere among the joyful revelers, I’ve clearly chosen the wrong pony!

POPULA: No, it’s not happening. But look what happened when Keith Ellison was supposed to lead the DNC. That was like, the most important thing to me that’s happened this entire time. He had the backing of Schumer. He had the real leftists and the backing of Schumer, and was prepared to bring the populist message that the people are demanding.


POPULA: Yeah! Schumer supported Ellison. But Obama got on the phone and said, we want Perez.


POPULA: That was the moment I knew that my suspicions about Obama had been correct. And I loved him, I had loved him, but like… he fucked us. And he got on the fucking jet ski with Richard Branson right after he got out of the White House and I’m like, dude.


POPULA: Is that really the first look that you want? You are a guy with a brand. You know that you would not do that if it were you.


POPULA: You would not. Why not.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Um. Cause I’m vain…and I think Richard Branson is kind of a douche. That’s not who I wanna hang out with. You know… time is short. […]

POPULA: We’re gonna do better than this.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I don’t know that we will. At this point I would sacrifice, I would compromise many of my principles just for basic fucking competency, in somebody who reads a daily security brief you know? Who’s willing to do their fucking homework, who has some, some, some understanding of how government works!

POPULA: We’re listening to this, the tame media saying, “He needs a simplified version of it!” and not questioning, why would we want a person in this gig who can’t read?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Right. Or, it’s like, that’s okay, cause Jared will brief me later. Does Jared tweeze his eyebrows? They look manscaped. Those are not natural eyebrows. It’s like Howdy Doody time.

POPULA: That dude’s going to jail.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Can you see eight guys standing around, and Jared’s out of the room? And they’re all co-conspirators, they’re all saying, “’ey don’t worry bout Jared, he’s fuckin’ solid, the guy will stand up, he ain’t gonna say nothin’.” No one has ever said that! That fuckin’ little punk is gonna squeal, just show him a tray of jail food, the guy will fuckin’ shit himself. That kid was a born snitch.

POPULA: Let us hope the moment comes.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Well… Manafort goes next, because Gates rolled today. And we all know Manafort’s such a principled guy. I’m sure he’ll stay loyal!

POPULA: A man of honor. And his daughters are accepted into polite society. Which… John Locke said in 1678 or something, that what we need to do if we want to change how people behave, it’s not to change laws, it’s to change fashion. To change what is cool.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I believe that. That’s why I believe that for instance, all of the guys responsible… like the Big Pharma execs. It’s not so much, how long they spend in jail. It’s about, do they get pulled out of their home in Westchester, frog-walked out in front of their fuckin’ neighbors? Humiliate them! Humiliate them! Because they will change their behavior. Corner boy is not… he can’t. He doesn’t have any other options. Shithead will find somebody else to screw over for money. But if you walk them out in front of their crying children and the neighbors… humiliated as a drug dealer, charged with conspiracy.

POPULA: They can no longer go to the cool kids’ table! They can’t go to the restaurant, they can’t go to the party. They can’t go to, their friends don’t wanna be near them anymore.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: For me, I have this discussion with a number of people, as you might imagine. However much people might want to see Harvey Weinstein dead or in jail, he’s in fucking Arizona. He is in Arizona, eating in restaurants in Arizona. And at off the grid restaurants in Arizona, so he can’t even eat at the best sushi restaurant in Scottsdale. He’s gotta go to some shit fucking place. So Arizona, I mean, as much as I’d like to see him, you know beaten to death in his cell—

POPULA: It’s much better to watch horrible people live and suffer the consequences.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: My theory of how he goes is uh, he’s brushing his teeth in a bathroom, he’s naked in his famous bathrobe, which is flapping open, he’s holding his cell phone in one hand because you never know who on the Weinstein board has betrayed him recently, and he’s brushing his teeth—he suddenly gets a massive fucking stroke—he stumbles backwards into the bathtub, where he finds himself um, with his robe open feet sticking out of the tub, and in his last moments of consciousness as he scrolls through his contacts list trying to figure out who he can call, who will actually answer the phone. And he dies that way, knowing that no one will help him and that he is not looking his finest at time of death. MORE


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CINEMA: Free Tix To A Special VIP Advanced Screening Of Unfriended: The Dark Web Wednesday

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Blumhouse Tilt is at it again slicing off another piece of high concept low-budget genre this time with the sequel to the mega-profitable found footage horror film Unfriended. Unfriended: Dark Web,which hits theaters next Friday, July 20th ups the ante of the found footage premise of the original with the events in this stand-alone tale of online horror transpiring in real time. The film centers on a millennial who happens upon a cache of hidden files on his new MacBook, luring him and his friends on a trip into the depths of the dark web.  They soon discover someone has been watching their every move and will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the secrets they accidentally uncover. We have a bunch of passes to to an advance screening Wednesday, July 18th at UA Riverview at 7:30pm. Want to pick up a pass? Simply click HERE to claim a pair!*

*No cameras, camera phones, or other recording devices permitted in screening. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. Theatre capacity is limited and passes won do not guarantee seating. (So please show up early!) Theater is not responsible for overbooking. Ticket holder and guest must enter theater together.

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BEING THERE: Quiet Slang @ Underground Arts

Monday, July 16th, 2018

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A couple years back, James Alex’s new pop punk project Beach Slang was catapulted into the national spotlight, and nobody was more surprised by the attention than him. During interviews conducted around around the time of their first tour (including one with Phawker), Alex would cite a personal benchmark for his songwriting to which he referred as “the campfire test.” “What I do is,” Alex explained, “I challenge myself with, can it hold up if it’s just me and my acoustic guitar?,” and reasoned, “if it can hold up in that simplest form, then there’s some moxie to it.”

Fast forward to Quiet Slang, an iteration of Alex’s full-throated punk anthemry stripped down to, well, not quite just him and his acoustic guitar, but also accompaniment from tour-manager-cum-pianist Charlie Lowe, and some pre-recorded, overwrought string tracks that seemed designed to try to turn each song into Blink 182’s “I Miss You” or, Led Zep’s “All Of My Love.” After a month on the road, Alex landed the tour with last night’s homecoming at Underground Arts, where he serenaded a small but incredibly warm room with his characteristic stage-whisper vocals, surrounded by clouds made of cotton, garlands of polyester flowers, electric candles, and stage smoke. Off to his left stood Lowe’s outsized piano, draped in cotton as well and lit with a glow from beneath.

The whole thing was unreasonably schmaltzy, half-baked and, in a way, sort of ill-conceived. But, here’s thing about James Alex: you can’t ever sleep on the guy. If there’s something this 41-year-old mop-topped pop-punk Peter Pan has proven time and again, it’s that he’ll find a way to make you love him — whether it’s with accessible songwriting, his authoritative delivery, sheer charisma and force of personality — or all that plus about an hour’s worth of cover songs played by request as an encore for a completely charmed and ever drunker local crowd. “I feel like I’m just at my friend’s house at a fuckin’ party,” proclaimed Alex, somewhere in the midst of a setlist full of Replacements covers like “Androgynous,” “Skyway,” “Alex Chilton,” “Bastards Of Young” and “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and crowd pleasers that quickly descended into eyeroll-inducing territory, like The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy,” “Wonderwall” — and, yes, even a piece of “Free Bird” — before the self-proclaimed “Sonny-and-Cher-of-Punk” finally closed with “I Got You Babe.”

With Alex, you can’t ever tell if the irony is real or all in your head, and there may not even be an answer. He’s so engaging, so earnest and effusive, a rare breed of an artist who can deliver legitimately lame wordplay like, “we’re not fucked, we are fucking alive!” and declare things like, “we’re Quiet Slang and we’re here to punch you in the heart!” and somehow manage to win you over anyway. The further you get into his shows, the more you realize that you can either stand there with a grimace while you try to problem-solve, or else just submit to the fun. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER

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WORTH REPEATING: Being Michael Avenatti

Friday, July 13th, 2018



NEW YORK TIMES: Neither Avenatti’s mother nor father graduated from college, and they expected their only son to support himself from an early age. (Avenatti has two half-siblings, from his mother’s first marriage.) In 1989, he worked part time for Representative Dick Gephardt, a Democrat, and enrolled in St. Louis University, before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania as a political-science major. Photos from that time depict a scrawny kid; his hair is dark and full, his glare preternaturally confident. “I used to call him the little man with the brown briefcase,” Avenatti’s first wife, Christine Avenatti-Carlin, told me.

“He was 21 years old when we met,” Avenatti-Carlin says, “but he was already incredibly driven, incredibly serious. I don’t think he ever relaxed.” A year earlier, Anheuser-Busch restructured, and Avenatti’s father was laid off. Michael was still reeling, Avenatti-Carlin says: “It hit him hard. I can remember him talking about how he was going to get through law school, so he could help ‘the disenfranchised.’ ”

To avoid going too deep into student-loan debt, Avenatti, who had long thought about going into politics, took a year and a half off from Penn and accepted a full-time job with Rahm Emanuel’s political-consulting firm, the Research Group. At first, Avenatti, “the low man on the totem pole,” as he puts it, was on the advance team for rallies and speeches, but the firm’s leadership soon promoted him to opposition researcher.

“This was before the days of the internet, so if you wanted to find clerk records or look up business disputes, you would have to go to the candidate’s jurisdiction,” Avenatti says. “I did a lot of flying around, a lot of gumshoeing.”In total, he says he participated in 150 campaigns in 42 states, including Pennsylvania and Delaware Senate races and a Philadelphia mayoral contest. It was an exceptionally demanding schedule for someone who had not yet finished his senior year in college, and by 1996, Avenatti was burned out on politics. MORE

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TONIGHT: Square Peg Round Hole

Friday, July 13th, 2018



When I told my coworker about Mage Hand, I said that they’re probably the best band in Philly. Well, he hadn’t listened to them before telling me, “No, this is the best band in Philly,” and then he put on Square Peg Round Hole’s 2016 album, Juniper. It was, indeed, some good stuff, but it wasn’t until I saw them live at Kung Fu Necktie that I had to concede that, all right, there are two best bands in Philly. Square Peg is an instrumental, highly percussive trio of serious music nerds Carlos Pacheco-Perez, Evan Chapman, and Sean Gill, encompassing jazz, electronic, post-rock, and ambient elements. With a Fender Rhodes electric piano dueling with a vibraphone to some of the tightest drumming you’ll ever see, these guys are no joke. They will ease you right on into a heart-racing jam so seamlessly that you’ll reach the peak and wonder how the hell you got there, like going from 0-120 in five minutes of highway hypnosis. Their latest release, Five Years, takes an unexpected, yet pleasing, turn in a very ambient direction. The EP is a lonely and beautiful voyage into the ocean’s depths, where staring out from the vessel’s dark porthole only yields one’s own reflection.


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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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