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FUNNY GIRL: Q&A W/ Indie Sweetheart Lucy Dacus

April 12th, 2018

Lucy Dacus Promo Pic
 

keely_bylinerBY KEELY MCAVENEY Lucy Dacus, only twenty two years old and already one of Matador Record’s crown jewels, has been three feet high and rising ever since the release of her2 016 debut, No Burden. There aren’t enough hyphens to list all that the Richmond based singer-songwriter-alt-rocker is. Her first single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” resonated with other females tired of being exiled to the “funny friend” zone. It’s been a month since the release of her harrowing sophomore album, Historian, which upgraded her status from up-and-coming to here-to-stay. Historian maintains the buzzing guitars and blunt lyrical center that made No Burden such a treat to savor, zig-zagging between hushed, strummed intimacy and more sawtoothed, claws-out rock riffs. She croons about breakups and death alike with equal measures of bemused glibness and quiet desolation as she navigates the magic and loss of early adulthood in 21st century America. She plays a completely sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday April 13th.

PHAWKER: I saw your last show at Johnny Brenda’s back like two years ago, which was a fantastic, really intimate performance. How do you plan on maintaining that intimacy as you start playing bigger shows with larger crowds?

LUCY DACUS: I think there’s something innate to the content that makes it impossible to avoid intimacy. Even as shows have been selling out and we’ve been moving to bigger rooms, I feel wide open on stage. I make a lot of eye contact while I’m singing and I feel connected to our crowds more than ever. Sometimes it’s too intense to bear.

PHAWKER: How has your career/life changed since “No Burden” blew up?Dacus Historian

LUCY DACUS: Ha, where do I begin? The change in my career is that I have one. I’m a full time musician, a reality I never imagined. When I say full time, I mean that this job has taken over every facet of my life. There’s no such thing as time off because my job is to be myself.

PHAWKER: “Historians” feels like more of a cohesive narrative — a sort of natural progression of dealing with loss. Were there particular events that inspired this?

LUCY DACUS: There wasn’t one event that catalyzed the whole album, but each of the songs are about specific moments. “Pillar Of Truth” is about observing my grandma on her deathbed, “Night Shift” is the one and only breakup song I’ve ever written, and “Yours & Mine” is largely about losing faith in our country. I could go through each song, but I also don’t mind when people don’t know exactly where my inspiration came from. Sometimes finding out the original meaning can ruin the meaning you imagine as a listener.

PHAWKER: Does incorporating so much of yourself and your personal life into your work feel exhausting or like too much? How do you strike a balance between honesty and intimacy in your songwriting and maintaining a zone of privacy?

LUCY DACUS: I haven’t found that balance yet. As of now, I don’t have much privacy. The songs are very personal and I can’t imagine them being any other way. I’ve been enforcing more boundaries these days. I don’t go out after shows very often anymore. Partially because it isn’t good for my voice to talk a lot after a show, but also because I can’t handle the disparity between who I know I am and who other people think I am. Those expectations are unable to be met.

PHAWKER: What are your thoughts on the #MeToo movement? I mean, the music business is notoriously Dacus_N0_Burdenexploitative/discriminatory against women. Surely you’ve bumped up against your share of of casual sexism on tour. Any horror stories to share?

LUCY DACUS: Last week in Vancouver, some guy shouted, “I want to have sex with you!” from the crowd between songs. I asked him to repeat himself and he did. I pointed to the door and told him to get out. I said that I clearly did not want to sleep with him and that he had to leave. I said I hoped he was embarrassed enough to never pull that shit on anyone else. Do people think that when they buy a ticket, they’re entitled to take over the space and assert power over me? No, I am the one with the microphone. I said, “get the fuck out of this place immediately.” I played the rest of the set with shaking hands.

PHAWKER: What was the last album you’ve listened to that’s blown your mind and why?

LUCY DACUS: Can’t remember the chronology of my listening, but it’s either the new Phoebe Bridgers, Twain, or Lomelda records. I suppose they all have great songwriting in common, as well as dope melodies and very fitting instrumentation. I also appreciate the gentleness of each.

LUCY DACUS PERFORMS @ JOHNNY BRENDA’S FRIDAY APRIL 13TH SOLD OUT

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DAMIEN JURADO: Over Rainbows And Rainier

April 12th, 2018

From The Horizon Just Laughed, out May 4th on Secretly Canadian. He plays Johnny Brenda’s on May 20th.

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STARDUSTED MEMORIES: Q&A W/ Jessica Harper

April 11th, 2018

suspiria__signed_by_jessica_harper_by_catmuns-dab7kyr

Artwork by CATMUNS

 

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC This week the Cinedelphia Film Festival will be screening both Suspiria and Phantom of the Paradise for SOLD OUT screenings, hosted by the wide-eyed star of both films, Jessica Harper. Phantom was Jessica’s first starring role and it led to leading roles in such iconic films as Suspiria, Pennies from Heaven, Shock Treatment and Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. Phawker got a few moments last week to chat with Jessica in anticipation for her appearances and we discussed not only the two films that are usually at the forefront of most fan’s minds, but also her career since that has evolved into her singing for a much different audience rather than the crowd at The Paradise – children. We also touch on her upcoming memoir Winnetka, which she has been releasing snippets from on her blog in podcast form.

PHAWKER: You had an amazing one-two punch at the start of your career with Suspiria and Supiria mv2Phantom which are both screening at the Cinedelphia Film Fest, did you have any idea both of these films would be having these renascences almost 40 years later?

JESSICA HARPER: Oh God no! It didn’t even occur to me. You never know what the life of a movie is going to be. If I had, had to pick from the movies that I had been involved with, which one was most likely to still have a heartbeat 40 years later I’m not sure I would have picked those; although I love them both dearly. But having been in Woody Allen movies, and a Steve Martin film Pennies From Heaven, and My Favorite Year, these other movies I would have guessed would have had a longer life, but you never know.

PHAWKER: In Phantom, you’re not only acting, but singing and dancing as well. That being your first big role, what was the audition process like for that film?

JESSICA HARPER: Oh that was like a Hollywood movie in and of itself, the audition process. I was in an off Broadway play which was a musical and Brian saw it and asked me to come sing for Paul Williams; to see if I might be able to do this role. This is in New York, and I went into an office and sang a Karen Carpenter’s song, sort of appropriately and Paul Williams liked my singing. Then they asked me to fly out to Hollywood to do a screen test. This to me was flabbergasting, because I was very young, fresh out of Illinois and had seen this in movies — you know Judy Garland and people like that, auditioning and doing screen tests. So anyway, it was also daunting because my competition was Linda Ronstadt and a rock star at the time named Mama Lion. So I didn’t expect this to really go anywhere. So they flew me out to California and the put me the Chateau Marmont and I went to the screen test and this is where I black out, [laughs] I don’t remember what happened. But I do remember, being back in New York and getting a phone call from Brian saying that I had gotten the part and it was just an incredible rush. It was an incredible moment I was so excited, needless to say.

PHAWKER: Being a songwriter yourself, I have to ask what was your favorite song from Phantom?phantom-of-the-paradise-778x1024

JESSICA HARPER: There are so many good songs in the movie. I mean I love singing “Old Souls,” that I got to sing. But also when William Finley is singing Faust and playing on the piano. Even Upholstery is a really great song, there are so many great songs.

PHAWKER: I read somewhere that Dario Argento cast you for Suspiria based on Phantom, what was that like going from working with De Palma in the states to working with Argento in Italy? Both directors are known for being less than friendly to actors and I am always fascinated when I hear what it was like when American actors in the 70s would go to work on an Italian productions?

JESSICA HARPER: They were known for being less than friendly, but I had a really good experience with both directors. Brian was very smart, very funny, and he has a very precise vision. I think sometimes directors get a reputation like that because they are really emphatic that they want to realize the vision that they have. Dario was an incredible gentleman, and he was really lovely and supportive, complimentary and took great care of me in that movie. So I have nothing but kind things to say about either of them.
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Meanwhile Back At Our Long National Nightmare

April 10th, 2018

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Why is it that the nation’s news anchors/commentators and assorted political pundits don’t seem to possess the journalistic honesty, intestinal fortitude and/or linguistic accuracy to properly tag Trump as “America’s Electoral College President” or, say, “America’s non-popularly elected President” or, maybe, SMUS“America’s red states’ President” or, how about, “America’s white malcontents’ President” or, even, “America’s lesser-educated citizens’ President”? Why no verbal asterisk for the illegitimate Mr. Trump? I mean, after all, he LOST the popular/one-man-one-vote Presidential election by some 3 MILLION VOTES … that’s MILLIONS with a capital “M,” folks! I certainly don’t think these are altogether foolish questions. The outcome could hardly be termed as having been “by a razor-thin margin.” Since when should voters in Kentucky be deemed more consequential than those in Oregon? The entire sordid Electoral College abomination is nothing less than a rigid middle digit up the rectum of “voting equality” in this so-called “democracy” of ours. It is an indisputable fact that America has never before had a presidential election decided so un-democratically. Never.

Silly intro? Pretty much. At least in so far as it ever happening. Courage in the news dissemination business these days is in very short supply when it comes to properly describing this White House usurper. But enough of the repugnant election/legitimacy factors that attach to the ascendancy of this Oval Office sham. Let’s concentrate on what, from a purely factual standpoint — in direct contrast to Donnie’s trumped up purely imaginary one — are some of the illicit Mr. Trump’s most incontestably disgusting character attributes (and damn well ought to be some of every American’s most concerning).

1) The Donald’s fear-bred and/or self-interest motivated endeavors to personally say little or nothing the least bit critical about the dictator/butcher of Russia, one Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. For Christ’s sake, he fired his Secretary of State (and LIED about the timing and reason for doing so) the day after Tillerson expressed support for Britain’s Prime Minister having condemned Russia/Putin as being responsible for the poisoning of a turncoat former Russian spy and his daughter on English soil! Not enough for you? How ’bout the Trumpster phoned Putin and CONGRATULATED him following Vlad’s recent overwhelming victory margin in Russia’s “fair, honest and open” presidential election! Shirley you catch the derision!

2) Donnie’s abject incompetency and/or inbred malevolence when it comes to selecting, vetting, appointing and retaining competent, qualified individuals to and in positions of counsel and administration. No administration in modern history has seen the kind of turnover the Trump administration has experienced. None. Hell, you’d need an web-based scorecard subscription to keep up with it! But don’t waste your time trying to obtain one. Neither the major TV networks nor the government printing office has sufficient personnel or the kind of up-to-date equipment necessary to dispense scorecards fast enough to keep you current!
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NATURAL ONE: Q&A With Lo-Fi Troubadour Lou Barlow Of Dino Jr./Sebadoh/Folk Implosion Fame

April 9th, 2018

Lou Barlow FINALjpeg

 
BRIAN_HOWARD_BYLINERBY BRIAN HOWARD Lou Barlow, as a founding member of the ear-splitting sonic barrage Dinosaur Jr., and later—after he and J Mascis had their very public falling out—with Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion (and Sentridoh and Deluxx Folk Implosion and Lou B.’s Acoustic Sentridoh…) was one of the architects of the 1990s indie rock revolution. As college kids scrambled to start wryly monickered bands and idiosyncratically named labels to release their limited-run seven-inches, Barlow was a godhead. After splitting from Dinosaur Jr., he began releasing, as Sentridoh, a prodigious array of spare, emotionally flayed lo-fi acoustic songs on cassette. With Sebadoh, he tossed those songs atop an often bombastic, discordant fury. Then, with the Folk Implosion, he recorded “Natural One,” the surprise hit from Kids, the twisted film that introduced America to the bizarro worldview of Harmony Korine. In more recent years, Barlow buried the hatchet, at least temporarily, with Mascis for a much ballyhooed Dino Jr. reunion, and has, in the last decade or so, released music primarily under his own name, including his most recent collections, the 2016 EP Apocalypse Fetish and 2015 album Brace the Wave (both on Joyful Noise). Today Barlow finds himself, after a nasty broken collar bone sustained slipping on the ice at his Greenfield, Massachusetts, home, resuming a tour of hyper-intimate non-traditional venues, which stops tonight at Philadelphia’s historic Bartram’s Garden. We caught up with Barlow last week to talk about life, kids, career, eating dinner with his dad, and why indie rock will never die.

PHAWKER: Superchunk played in Philly last week, and as part of their encore they played their cover of your SMASH SEBADOHsong “Brand New Love.”

LOU BARLOW: Oh, they did? For their encore? [Laughing] Rock it. Sweet. That’s good news.

PHAWKER: It was a fun night. It brought me racing back to that moment in the ’90s when all these indie rock bands were blossoming and it all felt like we, as fans, were in this exclusive club. Everyone’s a bit older now, but judging by the faces I saw at Union Transfer for that show, and who I expect I’ll see at your gig on Monday—basically everyone you’d see at the Khyber week in and week out —that club still feels very much intact, with a little bit more gray hair I guess. Does it feel the same way as a performer?

LOU BARLOW: I don’t know. I remember being kind of like… I was younger, and I felt a little more adversarial about things then. I was more openly jealous of other bands. Although, I remember all the bands that we would tour with like Superchunk, Pavement. It was always really fun. That was the prime of my life, actually, if I think about it. Yeah, it was great. I’ve never stopped playing, so … now I’m grateful that anybody shows up when I play. Dinosaur’s reunion was 13 years ago, so as far as the reunion vibe goes, I’m kind of over that. [Laughing] And now it’s just like just trying to keep things together as I’m getting older, stay vital and hopefully get people to shows.

PHAWKER: I saw that you had to cancel some earlier stops on this tour because you broke your collarbone. How did that happen?

LOU BARLOW: Well, I slipped on the ice. Some snow had come, and it had all melted and created an enormous ice slick in my backyard. And then it snowed again and covered up all of the ice. I was carrying my then-not-quite-2-year-old daughter down some stairs, and I stepped right on it and pivoted so I wouldn’t land on her and landed right on my shoulder instead. I’m doing really good. Got a piece of metal in me now. I mean it turned out to be pretty bad, so I had to get surgery. I just mailed off all the bills today which was just [laughing] shocking.

PHAWKER: This tour is being billed as “An Evening with Lou Barlow.” Have you done these intimate, “Evening DINO LIVING ALL OVERWith…” kind of things before?

LOU BARLOW: Only once before, the first show [on this tour] that I was able to go play before my surgery, and it was at someone’s house in Connecticut. It was fantastic. I mean it’s kind of like playing an in-store, which I’ve always really loved playing because they’re in a place that’s not a club. People who can’t really live the bar life anymore will come to them, come to the store, because it’ll be during the afternoon. I’ve just always imagined that doing something similar to that, but on an actual tour, and definitely playing earlier in the evening—not dragging it out past nine o’clock at night. I figured that would probably be a way to maybe tap the remaining fans of my music. I’m doing the bar thing now, and it’s just so incredibly hit or miss, and mostly miss. And even the hits are just like, it puts it in pretty stark relief—speaking of the old days—like, how am I gonna grow old gracefully? How’s this gonna work out? I love playing acoustic, and now I feel like I’m at a point where, you know what, I feel like I can actually legitimately charge $25 to have somebody sit in the living room and watch me play. I’ve always felt very inadequate as a performer, but when it comes to something like this, it’s something that I can really wrap myself around and bring everything I can to it.

PHAWKER: On Instagram you said that you’re touring your songs “in their natural form.” I know that you’ve always had a love for recording solo acoustic. Do you feel like all of your songs’ natural forms are solo acoustic?

LOU BARLOW: Probably not. [Laughing] Although, if I really boiled it down, almost everything does come from just sitting down and playing acoustic. There are definitely some songs along the way that were created in an electric way, experimenting with samplers or something like that. But even the most popular song that I did, “Natural One,” we created it as a studio experimentation, but the melody on top of it was something that I had done on acoustic guitar several years before that. So even that has acoustic roots.

PHAWKER: How did you pick the venues you’re playing? Bartram’s Garden is this beautiful historic place here in Philly, but it’s also not a place that’s done many shows like this.

LOU BARLOW: I got in touch with this woman who’s been booking these types of shows in offbeat places for The Posies. They go out and do all of these duo shows, and they’ve been doing it for a while. Plenty of other people have also been researching this kind of alternative venue circuit, so the “circuit” has grown. I put out the word when I wanted to do this tour, and Tina, who’s booking the tour, said, well, the number one step is to appeal to your Facebook friends: “Say, ‘Where’s a good place to play?’” And Bartram’s Garden came up pretty quickly in the initial query that I put out. A lot of the venues did come from just asking people. Using social media for it is great, it makes it direct for me, makes me a part of it. People can FOLK IMPLOSION NATURAL ONE.jpegcomplain about social media all they want, but for me as an artist, it’s pretty much the only real way that I have of getting the word out about anything that I do or promoting myself in any kind of a real way.

PHAWKER: The description for the event says you’re going to be unleashing acoustic guitars and your back catalogue. You’ve got a pretty extensive back catalogue. How do you choose what you’re going to play?

LOU BARLOW: I’ve got a fair amount of new songs, ’cause I put out a couple of acoustic records in the last couple of years that I feel really good about, songs that I feel really comfortable playing. I play a chunk of those, and after that, I really like to ask people what they want to hear. I don’t get bogged down in making a set list. I try to go in as open-minded as I can, with a few new songs I’d like to touch on. I go between different guitars and different tunings determine what I can play. But the other day I did an early evening show in Manchester, England, and right before I stepped onstage someone came up to me and said, I can’t remember what song exactly, but can you play, like, “Magnet’s Coil,” you know, one of those obvious Sebadoh songs. I’m like, “Great. Of course. Great place to start.” [Laughing] Start out right away by playing something that somebody wants to hear. I like doing it that way. I like taking requests because it brings me much closer to people. It breaks down the wall, makes me feel a lot less nervous, ’cause I still carry a lot of nerves into performing.

PHAWKER: One of the ticket options for the Philly show was, for $100, dinner with you and your dad. How many people took you up on that, and what can they expect?

LOU BARLOW: Three or four I guess. That was an option that I was the least comfortable with. But that’s like a big thing [with these more intimate shows]. People love it, and you gotta do it. And I’m like, really? I mean that’s kind of a lot of money, but the other side is that actually I really enjoy meeting people. I like hanging out with people that come to my shows, especially now that I’m older, and the people that do come are—they’re like familiar to me, so it can be really fun. Charging people to do that feels very uncomfortable, but I’m also working so… My dad’s going to be with me, and that actually made it a lot easier to say yes, because that’s funny. It’s my dad and I. [Laughing] That’s just funny. I don’t know why. We haven’t done [a dinner] yet, but my dad can… he’s a very, very friendly person. And this is a real opportunity for me to spend time with my father. He’s in his late 70s. We’ve never done this before. I’ve never dragged him into my life [laughing], forced him in, day-to-day, to face my life and what I do and where I’m at as his 50-year-old son. It just kind of adds flavor to the day like, “Nope, Dad, now’s the time where we got to go eat with these people.” “What do you mean we gotta eat with these people?! Why?” “Well, ’cause they’ve all paid a hundred bucks to eat with us.” “A hundred dollars?! What’s that about?” “I don’t know, Dad. Let’s just do it.” That just sounds funny to me. That appeals to me.

PHAWKER: You mention in the ticket description that this is the first time he’s ever done this with you. But is it more unusual that he’s never come with you? Or more unusual that he is?sebadoh-640x640

LOU BARLOW: Well, he’s still threatening not to come. He’s got a doctor’s appointment today ’cause he’s had some health issues, as most men in their late 70s have had. And he, there’s a few things that he wants to get cleared up before he goes. He basically told me yes and then, like, the other day he’s like, “Ohhh, there’s a few more tests I gotta do.” Not only do I want the company of my father, I just really want company. I really don’t want to be driving myself all the way down to Florida in the car. So, I’m hoping for the best over this doctor’s appointment.

PHAWKER: You’ve been at this for more than three decades now, so how do you keep it fresh?

LOU BARLOW: Writing songs and playing shows is just really fun, and it’s always eternally new. I struggled a lot with performing early on. Unfortunately, when the band was absolutely at its peak, that’s when I was struggling the most, but I never doubted the value of it, ever. You know, it was like I was more conflicted with my own talents and whether I was doing a good job… I was really caught up in the details of it, but what’s been really great about being able to do it as I get older is those details just don’t become as obtrusive, it’s just the pure enjoyment that I derive from sitting and singing and from just writing songs. It’s been an improbable life, as a career choice, and I’ve struggled with that too. I’m like, why the hell should I be able to sit around and come up with this stuff off the top of my head, and be able to pay my rent and then be able to pay a mortgage on my house? Why should I be able to do that? That’s crazy. The longer it goes on and the longer I’m able to do it, the more I’m struck by how lucky I am, so that’s something I bring to it, whenever I play, and whenever I sit down to write. It’s become an energy source that feels very similar to the energy I had when I was a kid, just getting really excited by the pure act of creating. I’ve definitely had some really hard times, but the thing with Dinosaur Jr. has been really great, too. That’s been really enjoyable, watching how that managed to keep itself together, this kind of cohesion that we found under what seems like the most unlikely circumstance, that’s been really, inspiring too.

PHAWKER: You mentioned you have a two-year-old at home. And I know you’ve got two kids from a previous marriage. How did fatherhood change your approach to all of this?

LOU BARLOW: The way I look at it is: My life is not my own anymore. My time is not my own. It’s kind of shocking in that way. It basically it took my time away. I kick myself for all the times when I was younger and didn’t use my time. I mean, if I can find four hours to sit down and write a song in a month, I’m lucky. So, as far as time management goes, every bit of time I have to do anything like that becomes so incredibly precious. And it’s made it so that when I am with my children, I totally give myself over to that experience, like, you know what, this is what I’m doing right now, and this is where I’m at, and I’m here to be as present as I can be with this kid. They’re thieves, you know [laughing]. They just take your time. But then I go on tour, and I have tons of time where I’m not with them, so when I’m home, they’re very central to my life.

PHAWKER: We were talking a little bit about the “good ol’ days” of indie rock earlier. So many of the institutions that drove that indie movement, like the homogenization of culture at the hands of major media conglomerates and labels controlling distribution and all that, they’ve ostensibly been toppled by the internet. But sometimes if feels like dinosaur-jr.chocomelnothing’s really changed as a result. As someone whose whole life has happened in that “indie nexus” do you feel like the movement is still as vital now?

LOU BARLOW: Purely in the sense of like an underground music movement, that’s always going to be there. Always. And there’s always going to be young bands that nobody’s heard of that are gonna get 500 people jammed into a space somewhere. I think sometimes people are like, “That’s not happening anymore!” That’s because it’s not happening to you. Doesn’t mean it’s not happening, you know what I mean? If you don’t think there’s good music, it’s because you aren’t looking for it. Or it’s not finding its way to you in the normal way that you think you should find it. If you wanna find music, just spend a couple of hours randomly searching Bandcamp, and then tell me that there’s no good music. Something like Spotify is, to me, kind of amazing ’cause my favorite music is music I haven’t heard. It’s always been that way. A lot of times that might mean music from the ’50s and ’60s, but also new music. Some people might wanna say, “There’s too much! Too many choices! It’s not the same.” Like no, of course it’s not the same, and yes, there are too many choices, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there’s still music happening. Kids are still going to see bands you’ve never heard of. It’s happening, somehow, some way. It’s happening, and it always will.

PHAWKER: Who are some younger bands you identify as kindred spirits? Are there bands you’ve come across where you say, “Hey, I can hear a little bit of what I’ve done in what they’re doing”?

LOU BARLOW: I never really hear myself in stuff. I mean, one thing—and when you say “younger bands,” they’re not even young anymore—I feel kind of embarrassed saying I hear [myself] in something like Sufjan Stevens, his really, really super-intimate acoustic stuff. But he’s beyond anything I ever did. It’s developed to a point that I never ever reached, but the basic kernel that that guy is working from, of this close and emotionally almost claustrophobic thing that he does so brilliantly, I’m like… that’s kind of what I wanted to do. Maybe I wonder if somewhere, you know, “Did he ever hear some really early Sebadoh?” But he’s old now, so he’s not even young anymore. You know, in the 2000s I was really into like Animal Collective. Not because I thought they heard Sebadoh. I just thought the spirit of the band was really cool, just throw everything at the wall. Here’s some people who completely organically put themselves to the task of coming up with a sound that was really individual to that collaboration. Some of their stuff is absolutely brilliant, and some of it is almost unlistenable, which really appealed to me. Like, wow, that reminds me of what I did when I’ve made something, to be true to your little world that you’ve created with a couple of your friends, and the world be damned, and consistency be damned.

PHAWKER: Do you have any records in the works right now?

LOU BARLOW: I just managed to record a couple songs in January with guys in my town, that’s going to come out on Monday. So I’ll hopefully have some of those in Philadelphia.

LOU BARLOW PLAYS A SOLD OUT SHOW @ BARTRAM’S GARDEN 7 PM TONITE

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GEEK SQUAD: Black Power

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

April 6th, 2018

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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.
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REVIEW: Hop Along Bark Your Head Off, Dog

April 6th, 2018

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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



HOP ALONG PLAYS UNION TRANSFER ON SATURDAY MAY 19TH

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

April 5th, 2018

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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

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FRESH AIR:
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”

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.
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NICK LOWE: Tokyo Bay

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.”

NICK LOWE + LOS STRAITJACKETS @ MUSIKFEST CAFE BETHLEHEM JUNE 26TH

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

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WORTH REPEATING: Pigs On The Wing

April 2nd, 2018

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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

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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