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INCOMING: Get Yer Vans On!

October 9th, 2019



Starting Thursday October 10th and running through Sunday October 13th, Vans will transform the industrial warehouse at 404 N. 2nd Street into a pop-up cultural hub to celebrate art, music, action sports and street culture bringing Vans’ “Off The Wall” ethos to life.

The pop-up will kick-off Thursday, October 10 with a concert featuring hometown heroes including rapper, singer and songwriter Tierra Whack, indie-rockers Hop Along and multi-instrumentalist Orion Sun. Music continues through the weekend with dreamy electronic rock duo Phantogram, house artist Channel Tres and eclectic, indie-folk pop band Y La Bamba owning the mainstage on Friday, October 11.

The House Of Vans pop-up will feature four days of curated DJ programming featuring Philly mainstays Dave P, Naeem, Russell Alexander, Lowbeezy, Brewerytown Beats as well as New York’s LQQK Studios and Quartersnacks. House of Vans will also introduce its signature SESSIONS series to the pop-up by handing the stage over to local Philadelphia talent.

House Of Vans Philly follows previous House of Vans pop-ups around the world including, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Hong Kong, Mexico City and Detroit along with permanent House of Vans locations in Chicago and London.

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

October 9th, 2019

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FRESH AIR: When Christopher Wylie first began working for the British behavioral research company SCL Group, the company used data drawn from a number of sources as a means of potentially altering outcomes for their, sometimes military, clients.

But over time, Wylie’s mission — and that of the company — expanded. Conservative strategist Steve Bannon, who later worked in President Trump’s White House, became involved with the SCL subsidiary Cambridge Analytica. Wylie, who served as Cambridge Analytica’s research director for a year and a half, watched as his group began to use of data from Facebook and other online sources to target users for disinformation campaigns.

“They targeted people who were more prone to conspiratorial thinking,” Wylie says. “They used that data, and they used social media more broadly, to first identify those people, and then engage those people, and really begin to craft what, in my view, was an insurgency in the United States.”

Wylie adds: “The things that I was building on originally for the defense of our democracies had been completely inverted to really, in my view, attack our democracies.”

In 2014, Wylie resigned from Cambridge Analytica. He later became a whistleblower, exposing the company’s role in President Trump’s presidential campaign and Brexit. He also revealed the company’s links to Russia.

Wylie’s new book, Mindf*ck, explains how Cambridge Analytica harvested the information of tens of millions of Facebook users, then used the data to target people susceptible to disinformation, racist thinking and conspiracy theories. Though Cambridge Analytica no longer exists, Wylie warns that the company’s tactics continue to be a threat to democracy. He notes that some of its former employees are currently working on the next Trump campaign.

“One of the reasons I wrote the book is to serve as a warning, particularly to Americans,” he says. “We have a completely unregulated digital landscape. There is almost no oversight. We are placing blind trust in companies like Facebook to do the honorable and decent thing. … Even if Cambridge Analytica doesn’t exist anymore, what happens when China becomes the next Cambridge Analytica?” MORE

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ALL THAT JAZZ: Talking Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way With The War On Drugs’ Drummer Charlie Hall

October 8th, 2019



BY JONATHAN VALANIA If you don’t know Charlie Hall [pictured, below right] you should. He’s the drummer for The War On Drugs, Windsor For The Derby, co-founder of The Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society, leader of the a cappella choral group The Silver Ages, and an all-around good guy. A fan and a student of music in all its popular and unpopular forms, Charlie’s latest project is a tribute/cover band called Get Up With It that will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1969 release of Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way, the jazz master’s initial foray into the experimental electric/electronic music that would comprise the aural palette with which he painted for the latter part of his life and career.

As part of Ars Nova’s October Revolution, Charlie has assembled an jazz ensemble that will perform In A Silent Way beginning to end — along with selections from key Miles Davis albums from that era, such as Bitches Brew, On The Corner and Agharta —  at World Cafe Live on Hall Club Date 2017Thursday October 10th at 8 pm. The band features Charlie and Brian Jones on double drums, Daniel Clarke (organ), Monnette Sudler (guitar), Ross Bellenoit (guitar), Jan Jeffries (percussion), Daniel Scholnick (tabla), Ezra Gale (bass), Mitch Marcus (Fender Rhodes and tenor), Darren Johnston (trumpet), plus special guests. Last week, I got Charlie on the horn to discuss all the above.

PHAWKER: So, for people that may not know who you are, for whatever reason, let’s just start with you for a sec. What is your pedigree? When did you start playing drums? How? Why?

CHARLIE HALL: You know, I had an older brother and an older sister–nine and eleven years older than me. So, you know, I’m four, and my brother’s thirteen, it’s 1978. He’s like deep in this middle-school classic-rock phase. KISS is happening. You know, The Who, The Rolling Stones. It was just all right there. Nobody in my family played an instrument, but for whatever reason, my grandmother gave me a little Muppet Show drum-set, and I just started playing along to all his records, you know, and they started playing me a nickel to play for their friends and sing “Beth” by KISS, and stuff like that, you know, with makeup on. You know what I mean?

PHAWKER: And how old were you then?

CHARLIE HALL: Four.Miles_1969


CHARLIE HALL: Yeah, this is 1978. And then, you know, my sister was into more like, sort of, new-wave stuff. So I heard The Cars, and I was just like, “Whoa. What is that? It sounded like outer space, but it was still Rock, you know? So that was like really formative stuff for me. Also, in Providence, there was a band called The Mundanes. It was kind of like a new-wave band and they would practice at their school. I think they were like, I don’t know, I think one of them taught at my brother’s school or something, I think they went to Brown. Whatever. So I would go watch them play, and I had their 45. They were great, and actually, John Linnell went on to the — he started They Might Be Giants.

The rest of them — Kevin Tooley was the drummer. That was, like, super formative for me because he, like, lived up in the attic in this party house, and it was my godfather’s house actually, but they had all these kids and they just took in strays, you know, it was one of those houses. And I’d go up to the third floor, and he had Vistalites, the kind of drums I play now. Those clear acrylic ones, and that was, like, imprinted on me, you know, when I was five years old. I was like, “Ah, this is cool. I want to play these.”
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Q&A: With Jeff McDonald Of Redd Kross

October 7th, 2019

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted back in 2014. We are re-posting it today in advance of their show with The Melvins at Underground Arts on Saturday Oct. 12th.

BY JONATHAN VALANIA You were born in an age of mockery, which was followed by a decade of irony. You were 15 years old when you played your first gig, opening for Black Flag. Your little brother was only 11. His bass was taller than him. You named your band after the crucifix masturbation scene in The Exorcist. Early on you were fascinated by pop culture gone horribly wrong, you wrote punky odes to Linda Blair, MacKenzie Phillips and Frosted Flakes. You covered Charlie Manson. “No metal sluts or punk rock ruts” was your motto. You recorded six albums before calling it quits in 1997. A bunch of stuff happened, not the least of which was your brother adding bass to every song on The White Stripes Red Blood Cells, with Jack White’s tacit approval. Fast forward to 2012, you release a new album. It’s not just one of the best albums of the year, it is the best album of your career. The title track is Nuggets-worthy 60s garage punk. “Uglier” has the greatest Kiss chorus never made. “Dracula’s Daughter” is, without irony, one of the prettiest songs ever made. “Stay Away From Downtown” is the greatest power-pop song since Cheap met Trick. You are Jeff and Steven McDonald, your band is called Redd Kross and the album is Researching The Blues. (Redd Kross’ seventh album, Beyond The Door dropped in August. Look for a proper album review later this week.)

PHAWKER: Before we get started, let me just say that the new record is fucking awesome, man. So first question, how old were you and your brother when you started the band back in ’78?

JEFF MCDONALD: Fifteen and eleven. We recruited the drummer from our junior high school. So he was thirteen or something like that.TShirts-JeffStar

PHAWKER: When did you guys decide that you were going to get serious about music? When did you guys start picking up instruments, listening to stuff that was more than just on the radio?

JEFF MCDONALD: I never listened to the radio. I’ve always been a big fan of records and albums. You know, Beatles and Rolling Stones when I was a toddler, practically. And when the whole, you know, the whole thing started with The Ramones and before even The Sex Pistols, we heard all this stuff via Rodney Bingenheimer’s radio show, that legendary show. At the time, where we grew up, they didn’t have bands that played original music. In the late ‘70’s, groups were just cover bands. They played Led Zeppelin, and all that various stuff. These groups would have these huge Marshal stacks, be very professional, and they’d play at the local clubs but they would play Led Zeppelin songs. And there was no way to get booked into a venue unless you were a major label act, or you were a cover band. That’s how, at the first LA punk scene started, which was, you know, it only consisted of about a hundred people, and this guy Brendan Mullen started this club called the Mask, which was this tiny place that used to get busted all the time. But until then, there was no place to play original music.

Basically there was no hope for us to ever get a gig. But there was a really rare show at a moose lodge in Laguna Beach which was near where we lived and we knew one of the bands. They were called The Alley Cats, and we loved them. They were one of the first LA punk bands. And they had this other group, Black Flag, on the bill. So we went to the show, and it got busted by the cops, and everything. I’d never heard of Black Flag, and we talked to them after the show, and they had a little single that they put out, and I just called Greg Ginn the guitarist, said, ‘We’re in a band, and we want to play with you guys.’ They had only played, you know, one show. So they said, ‘Come down to our rehearsal space, and, you know, we’ll check you out and see what happens.’ So, you know, we went to their, they rehearsed in a church, an old, abandoned church, and they invited, like, ten people. And we played for them. And they were like, ‘Aw, that’s great.’ And they played after us in a little tiny room with their loud amplifiers. We were in. So once they started to play in LA, at the very few venues that they could get into, they always brought us along. So we just kinda lucked into it. At the time, I was so tenacious, I would just cold-call any one of the bands that I loved, used to look them up in the phonebook. And I would ask them if we could play with them, and usually they would just laugh at us. I remember calling X and talking to John Doe and The Dickies.  I got nowhere until I met Black Flag. That’s kind of a long-winded answer, but that’s how it happened.

PHAWKER: I never understood how you guys fit into the hardcore scene.

JEFF MCDONALD:  We didn’t fit in, but we had to play those shows because there was nowhere else to play. So we would be at bills with all these groups and it wouldn’t go over well, but we learned a lot. It was really fun to kind of realize these people, spitting, throwing crap at you? It didn’t matter, because there was a certain power to be had by having a guitar. It’s just like trial by fire. That’s how we really cut out our own identity, by defiantly being individuals at times where most of the groups were cookie-cutter.

PHAWKER:Is it true that the name comes from the crucifix masturbation scene in The Exorcist?
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CINEMA: Infinite Jester

October 4th, 2019



JOKER (directed by Todd Phillips, 121 minutes, USA, 2019)

meavatar2BY JONATHAN VALANIA Before we get started, let me just be clear where I’m coming from on all this: I love comic book superhero movies as much as the next 53 year old arrested adolescent. Large men in tights blowing shit up, and there’s popcorn? Sign me up. Like everyone else, I have too much to do and not enough time to get it done, and yet I have burned something like 100 hours watching every installment in the Marvel Infinity Saga over the last decade, and if I had the chance I would do it all over again. I believe that Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest actors currently walking the Earth, I think I’m Still Here was next-level fuck-you genius — that in its own way, and with out even trying, out-jokered Joker — and I think his indelible performance in PT Anderson’s The Master was intensity incarnate. So I was completely psyched to see him play the titular Joker, even after early-word festival buzz smoke-signalled that the movie turns the clown prince of chaos into Travis Bickle of the Incels. After having done so, I take no pleasure in telling you that Joker fails on every level.


And so I have come to kill it with fire. Shall we begin?

Joaquin’s Phoenix’s Arthur Peck, aka Joker, is a tormented greasy-haired, Auschwitz-thin sad sack head case slowly descending into madness in the scuzzy ruins of Gotham City, which looks a lot like a slow-rotting Big Apple circa 1981. For the first 90 minutes of this two hour movie, Arthur Fleck, is kicked in the teeth at every turn, by the heartless bureaucracy of Gotham City Hall that shits on the poor and gives to the rich, by drunken Wall Street date rapists singing Sondheim in the subway, by the local juvenile delinquents who knock him down and kick him like a deflating soccer ball, by his Ophelia-mad mother who delivered him to the evil of her sadistic monster of a boyfriend before he was old enough to speak, by his double-crossing co-workers and his asshole boss down at the clowns-for-hire agency he used to work at. All the while struggling to fend off the onset of creeping psychosis. And then the city slashes the budget for mental health services and cuts off his psych meds. Match meets gasoline. He is a man at the end of his rope and vengeance will be thine.

Fine. Have at it.

The film so badly wants to be a gritty edge lord hybrid of Taxi Driver and King Of Comedy, and, just to make sure that’s obvious, casts an utterly unconvincing Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin, a charmless, inexplicably popular talk show host who turns out to be yet another of Arthur’s abusers only to wind up one of his victims. De Niro’s not the only one miscast the play. Brett Cullens’ Thomas Wayne (father of Bruce) has all the charisma and indispensability of a Bill DeBlasio presidential campaign and Frances Conroy plays his mother as a muttering unmade bed of a woman.

But the biggest problem with Joker is there’s just too goddamn much Joaquin Phoenix in this movie: Mugging, frugging, preening, pretzeling, all the while cackling maniacally and soft-shoeing psychotic like Chaplin’s Little Tramp on a meth binge. I don’t really blame Joaquin for this, I blame director Todd Phillips and the film editor, who seemingly used every single psychopathic second of every amps-on-eleven take Phoenix committed to celluloid in his iridescent river boat gambler get up. It’s like drinking Joaquin Phoenix out of a firehose.

And it just goes on and on. The movie is only two hours long, but it feels like six. The script is a hot mess of ham-fisted homage, over-acting and muddled intentions. Is this The Rise Of The Incels? An escape hatch from responsibility for the self-made misery of thwarted white male mediocrities? A how-to guide for unfuckable men to cleanse themselves in an orgy of unspeakable violence and be reborn? Or is it the grimy cosplay brutality of overgrown Scorsese fanboys masquerading as a morality play? Or is it a public service announcement reminding us that society reaps the carnage it sows when it arms and then neglects the mentally ill? In which case, why bother when the cable news massacre of the week currently bleeding out at a high school, workplace or WalMart near you has made that point soul-crushingly clear over and over and over again, to little or no avail?

The screenplay, penned by director Phillips and screenwriter Scott Silver, is riddled with logical fallacies and ludicrous improbabilities, from the cops who give Arthur a 50 yard head start before announcing they have come to arrest him, to the scene at the end when, despite having already demonstrated that he is a homicidal maniac with a hair-trigger capacity for horrific violence, he is left unshackled and unguarded in a locked room at Arkham Asylum with a nurse he proceeds to kill with his bare hands. What follows is Joker’s one moment of a true cinematic grace — Arthur Fleck racing down a long blinding-white hallway in slo-mo leaving behind a trail of bloody footprints as he runs to the light — but by then it’s too late. That joke isn’t funny anyone.

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BEING THERE : White Fence @ Underground Arts

October 4th, 2019



Those familiar with the smaller stage at Underground Arts may know that seven musicians is at least three too many for a space of that size. A small extension was added centerstage on Thursday night for White Fence frontman Tim Presley, like a mini-catwalk, but the garage rock anti-hero hardly took advantage of it in the conventional sense, using it instead to edge up his mic only slightly to give the rest of his band just a little breathing room in the wings.

Presley comes off as demure, unassuming and refreshingly unpretentious, his shirt tucked into his high-waisted green trousers throughout a set that, by way of stage banter, offered not much more than this arresting declaration, a couple of songs in: “I have a confession to make. I have a mustache. Is that okay?” A supportive hipster crowd played along as Presley added context, “it was grown organically in California, and then I brought it over here to the East coast. Thank you.”

On paper, White Fence can seem like a pastiche tapestry of the canonical traditions of 1960s garage-, psych- and mod-rock, with a little early-era punk and even some jazz key-work and percussion mixed in. There’s sort of a pop potluck to their show, where you can easily spot the Townshend-flavored Who, the Lola-Versus-Powerman-era Kinks, the six years of records from pre-”Dark-Side” Floyd, the art rock of Reed’s Underground and the jingle-jangly electric riffs with which the Byrds retrofitted multiple Dylan standards.

But to dismiss them as some jumbled serving of bands featured on the posters of every white college kid’s dorm room for the last half a century is to miss out grievously. Where lesser talent might have sunken to some beholden fan’s hackneyed tribute band, Presley is much more of a rightful heir to those rock-n-roll traditions. His crew blisters, as no less than three guitarists layer identical rhythm riffs in unison as the frontman solos on his own battle-worn Fender Jazzmaster. They withdraw mid-song into chaotic Piper At The Gates Of Dawn musical bonfires, single staccato Stratocaster notes flickering like erratic embers, before reuniting for fleeting cathartic euphony. The music often doesn’t sit still long enough to be able to pigeonhole, as Presley and co. weave elements of their cultural and compositional influences into something much more than the sum of its parts.

At their worst, White Fence is the best garage band in town, but at best they offer moments of sobering psych-rock euphoria that serve some solace to those who ever thought “they just don’t make them like they used to.” – JOSH PELTA HELLER

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GEEK SQUAD: The Joker Is NOT A Role Model

October 4th, 2019



the-geek-300x300BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT The Joker is the most known super villain of all time. You know who he is. Green hair, white face, and a cackling laugh that borders on horrifying. You’ve seen him played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and even voiced by Mark Hamill for decades. You also probably had a friend obsessed with The Joker. That guy in college or high school who said that The Joker had a point in The Dark Knight (2008). He argued that the rules of government or school or society holds life back and The Joker was uprooting the system. This is probably the same guy who made conversations super awkward with dead baby jokes.

The Joker is viewed as this symbol of anarchy and not following the rules every beginning edge lord loves. But that view of The Joker makes no sense. The Joker is not a hero of any story. And this isn’t just me looking through comic books and saying “he’s a villain in issue 435”. He beat the 2nd Robin to death with a crowbar. He shot Commissioner Gordon’s niece in the spine, stripped her naked and took photos of her. The Joker is not someone to agree with. He is just pure chaotic evil. He has no greater philosophy to life. He is just The Joker.

Ultimately what makes The Joker interesting is his conflict with Batman. The calculated embodiment of pure human stubbornness that is Batman needs to be challenged by the clown prince of crime. That is why The Dark Knight is the masterpiece it is and why Heath Ledger deserved the Oscar he won. It wasn’t because of how amazing The Joker was. It was how amazing the conflict between Batman and Joker is. A man of principals and rule vs.a man without either. Order vs. Chaos. Without Batman to go up against, The Joker is just a serial killer in clownface.

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Win Tix To See Bon Iver @ Liacouras Center

October 3rd, 2019



I am old enough to remember when Bon Iver was just a weird-beard folkie lumberjack with a broken heart and a bad liver haunting the woods of Wisconsin, cranking out subterranean heartsick blues in his dad’s hunting cabin like the Unabomber of Love. This was back before he went prog-rock at Newport and started a riot — that was way cray. I remember Father John Misty threatening to cut the power with an axe and the guys from Mumford & Sons had to wrestle him to the ground. So much drama. And yet, despite the confusion of the moment, when the smoke finally cleared it was obvious that the times they were a-changin’.

The disconnect from the naked light bulb starkness of 2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago to the dense, 17-layer prog cake of 2011’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver was jarring — like going from Wednesday Morning, 3 AM to Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by way of TV On The Radio. Mostly, I blame Kanye, who lured him to his studio compound in Hawaii to give 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy some of that Barton Fink Feeling Vernon has in spades. But as the days turned into weeks, it turned into one of those Hotel California situations where you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Bon Iver music was never the same after that.

Judging by the ecstatic crowd that packed out the Tower back in 2011 for the tour in support of Bon Iver Bon Iver, I was the sole naysayer. He doubled down on 2016’s 22, A Million, and the just released i, i. Both albums are, like Kanye, either crazy-level genius or genius-level crazy depending on the day and whether or not you took your meds, and the multitudes that flock to his concerts have grown into a cult of the deeply devoted.

The live band is a tight five piece — two drummers, two guitarists (counting Vernon) and a bassist — capable of rendering the densely idiosyncratic sonics of the last two albums with razor-sharp precision and note-perfect fidelity complimented by a mesmerizing, magnificently choreographed light show. They look less like a band than starship technicians manning their work stations within the elaborate H.R. Giger-esque Rube Goldberg contraption that is the stage set.

Vernon, usually rocking a head band and big, blocky old school earphones, is still in full possession of the most heartbreakingly beautiful falsetto to emanate from a hairy guy in blue jeans and flannel since Neil Young woke up in a burned-out building with a full moon in his eyes. That is, when he’s not atomizing his dulcet tone into bewildering fractals of sound with a Auto-Tune and sundry alchemical sonic gadgetry. Live, the newer material has a chest-thumping physicality and sweaty friction that is somewhat muted on the albums, despite the crystalline clarity of the recordings.

You can decide for yourself when Bon Iver plays the Liacouras Center on October 10th. We have a pair of tickets to give away to the 36th Phawker reader to email us with the correct answer to the following Bon Iver trivia question: What was the name of Justin Vernon’s pre-Bon Iver band when he was still living in Raleigh, North Carolina? To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at telling us a much, along with your answer our Bon Iver triva question. Put the words UNABOMBER OF LOVE in the subject line and include your full name as it appears on your photo ID and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!


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STUPID HUMAN TRICKS: Man Catches Marshallow Thrown From Ben Franklin Bridge In His Mouth

October 3rd, 2019

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TELEVISION: Last Night On Always Sunny

October 3rd, 2019

Everybody’s a critic. In episode 2 of the new season, the gang gets recruited for a Hollywood studio focus group re: Thunder Gun 4: Maximum Cool, the latest installment in the notoriously sexist/racist/tasteless action movie franchise. Not surprisingly, the gang LOVES the Thunder Gun movies so they jump at the chance, but are quickly horrified to learn that the dreaded “Hollywood liberal elite” has eliminated all the sexism/racism/tastelessness — basically everything that the gang thinks makes the Thunder Gun movies great — in the name of political correctness. The gang is not having it. Mac demands foreign enemies, preferably, “Eastern European, a classically evil part of the world”. Dee hates the newly empowered female character in Thunder Gun, and misses the good old days when she would just “bed em, and dead em.” Frank longs for the good ole’ days when he could still jerk off in movie theaters. Dennis says, “Hollywood is completely out of touch now” and as per usual, Charlie is just all around lost. The last straw is the main character is no longer allowed to “hang dong” in this PC version. Again, the gang is not having it. Chanting “give me dong, or give me death” they organize an online troll campaign to bury the movie in negative reviews until the studio cries uncle and restores Thunder Gun to its prior politically incorrect glory, dong and all. – LARA MICKLE

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BEING THERE: Lucinda Williams @ World Cafe

October 2nd, 2019



Lucinda Williams has a cold. Less than a minute into “Right on Time,” her first song of the night, she stepped back from the microphone saying “shit” under her breath, to reach for a tissue while she shook her head in agitated dismay at someone backstage. The annoyance on her face made me fear a stoic, empty performance lay ahead, or worse yet, a shortened-set meltdown. If her sandpapery voice could barely make it through the first verse of “Right on Time,” there was no way she’d be able to perform the straining high-range melodies of at least half of the other songs from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Or so I thought. Maybe all she needed was that tissue and a swig of water, because after starting from the top of “Right on Time” once more, she didn’t really stop again for the rest of the night. On tour for over a year in celebration of the 20th anniversary of her breakthrough album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams seemed determined to deliver the album with a renewed personal storytelling in between that of the songs themselves. Nothing like the hot-and-cold Louisiana diva I’d read about, she brought the album more vulnerability than I or anyone in that room could have predicted from a once distant and serious performer when it came to the songs that could still break her heart.

I’m a new fan of Lu’s. Her music was always sprinkled into the blues and country radio stations of my childhood, but back then I didn’t have the emotional nuance and lived-in wisdom to process the magic and loss at the center of Car Wheels. Years later, someone floated her name as I was going through my own version of a semi-relationship that was as bad of an idea as Williams’ own stream of bass player-related romantic tragedies, and well, I was hooked. Hers is the kind of music that stops the world with you, twisting your heart so badly that you know there will never be any escape from the pain of heartbreak, until somehow there is.

But every love story ever told feels insignificant in the face of “Lake Charles,” “Jackson,” or “Still I Long For Your Kiss” — songs that make you know Williams has been to Hell and back, and lived to tell the tale. And tell it she did last night, as she re-spun old memories of run-ins with Blaze Foley, Steve Earle, and Townes Van Zandt among more personal ones of her family, opening up about subjects she rarely talks about, like the fact that her stepmother was a student in her father’s freshman English class at the University of Arkansas. “That created a little bit of confusion,” she said with a nervous laugh.

With a presentation of old photographs and home movies projected onto a screen above the stage, and a music stand presumably full of notes and lyrics, Williams gave us the grand tour of Car Wheels. Speaking of mental health, family baggage, and the more unfortunate dramas of Louisiana life, Williams seemed to have traded in her famously detached performance demeanor for one of an openness that defied the chorus of “Metal Firecracker.” There were no more secrets to worry about — she put her life out on the table in music and narrative for the whole crowd to bear witness.

In her languorous Louisiana drawl, she imbued the Delta with sweet old world charm, whether she spoke of men drowning themselves in whiskey, toxic nostalgia, or pots of gumbo and dirty rice, pronounced with a warmly lazy slur by Williams as “durry rice.” Mixed into these tinted memories were bluesy guitar licks as fierce as the ones of Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and other Delta legends that she worshipped in her lyrics. Perhaps after 20 years, reliving the pain of Car Wheels has become relatively routine for Williams, but the fiery washboard-like rhythms of songs like “Can’t Let Go” and “Joy” still have the power to ignite the hundreds on hand at the completely sold out World Cafe Live last night.

Despite her cold, Williams soldiered on bravely, delivering Car Wheels start to finish, interspersed with making-of-a-masterpiece tales, legends and lore that made the set almost twice as long as the album itself. She spoke of politics, poetry, photography, and a book she’s got in the works, delivering her life to the audience in a way that almost made her show seem like a Ted talk. Ending her set with the bittersweet folk of “Jackson,” Lucinda made this much clear last night: she is still the sweetheart of the alt-country rodeo. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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October 2nd, 2019

From The Only Ones due out October 18th.

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Q&A W/ Selena Mooney, Creator Of SuicideGirls

October 1st, 2019



IMG_6835BY LARA MICKLE In 2001 Selena Mooney quit her job as director of technology for Ticketmaster and moved back to Portland and ingratiated herself in the city’s thriving punk rock/stripper scene. She started with a handful of ladies and now has thousands globally. Inspired by Bunny Yeager – who famously photographed Bettie Page, the patron saint of the punk rock stripper scene — she began taking retro-style pin-up photos of her friends, most of them tattooed, pierced and dyed blue, green or purple.

The SuicideGirl look is some ratioed combination of sultry, vintage and riot grrrl. It was the Internet that made them visible to the naked eye of the heretofore blinkered mainstream, forever exploding the media-ascribed hetero-normative barbie-doll beauty standard of the preceding century. They didn’t give a damn about a bad reputation, they embraced all that society had deemed as transgressive and disqualifying adding an element of danger and rebellion to previously agreed upon notions of female desirability. The overwhelmingly positive response Mooney got from sharing the photos online got her to thinking: maybe this could be a thing.

Borrowing a provocative epithet from Chuck Palahniuk’s 1999 novel Survivor, she started referring to her models as ‘suicide girls,’ changed her name Missy Suicide and launched a subscription web site featuring her photos. Behold the SuicideGirls brand was born and soon to be blowing up on an Internet near you. Fast-forward 18 years and a lot of tattoo ink and purple Manic Panic under the bridge, and the SuicideGirls’ Blackheart Burlesque is coming to Underground Arts on Saturday October, 5th. Recently, we got Missy Suicide on the horn to discuss all the aforementioned and the ever after.

PHAWKER: How did SuicideGirls get started? Why do you think it took off?Selena_Mooney

MISSY SUICIDE: Well, I started SuicideGirls because I believed, at the time, the greatest power of the internet was bringing people together and creating community and you know this was a time before Friendster or Myspace or Facebook or Twitter and so it was kind of an unproved theory at the time. We were one of the first social networks. I feel like over the past 18 years I’ve been proved very right. People want to share their lives. At the time it was a whole different world.

PHAWKER: This was long before social media really took off?

MISSY SUICIDE: Yeah, it’s been 18 years. Which is crazy; the girls born after Tuesday [September 3rd, 2001], because Tuesday is the anniversary, will have not known a world without SuicideGirls. Like they will be eligible to model for SuicideGirls and they will have not known a world that existed before SuicideGirls.

PHAWKER: Why did you call it SuicideGirls?

MISSY SUICIDE: It’s a Palahniuk reference, he wrote Fight Club, and in his book Survivor he describes the girls living at Pioneer Square in Portland as ‘suicide girls.’ It seemed like a good moniker. [It was] the girls that were willing to commit social suicide by choosing not to fit in. You know, it was also 18 years ago, it was very… much more conservative I feel like, than we are today so it was much more of a rebellious act to declare that you felt comfortable with your body and that you thought that you were beautiful. Now with Lizzo and the Dove campaign there are so many advocates of accepting the skin that you’re in and just feeling beautiful being who you are. But, back in the day, even just saying that you loved your body was quite a revolutionary sort of thing to say.

PHAWKER: What is the criterion for becoming a SuicideGirl?

MISSY SUICIDE: You just have to be confident and comfortable with your body and yourself. There’s no real formula for girls with X number of tattoos and Y color of hair. We’ve got girls who have tons of face tattoos, we’ve got girls who have no tattoos. We’ve got girls who have 28 piercings and girls with zero piercings. We’ve got girls with Vitiligo and girls with different bodies. They’re all accepted as long as they feel confident and comfortable with their bodies and with themselves. But really, the only requirement is that you feel comfortable enough to share your bare breasts and bottom.

PHAWKER: Is it a full-time job? If so, how much can you make in a year?

MISSY SUICIDE: It is not a full-time job. You’re paid per photo set, but girls can also get tips now. It’s not something that I suggest that you make your full-time job. Girls can leverage their social media and start to gain followings and become influencers, but I see it as a side hustle, not a full-time gig.

PHAWKER: How has #MeToo changed the game both for sex workers and women in general?Blackheart_Burlesque_Poster

MISSY SUICIDE: I feel like the #MeToo movement made people believe what women are saying, that in itself is such a revolution. That women can just tell what is happening to them and people believe it now, as opposed to before when people were like “Oh whatever” or dismiss it, they’re really taken seriously now, and I feel like that is super important.

 PHAWKER: Did you see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? If so, what did you think?

MISSY SUICIDE: I saw it in the Cinerama Dome, and the air conditioning was broken. So, it was like two hours and forty minutes of sitting in a hot packed theater, so I feel like I need to watch it again because I was not in the best place.

PHAWKER: What do you make of the criticism that Tarantino is a misogynist and gave Sharon Tate/ Margot Robbie short shrift?

MISSY SUICIDE: Just to be objective about it, she’s not really the main character in it, it’s kind of like his fantasy world about these other characters. It is a buddy picture at its core. He explores the relationship between the men that you don’t usually see. I felt like it was a really honest deep dive into male interpersonal links, in the sixties too, which was not exactly the touchy feely sort of guys moment. Not every movie has to be about women, if that was not his main goal.


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