FRESH AIR: Comic Mike Birbiglia’s new film, Don’t Think Twice, was inspired by an observation his wife made when she came to one of his improv shows. “She goes, ‘It’s amazing that everyone is equally talented in this show, and yet this one person is on Saturday Night Live and this one person is a movie star and this one person lives on an air mattress in Queens,’ ” Birbiglia tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And I thought: Not only is that true and a great observation, but it’s also a movie.” Don’t Think Twice tells the story of an improv comedy group that is splintered when one member gets a job on a popular TV sketch comedy show, and the other members feel like failures by comparison. Birbiglia’s first feature film, Sleepwalk With Me, came out in 2012 and was based on an autobiographical story that the comic told on This American Life. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: Welcome to another round of Stupid Answers To Stupid Questions. Actually, that’s only half true. Comedian Mike Birbiglia, of Sleepwalk With Me fame, provided pretty smart answers to our stupid questions. DISCUSSED: Getting bladder cancer at 19; what he and Terry Gross talk about when they are not robbing banks; the strangest place he ever rubbed one out; whether the rumors are true that while Ira Glass seems like a nice guy on the radio, off the air he is real bastard — eating puppies, skinning cats more than one way, poking babies with a sharp stick in Reno just to watch them cry, that kind of thing; the last book he read/movie he saw/album he heard that completely changed his perspective and why. And much, much more. MORE
There is a very hard and fast rule in American society, when you plagiarize you are disqualified. You are fired. Or, barring that, if you have even a shred of honor or shame, you apologize and resign. There is no Fair Use claim for unattributed word-for-word appropriation of other First Lady’s convention speeches. When Melanoma Trump stood before the cameras and delivered that speech as if it were her own she was lying right to the face of the American people. The media should refuse to cover another second of the RNC until the Trump campaign comes clean about this, as they should’ve been doing with every blatant lie that has tumbled out of Donald Trump’s maggot brain since day one.
NEW YORK TIMES: Here are the relevant passages.
Ms. Trump, Monday night:
From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
Mrs. Obama, in her 2008 speech:
“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them onto the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
“I was born in Slovenia, a small, beautiful and then-Communist country in Central Europe. My sister, Ines, who is an incredible woman and a friend, and I were raised by my wonderful parents. My elegant and hard-working mother, Amalija, introduced me to fashion and beauty. My father, Viktor, instilled in me a passion for business and travel. Theirintegrity, compassion and intelligence reflects to this day on me and for my love of family and America.”
Mrs. Obama, in 2008:
“And I come here as a daughter — raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue-collar city worker and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother’s love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.” MORE
NEW YORK TIMES: Alan Vega, the singer in the minimalist, proto-punk, proto-electro, proto-industrial two-man band Suicide and a prolific musician and visual artist on his own, died on Saturday. He was 78. Suicide, particularly in its early years, was as much a provocation as a concert act. Formed in 1970, it was one of the first bands to bill themselves as “punk music.” With Martin Rev playing loud, insistently repetitive riffs on keyboards and drum machines and Mr. Vega crooning, chanting, muttering and howling his lyrics about insanity, mayhem and death, Suicide fiercely polarized its audiences. “We almost got killed. I love that reaction,” Mr. Vega once reminisced about Suicide’s debut at the Boston nightclub the Rat. “I’d say one half wanted to kill us and one half loved us.” A notorious 23-minute show recorded in Brussels in 1978 turned into a riot; Suicide released a recording of it. Suicide’s music would later be more widely tolerated, recognized as a precursor of electronic dance music and industrial rock.
Mr. Vega was born Boruch Alan Bermowitz on June 23, 1938 in New York City, and grew up in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. He majored in fine arts and physics at Brooklyn College, studying with Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann. In the late 1960s he was affiliated with Museum: A Project of the Living Artists, a multimedia gallery, studio and performance loft in Greenwich Village, where he experimented with electronic music and made sculptures featuring light bulbs and found materials. He and Mr. Rev played their first shows as Suicide there. Mr. Vega had been galvanized by seeing a concert at which Iggy Pop, lead singer of the Stooges, leapt into the audience and ended the show bloody and triumphant. “It showed me you didn’t have to do static artworks; you could create situations, do something environmental,” Mr. Vega told The Village Voice in 2002. “That’s what got me moving more intensely in the direction of doing music.”
In the trashy, fertile downtown New York City arts world of the early 1970s, Suicide performed at the Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB as well as at art galleries. Suicide’s self-titled debut album was released in 1977. It included a staple of the duo’s live shows, “Frankie Teardrop,” a 10-minute song with a relentless two-note keyboard line and a hissing electronic beat about a desperate factory worker who kills his wife and child. The album received praise in England but negative reviews from The Voice and from Rolling Stone (which would much later place it in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). In 1978 the duo toured Europe and Britain, opening for Elvis Costello and the Clash; it was often booed and sometimes worse. In Glasgow, Mr. Vega ducked a flying ax. “Everybody came in to see Suicide to be entertained,” he told Ink19 magazine, “and all we did was give them back the street, in all its glory, and that’s what they hated us for.” MORE
THE GUARDIAN: In 1969, the year before he formed Suicide, a sculptor called Alan Bermowitz went to see the Stooges play live in New York. “Iggy came out and he’s wearing dungarees with holes, with this red bikini underwear with his balls hanging out,” he later remembered. “He went to sing and he just pukes all over, man. He’s running through the audience and shit … He was just wild looking – staring at the crowd and going ‘Fuck you! Fuck you!’… It was one of the greatest shows I ever saw in my life. It changed my life because it made me realise everything I was doing was bullshit.”
If the Stooges instilled a desire to provoke audiences in Alan Vega, as he eventually became, then he lived out his desire beyond his wildest dreams. For years – before people started talking about Suicide as one of the most important bands of the 70s, before it became apparent that their influence was the glue that bound together artists as disparate as Bruce Springsteen, Soft Cell, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Spiritualized – the thing Suicide were really famous for was inciting audiences to the point where the gig would degenerate into a riot. They probably would have rioted even without Vega goading them – the world just wasn’t ready for a band that consisted of a drum machine, a distorted, droning Farfisa organ and Vega screaming and whooping, like a particularly feral rockabilly singer who had been teleported to the mean streets of 70s New York and suffered a nervous breakdown as a result – but he certainly wound things up further: lashing out with a motorcycle chain, gouging at his skin with safety pins, slapping people in the front row.
Former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert saw Suicide supporting the Ramones at CBGB’s in 1976: “I had never seen an act take so much abuse from an audience,” he recalled, “and thus thrive on that intensity.” The 1978 live recording 23 Minutes Over Brussels makes for horrifying, compelling listening: during the performance, one audience member snatched the singer’s microphone in an attempt to make the band stop playing; another broke Vega’s nose. The same year, they supported the Clash in the UK. In Glasgow, someone threw an axe at Vega’s head. Watching National Front skinheads invade the stage in Crawley and assault the duo – Vega’s nose was broken again – the keyboard player from the reggae band at the bottom of the bill had something of a revelation. “I thought, we have to get through to these people,” said Jerry Dammers, of the Special AKA, “and that’s when we got our image together and started playing ska.” Thus did Suicide, on top of everything else, inadvertently spawn the Two Tone movement. MORE
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock and roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him. MORE
BY DYLAN LONG You probably haven’t heard of indie rocker Lucy Dacus just yet, but that will soon change. With the release New Burden, her Matador debut LP, she is well on her way to becoming one of the most talked about singer-songwriters of 2016. The girl knows what she’s doing, plain and simple. Her entire debut album was recorded in under 48 hours, her voice kicks major ass, and her lyricism is nothing short of truthful and direct. She’s already notched a #4 spot on Time Magazine’s “Best New Albums of 2016 So Far” list and just embarked on a coast to coast U.S. tour that stops at Johnnty Brenda’s tomorrow night. Last week,, Lucy was kind enough to take a call from us and discuss literature, being Feist from Broken Social Scene for a day and discovering her identity.
PHAWKER: Hey Lucy, how’s it goin’?
LUCY DACUS: Great!
PHAWKER: So I’m gonna dive right in here if that’s cool with you. I wanted to know what the inspiration was behind the first single from your new album, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.”
LUCY DACUS: Okay! Yeah, that song’s like, three minutes long and it took like three minutes to write, but probably about four years of thinking went into it. It’s about trying to express how I felt when I was a kid trying to figure out what my identity was and having so many people tell me what I was, whether it was the funny one or the smart one or the tall one, even. All these things that you don’t even know if you want them to define you until people are already defining you by it. So I think the song is pretty direct in saying I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one identity and be expected to maintain that for everyone else.
PHAWKER: So the process was essentially you rooting out things that other people were mis-labelling you as.
LUCY DACUS: Yeah! And like, not letting having people have a part in defining who you are.
PHAWKER: What was the last album that you bought that blew your mind?
LUCY DACUS: Oh my gosh! Um, okay. I have a couple answers, but it’s probably Masterpiece by Big Thief. That’s the last one I bought, the new Car Seat Headrest album came out yesterday, I haven’t gotten my copy yet but that’s another one that’s really amazing. But this year, the number one record that has stolen my heart is Masterpiece by Big Thief. I don’t know if you’ve listened to it but you absolutely need to.
PHAWKER: I’ll definitely have to hop on that after this! Now let’s talk books, what is your favorite book and why?
LUCY DACUS: That’s so hard. Favorite book? Gosh, um, I think at least one of my favorite books is House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, because it doesn’t even feel like a book when you’re reading it. It feels like a word sculpture! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about this book, but if you ever see it, pick it up and flip through the pages. The formatting is really bizarre, it’s got David Foster Wallace-style footnotes, like a huge section of footnotes. It’s really complex and it’s pretty much the only scary book I’ve ever read. I’m also really into the Fitzgerald sort of writing style, and I really like Edna St. Vincent Millay who’s a poet. But House of Leaves is just really whack and unconventional and cool.
PHAWKER: If you could go back in time and be in any band, what band would you pick? Who in the band would you be?
LUCY DACUS: I think I would probably be Feist in Broken Social Scene. It’s funny cause those are still existing people still. I’ve always really loved Broken Social Scene and that was some of the first music I found on my own, independently of family or friends. I kinda devoured their discography; they make so much music and everything they make is something that I like. They don’t have just one style and there’s so many creative forces in that band, it would be crazy to be apart of that. Like, in my band, I write all the songs, period. And that’s cool! But I wonder what it would be like to be in such a collaborative setting.
PHAWKER: This last question may spark a fire in you, it may not, but here we go: Bernie or Hillary?
LUCY DACUS: Bernie. For sure.
PHAWKER: Simple as that?
LUCY DACUS: For sure. Is that all of your questions? That was a speed interview.
PHAWKER: Well I could definitely ask you how it felt getting onto that Best Albums of 2016 So Far list for Time Magazine. You notched like a #4 spot, right behind Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar.
LUCY DACUS: Well I was alone when I found out and I found out from a stranger on Twitter who had tagged me, and I thought “Uhh, this can’t be real.” So I looked it up thinking, “is this THE Time Magazine and not some blog? Is this one of my friends writing a blog post about me?. But it’s just really weird, it was one of those things where people that aren’t really involved in music and don’t read Stereogum or Pitchfork, but they know Rolling Stone and they know Time. Those are the two that people in my life who aren’t involved in music are like “Wow! It really seems like you’re doing well!” I got a huge flood of people reaching out to me about it; it’s really weird being like, “Oh! We haven’t talked in eight years and now you’re telling me that you’re proud of me.”
THE NEW YORKER: In his journal, Schwartz wrote, “Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Looking back at the text now, Schwartz says, “I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is.” The first line of the book is an example. “I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of course he’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ” As for the idea that making deals is a form of poetry, Schwartz says, “He was incapable of saying something like that—it wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.” He saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”
According to Barrett, among the most misleading aspects of “The Art of the Deal” was the idea that Trump made it largely on his own, with only minimal help from his father, Fred. Barrett, in his book, notes that Trump once declared, “The working man likes me because he knows I didn’t inherit what I’ve built,” and that in “The Art of the Deal” he derides wealthy heirs as members of “the Lucky Sperm Club.”
Trump’s self-portrayal as a Horatio Alger figure has buttressed his populist appeal in 2016. But his origins were hardly humble. Fred’s fortune, based on his ownership of middle-income properties, wasn’t glamorous, but it was sizable: in 2003, a few years after Fred died, Trump and his siblings reportedly sold some of their father’s real-estate holdings for half a billion dollars. In “The Art of the Deal,” Trump cites his father as “the most important influence on me,” but in his telling his father’s main legacy was teaching him the importance of “toughness.” Beyond that, Schwartz says, Trump “barely talked about his father—he didn’t want his success to be seen as having anything to do with him.” But when Barrett investigated he found that Trump’s father was instrumental in his son’s rise, financially and politically. In the book, Trump says that “my energy and my enthusiasm” explain how, as a twenty-nine-year-old with few accomplishments, he acquired the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Barrett reports, however, that Trump’s father had to co-sign the many contracts that the deal required. He also lent Trump seven and a half million dollars to get started as a casino owner in Atlantic City; at one point, when Trump couldn’t meet payments on other loans, his father tried to tide him over by sending a lawyer to buy some three million dollars’ worth of gambling chips. Barrett told me, “Donald did make some smart moves himself, particularly in assembling the site for the Trump Tower. That was a stroke of genius.” Nonetheless, he said, “The notion that he’s a self-made man is a joke. But I guess they couldn’t call the book ‘The Art of My Father’s Deals.’ ”
The other key myth perpetuated by “The Art of the Deal” was that Trump’s intuitions about business were almost flawless. “The book helped fuel the notion that he couldn’t fail,” Barrett said. But, unbeknown to Schwartz and the public, by late 1987, when the book came out, Trump was heading toward what Barrett calls “simultaneous personal and professional self-destruction.” O’Brien agrees that during the next several years Trump’s life unravelled. The divorce from Ivana reportedly cost him twenty-five million dollars. Meanwhile, he was in the midst of what O’Brien calls “a crazy shopping spree that resulted in unmanageable debt.” He was buying the Plaza Hotel and also planning to erect “the tallest building in the world,” on the former rail yards that he had bought on the West Side. In 1987, the city denied him permission to construct such a tall skyscraper, but in “The Art of the Deal” he brushed off this failure with a one-liner: “I can afford to wait.” O’Brien says, “The reality is that he couldn’t afford to wait. He was telling the media that the carrying costs were three million dollars, when in fact they were more like twenty million.” Trump was also building a third casino in Atlantic City, the Taj, which he promised would be “the biggest casino in history.” He bought the Eastern Air Lines shuttle that operated out of New York, Boston, and Washington, rechristening it the Trump Shuttle, and acquired a giant yacht, the Trump Princess. “He was on a total run of complete and utter self-absorption,” Barrett says, adding, “It’s kind of like now.”
Schwartz said that when he was writing the book “the greatest percentage of Trump’s assets was in casinos, and he made it sound like each casino was more successful than the last. But every one of them was failing.” He went on, “I think he was just spinning. I don’t think he could have believed it at the time. He was losing millions of dollars a day. He had to have been terrified.” MORE
BY CHRIS MCCARRY In 1998, I was an awkward, oft-ridiculed thirteen-year-old lacking many of the things that lead to a successful adolescence: friends, girls, sports, dads. But Guns N’ Roses changed all that for me, as they did for so many in the last 30 years. The first time I watched Axl Rose get off that bus in the video for “Welcome To The Jungle,” I felt we were brothers, like the two of us were doing the same thing: stepping purposefully into the unknown after wandering unfulfilled for years.
There’s always been something that set GNR apart from everyone else. For me, it was the volatility. Go back and watch the Ritz show in 1988 – the way Axl is all over the place, Slash and Duff McKagan are drugged out of their minds – there was never any chance it could have lasted. That inherent frenzy tapped into a certain turmoil in my own life. As a kid, it wasn’t so easy to be social, or easy to be cool. I had no idea where to go, what to chase, or even how to chase it. Over the course of that “Jungle” video, Los Angeles eats up innocent William Bailey and spits back out Axl Rose. But it also lit a fire inside that awkward, confused prepubescent stooge hopelessly hoping for something to come along and show him which direction to walk.
That band turned me into a cigarette-smoking, guitar-playing badass (albeit of the law-abiding variety). I wore many backwards trucker hats over many, many bandanas, I bought a shitty Les Paul ripoff, and I started a band. In a handful of years, Guns N’ Roses had taken me from the back of the classroom at St. Dominic’s grade school to the stage of the legendary North Star Bar.
But while I strongly identified with that straw-haired hayseed fresh off the bus from Lafayette, Indiana, as a dorky 13-year-old, as we both got older we grew apart. For the majority of my adulthood I could not have felt more disconnected from W. Axl Rose. The last 20 years of the Guns N’ Roses tragicomedy is familiar to most. Egomaniacal front man terrorizes fans and bandmates with erratic and manipulative behavior. In less than ten years, after three brilliant albums, dozens of cancelled shows and more than a couple of riots (one of which occurred here in Philly), the biggest band in the world implodes and Axl Rose spends the next 15 years on some crazed Ahab-esque quest to complete his white whale: Chinese Democracy. Only to eventually release a legitimately great record with that title that fell soundlessly into a yawning chasm of public disinterest. By then, the GNR fanbase had grown up and moved on, as did the world at large.
However, when I listen to GNR, I’m reminded of myself, or more precisely the self I was before I heard “Welcome to the Jungle,” or “14 Years.” So when I stood in that football stadium on Thursday night with 60-or-so-thousand other people while Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Slash played together for the first time in 20 years, it felt like home. When Axl asked, “Do you know where the fuck you are?” I thought about all the places I’ve been because of his music and decided a decade of cancelled shows, riots, and otherwise selfish psychotic behavior will never change that. Read the rest of this entry »
VULTURE: The genius of The Lobster, the English-language debut of Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos — whose 2009 wonder Dogtooth was the first Greek movie since 1977 to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — is that it does not make the assumption that fuels every rom-com and love story known to man: that we can choose how we find love.
In the world of The Lobster, all single people are sent to a hotel for 45 days in order to find a mate. If they fail, they are turned into an animal of their choosing — “Which is why the world is filled with dogs,” a character says early on, one of many instances where you’ll laugh almost in spite of yourself. Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou use allegory to expose our own bizarre preconceptions and rituals of courtship.
Much of this odd little movie’s appeal is attributable to the cast, which includes John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, and Rachel Weisz, a series of acclaimed actors who play characters named Lisping Man, Limping Man, Loner Leader, and Short-Sighted Woman, respectively. The only actor whose character has a proper name — David, a hapless, recently dumped bachelor — is Colin Farrell. MORE
NEW YORKER: Timorous, paunchy, and pale, with a sad mustache and a pair of rimless glasses, David (Colin Farrell) checks into a rural hotel. He expects to remain for forty-five days, and, like the other guests—all of whom, male and female, are unattached—he must use the time to procure a suitable mate. Anyone who flunks that task will suffer an unusual penalty. As the hotel manager (Olivia Colman) says to David, “The fact that you’ll turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you or get you down. Just think, as an animal you’ll have a second chance to find a companion.” She advises him that, if transfigured, he should limit his choice of sweetheart to the same species. “A wolf and a penguin could never live together, nor could a camel and a hippopotamus,” she says. After a moment, she adds, “That would be absurd.” As if everything else she has mentioned is utterly normal.
Only a film with a tenacious grasp of absurdity would allow such talk, and “The Lobster,” the first English-language feature by the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, fits the bill. Tranquil in manner yet brisk in momentum, it lays out the foreground of the story without pausing to fill in the backdrop; clue by clue, we have to work it out for ourselves. The underlying tenet of society, we come to understand, is that people are forbidden to be single. Parts of the film are set in a city, where we see that principle in action. A woman on her own in a mall is stopped by security guards, who demand, politely but firmly, to know the whereabouts of her husband; she explains that he is away on a business trip. Another solo shopper is asked to produce his “certificate,” in order to prove that he has a spouse. […]
“The Lobster” is more than a satire on the dating game. It digs deeper, needling at the status of our most tender emotions. Even when David and his fellow-myopic are revealed to be kindred spirits, that kinship affords them little joy. Not once do they seem happy, and I fear that Lanthimos regards romantic bliss, like domestic harmony, as yet another illusion to be pricked. Hence the stern voice-over supplied by Weisz, sounding like a school principal. Hence, too, the soundtrack—mostly jagged snatches of string music by Beethoven, Shostakovich, Schnittke, and others, scraping away any patches of contentment. One image, of four loners walking down a country road, clad in suits, recalls the similar strollers who crop up in Buñuel’s “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972), yet Lanthimos lacks the master’s blithe awareness that, in the matter of tone, the savage can cohabit with the suave. Although few films this year will make the kind of impression that “The Lobster” does, it remains grim fare, spiky and unconsoling, and, where there are laughs, they die at the back of the throat. To anyone planning to see this movie on a date: good luck. MORE
THE GUARDIAN: The collection will be seen by the public for the first time when it is exhibited for 10 days by Sotheby’s, after highlights are sent on tour to Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong, before the three-day sale in November. Bowie’s interest in art went well beyond collecting the fashionable artists of his day. He painted and was fascinated by art and design throughout his career, taking a close interest in the visual presentation of his work, from his stage costumes and album covers to videos, including those made for his last singles and album months before his death.
He was invited to join the editorial board of the journal Modern Painters in 1998, and turned interviewer for them, recording meetings with artists including Jeff Koons, Hirst and Tracey Emin. He met Andy Warhol many times and played the artist in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic of Basquiat. Bowie was also part of a famous art-world hoax, the celebration of the fabulous talent and tragic fate of the artist Nat Tate. He hosted a spectacular party at Koons’s Manhattan studio for the launch of a book on Tate – where many of the guests were too embarrassed to admit they had never heard of the artist, which was not surprising since he was a wholly fictional character, invented by Bowie’s friend the novelist William Boyd.
The three-day sale will feature paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture, including contemporary African pieces and Outsider art – works by those from outside the conventional arts world such as the “Gugging Group”, patients at the Gugging psychiatric clinic in Vienna which became renowned for the creativity of many treated there, and its therapeutic work with art. It will also include Air Power [pictured], a major graffiti painting by the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, which alone is estimated by Sotheby’s to be worth up to £3.5m. MORE
Rick Warren can suck it. If you want a congregation of people waiting to experience love and grace, Paul McCartney brings it like no other. When I was a kid, before I knew about drugs, I would listen to Best Of The Beatles on my Walkman CD player, and “Hello Goodbye” used to do it for me, let me tell you. At any rate, at a certain point, in college or whatever, it becomes clear that The Beatles are not cool, and Paul McCartney is the least cool Beatle. He’s the one who you would want to take home for tea and a chat with mum. He’s warm and sweet, easy to write off as banal and trite. George Harrison, I believe, is the current en vogue Beatle, mostly just because he’s the least cliche choice but people will try to give you better reasons.
At any rate, it was with this packet of prejudices I went to the Citizens Bank Park Tuesday afternoon — having found out just four hours before that I was going — to administer journalism at the event. I parked in some far-away lot, it was bright as hell outside. Paul was going on in half an hour, about, but some kids in Wilco hats with frisbees were only just getting there “jamkans” set up, which from what I could tell is a kind of collapsible tube you can drum on. Got my ticket at WILL CALL, noticed the line was about a mile long, decided I was a journalist and cut the the front. Someone was playing a cover of “Piano Man” in the bar patio nearby. 102.9 MGK was there. (I SAW RAY KOOB WITH MY OWN EYES!) It was a party scene, brother.
I couldn’t figure out how my ticket worked, I found a lady wearing a uniform and told her to tell me what to do, like the lost lamb I was. She smiled and told me to get a wristband and head out onto the field. Exciting news. I made my way down through the stands. I was in DD. Where? I got closer and closer to the stage, the feeling of unreality becoming increasingly pronounced. This was close. DD, as it turned out, is the center section closest to the stage. I found my seat. It was row eleven. Close enough to read the classic VOX logo on all the amps. Everyone around me seemed very well dressed. I thought of John Lennon’s infamous quip: “Will the people in the back clap please, everyone in the front you can just… rattle your jewelry.” I was in cutoff jean shorts and a t-shirt. The jean shorts had ice-cream stains on the crotch. A man came and sat next to me. It was senior-editor of Rolling Stone, David Fricke.
The next three hours were kind of a blur. I asked David Fricke if he was making any good observations. I was standing maybe 50 feet from a Beatle, at the center of the focus of 40,000 people. He played “Blackbird” as the stage beneath him rose up into the air. The thing about goodness is that it is fragile. Goodness is not cool, and viewed from the any perspective without vulnerability it is another word for ‘tepid.’ Paul McCartney’s music is good. It is goodness. Listening to it can allow you to feel like you are at home in places you have never been. There is nothing else really like that simple feeling of goodness. That’s the thing about cliches. They resonate with us because we’re human, the fact that they resonate means that we are human. David Fricke and Paul McCartney know just as well as the people up in the nosebleeds: Love, love, love. Love is all you need. – JAMES M. DAVIS
EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally posted in November of 2014.
The Academy of Music opera house in Philadelphia opened in 1857, which, if memory serves, is where and when Bob Dylan first went electric — much to the consternation of the stovepipe-hatted folkies in attendance, who felt he was selling out the purity of old-timey steam-powered protest anthems. It is said that Stephen A. Douglas was so incensed he attempted to chop the cable supplying power to the Academy stage with an axe and had to be wrestled to the ground by none other than Abraham Lincoln, who “licked him,” as Huckleberry Finn used to say. Historic records indicate that the mutton-chopped Whig Judge Theophilus Lyle Dickey shouted out ‘Judas!’ from his stage right second floor luxury box. A yellowed and wrinkly YouTube of the incident records Dylan responding with a laconic “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar.” Then he turned to Robbie Robertson and yelled “Play fuckin’ loud!” as The Band kicked into “Like A Rolling Stone” with amps set on KILL. Thus began the The Never-Ending Tour, which, after 157 years, came full-circle with a three night stand at The Academy Of Music that kicked off Friday night.
Never one for nostalgia or sentimentality, Dylan made no reference to those historic events of 157 years ago when he took the stage last night dressed in a cream suit and matching, wide-brimmed hat, as the band launched into the slow-gait gallop of the ironically-titled “Things Have Changed.” In fact, the only thing Dylan said all night was “We’ll be right back” before exiting the stage and signaling the onset of intermission. Many of us declined bathroom and smoke breaks to parse Dylan’s gnomic utterance for generational import on our newly acquired iPhone app designed specifically to parse gnomic Dylan utterances for generational import. Results were inconclusive. The only things that’ve changed about Bob Dylan shows in the last century and a half is that he shuffles his feet instead of picking them up when he walks and he doesn’t wear a guitar anymore, which used to give him something to do between verses. Instead he steps back from the mic, takes a wide stance and puts his hand on his hip like an old man at a urinal and nods slightly to the crowd as his magic band takes flight. “Look, Bob’s dancing!” the septuagenarian fellow next to me enthused to his wife. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t dancing, that was rheumatism.
After 157 years of howling in the wilderness, Dylan’s voice sounds like the proverbial emphysemic cow with its leg caught in an electric fence, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Beyond that, the Platonic ideal of Dylan remains immutable and all the eternal verities still hold true: He’s still tangled up in blues. His hat still balances on his head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. He’s still keeping company with jokers and thieves and sword swallowers and sideshow freaks. He still has many contacts among the lumberjacks who get him facts when someone attacks his imagination. Willie McTell is still blind. The levee still breaks — high water everywhere — and there is still plenty of thunder on the mountain. Down in Ferguson they’re still selling postcards of the hanging and the beauty parlor is still full of sailors whenever the circus is in town. The fiddler still steps to the road, writing that everything’s been returned which was owed, on the back of the fish truck that loads while my conscience explodes. The harmonica still plays the skeleton keys and the rain and these visions of Johanna are now all that remain. – JONATHAN VALANIA
“Are you Derick?” “Nope, I’m Bob.” Bob was the fifth person I had asked if their name is Derick, who was the tour manager coming to give me photo credentials for the sold-out Bas show at The Foundry. I’d been waiting for a delightful hour and a half downstairs at this point, passing the time away with my +2 — neither of us were on the list for the show, despite publicist assurances to the contrary. I’ve come to expect at least one thing to go completely not as originally planned when covering shows, so I figured I might as well be grateful to have gotten it out of the way before I’m even got inside the venue.
After arriving at at the Fillmore/Foundry concert industrial complex at the ridiculously early hour of 8:15 PM, making some new friends while waiting around and having finally received tickets and a photo pass just shy of 10pm, I made my way upstairs to a packed and sweaty house of eager rap fans. Finishing up was Cozz, one of many Dreamville artists on the bill for the night. Dreamville is the brainchild of the highly successful rapper J. Cole, and the home of headliner Bas. It immediately became apparent that most of the crowd and VIP guests were either diehard Dreamville fans, or directly affiliated or some combination of the two. In addition to several Dreamville artists on the bill, one of their in-house producers, Ron Gilmore, served as house keyboard player for the night. As I settled into the photo pit off towards the side of the stage, I turned to my right to see Bas pass me from backstage, received by absolutely deafening screams from the packed room.
Bas is a monster, both physically and lyrically. His movement could be described as a speedy trudge, flying back and forth at the very front of the stage, dripping sweat onto any and all fans in his path. The dude’s gotta be at least 6’2 and north of 250, and when I say that this room was steamy, I mean it. He was dripping sweat everywhere within the first sixty seconds of his set as he laid down slews of tracks like “Penthouse,” “Fiji Water in my Iron” and “Mook in New Mexico” in just the first ten minutes. Although this was his “Too High To Riot” tour in support of the album bearing the same name, his set spanned his entire discography, even jumping over to a J. Cole song that Bas and one of his guests, Omen, are both featured on.
In addition to bringing up Omen and Cozz, a British neo-soul band called The Hics were brought up to perform a song with Bas. We soon learned that Bas first met them while tripping on acid in the U.K. The frontman Sam Paul Evans immediately hit it off with Bas after meeting, and the two soon began collaborating. After an almost hour long set filled with joyous fans reciting every single lyric Bas could muster, and Bas graciously commending Philly on their allegiance to the entire Dreamville team, he closed things out with back-to-back fan favorites, “Night Job” and “Lit.” By the end of this performance, having been surrounded by only a small fraction of the amount of support that Bas is receiving from all corners, I was left with no doubt in my mind that he is well on his way towards the tippy-top of the rap game and will stop at nothing to get there. – DYLAN LONG
This hasn’t come out yet, so keep it under your hat, but years ago Donald Trump had brain surgery and when the surgeon sawed off the top of his combover they found a funhouse mirror where his brain was supposed to be. The call is coming from inside the house!