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December 19th, 2018



HenryPhawkerPortrait-1BY HENRY SAVAGE Sitting in a Los Angeles Roscoe’s Chicken with his mother, Derek Gaines took some time to discuss his career, comedic inspiration, and growing up in a multicultural suburb of Philadelphia. Gaines started doing stand up over a decade ago when he was the ripe age of 19 years old and hasn’t looked back since. Moving to New York City, he was able to improve his craft in the comedy circuits there, where he would later live with SNL cast member, Pete Davidson. Soon after, Gaines started getting booked for gigs on MTV, including his own series, Broke Ass Game Show.

Derek Gaines now has a recurring role on Tracy Morgan’s The Last OG on TBS, and is currently filming episodes of Will & Grace. Although he has worked his way from the tri-state area comedy circuit and began his plunge into LA comedy acting, Gaines hasn’t lost his east coast roots and still focuses on honing his chops through stand-up in New York City. In advance of his three-night run at Punch Line Philly (Dec. 20-23), during which he will record his new comedy album Goodlum, we got Derek on the horn. DISCUSSED: Growing up watching Tracy Morgan, crazy shit that went down on Broke Ass Game Show, Cedric the Entertainer, Philly open mics, Soul Plane Kevin Hart, living with Pete Davidson, LA pilot season, the importance of being open-minded, and what he likes most about Philadelphia.

PHAWKER: I heard you were filming a little bit of Will & Grace today, and I wanted to start off with what you’ve been working on, The Last OG and Will & Grace. What was it like transitioning from stand-up comedy to then go into comedic acting?

DEREK GAINES: The transition was absolutely, positively simple. It was a very simple segway, because doing stand-up, it’s all about timing anyway. So you just gotta time something out with another actor. It’s very easy to understand the language.

PHAWKER: Having that give and take?

DEREK GAINES: Yes, and it’s actually easier to do comedic acting because I don’t have to do all the work. In stand-up, I gotta do all the work.

PHAWKER: How is it working alongside Tracy Morgan and working with comedians of that level?

DEREK GAINES: Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish, Cedric the Entertainer, all these wonderful actors in comedy. Working with Cedric and Tracy is surreal because I used to watch them on TV when I was a kid. When you get to work with the dudes you used to watch on TV…like when you standing there with Cedric who made you want to tell jokes, looking up to Tracy Morgan who used to be Hustle Man on Martin, you get a chance to work on a bigger scale, it makes you look at yourself like: I got to hang out with my heroes, and I must be kind of funny to be able to work with my heroes.

PHAWKER: Where did comedy start for you? How did you find yourself getting on to open mic stages? What was the motivation?

DEREK GAINES: People always said I was funny in high school and I never really believed them, until I actually really gave it a shot one day. In high school, I was funny. When I was in college, they said I was funny too. I thought, I needed to try this out, and then somebody pointed me in the right direction. There’s a club on 2nd and Front Street in Philadelphia called the Laff House. They have an open mic every Wednesday, and that’s the club, at the time Kevin Hart was small. He just did Soul Plane. So Soul Plane Kev, he was still kind of popular.

I was told, “That’s the comedy club Soul Plane Kevin Hart came from, you should go down there and check it out.” I went down there the day after I turned 19 years old. I got on mic for the first time, and I never looked back!

PHAWKER: How did the first one go?

DEREK GAINES: I bombed terribly. I bombed so bad. No one laughed. One girl giggled. When she giggled at me, it gave me all the inspiration and fuel I needed to keep going. I thought a bomb was the worst thing ever, like I was going to fall through a pit of hell, fire and alligators to bite your ass up. That didn’t happen.

I thought, “that’s it?”

Alright, they don’t even know me. They’re going to forget me because I was like 49th on the lineup, so it didn’t really matter. That’s a bomb? I got one giggle being the 49th comic on? Alright, I’mma come back next week and see if I can get two giggles instead of one, and I did. I got two giggles and bombed. Got three giggles, and then started to take classes to figure how it all worked out. I got bit by the comedy bug early.

PHAWKER: Really just improving that craft.

DEREK GAINES: Yeah, of course. All you can do is hone. Everybody getting caught up on getting your own TV show, your own sitcom, special, album, and getting into this club or getting past that club. If you just focus on honing what you got, in one spot. You just keep beating it up and beating it up, beating it up. Everything else falls into place.

PHAWKER: So this weekend, you’re going to be recording a comedy album for your set in Philly. What kind of things have been going on in your life that might make it to stage?

DEREK GAINES: All the things that are going on in life, is…well, life is just going on. You know the beautiful thing about my style of comedy is that I come from a background where my mother allowed me to be artistically goofy.

She actually allowed me to open up my mind. She opened me up to all kinds of cultures and friends. My mom made me open-minded as a kid, so now I guess Goodlum, is a culmination of growing up with Jews, growing up with Christians, going to a multicultural high school and moving out of my mom’s house when I was 24, to try and be a man in New York City by myself.

I’m just a man-child. I’ve been spoiled since birth, so I’ve been a man-child trying to move into New York City and trying to earn on my own, it’s pretty funny in itself. Heartbreak. Responsibilities that I never knew I needed to have. So coming together, Goodlum comes from the whole thing about me being from burbs but loving gangster hip-hop, drug movies, and hanging out with pot dealers when I was in high school.

PHAWKER: In New York City you ended up living and working together with your friend Pete Davidson.

DEREK GAINES: Me and Pete were buddies, man. I mean we were like ten years apart but I guess our maturity levels were the same. It was like two big kids hanging out. Me and Pete did a lot of stuff together, like we went to Montreal because we both landed stuff there. I remember when Pete auditioned for SNL and got it, it was a real cool time. He was always my boy. He really showed me what the cool side of fame is. I know my brother struggling right now with some of the things he going through, but Pete always managed to have fun. He’s seen a lot of chaos in his own head and his history, but he showed me the cool side of funny.

At the time he was 19 and had a swag that I couldn’t believe. He had a swagger, and it was like so mature and it’s unfortunate how he got it, but for him to have it at such a young age really makes him one of the funniest young dudes in the game right now.
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RIP: Goodnight Laverne Defazio Wherever You Are

December 19th, 2018

Penny Marshall, co-star of 'Laverne & Shirley' and director of 'A League of Their Own,' dead at 75


NEW YORK TIMES: She made her film debut in “The Savage Seven,” a 1968 biker-gang drama, and had a small part the same year in “How Sweet It Is!,” a romantic comedy starring Debbie Reynolds and James Garner. Ms. Marshall continued acting, mostly playing guest roles on television series, until she got her big break in 1971, when she was cast in the recurring part of Jack Klugman’s gloomy secretary, Myrna Turner, on the ABC sitcom “The Odd Couple.” Her brother, a producer of the show, got her the job, but nepotism had nothing to do with it when viewers fell in love with her poker-faced humor and Bronx-accented whine.

That same year she married Rob Reiner, who was then a star of the hit series “All in the Family.” He adopted her daughter, but they divorced in 1979, when “Laverne & Shirley” and Ms. Marshall were at the height of their television popularity. That series grew out of a 1975 episode of “Happy Days,” in which Laverne (Ms. Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), two fast blue-collar girls, turned up at the local hangout as blind dates for Richie Cunningham and Fonzie, the two lead characters. When “Laverne & Shirley” ended in 1983, after considerable on-set conflict between the co-stars and a final season without Ms. Williams, it was the first time in 12 years that Ms. Marshall had not had at least a relatively steady job on a television series. MORE

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SO, YOU’RE GOING TO JAIL: The 17 Active Federal Criminal Investigations Into Donald Trump/Russia

December 18th, 2018

Trump Baby-putin-image


WIRED: While popular memory today remembers Watergate as five DNC burglars leading inexorably to Richard Nixon’s resignation two years later, history recalls that the case and special prosecutor’s investigation at the time were much broader; ultimately 69 people were charged as part of the investigation, 48 of whom pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial.Paul Ryan Mcconnell Russia

After three weeks of back-to-back-to-back-to-back bombshells by federal prosecutors and special counsel Robert Mueller, it’s increasingly clear that, as 2018 winds down, Donald Trump faces a legal assault unlike anything previously seen by any president—at least 17 distinct court cases stemming from at least seven different sets of prosecutors and investigators. (That total does not count any congressional inquiries, nor does it include any other inquiries into other administration officials unrelated to Russia.)

While the media has long short-handed Mueller’s probe as the “Russia investigation,” a comprehensive review of the cases unfolding around the president and the question of Russian influence in the 2016 campaign harkens back to another lesson of Watergate: Deep Throat’s dictum, “Follow the money.”More than two years in, the constellation of current investigations involves questions about foreign money and influence targeting the Trump campaign, transition, and White House from not just Russia but as many as a half-dozen countries. Prosecutors are studying nearly every aspect of how money flowed both in and out of Trump’s interconnected enterprises, from his hotels to his company to his campaign to his inauguration. While President Trump once said that he’d see investigations into his business dealings as crossing a “red line,” it appears that Trump himself obliterated that line, intermingling his business and campaign until it was impossible for prosecutors to untangle one without forensically examining the other.Nunez Russian

Obviously, some of these investigations below may—or will—eventually overlap. Many of the players, particularly those like Michael Cohen, may end up central to multiple cases. And the existence of an investigation does not necessarily mean convictions will follow. There’s also plenty we don’t know about who else Mueller and other investigators might have in their sights, or who might be cooperating. There’s even a special mystery witness Mueller was fighting in court last week. Notably, most of the open investigations involve known cooperators, not to mention likely millions of documents, telephone calls, recordings, emails, communications, and tax returns assembled by the special counsel and other prosecutors.

Here’s a complete rundown of the various known investigations targeting Trump’s world from local, state, and federal prosecutors: MORE

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CINEMA: All Work No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy

December 15th, 2018


THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (Dir. by Lars von Trier, 152 min., USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Lars von Trier is no stranger to controversy and his latest effort, and The House that Jack Built, may be his most controversial film to date. The film that prompted about 100 walkouts in Cannes has the Danish filmmaker tackling the horror genre in his most audacious film to date. When it comes to auteurs no one personifies this term more than the eccentric von Trier, who while sometimes problematic, is still responsible for some the best cinema of last two decades. This review is of the recent Director’s Cut screening of The House that Jack Built, which got IFC (The Film’s US distributor) in hot water. This is thanks to IFC not securing the appropriate waiver before screening the unrated director’s cut of the film so close to the R-Rated theatrical edition December 14th release.

The on the nose meta exercise follows Jack (Matt Dillion) aka “Mr. Sophistication” a serial killer operating in the pacific Northwest in the 1970s. Jack’s MO here is after a killing, he typically will stage photos of the bodies and these photos are part of the art he believes his killings represent. This is the film’s meta connection as it spends a hefty chunk of its running time discussing art theory and the creative process, in a thinly veiled parallel to the eccentric filmmaker.  Lars von Trier may not be a serial killer, but how Jack discusses his painful relationship with creating art and making a new “masterpiece” makes it easy to see what’s going on here. If you have trouble picking up on that subtext, actual clips from von Trier’s filmography are used as examples in Jack’s arguments. The film is a textbook example of gallows humor as Jack’s attempts to create his art often go horribly wrong and the ultimate brazenness of some of his later “works” to generate some notoriety.

The House that Jack Built is basically an inside joke for fans that share the director’s macabre sense of humor, that will just appear as a grisly exercise in tolerance to the casual film goer. Matt Dillon is tasked with what is probably one of the greatest challenges of his acting career as the titular Jack. An equal-opportunity killer — women, men, children and animals — Jack is an unlikable neurotic psychopath plagued by OCD, who suffers from the need to wax poetic at length about dessert wines and the difference between engineers and architects.  The film’s structure, with each murder a separate vignette, feels like the director recounting his films one by one. Given the director’s tendency for female protagonists a fun game is trying to figure out which victim would correlate to which leading lady. It’s a sick and bizarre, but it’s also pretty damn hilarious at the same time.

If you’re not a fan of Lars von Trier, I would suggest you steer clear of this film. While it still stands to be seen what will change from this unrated Director’s cut to the R-Rated version, I can probably imagine the tone of the film will remain the same. As a fan I got it and found it an extremely self-aware, fascinating deconstruction of the creative process as it pertains to the genesis of some of my favorite films. Lars von Trier proves he’s still the bad boy of the arthouse, turning in a film that makes Antichrist feel like a Disney film. The House That Jack Built is the best kind of cinema, the kind that provokes and challenges the viewer to digest the horrors on screen and deconstruct it layer by disturbing layer to discover the filmmaker’s true message, that making good film is not easy and sometimes can be a messy endeavor.

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BEING THERE: Weezer @ The Met Philly

December 14th, 2018



Twenty-five years ago, a band that deliberately named itself Weezer helped rescue self-indulgent no-fucks-given arena rock from the grungy abyss of dejected disaffection that devoured the early ‘90s. In an era where Ed Vedder’s yarling angst and Kurt Cobain’s anthems for the apathetic were the prevailing aesthetic markers, Weezer again reminded us music didn’t always need a movement, and that the message didn’t need to be heavy for the guitars to be. If Soundgarden and Mudhoney reclaimed the hair from hair metal, and Beck made it cool to be a loser — Rivers Cuomo was there to put the joy back. And make the world safe for the embattled dork inside all of us.

A quarter century later, Cuomo looks and sounds none the worse for wear. In fact you wouldn’t have known on Wednesday night that it wasn’t 1993 again, as Cuomo posed rock-heroic at the edge of the stage, shredding solos on his sea-green stratocaster in his iconic thick-rimmed Clark Kent spectacles. It should come as no surprise for a tunesmith who’s been known to freely admit to writing for the radio that Wednesday night’s setlist wouldn’t be drawn up by a band balancing their catalog’s best-beloved with a healthy offering of later cuts. This was no quietly defiant demonstration against the human jukebox, no time to offer a captive sounding board some new material — no, this was an unrepentant victory lap, and it was glorious.

From the first distorted tones of “Buddy Holly” through a tale of a whale, Cuomo and co. unraveled sweaters and took The Met to “Beverly Hills” and all the way back to “The Good Life.” And throwing in covers of everything from Turtles to Toto to “Take On Me,” snippets of Green Day, Sabbath and Nirvana and two takes of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” for good measure, they still manage — even in Philly’s fancy new “opera house” setting — to make a crowd feel like they stopped by at an old friend’s house to watch one of the greatest, longest-lasting garage bands of all time at some casual rehearsal, still at the top of their game, and still having too much fun. And yes, all the girls still look like Mary Tyler Moore. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER



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CINEMA: Can’t We All Get Along

December 13th, 2018


GREEN BOOK (Directed by Peter Farelly, 140 minutes, USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC ‘Based on a true story’ Green Book borrows its title from the Negro Motorist Green Book, informally called the “Green Book”. This mid-20th century guidebook was meant for African-American travelers, to let them know which hotels would be willing to host them in the Deep South. The film, which takes place in the mid-1960s stars as Viggo Mortensen as Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a cardboard cutout of an Italian American stereotype who was a bouncer for the local night club. When the club closes for renovations, Tony is forced him to look for another gig to get his family through to the holidays. Mortensen spends the majority of the film uttering your typical Italian American catchphrases with a thick accent while walking around in a white tank top and eating whole pizzas by simply folding it in half. Much to the chagrin of his wife, he is also a racist. We know this because in the beginning of the film two African American plumbers come to his house and after his wife serves them lemonade, he throws away their glasses. It’s a very non-confrontational way to show he’s a racist, that leaves plenty of room in the third act for his redemption arc.

Tony gets a lead on a job driving around a “doctor” who turns out to be Jamaican-American jazz pianist, composer and alleged homosexual Dr. Don Shirley. It’s not just a driving gig either, we find out Tony would be responsible for driving and escorting Don around the ‘Deep South’ for a two-month tour that conveniently ends right around Christmas just in time for a heartwarming finale. As you would guess, initially the two personalities clash hilariously, but after witnessing the racism Dr. Shirley endures Tony learns the error of his ways, and that’s the problem at the heart of Green Book. It’s a film that would have been interesting about 10 years ago, in its attitude towards racism and its “feel good” approach to a white man’s awakening at its horrors. Sure, the camaraderie and banter between the two characters is fun to watch, and Mahershala Ali is simply wonderful in the role as Shirley. But it genuinely makes you wonder why the focus wasn’t on his character’s struggle, which would be way more complex and satisfying film, with him not only being an intellectual black man during segregation with several PhDs and a white employee.

Instead we get a script co-written by Tony Lip’s that very predictably ends with Dr. Shirley sharing Christmas dinner with Tony’s family. Green Book is not a bad film, but it’s puzzling to see everyone act like its anything more than what it is. Especially in a climate where the people who have actually endured these struggles are able to have creative control and tell their own stories, it’s a bit odd to watch a movie about racism and segregation made by the guy who made Dumb and Dumber. In the current climate the film feels less like the call to action we need than a comfy blanket and a cup cocoa letting us know ‘it will all be all right’. Instead of patronizing Green Book, see Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother or even Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. These are films that have an authenticity Green Book could only hope for and are films about the African American struggle made by African American filmmakers. These are the films that need your support. Despite noble intentions, Green Book feels like too little, too late.

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BEING THERE: Manchester Orchestra @ Fillmore

December 13th, 2018



Sitting in the lobby bar of the Fillmore, we can hear the first strains of Manchester Orchestra seeping through the showroom doors. “All of their songs are so slow,” Hannah is complaining. I don’t feel like arguing with her, so I just nod. Last year’s A Black Mile to the Surface feels cinematic and elaborately arranged, without being overbearing. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying to prove anything, scaling back after the noisy overproduction of their last projects.

Singer-guitarist Andy Hull’s songwriting is his strongest attribute, his lyrics arresting in their vivid intensity. “I Know How To Speak” might be his most emotive endeavor yet, and my stomach drops every time his voice rises to impossible heights, wavering over the chorus. Speedier tracks like “The Sunshine” and “The Gold” make room for grungier instrumentals without losing the intimate, human touch that marks this album. Last night, they dusted off a couple of classics like “Shake it Out” and “Simple Math,” but the most powerful moment of the set was when Hull covered “My Backwards Walk” by Frightened Rabbit, whose lead singer Scott Hutchison passed away in May. The song is disarming, begging to reverse time, to save a relationship just before it turns to shit.

The mood veered dramatically when The Front Bottoms took over. If nothing else, they know how to have fun. There was a bar set up onstage, friends hanging out on wooden stools with their backs to the audience. Brian Sella cracked open a can of beer, and the room visibly relaxed. Twenty-somethings crowd-surfed and threw random objects at the stage. “Thanks for the titties,” Sella laughed, picking up a skin-colored silicone bra. “Here’s a love song for you,” he said, laughing into “Peach.”

There’s something about Sella’s lyrics that make them easy to memorize, long run-on narratives pouring out in a single exhale. The band broke out crowd favorites like “Maps,” “Twin Mattress” and “Flashlight,” songs that conjure scenes of teenagers partying in the suburbs, giving each other stick-and-poke tattoos and making out in pickup trucks— or whatever it is suburban kids do. “This is a song about doing acid with your grandma,” Sella said to introduce the loopy dreamscape of “Tie Dye Dragon” off the new EP Ann. I was hoping the two bands would share the stage to perform their collab song “Allentown,” and what better place than Philly? The track blends their contrasting styles, the two singers somberly trading lines—  “I used to be a lawyer, now I just talk a lot / I’m the King of Allentown, this parking lot / I am on a journey to discover what it’s like / to be free of all my demons.” Tragically, it was not to be. – MARIAH HALL

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INCOMING: God Save The Ween

December 13th, 2018



EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was first published in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2007 in advance of their concert at The Tower. In eager anticipation of Ween’s performance at the Met Philly on Friday, we are reprising both here. Enjoy.


They say actors are the ultimate existential heroes because they get to live multiple lives, while the rest of us have to settle for just one. Similarly, there is something heroic about Ween’s 23-year quest for the ultimate buzz, musical or otherwise, and their Zelig-like ability to utterly inhabit any genre they choose – shit-kicker country, dirtball metal, gold chain disco, hobbit-hole psychedelia, even fern-bar kool jazz – while simultaneously satirizing it for your protection. The new La Cucaracha, the 11th full-length collection by New Hope’s Dean and Gene Ween, is yet another revolving-genre spin-cycle that includes but is not limited to: Santana-esque prog; faux-sexist redneck-rock; woozy nitrous-soaked pop; Looney Tunes country & western; deep-dish dub reggae; and a couple of baroque-pop charmers.

However, you would be mistaken if you assumed that just because they are funny the duo of Dean and Gene Ween – a.k.a. Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman – are somehow less than serious about their music. “We took a very focused, workman-like approach to this record, which is the way it has to be because we both have kids now,” says Melchiondo (he’s Dean Ween), speaking of their latest, La Cucaracha. “We wrote and demoed 50 songs, whittled it down to 20, took those into the studio and then wound up picking 13 for the album. The goal was to put a lot of work and love into it.”

Having recorded the bulk of their work for Elektra Records, La Cucaracha marks the beginning of a new partnership with the storied indie label Rounder Records, which suits Melchiondo just fine. “In 2007, being on BMG or Interscope would be the kiss of death,” Melchiondo says. “If I had to do over I wouldn’t sign [with a major again] – and, to be fair, I don’t think those labels would bother to pursue us if we were starting out now. For a band like Ween, we don’t really need a label to do anything for us other than manufacture the CDs and put them in stores. Ten years ago, it was totally different. You spent $100,000 on a video for the big single and you build a marketing campaign around that. For [La Cucaracha] there was no single, no video, no promo, no marketing plan. We just got back from five weeks on tour and every single show was sold out.”

Detractors tend to dismiss Ween as the alt-rock equivalent of South Park, making music for people who never got over Mad magazine. But given the size, scope, and authenticity of their put-ons — not to mention the length and durability of their commitment to Making The Ha-Ha Funny– I’d say Dean and Gene Ween are something closer to Zen tricksters than holy fools. And for that I applaud them with the sound of one hand clapping. –JONATHAN VALANIA


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Gritty Volunteers To Host The Academy Awards

December 12th, 2018

Gritty Oscar


TWITTER: OK Fine, I’ll Do It

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BEING THERE: Ghost @ The Tower Theater

December 12th, 2018



I don’t think anyone in the history of time has received quite the bad rap that Satan has. Dude offers out a helping hand to two individuals thrust in to a new plane of existence, extensively written about by some folks who never even met him, and that one book has cast a shadow over his intentions for a couple of millennia now. Thankfully, the Swedish metal/satanic PR firm known as Ghost has descended upon the US to spread cheer and merriment this holiday season.

Fronted by the elusive (and until 2017, anonymous) Tobias Forge (playing the role of Cardinal Copia this go round) backed by a small army of Nameless Ghouls, Ghost sounds like every suburban parents nightmare metal act. On paper, at least. But strip away the top layer of diabolical imagery and infernal pageantry and Ghost is a fairly straightforward metal act, albeit one that dabbles deliciously in a style of metal few seem to be making with their level of craftsmanship anymore. Well-produced, crisp, clean vocals, and a band name written in a font that I can actually read, they are purveyors of epic and melodic heavy metal that probably would have been right at home opening for Ozzy in the ’70s.

The live act is an impressive array of set design and technical skill. Full to the brim with instrumentalists (they even added a saxophonist for their most recent album – 2018’s Prequelle), Ghost burst in to Tower Theater with a thunderous “Ashes” (after setting the mood with some Gregorian-like chanting) before tearing through a double-act of material spanning their career. The Nameless Ghouls come decked head to toe in black and adorned with intricate (and certainly uncomfortable looking) masks, never breaking character, and all in service of their leader – Cardinal Copia, who maintained an air of energetic mystery, magically disappearing from one spot only to emerge almost impossibly from another on the grand stage.

The Ghost fan base knows what to expect from their shows at this point, and judging by the reception, they delivered for the entirety of their double act set. Even if the subject matter gives you the heebie jeebies, I would highly recommend attending at least one show to any metal head, of any age (the little girl standing next to me couldn’t have be older than six, and she was having a blast on her dads shoulders). As for the subject matter itself, if you’ve spent a few thousand years in solitary, Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls are who I would call for help. Remember reverence and, in the immortal words of Ice Cube and the Westside Connection, bow down when you come to their town. – MATT SHAVER

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GEEK SQUAD: There Will Be Blood

December 12th, 2018

Late last week the trailer and title for Avengers: Endgame finally dropped. Fans has been begging for this trailer for months. And it is finally here. And it’s a downer. The trailer picks up with the core team members Ironman, Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and Thor all mourning the deaths of 50% of the entire universe from Avengers: Infinity War (2017). The trailer cements just how badly the team lost to Thanos. And yet underneath the somber tone is the promise of vengeance. Don’t expect the heroes we’ve watch for 10 years to just sit around talking about how much they all miss Bucky, Spider-Man, or Black Panther. One moment really stands out to me: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) stands over a dead body in a new costume (his Ronin costume) with a look of pure anguish. The last time Renner was seen was in Captain America: Civil War (2016). After that, the archer retired from The Avengers to spend more time with his family. It’s ambiguous in the trailer, but my educated guess is that Hawkeye is mourning his wife and children. If so then Hawkeye could literally humanize the entire film. It wasn’t just gods, aliens, and superheroes who were wiped out by Thanos, millions of un-super everyday people are gone, too. And the remaining Avengers are dead set on avenging them all. There will be blood. – RICHARD SUPLEE

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

December 11th, 2018

JD McPherson_Socks


FRESH AIR: McPherson never thought he’d make a Christmas album. Then, he says, “I got a bug in my ear.” He and his band perform live in studio from Socks, and McPherson talks about growing up on a cattle farm. MORE

PHAWKER: I have seen the future of the past, and his name is J.D. McPherson, a thirtysomething cuffed-denim Okie with lacquered hair, iron lungs and, goodness gracious, great balls of fire. Back in 2012, McPherson and his gifted retro-rock posse released Signs & Signifiers, a bracing collection of tailfin rockabilly, rawboned R&B and sultry moonstruck balladeering. It was hands-down the feel-good record of the year. In advance of his Philly appearance, talked about the usual rockabilly guy stuff:  pomade, semiotics, Larry Clark’s Tulsa, early 60s ska, Greg Ginn, Esquerita vs. Little Richard, the sexiest Buzzcocks album, the majesty of Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, how a white man from 2012 can sing like a black man from 1957 and what is the greatest baby-making music ever made. MORE

RELATED: Q&A With J.D. McPherson, Retro-Rock Badass

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UNDONE: The Complete Oral History Of Weezer

December 11th, 2018

Artwork by Fuzzysocks102.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A vastly shorter version of the following oral history of Weezer appeared in MAGNET MAGAZINE in 2014. In advance of Weezer’s performance at The Met tomorrow night, we are publishing the complete and unabridged version. Enjoy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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