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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Suffer The Children

June 23rd, 2018

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Picture the Fox News anchor belching out the following lead: “A phony, insincere Chelsea Clinton (or Michelle Obama — take your pick) has visited our southern border to make it appear that she supports keeping illegal immigrant families together while showing her TRUE feelings by brandishing a coat with the following message emblazoned on its back, ‘I Really Don’t Care, Do U?'” Yeah, okay, so maybe I’ve cleaned it up a little. What else could I do? It was a FOX NEWS lead after all! So, why’d she do it? Well, all I can tell you is that literally every single thread of that $39.00 Zara army-green creation has now been squeezed, twisted, pulled, cut up and scoped, to little or no avail. Best answer: similarities attract. She married him, bore him a child, and has continued to stand by her bigot for thirteen money-grubbing years. Gold digger meets trophy hunter? A match made in mediocrity? Can you spell S H R E W? Why in God’s name would anyone believe that Melania is some kind of saint? Her seeming soft spoken manner? Couldn’t fake that, could you? Her cute little accent? Couldn’t fudge that, could you? What’s so hard about believing that she’s just as phony, pretentious and purpose-driven pandering as her lying, immoral, sewer-bred husband? And meanwhile, through all of their hatred, bigotry and racism, this putrid, divisive administration and its rancid lackeys STILL don’t know for certain where they’ve stuffed some 1,800 innocent, scared children, leaving their mothers to wonder if they’ll ever see them again! Hey, all you Christian/evangelical Trumpeteers, what do you suppose Jesus would do?! How ’bout you, Melania, got any REAL humanity? – WILLIAM C. HENRY

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CONTEST: Win Tix To See Dr. Dog @ Festival Pier!

June 22nd, 2018



There are few greater pleasures in this American life than watching a relatively young, gifted rock band in the prime of its youth burn through its set before an adoring hometown crowd with the confidence of five young men who’ve come to realize that — after all the blood, the sweat and the tears that got them to this point — they are making their mark on the world. It’s even better when the young, gifted band is local, as will be the case when Dr. Dog takes the stage at the Festival Pier tomorrow night in support of the new Critical Equation, an album many are calling their best. We have a pair of tix to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. All you have to do to qualify to win is follow us on Twitter and send us an email saying you have done so (or alreadyfollow us) to along with your full name and mobile number for confirmation. Put the magic words NOW I WANNA BE YOUR DOG in the subject line — 54th person to email us wins. Good luck and godspeed!

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CINEMA: Dinosaur Jr.

June 22nd, 2018


JURASSIC WORLD: Fallen Kingdom (Dir. by J.A. Bayona, 128 min., USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for what is now the second entry in the reboot/retcon of the Jurassic Park series Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom.  Picking up three years after the fateful events on Isla Nublar, the film begins as the volcano on the island that once housed the dino theme park is about to erupt annihilating all life on the island. On the world stage, the US Senate is deliberating on whether or not they will intervene to save the island’s resurrected inhabitants or allow mother nature step in to fix man’s genetic meddling. After the official decision is made to let the dinosaurs once again succumb to extinction, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who now is a dino protection activist is contacted by John Hammonds former partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). The mysterious and very philanthropic backer offers her a way to rescue a sampling of the park’s dinos and relocate them to a deserted tropical island, but of course there’s a catch. Along with being charged to save the more docile creatures, she also must recruit the now estranged Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to save the last living Velociraptor, Blue.

While all the previous films have causally skirted the horror genre, Fallen Kingdom dives head first after a fairly predictable double cross befalls Claire and Owen, putting a darker spin on the formula we’ve come to expect from these films. Much like the Indominus Rex, Fallen Kingdom is a striking hybrid of genres, which is why it may be a hard sell due its abrupt change in tone and setting. After Claire and Owen depart Isla Nublar after a brisk first act, the film then transforms from sci-fi to horror as they attempt to escape Lockwood’s estate. It’s here as the pair fight for their lives against both man and reptile that the film moves into some uncharted territory thematically as well. It’s surprising the films have never touched on some of these weightier issues associated with cloning until now, but introducing them here adds an exciting component to a very spoilery plot point.

While Fallen Kingdom is a fairly effective horror film, punctuated with moments of humorous release, it may prove too intense for its intended audience.  The film while also playing with these edgier themes and subject matter, does suffer a bit from the fact that it is a PG-13 Blockbuster hitting at the start of summer. The film at times feels like it was culled just enough to keep it from going too far, whether it be violence, suspense, or possibly even having an openly gay character; you genuinely feel that the need to make the rating possibly kept this film from its achieving its possible potential. While Pratt and Howard once again fill the screen with their awkwardly touching chemistry, strangely enough the it’s a toss-up between Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) and a particular Velociraptor that deliver the film’s more heart-breaking moments.

With previous director Colin Trevorrow stepping aside due to his work on Star Wars Episode IX, Spanish director J. A. Bayona is taking the reins of the franchise. Bayona is probably best known to American audiences for the horror film The Orphanage and the dark fantasy A Monster Calls.  With a script by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, to compare it to a another franchise Fallen Kingdom like The Last Jedi is a huge departure from its nostalgia drunk predecessor and a film with a much bleaker outlook than its predecessors. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is so different it could turn out to be the downfall of this almost unstoppable juggernaut. Even with the film’s issues, it’s a fun ride and I would love to see what’s next, but I do think it’s divisiveness could be its ultimate undoing. For me it’s akin to the darker direction the Planet of the Apes reboot took in how it approached its story after laying the groundwork of the first film. For such an established property it’s a daring move to push the boundaries of these films in this particular direction, but we also know fans can be extremely fickle when it comes to nostalgic properties. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom leaves behind the sense of awe and wonder to confront the stark reality of the repercussions of Hammond’s dream, which is exposed and revealed to be the nightmare it always was.

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ALBUM REVIEW: God’s Favorite Customer

June 21st, 2018



With God’s Favorite Customer, Joshua Tillman, the man behind Father John Misty, continues to solidify his reputation as a narcissistic grifter, though this time in the absence of his wife Emma. Written during a six-week hotel stay while the two were separated, God’s Favorite Customer is Tillman’s retreat into himself. It’s the emotional breakdown he has after, in the words of Joan Didion, he runs away to find himself and finds no one at home. If we go by Tillman’s own definition of authenticity as “empathizing with people and making them feel like what you’re talking about is somehow reflective of their own experiences,” then this record is an authentic one in the saddest way. He paints the dark mood of the album in its opener, “Hangout at the Gallows,” a song with biblical allusions to Noah and the great flood of the Earth, with the one-two punch imagery of the line, “I’m treading water as I bleed to death.”

This record is no stranger to grim self-harm. In that same opening song, Tillman’s haunting voice questions the reason for living, and he spends the remainder of the 38 minutes trying to remember it. Even more anecdotal songs like the lead single “Mr. Tillman” are fraught with signs of doom and gloom, as Tillman counters concerns from the hotel concierge with the lie, “I’m feeling good / Damn, I’m feeling so fine.” There are still signs of Father John Misty’s psychedelia from the synthesizer use in “Date Night” or “Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest of Them All,” but tracks like “The Songwriter” bring us the Elton John side of Tillman: a man and his piano, who as evidenced by “The Palace,” has traded in his usual mushrooms for a bag of speed. His penchant for translating his hotel experience into a full-length album resembles artists like Adele who write intimately about their personal dilemmas. But for all his best efforts, subtle harmonica included, Father John Misty is still no Bob Dylan.

Or maybe he is – more in the way that he mirrors the cliched rock-and-roll asshole qualities of Zimmerman (let’s not forget his onstage rant at the 2016 WXPN XPoNential Festival). The difference in the public regard of each artist though, is that Father John Misty has yet to produce his own Blonde On Blonde. This new album is a step in the right direction though. We see the authenticity of his dark self-reflections on God’s Favorite Customer, when Tillman struggles with the shortcomings of real love in wondering, as we all do, “Does everybody have to be the greatest story ever told?” And at his lowest point on the album in the title track, the Evangelist-raised Tillman calls out to angels in futile desperation, clawing for any way to cope with his pain, even one he’s long rejected.

By the time we reach the final song of the balanced 10-track album, Tillman has yet to find the answers to the questions he asked in the opener. There are glimmers of his signature snide arrogance throughout the rest of the album, but “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)” is a humble track. At the end, after musing about the lack of sense or reason in moments of pain, he answers his first questions with new ones: “Why not me? Why not you? Why not now?” God’s Favorite Customer comes full circle, blurring the line between Father John Misty and Joshua Tillman as he bares his most vulnerable thoughts to us until we start to see them in ourselves. Listening to his darkness shows us our own, but gives us few ways to cope with it. That, Father John Misty, in his still-captivating selfishness, leaves us to do alone in our own versions of his hotel room. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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June 20th, 2018

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This speaks for itself.

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REVIEW: Kamasi Washington Heaven And Earth

June 19th, 2018

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Born to musical parents, and an alumnus of UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology, Kamasi Washington is a saxophonist, composer, producer, bandleader, and wizard. His latest album, Heaven And Earth, is a double-LP, which follows up from his first record on Young Turks in 2017, Harmony Of Difference. It’s his first full-length since releasing The Epic in 2015 on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder record label. Back in April of this year, Kamasi Washington explained the concept behind Heaven And Earth, tweeting, “The Earth side represents the world as I see it outwardly, the world that I am a part of. The Heaven side represents the world as I see it inwardly, the world that is a part of me.”

So let’s start with Earth. The album immediately lands a right jab straight to the dome with “Fist of Fury,” a Malcom X-ian call to arms featuring Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible chanting “We will no longer ask for justice/Instead, we will take our retribution.” The track is one of three not composed by Washington, out of the sixteen total tracks on Heaven And Earth. It was also released as a single in April, along with Heaven’s opening track, “The Space Travelers Lullaby.” Earth uses mostly conventional styles of jazz, thus creating a sound that’s more mundane and earthly – though not in any way lacking in turbulence or excitement; the album is undeniably jam-packed with drama.

Moving on to the celestial meat and potatoes. Heaven’s grandiose orchestral jazzscapes are like the soundtrack to a trailer of a futuristic utopia, where the air is clean and electric cars fly between mile-high vertical farms. This glorious sound achieved by Kamasi Washington does invaluable justice to the modest (and dare I say starving) world of contemporary jazz. Heaven’s angelic atmosphere is largely owed to the string section employed where it was not found on Earth. This, along with more modern and cosmic synth textures besprinkled here and there, escorts us into Washington’s sonic inner sanctum.

I also found that Heaven has much gentler tones and chord progressions, whereas Earth is more violent, perhaps suggesting that Kamasi Washington has much more inner peace than he sees in the chaotic world around him. His inner peace is especially evident in Patrice Quinn’s lyrics in Heaven’s “Journey,” “Life and love and peace in my heart/Hallelujah, joy spring/And every day a brand new start/Hallelujah, joy spring.” At this point I am obligated to point out that the political tone of “Fist of Fury” may not be one Washington resonates with. This is just my conjecture based off of his tweet, but it’s worth thinking about, since this is a concept album composed of two polarized halves. Every full listen has yielded me a greater appreciation for the skillfully crafted distinctions between the two. This beautiful LP is all at once political turmoil and celebration of life. – KYLE WEINSTEIN


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ALBUM REVIEW: Snail Mail Lush

June 18th, 2018



Snail Mail, the solo project of Baltimore native Lyndsey Jordan, dropped their long-anticipated full length album, Lush, just last week. The baby-faced blonde juts out a defiant chin, her gaze steady and unflinching as she ruminates on unrequited love. The songwriting of Lush is blunt and pragmatic. She is both vulnerable and resilient, which makes listening to this record feels like reading your kid sister’s diary. What sets this album apart is the departure from the grainy scratch of lo-fi recordings as Snail Mail graduates from the invisibility of DIY culture. Boxed up compactly in 10 songs, the studio-produced quality is inescapable, the sound polished and clean. Although Jordan has been criticized for imitating the sound of her 90’s rock influences, Lush is undeniably self-aware and I look forward to seeing how she matures as an artist.

“Pristine” is, indisputably, the spine of this record. Jordan’s voice rises above the waves swelling and unfurling beneath her, never buried behind the noise. The chorus is a bold, if naive proclamation: “I won’t love anyone else / I’ll never love anyone else.” It would be too easy to be dismiss this line as the callow assertion of a first breakup, because it rings with sincerity, relatable for anyone who’s been in love. Each track is more emotionally bare than the last, gaining momentum and culminating in the cinematic climax of “Stick.” Jordan teeters off-key, shrugging in a bored, defeated sort of way. “Did things work out for you? Or are you still not sure what that means?” I can’t help picturing Jordan rolling her eyes as she delivers this line, fed-up of being stepped on. It captures what it feels like to be helplessly indecisive, tight walking ambiguity, and on the opposite end, the frustration of waiting for someone to make up their mind.

“Heat Wave” has been praised for its gorgeous guitar riffs, Jordan demonstrating her technical skill in dynamic instrumental breaks and all-consuming solos. The lyrics are pensive and temperamental. This song is a languid summer afternoon, you can feel the steamy press of heat like trudging through molasses. Afternoon bleeds into evening in the cool poetry of “Let’s Find An Out.” “‪June’s glowing red / Oh strawberry moon / You’re always coming back a little older / But it looks alright on you.” Jordan’s tone grows mellow and apologetic, this track reading like a confession. This is what it feels like when a relationship turns into a trap you have to negotiate your way out of, the embers of a fire burning out. – MARIAH HALL


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BEING THERE: The World Is A Beatiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die + Pianos Become Teeth

June 17th, 2018


There’s almost nothing so darkly cathartic as an emo concert. Though many bands of the genre have drawn criticism for their controversial and cliched lyrics, those at the forefront are more serious and skilled than ever. Two such bands are Pianos Become the Teeth and Philadelphia-based The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP), who last night performed their final show of a joint tour in support of their new albums, Wait for Love and Always Foreign, respectively. The bloated lineup also featured emo-punks Teenage Wrist and soft rockers Queen of Jeans, technically giving the night three openers for a show that ended up being nearly four hours in length. Yet somehow, the pace of the performance kept things moving.

With a glowing blue background and a shining white light from below, Pianos Become the Teeth took the stage following the other openers. Lead singer Kyle Durfey immediately ripped into a fit of head-banging, sometimes grabbing the mic stand with all of his strength or tossing it aside to whip the cord of the microphone around his contorting body. Durfey no doubt always delivers the songs of his formerly hardcore band with such intense physical expression, but I can’t help wondering if the imminence of Father’s Day brought an additional twinge of sorrow to his approach considering that his father’s death was the main inspiration for the 2014 album, Keep You. Though the band’s newer music is a little easier on the eardrums, their live performance was nonetheless relentless as they let the amps wail with an unending distortion between songs, never allowing for a moment of pure silence in the entire set. These days the sound and look of Pianos Become the Teeth are a lot more digestible for the mainstream audience than they were before Durfey became a family man, but the subtle hints of their hardcore days that remain are what make the band an emo standard-bearer.

If the night had ended there, it would have been more than sufficient, but TWIABP still had to take their turn. Where Pianos Become the Teeth drew from the ever-reliable power of a four-piece rock band, TWIABP attempted a more orchestral sound, featuring a trombone, saxophone, trumpets, and a keyboard synthesizer. They followed a similar technique to Pianos Become the Teeth, leaving almost no moment unfilled with some sort of amp noise, building a wall of sound that would collapse in a mid-song emotional release with every break of the rhythm.

A gap formed between those crowded at the edge of the stage and those who moved to the center of the room for the writhing mosh pit that’s characteristic of every emo concert. Playing songs from albums old and new, lead singer David Bello used his confessional lyrics to discuss personal and public criticisms of himself and the world at large. Two plastic skulls at the base of the drum kit served as a haunting memento mori, suggesting perhaps, just as the band’s newest album does, that the world is actually not so beautiful right now. Though the long-haired darkness and depression of emo is a genre I don’t often indulge in, the sheer talent of these two bands is undeniable and unshakeable, having withstood transformations in sound, style, and lineup. Despite the divisive opinions surrounding emo style and subject matter, it’s indisputable that for those who cope by wallowing in their pain, these two bands will be there to light the path. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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June 17th, 2018

Beach House @ the Tower Theater on July 26th in support of their just-released seventh album, 7.

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BEING THERE: Hockey Dad @ Everybody Hits

June 15th, 2018



Australian rock bands are killing it right now. The Australian rock scene is chock full of bands that are sick as hell and on the come-up, and I will not hold back my enthusiasm. Eclectic jangle rockers Dune Rats just wrapped up touring as main support for the well-established surf-rock group Wavves in the UK. The joyful garage rock trio Skegss are riding a gnarly wave of sold-out shows in pretty much all major cities across Straya, with solid support from local bands Dumb Punts & Los Scallywags . Which leads us to one of the biggest acts currently on the rise from down under: Hockey Dad. The duo hailing from good ol’ Windang, Australia, has embarked on a sizeable North American tour, making a stop at Everybody Hits, Philly’s one and only batting cage by day, DIY musical space by night.

California dudes Mt. Eddy kicked things off in the dimly lit room with some fine tunes to get the crowd stirring. The christmas lights hanging in the corner of the room designated for the bands illuminated the five young musicians’ faces, as the already healthy amount of equally young concertgoers bopped around. The crowd was mostly teenagers and young adults, all hitting away at their Juuls like it’s their job and chatting each other up in between tuning breaks. Up next came Philly natives Cold Fronts, a group of guys whom I’ve seen before and quickly learned don’t come to disappoint. They cranked out tunes from old records and their most recent release, Fantasy Du Jour, while frontman Craig Almquist frequently jumped into the crowd to douse himself in beer and give the kids a turn to sing. Their stage setup came with a bright magenta neon sign reading out the album title in cursive, serving as a nice touch to complement their established vintage sound.

After killing the main venue lighting leaving the dangling Christmas lights as the only source of light, Hockey Dad walked down from the green room to give the kids what they came for. The ultra-dim lighting made it a great challenge for me as a photographer, but as a guy there to see the show, it made for the perfect atmosphere. The duo was recently named the top-played band on Australia’s famous Triple J radio so far in 2018, so it was safe to say I had high expectations of them. They ripped through melodic, high-energy songs like “I Wanna Be Everybody,” “Seaweed” and “Babes,” giving off a surprisingly full sound for just a guitarist/vocalist and drummer. Billy Fleming’s bright blond, definition-of-surfer-hair flew around in every which direction from behind the kit as he and frontman Zach Stephenson rocked along until close to midnight. Taking advantage of the intimate DIY setting, they invited both the opening bands to come on stage for their remaining songs, which quickly turned into one big party with the crowd and artists all jumping around together, sharing laughs and sweat. Ending with the ripper “Homely Feeling” and encoring with the much softer, sweeter balad “Be With Me,” Hockey Dad proved themselves as one of the finer Aussie up-and-comers, and that power doesn’t always come in numbers. – DYLAN LONG

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ALBUM REVIEW: Neko Case Hell-On

June 15th, 2018



Neko Case is a singer-songwriter known for her uncommonly clarion vox, acerbic whimsy, nature mothering, and fiery red hair. But after the public exorcism of the #MeToo movement and the burning down of her Vermont home, the soft rock singer was forced to confront a new set of ugly and harsh realities. And she uses her new album, Hell-On, to help her do it. There is some serious introspection on the record, with the the lead-off title track diving right in to question who or what God is, finally defining him as “a lusty tire fire” – a line that is perfect in its poetic murkiness. But most amusing is “Bad Luck,” a song Case kept in her back pocket for several years, that she ironically recorded in Sweden on the morning of her house fire. Mocking ridiculous superstitions like breaking a mirror, Case uses her gift for curious phrasing to make up her own idioms of bad luck, showing the unreasonability of using faith in such events as explanation for the discomforting enigmas we encounter through life. In this lighthearted-sounding song, we start to see the way her dark wake-up call infects her empathy for the natural world with a lack for the human one in the verses, “Right here in human time / My heart could break / for a one-legged seagull / And still afford nothing to you.”

She reaffirms the creeping presence of this darkness in the nearly 7-minute center of the album, “Curse of I-5 Corridor,” that deals with nostalgia and the loss of innocence as a young woman. It was this song that most moved me in my first listen, as I heard an echo of my own thoughts in her words. In it, she spins imagery that is both familiar and foreign, maintaining a poetic distance that proves sometimes words are more about the feelings they evoke than their literally translated meanings. “Curse of I-5 Corridor” also helps explain the wickedly dramatic cover for Hell-On. Case wears a crown of cigarettes that hides her signature feature, while flames start to lick up the ends of her hair. Cigarettes are one of the many sources that fuel her nostalgia in that middle song of the album, and the fire on the cover no doubt refers to the burning of her possessions by Mother Nature – someone to which she has spent her whole career paying tribute.

Per usual for Case, each track has enough substance to garner its own lengthy review of the modern folktales in her languid yet piercing voice. At 52 minutes, the energy and clarity of Hell-On ebbs and flows, anchoring around the vocals of Case and other guest collaborators from her previous bands and projects, like The New Pornographers or case/lang/veirs. In her quirky vein of writing on this mostly self-produced album, the carefully crafted phrases all but let you drift away before once more grabbing you with a familiar line like, “The sweet, sweet burn / Of the first drink of the night, underage / Knowing that you’re gonna get away with it.” I’m still not quite sure if such words pull you into a comforting hug or a stinging slap in the face with the pain of remembering a more mysterious time. Hell-On is Case battling her own mysteries, uncovering their sometimes dark underbellies in light of the aforementioned harsh realities. With a song inspired by the strength of the Amazon women and another detailing a relative’s mistreatment of animals, Case ends the album unable to decide if she’s made “Pitch or Honey” with her music. Regardless, she shares in the final verse that her place in the wild beauty of nature has always been and still remains to be her rescue from the darkness. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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BEING THERE: U2 @ The Wells Fargo Center

June 14th, 2018



Entering the U2 Experience at the FU Center last night (yeah yeah, I know, but c’mon – it will ALWAYS be the FU Center), I did little in the way of recon. I have not heard these so called Songs Of Experience nor those of Innocence. I don’t know if the Line On The Horizon even had a lead-off single, and heaven knows, my ex can tell you with all honesty that I have no idea How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

In other words, I haven’t listened to the entirety of an actual U2 album since Bill Clinton was on his way out the door.

Actually, I’m lying. I did land some recon, that being the fact that I was not Pa Phawker’s first, second or even third choice to cover this sold-out spectacle.  Obviously, he was unable to convince the usual intern gang of concert reviewing Millennials (gross assumption, not fact) that seeing THIS band at THIS moment was worth altering plans on a perfectly sublime Wednesday eve. So here I was – a 40-something tasked with investigating whether a bunch of near 60-somethings were worth the live dime, even if they haven’t released anything I’d consider pertinent in nearly 20 years.

Thank god for the world’s largest TV screen. The visuals at first seemed intentionally overwhelming, seeming distractions to the new material’s lack of purpose. Yes, Bono is still a consummate showman, The Edge a perfect engineer of “that sound”, and Larry Mullins Jr. still one of – if not “the” – great drummers of modern rock history, but the medley of new tracks that shall remain nameless were rather inert. Their lack of firebelly carried over into a string of rote renditions of catalog favorites – tracks like “Gloria” and “I Will Follow” seemingly pitchshifted a hair for an easier haul against Bono’s aging pipes.

The Generation once defined by an X are no different than the Boomers that birthed them. Nostalgia’s warm bosom is always the safest place on the planet to just lose yourself. They ate up every emotional swing for the fences, something this band has and still –  begrudgingly – excels at. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a tinge of upswell during either a touching ode to Bono’s mum or a subdued take on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” but much of the evening’s successes had more to do with the visual presentation than the aural one.

At this point, I’m not going to an arena show for the sound but the spectacle, and on that level, the band remains ahead of industry curves. The immense video screen that cuts their stage footprint lengthwise is a spectacular tour inclusion, engineered with moving catwalks, lifts and performance zones that actually played well into the evening’s down tempo execution. Slowly, over it’s nearly two-and-a-half hour span, the set revealed itself to be shockingly intimate, continually finding ways to seperate the band members around the arena in ways that made proximity to rock gods attainable to all.

In that sense, the populist removal of the bite and snarl of tracks like “The End of the World” revealed itself slowly as seeming intent. Perhaps this wasn’t a band changing arrangements to acclimate aged skill sets, but rather modified to elicit feelings of intimacy in times where constant bombast has become the vernacular of the day.

But that simply isn’t the iconic image and feel of the band from its lengthy heyday. They can still wear hearts on the sleeve with ease, but what was missing from the evening was a sense of peril. They let the visuals do most of the obvious heavy lifting – most lazily on the transition between “Staring at the Sun” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, where color imagery of America’s current terror class – armed with burning tiki torches and MAGA hats – gave way to evocative B&W shots of rainbow coalitions carrying on the legacy of MLK. Got that?

Weaving through the parking lot on the way out, a woman passed with her son, who looked all of 10. “Now how was that for your first rock concert?” she asked. In the moment, I projected myself, wanting to telepathically send the perfect response to his tongue: “More firebelly.” – JAMES DOOLITTLE

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Win Tix To See Stephen Malkmus @ The TLA

June 13th, 2018


Illustration by OLAF HAJEK

Being Stephen Malkmus is … easy. You’re born upper-middle class in Los Angeles, the son of a general property/casualty insurance agent. You live on Citrus Avenue in the City Of Angels, where the sun shines all the time. When you’re eight, you move upstate to the tony suburban subdivisions of Stockton, where you’ll live out your formative years. You meet this kid named Scott Kannberg on your soccer team. You play wing. You learn to play guitar by aping Jimi Hendrix on “Purple Haze,” which features this tricky E chord. When you finally pull it off, you realize you can now play the guitar. You spend your puberty at all-ages punk shows. You even start a punk-rock band called the Straw Dogs, which sounds like a cross between the Adolescents, Wasted Youth and Dead Kennedys, as was the style at the time.

At age 18, you depart cross-country for the University of Virginia, because it’s the best school that accepted you and, besides, your old man went there. You have the distinct feeling you were one of the last students accepted because you’re assigned a room in the basement of the freshman dormitory, which you call a “ghetto for all the dumb kids.” You don’t complain, because even though you fill out the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink, you don’t test well and you only scored 1180 on your SATs. After a couple of years, you declare a major in history because you get the best grades in those classes._You meet David Berman, who will one day be regarded as one of the finest poets of your generation. You will one day make albums with him under the name Silver Jews. (You aren’t Jewish.) You will also meet a super-nice guy named Bob Nastanovich, who will one day talk you into co-owning a racehorse named Speedy Service with him. Who knows, you might even ask him to join your next band if you ever get Malkmus_Sparkle_Hard_around to starting one. The three of you become DJs at the college station and sit around drinking beer while raiding the deepest depths of the record stacks: Can, Chrome, Swell Maps, the Fall. These records will serve you well in due time. So well, in fact, that the Fall’s Mark E. Smith will one day curse you in the pages of Q magazine for riding his style to the bank. If someone told you this back in college, you would’ve never believed it.

You record an album under the band name Lakespeed, which even you have to admit sounds a little too derivative of Sonic Youth and the other college-radio superstars of the time. You send it around, but no label is interested. After graduating with a respectable 3.2 grade-point average and not even a vague clue as to what you want to do with your life, you go back to Stockton. You team up with Kannberg, because he’s the only one of your acquaintances who still lives there. He’s learned to play guitar. You make up aliases for each other: You call him Spiral Stairs, he calls you S.M. You record some songs for a seven-inch single you purposely try to make sound really bad, like Television Personalities or Chrome or Pere Ubu. Later, people will call this “lo-fi.” On the day you record, you’ll learn later, a grisly mass murder happens downstate, which is odd because you’ve already decided to call the seven-inch Slay Tracks.

You leave all the pedestrian details of pressing the singles and mailing them out to zines and record labels to Kannberg—who decides to call the project Pavement—and head out on a year-long backpacking trip across Europe. You’ll also visit Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, where you’ll hike out to the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which, in the Bible, is called Eden. When you get back, you’re amused to learn Slay Tracks has been well-received. You record another single called Demolition Plot J-7 and follow it up with a 10-inch called, rather archly, Perfect Sound Forever. The buzz builds. You move to New York to live with good ol’ Nastanovich. You and Berman get jobs as security guards at the Whitney Museum Of American Art, and to fill the endless ennui of standing for hours babysitting some of the greatest artistic achievements of Western culture, you make up an album’s worth of songs in your head.

Spending Christmas back in Stockton with your family, you record these songs. You call it Slanted And Enchanted. It will change music. It will change people’s lives. It will change your life. You’ll become the slacker prince of indie rock and, as befits the title, you’ll never have to work another day in your life. As leader of Pavement, you will, over the course of five well-received albums, spend the better part of the 90s zigging whenever your fanbase zagged, and the better part of the past decade cranking out the kind of wanky, Asberger-ian solo records that scare off women and try men’s souls. The latest is Sparkle Hard, his seventh, in support of which he is currently on a tour that brings him to the TLA on June 16th.

We have a couple pairs of tickets to give away to some lucky duck Phawker readers. 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 PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM telling us you have signed up (if you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much), with the words THE KAISER HAS A CYST (if you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much) in the subject line, and the the answer to the the following Malkmus Jeopardy question: Who is “the son of a Coca Cola middleman”? Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!


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