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June 7th, 2018

White Denim’s spaceball doth ricochet. They play Johnny Brenda’s on June 24th.

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EXCERPT: Ziggy Played Guitar

June 7th, 2018



VIA ROLLING STONE: A small crowd of sixty or so music fans stood in the dance hall of the Toby Jug pub in Tolworth, a suburban neighborhood in southwest London, on the night of February 10, 1972. The backs of their hands had been freshly stamped by the doorman. A DJ played records to warm up the crowd for the main act. The hall was nothing fancy, little more than “an ordinary function room.” The two-story brick building that housed it – “a gaunt fortress of a pub on the edge of an underpass” – had played host to numerous rock acts over the past few years, including Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and Fleetwood Mac. Sci-fi music had even graced the otherwise earthy Toby Jug, thanks to recent headliners King Crimson and Hawkwind, and exactly one week earlier, on February 3, the band Stray performed, quite likely playing their sci-fi song “Time Machine.” The concertgoers on the tenth, however, had no idea that they would soon witness the most crucial event in the history of sci-fi music.

Most of them already knew who David Bowie was – the singer who, three years earlier, had sung “Space Oddity,” and who had appeared very seldom in public since, focusing instead on making records that barely dented the charts. His relatively low profile in recent years hadn’t helped his latest single, “Changes,” which had come out in January. Despite its soaring, anthemic sound, it failed to find immediate success in England. But the lyrics of the song seemed to signal an impending metamorphosis, hinted at again in late January when Bowie declared in a Melody Maker interview, “I’m gay and always have been” and unabashedly predicted, “I’m going to be huge, and it’s quite frightening in a way.” Bowie clearly had a big plan up his immaculately tailored sleeve. But what could it be?

Before Bowie took the stage of the Toby Jug, an orchestral crescendo announced him. It was a recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, drawn from the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. To anyone who’d seen the film, the music carried a sinister feeling, superimposed as it was over Kubrick’s visions of grim dystopia and ultraviolence. Grandiloquence mixed with foreboding, shot through with sci-fi: it couldn’t have been a better backdrop for what the pint-clutching attendees of the Toby Jug were about to behold.

At around 9:00 p.m., the houselights were extinguished. A spotlight sliced the darkness. Bowie took the stage. But was it really him? In a strictly physical sense, it must have been. But this was Bowie as no one had seen him before. His hair – which appeared blond and flowing on the cover of Hunky Dory, released just three months earlier – was now chopped at severe angles and dyed bright orange, the color of a B-movie laser beam. His face was lavishly slathered with cosmetics. He wore a jumpsuit with a plunging neckline, revealing his delicate, bone-pale chest, and his knee-high wrestling boots were fire-engine red. Bowie had never been conservative in dress, but even for him, this was a quantum leap into the unknown. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: You Aren’t Listening

June 6th, 2018

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins gave a silent news conference today, speaking out about the White House lies, Trump, and why NFL players take a knee via a series of cue cards.

NEW YORK TIMES: The president labeled the Eagles as unpatriotic because they do not conform to his view of the national anthem. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, accused the team of pulling “a political stunt” because many players declined the White House invitation.

“The vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans,” Ms. Sanders said.

Hardly. Since the start of the 2017 season, this group of young men has done nothing but embrace its fans, its community and oh, by the way, the Vince Lombardi trophy. Trust me, no one feels abandoned.

I’ve covered sports in Philadelphia for more than three decades. Never during that time have I seen a group of players more dedicated to one another and the city in which they play. Never have I witnessed a more fan-friendly team. For the record:

Safety Malcolm Jenkins, perhaps the most visible leader in the players’ protest against racial injustice, spends his off time riding along with police officers, visiting prisons and meeting with public defenders and lawmakers. He headed the players’ coalition that prodded owners last December to commit up to $89 million to help grass-roots organizations battle injustice.

Defensive end Chris Long, another respected voice in the locker room, donated his entire $1 million 2017 salary to charities funding scholarships and promoting educational equality. This came after he was appalled by the violent white nationalist protests last August in his hometown Charlottesville, Va.

Quarterback Carson Wentz, the 25-year-old future of this franchise, is opening a food truck (“The Kingdom Crumb”) distributing free meals around the Delaware Valley. He also visited Haiti recently and was so struck by the devastation that his faith-based foundation committed to building a sports complex there. Last week, he sponsored a softball game among teammates that drew 25,000 fans and pulled in $260,000 for the Haiti project. At the end of the night, Mr. Wentz announced he will match that sum — making the evening’s take $520,000. MORE

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BEING THERE: The Voidz @ Boot & Saddle

June 5th, 2018



Monday night marked the start of a month long residency at the Boot N’ Saddle for The Voidz, former Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’ new project. The show kicked off with Promiseland, a one-man band of electronic distortion and screamed poetry. Known for his crowd interactions, he walked throughout the small room and worked the crowd like a good hype man should. Promiseland’s powerfully loud set combined with the seedy backroom ambiance of the western-themed bar and the loop of Pixies and Sonic Youth on the PA between acts should have been the perfect build-up for The Voidz. But to the dismay of the swarm of Julian Casablancas fans nearly foaming at the mouth to see him live, Monday night’s performance was a bit of a wet firecracker.

There are concerts where every second of sound overflows with an addicting euphoria that makes you forget yourself and all the petty bullshit gnawing at you, but last night was not one of them. Admittedly, barring a few technical errors, the execution of songs from The Voidz two extant albums, Virtue and Tyranny, was impressive. But The Voidz played a mere ten songs, leaving out fan favorites like “Human Sadness,” “Permanent High School,” and “All Wordz Are Made Up.”

However, in The Voidz’s defense, there seemed to be a larger proportion of cell phone videographers than usual, especially at the front of the crowd. Not only did they prevent others from forming any sort of mosh pit or collective dance to the pounding rock of songs like “Pyramid of Bones,” or “Where No Eagles Fly,” but there were times when they waved their phones so high in the air that they forced those unlucky enough to be standing directly behind them to watch the show through their phone screens. I’ll admit that I enjoy taking a couple of pictures or short videos of my favorite songs, but this was excessive and obnoxious.

That buzzkill might have been overcome by the band had they still attempted to bridge the audience-performer gap. Instead, they spoke mostly to each other, with Casablancas often muttering incoherently between songs. Still, there were glimmers of connection. Casablancas followed their performance of Virtue’s anthem, “ALieNNatioN,” with a quiet, “That song is about me.” And of course, the ever-energetic drummer Alex Carapetis moved with a crazed passion reminiscent of Animal from the Muppets with maracas taped to his drumsticks. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel that the band took the words of the opening song “Pointlessness” far too literally.

The only Void who seemed to be truly relishing the art of performance was the guitarist Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter. He often climbed to the edge of the stage, leaning precariously off of it to the delight of the aforementioned cell phone cinematographers. But with the several allegations of predatory #MeToo behavior circling the web, I was more repelled than enthralled by his attempts to charm the crowd.

By far, the biggest disappointment of the night was the lack of an encore. Perhaps the less-than enthusiastic crowd was to blame, but the majority of the room stood in confusion as the lights went up and technicians immediately tore down the stage. Rejection of cultural norms and tribal rituals is de rigueur for an edgy underground rock band, but last night it felt like apathy – or at the very least a slap in the face to the fans who sold out all four Philadelphia shows in less than an hour didn’t deserve. As much as I hate to admit it, the almost 20-year-old mantra from the Strokes’ debut entered my mind as I walked out into the cool June night: Is this it? – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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KEVIN KRAUTER: Rollerskate

June 5th, 2018

Kevin Krauter plays PhilaMOCA on July 22nd.

RELATED: Best known as one of several guitar players, songwriters, and vocalists in the Hoosier indie-rock band Hoops, Krauter has been making music all by his lonesome for much longer. He grew up in a family heavily involved in local musical theater, even appearing in three productions of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He played in high school bands, but didn’t get serious about writing and recording until he enrolled at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. His first efforts — recorded in his dorm room — weren’t intended for any kind of audience, but a friend asked him to record a few tracks for a class project. Eventually those sessions became 2015’s Magnolia EP, a short collection of gentle, gauzy songs that reveal his early obsession with one of his first musical heroes, Vashti Bunyan. MORE

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BEING THERE: Japanese Breakfast

June 4th, 2018


Despite torrential downpours and flooded streets, Union Transfer was packed last night for a sold out show headlined by Japanese Breakfast. The first opener was the Philly-based pop punk Radiator Hospital. Bed-headed and chronically-blushing, Sam Cook-Parrott wrapped himself around the mic in a wide-legged straddle, his voice pitched at a droning whine. The set primarily featured tracks from their latest release, The Songs You Like. LVL UP followed with a moody lo-fi set that contrasted pleasingly with the barbed edges of Radiator Hospital. Even with their mellow vibe and blasé attitude, the band unboxed some energetic head-bangers that had the crowd moshing.

The atmosphere was electric with anticipation when Michelle Zauner apparated, angelic in a white floral blazer, blue eyeshadow glittering in the serene light. She bounced around the stage bunny-like, her hi-top sneakers lighting up with every step. Her voice was silken and tender, backed by dreamy, seraphic synths. Zauner was accompanied by a three-piece band, including her husband Peter on bass and keyboard. Peter’s left foot was wrapped in a cast because the night before he had drunkenly dropped an amp on it. As a preface to “Till Death,” Zauner described waiting in the urgent care unit with him, ruminating on the painful moments of marriage. Before playing “12 Steps,” Zauner shared, “It’s named after the bar in South Philly, where I saw my husband for the first time. He was singing Billy Joel…it was a six-minute nightmare.” She called “Boyish” her ugly girl anthem, a song about feeling less-than.

The set was full of nostalgic quips and memories, Zauner expressing deep gratitude to be back in Philadelphia, surrounded by familiar faces. “I used to work coat check here,” she said, laughing. “It’s a very unfulfilling job. This is a full-circle moment for me.” The members of Little Big League joined Zauner for the last couple of songs. The band reminisced about a gig they played at the grimy DIY space Boy’s House. “After you’d finish your forty ounce Steel Reserve, which you could only stomach when you were eighteen, you would chuck it at the Wall of Destruction, and glass and beer would spray all over.” Zauner went on to describe feeling sick of sleeping on cat piss-stained couches, but at the same time feeling contented and full of love for her friends in the Philly DIY community. Zauner was dewy-eyed and emotional by the end, evoking empathy from the audience. She reached out a lithe, tattooed arm, interlocking fingers with a stranger in a sweet moment of gentleness. – MARIAH HALL

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June 2nd, 2018



Attachment-1-3BY KYLE WEINSTEIN Well-known for his role as the wizardly guitarist of Wilco, Nels Cline has accrued an impressive discography and a heaping sum of musical projects and collaborations spanning the early ‘80s to present-day. Cline has collaborated with countless musicians, including Thurston Moore, Elliott Sharp, Zach Hill, Julius Hemphill, and many more, encompassing a diverse range of genres such as free-jazz, noise-rock, funk-rock, and so on. In 2016, Blue Note Records released Nels Cline’s Lovers, a romantic concept album of instrumental renditions of classic love songs.

Last year, Ars Nova Workshop founder and Artistic Director Mark Christman commissioned Cline to compose and perform a retro-fitted Philly-centric version of the piece that was soon dubbed “Lovers (for Philadelphia),” which is essentially a series of interpretations of touchstone compositions written by various notable Philadelphians. In preparation for this special sequel to the 2016 Lovers record, Nels Cline spent the past year exploring and researching Philadelphia’s rich musical history. Tonight, Cline will lead a hand-picked ensemble of 17 musicians for a one-night-only performance of “Lovers (for Philadelphia)” at Union Transfer. In advance of the show, we got him on the horn.

DISCUSSED: The Delfonics, Thurston Moore, beer, Sun Ra, Uri Caine, Philly soul, Theoretical Girls, Bill Frissel, Coltrane, Paul Motian, Low-Riders, Tired Hands Brewery, Ethel Waters, No Wave, Yuka Honda, Wilco, Brenda & The Tabulations, Eddie Lang, Mark Christman, beer, Mike Watt and the legacy of Glenn Branca.

PHAWKER: Let’s talk about the artists you’ve been interpreting for this Philly event. Let’s start with McCoy Tyner. Tell me about him, where he fits in.

NELS CLINE: Well, I always think of Philadelphia when I think of McCoy. He’s most famous for having played for years in John Coltrane’s Quartet, but he’s somebody that I’ve been listening to and enjoying on his own for a very, very long time, and the first song I thought of when I thought of this project with the new Philadelphian repertoire was his ballad, “Aisha,” from the John Coltrane album, Olé. It’s musically right in my wheelhouse as far as the beautiful harmonic content. I think that in the world of modern jazz balladry, it’s perhaps underrated, or at least underappreciated. It was the first thing I thought of, and of course the requirements for the pieces aren’t just musical, it’s also the subject matter that is implied or directly what’s being communicated by the song. So, they have to have something to do with romance, intimacy, sexuality, whatever, but also fit aesthetically into whatever I think the concept of Lovers is, which is my world. “Aisha” fits perfectly into it, not only because it’s Philadelphian – and I can also get John Coltrane mentioned since he famously recorded it on Olé, and he lived in Philadelphia for quite a while – it’s just a beautiful piece of music that’s the kind of thing that I just can’t get enough of, so I’m happy to include it.

PHAWKER: Okay, great. Paul Motian – how’s he fit in here?

NELS CLINE: Paul’s one of my favorite musicians of all time. I think that his drumming, of course, is very singular and remarkable – quite a stylist – but I also really love his own records and his writing. And I didn’t know he was born in Philadelphia, so when I saw Mark Christman’s list of notable Philadelphians – which was quite an extensive list – my eye went straight to Paul Motian’s name, and I immediately scrolled through the song titles and immediately thought of “Folk Song for Rosie,” and I don’t know if Rosie is somebody that is in Paul’s family, I don’t know if it’s a girlfriend, I don’t know who Rosie is or was, but I don’t care [laughs] because I was able to shoehorn this piece into the concept, so the less I know the better, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful piece, and represents some of the greatest of Paul’s modal ballad writing – in its original form on the album, Le Voyage, when I first heard it, but also in its later form on the Live At the Village Vanguard recording with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. Both versions are absolutely beautiful, and I’m just hoping we can keep this starkness of the recorded versions of Paul’s concepts. We try to keep it lush and, at the same time, not too dense, and keep that mood. So I’m really happy to include Paul Motian. He’s one of my favorites.

PHAWKER: All right great. I really like how you put that emphasis on not knowing who Rosie is, but more of it being all about interpretation.

NELS CLINE: Well, see, for example, my attempts to get Philly soul songs into the repertoire were really unsuccessful because the lyric content doesn’t quite make it for me. You know, on the album, Lovers, lyrics are reproduced on the songs that had lyrics, even though there’s no vocalist, and the reason is that the lyrics were as important as the music in the selection of these songs. And I just couldn’t think of creative ways to re-imagine Philly soul hits, one of them being “La La Means I Love You” by The Delfonics – truly an iconic love ballad, and a huge favorite of my ex-wife, who grew up in Southern California around lowriders – and it’s a big lowrider hit, you know, people listening to it on their car stereos, on the AM radio, in the ’60s and ’70s, it never got old. And so, to be able to include that is actually personal. It has a lot of personal meaning to me. As does the inclusion of Brenda & The Tabulations’ “The Touch of You,” which I had completely forgotten about, but was another favorite of my ex-wife and her friends – more of a deep cut in Southern California – but the musical content is really quite surprising and very flavorful, and it’s got a great guitar riff, so that’s probably as pop as we’re going to get with the Philadelphian repertoire.

PHAWKER: Okay. So, let’s move on, here. How about Ethel Waters?

NELS CLINE: Okay, Ethel Waters, I didn’t even know had associations with Philadelphia. In searching through the various songs that she had interpreted, I thought “Miss Otis Regrets” is so ideal, so incredibly relevant, right now, and so honors, in its urbane and wry and witty way, some of the more twisted aspects of romance that I’d like to include in Lovers. You know, a song about a woman who’s unable to make lunch because she has just murdered her lover for cheating on her is a really great story, and delivered marvelously by Ethel Waters, who we do not normally consider prim. Anyway, we’re going to just do it in an old-fashioned way, but hopefully not a kitschy way; I don’t want it to be kitschy at all. I’ll probably play an acoustic archtop, and keep it very 1930s if we can, and probably let some people solo over the form, to some extent the same way we approached “Why Was I Born” on the Lovers album.

PHAWKER: How about Uri Caine?

NELS CLINE: Uri is somebody I think of right away when I think of Philadelphia. He’s one of these maverick artists who’s internationally recognized to be quite brilliant, but has stayed in Philadelphia. I tried to find some of his compositions that would fit into my idea of Lovers, you know, something intimate and romantic. And I discovered this piece by Uri, called “Magic of Her Nearness,” which I was not aware of, and the recorded version I heard is solo piano, and is actually quite a tribute, in my opinion, to the solo piano work in the ‘60s and ‘70s, primarily of Paul Bley. He uses a lot of Paul Bley flavor in his improvisation on this piece. I’m very happy that we can at least make a nod to Uri Cane as somebody who’s contemporary in Philadelphia, and doing great music. So, I think what we’re going to try to do is make it more of a free-jazz piece. And that’s still being discussed, but I think that’s the way it’s going to go. It’s a beautiful little piece.

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CINEMA: A Confederacy Of Dunces

June 1st, 2018



EDITOR’S NOTE: Warren Lipka was a Phawker intern in 2015.

BY DAVID EDELSTEIN FRESH AIR FILM CRITIC The heist movie American Animals opens with a cutesy title. This is not based on a true story. Then the words not based on disappear, leaving – this is a true story. I doubt any fiction writer could have dreamed up a heist so dumb, stealing the original of Audubon’s multivolume “Birds Of America” from the library of Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. The movie is funny in spots, but it’s not a comedy. The British writer-director Bart Layton has set out to explore the cultural underpinnings of a particular American brand – a birdbrain. The heist was executed in 2004 by four middle class suburban college students and grads – young men, we’re told in on-screen interviews with their real parents, who’d never been in trouble with the law.

The likeably raw, young Irish actor Barry Keoghan plays Spencer Reinhard, who actually has artistic talent, and on a library tour is mesmerized by Audubon’s book. But it’s Warren Lipka, played by Evan Peters, who decides that they and two others should disguise themselves as elderly scholars, taze the librarian, snatch “Birds Of America” plus a first edition of Darwin’s “On The Origin Of Species” and find a buyer through a fence in Amsterdam. Why? That’s something even the real four have trouble answering in interviews that pepper the movie between the fictionalized scenes in which their younger selves do stakeouts, make charts and watch such films as Kubrick’s “The Killing” and “Reservoir Dogs,” a DVD shelf of American robber archetypes. You can hear how movies saturate their lives when in a restaurant, Warren works his weird magic on another student, Eric Borsuk, played by Jared Abrahamson.

Evan Peters’ Warren is a magnetic sociopath, the linchpin of American Animals. But he wouldn’t sway Spencer, Eric or the jock Chas Allen played by Blake Jenner if they weren’t vulnerable. In the words of one of the real parents, everything in our family was geared for our kids to be successful. And you can feel the anxiety that sentiment generates in young men without clear paths toward success. The turning point comes at an outdoor frat party when Spencer says, ever feel like you’re waiting for something to happen but don’t know what it is? And Warren says, by stealing those books, they’ll rise above the pack or flock or whatever animal metaphor you can think of. The film has many including beavers, as in Warren’s exhortation – if you don’t do this thing, one day you’ll wake up wondering who you might have been if you hadn’t beavered away your life. It’s a nice sight gag when a shopping cart some frat boys set alight sails across the screen behind them. In one shot, you get toxic masculinity, peer pressure and a nihilistic vision of American capitalism.

Writer-director Bart Layton uses a lot of cinematic tricks to pump up American Animals, and it often feels like an exercise in ironic style. It doesn’t have the emotional fullness of a major work. There’s no point where you get carried away by the scheme. You’re always ahead of the characters, thinking – idiots. And idiots just aren’t that compelling. But in the last act, the tone changes, and the film becomes impressive. Ann Dowd as librarian B.J. Gooch doesn’t gracefully swoon after she’s hazed but weeps and pleads, the camera tight on her face. B.J. doesn’t get this is supposed to be like a movie. And suddenly, Spencer, Eric and Chas – if not Warren, who’s fine being mean – get that it’s not a movie too. MORE

RELATED: The Things You Learn On Your First Day In Prison


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BEING THERE: Primus @ Festival Pier

May 31st, 2018

Primuis by 215Music

Photo by ALEX BUSCHIAZZO courtesy of 215Music

It was late last year that Primus released The Desaturating Seven, a concept album based off of Ul de Rico’s The Rainbow Goblins, a children’s book about a group of goblins who consume the colors of the world, “desaturating” it of our precious ROY G BIV. Primus mastermind and bassist Les Claypool used to read the story to his children, and, as with Willy Wonka, was musically inspired by its content. Their current tour is focused on music from their new album, naturally, and features a rainbow-through-tree-silhouettes backdrop.

The sky was looking iffy all evening, so I checked the forecast – festival pier is, after all, an entirely outdoor venue – and things were looking good. Don’t take that as foreshadowing; it didn’t end up raining. Good old AccuWeather really put out for us at the freakshow, but the audience was still just about as wet as they’d have been had it rained – be it from sweat, spilled beer, and god knows what else…

Primus warmed up the crowd with a few classics before delving into their new material, opening with “Too Many Puppies” wrapped around a sandwiched “Sgt. Baker,” a fantastic opening to the night. “HOINFODAMAN” came next, and featured updated accompanying visuals taken from the song’s music video. Encore aside (I’ll get to that in a sec), the set was symmetrically five classics followed by the entire Desaturating Seven and concluded by five more classics. Twas a very satisfying set-structure. Between songs, black-robed, hooded figures would slowly and theatrically exchange basses and guitars with Les and Ler, respectively.

Off to stage-right, I peeped guitar racks cradling nine Stratocasters in addition to the one Ler was already playing. One might think ten Strats is excessive, but I wouldn’t question the man who literally invented death-metal. Les wore a curly-horned helmet, and Herb sat hooded upon his throne. The band closed their set with the much anticipated “My Name is Mud,” which broke into “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver,” starting from the famous “Dog will hunt” lyric. After they left the stage, it didn’t take much chanting of “PRIMUS SUCKS!” before they reappeared for “Here Come the Bastards,” a worthy send-off. – KYLE WEINSTEIN

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CINEMA: The Terminator

May 31st, 2018



Upgrade is a high concept, low budget techno thriller written and directed by Australian filmmaker Leigh Whannell, who is probably best known for his writing credits on the Saw and Insidious franchises. After making his directorial debut with the solid supernatural sequel Insidious: Chapter 3, Whannel is now tackling an original script that vibes like a William Gibson-penned ‘80s action film. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green, doing his best Tom Hardy impersonation as noted technophone Grey Trace who, during the course of a violent robbery that takes the life of his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo), is rendered a quadriplegic. When the police fail to track down the cybernetically enhanced criminals responsible, an acquaintance conveniently offers the desperate man another chance at life and vengeance in the form of an experimental treatment called STEM. What he doesn’t know is that the chip that would be embedded in his spinal column and once again give him control of his body comes paired with an AI that is like a homicidal Amazon Alexa, which develops a shocking blood lust as they track down those responsible for Asha’s death. STEM turns Grey into an unstoppable killing machine with enhanced fighting capabilities and an autopilot berserker mode that triggers the film’s mind-melting, hyperkinetic fight sequences.

The film’s plot plays out in a fairly formulaic fashion as Grey works his way up the henchman food chain dispatching those involved with the Asha’s murder in a spectacularly grisly fashion. Of all things to complain about on this film the film’s gore effects and over the top fights definitely not one of them. This road to revenge, of course leads him to finally discover who REALLY was behind the attack, which comes paired with a twist that lays out a shockingly grim outlook for our future. Upgrade is a little too rough around the edges with its clunky dialog and one-dimensional characters, especially given Whannell’s writing resume. The actors spend much of the film stumbling through the technobabble in an attempt to breathe life into these characters as the machinations of the plot lurch along. Being a fan of Whannell’s output thus far and this film’s concept being right in my wheelhouse with its story that’s Robocop by way of David Cronenberg, I couldn’t help but leave the theater feeling a bit disappointed. Upgrade never really takes hold of its audience as it fails to really engage on an emotional or visceral level, as it attempts to channel some of the best of 80s action cinema.  It’s not a total loss however, as the film’s action and gore set pieces alone are worth checking this out if you catch this streaming after your latest Black Mirror binge.  – DAN TABOR

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BEING THERE: Pond @ Union Transfer

May 30th, 2018


Truth be told, my first impression of POND was that they’re some sort of alternate-universe MGMT if something were to have gone cringefully wrong early in their career. To me, they were missing something – the hyper-catchy melodies and stellar chord phrases that I’ve come to expect from the latter. I just could not shake this toxic point of view. But last night, the Perth-based Tame Impala offshoot blew me away. What was going on inside Union Transfer that I hadn’t been hearing on POND’s records?

For starters, front man Nick Allbrook was glittered up like a pixie and bore a tremendously energetic stage presence, which kept the heads of those of us who stood front and center on a constant and erratic swivel. Aside from the relatively unimportant, albeit entertaining, visual aesthetic, the band’s sound was crystal-effing-clear. I had forgotten to bring my high-fidelity earplugs to the show, but was pleased to hear POND’s volume at a level that, for their genre, I would describe as perfect. The mix was crisp as hell; every instrument was at just the right level, wonderfully articulate. Hats off to the sound tech. Seriously.

Notable moments: Bassist Jay Watson took a moment between songs to verify with Philly the pronunciation of “Yuengling” as he held up his bottle, and then shared his liking for the oldest beer in America. (He got the pronunciation right.) An audience member then tossed his Yuengling cap to Jay, who wore the hat for the duration of the next song, until throwing it back to the owner. Shiny Joe Ryan pointed out that Jay is the funny one in the band. At the end of the encore, Nick and Shiny Joe peeled their setlists off the floor and handed them to the audience. I kindly snapped a picture of Nick’s list before the recipient next to me ran off, starstruck, into the night. – KYLE WEINSTEIN


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

May 30th, 2018



FRESH AIR: From intestinal distress to family dysfunction, writer David Sedaris has spent decades sharing some of the most intimate aspects of his life. Still, there are some topics that make him uncomfortable.”Nothing makes me more self-conscious writing in my diary than if I’m writing about something good,” he says. Cataloging achievements or compliments doesn’t sit well with him: “I just think, ‘God, if anyone were to find this diary, I would look so bad, congratulating myself here,’ ” he says. Instead, Sedaris prefers to write about “bad behavior” — both his own and others’. “Is it my fault that the good times turn to nothing while the bad burns forever bright?” he asks. Sedaris’ new book, Calypso, features stories about family, aging, mortality and his North Carolina beach house. Sedaris is now 61. “I feel like if I robbed a bank, this would be the perfect time to do it,” he says. “Because when the police said, ‘What did he look like?’ they’d say, ‘He had gray hair.’ That’s all people see after you’re a certain age: Is that you have gray hair.” MORE

REVIEW: New York Times

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DEMOLITION MAN: Q&A W/ Mark Everett Of Eels

May 29th, 2018

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SOPHIE_BURKHOLDER_BYLINERBY SOPHIE BURKHOLDER Twenty-two years after his breakout debut Beautiful Freak, Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. Eels, a.k.a. E) released his twelfth studio album, The Deconstruction. This new album comes after a four-year hiatus from the group, over the course of which E got married, divorced, and became a first-time father. Much like the other work from Eels, the songs of this new album have dark themes, but perhaps this time with a more therapeutic focus, as E used the hiatus to re-examine music as a coping mechanism for depression. Eels will be at Union Transfer on June 10 in support of the record. But is The Deconstruction a permanent return from their musical hiatus? Read our conversation with E about future plans, what it’s like to be a new father, and the power of perspective.

PHAWKER: Throughout your career, it’s been clear that you’re no stranger to coping with depression. So how does The Deconstruction continue this theme in your music, or maybe, how is your perspective in it different from the songwriting of your first album, Beautiful Freak?EELS_Poster_J copy

E: Oh, it’s hard to remember that far back. It was so many albums ago [laughs]. I mean, that was 22 years ago. I’ve always been interested in evolving and changing over the years, and trying different things. But probably about half the time, I’m exploring things related to my real-life experiences. I come from a family of troubled people and troubled genius, in the case of my father. So, you know, I feel very lucky that I’ve had music all these years as a coping mechanism for me. Just very fortunate, and very grateful for that.

PHAWKER: Speaking of your family, you lost your father, your sister, and your mother in a pretty short time span, which is an extremely overwhelming and tragic thing to experience. What are some of the ways, even though it was so long ago, that you still pull on those emotions in your music today? Or maybe how do they inform new emotions that you have?

E: Well, it’s a thing where you never get over it, but you get through it. I’ll never fully recover from losing my family, of course. But time does help heal the wounds, somewhat. It’s poignant for me – every day there are reminders. Like, I have a son now, and the idea that he’ll never meet his grandparents and that they won’t ever know – they would be so thrilled to know that they became grandparents. They never got to be grandparents in their lives. So, stuff like that always kind of weighs on you. But on the plus side, I was always afraid – because I was the last man standing in the family – I was always afraid that I was going to fail the family line by not having any offspring, and that the family name was going to end with me. So, it makes me really happy to know that my father has a grandson, and that the family line will keep going, hopefully.

PHAWKER: Well, it’s interesting to me that you thought that way, because you wrote that book, which was also a song, called “Things the Grandchildren Should Know.” And now, there actually will be grandchildren.

E: Yeah, the title was supposed to be kind of ironic at the time [laughs]. It’s very poignant to me that, oh,  you know, this title could become literal now.

PHAWKER: So, how has having a son impacted your music, specifically regarding The Deconstruction. You had him pretty recently, right?
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