When I lived in Brooklyn, I made it to the Flea once. There were bikes of all shades and colors, cool jewelry (I bought some Erica Weiner stuff), furniture that made me daydream of the budget and apartment I’d one day have, oh and food. And drink. Pretty sure I had a bangin’ pink lemonade. I never thought the spot was so organized that it could up and declare a new location. Like Philly. But on June 2nd, a Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea arrives at the Piazza. The five-year-old successful flea market will have its first weekend in the Jared Kushner-bought Bart Blatstein monstrosity in just a few short weeks.
Kushner’s the husband of Ivanka Trump, and he owns the New York Observer. He’s teamed up with Flea co-founder Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby to bring their model to a Philly space, their first moment of expansion. We’re hoping it’s a continuation of a trend; seems like New York’s finally seeing the beauty of our fair city. In the not-too-distant past we’ve seen stuff like 3rd Ward, SuitSupply, Joe Coffee and, wait, is that Uniglo coming to Philadelphia? Man, it’s awesome.
Here’s the rundown on the Philly Flea: It’s a curated shopping and food experience for your Sunday morning and afternoon in Northern Liberties, and it launches on June 2. There are limited spots, a fee, an application process, and the powers that be pick and choose to achieve a blissful mix of art, furniture, vintage, modern, crafty, handmade, prefab and mad food. (Among the vendors slated are Philadelphia Salvage, Three Potato Four, At Home Modern, Peg & Awl and Forage Haberdashery.) Brooklyn Flea’s been a fertile starting place for dozens of businesses looking to start small, build clientele and create a name for itself before moving into a brick-and-mortar location. No doubt that’ll happen in our Philly locale, and it’s exciting to see which startups will get the green light from the Philly Flea team.
The Piazza’s one weird space. But did you know that it can contain nearly 8,000 people? There’s no other space within a short radius of Center City that can so easily and professionally host such an excellent collection of vending tables and tents. There’ve been maybe a dozen businesses that have come and gone since Blatstein cut some deals for cheap rent in the piazza’s youth, a result of a number of factors, no doubt. Personally, I have no desire to dine at a place like Gunner’s Run (again). But when the Flea’s chosen food vendors populate the Brooklyn Philly Flea, they’ll pretty easily become the most solid eats outside of the dependable Bar Ferdinand and El Camino Real that will neighbor the flea (and benefit handily).
It’s just good all around: New York expanding to Philadelphia, sophistication in the form of curated shopping, a thing to do every weekend and a revitalization of one weird, underused space. Starting in June, you’ve got a good reason to head up, if nothing else for a good place to stroll with a coffee in hand and peruse high-to-low-end goods and art. Plus there’s like a 1000-percent guarantee that some cuties’ll be shoppin’ too.
Also, one quick note about the Flea’s June 2 opener: Since it’s the day after the sure-to-be-bangin’ Roots Picnic, call it the official “Roots Family Post Picnic Brunch,” ’cause according to insiders, Questlove and a slew of other dope local DJ are set to rock the Piazza stage.
We caught up with Ang Bocca via email this week a few days before she and her band, The Damn Band, take the stage at Ortlieb’s on Friday night to, hopefully, play some new stuff they’ve been cookin’ up. It was tough shortening her verbose answers. But she dropped a few gems along the way. Can’t wait to see what she and her band’ve got up their sleeves this Friday. Get your info tight!
PW: Ang! What’s goin’ on? Seriously, what’s happening? Does the Ortlieb’s show signify a new project or new band or new record or new something?
ANG BOCCA: A LOT is going on! We are recording our untitled EP with Collapsible Empire, which will be hot and ready for release appropriately by mid-summer (July-ish). We are really super stoked to be playing Ortlieb’s! It’s one of my favorite hangs and also one of my personal favorite venues. It just looks like it popped out of a Tarantino movie. Barb (drummer & co-captain) and I haven’t performed for a minute because we have been recording. And this gig has a NEW feel for us. We have a few friends playing with us this time. We have Rachel Icenogle on electric cello, Joe Smith of Southwork on bass and Joe Humeaus of Nobody Yet filling in on guitar. I’ve been calling it Flamingo Friday! I don’t have any idea what that means, but our music feels hot pink for this show to me.
Tell us a lil’ about yourself, would ya? Where’d you grow up? Who is your spirit diva? (Spirit divas are the diva you most embody and, in a way, function kind of like a human spirit animal.)
I’m from South Philly. I was the only blonde pale person from my neighborhood. I grew up wanting to be a ballerina and competetive figure skater. I was uber serious about the dancing, but when I wasn’t getting far, I chose to try skating, and I was uber serious about that, too. I was involved in theater in between all of this. However, when I was on the ice, I had a lot of alone time and would come up with beats and melodies. I would fake sick during a lesson if inspiration struck and would record it into my Nokia. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was uncontrollable and as most people do when they fall in love with music, it became the most important thing to me forever. Hmmm, my spirit diva? Oddly enough, I always have weird dreams where Ryan Gosling shows up randomly and grabs my chin to feed me one-liners of brilliant advice, like “What’s the matter with you? You act like you’ve never been loved before!” And then he walks away. It’s very cinematic. He’s also my spirit animal.
What kinds of things have you been singin’ lately? What kind of stuff’s been influencing you? Like rock ‘n roll times? R&B flavors? Pop delights?
I’ve been lovin’ me some JT. Of course. “Pusher Love Girl” blows my mind. I cannot wait for the next 10 tracks he’s releasing. He’s my pop delight. We are pretty exclusive. I love Bruno Mars, too. He’s my side piece. Robyn’s Body Talk is literally my favorite pop album, probably of all time. I am a nerd for doo wop and swing. I love Cab Calloway—he was a huge inspiration for our EP—and I am an avid rockabilly and Americana fan. I love local bands of those genres, like Coffin Fly and the Lawsuits. The Lawsuits just played a kick-ass show at Johnny Brenda’s with Grandchildren! Just the other night, Brendan from the Lawsuits was singing some ’90s jams at Hotbox Studios with Kyle Perella from Levee Drivers and Ron Gallo of Toy Soldiers. It was slammin’.
How long’ve you been at this grind? I’m sure your performance art has taken many shades of packaging and focus. So, what’s the end goal?
I have many shades of purpose. Right now, it’s hot pink. Ya know, I’ve been wanting to perform my entire life. There was never a question in my mind that I wasn’t going to produce art in some fashion. The grind has been long. So many bands, open mics, weddings, cover bands and musicals, etc. I know that everyone in this music game has to really love it in their gut. It is your only relationship that you always have. We work that extra job to pay for our music. Rock ‘n roll, man. Nothing beats the feeling you get at a show or music blasting in your car. It is essential. We’ve re-worked all the songs, replaced band mates, and chose to work with Collapsible Empire. It finally feels right. We just hope to reach people and make people feel like they can have fun and also feel a part of this with us. I found that a lot of my writing draws from my friends’ experiences, and it reaches people we don’t personally know, and there’s something really beautiful and priceless about that. Success is truly just relentless belief in yourself and what you’re doing. And I honestly feel that same way about music as I did when I first fell in love with it, if not more.
Does Philly have your heart? Is this the city you want to keep working on your craft in? Why? And where do you most like to sing your heart out?
I love Philly. There’s no place like home. I really want to make the most of this life thang. So, the more I see, the better. Motown Philly is back again, and I intend on bringing Philly to any and everywhere I go. Philly is awesome, though, and the perfect way to spend a day here is to go grab some grub and see some local art. We have the best of both worlds. Most things can’t beat a soft pretzel and a local live show. And I sing my heart out most in the shower. Duh. Doesn’t everybody?
*Photo c/o G. Marie Photgraphy.
While the majority of the trees and plants around town may still stand depressingly lifeless, our cherry blossoms are officially in full bloom (or at least some).
For those of you who have heard of the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, but don’t entirely understand exactly what it entails and why you should care, allow me to break it down. The month-long festival celebrates all things Japanese with a slew citywide events (workshops, performances, screenings, exhibitions, etc.)—DUH—all leading up to the centerpiece event, Sakura Sunday on April 14.
Here are a few of the festivities you can look forward to…
Japanese Culture Week: Now through Thursday, The Shops at Liberty Place are inviting folks of all ages to stop by at lunchtime and discover Japanese culture through and interactive workshop. Today you can make and take an origami folded paper ornament while tomorrow, members of the audience will be selected to experience the intricacies of Kimono dressing. Last but not least, on Thursday, you can learn how to write using Japanese Calligraphy and take home a sample. Daily through Thurs/4, 12-2pm. Free. The Shops at Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut St.
Tamagawa University Taiko Drum and Dance Performance: Tamagawa University, a top-ranking thirty-piece troupe from Japan and the Tamagawa Taiko Drum and Dance group are joining forces, creating a unique, high-energy performance, equipped with intricate dances, thundering drums and beautiful costumes. Sat/6, 8-10pm $25-$30. The Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St.
Madam Saito’s Sushi Making Class: Every sushi lover is dying to learn how to make it themselves and who better to show you than Madame Saito, Philadelphia’s Queen of Sushi. More specifically, she’ll be showing participants how to create rolls that taste as good as they look. So be sure to come hungry and with containers so that you can take home your left-overs. Also, you must call and register in advance. Sun/7 & Wed/10, 6:30pm. $30. The Headhouse, 124 Lombard St. 215.922.2515.
Sakura Sunday: If you’re going to go to any Cherry Blossom event, this should be the one. In addition to Japanese food/product vendors, origami and calligraphy workshops, martial arts demos and drum and dance group performances, there’s the annual Harajuku Fashion Show and Prettiest Pet in Pink Parade. Meanwhile, over at the Horticulture Center’s new Sakura Pavilion you can discover the traditional elements of Sakura Sunday—from the Urasenke tea ceremony and the art of flower arrangement, known as ikebana to the elegant Japanese dance, Ichifujikai. Sun/14, 10:30am-4pm. $0-$5. Fairmount Park Horticulture Center, Montgomery Dr. & Belmont Ave.
This week I brought to you some information on one of (if not THE) most fantastic drag queen in Philadelphia in the Stage section of the paper:
You might think “Sinful Sunday” is just a cutesy way to match a day of the week with an accompanying adjective, a la Thirsty Thursday, Frisky Friday, etc. But no. Thing is, Sunday night at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar is a different kind of church. Or for that matter, you’re welcome to come hear The Goddess Isis preach from her pulpit 12 hours after dragging your hangover-havin’ self to service with Mom and Dad and listen to a preacher cut from an entirely different cloth.
Isis has only been in Philadelphia for about three years, after a long and edifying stint in the South. But that’s been more than enough time for her to get up and running with her own headlining weekly gig, which recently hit its two-year anniversary and is going stronger than ever. She’s more of a Carrie Underwood fan than a Rihanna queen. The first time she was in women’s clothes was when her parents dressed her up as Dolly Parton at the tender age of four. She doesn’t even remember it, but there are plenty of photos. The boobs, the wig, the dress, everything. You can’t be Dolly Parton without huge fake tits, can you?
As a youth, Isis grew up in the church. She loved the music, the pageantry, the fainting and outpouring emotion from folks moved by the spirit, whatever that may be. She loved it so much that she went and got herself an A.A. degree in Bible Theology. For real. At Lee University in Tennessee. Turns out Lee has an outstanding music program, so she traveled up and down North America with a gospel singing group. One of those rare drag queens who does more than put on a wig and a dress and give face like there’s no tomorrow, Isis can also sing. Musicality and performance is at the forefront of her drag. It’s what makes her one of, if not the, most successful and electrifying performers in the city.
Isis has come a long way since her first cognizant drag performance, at the age of 16, when she was pulled on stage in D.C. and forced to wear styrofoam falsies that kept falling down to her stomach. The song was “Make It Happen” by Mariah Carey. She can still turn out a mean Mariah, but she also dabbles in all kinds of divas, from Erykah Badu to Whitney Houston, and when Isis performs drag, she does it all the way. She knows every word, and you can tell. And every Sunday, she and her rotating cast of friends and queens give you show for days for a mere $5. And the great thing about Tabu’s upstairs lounge? It’s like you’re in her living room. A Sunday service in a drag queen’s living room. And she likes it that way.
She’s also heavily involved in Mimi Imfurst’s Dollhouse Revue at Voyeur on Wednesday nights and has been for years now, too, but that’s a whole different kind of drag night. The stage is high and narrow. The price of admission doesn’t buy you a drink. There’s four or five times as many people in the audience. On Sunday nights at Tabu, you might just get called up on stage and commanded to take your shirt off. (Especially if you’re straight, and it looks like you’re easy to fuck with.) As for the bang you get with your buck, there’s no better regular, steady night of wig-wearin’, heel-stompin’, lip-syncin’, face-givin’, arm-swingin’ entertainment in the Gayborhood.
Sunday nights. Doors at 9:15pm, showtime at approximately 11pm. $5. Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar, 200 S. 12th St. tabuphilly.com
I remember when they were Reading Rainbow and I got a copy of Prism Eyes because I asked nicely. They are, esentially, the same band. But now they’re Bleeding Rainbow and they’re four people instead of two. At the core is the married couple, Rob Garcia and Sarah Everton; Richmond transplants and current Philadelphians. They were in a band called Forensic Teens, which was far screamier than Bleeding Rainbow currently is. It’s always funny how these things work out – Sarah ended up picking up drumsticks and beating time one night when their drummer bailed on a gig. It took. She started performing on a stripped-down kit; a snare and a floor tom, mostly to keep time. Garcia’s fuzzy, feedback-heavy guitars filled out the sound while they both sang over the top of their loud, My Bloody Valentiney harmonies. But something shifted. They kept getting dumb quesitons from journalists about PBS and Levar Burton. Plus Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia and Sleater-Kinney superstar of the indie world, didn’t really like it. So they ditched it.
They picked up another guitarist, Al Creedon, and Everton let Greg Frantz man an undertsandably fuller kit. But it didn’t really alter their mission or vibe. They’ve always lead a pack of lo-fi punk-flavored wall of sound revivalists: Wavves, DIIV, Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and Young Prisms included. Every once in a while they quietly slide into fits of pretty rock, in which their sound cleans up a bit and strides toward conventional indie rock riffs and grooves. With Everton’s deadpan delivery and the band’s simple rhyhtms, one might even hear flecks of Metric, Cults, or even, well maybe Best Coast. But the beauty’s in the madness with this band. Sometimes they sound downright chaotic, which is part of the fun. Because really, when indie rock fans like punk-FLAVORED music, most of the time they don’t actually like when a band goes all the way punk. It’s scary. So when a band like Bleeding Rainbow goes right up to the edge but pulls you back with a clean hook or a soaring chorus, it feels so good.
After getting excited about this duo from New York last week, we checked in to make sure they were as badass as we’d thought they’d be. Turns out yes – and it was sold out.
1. Man, it was cold. Friday night was so chilly and windy that riding a bike from Graduate Hospital to Frankford and Girard took dedication. The ride back down to South Philly was even more brutal. But we made it right on time for their 11:15p set.
2. Not much for stage banter are these two. Did you know that their names are Arone Dyer (female lead vocalist) and Aron Sanchez? Arone and Aron. In a band together. Sanchez didn’t say much at all but Dyer can wail. It wasn’t until about six songs in that she even said anything to the crowd other than a lyric.
3. She also had a badass percussive element strapped to her foot or shoe. Seemed like a tambourine or at least something brassy and tambourine-like. With her footwork and his beating on a kickbass drum, it really added to their sound. Wouldn’t have been so awesome without those two important ingredients.
4. A few related-in-sound bands came to mind. For instance, her voice was powerful and loud and had qualities that called Tegan and Sara to mind but mixed with the Dirty Projector’s Dave Longstreth’s outrageous control. But overall, they sounded a lot like Battles. The tinny, high-pitched guitar and prog funkiness kept me looking for a crazy-high hi-hat.
5. After “Outt!,” which includes the awesome scream “Everybody here is out to get you,” Dyer delievered some chit-chat. She said it felt good to be back at JB’s and that she was happy to see that the balcony was still there. The house was full – up and downstairs.
6. I asked a couple how they’d gotten here or why they made it to the show. She pointed at her manfriend and he said he’d been listening for about a year and a half after hearing them on All Songs Considered. NPR DOES enjoy this band. He also said that approximateily 16 to 17 people in this room were here on his heavy recommendation. He was also a source that confirmed my suspicion: a lot of the songlist was from the previous LP, Riposte, as opposed to their badass newest, General Dome.
7. The internally lit bass drum was perhaps the only piece of set decoration on stage. No projections, no lights, no color at all; they were in all black. It actually kind of made taking pictures extremely difficult but it had a cool effect, lightly bathing the handsome Sanchez in benevolent white.
8. There’s always one. There was a girl in wild, curly long hair and a vivid red top who was dancing her ass off. She was right in front of the stage and carved out a nice little radius in which she could jump and spin and contort to her heart’s content. Not a bad thing. This music could, indeed, be the kind of music that you flail and gyrate to, especially when it gets groovy. There’s an in-your-face rockness element to their sound which channels a little punk energy and spikes it with funk. But of course, most people just bobbed their heads and tapped their toes with arms crossed.
9. They just kept going. Songs just kept coming out of them at a quick clip. There was very little pausing between songs and their energy was high. And with 27 tracks from two records and some cuts being quite short, it did kind of have that punk show feeling.
10. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus, for making the Punxsutawney Phil say spring is on its way. Just thank you.
Buke and Gase is a fascinating band. They’re a duo and well, they use weird instruments that they’ve made themselves. It’s hard to envision or figure out exactly how their tools work without seeing them in front of you, but we’ll try to break a few down right quick. The buke is a baritone-turned-ukelele-turned six string. Hunh. The gase is part bass and part guitar. K. And then they use, seemingly, just a kick-bass drum. When really, one of the most prominent instruments in this equation is Arone Dyer’s wildly versatile voice. She’s a powerhouse and her vocals easily transition between beautiful, ethereal leading lady and menacing, punk-educated banshee. And just in the way that her voice teeters between beautiful and ugly, thus is the essence of Buke and Gase; so does their music.
Their controlled chaos has yielded all kinds of goofy monikers for their genre-twisted approach to rock music: melodic discordance, metal-infused indie rock, post-proto-punk prog-folk with no-wave undertones (that’s some b*llshit from Wikipedia), all the way to chamber-punk. Maybe that’s why I like this record so much. You have to wait for the moments of rapture – they don’t present themselves immediately. But when they come they hit you over the head like a bag o’ bricks and make you bob your head and tap your foot. In the way that Animal Collective used to be a challenging listen (or Panda Bear, for that matter) in the mid-2000s, there was always that moment when everything comes together; that eureka moment of ‘That’s where the groove comes in!’ General Dome’s kind of like that.
Since my honest-to-goodness First Listen, I was intrigued. It had the sound of one of those angry-but-listenable female-fronted rock bands that I’ve always loved. Even though I’ve never loved the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O’s always had a soft spot in my heart for the way that she channels PJ Harvey in a more commercial way, and carries on the tradition of nasty rock pioneers like Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde, and capitalizes on the evolving power of riot grrrls like Sleatter-Kinney. Furthermore, in the prog-rock arena, with masters like Battles blowing minds in the past few years, we’ve had our pallettes wizened with the way that funk and punk can coexist. Not to mention the way that rock and dance have been married by bands like The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem.
So, to be sure, the combination of these instruments does a lot for the freshness and brilliance of this new record; a buke, a gase and a witchy, banshee rocker lady’s voice. But also in the way that we’ve come to be inundated with the same formula for a successful rock sound, these two challenge that and then proceed to elevate what kinds of melodies and grooves two people can create within a rock toolset. Whether they’re going for it or not, and not knowing explicity who their influences are, they call out comparisons to some of the most brilliant and refreshing artists of the last two decades (especially in the realm of punk and funk and dance-flavored rock music).
And there’s nothing more rewarding than a record that unfolds itself and presents more rewards with multiple listens. They’re on Spotify, too, so you can listen to their new one there and then buy your tickets to tomorrow night’s show at Johnny Brenda’s (it’s only $10-$12).