Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail
It’s 2013. And in 2013, artists are trying their hardest to come up with new and innovative ways to release records. Kind of like a few years back, when Radiohead tried releasing their record on their own with a pay-what-you-will model, now pop musicians are trying all kinds of kooky app-related and smartphone-based marketing ploys. Try to hate the game if you want, but it’s probably going to be an uphill battle, and, really, can you hate the player? During Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Mr. Carter unleashed a whopper of a commercial (it’s practically a mini-documentary at three minutes in length) for his next banger, which’ll be available on June 24 to Samsung Galaxy phones via an app obtainable through Google Play, with a proper street date of July 4.
Aside from all of that capitalistic commercial business, the music sounds pretty hype. And no wonder: He recruited some of the biggest producers and some of his best friends, it seems, to get in on it. Rick Rubin’s here; so’s Timbaland, Pharrell, obviously—and Swizz Beatz. “Pretty much the album is about this duality of how do you navigate your way through this whole thing? Through success and failures and all this and remain yourself?” Jay asks. “We don’t have any rules. The internet’s like the Wild West, and we need to write the new rules.” Some of these beats and vibes sound super-fresh, and it’s actually pretty sweet watching Jay dialogue with the producers, tweaking and playing with sounds.
Drizzy’s Touring with Miguel and Future
In anticipation of his forthcoming Nothing Was the Same, Drake has announced a 41-stop national tour to support the new LP, and he’s dragging Miguel and Future along with him the whole way. BONUS! At this point, Miguel might be the more compelling performer on the tour, at least from our perspective. From commercial radio’s viewpoint? This is a big get. Drake’s never gonna shake my image of him in a wheelchair on Degrassi, while Miguel’s soulfulness knows no bounds. They’ll touch down at Wells Fargo on Saturday, Oct. 19, but tickets go on sale this Saturday, June 22, at 10am.
He’s shared the singles “Started From The Bottom” (62.5 million views in five months), and there’s a low-key, low-budget video for “5AM in Toronto,” but other than that, there aren’t a ton of details about the mysteriously-to-be-released new LP. It’ll certainly be out before the tour. See, we’re not so sure Drake’s got what it takes to last nearly as long as Jay has, but as confirmed by Drizzy’s appearance at Made in America last summer, it is confirmed that Philadelphia goes bizzonkers for the 26-year-old Canuck. So tickets’ll no doubt move quickly, and it might actually behoove you to snatch some up this weekend.
We caught up with March Silver on the eve of his record release show tonight at Johnny Brenda’s and put it in the paper:
Every year, Marc Silver retreats to the woods with two artist friends for phone-free communion with Mother Nature. They go out to a cabin in Dushore, Pa., about three and a half hours from Philly (an hour from Wilkes-Barre) and not far from Ricketts Glen State Park. He’s the only musician of the three, but he writes, and they cook and drink wine. Upon their arrival, they hit up the local farmers markets to stock the kitchen, and it was there that Silver found the inspiration for his new album, A Miners’ Town. His fifth LP is a little less bluegrass and a little more darkness, due in part to the ominous nature of the situation out in rural Pennsylvania—and in loads of other parts of our state—where fracking is wreaking havoc.
Evoking a little Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, two touchstones for personal and bluntly bleak lyricism, A Miners’ Town’s songs are a mix of biographical, fictional and non-fictional tales, primarily ruminations on the effect of the shale mining industry. This batch of songs is gritty, gloomy and, quite frankly, angry. Silver’s frustrated and plagued with the burden of recognizing deception, theft and greed. Check his title track: “Every barrel is a tomb and another town left to die/Abandoned homes line the town’s main street/Bullets hit the windows and they shatter with a scream ‘tween the alleys/Old homes crackle in the smoldering fires/Burning all the things that were made from love inside.”
“It became apparent what was happening in the region, and you could see that there was a lot of drilling, pipe-lining and a lot of drump trucks,” he told PW. “So, for this record, I ended up doing a lot of research into testimonials of farmers and their stories of people getting sick and their wells getting poisoned.”
The Missouri native and University of the Arts graduate is 37 now, a veteran of the Philly gigging scene. He’s been performing with his band, The Stonethrowers, around town for years, but this latest record is a testament to his growing and evolving songwriting skills. But life isn’t always so rosy. Silver’s got a day job teaching music to kids at the Shipley School, and he often dishes out his own money to put on a show. “I’m in the habit of paying my band,” he says. If only those frackers would cough it up for the damage they’ve done.
Doors are at 8pm and the show kicks off at 9:15pm with Ross Bellenoit and then Pete Donnelly & the Wise Easy opening. Tickets are $10.
Friday night was the Mann’s big summer seasonal premier. The Dirty Projectors opened for The National, and it was one of the most memorable shows we’ve caught in Philadelphia in recent memory.
1. The Dirty Projectors are a peculiar band. Quirk is their thing. Their melodies and harmonies are unconventional, and to the untrained ear, one’s reaction might actually be something like “What the hell?” But for a fan who’s been listening since 2007’s Rise Above, their weirdness isn’t that weird anymore. However, their newest material seems to push the limit more than their earlier LPs; Swing Lo Magellan’s a bit of a challenging listen, not nearly as palatable as 2009’s Bitte Orca. It seemed so clear Friday night: Older stuff sounded more straightforward and listenable, and newer stuff sounded more cuckoo and avant gard (if you want to be nice).
2. The DP’s set was not very visual. They played with a black backdrop without much flash. But after they got off stage, the National’s visuals started getting built. And they were stellar. The grid of lights that ran along the walls were multi-colored and bright; the projections were on point, alternating between tweaked live footage and artistically-imaginative animation and photographic, documentary-style imagery.
3. The new one from them, Trouble Will Find Me, is still fresh in every National fans’ heart ; it came out only a few weeks ago. For this fan, the two records that matter most are Alligator and Boxer. So while I was most excited for anything from those two (because they feel the most rock ‘n roll), I was really impressed with the performance of the new tracks, too. Trouble feels very hushed, calm and somber, but live, all bets are off. Nothing on the record sounds like it does live, and there was very little that was quiet and somber about this night.
4. Lead vocalist Matt Berninger joked, early on, “We’ve played her before, and we had a blast,” he said. “Was it with R.E.M.?,” he asked, to which the crowd responded “Yeah!” in unison. The crowd was really into the band despite the wet and chilly conditions. Under the bandshell, everyone was mostly dry, and at a few points during the show, it sounded like 75 percent of the crowd was singing along. It was here that they did “Mistaken for Strangers,” and it was excellent.
5. Doing the title track of their newest, it dawned on me that one of the National’s strongest assets is their drummer. They have just enough personnel on stage to pull off the sound that, at this point, has become characteristic: Matt’s instrument is his voice, and his playing the role of lead singer is just right, especially when he screams so hard it sounds like he wouldn’t be able to talk the next day. With a solid gold guitarist, bassist, pianist, drummer and brass on stage, their sound was full and warm. Without glasses, it seemed like they were working with a french horn player and a trumpeter, and the brass was one of my favorite aspects of their performance.
6. They did “Demons” and “Humiliation” from the new LP, and here was more evidence of the outstanding instrumental support Berninger benefits from via some killer piano and guitar solos. At this point in the show, we started to hear a drunk young man shouting “Move to Philly!” enthusiastically. His heckles became more unintelligible as the night went on, but, we could swear, during one of the more singalong moments later in the night, he calmed down and sang like an angel.
7. “I’m Evil” was great, especially with the aforementioned horns, and “Squalor Victoria” was everything that I’d hoped it would be. But aftewards they did “a love song” called “I Need My Girl.” It was arresting. Berninger said he wrote it for his wife, and it was a touching, sensitive moment in the night, a calm, emotional break for couples and dates to share a look or a kiss. This one and “This is the Last Time,” two tracks that feel stronger than before I heard them live, are now two standouts on Trouble Will Find Me.
8. A stirring version of “Sons and Daughters of the Soho Riots” seemed to signal, perhaps, the near end of the show. Here’s a song that yields one of my favorite all-time National lyric paragraphs: “How can anybody know / How they got to be this way / You must have known I’d do this someday / Break my arms around the one I love / And be forgiven by the time my lover comes / Break my arms around my love.”
9. One of the coolest things I didn’t see coming, at all, happened when they did “Mr. November” to close out their proper set. Berninger came out into the crowd and walked up the aisles, and as he did, kids starting swarming him down in the walkway between the orchestra and the lower-level seats. Then he jumped up on the wooden beams that separate the boxes in the lower level, and from 30 feet away, it looked as if he was walking across the tops of chairs or on people’s shoulders as he sang. He was in a huddle toward the end of the song, repeatedly screaming “I won’t fuck us over / I’m Mr. November,” and he got help from a couple dozen super-fans on that part.
10. The band did a four-song encore and started it off with the beautiful opening track on Trouble, “I Should Live in Salt.” It was stunning, and it made new fans of the new record who were, until then, just keen on the band and their back catalogue. This one’s going to be fun to grow into.
Yesterday afternoon, the Philly Folk Fest powers that be announced their three headliners: Todd Rundgren, David Bromberg and Asleep at the Wheel. Details are pretty finite now, and eager folk fans can snatch up tickets at a pretty sweet 20-percent-off rate right now. On the third weekend in August (the 16th, 17th and 18th), Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford Township (near Schwenksville, PA) turns into the chillest 40-acre living room in Pennsylvania. Approximately 35 miles northeast of Philadelphia proper, the venue’s about a 45-60 minute drive from Center City. And in its 52nd year of consecutive festivaling, this one’s, maybe, their biggest and best yet.
With a Saturday that’s exceptionally Philly oriented, Philadelphians should maybe consider Saturday as their one day for that one-day ticket if going that route’s under consideration. Indeed, you can buy day-specific tickets, all-weekend passes and, of course, go for the whole weekend and camp under the stars with a camping pass (which includes a Thursday night concert).
From the press release:
“We are really excited about this year’s line up. One of the highlights for us is being able to put together a really ‘Philly-centric’ Saturday show,” said Richard Kardon of Point Entertainment. “David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia presents the soundtrack of the past several decades in Philadelphia. It’s a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ from the Philly music scene.”
Slated to perform are the following acts:
Richard Thompson Electric Trio – The Mavericks – Asleep at the Wheel – Carolina Chocolate Drops – Jake Shimabukuro – David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket – Black Prairie – Luella & The Sun – Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars – Spirit Family Reunion – Sleepy Man – Banjo Boys – The Stray Birds – Star & Micey – Otis Taylor – Caravan of Thieves – Amy Helm – Jeffrey Gaines – Gabe Butterfield – Ellis Paul – Del Barber – The Como Mamas – Burning Bridget Cleary – Andy Statman Project – Ben Vaughn – David Francey – Frank Fairfield – Joe Crookston & the BlueBird Jubilee – The Toy Hearts – Howmaw – Runa – Burning Bridget Cleary – The Amigos Band – Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner – XPN Philly Local with Helen Leicht featuring Ali Wadsworth, Juston Stens and the Get Real Gang, Modern Inventors, Ginger Coyle – Aereo-Plain – The Lawsuits – Toy Soldiers – Gene Shay – Great Groove Band – Dennis Hangey – Give and Take Jugglers.”
Gene Shay will emcee, again, in his 52nd consecutive year doing so. The man’s been playing folk music on WXPN on Sunday nights for decades and is largely considered the godfather of Philadelphia folk.
Lastly, a few specifics on tickets: This is a totally kid-friendly affair with child-specific programming for kids under 12 each afternoon (and kids up to 11 get in free; there are youth ticket rates for 12-17 year-olds). But here are few more ticket deets: “Individual daily tickets start at $43.60, including the 20% Early Bird Discount, or attend for all three days for $118.40; add tent camping and you get an additional concert on Thursday night for $158.40 total! The campground at the PHILADELPHIA FOLK FESTIVAL is considered the ultimate Folk Festival experience.”
Tickets are on sale at http://www.folkfest.org/ or call 800-556-FOLK.
From our Philly Now calendar this week:
PrideDay Parade and Festival
Pride means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some, their first, it’s a day they’ve been looking forward to eagerly just to be surrounded by queerness and celebration. For a host of others, out for decades, rejoicing in the brother- and sisterhood of gay simply never gets old. For 362 days of the year, we have pride in our own individualistic ways. But in June, for one weekend of every year, we come together in the spirit of Harvey Milk and Giovanni’s Room to shout “We’re here! We’re queer!” And with Philly Pride celebrating a quarter century of PrideDay this year, folks are having no problem getting used to it.
Friday night is a kick-off block party on 12th Street between Walnut and Spruce from 6 to 11 p.m.; word is that there’ll be a mechanical shark to ride, something called a “wrecking ball” and outdoor dancing, followed by Gayborhood revelry. On Saturday, you get the William Way Center’s homecoming and the annual Philadelphia Dyke March. Then on Sunday, the city explodes with rainbows. Starting at noon at the intersection of 13th and Locust, the PrideDay Parade finishes with a Penn’s Landing destination, where things’ll get a little weird and very gay. More than 150 groups and organizations are participating, and so is the evilly bewitching reality TV star Omarosa Manigault, with Henri David as the fest’s master of ceremonies. Miss and Mr. Philly Gay Pride will be heralded, youth grand marshals will beam, and gays will dance until their legs hurt. Pride month is here! And it is most certainly queer. Check out phillypride.org for tons of details.
And a few unofficial words to the wise: Drink lots of water, and stay hydrated, especially if you’re gonna consume alcohol. It’s a long weekend in the sun, and a sunburn is uncomfortable, not cute, dangerous to your skin and probably will make you get sick and dehydrated before you know it. So, a little sunscreen goes a long way. Don’t leave that drink unattended; you know the drill. Have a friend you trust hold it while you go pee or flirt. And, of course, be smart about drugs; don’t buy em’ from creeps, and don’t take em’ if you don’t know what they’re capable of. This is not the weekend to go that buckwild — just enjoy yourself responsibly, and you’ll have no regrets come Monday.
Alas, working at a restaurant prevented a full take-in of the Roots Picnic’s entire lineup. For a show that starts right at noon, with the Roots and Naughty By Nature closing out the night by taking the stage at 8:30pm, it’s a small wonder if any Picnic attendees took in all 16 sets. No wonder the Festival Pier felt relatively empty until hordes of concert-goers started streaming in as we left during Grimes’ 4:05pm set. Here are some things we saw, heard and learned on Saturday.
1. Being my first Picnic, the day started off a little rocky because I went to the Penn’s Landing Festival Pier—the wrong one. Strange how they’re basically titled the same thing but are miles apart. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only confused one; some teenagers with Joey Bada$$ t-shirts on were directed by Pier staff to go down to the light and take a right. As I hustled north on my bike to try to catch Lushlife’s set, I noticed a steady stream of obvious migrators from Old City along Columbus Avenue.
2. In a pretty bonehead move, I didn’t look closely enough at the fact that there was a main stage and a tent and that they’d switch back and forth. Smart move. Just didn’t read the fine print. So I was pretty bummed to miss what Lushlife did in the tent as I arrived about halfway through his set and strolled around looking for the best line for a hot dog. IDIOT.
3. Robert Glasper Experiment was the first Main Stage act, and it was, well, a little weird. Funky, no doubt, and inspired by great R&B and soul like Stevie Wonder, plus a little Prince and our own Bilal. But what I couldn’t get over was that pretty much every note sang was fed through a vocoder, making everything feel a little mechanical. They did a twist on “No Church in the Wild” and that was chill, even if every time I hear it now, I think of Dodge Darts in the desert.
4. Thank goodness I got a text from a friend that Trinidad James was poppin’ off in the tent. My girl and I hauled ass and pushed our way in just in time to catch “All Gold Everything.” The tent was a pretty uncomfortable situation. There were a couple of two-door-wide entrance/exits, and the doors weren’t even tied open, so people coming in and out had to hold doors open as a courtesy for the stream of folks coming and going. Then you got inside, and it felt like you could cut the air with a butter knife. Sticky, sweaty and hot TJ fans were feeling him, though, shouting out every single word to his hit (including the very easily crowd-participatory “woo!”). But “All Gold” was basically all he had. The air was let out of his set afterwards, and it was time to get the hell out of there.
5. Damn, it was hot. I had on SPF 60 and still got a serious burn on my shoulders. And as the day went on, everyone started to look a little like zombies; zombies who wanted refreshments and vended goods. Man, those lines were LONG. I waited 10 minutes to spend $12 on a hot dog and a bottle of water. I indulged in a glass of white wine, but for $8.50, you got a basically XXL thimble. Beers were upwards of $13. Later on, around 3:30pm, when all I wanted was a cola, the lines looked unbearable. Must’ve been a 30-minute wait, minimum.
6. How to Dress Well was a huge disappointment, to be frank. I love his records, but live, he just wasn’t doin’ it for me (even though he covered Janet Jackson’s “Again”). He didn’t really play any of his singles, and halfway through, I stared to think, Alright, let’s get Solange up there.
7. I planted it by one of the only trees in the facility and stayed in half-shade for an hour or two so that I could have a good spot to take in Solange. That girl was the highlight of my day. She turned it out and looked re-fucking-diculously cute. She dances. She had braids to flip around. Her guitarist was new and so enthusiastically miming funk. Her background singers kind of looked like her. She did a handful of songs from the excellent True EP, including “Some Things Just Never Seem to Fucking Work” and closed out her set with “Losing You.” She threw in “Stillness is the Groove,” a Dirty Projectors track, that she did all dubby and soulful. The crowd was eating out of her hand.
8. At this point, the space was swelling and filling up. The heat was getting to me, and I started judging style. There were, as expected, some very questionable fashions—a mix of “Put some more clothes on!” and “Jesus, why are you wearing pleather metallic leggings?!” Made In America was the same. Feeling our age, my girlfriend and I said “These kids are bold. We were more conservative teenagers.” To be 30+ at an outdoor pop festival is one weird mind-fuck.
9. Grimes was just plain bizarre. She had dancers, which was cool, but her just bugging out behind a couple knob-twisty keyboards, flipping her insane hair around and mean-mugging like there was no tomorrow was lost on just about everybody. Even fans. The first synth runs of “Oblivion” came on, and the crowd got excited, including yours truly, but then it turned into some weird remixed version, almost unrecognizable. I guess I’m just much more of a fan of her recorded work and won’t try that hard to make it to any future shows.
10. I texted for a report of the rest of the night from a friend and, here, anonymously, you get her texts: “Gary Clark was phenomenal, Macklemore was great even though his fans are annoying as shit, and the Roots were great, but fucking TEDIOUS. They kept breaking up their set with this dude scatting and doing improvisational jazz. BORING. Naughty By Nature KILLED. Just as good as ever. They didn’t even look like they’d aged.” There you have it.
If you were within a 30 block radius of the Pennsylvania Convention Center at any point this weekend, chances are, you encountered some pretty interesting characters out on the street. There’s an even better chance that you were one of those characters and you were on your way to or from Wizard World’s annual Philadelphia Comic Con. Either way, here’s just a few of the many memorable sights the four-day event packed. And when I say many, I do mean many.