Last night was late-night history: Jimmy Fallon took over the coveted spot as host of NBC’s fabled “Tonight Show.” It felt like an event, something that had to be watched. Turns out, it was a bit of a soft opening. It was pretty vanilla. But some help from Fallon’s friends made it at least somewhat memorable.
The Roots seem extraordinarily front-and-center. Folks who pull sound bytes out of Tariq and Quest are now a little preoccupied with the notion that they could have this job for decades—that they’ll grow old backing Fallon up. And it’s really something that they can be a corny, PG and ma-and-pa-friendly intro and improv-for-a-joke band, then turn around and make a record like undun. They were more exciting to see than U2, Fallon’s first musical guest, which is just a little bit on the terrible tip. I actually listened to Boy (1980), October (1981) and War (1983) recently, to try to cool it on the U2 hate, and was reminded that they used to be really sick. But for now, they’re half-UN ambassadors and half-corporate puppets—in my eyes, anyway.
Fallon’s opening monologue turned into a really watered-down description of himself and the show. I did dig his upstate NY shout-out (Saugerties is a 30-minute drive from where I grew up, Red Hook, and home to the delicious El Rancho on Route 32), but his showing us where he’ll stand (on a four-leaf clover) and where he’ll come out (that big, beautiful curtain) was pretty unnecessary.
He finally got to an actual bit, saying that he was owed money for a bet, and a friend would be stopping by to settle up. Uh, there were several. Among them, Robert DeNiro, Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica-Parker, Seth Rogen, Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan and a scene-stealing visit from Stephen Colbert—who poured his bet money out in pennies,then took a selfie while Fallon rolled his eyes.
Will Smith, more Philly representation, was his “first guest ever,” and frankly, he was boring. Minus the uber-fab “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing” (Please watch it below), they kind of just smiled at each other a lot while Fallon asked boring questions about the Olympics and Will’s kids. Yawn.
U2 did a rooftop performance of a song that I basically tuned out. I really hope I’m not the only one who thinks Bono is insufferable. One of my favorite bits, in fact, was poking fun of Bono’s willingness and ability to give an acceptance speech, for all the manifestations of his unrelenting philanthropy. He was dared to give one about his water mug, and he did. It almost felt like the humor was lost on him, and that added to the deliciousness.
Tonight’s guests look way better: Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and Gaga. (Why couldn’t that have been the lineup last night?) Or will he continue to explain that this is his second night, that he’ll sit at a desk, or that his unsung hero, Steve Higgins, will periodically save his bombs? C’mon, Jimmy—don’t make me regret my thrill that Jay Leno’s gone and the show’s come back to New York.
FYI: Brad Cooper and Tim McGraw are Wednesday night; First Lady Michelle Obama, Will Ferrell and Arcade Fire are on Thursday night, and a full night of Justin Timberlake’ll conclude Week One.
I used to go to Stash often. Like every week. It was so fun: Up in the suite (no cover), you and a dozen friends, $5 citywides with Jameson, and practically no one there until midnight, when everyone packed it in to get down with electroclash jams, riot grrrl anthems and ratchet radio pop. It was an oasis for folks like me, who fear the weekend crowd at Philly’s gay “clubs” because they became overly populated with college kids, muscleheads and meth daddies. Well, Mike Shaffer, who DJ’d Stash and kept his pulse on grit glam in our little queer universe, has picked up where Stash left off (lifeless at Rosewood), taken it to Fishtown and expanded the scope. Mondo Trasho is coming! Hide ya wife, hide ya kids, and shake all your tailfeathers tomorrow night.
So, what’s the idea behind the party, and how’d this process get started? How long have you been waiting for this?
Corey Griffith met John Redden through making his coffee at Rocket Cat Cafe and also by frequenting The Barbary. They discussed the lack of queer nights or queer bars in Fishtown. Corey just recently met Jake (Skull†Kid) [Nuxoll], and Jake and I have been friends for a long time and have DJ’d together for a year and some change. Corey asked us to come together to come up with a party. We met with John back in November to create the party. We want to embody an edgier side of queer culture without taking it too seriously. We got some help to work on a logo, flyer design, drink tickets, pins, visuals, and we’re going to have Pretty Girl perform at our first party this Wednesday. It’s been a process, but it’s been really fun.
Why Mondo Trasho, and what do you think it, and the accompanying iconography, communicates to party-goers?
Mondo Trasho was John Waters’ first feature film. Corey told me that it loosely means “remarkable trash.” While we don’t intend the party to be complete trash, per se, we definitely have an edge and don’t mind a little sloppiness. We’re intending to create a space where a crowd of artsy, diverse queers and their friends can party to an open format of music and talk about how exciting it was the next day. The iconography is meant to be eye-catching and sexy, as sexiness is definitely a theme of this party. We shouldn’t be afraid to be a little sexy while on the dance floor, right?
Can you say a little about that hour-long mix folks can be listening to in anticipation of this party? Is this meant to be an indication of what will get spun there?
The mix is really just a small sample of what an hour at the party could feel like. We wanted it to flow so people could get a feel of it at the gym, at work, on the bus, while dancing in their underwear or whatever. We’re going to also be playing a lot of rock ‘n roll and punk rock anthems, but those genres don’t quite translate into a mix with dancier house and electro beats.
Will this have a different feel from Stash by not being weekly and not being in the Gayborhood?
It didn’t help that Stash was on a Tuesday, but for two years, Stash made Tuesdays the shit. We still get people telling us that they miss that party. Mondo Trasho will have a different feel, but we have the opportunity to have a larger space with a potentially larger draw. Stash was amazing, and it’s where I got into DJing, but Mondo Trasho will bring more to the plate. We queers don’t just party in the Gayborhood! Also, this party will be bi-weekly, so the space between the parties will give us time to prepare new music and performances.
What kind of special events will you try to make happen, and are you lining up live performances, as well? Pretty Girl’s gonna be at the premiere? Her stock is on the rise!
Pretty Girl is a friend of ours and is definitely one to watch out for. We’re excited to have her perform for our opening night and in the future. We’re going to be having performers, guest hosts and a rotating line-up of guest DJs from all over. We’re just beginning.
Who do you think are the avant garde dance music artists that the gays should be squealing for when the beat hits ‘em at 1 a.m., instead of the run-of-the-mill pop divas that get gays to take their shirts off at Woody’s?
While we intend to throw in some interesting takes on pop music and throwback jams for sure, you should be excited to hear Cakes Da Killa, Roxy Cottontail, Mykki Blanco, Mt. Sims, Nicky Da B, Lords Of Acid, Miss Kittin, The Knife, Kid Sister, X-Ray Spex, Le Youth, Disclosure, Deee-Lite. We have a lot of surprises.
The debut party is free. We also have Pretty Hate Machine upstairs, which is a really awesome darker music dance party. Mondo Trasho will be the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, starting this Wednesday. While this is “our” party, as in the LGBTQ community’s, we want everyone to come and have a crazy time.
We’re in the thick of it now. All the award shows are happening, and they make for great Sunday night drinking buddies. For instance, the Golden Globes two Sundays ago were great fun, mostly because of the dazzling Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Their opening monologue was killer, and sadly, they weren’t able to deliver much comedy after the grand opening. The show, though, felt short and sweet. Not even close to the tired, three-and-a-half hour affair that CBS put up last night.
The Grammy Awards are much less about the host and the presenters, but all about the “once-in-a-lifetime” (they’re not) performance combinations and the winners of this purportedly prestigious award. Like we mentioned in our between-nominations-and-awards breakdown, there’s room for improvement in the who-wins and who-gets-nominated departments.
Certainly, a tone was set with Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” opening. And that tone was she runs this town. Well, she and her husband. Jamie Foxx made really awkward jokes of a sexual nature, even admitting said awkwardness because he brought his 20-year-old daughter as his date, as he presented the award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (that Jay Z won for “Holy Grail“). If we were to nitpick, which we are sometimes wont to do, it was a touch disappointing that Bey wasn’t singing live (or at least, not until her husband joined her onstage). She was definitely using a live-sung backing track, kind of like she did when she sang at Obama’s inauguration, but she made the choice to focus on being wet and dancing provocatively and suggestively, and that’s okay sometimes. Pitchfork posted the performance almost immediately after it aired, and you should’ve seen the haters trash it on the site’s Facebook stream. Seems like there are still tons of people who are unwilling to admit that we are just living in Bey’s world.
Lorde’s the big winner for a human in the business that doesn’t seem already-spoiled by riches and fame. Her win for Song of the Year felt momentous. So did her performance; it was a little bizarre, but (for the most part) in a good way. She was definitely giving off some Wednesday Addams vibes with long, straight black hair, pail skin and a very dark, almost black lip. She also had a creepy velociraptor vibe percolating with stiffly-angled arms and metal-capped fingertips. It seemed like she was destined for mean things to be said about her on Twitter, but her acceptance speeches (she also won for Best Pop Solo Performance) were charmingly modest, even for a hunchy 17-year-old.
Probably the biggest story is the gay one. Macklemore cleaned up. And when he performed “Same Love” with Mary Lambert, Queen Latifah came out (on stage) and officiated 33 marriages, some same-sex and some hetero, only for 55-year-old Madonna to open a faux door and start yodeling “Open Your Heart.” It was pretty awful. The premise is all there. Very sweet. Everyone’s equal. Love is love. But Queen La refuses to talk about her own seemingly queer inclinations (she has participated in Out fests and lauds the merits of same-sex marriage, but vehemently denies access to her own sexual preference). In fact, the post-performance press conference that aired on E!, where she gets pelted with questions along these lines, was downright painful to watch.
And that doesn’t even begin to express the hate we have for the Grammys for letting The Heist beat out every single rap nomination of the night. Literally, dude beat Kendrick Lamar in every category they shared and then went on to Instagram an apology/admission of confusion that Lamar won nothing. “Thrift Shop” won Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Sure seems like maybe the Grammy turds were trying to slap Macklemore on the back with a “NICE ONE!” But he’s straight, brought his fiancee and (perhaps hacked) seemed ebullient that he was in fact completely heterosexual.
Oh, yeah—those living Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) were trotted out in a super-boring and long-winded fashion. Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson were charming but stiff together. Kacey Musgraves was adorable in twinkly-lit cowboy boots and neon landscaping (she won for Best Country Song and Best Country Album). Imagine Dragons were super-hyped to share the stage with Kendrick’s flows, but it felt like a hip-hop/metal hybrid that harkened back to Nickelback days, which were really scary times. The evil Metallica, seemingly in tribute to Lou Reed (introduced by the cheesy-ass Jared Leto), turned in a mystifying performance of “One.” Remember Lulu? And the eye-crossing combination of Lindsay Buckingham, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme got cut off because the show ran long, and the honest-to-goodness recreation of the second night of last summer’s Made in America (replete with the same visual effects for both NIN’s and QOTSA’s sets) became a controversial finish to a resoundingly obnoxious night of pop culture pageantry.
The 56th Annual Grammy Award nominations were announced at a concert at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Friday. Do you care? Maybe a little. Even though we’ve seen the Grammys get it all wrong in the past, and the Academy has a pretty deserved reputation for stuffiness and an unwillingness to nominate the good weird stuff we all love, they’re still an institution. We talk about the accomplishments of an artist by tallying their accolades, and the Grammys are often a great source of vetting – How many times have they been nominated? What categories have they won?
Well, the biggest nominees were in the rap category this year, with Jay Z earning a whopping nine. He’s the highest nomination-earner, with four musicians right behind him garnering seven nods: Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore (& Ryan Lewis), Justin Timberlake and Pharrell.
Let’s break down the big categories and pick some winners!
RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
“Royals” by Lorde
“Locked Out Of Heaven” by Bruno Mars
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell
Should win: Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, captured America’s attention with her brain-needling hit of the year. It’s so good, still. She’s (newly) 17 and wrote it with her producer, and it’s basically just those two who can claim credit for a song that’s reached platinum status in multiple countries.
Will win: “Get Lucky.” Because everyone loves a big dramatic comeback from well-established artists collaborating with other very well-established artists (Nile Rodgers). It’s a great song, but there’s not very much of a narrative to their success. Mysterious French producer/DJs who’ve been churning out amazing records for decades put out one more. Shrug.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink featuring Nate Ruess
“Locked Out Of Heaven” by Bruno Mars
“Roar” by Katy Perry
“Royals” by Lorde
“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert
Note: The difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year? ROTY honors the performer and the production team, but SOTY celebrates composers and songwriters.
Should win: Tough one here—because when you try to boil down artistic merit and look to the quality of the lyrics, you’ve got some strong contenders here. Sure, we want our girl Pink to take this one home, even if she has to share it with Nate Reuss (and Jeff Bhasker); and it is a great song that the masses are still willfully consuming. But “Roar” is so much fun, and “Same Love” is so damn heartwarming. Bruno Mars is legit, and we love him and all, but don’t we love that song for the Michael Jacksony production?
Will win: Something tells me the feel-good anthem in “Same Love” is something the Grammy committee wants to pat on the head.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar
The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Red by Taylor Swift
Should win: Well, we know who should not win, right? The fuck’s with this Bareilles nod? This record is like a glass of tepid milk with Cheerios and a side of tofu, plus a wale smoothie to wash it all down. C’mon, how boring. Kendrick should take this trophy home because it’s a stunner from cover to cover. When was the last time a hip-hop album took the night’s arguably biggest honor? Oh, it was Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 10 years ago.
Will win: Macklemore & Lewis. See above.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Should win: Again, King Kendrick deserves this one. He’s a breath of fresh air in a number of ways. James Blake—despite how great he is and how much we love Overgrown—doesn’t feel much like a new artist (his self-titled debut came out in February of ’11). By the time the ceremony rolls around, the first singles released from The Heist will be two years old.
Will win: Taking a look at the history of the award, you can see that all kinds of losers have beat artists who’ve gone on to overshadow the winner. Love Esparanza Spalding, but she shouldn’t have beat Drake and Biebs. Last year, fun. beat Frank Ocean. So, it’ll probably be Musgraves.
A few more categories we’ll keep our eyes on:
BEST DANCE/ELECTRONICA ALBUM
Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Settle by Disclosure
18 Months by Calvin Harris
Atmosphere by Kaskade
A Color Map Of The Sun by Pretty Lights
BEST ROCK ALBUM
13 by Black Sabbath
The Next Day by David Bowie
Mechanical Bull by Kings of Leon (Booo.)
Celebration Day by Led Zeppelin
…Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age
Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young with Crazy Horse
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You by Neko Case
Trouble Will Find Me by The National
Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
Lonerism by Tame Impala
Modern Vampires Of The City by Vampire Weekend
BEST R&B ALBUM
R&B Divas by Faith Hill
Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys
Love In The Future by John Legend
Better by Chrisette Michele
Three Kings by TGT
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
“Power Trip” by J. Cole featuring Miguel
“Part II (On The Run)” by Jay Z featuring Beyonce (So good.)
“Holy Grail” by Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake
“Now Or Never” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige
“Remember You” by Wiz Khalifa featuring The Weeknd
BEST RAP ALBUM
Nothing Was The Same by Drake
Magna Carta… Holy Grail by Jay Z
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar
The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Yeezus by Kanye West (One of two nominations, and of course he’s pissed about it.)
The show will broadcast live from the Staples Center in L.A. on Sun., Jan. 26th.
Participating in the great tradition of year-end album-ranking in December, here is a list that reflects, essentially, the LPs that worked their way into my head and heart on a regular basis over the past 365 days. Navigating the heaps and mountains of music at our collective fingertips is no small feat, but you learn over time that the ones that you keep going back to, the ones you can’t get enough of, are just really good records. Simple as that. Hopefully, dear readers, this list will at least give you a good start on future listening as we bound towards 2014.
1. Disclosure, Settle
2. Bill Callahan, Dream River
3. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
4. HAIM, Days Are Gone
5. Mutual Benefit, Love’s Crushing Diamond
6. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
7. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
8. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
9. Bilal, A Love Surreal
10. Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob
11. Pusha T, My Name Is My Name
12. Lorde, Pure Heroine
13. Sky Farreira, Night Time, My Time
14. Mikal Cronin, MCII
15. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience Part 1
16. Rhye, Woman
17. DJ Koze, Amygdala
18. Chance the Rapper, Acidrap
19. Danny Brown, Old
20. Kanye West, Yeezus
21. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
22. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
23. Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail
24. CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe
25. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
26. Kelly Rowland, Talk A Good Game
27. Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe
28. King Krule, 6 Feet Below the Moon
29. Lucius, Wildewoman
30. Laura Marling, Once I Was An Eagle
31. David Bowie, The Next Day
32. Charli XCX, True Romance
33. El-P and Killer Mike, Run The Jewels
34. Brandy Clark, 13 Stories
35 Jose James, No Beginning, No End
36. Baths, Obsidian
37. Fantasia, Side Effects of You
38. James Blake, Overgrown
39. Classixx, Hanging Gardens
40. Jon Hopkins, Immunity
41. Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum
42. Local Natives, Hummingbird
43. J. Cole, Born Sinner
44. Dismemberment Plan, Uncanney Valley
45. NIN, Hesitation Marks
46. Dr. Dog, B-Room
47. of Montreal, lousy with sylvianbriar
48. Autre ne Veut, Anxiety
49. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Day
50. Charles Bradley, Victim of Love
Also enjoyable: Queens of the Stone Age , …Like Clockwork; M.I.A., Matangi; Arctic Monkeys, AM; Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts Right Word Right Action; Deerhunter, Monomania; Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park; Pissed Jeans, Honeys; Midlake, Antiphon; Atoms for Peace, AMOK; Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II; Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic and Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus.
Noticed this on lots of lists, but I kindly disagree: Savages, Silence Yourself; Arcade Fire, Reflektor and Volcano Choir, Repave.
BalletX’s fall series debuted last night at the Wilma Theatre with three world premieres from three distinct voices in the choreographic world: Adam Barruch’s “If The Heart Runs,” Gabrielle Lamb’s “Heedful Needful,” and Matthew Neenan’s “There I Was.” Neenan’s the co-founder and Co-Artistic Director of BalletX, now in its seventh season, but Barruch and Lamb could be considered guest choreographers for this season and their work was especially brilliant last night.
Broken up into a two-piece pre-intermission first act, Barruch’s “If The Heart Runs” and Lamb’s “Heedful Needful” were stunningly visual, emotionally heavy but not ostentatiously dramatic, and executed flawlessly, both by the dancers and from a production standpoint. There wasn’t a ton of continuity throughout the night – there was not a significant thematic or aesthetic overarching narrative from curtain to curtain. But the first act gave the audience the strongest and clearest sense of what the choreographers were attempting to communicate.
In “If The Heart Runs,” the full company was employed, and the lighting by Drew Billiau and costuming by Reid Bartelme perfectly complemented the company’s ten stellar performers. Barruch’s statement of intent is simple, to the point, and an effective tool for an audience to pull out of the performance all that it can:
“”If the heart run” explores the interior landscapes of interpersonal relationship and the dichotomous natures of humanity: from the primal sensuality of our origins, to the profusion of thought which disconnects us from the source.”
The entirety of that quote may get a little esoteric, but what’s not is the palpable dynamic between dancers in this introduction to the fall season. The dancers interact with great sensual intrigue; pulling, touching, holding and handling each other with extraordinary attention paid to a relationship’s elements of emotion, power, conflict and comfort. Some lifts and spins feel as if they’d fit right into an honest-to-goodness domestic dispute – we wouldn’t go so far as to say the piece addresses legitimate violence, but there is often, in relationships and in life, those times when emotional energy elevates to a point where the execution of restraint and control are paramount. The act’s excellent costuming put the dancers in garments that reflect minimalism and function. They looked like a combination of scrubs, karate uniforms, active wear and formal suiting. Their colors, ranging from greys and blacks to purples and burgundies, drew an appropriate allusion to bruising, battered skin, bones and blood. Formulating an actualized narrative or story from the dancing doesn’t feel necessary, but the outstanding execution drew attention to the dramatized notions of love and lust within interpersonal dynamics. Extra attention is paid to the struggle to maintain an identity in a couple, especially when notions of desire, dependence, resentment and jealousy come into play.
Lamb’s use of Phillip Glass was excellent. Using “Etude #6” and “Orphee’s Return” by the iconic ambient and minimalist electronic noise artist, and Colleen’s “In the Train with No Light,” “Your Heart is So Loud,” “Happiness Nuggets,” and “Carry Cot,” the glitchy, eerie soundtrack was perfect bedding for Lamb’s exploration of connect and disconnect within families. Bartelme’s costuming didn’t feel as inspired as it did in “If The Heart Runs,” but Billiau’s lighting continued to awe. The sets for the first act were minimal to zero, all we focus on is the dancer’s movements, their expression, and their appearance. And when the stage’s matte grey floors were bathed in lights, often in beautiful sepias and families of red with the assistance of just the right amount of fog, a stark and stunning visual was created that allows the eyes to settle nicely on the performances. Only six dancers were used in this piece, which worked, because the tongue-in-cheek notion of a family portrait was toyed with a handful of times in the piece. Lamb, in written form, addresses a newfound interest in genealogy and seeking power in the future grounded by knowledge of the past. As Lamb wrote:
“I began to imagine that I contained all these hundreds of people inside myself (as, in a sense, I do). If each of us embodies the forgotten multitudes whose combined DNA we carry, then a simple conversation between two people becomes a complex congregation of millions. No wonder it is difficult to make oneself understood.”
Or, to take that a little further, it’s no wonder it’s so hard to make a connection with our family, or even our lovers and friends. The sense of isolation and confusion, both when a part of and outside of a family, was expertly expressed in Lamb’s choreography through one primarily lost and confused dancer and a five-piece family that sought to include and exclude her throughout the act.
Unfortunately, the gripping power of the first two acts was a little lost after the intermission. One of the company’s dancers also performed with a guitar in this, the final act of the night. The costumes were the dancers’ own (street clothes), and every company member was present while Colby Damon’s original acoustic compositions floated and directed the dancers’ seemingly improvised choreography. The proof of the piece’s slight disconnect between controlled movement and music-propelled improvisation lies within the choreographer’s own words:
“I began choreographing with no initial concept, basing the progression of the piece mostly on the dancer’s chemistry and testing out a fairly divers and random set of music choices.”
The final act did eventually use two established recordings: Devendra Banhart’s “Dogs They Make up The Dark” and Tom Waits’ “Road to Peace.” Unfortunately for me, while some audience members applauded at the first few grumbly, mumbly utterances by Waits, I feared things would take a dark and sudden downward dive. And they did. “Road to Peace” is extremely political, citing Israel, Palestine, war, Jesus and the rejection thereof, and it didn’t seem like the piece knew how to handle all these heavy topics through dance. There was one particularly striking moment from Richard Villaverde in this act, though, a beautiful duet with flavors of flamenco and the display of his outstanding flexibility and strength.
Overall, though, the night was a beautiful night of modernized and contemporary ballet. Something as simple as tweaked lighting, understated costume design, minimal staging, and casually-choreographed but technically brilliant dance is a sight that every fan of the arts should see. Ballet is alive and well in Philadelphia and BalletX serves up their own stylized version of the timeless but often dismissed-as-stuffy art form. The first time I took in BalletX, with “Beautiful Decay,” I wasn’t as impressed. But the work of Barruch and Lamb has me committed as a longtime devotee of BalletX’s mission and product.
Alyssa Edwards is one of the best things of all time about RuPaul’s Drag Race. She ducked out and left six other queens to fight, tooth and nail, for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar (Jinkx Monsoon beat out Alaska Thunderfuck and Roxxxy Andrews) on April 1, 2013. She lip-synched the HELL out of “Cold Hearted,” the Paula Abdul gem from the summer of ‘89, but Coco Montrese went buck and did that thing where she pointed to her lips during the near-rapping fast part, and everyone died. Many grieved at the loss of Ms. Edwards, the deep red rose of Mesquite, Texas. Pretty much everyone knew that an injustice had been done and that Alyssa would go down in the RuPaul herstory books as one of the fiercest queens in five seasons of Drag Race. Well, tomorrow night she touches down in Philadelphia, and something tells me not enough people know how amazing it would be to gaze into that woman’s perfectly-painted canvas of a face.
To be standing in front of and talking to the winner of Best Pageant Queen honors, chosen by fans and ru-vealed during the airing of ‘The Lost Season” (it’s just Season One), would probably be pretty mesmerizing. The self-proclaimed Vanessa Williams of drag serves you so much face and so much eye. In fact, her mouth, eyes and general facial control is what makes her the charming queen we so adore. She’s expressive, and she makes you laugh with over-the-top gestures of “Can you believe how beautiful I am?” and “Clock this look I am giving to you.” See, drag can be so serious. What it really comes down to is does it make you smile and stretch your creative imagination? Alyssa doesn’t even really do too many impersonations; she’s not that kind of girl. She could no doubt turn out some Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Demi Moore, but definitely some Scarlett O’Hara heat.
Williams won as the first African American Miss America on September 17, 1983. But it got all tainted when some asshole brought forth some nude photos Williams had posed for when she was working at Tom Chiapel’s photography studio, and her boss was just, ya know, in a tight spot and working on some angles and shadows. Oh, and here’s this other naked girl. They ended up in Hugh Hefner’s hands, and do you know what happened? He passed on them. Know who didn’t? Bob Guccione and Penthouse. They ran her on the cover of their September ‘84 15th Anniversary Issue, and it was HUGE. That dirty magazine issue sold like gangbusters and all without Williams’ consent – Guccione just paid Chiapel for them. She resigned from her reign as Miss America before the thing went to press in July of that summer.
Edwards was named Miss Gay America in 2010 and was stripped of her crown and status due to controversies over appearances, agreements and whatever. Coco Montrese was, in fact, the pageant’s runner up and slipped her pretty mug underneath that tiara with grace. Coco and Alyssa have been longtime rivals and friends, officially and unofficially; it’s no secret there’s been blood both bad and good. But they’re family. And it looks like they’ve emerged girls out of it all. In doing a little research for a conceived of but not executed (couldn’t get her when I tried) phoner interview, I Googled ‘Why did Alyssa Edwards get dethroned?’ I also shot out a tweet, and Coco responded with a reply (and a photo!) after 30 minutes: “yall need to let that go, we did long time ago. Were in vegas shopping together .”
We still don’t really know the nitty gritty, but hey, we don’t need to. Alyssa’s the people’s pageant queen and she brings the camp, glamour, grace and showmanship I so love in a drag queen. Somehow, the magic of “Drop Dead Gorgeous (B. Ames Mix)” appeared on April 20 of this year, and it has since accumulated nearly a quarter million views. It is three minutes and 15 seconds of Alyssa ecstasy, perfectly packaged into a bite-sized little bitch sandwich. It’s full of Alyssa-isms, something the children have now fully integrated into their vocabulary: “Girl, look how orange you look, girl!,” “Girl, I am gag-ging,” “Get a grip, get a life, and get over it,” “Backrolls?,” and, of course, my personal and all-time favorite, “Bitch, sit your ass down and shut the hell up, bitch!” Hello—the bitch sandwich was born.
Alyssa is everything—and she’s doing Josh Schonewolf a favor and showing up to make everyone gag at his Ratchet party this Wednesday at Tabu. $25 tickets are still available, and that gets you intimate mug time with Ms. Edwards and photo opportunities. Otherwise, tickets are $15 at the door. Doors open at 9pm, and the show starts at 11pm, and he got Aeryanah Van Moi, Zsa Zsa St James, Satine Harlow, BEV and The Lady Poison to come out and open the show up for the queen of the night.