For the first time ever, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadanco—two of our city’s most renowned artistic powerhouses—are teaming up to present the next level of world-class performance art, featuring grand suites by two legendary Russian composers.
During his two-week residency, French conductor Stéphane Denève brings the beloved fairytales of Firebird and Cinderella, as composed by Stravinsky and Prokofiev, to the Kimmel Center stage. The former is an adaptation of an old Russian folktale surrounding a mythical bird whose magical powers were both a blessing and a curse, while the latter re-tells the ages-old Brothers Grimm story of the glass slipper-donning peasant girl.
In addition to these tried-and-true favorites will be the special presentation of Aubade by French composer Francis Poulenc, a dazzling choreographic concerto for 19 instruments and accompanying dancers. This intimate, mythological tale of Diana and her struggle between passion and loneliness will be brought to life by the illustrious Philadanco, their unprecedented skill for merging the classic and the contemporary promising to breathe new warmth into winter-chilled spirits. Created to provide visibility for expert dancers of color, Philadanco continues to establish opportunities to enrich Philly and its surrounding communities, crossing barriers with style, grace and unparalleled professionalism.
This promises to be a beautiful collaboration, one that should’ve happened much, much sooner. And hopefully, it’ll mark the beginning of a fruitful, long-lasting relationship.
Through Sat., March 1. Various times. $59-$160. The Kimmel Center. 300 S Broad St. 215.893.1999. kimmelcenter.org
Sounds like: Joel Thibodeau’s third is solid, just not as awesome as his sophomore. Still, this high-pitched, country-folk hippie androgyne’s damn talented.
Free association: He made this one with Jonsi, so the whispery elegance got compounded.
For fans of: José Gonázlez/Bon Iver/James Vince McMorrow/Baby Dee/Antony (& the Johnsons).
Sounds like: This Beaufort, S.C. girl, the 12th winner of American Idol, can blow. Her debut of delicious R&B has a little schlock factor, but there’s a clear winner with “In the Middle.”
Free association: She auditioned for Season 11 with Chrisette Michele’s “Blame It on Me.” Yes.
For fans of: Toni Braxton x Fantasia/Jordin Sparks + Jazmine Sullivan, “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”
Sounds like: The absolute and complete darling of indie rock superfreaks takes her cerebral, sensual rock-mistress sorcery to newer, funkier and wilder spaces.
Free association: This is her moment, and she’s snatching it gracefully.
For fans of: Nico x Nancy Wilson + Björk, Feist/Beth Orton x Chrissie Hynde.
Sounds like: Already hailed as one of the best of the year, the 23-year-old Ohioan who plays with her bassist husband delivers a career-expanding third LP.
Free association: Looks like finding Hank Williams III turned her into the country punk we love now.
For fans of: Shelby Lynne x Gretchen Wilson + Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, owning “redneck.”
Sounds like: The 12th from Beck Hansen is, indeed, a “companion” to Sea Change, but that doesn’t mean it’s a knock-off or lesser because it’s a revisited aesthetic. It’s gorgeous.
Free association: Modern Guilt (‘08) and The Information (‘06) feel like pleasant, distant acid flashbacks.
For fans of: Flaming Lips/Jens Lekman x Pulp, Will Oldham x Morphine, eccentric Scientologists.
Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Sounds like: Behold another young female whose sparse, introspective folksy and country-flecked indie rock was taken to a much better place with the help of a band.
Free association: It’s kind of great that she and Lydia are blowing minds simultaneously.
For fans of: Cat Power x Mirah + Lissie, Laura Veirs/Neko Case/Laura Gibson/Gillian Welch.
Yesterday, Annie Clark got her fourth solo record, St. Vincent, reviewed by Pitchfork (five if you count the duet record she made with David Byrne in 2012). She got a pretty paltry 8.6. Not quite as good as the 8.8 Bey snatched for her self-titled fifth just a few months ago. Clark’s already sold out Union Transfer on Friday night; that happened long before we got our first few sounds from her new one off of the internet. But just as St. Vincent releases her critically hefty and anticipated fifth, Bey’s got herself a “Soundboardt,” a charming, internet-friendly collage of iconography that lets users play it like an instrument.
The first video we got from the St. Vincent collection came at the very end of January; “Digital Witness,” one of her catchiest singles to date, it boldly proclaims: “Gimme all of your mind / I want all of your mind / Gimme all of it.” It’s a sentiment that blithely addresses today’s times, an era in which we’re glued to our phones and project our identities through a multitude of filters and digital dispatches. Meanwhile, with her fan-created Soundboardt, Beyoncé essentially compounds the soundbyte-ability of her newest, one that’s yielded gems like “surfboardt,” “I woke up like dis,” “let me sit this ass on ya” and “bow down, bitches”—boomin’ bytes that need not be explained to the culturally literate.
I don’t know about you, but I smell a fight. With the sixth installation of our Diva Death Match series, we give you the imagined battle of when Beyoncé wanted to destroy Annie Clark.
Not sure if you knew this, but we go by a certain set of categories. Just the rules, kids. No way around em’: five categories, five eligible points per category and one winner. Well, ladies, let’s make this a clean fight. Let the most fierce woman win.
Per usual, this one gets a little weird, especially when both contestants are from Texas – Clark’s Dallas and Mrs. Carter’s Houston. To be fair, Clark was born in Tulsa, OK, but she grew up in Dallas and went to high school at Lake Highlands High. So you could say that the two of them have both had a little bit of that urban school of advanced maturation. Houston’s way bigger, though. And Bey’s got a husband named Jay Z. Who happens to be one of the most articulate voices of the ‘hood of our generation. I don’t think we have to talk much more about this one.
Clark: 2, Knowles-Carter: 4
Here’s where Annie’s gonna catch up a little. We know Bey’s one of the fiercest on Earth, even claiming that one of her multiple personalities includes a woman named Sasha Fierce, but for a minute there, before she had the billions to hire sick styling talent, she made some questionable style choices. Ever seen what Clark likes to wear on stage? Elegant dresses, wedge heels, flawlessly delicate make-up—and she still rips up a guitar with her own unique shredding techniques. For New York’s recent fashion week, she destroyed a guest spot for Diane Von Furstenberg. She posed and danced when possible; it was a career-awakening set of performances for her. But so might those new stage looks that’ve been whipped up for the impending world tour that Bey will sell out.
Clark: 5, Knowles-Carter: 4
There might’ve been a moment, once upon a time, when even Bey’s biggest fans would admit that part of why we love her is because she’s hard, she can dance like a maniac, and she brings the performance power—not necessarily because she can belt. Annie’s always had a really complex set of pipes, and right from the killer opening track, “Rattlesnake,” on her newest, she gave herself a vocal gymnastics exercise. Not to front on Bey, though, because 4 and BEYONCÉ have some absolutely revelatory vocal recordings. However, I would wager that our love for Beyoncé wasn’t always because of her artistry. It was because she was fierce. This one’s tough. They both seem pretty strong and healthy.
Clark: 5, Knowles-Carter: 4
SINGLES AND SALES
It’s hard to beat Bey on this one, she’s got really strong game in this category. She sold almost 20 million copies of her first two records in America alone. Annie has done no such thing. Even though some of her records could be considerably more adventurous than Bey, there’s no question that she’s mired in an indie rock market, one that doesn’t really put up much of a fight when it comes to moving sheer numbers. Clark’s taken some serious blows this round. Not sure she’s gonna make it.
Clark: 2, Knowles-Carter: 5
With this one, St. Vincent is making great strides of notoriety in a larger market. She’s gotten about as big as she can for Philadelphia by selling out the Union Transfer again. Sometimes artists like her will just throw in a second night—selling out two nights in a row. But what about a next record? And can she get a big production together and fill up the Electric Factory? For two nights? What about a headlined Festival Pier show this summer?! That would sell out, too. Obviously, Beyoncé blasted through a greatest hits set at a completely full Made in America this summer as a headliner. You can’t step to a seasoned arena diva like Bey and win this. But good try, hon.
Clark: 4, Knowles-Carter: 5
FINAL TOTALS: Clark: 16, Knowles-Carter: 22.
I’ve done a few different hosting-type gigs—one in which I was working with paper-printed maps and using all kinds of erasable pencil and white-out (and also served), and one in which I became extremely proficient in OpenTable. They were both challenging positions in their own ways, sometimes because of the need to easily handle a sudden volume of diners and sometimes because people can act like babies when it comes to dining out. A host often tries to maximize business; we get hired because a boss thinks we can deal with people well and optimize table space.
Every once in a while, you stumble upon a magnificent host in this city who greets you warmly, may even have a good guess of who you are as you walk in, and quickly, efficiently and pleasantly delivers you and your guests to your seats with charm and grace. Of course, there are also some idiots who get paid simply to stand in sightlines of the door and look good. And maybe answer the phone.
If I may, I’d like to try to prepare you for distinguishing between the two the next time you go out to dinner.
Three quick things:
A) The value of space in a restaurant is pretty much in direct correlation to what day and time of the week it is, and if you walk into a restaurant at 8pm on a Friday night without a reservation and act like a table should be given to you immediately, you’re going to the bottom of the list of customers to find tables for.
B) A little bit of kindness and patience goes a long way. In my experience, if you seemed like a good person who asked nicely, I did my best to make it happen (by calling a late reservation or rearranging tables to make space). Smile and tone are so underrated.
C) Even if it looks like there are empty tables, and the host’s saying “It might be about 20 to 30 minutes,” chances are there are a bunch of people who had the foresight to call or reserve something online. Again, it directly corresponds to day of the week and time of night. They say this on a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday night with a quarter-filled dining room? Go to the bar—or another nearby spot.
See, what I always thought was “Be cute. Be sweet. Be helpful and charming. Do more than is asked (water and bus tables). Accommodate every walk-in possible. Negotiate if necessary (“Come back in an hour; have a drink down the street”). And always check in with your kitchen and servers to let them know how long folks have been seated, if they’re chill or riled up, how many more reservations are coming in, etc.’ What you also have to keep in mind is this: There are people who’ve had reservations for three weeks, and their plans are rock solid. You have to make sure their night’s protected. And it’s okay to be 15 minutes late—especially with some communication. But not 35 minutes late. Not without a phone call. Show up 25 minutes late for your reservation, and we’ve been calling you for 20 minutes and gave your table away? Yeah, that’s standard. Again, at 8pm. Forty minutes late for your 5pm reservation’s not so bad. It’s not a big deal at the final seating at 10ish either.
Service industry people also love guests who come in knowing what they want and how many there are in their party. A group of five that step in and talk amongst themselves, are on a phone, are aimlessly staring down the interior’s details—they’re setting a bad tone for themselves. Let’s get you seated and with menus and orders in; don’t just stand in the doorway looking around and muttering to each other. You’re just having drinks? Great—that opens up options for where you can sit. You have a show at 9pm? Cool, I’ll put you in Jonny’s section because he’s light right now.
Your fixation with apps and OpenTable are a little weird. We want you to get those points, too! But if there’s a problem, it’s probably not because the host fucked it up; it’s more than likely that you made a reservation without speaking to an actual human. Sometimes bad app behavior can’t be blamed on a person who isn’t pushing the buttons on the other end. Every once in a while, I’d get the pleasure of making someone eat their words after they pull up an online reservation on their smartphone, and they see that they made it wrong. Those are special moments of redemption and pride retrieval.
There are hundreds of restaurants in this city. Some are more busy and popular for a reason: because they do a good job, and paying customers want in. But everyone seated in that restaurant beat you to it.
The most obnoxious behavior of all time? Pretending like you know someone on staff when you don’t. Knowing someone is not going to make a group of friends who’ve been looking forward to this meal for months eat faster or pass on a final round of drinks. And citing the manager’s name is not going to make me give away one of these last two tables, because one of our final reservations of the night is late.
In fact … “Oh, there they are right there! They’re great! … Hey guys! I’ve been saving your favorite table for you.”
Photo provided by Bad Boys of Dance via the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of catching the last performance of Rasta Thomas’ “Bad Boys of Dance” at the Annenberg Center. It was both exactly and nothing like I thought it’d be: a little heavy on the cheese factor, but pleasantly populated by six exceptional male physiques.
If I had to describe the nature of the dance, I’d call it a pop and hip-hop ballet. The program notes very plainly list the song choices, and some, from my perspective, are just plain bad ones, while some others made perfect sense. It was by no means a bold or revolutionary artistic statement; ballet gets bred with other dance forms across the world on a daily basis. But was it fun? Did I giggle a few times, utter “Wow” reflexively and bob my head more than I have at any other ballet show in Philadelphia? Absolutely.
To be blunt, the first act was pretty off-putting. Titled “Don’t Stop Believin’,” it started out with promising playfulness, including a one-two-three introduction from Kanye West (“Stronger,” f-bombs and all), The Knack (“My Sharona”) and Robert Palmer. “Simply Irresistible,” to a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, is so firmly aesthetically anchored with slicked-back hair, cheesy red sports cars and those weird blade-wielding and whip sound effects that underscore the chorus. The idea of the song is kitsch. But the one female dancer—presumably Adrienne Canterna, the company’s co-artistic director (also listed as a dancer in the program)—finished the track with a few of the most startlingly awe-inspiring series of spins of the entire night.
See, Thomas came out to introduce the show and said that ballet is always at the core of their dance. And there were a large handful of moments in which the stark juxtaposition between hip-hop and ballet were perfectly paired—from a breakdance headspin to an elegant split; fully-extended leaping revolutions punctuated with braggadocious posturing; a feat of flexibility paired with a little robot; a gracious pose with pointed toes followed by a suggestive crotch thrust.
All of that was great, until this brutal run of the program (featuring some of my least favorite songs and artists of all time: Dave Matthews’ “The Space Between,” Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “The Scientist,” and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”). It was at this point that I visibly grimaced and had a hard time enjoying the athleticism and artistry of the seven performers on stage. It was also terribly distracting that the guys were wearing jeans and polos. (Less so the jeans, but polos, to me, are so very far from anything “bad boy.”) The finale of Act I was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and by the time we arrived at an interpretive pop ballet being danced to the guitar solo of a Journey song, I was uncomfortably squirming in my seat. It was as off-putting as it sounds.
Luckily, the second act saved the whole affair from being just plain weird. In fact, the second act, titled “We Are the Champions,” could have made for a great show on its own. It was longer, badder and held nearly all of the show’s sex appeal that I’d been hoping for. A good amount of Michael Jackson and Robin Thicke got employed, as was, naturally, some Queen and some Queen with David Bowie (“Under Pressure”). They even mined some favorites from the era of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s that were pleasant to revisit: EMF, INXS and George Michael. They came out in black dance pants and tucked-in white tanks. They were soon wearing blazers and skinny ties, and then the shirts came off.
It’s here that I’d quickly like to clue you in on who their audience was: old white folks, single ladies, kids and a smattering of gay men. But primarily, it was the first category: I saw a solid trio of bald white-haired gentlemen who also had ponytails. So, it wasn’t entirely surprising when things got sort of Chippendale-y towards the end, with some flexing, some suggestive grinding and some man-meat posing. There was even an LMFAO moment (“Sexy and I Know It”) to make sure the audience was fully aware that sex was on display.
So, even though the first act nearly lost me real early in, they managed to bring it all home with a bit of Justin Timberlake (“Sexyback”), some Outkast (“Hey Ya”) and Usher (“Yeah!!!”), a little Chris Brown, and even some Bee Gees. It was just a little cornier than I thought it would be, but I would happily take my mom and my girlfriends for a fun girls-night-out the next time these “Bad Boys” come around.
We bugged Bruce Yelk for details about the idea behind his new party comin’ up next month, bi at Sundown. The teaser that came out this week (embedded below) is a slick and sexy affair. With lots of ladies. Yeah, this party’s much more than a bar crawl through the Gayborhood. This is a dance music-fueled early-in-the-evening weekend finale for the young and sexy of Philly’s LGBTQAI (and straight folks, too) set. So you have a couple weeks to prepare yourself, your look, and your body for what you’re going to do on Sunday, March 16th. Here’s how Bruce explained it to us:
Where’d the inspiration for this party come from? What made you want to get it off the ground?
I was asked by Robbie Tronco to produce a Sunday event at Lit UltraBar last year, but it took me several months to commit—mainly because I felt something new and fresh would have to happen to get people excited about a Sunday party. Plus, I work Monday mornings, so I can’t be up ’til 2am. However, roughly at the same time I kept seeing Facebook posts from my friends commenting on their Sunday Funday experiences during the early evenings.
So, I thought there must be some type of need: What would get people out of the house early in the fall and winter, but home in time to rise for work on Monday morning? So, the sundown concept really came out of addressing that concern. With it in place, everyone can get out early in the winter when it is dark at 5pm, and still be in bed at a decent hour. In the summer, it doesn’t matter as much since people take off more and are more likely to be up late. I then ran it by Robbie and a few other promoters to get their thoughts on it, and they all agreed it seemed like a good idea.
The “bi” portion is dual pronged. First, the party is bi-weekly, and that seemed to be the easiest way to convey that fact. Plus, I am known to produce several well-known LGBT events, but I wanted this event to be much more inclusive. I think bi works on that front—to let everyone know they are welcome at this event.
When did you start the planning process, and when did Lit come into the picture?
I started to really plan the concept back at the end of November. Lit was always the intended venue, but it was really cemented completely for me when I saw the layout, heard the sound system and was dazzled by the light show. The venue is just perfect for this party.
What are the DJ choices inspired by? Are you making them? And how’d the Perry Twins materialize?
I am hand-picking all the DJs. Everyone of them has an international profile, and they all spin to both mainstream and LGBT crowds. I wouldn’t get the flavor I want if I just picked exclusively mainstream or gay DJs. The Perry Twins were an easy first pick because they are amazing, and they started out spinning exclusively for the LGBT community, but now spin at the big Las Vegas club venues. I knew I wanted them, and I just sent Doug Perry a message on Facebook and asked him if he was interested. He said yes.
What kind of energy can folks expect on March 16? Who’s welcome?
People can expect a lot of energy in the room. I like happy parties, and the music will make you feel good. Why have a party if it’s not fun? Robbie Tronco will open with your favorite anthems, and he is known to really get people jumping. The guest DJs will bring a big-room sound that is really missing in Philadelphia. I think people will really love the mix of music, and I expect many raised hands in the crowd.
What have you got cooking up for April and May?
I have only booked through April right now, so I will leave May for another day. However, April is my birthday month, so look out! First, Erez Ben Ishay is a rising international superstar from Tel Aviv. He will take everyone for a trip around the world on April 13th. The crowd will hear a lot of new music on this night.
Then on April 27th—the day after my birthday but really my birthday party—I booked Kidd Madonny. If you ever see one DJ, this is it! He is truly an original and is a one-man show in the DJ booth. He was part of the performance artist duo of RKM Future Boys, who tore up the nightclub scene in the late ’90s. Well, he brings that performance art to the booth, and his energy level is through the roof. The last time I brought him to Voyeur Nightclub, the crowd would not get off the dance floor. Plus, it’s my birthday party, so there will be a few added surprises!
I worked at Kanella for a long time. Chef Konstantinos Pitsillides and his lovely wife, Caroline, are two of the best people I’ve ever worked for. It’s a small little family over there: a half-dozen or so servers, a few hosts, a few food runners, and even a small kitchen staff. So it was a blast to watch an old co-worker’s new music video yesterday and discover that it featured not only visuals set in Kanella’s interior but a cameo from head server Bobby and Chef Pitsillides homself. Turns out, he’s a natural.
Emcee Tom Charles has been on the grind for a while now. Since 2007. He made some YouTube videos on a previous account, but this one marks a fresh start. “I have like four or five videos, but I put this one on a new account because I’m kind of fresh starting and rebranding myself, and I got a lot in the works,” he says. “I’m posting a Kickstarter for the next video that we wanna shoot soon, too.” [We'll be sure to update this post with those deets when they become available.]
In the video, he does some solid Philly visits including to a barber shop (Burke & Payne Barber Co.), a tailor (Commonwealth Proper,) and, perhaps the crown jewel of the video, a poker scene at Kanella. Pitsillides fit the role that Charles was looking for: “I knew I wanted that handsome but intimidating look for the gentlemen that I was playing poker with,” Charles says. “I told Chef the concept, and he was all about it.”
It looks like maybe “Finer Things” could help give a little kick to Charles’s local notoriety. It’s a fun watch, and there’s a sexy lady in it (her name’s Lala—”She’s a Philly cat,” Charles says). The single’s been doing well on iTunes, and what makes it a little more special for him is that he pretty much molded the whole thing himself from beat to video. “I made the beat and everything. That’s my first production that I’ve released for sale by myself,” he says. “I came up with the idea and just had to figure out how to put it together, figuring out scheduling and budgets.”
He recruited his boy, Pat Murray (of Glass Canon), to help him with the execution and the cleanup: “Both of us really [made it]. I came up with the treatment, and he helped me put it all together and he edited it and all that shit.”
Check Tom Charles out online. And bring your own cards for your late Kanella reservation and see if you can get a KEO out of him.