Photo provided by the Ps & Qs dudes’ Facebook page.
One of my favorite stores in the city is Ps & Qs. Pretty sure you’ve figured that out by the handfuls of posts I keep putting up. One of the reasons I love the store so much is because of a couple of the dudes that run the place: the owner, Ky Cao, and one of his trusty associates, Saeed Ferguson (pictured above in the bottom left). They’re just chill dudes with good style, and they seem to enjoy talking shit with me about menswear shopping in the city and brands and shit. And Cao seems to be keen on putting together some really cool in-store events. I missed an event a couple weeks back that featured the Naked & Famous denim guru, Brandon Svarc. But when I got prodded to come see what these guys The Madbury Club were all about, I said to myself, This can only be interesting. Not knowing much about the dudes, other than what Cao’d told me (essentially, they run a blog, but they’re also creatives who do all kinds of stuff), I knew I was in for some kind of a lecture and a Q&A. Those kinds of things are always good to get my blood pumping and my brain twitching.
So, let me break a few things down before I get into my thoughts.
The Madbury Club’s been evolving for years. What started, primarily, with Phillip T. Annand and his budding Award Tour T-shirt game, with the assistance (he’ll say mostly packing boxes of shirts) of his boy Ellington Hammond, has grown considerably and taken on a few different variations of a mission. TMC is far from a T-shirt company in 2013. Annand and Hammond have been recruiting. They’ve pulled in a handful of creative and spiritual dudes (this is, 100%, a sausage party; some of em’ from Philly) to help them mold and sculpt their creative vision. But what they’re more than willing to admit is that this vision isn’t totally in focus— or at least, they’re willing to admit that they’re not even sure exactly what they do. They’re somewhere in between a creative team that’d be not unlike a small ad agency (but only on the creative side), a collective of artists/photographers/videographers/creative producers and fashion fans. Seriously, it wouldn’t feel right to call these dudes stylists or fashion editorialists, but they just love sweet goods. Especially sneakers. Over on The Madbury Club site, you’ll find some extraordinary lookbooks in which they themselves act as curators and models. Certainly they’ve got brands they turn to on the regular, but what they seem to do most genuinely is dress themselves in current, urban, modern and clean looks.
One of the reasons these guys got started in this line of internetting is pretty simple: They were bored with what was being offered to them. Complex, SPIN, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, Street Etiquette—these were ‘zines/blogs that they eagerly and excitedly consumed, but they inevitably felt bored by them, or at least, they didn’t feel like they were being as adventurous or as creative as they could be. So, they started a site. One of the things they were certain about was that they wanted the visuals to be extra. They wanted spreads to be full-screen affairs with outstanding content. “Content” is actually what TMC seems most obsessed with, and that was one of the weirdest aspects of the night. What this content is is, again, something they’re deciding on as they go.
Take “Chazebralope” (below), for instance, one of their most recent efforts. It’s essentially a trailer for a movie that will never be made, but it’s an ambitious one. The vision came from a choice of six sneakers from PUMA that they could make something visual for. They picked the ugliest one, the one with more than five different animal prints on one shoe, and crafted a narrative around the idea of a mythical beast. A dangerous one–a mixture of a cheetah, an antelope, and a zebra (obviously). They shot for almost a week in the deserts of Utah and boiled down hundreds of hours of footage into a high-end, visually-dazzling trailer. Shoes are hardly the focus. But TMC guys are starting to catch on to the fact that they’ve got what some companies are looking for to the T. They’re young, they’re stylish, they’re urbane, they’re sophisticated, and they have taste, but most importantly, in their own way, they have the technical and artistic know-how to make an outstanding visual product. When they got their first giant wheat-pastes plastered all over New York City, they knew they’d made it. Sort of.
Here’s the troubling thing, for me, about these guys: They’re all clearly very talented; they’ve got GREAT eyes for visual aesthetics; they know clothes and shoes, and they’re trying to explore the unknown realms of the nebulous worlds of creative new media. It’s like dark matter. The sky is the limit. Craft yourself a strong following with a killer Instagram feed or recruit a rabid Twitter following, and sometimes, the world is your oyster. You could turn into a famous blogger (at least, until, the flash in the pan cools down) and start appearing on TV as the voice of a generation. But to do it all while continuously expressing the idea “We’re not sure what we’re doing” is disheartening because it feels a little like the blind leading the blind.
The team has found creative epiphanies and renewed their zeal by traveling, a pretty big component of their blog (which, at the moment, isn’t nearly as robust or updated as it used to be, and they’re OK with that). And one of the heaviest topics entertained in the Q&A session was the idea of following your creative heart, and if that means saying “Fuck it, let’s go to California and see what happens,” you buy your tickets, and you all cram into one hotel room or tent and do it on the cheap if you have to. School is not for everyone, and a degree doesn’t get you anywhere. You get yourself to wherever you absolutely have to—and adventure is essential to a truly lived life.
I just have to share one more thing. In the Q&A, there was a dude who purported himself to be an art school graduate who teaches art, and he applauded the collective for rebuffing or at least questioning the value of an art degree, but finding much more value in just constantly creating and constantly experimenting. At one point, Annand talked shit about Duchamp’s “The Fountain,” which I didn’t really approve of. He was making a point, though– when stuffy art heads make something absurd, call it art, and it’s lauded as genius, it can be a little disconcerting. But art teacher dude managed to make the analogy that the work TMC is doing, work that we got to see lots of in their presentation, is in fact exactly like Duchamp’s “Fountain,” but in 2013. To him, I say, “No sir. I heartily disagree.”
A man of few words, Mike Polizze (whose praises we’ve sung before) fired off some responses to some questions we sent over last night. They’ll be performing with support from Shape Breaker and Amanda X at the tight Fishtown space on Saturday night. The doors are at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Here’s how it went down:
Hey Mike! Whatchya listenin’ to these days? How do you end up listening to music, primarily? Vinyl? You’re a tape nerd too, aren’t you? Oh, and where’d you grow up?
Hey. I’m from Media, PA. Listen to all formats of music. Nerd all around! Just grabbed lots of new vinyl, most recently a double live Velvet Underground record, Afflicted Man reissue on Permanent Records, and the new-ish Mordecai LP Richie Records put out earlier this year. All good stuff—also got some Drag City stuff, including the new Magik Markers, Royal Trux and Mick Turner.
So PSA and Lounge Lizards are on Spotify. And I decided to just help a brotha out and buy Water on Mars on iTunes (How come it’s $8.91?). Man, it’s great! But wow, so different from the other two. So very much more polished, pretty and chewable. How’d that end up happening?
The difference is that before, I recorded everything at home, and Water on Mars was recorded at Jeff Ziegler’s Uniform Studios in Philly. It was a less cerebral, psyched out record and more representative of the band as a trio, pretty straight forward, cut and dried. Still a loud rock album. New stuff coming later next year will encompass the more classic rock/psych vibe, plus the noise.
We know you’ve got help from Kiel Everett and Mike Sneeringer flanking you out on stage, with bass and drums and what not. But I’ve read that you will just drum out a track for a spell, then lay down bass, and then sing and play guitar over it all. For real? Then you call in your shred army? Is that how it happens?
I’ve been writing and recording for a while. Purling Hiss started out as just a recording project, so I usually operate the same way. It’s a mix between me recording ideas at home and bringing songs to the band mates and fleshing it out there.
A lot of the same bands get tossed about when critics describe you and your sound. They say Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana (especially Bleach), the Stooges, and your dude Kurt! Not bad company, right? Then there are the ones that are a little weirder that I love, like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty or Grand Funk Railroad. Tell me you’re pumped about the GFR one. I used to listen to “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” all the damn time.
I like early GFR “Grand Funk.” It’s a good fuzzy one.
The other thing that folks reference when they talk about you is Detroit. What’s that about? I know, I know – Michigan has a rich history of “scuzzy” guitar-heavy garage noise, but, have you been? Do you love the Dirtbombs? Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey is rad!
Yeah—Dirtbombs are cool. My other band, Birds of Maya, played in Detroit a few years ago at PJ’s Lager house with one of the guys from The Gories … maybe Dan Sartain?
What did you do with your life from the age of 18-21?
That’s a perfect non-memorable time for me. Besides going to a lot of shows and playing a lot of guitar.
What kind of show can we expect this weekend? You can hear, in the evolution of Birds of Maya and Purling and Mike, that you’re clearly capable of outright chaotic, ultra-loud and acerbic noise. But that maybe you’ve cleaned up your act just a little bit?
I don’t think my guitar playing or performance is any different. There’s some more refined songs mixed in here and there, but it’s still dirty.
What’s next, man? What are the goals of Mike Polizze and of Purling Hiss, respectively?
You’ll see more releases in 2014, and more tours and shows. Keepin’ on.
Red Baraat photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien
As the instant exchange of information is now commonplace worldwide, so has the term “global community” become ubiquitous. Exposure to different cultures brings different music, and fortunately, this combination of different styles of music brings revolutionary groups like Red Baraat.
Bhangra and other forms of punjabi beats added real flavor to Western hip-hop in the early 2000s via Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” and “Addictive” by Truth Hurts. In 2008, famed dhol player/drummer Sunny Jain built the Brooklyn-based Red Baarat mixing elements of hard-driving North Indian bhangra rhythms with a bit of jazz, go-go, brass funk and hip-hop. The vibe of this eight-piece sound machine is undeniable, resulting in acclaim and popularity in all corners of the planet. Like most brass bands, Red Baraat has an energy designed to make a crowd move. Unlike most, however, its sound is uniquely inspiring. The tightly organized percussionists drive the vibrant horn section to new heights of musical union. The band also strives to challenge itself each show, demonstrating its obvious prowess with frequent improvisation.
Drawing crowds even more diverse than the multicultural group itself, Red Baraat’s celebration of world music is remarkably infectious. “We are simple creatures that desire community,” explains Jain in the band’s official bio. “If we can unite people of all backgrounds and ethnicities to partake in the exuberance of life through the universal language of music, then life is that much sweeter.”
Fri., Nov. 22, 8:30pm. $15-$18. With West Philadelphia Orchestra. The Blockley, 3801 Chestnut St. 215.222.1234. theblockley.com
There are few Philadelphians more beloved than our Bill Cosby. The runner-up in our Mayoral Madness race last spring is one of our favorite all-time local heroes. Through countless stand-up specials, albums, sitcoms and books, the man has (more or less) stayed a clean-as-a-whistle bastion of integrity, intelligence, wit and humor. And on Saturday, he reaches an unlikely milestone: his first Comedy Central stand-up special (ever) and his return to stand-up after an essentially 30-year hiatus.
Cos showed up on Jimmy Fallon last night and, well, it was weird. Funny, but weird. The 76-year-old acted as if he had lost his mind and believed an audience member was Jimmy, and then, after an awkward desk bit, proceeded to pretend like he was dead and that The Roots were there to play at his funeral (poorly). The clips are below, and it’s something that you really kind of have to see to believe. He also made an appearance on the Daily Show this week, and it was decidedly less puzzling.
One of the four sons born to Anna Pearl (a maid) and William Henry Cosby, Sr. (a sailor in the Navy), Cosby was the class clown at Mary Channing Wister Public School at 700 Poplar (now a Forensic Science Center for the Philadelphia Police Department). After bouncing from Central High School at 1700 West Olney Avenue to Germantown High School on 40 E High Street, the budding comic also managed to stock supermarket shelves, sell produce, shine shoes and apprentice at a shoe repair shop. He also became a clear track and field, basketball and football star, but dropped out of high school to join the Navy. As a lifelong educational advocate, he’d pretty quickly finish his high school degree with equivalency coursework before accepting a track and field scholarship from Temple and enrolling in 1961. He started bartending at a place called The Cellar, and once he started charming his clientele (after cracking up his Navy cohorts), he realized he could start gigging around. He’d make it up to New York and down to D.C. and over to Chicago and San Francisco before appearing on The Tonight Show in ‘63 and landing a contract with Warner Bros., who issued his first comedy album Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow… Right! in (1964).
Exactly 20 years later, The Cosby Show would debut and become the highest-rating sitcom of the decade and of all time. There’ve only been three shows to maintain the #1 Nielsen rating for five consecutive seasons, a distinction the Cos shares with American Idol and All in the Family.
For me, it was all about the 1983 comedy special that solidified Cosby in my mind as a hilarious, brilliant entertainer with a heart of gold. His Bill Cosby – Himself details gut-splitting stories about his wild children and perfects his observational humor, of which he’s become one of the all-time greats.
So it seems his newest special, set to air this Saturday, Nov. 23rd at 8 p.m., will be thoughts and ideas about growing old. He’s been married to his wife, Camille, for almost 50 years, and he’s still making funnies about the women being in control and the men being idiots. One could argue that we’d love to hear the Cos sound off on all kinds of things in our mixed-up, crazy world of 2013, but it’s still funny to hear bits about wives being queens on a chess board (taking long strides in whichever direction they please to pick people off) and the men being a lame king (one space at a time in one of four directions).
And clearly, Comedy Central will be pumping up the Saturday night event with gems from stand-up past in Cosby’s wheelhouse. Even if it’ll be weird to see the old man make jokes about death, at least we’ll get a few marathons of classic Cos.
Photos provided by BalletX courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev.
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.
Cheers Elephant photo by Colin Kerrigan.
Sure, Downingtown and Chester County are great and all (see their love of Victory Brewing Co. and the conveniently-adjacent Downingtown School of Rock), but there comes a point when a rock band feels like it’s time to fly the coop. And Cheers Elephant is poised to embark on a new chapter of their story in California, and you’ve got one more chance to catch them in Philadelphia before it’s too late.
The seven-year-old band consists of Derek Krsywicki, Robert Kingsly, Travelin’ Mat (aka Matt Rothstein) and Jordan del Rosario. And they’ve spent pretty much all of their lives in orbit around the School of Rock’s satellite facility, opened in 2004 by Rothstein’s parents. It houses their practice space, and it’s a spot where they’ve ritually consumed Victory and wings for years now.
For lots of fans, this move is not surprising. Many have complimented CE on their sunny, California-friendly sound. And, it seems, they won’t be heading to the nebulous southern California region—they just don’t want to say L.A.—alone; they’ll be toting managers, girlfriends and various pals along for an uncertain West Coast adventure. It’s not like they won’t be back; they will—because Philly is home. And there are tons of things they love here that they’ll surely be sad to say goodbye to. Like Johnny Brenda’s, Paesano’s and the Lola Bean. A change of scenery can only be inspiring for the four-piece. And while they’re in the midst of a fourth record (their third was welcomed with a big ol’ blowout at the Apple store on Walnut for their May-released Like Wind Blows Fire), perhaps a relocation will fuel their creative fires.
No, they haven’t signed any big contracts or even secured day jobs for the move. They’re doing a kind of seat-of-their-pants thing and hoping that, in no time, they’ll start touring heavily and landing regular gigs, which will, in time, turn into a record deal and a booking agent.
Fans get two more chances to catch these guys delivering high-energy, toe-tappin’, hip-shakin’ pop rock – one in their stomping ground of Downingtown at the School of Rock on Friday, and the other opening for the Kopecki Family Band (from Nashville and signed to ATO Records) at the TLA on Saturday night. Both are all-ages shows, and they’ll both be packed with well-wishers, friends, family and good send-off cheers for the boys who’re aiming to progress from being known as a Philly band to a nationally-popular band that’s from Philadelphia.
What defines beauty? In an age of popularized body modification, its more conventional definitions have shifted—thank heaven—to include more alternative visages. SuicideGirls, the widely popular website that features such beauties, promotes the concept of models having control over how their beauty is portrayed; as a result, the site and the girls themselves continue to build a staggering fan base. And, after a six-year hiatus, its Blackheart Burlesque is back to aid and abet those worthwhile efforts.
Combining the glamour of pin-up poise, tongue-in-cheek humor, the edge of industrial subculture and a kind-hearted jab at pop culture, the Blackheart Burlesque show created a niche for itself in the early 2000s heyday. In fact, they completed five North American tours opening for a bevy of heavy-hitting rock talents. After a six-year hiatus from the stage, veteran choreographer Manwe Sauls-Addison—who has worked with such artists as the late, great Michael Jackson, Beyonce and Lady Gaga—is bringing new performances and updated music to the BB production hoping to scintillate and satisfy fans.
To enthrall their audiences further, the SuicideGirls even throw a little nerd in there, incorporating elements from Game of Thrones, Star Trek, The Avengers, Planet of the Apes and many other geek favorites. So, if you want to see stunningly gorgeous dancers sporting Stormtrooper helmets and toting lightsabers, here’s a night out that promises not to disappoint.
Mon., Nov 18, 9pm. $22.50. Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com