July 22, 2014
>>> Doobies Bar on 22nd and Lombard is hosting another night of Pub Letters, for all of you who need free paper and stamps and a drink special to crank out that letter you’ve needed so badly for so long to write.
>>> Retro-metal specialists Serpent Throne are playing at Kung-Fu Necktie with three other riff-happy drone-heavy supporters as part of the Philly Psych Series.
>>> At the Rotunda on 4014 Walnut, Girls Rock Philly is putting on a show with Techne and Bowerbird showcasing original music composed for DIY electronic instruments, which might end up being the edgiest concert ever put on by an arts education nonprofit.
>>> LA free-jazz-funk-prog-whatever supergroup Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks will be at Johnny Brenda’s with Odwalla88.
>>> San Francisco garage-rockers The Fresh & Onlys will be at Boot and Saddle supporting their fifth expansive full-length album House of Spirits.
Despite the fact that reports of crime in the area surrounding SugarHouse casino in Fishtown have differed alarmingly since a year after its opening, SugarHouse began work today on a $164 Million dollar expansion including a new event space, new restaurants, a new 30-table poker room and a parking garage. Supposedly, the expansion will create 1600 construction jobs and 500 more jobs once completed. Which would be great… if things were ever at all as simple as they seem at the outset.
A recent report by two city criminal justice experts, one from Drexel and one from Temple, found no significant increase in “violent street felonies, vehicle crime, drug crime or residential burglary” in the area surrounding SugarHouse. However, the abstract of the report states that “displacement” of vehicle crime and elevation of police patrol in the area may account for the lack of increase in crime. Casino-Free Philadelphia, a longtime opponent of SugarHouse, contests the report on the grounds that it doesn’t account for embezzlement crimes related to addictive gambling at the casino. Does that seem like a stretch? We can’t even say. Unfortunately, their numbers on these crimes are also inconclusive – specifically, “unknown.” But having recently been denied an appeal to quash the licensing of a second casino in Philly — to say nothing of casinos dying left and right in Atlantic City now, SugarHouse is left with but one option: To double-down on itself.
The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, Bridge at West Falls; Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, Schuylkill River Viaduct; the Twin Bridges carrying US 1 northbound, and southbound; and Falls Bridge. Can you spot them all? No matter, that’s just a few of them!
We’ve lived here our whole lives, but it took a buddy who’s a die-hard train nerd to make us realize that there are a dizzying number of options for one to cross the Schuylkill, should one need to in one’s daily activities as, say, a hobo or Thomas The Tank Engine. This Wikipedia page itemizes them all, from here to Berks County. To what end you use this knowledge is up to know, but let’s predict the following for now: In a completely gentrified Philly, just years from now, each and every one of them will have a group of people wishing to turn each one into a “High Line-style parklet” of its own.
We’d say that you should read those bottom-to-top, but we just did and it makes no difference.
As the outro music begins to play on Chase Utley‘s LTR with Philly, a city mourns. With rumors swirling that he could go to to the Blue Jays or Giants and today being selected for a victory lap in the form of the Heart & Hustle Award, Roy Halladay has entered a fugue state on Twitter. Funny thing is, we sort of get what he is saying. And we feel it too. Is this farewell for the King Of The White Girls?
Researchers at Temple University have taken the first step toward curing HIV – not treating, curing. Using genetic surgery procedures, a team of researchers headed by Dr. Kamel Khalili, chair of Temple’s Department of Neuroscience, have for the first time successfully eliminated the HIV virus from human cells. Until now, it had only been possible to treat and partially control the HIV virus through medication. If these techniques are further developed and implemented clinically, it may be possible that the approach could “lead to a permanent cure for HIV and AIDS” and “would not only eliminate the virus permanently but also create a protection against a new infection or re-infection.”
At this point, though, the research is still experimental. The genetic surgery has been conducted in a laboratory setting on isolated cells, and it will take a lot more time and work to bring this option to patients. Dr. Khalili admits in the video above that the procedures are still “years removed from the clinical setting.” No matter what, this is big news. It just might be a while before it gets even bigger.
Back in the mid-oughts, in a fit of wild optimism, Philadelphia dreamed a bold dream, and failed miserably. Admittedly, the dream was wild for its time — citywide wifi. And for a time, it even looked possible: Earthlink (hold your laughter), in partnership with the City of Philadelphia (hush now), came into town, mounted wifi antennae all over the place, these big clunky boxes all over telephone poles, and then… the whole thing shit the bed. But we had these boxes still, so Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit that popped up in the wake, tried to get it going, and then… that whole thing shit the bed. And that was the end of the dream — and it was a good dream, designed to help bridge a digital divide that still exists on a massive level — of citywide wifi Internet in Philadelphia.
We mention all of this because a similar idea is in the air now — municipal broadband — and it is similarly being crushed by a GOP-led effort (aided, no doubt, by Comcast and Verizon’s increasingly massive lobbying efforts). Muni broadband’s existence makes sense if you truly regard Internet connectivity as a utility, and in some places, it even exists, and works.
But it will never exist here. So just get it out of your head. But then again, perhaps some version of it could conceivably exist here, though it would be a far cry from the public-minded ideal of a municipal utility with the purpose of serving all. Consider this scenario: Like muni wifi on a jacked-up Earthlink connection before it, muni broadband becomes a hot property for cities. Philly catches the fever. And since more and more, Comcast essentially owns Philadelphia (but pays next to nothing for the privilege), the city grants Comcast the contract. Comcast continues its ruse about how it wants to bridge the digital divide, all while monopolizing the Philadelphia market even more than it already has, essentially using city dollars to fund its own pipe-laying into every home, school and business in town. Whereupon Comcast can then overcharge and manipulate the market to an even greater degree than it does now.
Put that way, Philly getting muni broadband looks inevitable.
Things that are not potato salad or pickles or your band’s LP, and thus, far more important: The children, who are the future, who need to be taught well and allowed to lead the way, with all of the beauty they possess inside. Some of them, as it turns out, attend Science Leadership Academy, where they are being taught an art and a skill that, while everywhere, is also kind of endangered. Photography. Real photography. Not selfies.
But as you probably know, arts education across the country is itself likewise endangered, and now has to compete in the crowdfunding arena, in the same space as your very personal one-man show about eating Doritos, set to headline at next year’s SoLow Festival. This is sick and wrong. So do please what you can, and give SLA’s Philly Public School Photo Lab project a look, will you? And maybe a few bucks? SLA is a great school and has already made some great inroads to the kind of high school photography program you yourself might have experienced if, say, you went to high school before America became a third world country whose priorities were so out of whack that teachers had to beg in the digital street for the materials with which to teach their kids. Seriously: Fuck your potato salad, son.
May we paraphrase the current Bernie Sanders attitude on whether or not he’ll be running for President in 2016? It goes something like: “I will only do it if I become convinced that everyone else who’s running is a complete numbnuts.” Which is to say that Bernie Sanders will be running for President in 2016. And this will be great, because Sanders is a one-man truth-bomb who could go a long way towards keeping things on the up-and-up simply by being around. But it could (read: will) also be very bad because, being an Independent from Vermont, he has no chance in hell and as such, candidates as well as media will most likely hold him up as an object of ridicule which sucks for Bernie personally but sucks for all of us nationally because Bernie will provide the window through which candidates will then feel okay cynically ridiculing things like truth, common sense and conviction. He is Hillary food.
Nevertheless, can we just say? We love him. We love everything about him. We love him for his policies — Bernie favors Scandinavian-style socialism, and we love Scandinavians — as well as for his manner. So often in his line of work, he is the only adult in the room. We mention all of this because Bernie is in town on Thursday to half-campaign/half-spit truth, and you could probably go if you wanted to. While you are there, seeing that he’s appearing in a union venue, you could also wonder if his way forward might not be to try and woo unions away from Hillary while also seeking large dollars from Silicon Valley, but also knowing that this is all a pipedream. A dude this good does not have a chance in hell of being President of a country like this. Sigh. What is Lillehammer like this time of year?
July 21, 2014
… with GeoGuessr, this unbelievably sticky location-guessing game that is powered by Google Maps. If nothing else, it will prove to you what you already knew: You know this town one thousand times better than any Philly cab driver who has ever picked you up.
Why do you think it’s so seldom remarked upon that we are living in something of a golden age of rockmaking, both of the trad variety as well as boundary-pushing wild stuff, here in Philly? I mean, you know, outside of the usual rah-rah Philly service press whose job it is to always feign excitement. Is it because legit music criticism just about no longer exists at the local level? (Maybe.) Is it because of a general sense of overload? (Oh, probably.) Is everyone desensitized to genuine enthusiasm due to the Buzzfeedization of everything? (Yes.)
Whatever it is, consider this: These are the dog days of summer. From here to September, nothing you do now will ever matter. Could there be a better time to unplug, and just give yourself over to long afternoons and evenings of beautiful, crazy Philadelphia music? As befits this new golden age, there is a whole cast of extant future legends right now, working on levels both micro and macro. Will you be able to say that you were there? Or will you have to say, “No, I was drinking horrible microbrews that I recall nothing about, and taking photographs of my food?” Don’t be that guy.
On Thursday, Purling Hiss and Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band are somehow playing Spruce Street Harbor Park, for free, amidst people drinking horrible microbrews and taking photographs of their food, in case you need to begin by ramping down. These two groups both make fiery electric guitar music that bears the transcendent power of loud noise as well as this deep crazy classic-rock American undercurrent that is already inside you. Let it be inside you more.
On Friday night, Kurt Vile & The Violators open for Nick Cave at the Mann. Vile is the guy whose name is on that mural you may have heard about. It turns out, he makes records, too, and he’s pretty good. All joking aside, this is going to be a pretty special moment for all of us in the Philly freak tribe.
Meanwhile, XPN’s Xponential Fest this weekend in Camden also features a formidable Philly undercard hiding below its dadrock headliners: Man Man, Strand of Oaks, Commonwealth Choir, The Districts, The Lawsuits and Our Griffins all represent this place in their own way. (And god damn if that Strand Of Oaks record does not rip your heart out, show it to you, then drop it in a glass of rye.)
Finally, on Sunday, we see Philly rock at the intersection of influence and pushing forward: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Pattern Is Movement and Myrrias all bear a different version of post-everything vision. They’re all at Johnny Brenda’s. Where are you?
Iron Sketch: Like Iron Chef in that they use whatever stuff is lying around, but it’s better because they don’t make you eat it.
Free For All Comedy’s The Magnificent Seven returns to Boot and Saddle this Thursday to teach the world the importance of home-grown comedy done right. This week’s show will be installment number “VI” of the series, which is either 4 or 6 depending on how well you paid attention to Roman numerals in school. (I’m about XC% sure it’s 6.) Some (exactly 7) of Philly’s Philliest comics will be telling jokes in front of a light display that subtly changes color through out the evening. What color will the stage be by the end of the show? My guess is purple, but I have no inside information. I wouldn’t lie about that to you. Thurs., 8PM, $7.
When you hear the words Fighting Burrito, your instinct is probably flight, fight or dine. You are welcome to do probably none of those three things at the Adrienne Theater on Thursday evening for Fighting Burrito Comedy Hour. The show is BYOB(eer) and also BYOB(urrito), but I don’t think anyone has the nerve to eat a burrito during a comedy show. I suppose if you really wanted to you could bring a burrito, but laughing and eating at the same time is probably rude. Thurs., 9PM, $8 in advance/$10 at door.
There is no better way to turn your Friday night into a Saturday Morning than at Philly’s ONLY free sketch comedy competition, Iron Sketch, at Philly Improv Theater. Three teams made up of randomly selected writers will battle it out with 10 minutes of prepared sketch comedy. See how the groups were able to include this month’s mystery prop: TABLE! My prediction: We will see, on more than one occasion, a group of people sitting around a table. Just a guess, again, I could be wrong. We won’t know for sure until the show is over. Fri., 11:59PM, Free.
– Joe Moore
Joe Moore is the genial jerk who is head writer of sketch group Dog Mountain, host of monthly show Guilty Pleasures and a sketch comedy instructor. Hunt him down on twitter @TheJoeMoore.
[Photo courtesy Iron Sketch]
Philly Home Portrait from Cory J Popp on Vimeo.
From the same dude who brought you this pretty Philly Christmas video comes this new one, about our lovely homes.
Perhaps you’ve seen him around. Perhaps, like us, his existence is literally the only thing you have ever learned by reading the Metro. In any case, his name is Michael Grant, but many more know him as Philly Jesus, and, um, yeah.
Ladies, we don’t know if he’s single, but have you tried this?
Reading Craig LaBan’s review of Volvér, Jose Garces’ new spot in the Kimmel Center, one senses a real feeling of desperation there. But this blew our mind in terms of being a real watershed moment in how awful, as humans, we have become:
[...]The most telling item I was served here wasn’t meant to be eaten. Between the sardine course and the live scallop, our waiter brought a silver platter bearing a phone charger: “Is your battery running low? A lot of people like to Instagram while they’re here, and we wouldn’t want you to run out of power.”
No, Jose. My battery is not running low. My battery is fine. Thank you.
It was only last week that deposed Beer Week king Joe Sixpack aka Don Russell narc’d on the dirty secret of all of these beer gardens you’re seeing around Philly these days: They only exist because of a loophole PLCB code that allows for off-premises catering. And with a few early notable successes of different pop-up beer garden concepts over these last few summers, exploitation of that loophole is hitting critical mass this summer, with some variation of the theme in evidence all over town.
So it was not particularly surprising that just three days after Sixpack’s explainer that PA state reps, ever watchful of the PLCB gravy train, proclaimed the beer garden loophole as a matter of “grave concern” and called for an end to it. These are their names: John Taylor, R-Philadelphia; Paul Costa, D-Allegheny; and state Sens. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, and Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny. And what they are saying collectively is that if the Liquor Control Board doesn’t close the loophole, they’ll try to institute legislation that will. Already, there is a change.org petition that seeks to head off such action at the pass. It goes like this:
State Sen. Charles McIlhinney, Pennsylvania-010
State Rep. John Taylor, Pennsylvania-177
Pop-up gardens have been a huge hit the past few summers, providing Philadelphians with beautiful outdoor venues to enjoy their summer evenings with great local food, beer, and community, and breathing new life into vacant lots and underutilized public spaces like the Delaware waterfront and Eakins Oval.
I write today to ask you to support these pop-ups and not pursue any policies that will add to their overhead and potentially price them out of existence. They are an important addition to Philadelphia’s economy that contributes much-needed tax revenue to our city, state, and school district, and they bring people and money to areas of the city that need some low-cost economic development ideas.
This is a voting issue for me, and I will be paying close attention to your position on this.
You can sign that here. Or you could move to a place where there is not a centuries-long tradition of people being giant babies about alcohol. At this point, we’re torn.
Anyone who’s given up on having a human soul knows that happiness is a measurable, quantifiable scientific construct that has nothing to do with the quality of one’s own spirit and everything to with numbers. Bearing this in mind, Harvard professor Edward Glaeser, Vancouver School of Economics professor Joshua Gottlieb and Harvard doctoral student Oren Ziv have crunched numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come up with a kind of national index of happiness. With the resulting five “happiest” cities in America all being Louisiana, this can only be proof of one of the following: That this whole thing is bullshit, or that ignorance truly is bliss.
Even so, we were compelled to see where Philly stands in this boiling cauldron of age, sex, race, income, marriage and divorce stats: Unsurprisingly, we are well into the bottom third, bearing a score of -0.0391 that will mean nothing whatsoever to you. Even so, we’re not nearly as bummed out as some of our neighbors. NYC is dead last, which is not shocking when you consider, well, everything about the type of person who moves to NYC these days, this late in the game. And don’t give us that guff about Philly having a bad attitude: Pittsburgh, Erie and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre all scored lower than us. Could this be the birth of a new VisitPhilly campaign — “the happiest unhappy place in America?” Like a dirty bathtub, it does have a ring to it.
IF nothing else, this would bring to Etsy an unprecedented level of realness.
July 18, 2014
>>> As a beautiful weekend sprawls out before us, I’d like to talk about the future. The real future. What is the likelihood that you will be a grandparent someday? Fair to good? OK. One day, your grandkids will be gathered around you, pretending to listen to you but just actually waiting for you to give them bitcoins or whatever it is that we’ll have instead of currency then. You will feel compelled to tell them things. At some point, you look over to whatever will replace television (curved piece of plastic like an unfurled sick dog cone) and Home Alone will be on. You’ll point to it, and say, “Ya know, kids, I was there when The Awesome Fest presenting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Macaulay Culkin’s The Pizza Underground at a giant pizza party in The Oval.” You will wait for astonished gasps and for them to beg you to tell them more. None of it will come. But it won’t matter. Because you will know in your heart that it was a good time, it was free, and that the Macaulay Culkin Velvet Underground pizza cover band was so much better than it had any right to be. You may, however, have to explain to those kids what turtles were because they will be extinct then, being unable to subsist on Planet Kickstarter.
>>> Back in the now, as previewed in our Week Ahead In Comedy, HANG ON with Aaron Nevins‘ live variety show thing at the Adrienne Theater looks good. It features “Space 1026 astronaut Andrew Jeffrey Wright, acclaimed chin actor Ryan Shaner, and supes laid back chillaxin’ Chelsea Zoladz, along with special guests Khari Mateen and Amanda Blank, with standup from Matt McCusker.”
>>> Fun daytime jams with the whole fam at the 3rd Annual Dog Day of Summer Cook-Off under the Shambles in historic Headhouse Square, featuring crazy dagwood hot dogs from some of the finest non-hot dog restaurants in the city, cold beer, and our esteemed editor on the judges’ panel. Meanwhile, brave fighters of the Broverflow in BroLibs assail the bronsciousness with Saturday in the Park, an outdoor concert with Splintered Sunlight, PhillyBloco, TJ Kong and Swift Technique at Liberty Lands. Imagine if bro-on-bro crime eliminated the Broverflow and then, BroLibs was completely colonized by latter-day Deadheads like the gang at Garden Variety. It would be a beautiful dream I call “2003.”
>>> Elsewhere: That other Glaswegian pop act, Camera Obscura at World Cafe Live; Spank Rock with Prowler and Mumblr at Underground Arts for one of those Red Bull things; and bliss poppers Eternal Summers play with Tinmouth at Ortlieb’s.
>>> Nerds: Spend your afternoon at the Mausoleum Comic Con.
>>> Hailing from a garden somewhere in the greater London sprawl, The Clientele have been quietly making a beautiful canon of soft psychedelic pop for well over a decade now — long enough, in fact, that they’re currently touring on the back of a reissue. Suburban Light collects their early singles, and if you are not hip to this, it is as essential to any Sunday afternoon rotation as Nick Drake or Nina Simone, and I will never stop listening to it. Never. They play with recent Thrill Jockey sign-ees Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler (congrats homies!) at The Boot & Saddle.
See? Plotzed. Everybody plotz.