What you are about to witness, ladies and gentlemen, is three minutes and twenty seven seconds of pure joy, as the UArts Royals run into the West Philadelphia Orchestra on the corner of Broad and Locust and, well, wonderful things begin happening immediately. WPO's new record, by the way — the appropriated titled Tour de Filli — came out two days ago. There's bound to be more where this came from.
There’s a bit of — well, there’s a lot of — the classic MTV logo in the new Mural Arts logo, which is being rolled out as we speak, in the walk-up to Mural Arts Month. And to take it in as it flips through just a sampling of the iterations that are sure to come (as the video above illustrates), that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s deeply satisfying on a visual level, and you can see how it might spawn infinite variations. Created and hatched by Philly’s J2 Design — read their explainer on it here — that is exactly the idea. “We're hoping that the logo will be the foundation for artists and the public to interpret,” says J2’s Emma Fried-Cassorla. (The J2 staff will be talking about the project at this Design Philadelphia event on Oct 13.)
“All of the new Mural Arts collateral,” she says, “brochures, overview pieces, and postcards incorporate the new logo, and as Mural Arts month starts, we'll be asking people to draw their own 'M' (we've already collected about 75 from a previous event). We've also specifically worked with non-muralists to get M's that ‘go beyond the paint.’”
Already, you can see how that might shake out. There's a few added bonuses, too: That graffiti-esque “M” is a subtle acknowledgement of the Philly mural’s roots in (and often fraught relationship) with what we’ll call unlawful public wall writing. And in a town where we often talk about public art we don’t like, this new jawn is a uniter, too — it shifts shape in a way, ironically, a mural never could.
The first tip-off, to these ears, that we were going to love Stranger Things was the soundtrack to the opening credits. In the space of just a few dark synth notes that split the difference between John Carpenter’s horror soundtrack and freaked-out ‘70s Eurosynth prog like Goblin and Vangelis (don’t laugh, that early Vangelis shit is tiiiiight), you were told: Here be dark wonders. The opening didn’t lie, and now, I’m writing this to you from the Stranger Things theme park in Orlando, FL, stealing wifi at The Upside Down Café while I nosh on their singular Ectoplasmic Eggo.
Well, okay — we’ll have to wait for that last part. Kinda like how the Austin, TX band Survive (pictured) formed in 2009, made a pact that they’d perfect that nasty-bass D&D dark wizard sound, and then had to wait until this year before any of us realized that this was just the thing we’d been wanting. That’s Survive who scored Stranger Things, and who I’m told are scoring the next season, too, and who, will you look at this, are playing Making Time’s Halloween party this year.
The Making Time Halloween parties have a long tradition of really going for it — some of you will recall when they had Simian Mobile Disco in Fishtown years ago, after which I argue the neighborhood was never the same (for worse, oh, much for worse) — but I will venture to say that Survive will be the scariest band they’ve ever had.
I will also venture to say that there will be in excess of 200 women dressed as “Eleven.” Maybe that theme park won’t be such a wait, after all.
BY JOEY SWEENEY
If you went to high school in the city, chances are, there was a window you’d go to every week — maybe it was in the school, or at the Rite Aid or some such other drab place down the street — and get your supply. Or maybe a relative, say a reliably kind aunt, worked for an employer who was signed up for a program where staffers received them for free and so every often, you’d find yourself surprised by a handful of sealed plastic bags of five, delighted. Because in a life of uncertainty, the SEPTA token was one of the only sure things in this world. You could have spent all your money on records, or later, beers, and been alone downtown on a forlorn corner with dead batteries in your Walkman, but at the very least, you had a token. And a token would get you home.
The token in your hand represented not just safety, but also possibility. Those plastic bags could get you to Roosevelt Mall, where you could skateboard and smoke cigarettes. They could take you to a girlfriend or a boyfriend in Havertown, long though the ride would be. Perhaps most importantly, they could get you to South Street, where the world you most wanted to inhabit waited with copies of the New Musical Express and big, cheap slices of pizza. If you were ridiculously flush with them, they might even work as an arcade token, depending which one you were in. It was also a sweet move to drop them in your penny loafers; you never know when they might come in handy. The token gave you endless space within a gilded frame, in which you could paint a teenage masterpiece that you could also grow old in. It was magic.
And now, it is gone -- or, more accurately, going. But it leaves a legacy that seems to stretch back forever. The SEPTA token as we’re considering it here today dates back to 1965, when SEPTA was formed out of two previous Philly public transportation agencies. As a work of commercial art, it might have been the most perfect vehicle the SEPTA logo ever found. The token felt sleek in your hand, and the copper stripe across the silver background was more visually satisfying than any United States coin ever minted. Its parent was even better-looking. The SEPTA token’s immediate predecessor dated from as far back as 1940, when the PTC (Philadelphia Transportation Company) first issued its equally iconic tokens. Sometimes, somehow, you’d wind up with one of these in your pocket and wonder how they’d managed to stay in circulation so long?
In recent years, people, present company included, wondered that about the SEPTA token, too. New York City had already raised generations on their Metrocard and were transitioning out of it altogether before SEPTA’s Key program was much more than a PowerPoint deck on a slow, company-issued laptop somewhere. We all made fun of Key, had (and continue to make) jokes at its expense, but really the unsaid thing was this: SEPTA had gone so long without getting their acts together that time had begun to actually accrue back in the token’s favor. Just a few more years, if you think of it this way, and the token would have become endearing, quaint, and necessary to how we think of ourselves in the same way trolleys have. But even SEPTA’s often endless-feeling timeline caught up, and today, the token’s time has all but run out. A quiet phasing out has already begun; one day soon, you will turn around, and you'll be at a turnstile that accepts no coins at all. The Key program is now launching in earnest, and with it, a bridge to the token's obsolescence called “Quick Trips,” a single-use card which admittedly will make a good bookmark, but nothing else.
The token, by contrast, held dignity. The token held a story, the unknowable that dared. The token, God bless it, was currency.
BY MICHAEL McGETTIGAN
If you’d like to “free yourself from the four walls of today” and know what the Philadelphia of the future could and should be like, there is no better time or place than tomorrow morning at Philly Free Streets.
From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, every inch of South Street — from river to river, then the MLK drive north alongside the Schuylkill and up through a nice chunk of Fairmount Park — will be a place where no cars go.
If you missed the Pope Ride, an epic cycling journey through the Pontifex-calmed streets of Philly last fall, do not miss this one. Ride your slowest, most comfortable bike, or skateboard along, or just amble and dream, without worrying about Joe or Joan SUV trying to muscle past you.
Since it’s partly a Philly government deal, it’s a bit cautious: not long enough in time or space, and a bit over-eager, with pop-up food truck courts, bands, yoga, and umpteen other activities as if just booting out the cars wasn’t enough. And why wasn’t it called “CAR-Free Streets?”
But let us not nitpick, leave us not. Go ahead and be a participant-activist; get off your bike and downward dog it for a bit, line dance on the South Street Bridge, and so on. But mainly, indulge in that most challenging and rewarding of Philly pastimes — just looking about you, at all of us multitudes and digging how wildly varied we Philadelphians are when we’re on-the-hoof, freed from those metal boxes.
Here are some important times/places to remember:
• 9 a.m. Power Walk with Mayor Jim Kenney, starts at 2nd and South Streets.
• 11:15 a.m. Big Bicycle Coalition Bike Ride, also at 2nd and South: Cruise out to Fairmount Park for a band show and food truck hang. This ride will take you over just about the whole length of the closed streets, and end at a party, so do it.
• 10 a.m. Monday morning, at your telephone: CALL the Mayor’s office, and your Council members to thank them for this; then firmly ask, “When is the next Free Streets Event happening this year?”
As Philadelphians, we rightly take great pride in David Bowie’s Young Americans LP and completely wrongly rep hard for David Live. David Live was the one recorded at the Tower Theatre, a bloated live set that the rest of the world has always regarded as being pretty meh, but Young Americans still stands tall today as the place where what should have been a kinda gross act of cultural appropriation — Bowie steals Gamble & Huff’s vibe on their own home turf! — instead resulted in something magnificent in both its inventiveness and soulfulness.
But what about The Gouster? Long discussed among Bowie fanatics, The Gouster was Bowie’s first stab at what would later become Young Americans. Recorded in Philly at Sigma Sound with Tony Visconti at the mixing desk, the record featured many of the songs that would return in other forms on the YA record. And the sounds themselves will be familiar, too — there’s that David Sanborn sax, and a young Luther Vandross amid the backup vocal section. What's different about it is the very thing that's so intoxicating about hearing it now — where Young Americans is glitz and style, The Gouster is languid and candid; it's the same sounds, and most of the same songs, but the manner of delivery is slower, more narrative. And though tracks from The Gouster have wound up on a variety of releases, it’s available in sequence for the first time ever now, as part of the just-released Who Can I Be Now? [1974-1976] box set. Among the windows into why The Gouster was not Young Americans is the key track, “It’s Gonna Be Me,” a bare-it-all confessional that even alludes to Bowie’s alleged thing for underage groupies.
In the end, Bowie deemed it “too personal,” and The Gouster begat Young Americans, as iconic a Philly record as there ever was, even if it was fashioned out of borrowed cloth.
Decorum prevents us from running all the images we received as a sneak peek of Philly painter Katherine Fraser’s new gallery show, “Believers,” at Paradigm — we feel like more than five would be just too many spoilers. The show features 32 new paintings, all centered around themes of “identity, reckoning with loss, and the strength we find through connections,” but lest that sound like a bummer, Fraser’s paintings do a kind of sumptuous melancholy where others might go maudlin. Moreover, her work sits in a line of contemporary portraiture and realism that definitely tips her hand as a PAFA grad — there’s elements of the same stately vibe of Barkley L. Hendricks and Bo Bartlett here. With “Believers,” though, Fraser feels like she’s working across a mood narrative, like a novel that’s really a collection of linked stories, of blue tones and strong spirits.
Katherine Fraser’s “Believers” opens at Paradigm Gallery with an Opening Reception, Friday, September 23rd, 5:30-10:00pm, and runs through October 28th.
There is a great desire — or at least, it is in style to express a kind of great desire — among us right now to unplug, to recalibrate our social interactions, to roll back technology’s death grip on the way we now experience ordinary things. The forthcoming Free Streets Philly event is a part of this, as is any number of listicles and books on how to wean oneself away from the mighty pull of the touchscreen. But perhaps an event called Eye Contact Philly takes it to an even more granular level, where the entire focus of the project is for the participant merely to look another human being — literally any other human being — in the eye.
Now, eye contact in our times is a somewhat fraught thing even away from our addictions to smartphones. Any number of social anxieties and other diagnoses make eye contact difficult for some. And it’s true enough that for there are plenty of places on earth where eye contact is so loaded it incites violence. But when it can happen, where it can happen, I think we’re largely in agreement that it’s a good thing. So long as no one’s getting hurt. Based on an event that first occurred in 156 cities last year, Eye Contact Philly will do as the others, and mostly just create a place where you can be absolutely sure that if you look someone in the eye, they 100% won’t pop you in the jaw, nor will it be a staring contest. (There’s a time limit.) The rules:
What do you need to do?
Sit or stand across from one another and simply share 1 minute of eye contact :)
[…] What you need to bring on the day:
- Blankets or yoga mats
- Cushions, hoola hoops or chairs
- Signs saying "Where has the human connection gone? Share 1 minute to find out"
- An open mind
Personally, I feel like the sign might be a dealbreaker, a light nudge off the cliff that divides the sane from everyone else, but like we say at home: Make your own gravy, honey. The event will take place on October 15th, at 10 in the morning on Rittenhouse Square.