The Incidental Beauty Of @everylotphilly

In 2015, a coder named Neil Freeman created a Twitter bot called the Every Lot Bot, and it was brilliantly simple: The bot would go through every property in a local principality’s tax record, then match all existing addresses with their corresponding Google Street View photographs. Then, at the desired interval, those images and addresses would posted to Twitter, one at a time, in a process that could (and will, in many cases) take decades, depending on the size of the city.

The resulting Every Lot feeds — currently in operation in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philly — are as urban-studies-wonky as they are accidentally serene and beautiful. Freeman is on to something when he cites the art of Edward Ruscha as partial inspiration for creating the Every Lot Bot, and Philly, where John Ricco has implemented @everylotphilly, reflects that placid artful tone as well. “I think it's interesting and beautiful in its own way,” he told us.

Ricco’s Philly version tweets out a streetview image every 20 minutes. “I did the math once -- it will take 21 years to cycle through the entire city,” he says. “It goes in order of property ID so it goes block by block, house by house. So over time you get to see how each block is different from the next, and eventually how each neighborhood is different.”

However predetermined its technical process and architecture, though, @everylotphilly feels like a very slow and highly attuned drive through every Philly neighborhood and every Philly street. To look at the feed sequentially offers a kind of trance, occasionally broken by your own familiarity with a certain address; earlier this week, the bot pulled up the image above. This, for instance, was the address of the old Studio Red where, in a tiny basement, indie rock history was made as bands like Helium, Versus and Lilys all made some of their most landmark recordings. As of this afternoon, the bot is still winding its way through South Philly; we suspect it’ll pull over for lunch sometime in the year 2037.

Try This: Quaker City Lemon Shrub Iced Tea

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QC Malt is a brewed hard soda, the latest product from Philly spirits tycoon Steven Grasse, who also happened to invent Hendrick’s Gin, the Art In The Age line of spirits and Tamworth Distillery, among other things. (And who also, in the interest of full disclosure, employs this site’s editor and publisher, when he’s not writing here.) Having launched late last year, QC Malt comes in two flavors, Old Dutch, which has a birch-beer-inspired flavor, and Lemon Shrub, which is a tart, tangy, (gluten-free) lemon-infused malt and the reason we’re telling you about this in the first place, because we have just discovered a new little slice of heaven on a hot day. It goes like this:

1 can of Quaker City Malt Lemon Shrub (get it at Bottle Bar East, or your local beer deli or distributor)
1 container of home-brewed, unsweetened iced tea (we used PG Tips)
1 wedge of lemon
Pour the Shrub and iced tea in equal measure over ice in a tall glass, and garnish with lemon wedge. Enjoy. (If you’d like to get fancy, add a sprig of rosemary.)

And yes, we know what you’re thinking: It’s one of those Arnold Palmer/John Daly types of things. You are correct. But it’s also got this lightly boozy malt underpinning that hits a spot of the beer button, too. If you ask me, it’s delightful is what it is. And I’m not even getting paid to say so.

Cornel West Talking About Sly Stone's "Everyday People" Is A Hearty Truthbomb That Will Last All Day

While it's true that Cornel West has seen easier days — it sounds weird to even say it, given his stock in trade as lifelong resistor to the status quo — those on either side of the current dialogue around him might be given pause by the above. It's a clip from On The Sly: In Search Of The Family Stone, a new documentary by native Philadelphians Michael Rubenstone and Todd Shotz about the iconic and often baffling Sly Stone. It makes its East Coast premiere this weekend as part of the closing night of the ongoing Cinedelphia Festival, which has been underway for the last two weeks (and which, frankly, is giving more established film fests in this town a serious run for their money). In the clip, West interprets "Everyday People" as something more than a pop song — which it was, and then much more. Instead, he flies right over all of that, and internalizes it as a kind of gospel, or at any rate a spiritual/near-mystical text. For West, the song both elevates its subject matter and gets right out in the open air key questions about "Everyday" people: "How are they treated indecently and yet teach America the meaning of decency?" And instead of an exact answer — which would do no real good anyway other than just being another opinion — West suggests that Sly Stone did something immeasurably better. "He created a place where we could go to have a foretaste of that freedom," he says. We're going there still.

The Mysterious Sounds Of Blind Connie Williams, Possibly The Best Philly Street Singer Who Ever Lived

The only known still photograph of Blind Connie Williams. [Wikimedia Commons]

The only known still photograph of Blind Connie Williams. [Wikimedia Commons]

BY JOEY SWEENEY

There’s usually a set of common clues available to fans of vanished blues singers — notes from travelling folklorists like Alan Lomax, some surviving 78rpm recordings, perhaps a newspaper article or other document — but these days, it feels like Blind Connie Williams might be the closest we have to a truly cold case. And that’s probably because whereas many old bluesmen (and blueswomen) sprang from some kind of well-documented place like showbiz or even church, Blind Connie Williams plied his trade on perhaps the least documented entertainment district ever — the streets of Philadelphia.

Born in 1915 to migrant worker parents in Florida, Williams lived in Philadelphia — on Lombard Street, Wikipedia tells us — for much of his adult life; his death date, if there has been one — and if there hasn’t, boy, would we love to speak with him — is unknown. But in between those two brackets, he left just one out-of-print LP, and style that’s as singular as any in 20th Century gospel or blues.

Two things are usually going on in a Connie Williams tune on top of what would ordinarily be a compelling enough guitar-and-voice performance on its own: A signature kind of bass string slapping on his guitar that converts his guitar into a percussion instrument as well as a melodic one, and a perfectly controlled yet beautifully unpredictable falsetto that is, and I honestly mean this, really exciting. Only the high, mysterious sound of John Jacob Niles ever gets into this neighborhood for us.

The vehicles for Williams’ street performances were usually gospel tunes, so chosen because, according to Pete Welding, “the police rarely would bother him if he confined himself to this sort of material.” (One can’t help but wonder if this still holds true for local street musicians.) It was Welding, likewise a Philly local, who “discovered” — insomuch as anyone could claim discovery of someone who was plying his trade in the middle of the sidewalk — Williams in the early 1960s, and it’s to him we owe a debt of gratitude for Blind Connie Williams’ lone LP, released in alternate versions as Traditional Blues, Spirituals and Folksongs or Philadelphia Street Singer on the Welding’s now-defunct Testament Records label. (Welding departed this earthly plane in 1995.)

Today, even finding a copy of that record is extremely difficult. Luckily, it survives in this somewhat bastardized playlist form on YouTube, as does the above clip of him playing, recently unearthed the jazz and blues archivist label Dust To Digital. Other recordings show up here and there on old compilation albums, but for a performer who, having performed for decades on end, we can reasonably assume had a broad repertoire of songs, Williams again leaves behind precious little in the form of documentation.

What is there, though, is stunning. Where so many old blues recordings can sound like bawdy growling through an old cylinder recording, Blind Connie Williams fairly jumps right out of the speakers with charm and abandon. He sounds like he’s happening right now. And who knows, somewhere on the night breeze over on Lombard Street tonight, maybe he just is.