Thursday, August 28, 2008

From my ink-stained hands

The latest edition of Paperboy hit Phawker this afternoon. I'd like to add my own huge props to the Live Arts and Philly Fringe Festival, on top of the recommendations and rundowns already printed in City Paper and Philly Weekly.

Two little nitpicky things I noticed in CP, but that didn't merit mention: The Pennsylvania state treasurer who killed himself on live TV was named Budd Dwyer, not "Bud", as indicated on CP's Quality-of-Life-o-meter. Also, Dogfish Head Brewery is in Milton, Delaware, not Lewes. I don't catch every mistake, but where American microbreweries and topics from my communications law class are concerned, I consider myself something of an expert.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Canon fodder

New today on Phawker, my retrospective review of Don DeLillo's Underworld. It's under the heading "Re-Consider This," and I look at what a book that catalogs post-Cold War anxiety has to offer today's readers and society. I focus on a somewhat narrow slice of the book; I wish I'd had the space to dig into Klara Sax's swords-to-plowshares art project, converting a weapons surplus into a work of art. Alas, that's the stuff dissertations are made of, I suppose. It's my first venture into serious, or semi-serious, lit-crit since college. I'm wondering what my staff title, on the left side of Phawker's homepage, ought to be, since I've covered rock concerts, new-music happenings, and literature, and figure to do more of all three in the future. Any thoughts?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catch a rising star

Today on Phawker, a Q&A with Nico Muhly, composer of sweetly nuanced contemporary music and author of funny, thoughtful blog posts with eccentric spelling. I've been a fan since transcribing an interview with him for NewMusicBox in February 2007. I asked him about his current tour with Doveman and Sam Amidon, which comes to Philly's First Unitarian Church this evening. Muhly's method for getting his music out there - get a group of friends together and play it yourselves - recalls his employer and semi-mentor Philip Glass' approach during the 1980's, though it remains to be seen whether it will land Muhly and friends on Saturday Night Live, as it did Glass and his ensemble.

I recall seeing a video of that performance (March 22, 1986 with host George Wendt, if several websites are to be believed) but can't track it down, so this one, from Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1982, will have to suffice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alternative, strongly.

Today on Phawker: my first effort as Paperboy, providing a digest of Philly's two alt-weeklies, Philadelphia Weekly and City Paper. Note: despite the headline, I do not think, and have never thought, that you are a bitch. I'm reviving the column for the first time since April; if the headline has caused you offense, please contact my editor.

Stay tuned. Preview of the 802 Tour featuring Nico Muhly, Doveman, and Sam Amidon to be posted soon, including a Q&A with current new-music "it" boy Muhly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The bleeding heart show

Another review up on Phawker, of the New Pornographers and Andrew Bird at the Electric Factory on Saturday, August 9. (Bird was the opening act, but listing them in performance order makes it sound like the New Pornographers are Bird's backing band, a la Paul Revere and the Raiders, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, etc.)

Extra stuff that didn't make it in:

-Though Kathryn Calder has the unenviable task of replacing the luminous Neko Case on harmony vocals, she performed admirably.

-Calder also played tambourine on a few songs and, at one point, went to fetch the instrument from the drum riser a full two songs before she would actually need it. Preparedness might not seem very rock-and-roll, but something about the clean (but not antiseptic), tight and somewhat-remote nature of the New Pornographers songs seems to demand that kind of advance planning.

-The tuxedoed mannequin that joined the Pornographers on stage during their encore seems to be a replica of someone famous, but I couldn't place whom. Can anyone help me? Also, a mannequin of John Wayne joined them during "From Blown Speakers" to somewhat less riotous applause than the first statue received.

-Though I was only intermittently thrilled by Andrew Bird's performance - too many technical snags, and too many sample-dumping pileups - I'd love to see him try his hand at leading a chamber orchestra, or maybe even composing something more akin to "concert music" for one. Maybe the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which has an outstanding, though recent, tradition of taking on "artistic partners"? Or maybe the always forward-thinking Brooklyn Academy of Music, which took a risk in commissioning a piece from indie-rock savant Sufjan Stevens, a musical polymath like Bird - a risk that paid off in a big way.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Viva la freelance

I'm doggedly tracking down freelance work in Philly and have landed a gig contributing to the website Phawker. Though the name might suggest something similar to the website Gawker only located in Philadelphia, it's something slightly different: Philly-centric cultural coverage, a digest of national cultural coverage, more of an attitude of just-putting-it-out-there than just-making-fun-of-what's-out-there.

In any case, my first assignment for the site was a review of the Download Festival, an eclectic affair that played previously in LA and San Francisco with slightly different lineups. I hadn't done a formal review of a rock concert in a while (the rust shows in the lede, I think, despite some help from my editor), and I made my initial pitch to them about covering the new and classical music. Though I know I'll get around to reviewing the offerings of Relâche, Network for New Music, the Curtis Institute, and maybe even the Philly Orchestra, it looks like I'll have free rein to write about whatever I'd like. Next up: a retrospective/book review of DeLillo and David Foster Wallace. Stay tuned.