Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 30 Albums of 2014: 30-11

It was a weird year for music. There weren't a lot of GREAT albums, but going through what I listened to this year there was still quite a bit to like. Here's 30 I found in frequent rotation.

30. Whirr - Sway




29. Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God




28. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness





27. Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE





26. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden






25. Todd Terje - It's Album Time






24. Nothing - Guilty of Everything






23. Tigers Jaw - Charmer





22. Fairweather - Fairweather





21. Mr Twin Sister - Mr Twin Sister






20. Moodymann - Moodymann






19. Radiator Hospital - Torch Song






18. The Antlers - Familiars






17. Tourist - Patterns





16. Alvvays - Alvvays





15. Woods - With Love and With Light





14. Sun Kil Moon - Benji





13. Amen Dunes - Love





12. Mutilation Rites - Harbinger




11. Caribou - Our Love



Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Plays and Bands at Silent Barn


Ghosts scare the shit out of me. Always have. I'm from supposedly one of the most haunted towns in America, and grew up hearing first hand ghost stories from sane friends and parents. I frequently slept over one friend's house where a family had burned alive during the 1800's, and another who's home was supposedly haunted by a widow waiting for her husband to come home from the War of 1812.

I didn't watch horror movies with ghosts (or really any) up until about a year ago. Now I love them. One of my favorite TV shows is Paranormal Witness, which has people recount supposedly true ghost stories while showing (usually pretty decent, sometimes corny) reenactments. I binge watched the entire first season and couldn't sleep that night.

What throws me off though, is at the end of a lot of ghost stories when the priest comes and reads some stuff from the Bible which gets the spirits REALLY PISSED OFF, and then they eventually go away. I'm totally on board with the random stacking of objects, things flying off shelves, even ghosts physically harming people. But as soon as The Power of Christ Compels You is whipped out I'm over it.

Around 2009, I noticed a trend in the New York music scene that leaned towards spirituality. There was a mix of different other worldly elements and images showing up, mostly I think out of fun. Tarot card readings, Ouija boards, pentagrams, triangles, astrology. The trend grew and now your average 16 year old is wearing upside down cross earrings from Urban Outfitters.

This struck me as a little curious. I'd always thought the most punk thing to be was atheist. I couldn't help but relate looking to the stars for direction the same way as looking to the cross. I've written a couple goofy plays relating to it, and have written a third which is basically a different version of the same play, called "Cosmic Blood Orgy." It's a silly little Halloween play, but I tried harder this time to see what makes all this stuff so interesting, how some people get drawn into it with their tongue in cheek, but soon are self identifying witches. Why I can totally believe in ghosts, but as soon as anything that might ring of "something higher" is introduced I back away.

I was asking a friend of mine who's interested in this stuff about it and got some unsolicited writing advice: don't stereotype your characters. While I would hope to NEVER do that, I'm particularly wary now of offending the cosmic community. But, I'm pretty sure no one is going to take too seriously a play that offers up lube to ghosts who are trapped forever in a "sex pentagram".

This is part of a series called "Plays and Bands" I curate under the name Pony Show Presents, which aims to bridge independent theater and music communities. Youngblood's Abby Rosebrock and Willie Orbison also have some very funny and spooky short plays, along with bands JournalismThe Doubts, and Sic Tic. Hope to see you there.

Plays and Bands #7 - Halloween Edition
The Silent Barn
603 Bushwick Ave
Brooklyn, NY
JMZ to Myrtle/Broadway, L to Morgan
$5, 8:00 doors, first play at 8:30


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Jazzin' Before the Rumble: 1960's Gangs and a Park Slope Plane Crash



"Hey Ponyboy, you know there's no jazzin' before the rumble!"

My friends and I repeated this line all day after watching The Outsiders film adaptation in 8th grade English class. I'm still not entirely sure what it means, I guess our hero, Ponyboy, was dissing somebody or fooling around before the epic brawl that was about to go down between the Greasers and the Soc's. More so than the coming of age "stay gold" message tweens write about on state English exams, this goofy line pops into my head weirdly a lot.

In 1950's and 60's Brooklyn, it was pretty common for teenage boys with nothing better to do to join a street gang, or a "bopping" gang, not unlike those in The Outsiders. While drugs were around, especially heroin in the late 50's and early 60's, rival gangs fought pretty much over turf and girls. Mostly divided along ethnic lines, there were an estimated 6,000 gang members and hundreds of gangs throughout the five boroughs.


In the late 50's, a number of Italian-American gangs merged together to form the South Brooklyn Boys, one of the biggest gangs of the time. The Gowanus Boys, the South Brooklyn Angels, the South Brooklyn Devils, The South Brooklyn Diapers, The Kane Street Midgets, The Little Gents, The Butler Street Gents, and so on, would "rumble" for turf with other gangs, often African-Americans and Latinos who were beginning to move into the predominantly Italian and Irish neighborhoods. At the same time, banks began redlining neighborhoods, refusing to lend to minorities and contributing to the serious blight stretching throughout the borough.

On December 16th, 1960 two airplanes collided above Brooklyn. One landed in a mostly secluded area in Staten Island, the other right in the middle of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope. It destroyed ten buildings and killed over 130 people. The New York Times headline described it as "An Area of Run Down Houses". At a time when the atomic bomb could drop at any moment and there were serious fears the Soviet Union could invade, a plane landing in the middle of the street right before Christmas was a serious shock, to say the least.


That's when a play I've written for the Gowanus Arts and Production's Green Plays takes place, the night after the crash. Two teens, an Italian-American gang member and an Irish-American prostitute decide whether they want to stay on this path, or try and get away. But mostly it gives me a reason to write names like Charlie Chumps, Nicky Nichols, Tommy Two Toes, and talk about throwing rocks at an old juke box in Prospect Park. The show's in a beautiful giant brick building, and there's four plays by writers from great local companies, including Youngblood alum Meghan Deans. The Lobbyists are playing and there'll be a party afterwards, where we can jazz all we want.










Thursday, May 29, 2014

YOUNGBLOOD BENEFIT - LIVE FROM THE LOFT! Fri May 30

It's springtime. The birds are singing. Kids are on their damn tricycles. Everyone's fallin' in love and stuff. This could all only mean one thing...

Live From the Loft III is upon us!!!!! WHAT?!?!

Ticket link HERE: http://liveloftthethird.brownpapertickets.com/
Even if you can't come, you can still buy raffle tickets and support YOUNGBLOOD!

*Live From the Loft is a celebration of community and collaboration. It's a night of original short plays and live musical performances in an intimate setting with booze, friends and a bird named Charlie. All proceeds benefit EST's Youngblood.*
CHECK OUT THIS SILENT FILM ABOUT IT!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiDjvX6WDIw

So don't be a fool - join us for a fancy shmancy evening of short plays, live music and mad friendship at a beautiful loft in Chelsea!! All proceeds benefit EST's Youngblood!!

Beer!!
Wine!!
Raffle!!
Dancing!!!
And we're going black tie on this shit so WEAR YOUR FINEST EVENING ATTIRE!!

Featuring plays by Chiara Atik, Dylan Dawson, Darcy Fowler and Leah Nanako Winkler!

And a special acoustic performance by Jukebox the Ghost!!

Arch-Nemesis
By Leah Nanako Winkler
With: Lucy DeVitoSeth Kirschner

The Least
By Chiara Atik
Directed by Stephanie Ward
With: Dylan Dawson and Darcy Fowler

My Father My Manager
By Dylan Dawson
Directed by John Giampietro
With: Maren BushCurran Connor and Emma Galvin

The Science of Stars and Fathers and Daughters
By Darcy Fowler
Directed by Linsay Firman
With: Michael Cullen and Heather Robb

Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm.

Ticket link HERE: http://liveloftthethird.brownpapertickets.com/


Facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/872133262813756/




Monday, February 10, 2014

In Memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman


When I think of him, this is the image that comes to mind.  It's from the play Jack Goes Boating, and it hangs like a championship banner in the Labyrinth Theater Company offices, where I worked for the better part of five years.

I met him on my first day.  He was rehearsing that misunderstood Peter Sellars production of Othello at the company's old offices on 38th Street, and I was a lowly intern trying not to get in the way.  On a break, he came through the office to go have a cigarette in the conference room, and I was introduced.  He grumbled 'hey, how you doing,' and I tried to act cool.  That was that.

The last time I saw him was in May at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill for the Opening Night party of A Family For All Occasions, the last play he directed at Labyrinth.  He sidled up next to me at the bar, put his thick hand on my back, and said 'hey, how you doing.'  I said 'good' and congratulated him on the show.  He deflected a 'thanks, thanks,' and I received my two Manhattans from the bartender.  He ordered a cranberry and soda.  That was that.

Over the course of my time at Labyrinth, he and I had a lot of those interactions.  Though, to be honest, I was never really sure if he knew my name.  It didn't matter.  He was who he was, and I am who I am.  I was always in awe, and he was always gracious, kind, and brief.  I understood.

When I heard he died, I was angry before I was sad.  I was angry because it felt like some horrible prophecy fulfilled.  I was angry because, in some part of me, it made sense.  It was only when I started seeing his face and his name everywhere that my indignation was tempered by unexpected grief.  I thought of his partner, Mimi, my former boss, and his kids; there was no hiding from the gruesome tragedy of it all.  His death became relentlessly real, and I wasn't ready for it.

Now, I have no delusions that I existed fuzzily, if at all, on the periphery of his incredible life, but he was, I've since realized, at the center of mine.  And I think that was true of a lot of people.  To me, he was the epitome of what an artist should be; he was devoted to his work, devoted to his family, devoted to his friends, to his community; he didn't seek the limelight, he just wanted to be as good as he could possibly be.  Which, in his case, just happened to be the best.  He was, and is, an inspiration.  And I'll miss him.  Even though I didn't know him that well, I will miss him.  Because of what he stirred in me.  Because of the way he made me feel about being an artist.  Determined.  Proud.  He, to me, was the standard.  And I hope I can live up to, and learn from, his example.

This is for him:


In Memory of PSH
Art is
born, like the universe,
from emptiness,
from
from a space needing
to be filled; it is
something made,
like energy,
that cannot be unmade.

Art is
our light in the endless,
endless darkness,
our voice in the endless,
endless 
it is
something, at least,
something to make sense
of a senseless existence.

Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.

So, blessed be the artists,
for they are the wonderers,
the wanderers, the ones who leap
into the void, veins open, searching,
searching for something
to bring back, to teach, to all of us.
They are ones who ask our secret,
sacred questions, and we, reprieved,
apotheosy for their answering.

Yes, blessed be the artists
for the Earth shall inherit them.
Their work transcendent,
independent of life; art is,
like a word, like a number,
a construct, an idea,
true and inextinguishable,
endowed by its creator,
simply, to be.

Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.  

Yet, when an artist dies,
(as we all, most pitifully, do)
attention must be paid. 
Thanks must be given
as it is to a soldier, for bravery,
for valor, for fighting battles
on our behalf; we are indebted. 
And so we mourn, selfishly perhaps,
made weaker by the loss.

But, in our grief, we must remember
the man, the woman, the person behind
the art; the father and the husband,
the brother and the son, PSH was
the center of a thousand orbits, each one
proud to feel his gravity.  I was one,
whether he knew it or not, I was one
who will remember, his face above all,
round and warm and bright and true.

Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.
Death is nothing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Simple Truths

Sometimes it's important to come back to the truths that matter.

YOU CAN BE HAPPY IF YOU'VE A MIND TO, DAMMIT.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tony’s last minute Oscar predictions!

Best Picture

12 Years a Slave
Gravity
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Nebraska
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

I would swoon if-
Fruitvale Station, Before Midnight, or Short Term 12 got nominated


Best Actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

I would swoon if-
Oscar Isaac snuck in there for Inside Llewyn Davis


Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench, Philomena
Amy Adams, American Hustle

I would swoon if-
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was included for her lovely work in Enough Said


Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Daniel Bruhl, Rush

I would swoon if-
Tom Hanks got doubly recognized for both Captain Phillips AND Saving Mr. Banks


Best Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

I would swoon if-
Octavia Spencer or Melonie Diaz were nominated for Fruitvale Station


Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Spike Jonze, Her
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

I would swoon if-
Ryan Coogler's impressive debut Fruitvale Station got some Benh Zeitlin Beats of the Southern Wild lovin like last year


Best Original Screenplay

Spike Jonze, Her
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

I would swoon if-
Nicole Holofcener’s romantic yet restrained Enough Said made the cut


Best Adapted Screenplay

John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Tracy Letts, August: Osage County

I would swoon if-
I have little stock in this category this year, so happy with whatevs

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Roundoff Back Handspring into Youngblood's Sloan-Commissions with SILVER


First performed in June 2013 at Youngblood's Bloodworks reading series, now advancing to the National level:

                                       SILVER

                              Tonight! January 7 at 7pm

Inline image 1

After the Beijing Olympics, gymnast Felicia Biancardi refuses to accept her team's second place finish, claiming the gold-winning Chinese athletes lied about their ages. Felicia goes on an obsessive quest to use science to prove the truth and disqualify her opponents, but finds herself up against the limits of what science can prove. A comedy about failure on the world's greatest stage.                    

SILVER 

by Emily Chadick Weiss
directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

starring Nicole Lowrance, Lucy DeVito, Stephanie Wright Thompson, Eugene Oh, Diana Oh, Annie Q, Zhu Yi, Victor Slezak, Leslie Ayvazian and Andrew Garman

The Sloan-commissioned First Light Festival at The Ensemble Studio Theatre

549 W 52nd St between 10th and 11th Ave 6th Fl 
Reserve TICKETS HERE

Let's triple-twist flip into 2014.


More Youngblood in the EST/Sloan First Light Festival:

Old Four Legs by Clare Barron on Jan 13th at 7pm 

Wonks (A Travesty) by Willie Orbison on Jan 14 at 7pm

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 10-1

10. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe


This record took a little while to grow on me, but once it did I couldn't stop listening. It's a smooth, passionate and sexy R&B record that feels quintessentially New York. I recently was listening to it crossing the Queensboro bridge and it felt very fitting watching the lights of Manhattan fade into the warehouses of Queens. 




9. Superchunk - I Hate Music



One of my favorite bands of all time, Superchunk's "I Hate Music" is their second release after reuniting in 2011. The record flawlessly continues their ramshackle pop punk of the 90's, but as Mac McCaughan's voice ages he finds new ways to sneak in beautiful and interesting melodies. Here's two videos, the first a low key acoustic set via NPR, and the second a very funny video for one of the rowdier songs they shot at one of my favorite venues, Shea Stadium.





8. Iceage - You're Nothing




The Danish post/punk, hardcore youths Iceage released "You're Nothing" which quietly surpassed their much buzzed about debut. The songs are short, fast and aggressive but not without the occasional not quite ballad on "Morals", and the not quite pop bounce of "Coalition" and title track "You're Nothing". Perfect for powering through the dirty sidewalk snow in the infinity long stretches of winter.




7. Mikal Cronin - MCII



This year Mikal Cronin was able to step out of his garage rock other half, Ty Segall's shadow with his own great stand out album. Cronin makes breezy, catchy pop rock songs that sound like if Brian Wilson was in his mid 20's and drinking a lot of beer in 2013 basement shows.





6. Perfect Pussy - I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling EP


Perfect Pussy is a band with a ridiculous name, and only four songs available via tape or download, but it's some of the most powerful 13 minutes of music I've heard in a long time. Either the most abrasive pop punk record or most melodic hardcore record of the year, the guitar melody soars over the shouted, cathartic vocals in perfectly compact songs. I recently had a bad falling out with a childhood friend over the phone and afterwards put on the opening track "I." I sunk in my chair absorbing the song's lyrics "I am full of light. I am full of joy. I am full of peace. I had a dream I forgave my enemies."




5. My Bloody Valentine - mbv



I remember the day after My Bloody Valentine's "mbv" was let loose onto the internet 22 years after the band's last historic release, "Loveless". My roommate popped his head in my door and joked that it was as if we were all being sent messages from aliens who wanted us to hear something all at once. It was bizarre to all of a sudden have this highly anticipated (an understatement) release fall into your lap after years of waiting, but it did not disappoint, nor did it surpass it's successors. It simply exists as it's own quivering, hazy, heavy piece of work that's at once soothing and discomforting, two things this band has always mastered together. I was fortunate enough to see them live this fall, and it was easily one of the best live performances I've seen. Their catalog from the early EP's up to this record all blending in seamlessly to make one cohesive load of sound. 



4. Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap



Chicago's Chance the Rapper put out one of the most endearing hip hop album's in recent history with personal accounts of life in the middle of a city segregated vastly in terms of wealth and violence. With a slightly goofy and charming cadence, Chance raps about family, love, and losing friends who didn't have to go. The record is triumphant and heart breaking, "Good Ass Intro" is the ultimate leave work early on Friday anthem while "Lost" is the post breakup, "Why Am I still missing my ex?" nostalgia trip.



3. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City



I was not a Vampire Weekend fan. I wasn't a hater, but I just couldn't listen to their first two records without stopping and putting on something else. So it was much to my surprise when the band released a black and white scenic New York video montage to the song "Step", that I had it on repeat. The record gracefully and calmly explores anxiety in pop songs both quiet and loud. So for someone who would've cringed at the lyrics "such a modest mouse" a year ago, I've come to like and respect Ezra Koenig's word choice as not just tongue in cheek, but also earnest, which are two of my favorite qualities in music. 



2. Deafheaven - Sunbather



Deafheaven did something that most bands of their genre never do. They made a metal album succeed hugely among fans of general indie rock and sparked a conversation about what is metal, what is death metal, shoegaze, etc and does it even matter. As someone who's listened to metal and aggressive music for most of my life I didn't find what Deafheaven did on "Sunbather" to be something revolutionary. There are plenty of hardcore and metal bands that have made soaring, gorgeous music with screaming and blast beats; Deafheaven just did it better, and much better than anyone else. It's a gripping trip going through this record from start to finish, it's like a film score that reaches absurd heights and lows and somehow at the end feels, if somewhat anxiously, at peace.



1. Kanye West - Yeezus



Oh, Yeezus. What more is there to say about you that hasn't already been said? The harsh, metallic beats and production, the graphic sex and black power imagery, the Rising to the Gods. The croissants. Mr. West once again captured the public's imagination all year long with not only this record but it's PR campaign, interviews, having a baby, his famous girlfriend's boobs on a motorcycle, by essentially just being Yeezy. He's right when he says he's not just a rapper, and whether he'll be the next H&M is to be seen, but what's sure is he can make a fucking killer record that's brutal, that's funny, that's sincere, that's mean, that's honest. Every song pummels and boasts, asks- no, tells you to recognize who's not just a king, but a God. I think a telling thing about Kanye is my mother's look of surprise when I told her that not only did I see Kanye live, but that it was one of the most insane, and best productions of anything I'd ever seen. "I hate him, he's so obnoxious," she said. I asked if she'd ever heard his music to which she replied, "No." And that's exactly it, Kanye West isn't a musician as he is the Bad Guy of the 21st Century. Who else could travel arenas on a mountain, who's only onstage guests are 12 sexy disciples, an inexplicable wolf man, and Jesus Christ himself? It's Kanye, but that's all been said before. Though I'm sure he won't mind hearing it again. 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 30-11


Oops, I did it again. I miscounted and you get two number 30's this year.

(See what I did there, with the 'Oops, I did it again?' It's a song.)

30.5 Woe - Withdrawal





30. Action Bronson/Party Supplies - Blue Chips 2





29. The So So Glo's - Blowout





28. Heaven's Gate - Transmuting





27. Andrew Cedermark - Home Life





26. Mouth of the Architect - Dawning





25. Happy Jawbone Family Band - Tastes the Broom/Happy Jawbone Family Band







24. Swearin' - Surfing Strange






23. Majical Cloudz - Impersonator






22. Bill Callahan - Dream River





21. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories





20. Disclosure - Settle





19. Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond







18. Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas





17. The Men - New Moon






16. Chastity Belt - No Regerts




Oops. A tie for number 15...

15. Deerhunter - Monomania





15. Milk Music - Cruise Your Illusion






14. El-P and Killer Mike - Run the Jewels 






13. Touche Amore - Is Survived By





12. Aye Nako -Unleash Yourself






11. Radiator Hospital - Something Wild