If we had to pick one emoticon to describe Kid Congo Powers’ attitude about his own three decades-long career, we’d go with the shruggy guy (i.e.¯\_(ツ)_/¯). He’s surprisingly humble and when he speaks about the past, it’s with what we imagine was the same wide-eyed amazement he had way back when The Cramps asked him to come on board. By some estimations, Kid Congo’s been a part of at least 420 bands over his three decades-long career, including legendary acts like The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and this writer’s personal favorite, The Gun Club, of which Powers was a founding member.
B + B Q + A
While you slept soundly last night, a computer sat in the corner of the Denny Gallery on the Lower East Side, silently uploading the entire contents of Wikipedia onto Lulu.com, a print-on-demand website. The process is estimated to take the next two weeks. Why, you ask? As a “poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data,” reads the press statement from the exhibit “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!”, a performance of the upload of Michael Mandiberg’s Print Wikipedia series. Understood another way, perhaps while passing the dutchie pon the left hand side: like, how big is the Internet, man?
Over the millennia much attention has been paid to the concept of love (a second hand emotion? a stink?), while hate tends to sit, brooding in the corner. Apparently, the line between the two is thin. A wise master once noted, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Beyond this advice for mastering your emotions (and the force), is a call for empathy. Of course, how can one forget the more fatalist flipside: “haters gonna hate.”
In 2011, Kate Bolick touched off a heated debate with her confessional Atlantic article “All the Single Ladies,” which described her experience breaking up with her “loyal, kind” boyfriend of three years, assuming someone new would come along, only to find herself still unattached at 39 and dealing with the stigma and fears that come with singledom. Her first book, Spinster, tells the story of what happened when she embraced being single. It interweaves her personal life with historical context brought to life by five single ladies who were reveling in their independence long before Beyonce wrote the anthem.
So, Faith No More’s comeback album Sol Invictus just debuted at #14 on the Billboard 200 – a hell of an accomplishment for a rock band these days, even if it isn’t quite enough for “album of the year” status (then again, FNM already has an Album of the Year). With the band set to play Madison Square Garden in August, I remembered that sometime around 1998-99, I interviewed frontman Mike Patton for a zine I was trying to put together for the old Knitting Factory, back when it was in Tribeca. The zine didn’t end up happening, so the conversation was never published, but I recently dug up the tape and gave it a listen.
Once upon a time there were things called subcultures, that managed to thrive despite promotion through “social channels” or sponsorships from energy drinks. Since 1980, 156 Rivington Street has been a subculture enclave for activists, artists, counter culturists, and assorted noisemakers, providing a non-profit space to exchange ideas and physically interact. It’s not secret that the hardcore punk scene was once a magnet for such individuals, so when the storied matinee shows at CBGB became too violent in the late-’80s, punk turned off the Bowery to Rivington Street to ABC No Rio.
In a matter of a few years, Jon Fine, formerly of the band Bitch Magnet, went from an indie rock lifer cavorting from Williamsburg warehouse party to coke-soaked dive bar and barely making enough to make rock bottom rent on his train-side apartment to contributing on air to CNBC and writing columns for BusinessWeek. Clearly, those were different days– that same Williamsburg apartment would cost a small fortune to rent now and Fine suffers from permanent hearing loss, though he’s happily married and is the author of a new book Your Band Sucks. Fine’s memoir traces his rise to indie fame as the guitar player for Bitch Magnet to ultimately, what he calls, “the failed revolution.”
You probably remember Awkwafina best from “NYC Bitche$” in which the pint-sized Queens-native (no, she’s not from Flushing) raps, “Bitches be in Bushwick, they all live in Bushwick, they all love Bushwick, but I say fuck that shit,” and wreaks havoc on iPad-wielding bros by the Bedford stop. Her video wasn’t exactly a reaction to Catey Shaw’s notoriously tone-deaf North Brooklyn bubble video, “Brooklyn Girls” (“NYC Bitche$” was actually released before Shaw’s much-maligned video bombed) but it certainly stands as the opposition. But Awkwafina is seeking to further solidify her New York City street cred with a new project.
A couple weeks back I was lucky enough to have lunch with Lydia Lunch, a legendary figure in the New York no wave scene and the hurricane-like force behind Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, queen of spoken word, and now a multi-faceted visual artist who remains inextricably tied to the downtown scene of the late 1970s and ’80s despite having left New York City in the dust a long time ago. Understandably, Lunch’s feelings about the city have changed somewhat over the years. “I hate fuckin’ New York,” she told me. “It’s dirty and you’re paying five times too much for every fuckin’ thing. I don’t understand how it can be so expensive and still suck in so many ways. The quality of the food, the subways– I’d rather walk. Rats, disgusting.”
I hate to say it, but I can sort of imagine Natasha Vaynblat, when she was Ms. Vaynblat, coming off at first as the teacher who could be walked all over. She’s nice, cute, and says things like “oh my gosh” with complete sincerity, but her unassuming nature belies her comic demeanor. During her four years as a teacher (she left the job in 2013, for comedy), Natasha loved to prank her students. In “United Federation of Teachers,” her first one-woman show at UCB Chelsea, the audience gets to see both her victories over troublemakers and her hilarious miscalculations, all of which remind me of the myriad reasons why I’ll never willingly put myself in charge of children. B+B spoke with her over the phone about her experiences and her new show.
John Eatherly has been doing the music thing for a while, having dropped out of high school at 17 to pursue music. “I’ve played in a lot of different bands over the years,” he explained. But Public Access TV seems to be his most focused effort to date. The band has just dropped their first proper release in the United States, Public Access EP on Terrible Records, and Eatherly’s not just songwriting, he’s also spotlighted as the lead vocals and guitars. The fact that Public Access TV really sees Eatherly coming into his own probably has something to do with the fact that he’s supremely close with all the other band members. In fact, three of four members (all except for the drummer) lived together in an East Village apartment. New York’s always been somewhat tough, Eatherly admits, but when their apartment burned down in the East Village fire last month, he realized things could always be harder.