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Attention Indie Film Fans: One Week to the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival

The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival

Picture courtesy of AoBFF17.

Here’s some good news for New York’s numerous indie film fans – the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival is only a week away.

Running June 3 to 12, the festival (acronym, for extra credit: AoBFF17) describes itself as “the ONLY international, independent festival in the world devoted to Brooklyn’s vibrant film and media scene,” and considers films with any connection to the borough.

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Great Comet‘s Dave Malloy On Epic Choral Songs, Hamilton, and Showing Tunes to a New Generation

(photo: Chad Batka)

Nowdays, the commercial and insular shell that is Broadway is feeling a little less untouchable. Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is a major catalyst behind this shake-up, but the latest to breathe new life into the Great White Way has been Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, an “electro-pop opera” based on a drama-laden portion of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

The immersive show began at Ars Nova in 2012 and has gone through many iterations, including a funky stint in a pop-up tent in the Meatpacking District. Now, it’s landed at Broadway’s Imperial Theater, which has been totally restructured to accommodate the show’s 360-degree, immersive staging. Directed by Rachel Chavkin, it remains one of the most authentic transfers of a smaller, more experimental production to a Broadway stage I have observed.

I have seen every NYC production of this show now, and always maintained it was too odd and unique to ascend to the oh-so commercial realm of Broadway. Turns out I was absolutely wrong, and audiences and critics alike are gobbling it up with a voracious enthusiasm. (Singer Josh Groban is now in a starring role.) There is even fanart of the characters, so you know it’s real. The 12 Tony nominations don’t hurt, either.

Great Comet‘s original Broadway cast recording will be released tomorrow and is now available for first listen over at Vulture. We caught up with the show’s writer and composer Dave Malloy, fresh off his Broadway debut temporarily stepping back into the role of Pierre, to talk how the Broadway transfer has affected the show’s music and even got him a little closer to Bowie. Keep Reading »

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Week in Shows: Sacred Bones Turns 10, The Future Is Odwalla 1221, and More

(Flyer via AdHoc)

Odwalla 1221, SADAF, Chicklet, Half Pet
Friday May 19, 8 pm at Alphaville: $10

There’s this weird feature on Soundcloud, ostensibly an interactive one, that allows users to leave a “comment” by clicking anywhere on the wavelength as the song progresses. It seems kind of pointless until you come across a remark like the one left on an Odwalla1221 song that reads: “The world isn’t ready for your genius abilities!”

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Light-Soaked Galleries, Meditative Street Ads, and More Art Exhibitions

(image via Foley Gallery)

Subtext II: Meditations
Opening Wednesday, May 17 at Foley Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through June 25.

I would remark on the humor inherent in exhibiting artist Wyatt Gallery’s name, who is indeed showing artwork in a gallery, but it seems he’s already got that covered. As soon as you visit his website, the very large and very green phrase “a person, not a place” is followed, literally, by a trademark symbol. So, guys… he gets it.

For this show, Gallery is displaying a series of works using foundational material quite truly ripped off of the city streets, in that they are portions of the endlessly-stacked-and-glued mountains that are NYC street advertising and flyering. He transformed these found object compilations into “UV cured photographic plates,” making them even more abstract in the process. Interestingly, Gallery sees these dirty, aged poster creations as relevant to his practice of mindfulness and meditation. So next time you’re saddled with a 20-minute train wait, maybe you should try deep breathing while staring at the many advertisements on the walls. Perhaps inner peace will crawl out from in between the pages.

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Week in Film: Dinosaurus!, a Highly Accurate Prehistoric Epic, Stalker Returns

Combat Cops
Thursday May 11, 9:30 pm at Nitehawk: $12

Perhaps you’ve heard of The Deuce Jockeys, the resident VJs at Nitehawk whose film series has a very specific mission: “Excavating the facts and fantasies of cinema’s most notorious block; 42 Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.” If you’re wondering, that’s the Port Authority Bus Terminal, once the epicenter of violence in Fear City. Around 1970, the Times described the place as a sort of terrifying, tortuous God’s waiting room– another circle of Hades that Dante himself would have considered just a bit too far even for tax evaders. Its occupants went one of two ways: “Some are waiting for buses. Others are waiting for death.”

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How the Bombay Beach Biennale Brought Art to a Toxic Wasteland

James Ostrer (seated) with Joseph Walsh of the San Francisco Ballet at Bombay Beach Biennale 2017. (Photo courtesy of Bombay Beach Biennale)

Just a few hours south of Los Angeles there’s a tiny desert town called Bombay Beach– though its geographically close at hand to many millions of people, it might as well be another world.

One of several beachside settlements on the shores of the Salton Sea, the town was once a booming resort spot popular during the prosperous post-War years when more than a million vacationers traveled there annually. But the sea– actually a sprawling, shallow lake– and the dusty desert expanse around it, have since lost their appeal, slipped out of range, and essentially vanished from the minds of many Southern California residents. “I’d never heard of it,” filmmaker and LA native Tao Ruspoli explained in a recent interview.

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Four Shows: Syrian Wedding Singer’s Wartime Serenades, Punk is (Sorta) Dead, and Cat Power (No, Really)

(Image via TicketWeb/ Facebook)

Vulture Fest: Cat Power, Frankie Cosmos
Saturday May 20, 7 pm at Webster Hall: $40 to $45

This one’s at the top of our list because, well, Cat Power.

Lucky for you, Vulture Festival managed to do the impossible and book a last-minute gig with the ever elusive, certifiably brilliant Chan Marshall– which is just kind of how things go with her. In case you have lost track: she hasn’t appeared on stage in five years.

It kinda goes without saying, but Marshall has had a stellar career releasing albums as Cat Power. Our sister site, Vulture, writes that “Marshall is still one of our most vital songwriters, and each time she gets onstage is a unique, unexpected, and moving experience.”

But, for a time at least, she was notorious for lashing out at the audience (often justifiably– sorry, not sorry), walking off in the middle of her set, and generally having what the music media machine love to characterize as “breakdowns.” Mind you, the term seems to be reserved especially for women artists when they get particularly emotional, or even just confrontational on stage. (I guess rock star dude bros can have “breakdowns” too, but they usually involve rehab, or perhaps a reality TV show that documents a clinical inability to remove one’s headscarf.) When musicians of the male variety have tizzies on stage we just call it “shredding” or “Kanye.”

Cat Power’s last official tour–to promote Sun, which dropped way back in 2012–was predictably bumpy. Still, if it was easy to frame the drama as a result of “instability” or as a sign of burnout, it was impossible to square her recorded music with such a narrative. Pitchfork pointed out that Sun– Cat Power’s first to “feature synthesizers, Auto-Tune, and Iggy Pop” released nearly two decades after her debut– was the work of an artist at her creative peak, and “[existed] completely and defiantly outside of any larger musical trends.” What’s more, it was Marshall’s mercurial sensibilities that made Sun so magnetic and addictive in the first place.

So why would we expect anything other than an emotional hurricane from Cat Power’s live performances? (Personally, I’m gonna stick this one in the ol’ virgin/slut file, along with all the other contradictory roles we expect women to fulfill simultaneously.)

Let’s be clear: Marshall is older and wiser now, and it’s been years since she has relied on her potent stage juice (Xanax, cigarettes, and “a minibar’s worth of Jack Daniel’s, Glenlivet and Crown Royal”) to get things going. But (while we hope to see a full set from her) we fully encourage her to let it all out– and if that means starting a fire and burning the whole stage down with her, then we trust that she knows what she’s doing.


(Flyer via Trans-Pecos/Facebook)

Weed, Bugg, RIPS, Silk Sign
Friday May 12, 8 pm at Trans-Pecos: $8 in advance, $10 at the door

If you’re a cynical jerk like me, then you might also be immediately suspicious of a band named Weed (in town from Vancouver, BC)–  like, if Urban Outfitters had the keys to the record label castle and were given full reign to manufacture some Frankenstein-like on-brand band, it would most certainly be called “Weed.” I can see it now, an album cover adorned with pizza slices, alien faces, ying-yangs, and of course pot leaves, all sloppy-like as if sketched by a fifth grader hopped up on Hi-Chew and Mountain-Dew Slurpees. This “band” would sound like an aughts-does-the-’90s version of Sum-41 and would play shows at the (now-defunct) rooftop restaurant at the UO “concept store” in Williamsburg. In short, total barf fest.

Thankfully, Weed are not at all as I feared them to be. Instead they embody ganja in its realest, unmarketable form– as skater fuel, spiritual inspiration, and the stuff you ingest to make you slow down and, like, wonder about the universe for a moment. Sonically, that translates as sorta shoegazey (but not in any serious sense) stoner rock with a whole lotta reverb.


(Flyer via Silent Barn/ Facebook)

Street Eaters, HVAC, Boys Online, Salty
Tuesday May 9, 8 pm at The Silent Barn: $8

You know that rumor that’s been going around for a while now? Something about how “punk is dead.” Come to think of it, seems like this has kinda always been the case. Prepare to have your mind blown, but consider the possibility that maybe this debate has been on the table since the dawn of friggin’ time. Hear me out: clearly “punk”–as a state of mind–existed long before The Velvet Underground and The Stooges and all that, even since the dawn of time. Shakespeare was kind of a punk (in fact, he was waaaay ahead of the curve when he used the term way back in 1602). And Sappho, well she was about as punk as anyone could hope to be when she was writing poetry circa 570 BC.

Given that punk (ideally, anyway) is youthful, rebellious, and against the status-quo, it’s only natural that questions about its continuing relevance are about as common as punk manifestos. It’s hard to admit, but in a lot of ways– looking around the NYC scene especially– punk, when considering its most visible forms and “successful” bands (lol whatever that means), still suffers from hyper-masculine, misogynist tendencies. Yes, still. Which, needless to say, has not only gotten old, but has been old– like, forever.

You might think that’s sort of sad, since right now especially (given the awfully depressing circumstances of our most horrifying present) we should all be going to more punk shows. It is, if you’re going to the same old shows, headlined by the same old bands. But there’s an easy fix: support the bands that are not zombie relics of another era– bands that include women, queer and trans musicians, people of color, Muslims, Jews, everyone, everyone. If you even need reason, you will be rewarded not only with a fresh-feeling scene, but excellent sounds that remind you why you started listening to punk in the first place.




(Flyer via World Music Institute)

Omar Souleyman
Thursday May 11, 7 pm at Le Poisson Rouge: $30

The war in Syria has gone on for so long that many of us here in the West have grown numb to it– which might sound callous, but it’s difficult to avoid mainly because the narrative has been dominated by chaotic battlefield reports and gruesome images of the violence inflicted by Assad on his own people, including children and civilians in general. The only way to avoid going completely insane over such horror is to keep a safe distance.

But this can’t go on forever– and slowly, we’re starting to receive dispatches that are more human: personal accounts by the people who have actually been there. Art is an especially useful way to reach people, and more importantly move them.

Enter Omar Souleyman, an unlikely rock star who “began his career as a prolific wedding singer” in Syria, “releasing nearly 500 live albums before civil war broke out” in 2011. His life, like many more, was upended in profound ways, but he continued making music even after leaving his home in Al-Jazira (a region in Syria’s northwest) for Turkey, which took on a whole new depth. Now, the West is listening to Souleyman, whose sounds and heartfelt lyrics give listeners no choice but to reckon with reality.

On To Syria, With Love, the album Omar will release on June 2, he sings: “It’s been six years I’ve been away, and I’m tired of looking for home and asking about my loved ones. My soul is wounded and it’s like having dust in my eyes. We are in exile, and our nights are long. Our homeland is our only comfort. Life caused us so much pain—our wounds are too many and every wound calls out, ‘We miss Al-Jazira.’”

Correction: The original version of this post was revised to correct the release date of “To Syria, With Love.”

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Week in Film: ‘Supernatural Comedy,’ Women Rule the World, and More


The Lost City Of Z

Now through Thursday May 11 at Sunshine Cinema: $14

I haven’t seen The Lost City of Z just yet, but what I can tell you is that the film takes place in 1925, a tumultuous time in the Western world when it looked like the sun might very well start to set on the British Empire. In fact, imperial order was starting to collapse around the globe, and would eventually be replaced by a new bipolar world order– divvied up into two supposedly opposite political instincts, nationalism and socialism. (If that sounds like a super mysterious process, that’s because it is. There are tons of fascinating theories about how and why this happened, and about WTF nationalism even is, man– none of which I will go into here.) So even though a bunch of landowning white men still ruled the day at this point, they were probably feeling a little insecure about their privileged position, which they justified by an unshakeable belief in white supremacy and fashionable pseudoscientific ideas/total BS concepts of the time. I mean, now we know that terms like “imperial expansion” and “colonization” are just fancy ways to talk about pirate stuff (e.g., raping, pillaging). Oh, and racism too.

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Week in Shows: Punks Do Good, a Magick Music Sleepover, and Moon Child Casserole

(Flyer via Saint Vitus Bar/ Facebook)

Hank Wood & the Hammer Heads, La Misma, Mommy, Conspiracy, Shimmer, Fur Helmet
Friday May 5, 8 pm at Saint Vitus: $15

This lineup reads like a who’s-doo of Toxic State records. Arriving straight from the “institutional abyss” is Mommy. Then you have the Portuguese spittlin’ piss punks of La Misma, and scene stalwarts like Fur Helmet and Conspiracy. I mean, Saint Vitus has been called “one of the best-booked bars in New York”– even so, you’re rarely gonna find so many excellent punk/hardcore bands in one place outside of a funeral or, like, a festival (shudder).

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Week in Shows: Dance Party in an Rx Drug Den, Females Keep Screaming, and More

(Flyer via Future Punx/ Facebook)

Screaming Females, Future Punx, Snakeskin 
Thursday April 27, 8 pm at Brooklyn Bazaar: $15

There’s never not a good time to see Bushwick’s own sci-fi synth-punk sensations, Future Punx, in action, but this particular show has a lineup that’s especially motivating– the headliners Screaming Females are almost guaranteed to get your friends off the ashy bean bag. It’s definitely been a while since these DIY vets released a new album (2015’s Rose Mountain was their last) but in the grand scheme of things, they’re doing pretty dang ok. (I mean, Rose Mountain was universally beloved for one, and as long as the Females aren’t moving into early retirement right after one last go at the ol’ stinky-foot tour route, I’m willing to guess that they are (still) in it for the long haul.

Actually (in my book, anyway) it’s much more reassuring to see a band touring outside of the music industrial complex’s oppressive and ultimately really just kind of boring and predictable record-promote-release-tour model– it’s indication that said band might be motivated by things other than career/success/ladies/money/401Ks. Though you need only see the Females live to know that they’re passionate about what they do.

(Flyer via Babycastles)

Meat Market: Vas Deferens, Coatie Pop, Nandi Loaf, Pity Laugh, Little Pain
Friday April 28,  8 pm to 11 pm at Pfizer (630 Flushing Avenue):$5 to $10, suggested donation

Ok, so the number one reason to get to Meat Market this weekend is that the title will automatically put everyone in a really gelatinous, tubular sort of mood– in short, loose. Which, duh, means great dancing. Secondly, the Pzifer building– if you’ve never been– is a massive, labyrinthian chip off the ol’ drug-manufacturing block, replete with medical, pill-pressing relics of yore, yes, but also the kind of double-wide elevators, expansive factory-sized corridors, and wide open spaces that come with the post-industrial territory. All of which make this a perfectly awesome place to throw a weird dance party.

Oh, yeah, the music (brought to you by the Babycastles crew), should be sufficiently out-there as well. For one, there’s Coatie Pop, who is a regular Mother Teresa. mean, I can only assume she’s charitable and worthy of sainthood because she dresses up like a nun and lights a bunch of mass candles for her performances. (Seriously, though, it’s cool looking.)

Even if you’re like me and otherwise haven’t really heard of anyone on this lineup, you can trust it’s gonna be sufficiently freaky since the show is happening in conjunction with E /\/ C O U/\/ T E R S, a performance-based art show curated by Vera Petukhova with some fabulous contributing artists including Angelina Dreem.

(Image via AdHoc)

Laser Background, Operator Music Band, Norwegian Arms, Railings
Friday April 28, 8 pm at Trans-Pecos: $10

Andy Molholt recently dropped a new album under the guise of his psych-pop project Laser Background, and it’s called Dark Nuclear Bogs, which to be honest is kind of perfect for our uncertain, heavily-armed present. If you’re pretty sure that SALT I and SALT II is the kind of stuff you load into novelty porcelain shakers, then all I have to say is, wow we are doomed.

If such dark pronouncements for the future make you restless, then perhaps you’d prefer to think about the (tiny) possibility of a Utopian outcome for our difficult species. We’ve got just the sound for that– but first we have a few questions: If you’re either a) completely unsatisfied with the breadth of Kraftwerk’s extensive catalogue or b) convinced that Kraftwerk is a new kind of vitamin B- and taurine-fortified processed cheese product from Kraft (“It Runs! It Jumps! The Only Thing It Doesn’t Do Is Melt!”) then Operator Music Band is for you.

 

(Flyer via Facebook)

TechnoFeminism
Saturday April 29, 10 pm to 4 am at OMG Pizza: free before midnight

Apparently you really can throw a rave at a pizza joint. Who knew? As long as you can stomach the smell of food whilst dancing/candy flipping, and are not prone to terrifying, mastication-induced hallucinations when you’re high as hell on water, then we fully encourage your attendance.

As you might have deduced from the name, TechnoFeminism boasts a “female” (in any way that might be expressed)-centric lineup, which is actually saying a lot for the hyper-masculine, DJ Man Man world of techno and electronic music. I mean, when was the last time that you went to a rave/dance party/what-have-you that was all, or even mostly, headlined by women, female-identifying musicians, and/ or even outspoken feminists? Yeah, we thought so.

 

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Watch Some LA Underground Heavies Premiere a New Music Video Shot By Richard Kern

(Flyer via Collapsing Scenery)

The electro post-rock band Collapsing Scenery has been hailed as “the voice of LA’s new underground,” so it only makes sense that their tripped-out, abstract videos are essential to their music. Cool, but doesn’t every synth-dominated band these days sorta need visuals to make what is by and large a cold-blooded genre cluster feel even remotely emotive? And what’s so special about swiping a bunch of “found footage” from YouTube, throwing on a glitchy distortion filter, and calling it a “short film”? If you answered “yes” and “nothing,” in that order, then you’re exactly right– only, not about Collapsing Scenery.

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Week in Music: Shine on You Crazy Wolf Bands, Dance Party for Human Furniture, and More

(Flyer via Ad Hoc/ Facebook)

Wolf Eyes, Eartheater, Twig Harper
Saturday April 22, 8 pm at Brooklyn Bazaar: $13

Wow, what a whirlwind couple of years these must have been for Wolf Eyes– and this #blessed bestowance is well deserved for the band, which started out making noise, then moved toward not-noise-at-all noise that really was noise, until they transcended noise altogether. The comeuppance has meant, among other things, a new record label to call their own, a music festival in their honor (Trip Metal Fest will be back this year for a second go-round), a stream of sold-out shows in places that are just slightly above the underground and well beyond the borders of Metro Detroit, and now Undertow, a new album hot on the pup paws of 2015’s I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces. 

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