Avant-garde jazz pianist and composer Cecil Taylor died at his Brooklyn home Thursday evening. He was 89. A polarizing figure during the jazz heyday of the 50s and 60s due to his frenzied and untraditional playing style, Taylor helped to pioneer the free jazz genre along with Ornette Coleman. His avant-garde style has influenced countless musicians and left an indelible mark on the jazz as a whole.
In the past year, numerous men in the entertainment industry and beyond have come under fire for their sexually abusive behavior. In attempts to save face or mitigate their impending PR crises, many of the accused have issued public apologies for their wrongdoings. Lauren Maul, a New York-based comedian and performer, was struck by the tone of the mea culpas, which range from ridiculous to horribly misguided. Inspired to create an album of musical interpretations of these statements, Maul constructed songs around the public apologies issued by men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. With accompanying music videos for the catchy songs featuring the apologizers as singing paper dolls, Maul hopes to bring a little bit of levity to what has otherwise been a sobering time.
Maul’s album “Apologies for Men” is now available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and more, with 100% of the proceeds going to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The album features the apologies of Weinstein, Spacey, Louis CK, Matt Lauer and others, with a special instrumental piece for the men who’ve been accused but haven’t yet apologized. Check out her video of Weinstein’s apology, fittingly called “The Culture Then,” below our conversation.
I’ve seen some of your videos, from your Apologies from Men album, and they’re very DIY. They’re hands on, obviously, but they’re also really unique in their approach to this pretty serious subject matter. Why did you choose to make an album and videos with singing paper dolls? Did you immediately know that was something you wanted to do when you heard about these allegations and subsequent apologies?
When I was reading the Louis C.K. apology, I was like, “Ugh, this is so gross. But it’s also good that it’s coming out.” So then, I decided– I was at a concert– that I wanted to do a concert like this. Like a fun concert, with my friends onstage, singing and playing music. And I wanted to do it to this Louis C.K. apology. And then all of these other apologies came out, and I was like, “Oh, my god, it has to be a whole album. What did I get myself into?”
And then when it came to videos, I had just come off of making a web series [Amazon Reviews: The Musical!] that took a lot of people and a lot of crew, and just a lot of scheduling work, and it was just something I didn’t want to do again for a while. And so I decided I’d just make [the videos] all by myself in my office, and have them be paper dolls. So I can make them do basically whatever I want. And I thought it was fun to actually belittle these men, because they had so much power that they abused and took advantage of so many people. It was just a fun way for me to turn the tables. And I just wanted the men to really be the butt of the joke. I never want the survivors to feel like I’m making fun of them, I don’t take jokes about assault or rape lightly. People– like comedians and artists– have a big responsibility, that if you are going to talk about rape culture, you’d better do it in a non-triggering way. Because I don’t want to cause them any more pain. They’ve been through enough.
Yeah. I love that art is like the mirror you hold up to society– and comedy is the funhouse mirror that you hold up. It’s just that if you’re able to talk about it and laugh about it, then you can learn from it and heal. And also, it helps people talk about rape culture. For instance, my mom showed my grandma the Matt Lauer [apology] video. It’s like, would they even be talking about sexual harassment [otherwise]?
I’m assuming that’s kind of what you’re hoping people can take away from your videos, right? This idea of entering into a conversation about sexual assault, because it’s being portrayed in a different light than what we’ve seen in the media previously. Is there anything else you’re hoping people will take away from your approach to this?
Yeah, I just wanted it to be very accessible. And that’s why I did it very handmade, to show that you can also do this at home, too. It’s not rocket science. I want people to feel like they can make their own art in response to difficult situations. And also I want this project to sprinkle a little joy in an area where there was formerly no joy.
The album and the videos definitely take a pretty unorthodox approach to all of this. What would you say to someone who– maybe they’re a sexual assault victim, maybe they’re not– thinks that maybe this isn’t the right avenue for comedy? That maybe these crimes are so heinous that they shouldn’t be treated in such a lighthearted way?
I would just say that, first of all, I never want to offend someone who is a survivor. I would never make them the butt of the joke. So far, the only people who have been offended are like, straight white dudes. And that’s fine. If I’m offending them– they’re not my target demographic. I would say that’s the role of comedy– to turn shit into glitter. And I’m trying to do a service by turning a terrible situation into something that we can talk about, and even laugh about, but laugh at these men. Because they did something wrong. But yeah, it is touchy. And that’s why I try to be very thoughtful with what I do. Of course I can’t not offend everybody, but there’s this great Ricky Nelson song that’s like, “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.”
Well, one of the apologies that I did not include was the Olympics doctor [Larry Nassar], just because the magnitude and the sheer number of children he assaulted. Maybe someday someone will be able to make a funny musical about what a creep he was. But right now, his victims are still kids. And so, it’s like, I can’t– someone else may be able to go there, but I personally could not. It’s like, oh boy, this is too much. And plus, I have to really dig in to write these songs– I have to read the apology a lot, and do a lot of research on these men. And they all gross me out. But some of them, I’m just like– nope, can’t even touch, don’t want to go there. Too gross, too scary.
Thank you! It’s so funny how he just goes off the rails [in his apology]. Like, it makes no sense at the end. Each time, with each video I edited, I’d get to a point where I was like, “Yeah, this is done,” but with the Harvey one there was never a point where I was like “This is done,” because it was just always like, “This is too weird. Is it done? I think it’s done enough.” It’s just so off the rails.
The fun part was making his little childhood bedroom. Because [for the video] I just pictured him moving back into his childhood bedroom after all this– his wife left him, he’s just moving back. And I put these posters of infamous creeps on his wall– like Phil Specter, O.J., Jimmy Page. Like, yikes! So it’s kind of like, here’s his heroes. And here’s how well that worked out for him.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Valentine’s Day with SSION
Wednesday, February 14 at Secret Project Robot, 8 pm: $15
If you somehow haven’t made Valentine’s Day plans yet (and yes, I count staying home and groveling as ‘plans’), consider attending this sensorial sensation of a show at Secret Project Robot tonight. In addition to serving as home for the high-energy SSION’s first Brooklyn performance, you can also expect a hefty spritz of performance art, installations, and even perfume. The multi-talented Ziemba will not only be performing some new “boudoir songs” from her soon-to-be-released album ARDIS (which, might I say, doubles as a “feminist sci-fi fragrant musical”), she has also created a new fragrance specifically for tonight. On top of all that, Ziemba and SSION will be joined by performance art vixens Caitlin Baucom and Pauli Cakes, and they’ll be doing their thing in an installation created by Monica Mirabile that was once likened to a “modern Brooklyn dollhouse.” Plus, if you wear Valentine’s colors, you could score a free beverage. So, open your heart (and your nose) and get to SPR. Keep Reading »
Cinephiles have plenty of excuses to spend the summer in city parks, starting with Films On The Green and Movies Under The Stars. But if you’ve sworn off going to the movies in favor of #Netflixandchill, there are plenty of other excuses to enjoy our public greenery, starting with the following free events dedicated to The Artist and The Bard.
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!”
Four Shows: Syrian Wedding Singer’s Wartime Serenades, Punk is (Sorta) Dead, and Cat Power (No, Really)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s true that one of the saddest sights in the world is a lifeless party struck down by under-attendance. We’ve all been there, at some point, and the sorry scene is always the same: a mostly empty room forms into a joy-sucking vacuum, where laughter feels forced and boozing looks like desperate denial. But nightlife veterans know that parties too big for their britches can be just as bad, and that even great parties will start losing their collective spirit as more and more people pack it in.
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Tournament, Big Huge, Barbed Wire, Dealer
Saturday April 15, 8 pm at The Glove: $10
Grow a pair (or a pear?) and show your face at this pair of shows featuring some unfamiliar faces and others you know well. But don’t expect some double-mint/doppelgänger situation either, as these shows are mirror images of one another in a variety of ways.