Do you know Miss Astrid? The question is the Downtown equivalent to the Williamsburg litmus test query, “Remember Cokie’s?” Your answer speaks volumes about how long you’ve been around and how much realness you’ve gotten yourself into. Miss Astrid, née Kate Valentine, was a member of the LA burlesque troupe The Velvet Hammer, one of the major groups often cited as the edge of the knife in the burlesque revival of the 1990s (along with New York’s Billie Madley and Dutch Weismann’s Follies). With her own vaudeville review, The Va Va Voom Room (“Best Burlesque Show in NYC – New York magazine”) Astrid rocked such bygone venues as Fez under the Time Cafe, Show World, and The Zipper Factory.
Posts by Bradley Spinelli:
Joseph Scapellato, author of the deft story collection Big Lonesome, brings his debut novel, The Made-Up Man, to McNally Jackson’s new Williamsburg outpost—which has been a long time coming. Scapellato’s genre mashup, which the marketing language calls an “existential noir,” concerns a young American who jaunts off to Prague to take part in his uncle’s performance art project, which promises to turn dangerous. NPR’s Gabino Iglesias calls it “a bacon-topped doughnut—a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together.”
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago by way of an MFA in New Mexico, Scapellato teaches at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—read: far enough away, just close enough—though he’s engrossed in the NY scene enough to contribute to both Electric Literature and the Brooklyn Rail. Scapellato presents his work in conversation with another Joe, Joseph Salvatore, who’s well known as the Books Editor at The Brooklyn Rail and the founding editor of the literary journal LIT.
Scapellato admitted to us via email that he’s never been to Williamsburg before, making his lack of nostalgia envious.
Still too punk rock to hang it up, Chris Stein of Blondie fame has a new book out, Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene, and will speak with Blondie frontwoman (and legendary badass) Debbie Harry tomorrow at SVA.
Leslie Zemeckis, the author of Feuding Fan Dancers: Faith Bacon, Sally Rand, and the Golden Age of the Showgirl, which drops next week, is well-known in the burlesque world for her previous book on the life of Lili St. Cyr, and the book that started it all for her: Behind the Burly Q, which was also made into a documentary.
She followed that film with this year’s Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer, about Mabel Stark, a Jazz Age badass who—no spoiler—trained tigers. (And yes, since you’re going to ask, Leslie is married to another well-known Zemeckis.)
In March, at the altruistic Bed-Stuy venue C’mon Everybody, the band Sons of an Illustrious Father delivered a blistering set for a rapt audience. It was the smallest venue I’d seen them in, after three shows at 2016’s SXSW and another last summer at the Knitting Factory. Their sets swerve enjoyably between savage and tender, and this intimate look stood out as a milestone. Their multi-instrumentalism was on display and working better than ever, the band’s affable personalities and unique chemistry shone through.The fans seemed steadfast and loyal—and not just because of the inevitable fanboys/girls who stick around after the show hoping to meet Ezra Miller, also an actor best known for his turn as Flash in Justice League.
Their new record, Deus Sex Machina, or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla, dropped June 1, along with new videos and a cross-country tour to promote it, including a 16-and-up show at Elsewhere on Tuesday. The slew of new interviews prompted me to continue our backstage-at-Stubb’s conversation by asking them what THEY wanted to talk about. Josh Aubin said it was “something we’ve never been asked in an interview”; Lilah Larson quipped, “Nobody cares what we want to talk about”; Ezra Miller said, “It’s honestly overwhelming,” and asked for some parameters. The following 45 minutes included a lot of laughter and encouraged Miller to say, “I can’t wait for whatever the piece [is] that comes out of this, where you’re like—I had an entire conversation with [the band] that is off the record, that I can’t tell you anything that they said—but it was all mildly amusing.” Here are some excerpts we can print; the debate about the most famous Star Wars line has been redacted for common decency.
If you’re already gearing up for the Mermaid Parade, you might feel the rush of sweat and glamour pouring back into town from one of the biggest glitter gatherings of the year: The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas. Bringing home more than a yearning to eat a vegetable this year is the local performing group Boys’ Night, who won the pageant’s award for Best Large Group. I caught up with the boys via email while they were still dazed (and likely oxygen-starved—the secondhand smoke at the Orleans Casino is notorious) from the win and the weekend. More →
We know that Kat Cunning has a recurring role coming up on HBO—and we know what the show is—but we’re not allowed to tell you.
Last month, at the swanky, faux rich-person’s-living-room venue the Norwood Arts Club, Cunning hosted a private showcase for a rapt (and packed) crowd. Cunning’s voice is eerily specific, and with the moody, slow-danceable music, Ellie Goulding would be a quick comparison (and not a terrible one), but one could easily see her giving Katharine Whalen of the Squirrel Nut Zippers a run for her money, or sitting in with The Hot Sardines and trading licks with Elizabeth Bougerol. It’s that shift from ’20s-style back-of-the-throat to searing, modern hook head voice that keeps you on your toes and gives her music a moving, cabaret feel that feels a few carats richer than average pop. More →
While binging on the new season of I’m Dying up Here, catching up on The Deuce, or even streaming A Futile and Stupid Gesture, it’s pretty easy to conclude that the ‘70s were awesome and now, “everything is the worst” (©Liz Lemon). In the ‘70s, a zine could matter, people read comics that weren’t also billion-dollar movies, and it was still kind of rebel to listen to The Ramones. And smoke weed. John Holmstrom, founder of legendary Punk magazine, is bringing all of that back—ok, maybe not The Ramones—by dropping a new zine.
It’s hard to imagine now how groundbreaking Radiohead’s Kid A was. I’d seen Radiohead in a small Dallas club when “Creep” was hot, and ran to see them all-grows-up at MSG in 2001—but equally jaw-dropping was the opening act, Kid Koala. For music dorks-slash-turntable geeks, Kid Koala executed skillz that were technically mindblowing, while playing actual music that was swoonable for audience members who weren’t hawk-watching the camera trained on his decks.