What to do in Philly this week.
In case you ever find yourself on Cash Cab and the host asks, “Who was the guy at the back of the stage playing guitar, bass and keyboards on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2006 through 2007 world tour,” or “What former touring member of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs contributed songs to the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack,” or “What musician did Lou Barlow recruit to play guitar in the New Folk Implosion,” or “What relatively obscure Canadian-born singer and multi-instrumentalist has released three fantastic albums of mystical folk, ghostly ragas and searing acid-rock, his most recent being 2009’s The Voidist,” the answer is Imaad Wasif. You’re welcome! -Michael Alan Goldberg
Cupcake Eating Contest
Just when we thought the Philly cupcake trend had finally reached its peak, something new, different and kind of gross came along. To celebrate their fourth birthday, Flying Monkey, one of our first cupcake-exclusive bakeries, hosts a cupcake-eating competition. Think Wing Bowl but without the side of celery. Contestants have already been selected—based on previous competitive-eating experience and creative cupcake-inspired naming—but spectators are invited to watch these brave souls gorge themselves on baked goods at Flying Monkey’s stand in Reading Terminal. The winner will receive one cupcake a day for the next year as well as bragging rights. (Take that, El Wingador.) Just like nothing says “Happy New Year” like watching strangers regurgitate chicken wings, nothing says “Happy Birthday” like seeing cupcakes in reverse. -Erica Palan
California-bred Christian rapper Pigeon John has been quiet since his Summertime Pool Party, the 2006 Quannum release meant to bring him to wider fame. Coming at the back end of the back- pack rapper phase, the album fitted smart, positive messages to laid-back grooves—and, with a nod toward a college-kid audience, referenced alternative rock bands like R.E.M. and the Pixies. These days, Pigeon John is still making eclectic connections. His latest project, Rootbeer with Flynn Adam, is said (on his website) to resemble “MGMT injected with some N.E.R.D. and A Tribe Called Quest.” -Jennifer Kelly
Demon Possession and Exorcism: Medical Explanations
From the ancient Sumerians to Regan MacNeil, demonic possessions and the exorcisms used to combat them have been reported in almost every part of the world by adherents of many religions. Historians, anthropologists and theologians have proposed their own explanations, but are possessions better explained by doctors? Are “demons” really just part of a multiple-personality disorder and exorcisms the placebo effect in action? Medical science has shed its light on many matters of faith and folklore, from zombies to stigmata, over the centuries and medicine and possession have crossed paths before. In her lecture, author Kathleen Sands (Demon Possession in Elizabethan England and An Elizabethan Lawyer’s Possession by the Devil) explores the medical history of possession and exorcism and discusses physicians’ explanations for the demons that have haunted people across centuries and continents and the rituals that have driven them out. -Matt Soniak
6:30pm. Free. College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22nd St. 215.563.3737. collphyphil.org
GLBT Rights and Challenges in Africa
Although a product of Philadelphia, the Equality Forum—the largest GLBT civil-rights summit on the planet—is global in scope: Past panels have discussed queer communities struggling in such locales as Russia, China and the Muslim world. This year, the focus is on Africa, where an increasingly vocal gay community has faced mounting homophobic vitriol. Uganda remains the most notorious offender, with a draft law recommending the death penalty for some homosexuals and seven years in prison for even the landlords who house them. Americans are not exempt from the dialogue, though, as Uganda’s draconian proposals are linked to recent visits by influential Christian evangelists from our shores. Hear the ideas of leading activists, including Pouline Kimani, the feminist co-founder of the lone lesbian organization in Kenya (the East African nation where gay weddings recently set off a firestorm), and Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. -Gerry Christopher Johnson
7pm. Free. Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St. 215.732.3378.
Tonight, Philly sextet Grammar Debate! (don’t forget the exclamation mark) celebrates the release (finally!) of its tremendous second LP Broken Heart Deluxe. And quite a celebration it should be. These tracks—cleverly crafted, highly melodic, nostalgic chamber-pop and country-dusted rock—are some of the most colorful and immediately captivating tunes we’ve heard in some time. The band’s jangly guitars, gorgeous male/female vocal harmonies, stately horns, wistful draws of violin bows and longing lyrics align them with the likes of Stars and the Clientele, and occasionally echo the sounds of the Zombies and Love. Big things may be in store for these guys and gals, and it begins in earnest this evening. -M.A.G.
Pink Hair Affair
Between the androgyny of modern-day mods and the progressive nature of college-educated hippies, sexually charged stage shows don’t always fit in with the enlightened hodgepodge of major city America. Yet, interest in cabaret is on the rise, and the diversity of the flock is expanding. What was once territory exclusive to theater and dance types has now reached the calendars of mainstream shlubs with the same penchant for alcohol and provocatively clad women that binds all gentlemen with disposable income. Whether it's the dramatic nature of their stage show, or their appeal to the baser desires, Philadelphia dance troupe the Pink Hair Affair is an atypical collective, finding ryhthm in even the most mundane aspects of life, and adding humor to make it extraordinary. These dangerous ladies are bringing their act to the Wolf Building, along with a few locally affiliated solo and group artists. -Abdullah Saaed
The Broad Set Reading
Writers: Refrain from lobbing that tumbler of Old Grand-Dad against the wall. Join the Broad Set Writing Collective—exclusive neither to fat people, surlier women of the ’40s, or those lodging on Broad Street—for an evening of shared fiction and poetry at the Wooden Shoe. Former contributors to journals like McSweeney’s and Opium Magazine including Peter Richter, Glen Binger, Sam Cicero and special guest Eric Nelson (The Silk City Series) will read excerpts from their work, or whole poems if they’re the short kind. Browse the most organized collection of anarchist literature and vinyl in a 30-block radius and fan yourself with a free copy of the Broad Set’s latest quarterly. Afterward, join the authors for dadaist games like newspaper blackout poetry (as popularized by cartoonist Austin Kleon) and the ever-rousing “How would you describe this shoe? Droll? Twelve points!” Pack a Sharpie and a few exceptionally brilliant, adverb-less pickup lines. -Paul F. Montgomery
7pm. Free. Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St. 215.413.0999.
Gogol Bordello + DeVotchKa
Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello would’ve fascinated Tesla for all the electricity of their performances. Frontman Eugene Hütz’s face contorts cartoonishly like his handlebar mustache as he cavorts about the stage to vibrant shout-along folk-punk offering a joyous Eastern European answer to the Pogues. The high voltage stage show’s abetted by a pair of slender costume-changing, dancing beauties who behave like cheerleaders contributing to the pep rally atmosphere. If they can’t coax a smile, check for a pulse. DeVotchKa hail from a similar musical neighborhood, deploying theatrical Euro-folk whose stately grace suggest Gogol’s straight-laced sibling. Rather than rabble-rousing profligacy, the composers of the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack cultivate a bustling cabaret baroque vibe. -Chris Parker
If you like art even a little bit, don’t miss the final iteration of Zoe Strauss’ I-95 project. Strauss, a South Philly native, got a camera for her 30th birthday in 2000 and started a 10-year project documenting American identity; she’s since been in the Whitney Biennial, gotten a Pew Grant and had her collection “America” named book of the year by Artforum. Strauss’ work lacks that distant, objectifying quality common to a lot of photography claiming to depict Real America (photos of sleeping homeless men would be an example on the most obvious end of the spectrum); the people in her shots are clearly there as human beings Strauss has a rapport with, not as sunsets or still-lifes. They pose for the camera, invite her into their homes and show her tattoos, scars and occasional genitals. This is the last of the annual shows at which Strauss displays her work on the two square blocks of the pilasters that hold up the highway. Copies of pictures are $5 during the show, and at 4 p.m., when the show is over, people who have hung around can grab one picture to take home. She says she’ll be at the South Philly Taproom between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., if you want anything signed. -Emily Guendelsberger
1-4pm. Free. Under I-95, Front and Mifflin sts. zoestrauss.blogspot.com
Future Islands, Double Dagger + Lower Dens
We’re not sure how a Baltimore-based band on a Chicago label (Thrill Jockey) ends up having its CD release party in Philadelphia, but in the case of Future Islands, we’ll take it. These Dan Deacon faves ply a glossy, late 1980s synth-wave sound that is warmed and roughened just enough by Sam Herring’s gravelly voice. Their latest, In Evening Air, is everything you’d want from dance-friendly head music, full of vast echoing sonics, gleaming synthetic keyboards and the kind of doomed romanticism you haven’t heard since the Psychedelic Furs. Get there early for the typographically-obsessed, edgy post-hard core of Double Dagger and Lower Dens, a new band featuring Jana Hunter. -J.K.
A little known fact: The title of Sigur Ros’ most recent album, 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, roughly translates to, “One day our best volcano will erupt and ruin all your travel plans, assholes!” Fortunately, Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi got outta Iceland before all hell broke loose, thus his inaugural solo tour of America is a go. Speaking of which, the singer-guitarist’s debut LP Go might not be quite as bombastic or Hopelandic as his work with (on-hiatus) Sigur Ros, but it’s still plenty ethereal and gallant. He also hired set designers who’ve worked with the Metropolitan Opera Company to craft his impressive stage show, so the whole thing’ll likely be rather volcanic. -M.A.G.
Black Lily Film & Music Festival: Planet Rock
The global impact of hip-hop can be measured by much more than the fashions and streetwise attitudes spotted in all corners of the world. As the Black Lily Film and Music Festival’s “Planet Rock” series demonstrates through two films getting their Philadelphia premieres tonight, hip-hop has been an agent of social change, empowerment and cultural cross-pollination far beyond our borders. Homegrown: HipLife In Ghana follows V.I.P. (Vision In Progress), one of the most successful groups in the newish genre of “HipLife”—the combination of traditional “high-life” Afro-pop and hip-hop—shows how the music has united bandmembers (and audiences) of different ethnic, religious and language backgrounds. The Revival, meanwhile, is a short documentary shot on the European leg of the 2008 We-B Girlz all-female independent hip-hop tour. Not only does it examine the successes and struggles of women in hip-hop, it depicts the first meeting between rap legend Roxanne Shanté and Philly MC Bahamadia. -M.A.G.
Divinity is not reserved solely for the deserving, or Mick Taylor would have a seat on Olympus. It might only be a stool rather than the thrones enjoyed by Jimi and Stevie Ray, but Taylor’s talent and invention are worthy of genuflection. Taylor joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at 17, filling the slot held by Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) and Eric Clapton before him, then two years later replaced Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones. His exceptional technical prowess carried the Stones through their most fertile artistic period from ’69 to ’74. A skilled slide player and blues guitarist whose licks boast jazzlike fluency, Taylor’s gruff Townshend-ish vocals may have limited his solo career, but his playing’s still ascendant. -C.P.
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide