Music, theater and more.
To classify Richard Barnes as an ex-wildlife photographer may be misleading. It’s not the photographer who’s stopped. It’s the wildlife. For his latest book, Animal Logic, Barnes trains his camera on the musty, dusty world of those post-mortem critters spending their dirt naps in our natural history museums. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing glass-eyed antelopes suspended, forever, in frozen leaps. We see lifeless lions, paused in the seconds before they launch into pursuit. Barnes takes us beyond the velvet ropes, beyond the track lights, to the days and hours before the exhibit opens for a haunting and surreal study of death imitating life. Part archive, part autopsy, it’s perfectly weird. Barnes signs his book and talks about bubble-wrapped giraffes belated grizzly bears at the Academy of Natural Sciences, itself a resting place for moose and a pachycephalosaurus. Paul F. Montgomery
6:30-8:30pm. Free. Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. 215.299.1060. ansp.org/adult-programs/lectures.php
The Broad Street Ministry plays host to the first of four group discussions on Persepolis, the subject of 2010’s One Book, One Philadelphia series. Marjane Strapi’s autobiographical comic presents a candid, often funny portrayal of childhood amidst the debris of 1980s Iran. It isn’t simply the civil unrest and the violent conflict with neighboring Iraq that keeps Strapi from growing up unscathed. Because even if there weren’t artillery fire, protests and social prejudice, she’d still have to deal with puberty. It’s another coming of age tale in exposed, expressive black and white. This one just happens to be voguing behind a veil. Persepolis is a smart, insightful story about an ordinary youth in revolt. If you’re still wondering about all those green Twitter icons from last summer, this might not be a bad place to learn more about a culture in flux. P.F.M.
6:30pm. Free. Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St. 215.735.4847. freelibrary.org
Of Mythic Proportions
Stories about deadbeat dads. Tales of parents who just don’t understand. Anecdotes about the eternal quest for teenage bliss. Accounts of finding fairy dust on the mean streets of Kensington. These stories and more come straight from the mouths of babes who have already seen too much. High school students at Mariana Bracetti Academy have been training with the pros at Walking Fish Theater to write and perform the stories of their lives. The fruits of their labor come in the form of monologues and scenes built from the eyes and ears (and the hearts and souls in between) and molded into shape by seasoned performers and directors who moved into the neighborhood two years ago to ply their craft. It’ll be like Story Slams—with fewer beers. Peter Crimmins
4pm and 6pm. Free. Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave. 215.427.WALK. walkingfishtheatre.com
West Vienna made a splash at Saul Williams’ Niggy Tardust Afro-Punk extravaganza late last year at the TLA by tearing the room to shreds. The band is a new-ish reconfiguration of Philly’s afro-funk, hip-hop experimenters Phil Moore Browne, anchored by frontman Shaun Walker and drummer Charles Francis Duquesne. The African elements linger in complex polyrhythmic percussion and smouldery, Nigeria Rocks-saxophone, but there’s a bracing punk aggression in the sound now. “Liquor on Fruit,” as yet unreleased, is the winner on the band’s MySpace player, raw and in-your-face confrontational like late 1970s Ubu, but also sexed-up with heated syncopation. Jennifer Kelly
$8. With Polar Ice Cap and Mean Streets. M Room. 15 W. Girard. 215.739.5577. themanhattanroom.com
Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968
While the pop art movement is often attributed to a select group of white men, there’s actually a large group of international female artists—including Mara McAfee and Yayoi Kusama—who had major influence. Like their male counterparts, these artists were reacting to pop culture during a period of social rebellion and rampant recreational drug use. However, these women were not only contributing to pop art’s creation, they were also leading the feminist art movement. Expect many abstract pieces with dismembered female body parts and at least one collage poking fun at the male ego. Nicole Finkbiner
Though March 15. Free. Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, 333 S. Broad St. 215.717.6480. uarts.edu/pop
City of Numbers: Mixtape of a City
After a successful national tour, a homegrown original returns. With City of Numbers: Mixtape of a City, Sean Christopher Lewis tells his own Philadelphia story through the vibrant murals that coat our crumbling buildings and bridges. But the playwright and performer isn’t simply painting by numbers. Having interviewed the Graterford Prison inmates who created these murals, Lewis translates community service into community narrative and social commentary. In his one-man show directed by Matt Slaybaugh, Lewis tackles crime, poverty and local politics in a series of monologues culled from discussions with convicts, their families, victims and bigwigs. City of Numbers is more than story about hard knock lives and urban decay; it’s an anthology of life beyond the chalk outlines and police tape, a dozen or so families on the mend, of a city constantly trying to learn from its mistakes. P.F.M.
8pm. Through Feb. 21. $10-$29. Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom St. 215.568.8079. interacttheatre.org
Halfway to the Jersey Shore
In what can only be explained as unequivocal proof that God does exist and listens to our prayers, the cast of the Jersey Shore has come to Philly. The grass has seemed a little greener since the show began, bringing six overly confident, bronzed stereotypes into our lives. Snooki and the Situation have showed us what life is really like for struggling guidos and guidettes just trying to find their fish among the discarded needles and diapers in the ocean. Thanks to the disapproval of every Italian organization in America and YouTube videos of The Punch, the show has become an instant hit for MTV and thus prompted the “stars” to tour the nation. Sammi “Sweatheart” and her pussy-whipped, juicehead boyfriend Ronnie will be hosting a party tonight at McFadden’s. Hit up the Facebook nickname generator, slick back your hair and get ready to beat up the beat. Fist pump! Anastasia Barbalios
8pm. $5. McFadden’s 3rd Street, 461 N. Third St. 215.928.0630.
In complete and utter contrast to the hyper intense middle-aged Ed Hamell (see Saturday), World Cafe Live brings you the smoky delights of Nouvelle Vague. The brainchild of a couple of shady looking French musos, Nouvelle Vague’s shtick—thoroughly endearing, but shtick none the less—is that of an interchangeable assembly line of sultry Gallic Chanteuses giving breathy, sensual takes on a myriad of Punk/New Wave/Post-Punk classics reimagined in a Bossa Nova, loungecore style. We’re talking Astrud Gilberto meets Francoise Hardy over Gitanes and Pastis, while checking out the Buzzcocks and early Depeche Mode, with visuals courtesy of early Truffaut. It’s a novelty one-trick pony, sure, but one that so far has yet to outlast it’s welcome. Neil Ferguson
7:30pm. $24. With Clare and the Reasons. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
They’ve been accurately described as a band for people who’d H-bomb Owl City, which is to say they’re sweetly twee with an often dreamy electronic undercurrent, but not so insufferably precious and cloying as to induce nausea. The stately graceful arrangements ply harmonium, harpsichord, xylophones, glockenspiel and a sometimes ragamuffin folksy vibe (thanks largely to the banjo’s intermittent appearance), with swelling boy and girl backing vocals that suggest a more urbane Sufjan Stevens or Ra Ra Riot couch-surfing in Brooklyn. The quintet’s debut Weathervanes lilts and capers like the Lucky Charms leprechaun securing their collective virginity (rather than marshmallow treats) with an innocent charm suited to a Michael Cera movie. Chris Parker
7pm. $10. With Animal Tropical + Faces on Film. Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St. 215.291.4919. kungfunecktie.com
Ken Vandermark Septet
Ken Vandermark is one of the most commanding contemporary free-jazz reedists, a claim reinforced by his receipt of a 1999 MacArthur “Genius” grant. At 45 years old, Vandermark is noted for his intellectual and engaging compositions, with no small dose of technical proficiency. His performances are flush with tenuous notes held in fleeting arrangements, buoyed by space, dynamics and a bit of cohesive cacophony. But his I House performance with his septet—which includes members of Peter Brotzmann and Chicago Underground Ensembles—will be notable not for Vandermark’s compositions, but for those of composer Don Cherry. Cherry laid the foundation for “world music” in the ‘60s and ‘70s with his arrangements of Middle Eastern, African and Indian music, and Vandermark and Co. will premiere new arrangements of Cherry’s 1975 piece “Brown Rice.” Katherine Silkaitis
8pm. $12. International House, 3701 Chestnut St. 215.387.5125. arsnovaworkshop.org
Chinese New Year Celebration
Chinese New Year has always been the most critically significant of all the traditional holidays observed in the People’s Republic. With the Chinese population in America now stretching past 3.5 million, it’s become a momentous affair on these shores too. In Philly, no institution is more familiar with that than the Penn Museum, which hosts a five-hour medley of events to honor the Year of the Tiger. Expect a diversely packed calendar of traditional demonstrations, including vegetable carving, paper cutting and calligraphy demos, along with lectures and performances by Tai Chi and Kung Fu masters and Chinese acupuncturists. And when it comes to Chinese symbolism, the tiger’s none too shabby: Competitiveness, bravery and sensitivity are just a few of its most outstanding traits. Not a bad creature to pay tribute to as we usher in a year that will hopefully have more good fortune than the last. Dan Eldridge
11am-4pm. $6-$10. Penn Museum, 3260 South St. 215.898.4000.
While the Philadelphia Orchestra plays Mozart upstairs, the Kimmel basement will be holding down some decidedly more dangerous classical fare. The JACK Quartet’s mind-bending avant-garde elicits sounds you wouldn’t think possible from traditional stringed instruments, with all that clanging, striking and banging creating one hell of a fascinating cacophony. The four met at the Eastman School of Music in 2004, and Quartet member Ari Streisfeld lived in Lower Merion and studied under Philly Orchestra member Paul Arnold. At this show they tackle works by Wolfgang Rihm, Aaron Cassidy, Matthias Pintscher and Jeff Myers, the latter of whom wrote Dopamine specifically for JACK. Never mind the suits; this weekend, revolution begins in the basement. Jeffrey Barg
7:30pm. $10. Innovation Studio, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce sts. 215.893.1999. kimmelcenter.org
A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano
One of the great shows in the history of Philadelphia fringe theater returns when Brat Productions’ remounts their acclaimed production of A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano. Beginning at 8 p.m., the six-member cast (which alternates roles every hour) performs Eugene Ionesco’s 60-minute masterpiece The Bald Soprano for 24 uninterrupted hours. A biting satire attacking British social conventions, Ionesco’s play ends where it begins. Instead of a gimmick, the 24-hour performance exploits Soprano’s looping construction to evoke the absurdity of the characters’ banal suburban lives. Featuring a stark black-and-white design, the marathon production becomes a test of endurance for actors and audience. Tickets are sold in two-hour blocks (ticketholders may attend additional performances that aren’t sold out), and for the full Soprano experience it’s best to visit early and often. J. Cooper Robb
8pm. $25. Harold Prince Theatre, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. 215.898.3900. bratproductions.org
Hamell on Trial
We’ve said it before (oh so many times), and, by God, we’ll say it again (deep breath): if your idea of a good time is being entertained/confronted by a remarkably intense, bald, middle-aged cross between Otto Preminger and the Addams Family’s Uncle Fester, not so much playing a battered acoustic guitar as employing it as an assault weapon, while spewing out hyper-literate folk-punk Beat poetry (and jokes! Oh, the jokes!) inspired by the likes of Bukowski, Strummer, Jim Carroll, Hunter Thompson, early Tarantino and the late-very-fucking-great Bill Hicks in a confined space then, hey, look no further. Ed Hamell is most definitely your man. Pearls before swine, people, pearls before swine... N.F.
10:30pm. $12. Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St. 215.928.0770. tinangel.com
There’s another side of Austin. Your dumb music blog might be all worked up over SXSW, but playing simpler chords and singing of a simpler time, Nanci Griffith hails from the same town but with considerably more staying power. Her Texas inflection instantly recognizable, Griffith sings in a singular folkabilly style, but doesn’t stick to the pedestrian topics you’re more likely to hear coming out of Nashville. She brings her Austin-influenced politics and topical songs to this benefit to raise money for the Media Youth Center, which provides basketball programs for nearly 1,000 local kids. Jeffrey Barg
8pm. $38-$48. With Susan Werner. Media Theatre, 104 E. State St., Media. 610.891.0100. mediatheatre.org
Ladyfingers auteur Adam Weiner’s the kind of artist you can imagine standing on the edge of the parkway early in the morning shaking his fist at traffic and cursing incoherently. That vaguely threatening, slightly unhinged undercurrent confers a gritty mien to his mix of shadowy piano ballads and ragged self-deprecating guitar paeans that peel back his skull cap to reveal the snap, crackle and pop of synapses. He’s got cabaret swagger like Tom Waits after spending too many hours inhaling subway fumes with a dash of Jonathan Richman’s affectless candor, wrung out after a week-long bender. Though he may feel like a schmuck, he possesses enough spark to transform his vanities into a towering inferno. C.P. 11pm. $6. With Bruce Lucy + the Shakes. Troc Balcony, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.6888. thetroc.com
Desert rock, stoner rock—Call it what you want, but there’s no question Nick Oliveri helped define it. He played bass on Kyuss’ genre-defining Blues for the Red Sun, left to join the Dwarves, then hooked up with Josh Homme again for Queens of the Stone Age. Always the wild man, even in a very hedonistic band, Oliveri played a key role on QOTSA’s glossy, droning, ear-blistering 00s classics—Rated R and Songs for the Deaf. He was forced out in 2004, reportedly for assaulting Homme’s girlfriend. Mondo Generator, his new project, is another loud one , but he’ll be putting that aside tonight for an unamplified set from 2009’s Death Acoustic. J.K.
8pm. $10. Khyber. 56 S. Second St. 215.238.5888. thekhyber.com
Comic Book Discussion: Identity Crisis
The DC universe has seen it’s fair share of cosmic crises (with little assurance that last year’s Final Crisis will be its last). Smaller in scale, but deep on moral ambiguity, 2004’s Identity Crisis may well have been the most personal of these events. Bestselling novelist Brad Meltzer and artist Rags Morales hurl the beloved Justice League through the gauntlet for a deadly whodunit. Sue Dibny, wife of gooey gumshoe Elongated Man, is brutally murdered and one of their super friends might be the culprit. The body count stacks up and it appears that the loved ones of the capes and tights fraternity are all targets. Meanwhile, Batman unravels a plot to punish super villains that might be too cruel and unusual even for the dark knight. Pick up a copy at Brave New Worlds and discuss the book during the bi-monthly meeting of their friendly neighborhood book club. P.F.M.
7pm. Free. Brave New Worlds, 45 N. Second St. 215.925.6525. bravenewworldscomic.com
In music, names are important. Which is why U.K. singer Fyfe Dangerfield has one of the coolest names ever, right up there with Johnny Thunders, Fee Waybill, Lemmy Kilmister, Thelonious Monk, Siouxsie Sioux, Lux Interior, Engelbert Humperdinck, Björk Guðmundsdóttir and David St. Hubbins. In music, music is also important. And young Fyfe has made some excellent music, primarily as frontman of genteel British indie-popsters the Guillemots. His new solo album Fly Yellow Moon isn’t too shabby, either—with his supple, dramatic voice and lots of sweeping strings at the ready, Dangerfield plays the wistful, romantic piano balladeer nearly as well as Rufus Wainwright. Another cool name, that one. Michael Alan Goldberg
8pm. $12-$14. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
So there’s this guy, and he’s working as a carpenter, and then suddenly he gets famous. No, no, not Jesus, we’re talking about Tampa, Florida, singer-songwriter Matt Hires. Just a couple years ago the 23-year-old was making cabinets by day and toiling in a no-name local band at night. And then some Atlantic Records bigwig stumbled across the band’s MySpace page, thought Hires sounded like a cross between Adam Duritz and Rob Thomas (he kinda does), and signed him. Next thing you know, dude’s opening for Dave Matthews and hearing songs from his 2009 debut Take Us to the Start on Grey’s Anatomy. Hires’ pop tunes are agreeable enough. Maybe a tad generic. But we’re not gonna crucify him for it. M.A.G.
8pm. $12-$14. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
As befitting their moniker, the fine Philly trio Sky Ship adds a psychedelic edge to their electronics-tinged indie-rock with the occasional backwards-sounding guitar, cosmic keyboards, fuzzy vocals and trippy imagery. Frontman Matt Stein’s vocals are sometimes reminiscent of XTC’s Andy Partridge, but mostly the threesome sounds like a distant cousin of the Flaming Lips or a band that could nest nicely with the likes of Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo and a few other Elephant 6-affiliated acts. Arrive early only if you like the sound of Rage Against the Machine crossed with pre-Patton Faith No More (Rufus J. Fisk) or yet another gang of gutter-punks who wish they were G.G. Allin (the Underclassed). M.A.G.
7pm. $7. With Rufus J. Fisk + the Underclassed. North Star, 27th and Poplar sts. 215.787.0488. northstarbar.com
PW's Music Issue 2014