The good news for all you reggae fans is that Philly welcomes Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Bob Marley’s second son, Damian “Jr. Gong,” Bob’s youngest son, and Jo Mersa, his grandson, this Saturday as they kick off their Catch a Fire tour at the Mann Center’s Reggae Fest. The bummer is we don’t get even more of the Marleys: No Ziggy, Julian, Ky-mani.
It’s notable that those Marley men are now all older than their father was when he died in 1981 at age 36. Stephen is 43 and Damian is 37. Yet, Bob Marley’s musical presence and message of love and tolerance in the world seem as in demand as ever. (Forbes magazine’s 2014 ranking puts Bob Marley behind only Michael Jackson and Elvis in postmortem earning power. And only the Marley estate’s income is on the rise.). I spoke with Stephen, an eight-time Grammy winner, over the phone to talk about Saturday’s upcoming show and his impressions of Philadelphia.
And yes, it did sound like I was talking to Bob himself. Their voices are eerily similar. And yes, he did address me as “mon” a few times.
Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.
Rebecca Ferguson, the lovely 31-year-old Swiss ingénue who stars alongside Tom Cruise in the latest Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation, doesn’t scare easily. On her first full day on set, in location in Vienna, she had to jump off a large building while being wrapped around Mr. Cruise, facing her fear of heights, and her fear of accidentally crushing the ribcage of the most famous movie star in the world. The espionage thriller finds her jetting around on a high-octane motorcycle in Morocco, holding her breath underwater for minutes at a time in order to save Cruise’s character from an underwater centrifugal chamber, and beating the living hell out of a bunch of turned-agent thugs all over the world. In Philly to promote the film, she happily plopped down on a couch in a posh suite at the Ritz Carlton, and held forth on the responsibility she felt toward the franchise, doing her own stunt work while suffering from vertigo, and what it was like to work with the aforementioned Mr. Cruise.
Country singer Jesse Lafser will visit Philadelphia for the first time to perform songs from her latest record, Raised On the Plains,at World Café Live on July 15th. Lafser uses a blend of folk and blues to take listeners on a self-reflective journey through the American Southwest. Here’s what the Nashvilian had to say about the inspiration behind Raised on the Plains and her current tour, which began with a contemplative solo road trip through the desert.
Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle alum Bill Ricchini has earned praise from Rolling Stone to NPR’s World Café to Vogue for his brand of wistful, thoughtful pop. With this week’s release of Himalaya, his second record under the moniker Summer Fiction, Ricchini says his material is “more fully realized and ballsier, not afraid to be eccentric.” We caught up in advance of his record-release show this Saturday at Boot & Saddle to discuss the new tracks, recording in England and stalking Morrissey.
Kate Gosselin takes a break to pose for a photo at Penn’s Landing. | Photo by Alyssa Mutryn
Over the weekend, dozens of TLC stars were in town for TLC’s first summer block party event at Penn’s Landing. Among those who showed up was Kate Gosselin and her 14-year-old twin daughters Mady and Cara. We got a chance to sit down for a chat with Gosselin. She shared anecdotes about raising eight kids in the public eye, how she spends most of her days at Target, and how she wishes she could visit Philly more often.
You live in Pennsylvania. Do you come to Philadelphia often? Every once in a while, I’m not here often. I usually stay within a 5-mile radius of my house, but occasionally I do different things down here. Just to clear up the rumor: Everyone says I am from Philadelphia, but I’m not. I live in Hershey, PA. Philly is the next big city, so everyone just says that.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Philly? A favorite store?
I don’t know all that is available in Philly. There is nothing in my area, so I don’t get out enough to have a favorite restaurant. I am usually at Target or the grocery store. That’s the truth. But, when I do get to Philly, it is very beautiful, and I should come more, because it is right in my backyard.
Next month, Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, will debut an exhibit of artworks by JohnLennon. Curated by his wife Yoko Ono, “The Art of John Lennon” comprises limited edition prints adapted from the “Imagine” singer’s original drawings—from his iconic pencil-scribbled self portraits, to whimsical, comic book-like illustrations with sayings like, “He tried to consult the stars, but no one returned his calls.”
“The Art of John Lennon” is a traveling exhibit created by Ono around 15 years ago with the intent of not only sharing her husband’s work with the masses, but to support local nonprofits. In this case, Ocean Galleries requests that guests donate $5 to see the exhibit, which will be given to Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
I chatted with Ono this week in anticipation of the exhibit. She shared anecdotes behind some of the works in the exhibit, told me a funny story about Philly, and opened up about falling in love with Lennon’s music again after all these years.
Let’s talk about this exhibit coming to Ocean Galleries. Why is it important for you to exhibit John’s work in small galleries like this across the country?
I really think that it’s very important—even if it’s in a very small space … because it has a power and that power you’re going to get anywhere.
How did you go about selecting the pieces that would appear in the exhibit?
In the beginning—15 years ago when it was starting—I [chose based on] what hit me the most. And then, gradually, I realized that each one was hitting me very strongly. I started to get into his work more. Now, I really feel that each one is so special. So I rotate them: This time I show some things, next year I’ll show something different.
John Lennon’s Let’s Have a Dream. | Courtesy of Yoko Ono
One of my favorite pieces is Let’s Have a Dream (right). What’s the story behind that sketch? John was really getting into the family scene. He was really getting into [his son] Sean, actually. I was surprised at how he felt so strongly connected with Sean. Maybe in some ways, subconsciously, he knew he wasn’t going to have much time with us. I don”t know. But there was that feeling.
I also like On Cloud Nine (below, right), which pictures the two of you naked sitting on a cloud. Nudity was a recurring theme in your works and activism. Why?
It has to do with softness and the fragility of human beings.
How did John’s work influence the art you were making?
I was doing my artwork for about 30 years before I met him. I was eight years older than him … I was very much deep into my own artwork, and I think that there were a lot of technical things I knew … So there was more giving than taking.
So he was more influenced by you?
I don’t think so. That’s another thing that was very interesting: He was an artist before I met him—he started when he was 9. He was very good, and extremely different from my kind of work. In a way, we didn’t really influence each other, but we loved each other, which helped in a way. … You know what I think: We were in Japan together, and I think he was influenced more by classic Japanese paintings.
John Lennon’s On Cloud Nine. | Courtesy of Yoko Ono
You guys met in an art gallery, right? Can you take me back to that moment? [Singing] We met in an art gallery … When he came in, he was looking around, but not expressing his emotions so much. When he went up to see a [canvas on the ceiling], he went all the way up the ladder and saw it and came down. He said, “Hmm,” and sort of gave a little smile and left—never explaining how he thought about it. Later, on a TV show, he said, [imitating Lennon’s voice] “Well, you know, I saw this thing and I didn’t like it.” So he felt something, but he was too shy to tell me about it at the time.
There are a lot of themes of peace and love in John’s art. How do you think his images speak to what’s happening now in the world, especially in places like Ferguson and Baltimore?
He was so upset about people killing each other and hurting each other. … He would have hated what’s going on now in the world.
What are your thoughts? Ditto. I’m with him, okay? … We tried hard to bring peace and a better world. And we still do. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.
Do you have any memories of Philadelphia? Yes. It’s so funny: John was in L.A. and I was in New York, and they wanted me to come to Philadelphia to do a show or something. I went with a very attractive, tall girl, who was my assistant at the time. And she had glasses on. Everybody went up to her thinking it was John. She said, “I don’t look like a guy, do I?” She was a little bit offended. [Laughs]
Do you have a favorite John and Yoko song?
Any song that John wrote—especially when it was about us—I love very much. I used to have favorites, but now I’m starting to listen to his songs more … and I’m starting to like all of them, really. … I didn’t usually like to listen to John’s songs. It reminded me of John not being here, but I started to listen to them because I had to, because of business. Then I started to really like them.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Ten years is a very long time these days. … In 10 years, maybe we’ll all be moths, or something. [Laughs]
It seems like you work really hard to preserve John’s legacy. How do you want to be remembered? I don’t know. … I don’t know how people see me. I have no idea. I’m more concerned about John’s legacy, because he’s not here. I’m the only one who can work on it.
“The Art of John Lennon” will be on display at Ocean Galleries for a limited time only, from June 18th to 22nd. For more information on that and special events around the exhibit, go here. Check out more works from the exhibit below.
Serial was a riveting, record-breaking, 12-part podcast series that re-investigated the murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the crime, but he has always insisted he is innocent.
As a fan, I’m in awe of the show’s reporting, which revealed deep flaws in the criminal justice system, as well as its deft storytelling that hooked listeners.
As a journalist, I have questions: Has Serial changed podcasting forever? Does its success mean all the wonderful things I want it to mean for investigative reporting? And on the flip side, was it worth it to reexamine a murder case if it wasn’t obvious in the end whether Syed did it?
In advance of Serial creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder‘s live presentation Thursday night at the Kimmel Center (details here), I interviewed Koenig. Our questions have been paraphrased her responses have been edited lightly for clarity.
Koenig: We had no idea why, we had like noidea, and now with a little bit of time, we’ve kind of started to think about what just happened and why did that just happen. And I think it’s a bunch of things. It’s funny, none of the elements that we did are new, you know what I mean? To re-investigate a murder case is not a new idea. A serial is not a new idea. Podcasts are not new. But there was something about the combination of all the elements that we chose to put together in one medium that felt really new.
And I think people weren’t used to hearing journalism in that form, in a sort of serialized audio podcast where you had to stick with it week to week, where I was a very strong narrator, so I’m leading you through almost like a character. And I think all of that felt new and I think that’s what was interesting for people. And then crime stories are unfortunately very, very popular for people, which I also weirdly had not understood going in. I didn’t get that, oh, it’s a murder story and people are going to be interested. I didn’t foresee that. Because I’m an idiot [laughs]. Read more »
The Philly native turned bass-baritone opera great has performed in concert halls the world over. This month he returns to star in Don Carlo at the Academy of Music. Opens April 24th.
Give us your Philly bio.
Born and raised in Mount Airy. Went to Central, then Temple and the Curtis Institute of Music. And Settlement Music School. So my connection is not at all tangential.
I started out with piano and oboe, but I had been a fan of opera for quite some time, since I was eight or nine—just listening to it on LPs. I saw Tosca at the Met at 16, and opera won the battle.
I know you’ve performed at the Met, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe. Any favorite houses?
Well, actually, the Academy of Music. It’s the oldest continuously operating opera house in the country. It’s just beautiful.
Michael Urie had just graduated Juilliard when he was offered a starring role in Brian Sloan‘s new play, WTC View, which chronicled the life of a young gay man named Eric living in New York City in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. It was 2003, only two years after the towers fell. To say the play was a risk is an understatement. Yet, Urie not only took on the part in the play, but also in the 2005 movie adaptation of Sloan’s work.
“It was interesting,” Urie told me as we chatted about his role in the play-turned-film. “It was a beautiful way to revisit those weeks after 9/11 because the play is a microcosm of New York in late-September 2001. The city became very much a city of familiarity. Normally, in New York, people don’t talk to strangers, and, if you have to, you deal with people, but people aren’t outgoing or friendly without a need to be. But in those weeks after 9/11, people became protective of each other. In New York specifically, everyone was talking about the same thing. We became a closer-knit group.” Read more »