New Music Video: Carol Cleveland Sings, “Wishing Well”

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Philly/Wilmington duo Carol Cleveland Sings — featuring Gretchen Lohse and Thomas Hughes (of Spinto Band) — calls its sound ‘Epcot pop’ and that pretty much nails it. Just look at this video for “Wishing Well.” It looks like something you’d see in the upper levels of Spaceship Earth, a strangely dated and groovy symbol of mankind’s unending march to progress. Flashy low tech that pretends it’s high tech. (According to Hughes, the video owes some of its aesthetic choices to ’80s French duo Elli et Jacno.) The look is a smart fit for this catchy, ABBA-esque song with cool vocals and endless synths. Above all else, “Wishing Well” is one hundred percent catchy. It’s also the band’s first single from Effervescent Lure, due soon on Humble Twin Records.

Watch it: Read more »

WATCH: Bill Hader and Fred Armisen Announce Hall & Oates’ 2016 Tour

Hall & Oates

Photo by Gary Harris, used under a Creative Commons license

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader play Gene and Clark in the fictional soft rock band The Blue Jean Committee. The duo got together today to help announce Hall & Oates’ 2016 tour.

The Philadelphia duo is playing Camden’s BB&T Pavilion1 on July 10th. The tour opens up on May 13th in Dallas, and ends at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on September 23rd. Read more »

Tonight: Michael Eric Dyson @ the Free Library

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Michael Eric Dyson, author of more than a dozen books on the state of race relations in the U.S., returns to Philly tonight to discuss The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. His recent exchange with Stephen Colbert (video below) was very pointed, laying out all the obstacles and indignities President Obama has faced — including receiving more death threats than any other president in history. Dyson also manages to mock Donald Trump while paraphrasing Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs in a very funny way.

Unfair side note: I’m betting Dyson wishes he’d named this book something else.

Ah, hindsight. Read more »

Why Earth, Wind & Fire Was Huge in Philadelphia

By Chris Hakkens - http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_hakkens/4638230187/in/faves-24788065@N02/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16299016

Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White (left) and Philip Bailey performing in 1982 at the Ahoy Rotterdam, The Netherlands. White died on February 4th. Photo | Chris Hakkens, CC BY-SA 2.0.

When I reflect on the pivotal moments of my life, my timeline goes back to my ’70s love affair with FM radio. Earth, Wind & Fire were among my favorites bands, with the college stations on the left side of the dial playing esoteric cuts from Last Days and Time and Head To The Sky, while commercial stations on the right side aired selections from That’s the Way of the World, All n’ All and I Am. However, the word on the street was the only real way to experience EWF was live in concert. As much as I longed to see them play, I knew it would be a damn-near impossible sell to my parents. But, luck intervened in the form of my grandmother’s friend’s granddaughter. She was a little older, but not old enough to go alone to a concert, so she suggested taking me. I knew she didn’t like me much, but our mutual desire to see a stellar show made us perfect frenemies. After a long discussion of what clothes I should wear (she wasn’t fond of my bohemian wardrobe), we worked out a plan to get me fresh gear, and, if lucky, some extra spending money for a t-shirt or two.

At school, I casually mentioned to my classmates I was heading to the EWF concert, and I suddenly became an ultra cool kid. By the time I joined the capacity crowd at the venerable Spectrum, I knew I was in for a concert experience the would go down in the annals of great concerts. The show kicked off when the booming voice of the emcee took to the public address to announce — “Presenting the elements of the universe: Earth! Wind! And Fire!” The incendiary band hit the stage and by incorporating the skills of illusionist Doug Henning and fantastical outfits, EWF dazzled their faithful attendees with a sophisticated mix of funk, jazz, Africana and soul.

“The first time I went to an Earth, Wind & fire concert was when they came to the Spectrum in 1977 with The Emotions,” recalls Philadelphia-based professional musician Rhonda Lancaster. “I was hoarse for three days. I screamed the whole concert.” Read more »

Employee of the Year Hires Kid Actors for a Very Adult Piece of Art.

A scene from "Employee of the Year."

A scene from Employee of the Year.

There’s a bunch of pre-teen female actors putting on a performance at FringeArts later this month, and, no, it isn’t Annie.

“They are regular kids,” said Employee of the Year‘s co-creator Abby Browde, the New York-based artist who has worked with the cohort of children since 2014 as part of the performance group 600 Highwaymen. “None of them are industry kids.”

Yet, these girl actresses are given quite a daunting task in Employee of the Year: They tell the story of one woman’s life from start to finish through the use of movement, monologue, and song. At first, Browde and her artistic partner, Michael Silverstone, weren’t necessarily committed to using kids in the performance. Read more »

Beyoncé Announces June 5 Concert at the Linc

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Just a minute after sharing the Super Bowl halftime stage with Bruno Mars and, for some reason, Coldplay, Bey announced the 40-stop Formation World Tour via TV commercial. (Bet she got a discount.). The tour includes shows June 5 at Lincoln Financial Field and June 12 in Hershey. Tickets for both shows go on sale Feb. 16, but American Express users and members of her Beyhive message board can spitclaim their tickets earlier.

Here’s the official Live Nation tour announcement with all the details.

And here’s the apparently controversial and supposedly “dirty” video for “Formation.” … Read more »

REVIEW: Cold Mountain at Opera Philadelphia

Isabel Leonard and Jarrett Ott in "Cold Mountain."

Isabel Leonard and Jarrett Ott in Cold Mountain.

Most of the characters in Jennifer Higdon‘s first opera want to return to the literal Cold Mountain. However, at the end of the nearly three-hour show, which had its East Coast premiere with Opera Philadelphia on Friday evening, you’re left to wonder why. There’s no doubt that this operatic adaptation of the classic novel-turned-film sparks some sparks with a fabulous cast, but the overall pacing of the production makes you feel like you’ve been physically fighting in the drawn-out American Civil War depicted in the opera.

Part of that may very well have to do with the scope of narrative that’s trying to be covered here, told through a series of interconnected scenes and flashbacks. It’s almost too much: Gene Scheer‘s libretto is heavy and often times puts unneeded weight on both the action and the singers. The first act of Cold Mountain suffers tremendously from this, as the one huge stationary set piece (which eerily looks like the barricades from Les Miserables) doesn’t allow for the action to move beyond a small playing area.

Higdon’s score, while complex, layered, and interesting, often fell victim on Friday night to conductor Corrado Rovaris. The orchestra severely overpowered the singers, especially in act one, and there were multiple times when the top-notch performers could hardly be heard over the pit. Read more »

Tomorrow: Two Piece Fest IX

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The annual day of duos returns with a long, long line-up. To whet your whistle, here’s a Bandcamp compilation of everybody on the bill. We recommend streaming, since they’re charging $222.22 for the download. That’s taking the two thing too far.

Two Piece Fest IX, Saturday, February 6, 2-11 p.m., $12, all ages, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street, r5productions.com.

17 Things to Do in Philly This Weekend

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year at Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Terminal Market will resonate with cheers of “Gong hay fat choy!” Join the public market as they celebrate the Chinese New Year with festive decorations, activities and traditional holiday fare. Participating vendors include Joseph Poon, Sang Kee, Tea Lead, Lion Dance by the Philadelphia Suns and more. Saturday, February 6, 10 a.m., free, Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street.

Midnight Lion Dance Performance

It’s the Year Of The Monkey! A midnight parade, led by the Philadelphia Sun’s Lion, will march a crowd through the streets of Chinatown. The Lion dancers will make their way to City Hall, where they will continue to perform into the night. Sunday, February 7, 10:30 p.m., free, starts 10th and Race streets, ends at 1404 JFK Boulevard.

Lunar New Year at the Independence Seaport Museum

Ring in the New Year port-side. The whole family can celebrate the Lunar New Year with the Independence Seaport Museum. Activities inspired by Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese traditions are slated to take place throughout the day. Saturday, February 6, 11 a.m., $15 adult, $10 children, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard.

First Friday

“The Avenues” Closing Reception at Painted Bride Art Center

Art will takes on multiple forms at the closing of Shawn Theodore’s exhibition “The Avenues.” Acclaimed poet Ursula Rucker will recite works inspired by the visual art in the gallery, including a portrait of African American Philadelphia. The visual art will be accompanied by a soulful musical score that will play throughout the night. View full First Friday listings hereFriday, February 5, 5 p.m., free entry, 230 Vine Street. Read more »

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