Saturday, February 28, 2009

Land of the Lost Playlist - February

Land of the Lost
February 27


The B-52s - Planet Claire
X - Nausea
Husker Du - Something I Learned Today
Alternative TV - Action Time Vision
Lene Lovich - Shadow Walk
Comateens - Resist Her
Sinead O'Conner - Mandika 12"
999 - Homicide
Re-Flex - Hurt
Teardrop Explodes - Treason
Tik & Tok - Screen Me, I'm Yours
Reesa & The Rooters - Melt The Iceman
Beru Revue - Casio Selector


Dead Milkmen
- Instant Club Hit
Front 242 - No Shuffle
Pete Shelley - Homosapien 12"
The Buzzcocks - What Do I Get
OMD - Messages
OMD - The Misunderstanding
OMD - Georgia
Gary Numan - Me! I Disconnect From You
XTC - Respectable Street
The New York Dolls - Trash
The Dead Kennedys - Holiday In Cambodia
The Cramps - Tear It Up
The Selecter - The Selecter


Killing Joke - Eighties
Shriekback - Lined Up
Maximum Joy - Stretch
Pulsallama - The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body
Suzi Quatro - Rock Hard
Wall Of Voodoo - Call Box
Wall Of Voodoo - Ring Of Fire
Iggy Pop - Little Miss Emperor
Yello - Daily Disco
Figures On A Beach - Accidently 4th Street


Ultravox concert recording from
The Hot Club, Philadelphia - Feb 23 1979
Klaus Nomi - Total Eclipse
Heaven 17 - Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry
Wire - It's A Boy
Pylon - Driving School
Pylon - Crazy
Pylon - Stop It
New Order - Temptation
Talking Heads - Crosseyed & Painless

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thank You, Kung Fu

So, as I mentioned in a previous post - in the midst of the XPN fund drive, I did get time to catch a live show - sort of.

After a few hours of 'beggin for bux' on XPN on a Sunday night, I took the El to Girard Avenue and walked a block or so under the tracks to a new spot in town - Kung Fu Necktie.

First, some history: Flashback twenty years and you would have had to pay me to 'walk under the tracks' on Front Street at Girard Avenue. The area was sca-ree at best; especially at night.

I remember when Au Courant Newsmagazine - the gay & lesbian weekly that I helped launch back in 1982 - first started. We had no overhead, so we rented out a corner of the second floor of Publiset Inc. - which was a old-school publishing house at the corner of 3rd & Girard.

Publiset was home to the Star papers: Port Richmond Star, Fishtown Star and also the South Street Star. Weekly free rags that competed with the Welcomat for territory. Au Courant fit right in with that scrappy mentality.

I remember getting off the El at Front/Girard and walking three blocks to work each morning; through the thick haze of the smell of yeast; a scent that could truly make your nose hairs curl! The scent was courtesy of Schmidt's Beer - whose brewery was located on the 200 block of Girard.

Schmidt's was Philadelphia's last independent brewery. As the Christian Schmidt Brewing Co., it was founded in Philadelphia in 1860 and at its peak, the company was the nation's ninth-largest brewer and employed 1,400 people.

Back then, the neighborhood had all the workings of a community that surrounds a beer plant; greasy spoon diner, a cheap and dirty corner store, a tattoo shop and a few shot & a beer bars; including one incredibly grimy go-go bar!

The neighborhood wasn't dangerous, just desolate. The plant was just a few years away from closure and the bleak future hung in the air, just as think as the yeast scent. However, if you stayed clear of the El tracks, you were okay. But, once you entered that permanently-darkened strip under the El, it was like someone turned the 'creepy dial' up two degrees.

Within that dangerous spot under the El tracks was the ultimate dive bar, which lived its final years as The Penelty Box.

Well - times have changed. The neighborhood, although still quite gritty, has been given an overhaul of sorts - thanks to the influx of 20-something hipsters (sorry) who have taken over the empty rowhomes and warehouses. Nightlife has begun to flourish and there's always a safe and interesting destination at night - no matter which night it is.

The Penelty Box closed and was transformed into Kung Fu Necktie - a sweet little watering hole - complete with classic wood features, booths for group sitting (complete with tables topped with wood from bowling alley lanes!), and a back room that hosts live music throughout the week.

The one block walk from the Girard Avenue El stop to the bar is well-lit (and quite empty, with the exception of skinny jeans trudging to the bar along with you).

The band we saw was "The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart" - a quirky, cute indie band -- which I'm sure I'll probably forget in a year. However, the venue... seeing the work done in the space and realizing just how much transformation has occured on some of my old stomping grounds from back in the 80s - that will stay with me for quite some time.

Yes, Indeedy. Rest In Peace Harrison.

News hit yesterday that local radio legend, and fellow public radio voice, Harrison Ridley Jr. of WRTI-FM passed away from complications due to a major stroke. He was 70.

Harrison Ridley, Jr. hosted The Historical Approach to the Positive Music, heard Sunday nights for almost a quarter-century. He described himself as a musicologist, historian, collector, and communicator. In addition to his 23+ years at WRTI, he's been an instructor at Temple University for more than two decades and has given lectures and workshops at over 30 universities. Harrison has taught classes about the histories of jazz, African-American music, and big bop, as well as courses focusing on jazz figures such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis.

Harrison is known by many as a walking encyclopedia of jazz. He has made guest appearances on many radio and television shows - including my show Kids Corner back in the day - and has also worked as a consultant for the Library of Congress and as an archivist for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and the Performing Arts.

Harrison was one of Philadelphia's best known jazz specialists, although he himself did not use the term "jazz," opting instead for phrases such as "this music referred to as jazz," or simply, "the positive music."

The title of Harrison's program - specifically the "historical approach" referred to his technique of producing his weekly show - he would focus in particular on one artist, and use his entire four-hour program to give the listener a sense of that artist's contribution to the tradition. Often he would focus on a specific period in an artist's career, such as early (1920s-1940s) Duke Ellington or Miles Davis recordings from the 1960s.

According to sources, Ridley (an avid record collector and archivist) had amassed over 8,500 LPs, 3,000 78s, 200 45s, 300 CDs, and 6,000 books on African American history and music. He specialized in Duke Ellington albums (of which he had more than 600), and was also an expert on Benny Carter (he had 200 Benny Carter albums).

On a personal note - for me, listening to Harrison's show in the dark of a Sunday night - headphones in place - was like going to school. I always came away with more knowledge, appreciation and understanding of music than I had before the show started.

One moment from his show that has stayed with me decades later, was when Harrison quoted a line from poet Langston Hughes (who Harrison admired) - the line was:

'As we live and learn, dig and be dug in return.'

Harrison - you rocked.

Yes Indeedy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Week In Review 02.16

Well, it's time for another week in review - this is a tad extended, since I haven't much to review thanks to the WXPN winter Fund Drive.

From February 3 until the lucky date of Friday, February 13, WXPN put aside its normal business in order to raise money to stay solvent. This is the bane of public broadcasting - to be supported by the public. The public that has been trained to believe that all television and radio programs are free for the taking; for TV all one needs is electricity and a television set. For radio, a pair of AA batteries and a transistor radio is all it takes to get the service into your ears.

What many people sorta know, but perhaps don't quite truly appreciate, is that in commercial radio the sacrifice for that 'free' entertainment service is that you are bombarded with commercials - up to 20 minutes of ads per hour on some stations! Even the king of Philly radio (KYW 1060) now tells you the time by saying "it's 7:30am, time to get a cup of coffee and danish at Dunkin Donuts". Everything is for sale at a commercial station - that's the nature of the beast.

At a public radio station - we rely on the support of those that listen. Statistically, only one in 10 actually give something to a public radio station. Basically, what that means is that almost 90% of those listening, don't support. Grant it - some simply cannot. I get that. But, after 20 years of working in public broadcasting, I am baffled by how many people listen daily - but never even THINK of giving.

A year membership to WXPN is $50, less than a buck a week. For some reason it just doesn't sink in how important that gift is to the lifeblood of the station they listen to daily. If everyone listening pledged just that one gift, we wouldn't even need to be begging for dollars all the time - the support would be constant.

Now some don't give for personal reasons; be they political or programming or perhaps old grudges around past formats. I respect that to a degree - but chances are those that are 'pissed' at the station, probably aren't listening to it. However I think the majority of those that don't give, feel that their gift - no matter the amount - just isn't important.

I believe that because the fund drive shows it.

The drive is quite encompassing of a production; not only on a technical basis, but an emotional one as well. You have hosts talking for days on end - basically repeating the same message over and over and over and you have the staff and production that it takes to produce a drive. The army of volunteers to take the pledges, the network of restaurants that donate food to feed said army and the team of production that has to staff the control boards, so that the hosts can be in the phone room pitching for support.

The station basically interrupts its normal format to beg for dollars - and slowly; one call at a time; people call in to support. What is that process? What makes someone finally pick up the phone and call? There were hours when the phones were far quieter than we would have liked - and then a host would say something and BAM! The phones would light up!

What did they say? They said the same thing that they have been saying since the start. That unique process to get into people's mind and make them understand that their 'simple' gift to XPN is vital to our survival is a process that - even after 20 years of fund drives - I still don't quite get. It's a technique that is draining for all parties and one I wish we could avoid.

I've talked to personal friends that go on-and-on about how much they 'love' XPN, and love my program etc - but yet, when asked, they sheepishly admit that they are not a member of the station; figuring (wrongly) that it was either too expensive or that their donation wasn't really needed.

Have you ever been one of those listeners - one that hadn't given but all of the sudden did? I'm curious to know that process that led you to call your station and support it.

I suppose I wish that there was a simple way to reach out to those listeners of XPN that aren't members and explain to them - just one time - that, now more than ever, their membership gift is vital to our mission.

Anyway - that was the brunt of my week+ in review ... I did get a chance to see a show - which I will post about seperately.

Happy President's Day!

(BTW - if interested, to support WXPN, follow this secure link)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sex Dwarf Playlist 02.06.09

"Lovich In The Air"
- a spotlight on Lene Lovich as we ll as songs of love

DJ Robert Drake 9:00 - 10:30pm

Lene Lovich / Sleeping Beauty
Tom Tom Club / Loralie
Lene Lovich / Wonderful One
Lene Lovich / Monkey Talk
Lene Lovich / I Think We're Alone Now
Adam Ant / Kick
Elvis Costello / Strict Time
SSQ / Playback
Cult Hero / I'm A Cult Hero
Quando Quango / Love Tempo
The B-52s / Summer Of Love
Lene Lovich / Blue
Book Of Love / Witchcraft
Lene Lovich / Cats Away
Lene Lovich / Birdsong
New Order / Procession
Figures On A Beach / No Stars
Psychedelic Furs / Heartbreak Beat 12"
Kissing The Pink / Certain Things Are Likely
Our Daughter's Wedding / Lawnchairs Are Everywhere

DJ Marilyn Thomas 10:30pm - 11:30pm

Leisure Process / Love Cascade 12"
Human League / Love Action (I Believe)
OMD / So In Love
Haircut 100 / Love Plus One 12"
Lene Lovich / It's You, Only You
Siouxsie & The Banshees / The Passenger
ABC / Look Of Love
The Cure / Love Cats
David Bowie / Modern Love
Depeche Mode / Strangelove
Eurythmics / Love Is A Stranger
Erasure / Oh La'Mour
Tears For Fears / Shout
Spandau Ballet / To Cut A Long Story Short
English Beat / Hands Off, She's Mine
Pigbag / Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag

DJ Robert Drake 11:30pm - 12:15am

Blue Rondo a la Turk / Me & Mr. Sanchaz
OMD / Enola Gay
OMD / Red Frame, White Light
Martha & The Muffins / Echo Beach
Lene Lovich / Blue Hotel
Peter Schilling / Major Tom
Lene Lovich / Home
Bronski Beat / I Feel Love - Johnny
Real Life / Send Me An Angel
PIL / This Is Not A Love Song
Thompson Twins / Love On Your Side

DJ Marilyn Thomas 12:15 - 1:00am

A Flock Of Seagulls / Space Age Love Song
King / Love & Pride
Yaz / Don't Go!
Fad Gadget / Love Parasite
Lene Lovich / Lucky Number 12"
Marc Almond / Tears Run Rings
The Smiths / Sheila Take A Bow
The Cure / Friday I'm In Love
Ministry / Work For Love
Joy Division / Love Will Tear Us Apart
Psychedelic Furs / Love My Way
Billy Idol / White Wedding
Modern English / I Melt With You

DJ Robert Drake 1:00 - 2:00am

The Go-Go's / Lust For Love
DEVO / Love Without Anger
The B-52s / Dance This Mess Around - 52 Girls 12"
Delta 5 / Try
Bunnydrums / Little Room
Joy Division / Digital
Lene Lovich / Angels
Split Enz / I Got You
Visage / Love Glove
Depeche Mode / Just Can't Get Enough
Culture Club / Love Is Cold
Talking Heads / Crosseyed & Painless
Yello / I Love You
Pet Shop Boys / Love Comes Quickly
When In Rome / The Promise - closing song

Next month (MARCH 6) Sex Dwarf is 'For The Birds' as we spotlight A Flock Of Seagulls - feathers are the theme and we'll be screening Hitchcock's The Birds through the night on the Big Wall! :)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Antony, Buster & Dave

As I mentioned in my recent Week In Review post - John and I traveled to the Keswick Theatre to see Antony & The Johnsons this past Monday. The following night, I had the pleasure of, once again, hosting The English Beat in Philadelphia; this time back at World Cafe Live and opening for them was legendary 2nd wave ska band, Bad Manners.

First up, my thoughts on the Antony show. I first discovered Antony way back in the mid-1990s, just a handful of years after he moved to NYC. He was selected to be part of a compilation CD that was issued to celebrate the downtown drag and performance art scene. The title of the disc was "God Shave The Queen" and I did interviews with several of the artists featured, for broadcast on Q'zine (the weekly queer arts & culture show I host on WXPN).

I chatted with Joey Arias, Lady Bunny and Antony and previewed all the tracks on the show throughout the launch month. Even then, I thought that Antony stood out above the rest - not because he was better, but because he was different. There was a softness in his voice that worked as a salve to help sooth the sadness that lied underneath.

Over years I must admit I lost focus on Antony - so I was pleasantly surprised to re-discover him a few years ago, re-packaged with his band and playing Philadelphia (World Cafe Live in 2005). I went to the show and walked away truly mesmerized.

The way he constructs a song; from the lyrics to the use of specific instruments and notes - it's all you can do not to sit there dumbstruck while he performs. When I heard he was touring on his new CD, I was excited to have the chance to see him again!

The concert was powerful! Even with a nondescript wardrobe and simple lighting that kept him in the shadows most of the night, Antony held the reigns to the 600+ in attendance. There were many moments where you could truly hear a pin drop during the evening; it was THAT good!

The following night was also a joy! I was once again asked to MC the return of The English Beat to World Cafe Live. Dave Wakeling is a touring powerhouse of late; traveling the country and performing to full houses night after night! This evening was no different; even while the city was being covered with a blanket of fresh snow, the heat inside the main hall was off the hook!

In the past I've seen Dave and the band perform with peers and with newcomers as opening/support acts. This time Bad Manners joined them - and, as Dave told me earlier in an interview I did with him, he had his work cut out for him with Bad Manners and Buster Blood Vessel taking the stage as opening act.

Bad Manners ROCKED the house into a sweaty skank-induced pulp! They performed for almost one hour nonstop - pausing for (at most) 20 seconds between songs - Buster looks better than ever following his life-saving surgery and recovery and the horn section he had on stage made the band sound like part ska/part mariachi band -- amazing!

The Beat didn't disappoint - they never do. Dave and company performed a wide selection of hits; from both the Beat and General Public eras. I am always impressed with Dave's stage presence - he is warm, grateful and loves his fans - almost as much as they love him.

The room was warm and filled with love - a perfect solution to the cold, wintry mix happening outside that evening.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lux Interior R.I.P.

The legendary frontman from The Cramps has passed away at the age of 60, due to heart problems.

Lux Interior was the ultimate showman - I was fortunate to see The Cramps perform live at Philly's Grendel's Lair on South Street - one of my fondest memories from 'back in the day' - and that is certainly saying something.

Enjoy the performance - Rest In Peace Lux.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Week In Review 02.02

Well, it's been quite the week and now comes the reflective time!

In my last Week In Review post, I left off at Saturday, Jan 25 - where I was hosting the First Person Arts Story Slam event at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. And, with the *possible* exception of the 2008 Grand Slam (which I also hosted), Saturday night’s crowd in the Commonwealth Plaza at the Kimmel Center may have been the largest EVER gathered for a First Person Arts storyslam! I'll get to the winner, but first a bit about First Person Arts.

First Person Arts was founded in 2000 as Blue Sky by Vicki Solot, in response to the burgeoning interest in memoir and documentary art forms. Solot appreciated the resonance of real stories and recognized their value as a means of bridging cultural ethnic divides. With the involvement of a visionary board, First Person Arts set out to support the development of new memoir and documentary work and to create opportunities for it to be seen and appreciated by many. In just four years, First Person Arts has showcased the work of more than 100 artists nationwide; They have reached across cultures and communities to attract a broad and diverse audience; and have played an important role in exploring and celebrating the richness of the mixed heritage and shared history of everyday Americans.

Their monthly Story Slam events are legendary; both in its use of improv and audience interaction.

The way it works is simple: each event has a theme (for example, this particular event's theme was "broke"). If you are interested in telling a story around this theme - on stage within the guidelines of the event - you simply drop your name into a bucket.

The host picks names one at a time and calls you up on stage - you have 5 minutes and cannot use any notes to tell your story. The story is judged by several audience members (also chosen at random from those interested in judging); they judge each story on content and presentation - giving each a 1-10 score.

The highest score of the evening moves to the Grand Slam; held in November where the past 12 winners compete against each other for the chance to be Storyteller of the Year from First Person Arts.

This evening's crowd was extra special, since the event was held in advance of a performance from Ira Glass (This American Life). Although there were no official sightings of Ira during this pre-game, something tells me he wasn't too far off; listening to the words of everyday people.

The theme "broke" ran the gamut; from stories of broken limbs to broken dreams - but the winner (the OTHER Ira) was a story simply about being broke.

Ira A - a longtime staple in Philadelphia's underground scene - shared his story of past woe, and man was it a doozy! His was a tale of living in poverty in NYC in the late 1970s as a member of the punk underground. Having offered his squat of a flat to the members of Tuxedomoon as a crash pad, it was Christmas Eve and those members that didn't travel back to family were left with Ira and friends to fend for themselves to find a celebration.

The weeks prior, Ira and company spent their time attending the art gallery openings in the Soho district - primarily to fill pouches that lined the insides of their coats with various cubes of cheese, crackers and even wine. Shopping day for the art-punks!

At his flat, Ira had the gallery haul of cheese and crackers, a box of noodles and enough change to purchase two Big Macs - which they did and then proceeded to create an extraordinary casserole that could only have been assembled under the most impoverished of circumstances.

It was a heartfelt and humorous look at being 'broke' and it wowed the judges and the audience as well. Ira will return in the fall as January's winner, to compete in the Grand Slam.

BTW, for those in the region - I'll be hosting the March Story Slam, which will be held at World Cafe Live - click here for details.

The rest of my week was fairly low-key. January finds myself (and many) falling into a routine - one where the sun is rarely appreciated, except through the windows of my office. I leave for work in the dark and I arrive home in the dark.

I rang in February with a dose of PUPPY BOWL on Animal Planet - man, 2 hours of cute puppies romping around! YAY! On Monday, John and I went to the Keswick Theatre to see Antony & The Johnsons - and last night I hosted The English Beat concert, with Bad Manners opening. I'll review those concerts in a separate post coming tomorrow.

Oh, and last night Philly FINALLY got its first true snowfall of the winter season - about 6-7 inches fell overnight and the city has no clue what to do (as usual) - schools were closed today which made me crave for the time when I could wake up early, turn on the radio and listen intently for my school number to be announced as CLOSED!

Sadly, they no longer read off the school numbers - instead they drive listeners to visit their website. And, just as sadly, I no longer lay in bed listening intently to the radio on a snowy morning for that wonderful wish of personal freedom. Instead I get up and GO to the radio station, knowing that my job NEVER closes.

The joy of being 'essential personnel'- - alas.

Monday, February 02, 2009

TOO FUNNY - as silly as it is, I love this series of commercials!

E-Trade: Babies