Bluth banana stand

Who Wants to Win Amazon’s Banana Stand?

From its headquarters in Seattle, Amazon gives back to its community through an extraordinary program.

The multi-billion dollar company, headed by the richest man in the world, certainly doesn’t have to act selflessly, but there is its Community Banana Stand just the same. Indeed, thanks to the boundless philanthropy of Jeff Bezos, anyone who happens to be walking through Amazon’s sprawling South Lake Union campus for some reason can nourish their bodies with a free banana.

Now Amazon is looking to continue the spirit of giving by generously providing economic development to one lucky city. Last Thursday, the corporation released the 20 finalists in its competition for which municipality gets to be the site of its second headquarters. The competition is mostly about which city can provide the most obscene tax breaks and other “incentives” to the massive corporation (if indeed Amazon hadn’t already made up its mind before starting this process), but that doesn’t mean Amazon isn’t bringing something to the table.

On its website, Amazon has provided a handy list of numbers that show the benefits Seattle has received over the years from its presence, and suggests that other cities could get the same deal. The benefits are about as useful to the average citizen as a free banana stand.

data table Amazon

This is of course nothing more than a press release. There’s no real transparency about how they arrived at these numbers, what they really mean, or any independent verification of them.

They pretend at statistical rigor with two footnotes (wow, those things in textbooks!), but the barest scrutiny reveals that they say extremely little. The first table of “Direct Investment” apparently comes “From 2010 (when Amazon moved its headquarters to downtown Seattle) in June 2017,” which still says nothing about where these numbers come from. The Second Table’s data comes “from 2010-2016, using Input-Output methodology and multipliers developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis,” which sounds an awful lot like it’s saying something.

So let’s look at those numbers.

The whole left side pertaining to “Direct Investment” is vague to the point of being meaningless. The number of buildings Amazon builds, restaurants on its premises, and square footage they take up doesn’t help the city in any way, it just rings of “development” and “progress” for progress’ sake. The inclusion of “24 restaurants” is especially laughable considering the cities on the shortlist–like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston–presumably already have several restaurants.

The only number Amazon loves to tout more than its “$5 billion in construction” is it’s “as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.”

50,000 employees sounds great, but who will those employees be? The average person isn’t going to just land one of the highly skilled jobs required at a tech company. The vast majority of those jobs will go to a college-educated, professional class and not the populations in cities that need work the most (not that working at Amazon is necessarily peachy anyway) Actually, many of those jobs won’t even go to city residents, as in the case of Amazon’s Seattle HQ, which attracts huge numbers of transplants, in turn creating a higher demand for more and costlier housing, driving up rent and accelerating gentrification.

The Capital Investment number is interesting. When a big corporation like Amazon invests in constructing offices and other necessities, who gets that money? Seattle HQ construction was handled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Real Estate. So in all likelihood, a lot of that “investment” helped further enrich another tech billionaire who sub-contracted a bunch of laborers and kept most of the profits.

The final number on this side of the table is the only straight-up public utility that Amazon claims to have invested in, and it’s also the smallest number by order of billions. Paying $43 million into public transportation is great, but it means little next to Amazon’s total impact. It means even less next to some of those “incentivesthat I mentioned earlier, like $7 billion in tax cuts in Newark, 100% property tax abatement in Columbus, and the incredible “Amazon Task Force” of paid city staffers representing Amazon’s interests in Boston’s city government.

The right side of the table is even vaguer. “Investment” is an incredibly loose term, and Amazon has never spelled out what any of these numbers represent, specifically. How much of that $38 billion of “additional investments,” for example, comes from developers building luxury condos and tenants paying exorbitant rent for them?

Amazon’s presence will create “benefits,” but mostly ones that can only be enjoyed by a certain class of people, and the majority of people will suffer because of it. Imagine if the Olympics came to town, but then never left.

Here are some numbers that aren’t on Amazon’s press release:

Apartment rents in Seattle have risen 63% since 2010.

Seattle has the 3rd highest homeless population in the United States. The homeless population in King County continues to rise every year, and Seattle declared it a civil state of emergency in 2015).

It would be impossible to argue that Amazon alone is responsible for these appalling figures. But to assert that the corporation’s presence and activity in Seattle has contributed to catastrophic increases in cost of living, widespread displacement, and rising inequality is made on much firmer ground than these supposed billions in “indirect investment.”

And really, how much community investment can we expect from the man who wanted to displace people living on an Indian reservation to avoid paying taxes?

Also absent from Amazon’s list is any mention of investment in education, healthcare, or public housing. And if you do get Amazon in your city, prepare for the possibility of your favorite corner of town transforming into a corporate hive of lanyard-wearing professionals running to and fro. One Seattleite said of his hometown: “What was once a quirkily mellow, solidly middle-class city now feels like a stressed-out, two-tier town with a thin layer of wealthy young techies atop a base of anxious wage workers.”

When things are touted as good for the City with a capital “C,” the benefits don’t ever seem to trickle down to the average citizen. That is, unless you believe free bananas to be a benefit.

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A Tale of Two Festivals – AFROPUNK vs. Made In America

AFROPUNK

photo taken from Brooklyn Vegan

We have an unimaginably good lineup. You get to see Thundercat, Earl Sweatshirt, TV On The Radio, Saul Williams, Trash Talk—we could go on. Oh, did we mention that you’ll get to mosh to a supergroup of Living Colour, Fishbone, and the freaking Bad Brains? You weren’t even supposed to be able to do that in your lifetime. On top of that, during the afternoon you’re going to see some crazy acts that become your new favorite artists. It only costs $75 for the entire weekend, but if even that’s too much for you, we still want you to come so we’ll let you volunteer with a charity to earn free tickets. Food prices are still fairly high, but we have a ton of food from all different cultures that isn’t fried and won’t make you sick to your stomach, but you can totally get that too if you want. Plus you can buy a Coors Light pounder for only $6.

Just come hang out at this park in Brooklyn and listen to amazing music for a weekend. Everyone here is really beautiful and rocking their own unique styles, wearing clothes in ways you didn’t think it was possible to wear clothes. Yeah, it gets crowded sometimes, but everybody stays calm. Nobody is too drunk and certainly nobody is vomiting on your shoes. Everybody is chill.

 

Made In America

photo taken from Fuse

photo taken from Fuse

You have to spend $160 to spend the weekend hemmed in by a swarm of drunk White teenagers from the suburbs. Some of the kids will actually pass out before they even make it to the gate. Security apparently did not prepare for the full number of people who RSVP’d to come months in advance, so you’ll wait in line for an hour. If you need to pick up your wristband at will call, you can pretty much count yourself out of the festival entirely. The lineup is actually really good, but you will barely be able to move through the bottlenecking crowds between stages. The festival is sponsored by Budweiser, who generously offers beer for as low as $9.50 for a Bud Light pounder.

Nobody has any chill at all. Day-drunk bros will try to muscle their way past you in crowds in which everyone is already shoulder-to-shoulder and then glare it you like you’re the asshole. Everybody seems to be trying to one-up each other for wearing the most tasteless American flag-themed outfit. Who will win this year? Will it be the person in a tank top emblazoned with the flag and the words “FUCK YEAH” underneath, or will it be the person naked but for a flag wrapped around their crotch? Truly, we will do anything we can to see just how unbearable we can make this festival before you decide the amazing lineup isn’t worth it.

The Bacon Brothers and Robbie Grote @ Union Transfer for the Reading Viaduct Project Fundraiser.

JUMP: The Philly Music Project

BaconBros_012Text by Tyler Horst. Images by Chris Fascenelli.

Union Transfer saw a much more dressed-up clientele than usual last Thursday night. Many came out in their best suits and dresses to mingle amongst a catered spread, rub shoulders with a few faces from high places and enjoy an evening of music.

Why the high-class atmosphere?

Thursday night wasn’t just a rare opportunity to see the Bacon Brothers live in concert in their hometown of Philadelphia, but also a benefit for the construction of a Rail Park on the Reading Viaduct, the derelict railway hidden just out of sight above sections of Center City, a block away from Union Transfer.

“It’s based on the Highline in New York City but it’s going to be bigger and better and wider,” said emcee Pierre Robert of WMMR about the proposed Rail Park, receiving enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

The benefit was…

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Protest the Hero Pacific Myth

Protest the Hero’s Pacific Myth: Innovation or Gimmick?

How to “save” the music industry?

Many attempts have been made over the past several years, from streaming services like Spotify to your one friend who insists that the only real way to support artists is to see them live. But it’s still possible to starve on tour and Thom Yorke called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse,” so whether you think new modes of music distribution are revolutionary ideas or moribund flatulence, it’s safe to say we haven’t yet figured out the best way to distribute music in the Digital Age.

Recently, Canadian post-hardcore band Protest the Hero have thrown their hat in the ring with Pacific Myth, an online subscription platform. The group raised over $170,000 on Indiegogo to record their previous album, so experimenting with music business models is becoming a calling card of theirs.

In a nutshell, Pacific Myth is a 6-song EP released digitally at the rate of one song per month. Subscribers make a one-time payment of $12, after which they are able to download each song as they are released. No matter when you sign up, you get everything that Protest the Hero has released on Pacific Myth so far, and everything that they will release thereafter.

You might be asking: so isn’t this just an album that you get really slowly?

Well, yes, it kind of is. Buying music digitally isn’t anything new, and in a basic sense Pacific Myth is just a version of that. Subscribers aren’t buying a subscription to everything that Protest the Hero will make forever, just paying for all the content that the band chooses to release this year via this one platform.

What’s novel about the Pacific Myth platform is the way the band prepares the music, and the goodies that come along with it.

Protest the Hero is currently four songs in to the proposed six that will make up Pacific Myth. But even though the next one is scheduled to drop on February 16, that doesn’t mean it’s finished yet. Rather than sitting back and gradually eking out six already finished songs, the band is writing and recording the material as they go along. In their own words:

Most record cycles are at least 2 years. That’s two years of promoting 40-or-so minutes of music. Music that you may have written two years before that! We have never been able to release what we want to release NOW. So that’s exactly what this is. These are songs we love now, songs we are proud of now, and songs which are inherently more candid than our other material.

So in a sense, fans are subscribing to Protest the Hero’s creative process. Because subscribers also become part of a “Fan Community,” they can give and receive messages to the band. On January 8, the band wrote this message to its Pacific Myth subscribers:

In the nature of this campaign and it being as ” real-time” as possible we thought it would be cool for you to suggest some ideas for the final song. Wouldn’t it be cool if you the listener could influence how one of these songs turns out? Anything you want to hear us do, comment below and we might just consider it.”

Bands often like to go on about “removing the barrier” between artist and fan. Pacific Myth turns fans into collaborators, giving them the opportunity to not only sit in on the writing process, but also pipe up with their own ideas.

Pacific Myth is meant to feel more personal, and it works. Subscribers receive the band’s ideas while they’re still fresh, and can instantly give feedback before the next one. On top of that, Protest the Hero posts videos, updates, and even a digital copy of their first EP to make the subscription worthwhile between songs.

This all sounds like a pretty great idea. Metalsucks recently had Protest the Hero’s Tim Millar on its podcast to discuss “whether they realize that they are turning the industry on its head.”

Those are some big words.

Pacific Myth seems to be working well for Protest the Hero, but is it going to revolutionize the industry and be adopted en masse by other artists? Probably not, and here’s why.

Firstly, Protest the Hero benefits from a well-established and very dedicated fanbase. They’ve built a reputation for themselves over many years of touring and connecting personally to fans. They’ve developed a distinguished sound over four studio albums. They spent years with the promotional power of major label Vagrant Records behind them before going independent. In short, they’ve earned the trust, adoration, and purchasing power of a legion of fans by being a damn fine band for many years.

Would you pay $12 to receive songs that haven’t been written yet, by a band that you’ve never heard of and has never released any music?

Unless you’re a gambler, you’re probably going to pass on that one. The success of Pacific Myth is predicated on trust and fan loyalty. Any artist that follows the model would absolutely need that before attempting to use it for their own releases.

Folks on the internet have a tendency to freak out every time some new distribution model is attempted, immediately declaring it the magic bullet that will save the music industry just because we’re starving for something new. This isn’t that.

Pacific Myth is a great experiment and, as a subscriber, a fun and personal way to receive music, but even Protest the Hero themselves aren’t necessarily planning to use the model forever. The band has already stated that Pacific Myth is an interim release to get new music out between now and their next full-length. Unless people are really keen on receiving a polished full-length in monthly increments, it’s likely going to be released as a traditional, full album.

But, in a different sense, Pacific Myth is exactly what the music industry is going to look like from now on. That is, it’s probably going to be one of many ways we listen to music.

Pacific Myth works for Protest the Hero. It wouldn’t work for every artist, but so what?

There is never again going to be only one way to get music, in the way that in the 1960’s you either purchased your favorite record on vinyl, or sat by the radio and hoped to hear a song you like. We aren’t going to go back to that. Ever. Rather than finding the new one-size-fits-all mode of distribution, there will be an ever-increasing diversity of ways that music reaches the masses.

I for one welcome ideas like Pacific Myth, and can’t wait to see what new methods develop, whether they come from Protest the Hero or the fart-hating Thom Yorke.

SNL Was Everything Trump Could Have Wanted

Donald Trump Saturday Night Live

I wasn’t going to watch SNL on Saturday night. I already don’t watch it most weeks anyway, but this time I was making a much more conscious decision not to tune into the live broadcast.

But then, exactly as I feared, it ended up not mattering anyway. The program’s host for the evening, notable racist and actual presidential candidate Donald Trump, got exactly what he wanted and, as EW reported, gave the show (and ostensibly, himself) its best ratings in years.

And it would have been great if those ratings were for a show that challenged Trump in any way or made some attempt at, you know, actual satire. But after white-knuckling my way through the episode on Hulu, it became clear pretty quickly that the show didn’t do any of that.

At best, SNL put on a weak show and enabled Donald Trump to look cutesy and harmless to thousands of viewers who might not realize the despicable things he advocates. At worst, it outright encouraged both Trump and the viewers of the show to laugh off and ignore the candidate’s very much deserved reputation as a bigot.

What’s especially disheartening is that this was even allowed to happen in the first place. Remember that not long ago, NBC declared it was barring Trump from appearing on its network because of his ugly comments about Latinos. That was back when Trump was nothing but an obnoxious sideshow that we all expected to eventually slink away like he did in the last election cycle. But then several months passed, and the controversial candidate turned into a media spectacle and guaranteed ratings generator, and the network suddenly changed its tune.

Funny how that happens. Too bad the show wasn’t also funny.

The closest the episode got to mustering up any sort of takedown was during “Weekend Update.” First, the boorish and pathetic Drunk Uncle was presented as Donald Trump’s biggest supporter. Then Michael Che offered the only truly direct jab of the night, when he joked about being suspicious whenever old white men like Trump talk about “the good old days” because, “My Negro senses start tingling. After all those years of progress, Trump’s gonna go, ‘I think we had it right the first time.’” But even Che looked nervous to have stepped out that far, and after that the show retreated to toothless ribbing.

The most bizarre sketch to air was one in which Trump and several cast members acted out Trump’s hypothetical first days in office. In Trump’s America, the sketch goes, ISIS is defeated, Putin driven out of Ukraine, and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto pays Trump personally for a border wall constructed between the U.S. and Mexico. I kept waiting for the punchline that never came. I guess you could say that the joke was supposed to be that all these goals of Trump’s are ridiculous fantasy, but you’d have to already agree with that point of view to read it into the sketch. The subtext was barely there, if there was any at all. The sketch ended up doing nothing but allow Trump to literally play out a wish-fulfillment fantasy and give a stump speech disguised as “comedy.”

The most upsetting moment of the night came in the first four minutes. During Trump’s opening monologue, a husky voice yells from the crowd, “Trump’s a racist!” It turns out the “heckler” is Larry David, who when asked why he interrupted, says, “I heard if I yelled that, they’d give me five thousand dollars.”

Ha ha!

For some reason, many have taken this for a daring jab, but there was nothing clever or subversive about it. The organization Deport Racism, who put out the bounty for hecklers to call out Trump’s racism live on the air, inexplicably awarded the $5,000 to Larry David for what was obviously a staged moment to ease tensions and smooth the way for Trump’s easy ride through the rest of the show. Even if David technically made the statement, it was completely deflated by the punchline of the joke, which was made at the expense of those protesting Trump’s appearance on the show and not at Trump himself.

All the joke did was belittle the thousands of people who have a legitimate grievance against Trump’s politics, and encourage him to ignore the haters and keep on doing his racist thing. I mean, all of those people upset that a man who wants to be President of the United States called Mexicans rapists and criminals and now gets free airtime on one of America’s most-watched shows are just crazy right? Trump’s not really a racist, that’s just dumb chant by some over-sensitive losers. Hilarious.

I wish that Larry David had actually called Trump a racist. It wouldn’t have been funny, but even a flailing outburst from somebody in the studio would have been better to watch than the neutered writing and sycophantic pandering.

At least it would have been saying something.

DJ Sylo Breaks Out.

JUMP: The Philly Music Project

SyloOnline20Text by Tyler Horst. Images by Charles Shan Cerrone.

In an unlit corner of Alessandro’s Pizza & Grill on North Broad Street, Brady Ettinger sets up the kind of massive speakers you would expect to find at a club. It’s early on a Saturday night and the restaurant is empty. For now.

“We’re expecting to see three to four hundred people come through tonight,” he says, unwinding an XLR cable and attaching it to a speaker.

No, three to four hundred people aren’t coming just for a bite to eat. The pizza at Alessandro’s is good but patrons who don’t already know what’s up for tonight will find a lot more than just tasty pie. Ettinger, who is better known by his DJ name SYLO, is throwing a party. Along with his friends and compatriots in STUNTLOCO, the party crew he started at Silk City, SYLO is…

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David Liebe Hart Kung Fu Necktie

The Magical Absurdity of David Liebe Hart in Concert

Few live music performances are quite as surreal or purely enjoyable as David Liebe Hart playing for a packed-out bar. You know him–or maybe you don’t–as that singer, puppeteer, actor, and comedian who is famous for being… well, kind of strange. His journey to the stage of Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia on Sunday night is an odd one. Liebe Hart came into his unorthodox form of notoriety through Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, where his bizarre songs became a favorite recurring segment. But in a show where things were consistently absurd, and the lines between what was natural and what was staged were intentionally blurred, people had to ask, “Is this guy for real?”

To answer that question, here is an interview with David Liebe Hart that he starts by letting the reporter know that NASA wants to kill him for telling people too much information about UFO’s. Interview after interview confirms it: this guy with the puppets is not doing an act. It’s just David being David. He believes in aliens (the Korendians, to be exact), claims a blood relation to the Wright brothers, and says Jim Henson taught his Christian Science Sunday school and implored him to do a puppet show on television. Liebe Hart actually did host a puppet show, The Junior Christian Science Lesson Bible Show on a public-access channel in California, and that’s more or less where he started. Every city has their set of beloved oddball characters, and that’s who Liebe Hart was for awhile, a street performer and public-access host in LA that became a part of the local lore. Then he was discovered by Tim and Eric’s team and elevated to the status of cult celebrity.

Now he’s touring the country with his music, and I was honestly a little nervous about going to his show in Philadelphia. Given the reason for Liebe Hart’s celebrity, I was worried that the show would be nothing more than an uncomfortable exercise in mocking a man who doesn’t understand that he’s the butt of a joke. Are we laughing with him, or at him? The answer is both, and neither. In fact, the question is completely irrelevant, because David Liebe Hart’s shows are insanely fun.

Before Liebe Hart got on stage, his musical partner and touring manager Jonah Mociun played the trailer for White Cop, a possibly-bad-on-purpose film starring Liebe Hart and a guy who looks like the kid from Troll 2, and it looks absolutely amazing. Then Mociun went backstage to “talk to David,” at which point a video skit played of Liebe Hart in his “dressing room” getting a massage from a model and demanding a cup of brown M&M’s. It was a perfectly hilarious intro to the night, amplifying the captivating eccentricity of Liebe Hart’s personality, and when he finally took the stage the crowd lost its mind.

From then on out, the show was just David doing his thing, and it was amazing. Liebe Hart’s songs are almost all based on the wild stories about himself that he claims to be true, crammed to the brim with lyrical narrative while giving little regard to the number of actual beats in a measure. There was a song about Betty White, an alien that told him not to watch porn, and a ditty called “Michael Likes to Smoke His Weed.” What’s so much fun about Liebe Hart is that he’s never weird quite in the way you expect him to be, like when he performed a song called “Teleportation Thru Space,” which turned out to just be about the physics of talking (“My voice comes out of my face / and it teleports to you through space”). Liebe Hart also performed some praise songs (complete with a flashy Jesus montage), and delighted his diehard Tim and Eric fans by bringing out his puppets for favorites like the “Email Song,” “I Fell in Love,” and a rousing performance of “Salame.”

Each song was accompanied by off-beat videos overloaded with clipart and Tim & Eric-inspired editing decisions, put together by a combination of Mociun and devoted Liebe Hart fans. The production on the songs was also new, embellished by Mociun but not entirely losing the feeling that it was partly composed on an old Casio keyboard. Much credit for the performance actually goes to Mociun, who put a lot of effort into just letting David be David. According to Mocium, he worked for a radio station where he got the job of interviewing Liebe Hart. “One thing led to another,” he said, and now he’s working full-time touring and producing Liebe Hart’s shows.

Once I stopped worrying about whether my intentions for coming to the show were pure, I stopped policing my own enjoyment and accepted the fact that not only was I having a good time, but Liebe Hart was having a damn good time as well. Because even if he gets that some people are laughing for the wrong reasons, Liebe Hart is not going to stop doing what he’s doing. I don’t think it’s possible to keep him from being who he is. He’s been doing performances like this for decades, even if it meant doing them on the street, and it doesn’t seem like he particularly wants to do anything else.

Are some people in it just to make fun, to do the adult equivalent of pretending to be friends with the weird kid at school while snickering behind his back? Sure, there’s some of that, but you can’t stop people from being jerks any less than you can stop Liebe Hart from doing puppetry. And if you did come to the show only to make fun, then the joke’s on you, asshole. You just payed to support a man’s art.

If there was any doubt about whether the crowd was on Liebe Hart’s side or not, it was erased when a guy got booted off stage for being a smartass. Liebe Hart announced he was going to sing a song about ghosts, and wanted to know if anyone had ever had a haunting experience. He innocently invited on stage a guy from the front row, who said something lame about aliens into the microphone. When Liebe Hart politely reminded him that we were talking about ghosts now, the guy gave the crowd a “look at this nerd” snicker, clearly believing we were all there to pull Liebe Hart’s leg, and promptly got a vicious booing. Security ripped him from the stage and, because this is Philly after all, the crowd started an “asshole” chant to say good riddance.

The fact is that people are drawn to Liebe Hart’s personality and complete inability to be anything other than his authentic self. It’s outsider art brought to the fringes of mainstream entertainment. The weirdos of the world can be celebrities now, and that’s an awesome thing.

When Liebe Hart left, the crowd shouted, “We love you David!” and meant it. It was kind of beautiful, really, to see someone so celebrated for being their completely weird self. The utterly wacky stuff that the man creates is nothing more than a product of his own honest self-expression, and I can think of no better response than for us to enjoy the beautiful absurdity of it all.

So to Mr. Liebe Hart I say thank you, and Salame.

“We All Live Here” Examines Gentrification in North Philadelphia

This past fall I co-produced a documentary called “We All Live Here,” an exploration of the relationship between an urban university and a struggling neighborhood. For years, Temple University has been changing the face of North Philadelphia, but many longtime residents don’t believe it’s for the better. The film asks what role a city university should play in its community, and initiates a conversation about how to respect and share space as genuine neighbors.

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Game of Thrones White Walkers

Why Game of Thrones is Actually About Climate Change

Game of Thrones has become a bigger hit than one would normally expect a television adaptation of a saga of dense fantasy novels from the 90’s could ever be. Anyone who has watched the show could tell you that this success probably comes from the fact that, as Adam Scott’s character in Parks and Recreation once emphatically insisted, they tell human stories in a fantasy setting. Even though there are direwolves and giants running around, the characters in GoT deal with real human problems like greed, loyalty, and love. It’s pretty easy to spot all that basic human drama stuff, but there’s one storyline that hits way closer to home that nobody else has seemed to notice.

What I mean is that Game of Thrones is basically an allegory for the political battle over climate change.

To be clear, I’m only talking about the show here. If this same argument is borne out over the books, I don’t know, because I’ve only made it through the first one. I’m only dealing with the HBO television series which, on its surface, seems mostly to be an instructional series on how to design sets that artfully obscure penises. But, if you dig deeper, you’ll find it’s so much more. (more…)

New Sound Brass: The Instant Party.

JUMP: The Philly Music Project

NSBonline01Text by Tyler Horst. Images by Mina Lee.

Upstairs at the Stone House Pub in South Philly, in an empty billiard room with the blinds drawn against the midday sun, Mike Strickland Jr. hums a line to himself before trying to replicate it on a baritone horn. He and some of the other members of New Sound Brass are in the middle of arranging some Bob Marley tunes for their 10-piece ensemble. There’s no sheet music, no talk of music theory, just Strickland’s animated instructions about how to capture the vibe of the reggae standards and make them their own.

“We can play whatever you want to hear,” says Dan Demmy, who plays trombone. “We put it in our brass machine and turn those words into sounds. It changes everything.”

All told, Strickland, Demmy, Bruce Swinton Jr., Jimmy Carras, Patrick Renzi, Thomas Hagglock, Larissa Hall and three members…

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