NYPress.com - New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more » Jamie Peck http://nypress.com New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:34:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Bash Compactor: Keep The Fire Burning http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-keep-the-fire-burning/ http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-keep-the-fire-burning/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2011 00:00:00 +0000 Artist David Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992, but his spirit was alive and well at Chelsea’s P.P.O.W. Gallery last Thursday, when Joe Jagos and friends kicked off an exhibition of Wojnarowicz’s work with live performances of the influential artist’s poetry and music. Sporting a white v-neck, skinny black jeans, Jesus hair and geometric necklace, the spindly Jagos cut an appropriately bohemian figure for someone attempting to carry the radical torch—or rather, as Wojnarowicz tried to convey with his work, the sane, humanist torch—into the next generation. As those infamous ants crawled over crosses on the wall behind him, the normally low-key Jagos (full disclosure: a friend) minced no words when introducing the oft-censored works of Wojnarowicz, connecting the homophobia-driven hushing of HIV information to his own childhood in the 1980s and ’90s: "I grew up Catholic in Flint, Michigan, and by the time we found out about AIDS in 1992, my sisters were old enough to be sexually active."

Attractive, black-clad art folks of all ages and orientations paid earnest attention as Jagos read a graphic story about a young gay man beaten to within an inch of his life while onlookers did nothing. This was intensified by Daren Ho’s haunting sound effects. Lightening the mood a bit, Jagos next invited some additional musicians to perform a few songs by Wojnarowicz’s ’80s era No Wave band, 3 Teens Kill 4. Despite continuing the severe themes of censorship and homophobia, the songs also showcased Wojnarowicz’s playful side with lyrics like, "I bet you wish you could shake a can of beans as loud as me." A few onlookers who looked like well-preserved survivors of the Downtown art punk scene nodded along approvingly; I later found out they were members of the original band.

"I re-wrote everything to get the feeling of him writing everything himself," Jagos explained of his preparatory process. Why was he, a straight guy in 2011, driven to read works created by a gay artist in the ’80s? "I did video here a year and a half ago, and [Wojnarowicz's] assistant insisted that I sounded just like him. I went home and watched some videos, and he was right. I’ve met some of his old lovers and friends, and they’ve all been really freaked out by how much I sound like him." (A little online fact-checking confirms twin baritones, albeit slightly different accents.) And how did he feel about art dealing with AIDS? "Not a lot of art out there deals with these issues as much as it should. In our generation, AIDS has been pushed back, but I know three people who have it. I’ve had a big fear of it since I was a kid because I had no information… it took a straight NBA player to become a spokesman for it. David could’ve been a spokesman for it [sooner]."

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The Ballad of Frankie Rose http://nypress.com/the-ballad-of-frankie-rose/ http://nypress.com/the-ballad-of-frankie-rose/#comments Wed, 25 Aug 2010 00:00:00 +0000


For better or worse, Frankie Rose had my attention. It
was New Year’s Eve 2009, and the crowd packed into Cake Shop’s narrow basement
space—rockers forgoing the city’s glitzier fetes for the sure bet of a show—was
sweating. Following an anticlimactic countdown (the clock in my cell phone
actually hit midnight during one of the opening bands’ songs; no one cared),
Rose hit the stage with her new band Frankie Rose and The Outs.

The all-girl band—clad in party dresses accessorized with
sunglasses, and Rose with her tattoos and voluminous black locks—looked like it
belonged at a Gothic tiki resort tickled by sea breezes, not a sweltering
basement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With 1960s pop harmonies cloaked
in layers of reverb and a softened version of that driving beat Rose previously
lent to post-punk act Crystal Stilts, the four swaying ladies on stage could
not have been cooler. Although it was not actually the last band of the night,
many people left afterward.

The intrepid kids in attendance were just a small sampling
of those watching with interest to see what this musically promiscuous young
artist would do next.

Born in Las Vegas to a single mother and raised working
class in the vacation town of Seal Beach, Calif., Rose says she has always
loved music, teaching herself both drums and guitar, but never thought it was
something she could do for a living. Burdened with A.D.D. and what she
describes as conservative, close-minded teachers, she dropped out of high
school at 17 and moved to San Francisco, where she spent six years working as a
bike messenger. After years of drumming with various Bay Area punk bands (one
of which, Grass Widow, formerly Shitstorm, just signed with Kill Rock Stars),
Rose moved to Brooklyn in 2006 in search of a “change of pace.”


In just four short years Rose has started or joined, and
then left, two of New York’s most high profile indie bands: Vivian Girls and
the aforementioned Crystal Stilts. And she didn’t just leave; she left during
an upswing in each band’s popularity. As founding drummer, songwriter and
backing vocalist, she helped shape the
’60s-girl-group-meets-garage-rock-meets-the-bottom-of-a-well sound that made
Vivian Girls so popular among rock nerds. This sound also charmed critics; the
group’s self-titled 2008 debut garnered a glowing 8.5 review from Pitchfork.
She then spent a little over a year in the darker, moodier, garage-pop outfit
Crystal Stilts. Creatively, she played a peripheral role in the band, while
grounding their live shows with steady, bouncy beats that juxtaposed frontman
Brad Hargett’s gloomy vocals. Next, she left Crystal Stilts to do a stint on
drums in the California-based buzz project Dum Dum Girls, while gearing up to
start her first-ever solo project. What would possess someone to do all that?
Supreme self-confidence bordering on megalomania? The savvy to always stay one
step ahead of the backlash cycle? Volatility as a bandmate?

The answer she gives is much simpler: She gets bored. “I
don’t want to be married to any project ever,” Rose says when I speak with her
at her home, a sparsely furnished South Side Williamsburg loft. “I’m not
interested in doing that. If someone’s doing something I like, I can be a part
of it for a while,” she says. “It could happen where I quit my own band with my
own name,” she adds, laughing.

The backlash cycle, she says, is not a consideration of
hers, nor is pleasing a specific group of listeners. “I always try to stay true
to myself and what I want to listen to,” she says. “If I write 10 folk songs
tomorrow, so be it.”

As for the critics, she says she doesn’t generally read what
they write, calling music criticism “bad for my soul.” She is not, however,
above heeding advice from “a small number” of musician friends whose opinions
she respects—“people who’ve made stuff that I think sounds amazing”—a list that
includes J.B. Townsend from Crystal Stilts and members of crossover act of the
century TV On the Radio. And although she may not be listening to what critics
have to say, what they say tends to be positive.

But with success come the haters. She’s gossiped about by
everyone from the know-it-all DIY kids at Death By Audio (recently overheard
comments include “She’s not a nice person” and “Vivian Girls kicked her out”)
to the anonymous commenters on Brooklyn Vegan. It would seem much of this
gossip is gender-based. With big, brown eyes peering out from under
face-framing bangs, smooth, slightly olive-toned skin and an attractive figure,
it stands to reason Rose gets more attention than her male counterparts on a
scene that skews heavily toward the heterosexual and (often) immature male.

“The girl thing is weird because it’s good and bad,” says
Crystal Stilt Kyle Forester, who used to play with Rose. “People love girls in
bands but they want to write lewd shit about them on Brooklyn Vegan. It is
weird that the indie rock world is supposed to be politically progressive, but
in terms of gender politics, it’s sort of like Mad Men.”

Rose herself, however, is reluctant to acknowledge any major
gender issues at play. “All
I know is being a woman, so I’m not sure what the difference would be if I were
a man playing music,” she explains when I ask her if she feels she’s treated
differently on the New York scene, and responds affirmatively when asked if the
scene feels woman-friendly to her. Her stated reasons for having an all-female
band have more to do with personal compatibility than politics.

“It’s the funnest!” she says of touring with her band.
“We’re kind of grandmas. We just want to go home after the show and drink tea
and watch TV.” She is also wary of making sweeping statements about the
much-lauded scene she belongs to, despite (or maybe because of) its insane hyping
in traditional media, the blogosphere and even the press materials that go with
her own album, out Sept. 21. (“Frankie Rose has a reputation around here,” the
PR blast begins. “And by here, we mean Brooklyn.”)

What she does like to talk about is writing and recording
music. “A lot of bands these days, there’s no live band before the record,” she
says. “I feel like I’m doing this the way it used to be done. I have a live
band first, and then we’re recording.” She looks back to Phil Spector, Joe Meek
and Bo Diddley, as well as more recent entities like Factory Records, for cues
on how to record a quality album. She admits to working slowly due to being
“anal-retentive” about her output. “I just want everything to be perfect,” she
says. “If I’m not happy with something, I’ll do it over and over until it’s
right.”

Following the debut LP, Rose plans to release an EP with
Sacred Bones Records, and then embark on a long tour in support of both
releases. Vivian Girls fans might be surprised at how many beautifully quiet
and melancholy moments the LP has, and while Rose’s late-’80s and early-’90s
influences are still evident, the balance on the album tips further toward the
’60s than some might expect. The production values are also higher than most
are used to hearing from her. Given Slumberland’s financial support, she’s
moved away from the lo-fi messiness that characterizes so much of Brooklyn’s
output—to good, distinguishing effect.

The more I learn about Rose, the more I realize there are
two versions of her: the sexy, savvy scenester who exists in the imaginations
of some, and the head-down overachiever described to me by Forester, members of The Outs and by Rose herself. She doesn’t party or drink much while on tour.
She gets up early in the morning. She listens to NPR podcasts. She reads a lot
of “trashy fiction” in the sci-fi genre. She’s been known to play a bit of
Dungeons and Dragons.

Lifestyle-wise, she fits in much better with the type of
anti-rock star driving the success of sunny, safe and neutered indie pop bands
like Vampire Weekend than the black-clad figures of the neo-post-punk scene.
Unlike those sweater-vest wearing castrati, however, Rose inhabits a body
already sexualized by society. And the music she geeks out on is darker,
spookier, more emotional. It’s hard to name anyone else who combines those
qualities in quite such measures. In addition to her musical talent, this is
what comprises a large part of her allure.

The road to creative fulfillment hasn’t always been smooth
for Rose. After playing an important part in the writing, recording and
performing of Vivian Girls’ debut, Rose split with the band she’d helped start
at a time when its acclaim was growing rapidly. Rose cites “big time creative
differences” as her reason for leaving, as well as a “pretty severe” age
difference between her and her now-former band mates (Rose is 31, while her
former band mates are still in their mid-twenties). She was also tired of doing
double duty once she began drumming in Crystal Stilts, which she’d begun to
favor over VG. “Crystal Stilts was much more in the arena of things I wanted to
do with music,” she explains.

Vivian Girls frontwoman Cassie Ramone has a slightly
different version of the story. “We asked Frankie to leave Vivian Girls because
her heart was obviously with Crystal Stilts, to a point where our band was
being jeopardized,” she says. “To be fair, she probably would have left
eventually if we hadn’t asked her to. None of us were happy with the
situation.”

Crystal Stilts, according to Rose, was a much easier
experience. “I love those dudes the most,” she gushes. “It was so wonderful
playing with them.” Forester is similarly enthusiastic about Rose. “Frankie was
good for the band in that she’s a real pro,” he says. “I think she was really
good for the band musically at a time when it was important that the band get
out there and play a lot… she’s super steady and it’s important to have a
solid presence at drums if you’re gonna play a lot of shows.” And despite once
getting pegged unfairly in an article as “J.B.’s girlfriend,” her romantic
involvement with guitarist J.B. Townsend was neither a factor in her joining or
leaving the band.

“I, just for a month, saw someone in that band; it’s a moot
point,” she says, clamming up a bit. Her reasons for leaving, she says, were
once again creative: “I’m much more interested in writing a record and
producing it… drums are no longer creative for me.” She’s always been a
singer, songwriter and guitarist, in addition to being a drummer, and is ready
to use all of her talents.

I ask what she’s learned from the Vivian Girls experience
that’s useful now. “As a strict policy, I will only work with people I totally
love and trust,” she replies, choosing her words carefully. “I have to be able
to be in a car with them and respect them and be able to communicate with them.
It’s important to sound good, but having a strong personal connection with the
people you play with is important.” So important, in fact, that she taught Outs
bandmate Kate Ryan how to play the drums rather than choose a less compatible
but more performance-ready person. But that doesn’t mean they’re not talented:
All of The Outs have played in bands before, and the learning curve was steep.
“They’re all sick now,” she emphasizes, and recent performances corroborate
this.

Also unlike in past bands, Rose is the primary songwriter.
“I have really crappy demo versions I make on Garage Band, and we’ll take it
from there,” she explains. “I’m not interested in that anymore,” she says, of
writing with others. “It’s amazing when it happens, but it’s so hard.”

She says she doesn’t completely rule out input from her bandmates, however, and emphasizes that she wants everyone “on the record.”
Guitarist Margot Bianca agrees. “It started out as Frankie’s solo project, but
now we’re starting to evolve into a more collaborative band, which I am really
happy about… It’s a collaborative environment, to a certain extent.”

While Rose is excited about going on tour, she looks back
with chagrin on the trouble touring has caused in the past. “I lost my job and
my apartment,” she says of a past Vivian Girls tour. “If you lose your footing
[in New York], it’s hard to get back on your feet. I was cleaning people’s
houses for $60 the same month we were in Spin.”
This speaks to just how hard it is for musicians—even critically lauded ones—to
make a living off their music. Rose still bartends part time at Bruar Falls in
Williamsburg.

She says she’s not sure how famous she is in the hierarchy
of indie musicians, but she allows, “my brother thinks I’m super cool.”

Regarding the subject of whether she’d be willing to make
the jump to a major label like her friends in TV On the Radio, she replies
“maybe,” adding, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making money off your
art. I don’t want to suffer for my art. I think that’s really juvenile.”

Perhaps in an effort to make it come true, she says she
doesn’t think anybody is anticipating the album too intensely.

“I have a feeling it’s probably not gonna be that hyped,” Rose
says, which is a classic Frankie Rose understatement. “It would be less
stressful for me if nobody gave a shit.”


For outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, CLICK HERE!

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Bash Compactor: What A Tangled Web http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-what-a-tangled-web/ http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-what-a-tangled-web/#comments Tue, 15 Jun 2010 00:00:00 +0000 What if you could re-live your high
school experience with all the wisdom, style and orthodontic perfection
of adulthood? New York’s numerous electronically aided narcissists
sought to answer this question once and for all at the Webutante Ball
this past Tuesday.

Upon entering Chelsea mega-club Marquee, I
encountered a multitude of geeks in frilly formalwear dancing awkwardly
to Lady Gaga. Snatches of overheard conversation included the
phrases “super successful blog-to-book deal,” “my phone’s in airplane
mode” and some vaguely bitchy things about other nerds. Almost everyone
pulled out his or her cell phone at some point to document the event,
creating the vertiginous sensation of partying in Foucault’s panopticon.
Or, as one blogger put it while lingering on the perimeter taking notes
on his iPhone and looking miserable, “It’s like watching the Internet
get a colonoscopy.”

The party’s more recognizable faces could be
found largely on the club’s upper level, where folks like Nick
Denton
and the College Humor crew hobnobbed with giggling webutantes
and friendly press folk in a not un-autoerotic fashion. “I can’t think
of anything I do all year that causes more self-loathing,” web
personality Rex Sorgatz sighed. Then why go? “Because everyone is
here.”

One of the night’s more telling moments came when they
announced the king and queen of the ball, Conan O’Brien and Betty
White.
Being actual celebrities, they weren’t able to attend, so
the photo op went to Arthur Kade, whose online performance art
presents a parodic critique of misogyny so sophisticated most people
don’t get it, and Kari Ferrell (a.k.a. the Hipster Grifter), who
once stole a bunch of money from some people. Kate pulled out a camera
and took a few MySpace-angled shots as she mimed fellatio on him.
“Arthur Kade said he wanted to fist me, so that was pretty special,”
Ferrell said later. “He’s known for being a dick. He deserves to be
grifted.” What was she up to? “Filming a pilot for a TV show and
freelance writing. All legal activities.” The therapy, she assured me,
was working. “I’m getting married next year,” she added, flashing a
photo of a handsome bearded fellow. “I’m trying to get Gawker to pay for
it.”

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Meet the Muffia http://nypress.com/meet-the-muffia/ http://nypress.com/meet-the-muffia/#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2010 00:00:00 +0000 HOTEL MOTEL, A monthly party at Bushwick’s Tandem Bar, boasts a young
and lively scene. The speakers blare hot ’90s jams as a willowy blonde
with a bowl cut grooves over her laptop. One girl chugs liquid Vicodin
as she watches others entwine sweatily on the dance floor. Someone shows
me a secret lesbian handshake in which various hands and mouths combine
to simulate cunnilingus. I’m pretty sure she made it up, but it’s
amazing.

This is what lesbian
nightlife looks like in 2010: There aren’t really butches to speak of
here, but neither are there femmes—just a bunch of rad girls getting
down.

The city’s flashy,
influential gay men have, for one reason or another, often overshadowed
its lesbians in the media and popular culture. But that may be slowly
changing. While the female pioneers of yesteryear now work hard at
getting married and adopting Guatemalan children (or entertaining the
masses on TV), an entirely new generation define the city’s nightlife
and culture. Take K8 Hardy, for example: The 31-year-old artist has made
videos for Le Tigre, MEN and Lesbians on Ecstasy, styled the band
Fischerspooner and created a fashion line called j’approve.

She says she hangs out
mostly at her studio but can occasionally be found going out to dance
with the gals. Some are surprised by the unexpected humor in her art,
but Hardy doesn’t see any reason she can’t be politically aware and
entertaining. “A lot of people think political art has to be didactic,
but that’s not where I’m at,” Hardy explains. “It’s funny, because if
you say you’re a feminist or political, people want to know what your
point is. They don’t expect that of other artists. I find that
expectation really frustrating.”

Hardy is among a young and vibrant group of
women—artists and musicians, chefs and actors—making New York lesbians a
force to be reckoned with. Listen up: These are the ladies who pack a
punch.

Shantell
Martin

This
29-year-old Bushwick dweller has shown her work, hand-drawn visuals made
in nightclubs using a tablet and then projected on walls, at MoMA and
the National Arts Club. An April 19 episode of Gossip Girl will
also feature her work. And she’s only lived here for nine months!

“When I first moved to New
York [from Tokyo], my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a
billion lesbians in this place.’ It was kind of overwhelming, but I kind
of did get a sense of what a community actually means.”

She mostly hangs out with
her posse of creative types, but running with a chic crowd hasn’t kept
her from indulging in a few stereotypical Sapphic pastimes.

“I met [my girlfriend] Liz
at a WNBA game,” she says. “It was my first basketball game ever. My
friend said, ‘Let’s check out a game,’ and… we went to meet some more
friends and Liz was there. She sat next to me and we shared some
popcorn.”

Next up
for Martin will be a drawing/ exhibiting/VJ-ing tour of Tokyo, a solo
show at the Collette Blanchard Gallery (opening May 15), a live
illustration event May 22 at 3rd Ward, an appearance at the Gershwin
Hotel’s cabaret-esque The Talent Show April 29 and the release of
the latest in her yearly T-shirt series.

Rebecca
Collerton

Running
Saltie, one of Williamsburg’s most popular new restaurants, hasn’t
given 45-year-old Collerton much time to date (“I’m always at work,” she
admits. “It’s difficult to find time”), but the lust that her
creations—including “The Captain’s Daughter” and “The Ship’s Biscuit”—
seem to inspire shouldn’t leave her lonely for long.

After working at hotspots
Diner and Egg, the chef teamed up with her friends Caroline Fidanza and
Elizabeth Schula to open Saltie last September. And while it might not
attract the same crowd that nearby gay bar Metropolitan does, it’s not
completely homo-free.

“I think the community that I’m involved in at the moment is the
food community of Williamsburg, and there’s a community that’s evolved
from this place as well,” Collertain explains. “It just so happens that
some of them are gay. The issues are more about being a woman in this
industry than being gay. Coming up in kitchens and such… kitchens are
notoriously sexist.”

She’s currently looking forward to summer, when market
availability of more ingredients will allow her, Fidanza and Schula to
expand their offerings. “We’ll have to come up with more ridiculous
names,” she says. “It’ll be exciting.”

In the meantime, the “very single” Collerton
remains enamored with the dayto-day running of Saltie. “We’ve all spent a
long time in this industry, defining palates and what we want to eat…
coming up with the sandwiches was the easiest part of the process,” she
says. “It’s great. We’re not working for the man anymore!”

Holly
Miranda

With
her new album, The Magician’s Private Library, out now and a May
26 headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom, singer songwriter

Miranda, who lives in
Prospect Heights, is currently making girls (and boys) weak in the knees
as the opening act on tour with lesbo duo Tegan & Sara. Not that
she hasn’t done plenty of that right here in New York.

“I’ve dated quite a bit in
New York,” she confesses. “I think it’s hard in New York because there
are so many beautiful people. But if you can look beyond face value,
you’ll probably be better off in the long run.”

When she goes out, it’s
usually to catch free music at Zebulon in Williamsburg or spend time
with friends, like JD Samson (of MEN and Le Tigre) and the singer Sia.
Having been on the road for several months, however, Miranda says, “I
don’t necessarily seek out lesbians to be my friends, but I definitely
feel a kinship with other musicians… who are openly gay… I haven’t had
time to hang out in a while.”

She’s coming home just in time, having found life on
the road isn’t always hospitable. “I’ve certainly gotten in some tiffs
in Oklahoma and Kansas when I’ve dedicated my songs to [people who were
hurt by] Prop 8.”

Lauren
Flax

A
critically acclaimed DJ and musician, Lauren Flax has appeared all over
the world with such big names as Fischerspooner, Moby and even Madonna.
But despite her impressive resume, the 31-year-old jetsetter is
disarmingly nice. “The idea behind it is friendship,” she says of her
Hotel Motel (i.e. HoMo) party she throws
with her friends Lauren Dillard and JD Samson and rotating guests. “It’s
just a sweaty dance party in this big back room. People take their
shirts off. A girl with a giant mouse head came last time. It was
hilarious.”

Although
she spends most of her breaks from traveling working in her studio,
Flax makes time to hang out with her friends whenever possible, either
out at Tandem or at home in her Bushwick apartment with the gay-themed
Logo network playing in the background. Flax prizes the diverse group of
gay girls that exists in New York City. “I definitely think there’s a
new wave of non stereotypical lesbians, the younger ones coming up now,
and it’s kind of refreshing,” she says.

The electronic songbird is currently recording
an album of her own and planning out her live show, which will include
cello and trumpet players. She’s also launching a new “dark dance”
project called CreeP, a collaboration with Dillard and Melissa from
Telepathe that will feature sexy vocals by Romy from The XX. It’s no
surprise, then, that this busy lady desires a romantic partner who is
equally driven. “I want to be number two in somebody’s life and have
career be number one, ’cause that’s how it is for me,” Flax asserts.
“I’m single and looking for an Aquarius if there are any out there…
I’m even accepting summer homos.”

Jess
Barbagallo

Like
many struggling artists in New York, Jess Barbagallo has toiled in
coffee shops for almost five years. Unlike many an NYU and Brooklyn
College grad, however, she’s turned her day job into a source of
inspiration. “She’s pretty much a lot like me,” she explains of her
character in the live-action lesbian serial drama Room for Cream, which
she also helps write. “Your standard barista: Kind of a smartass, sort
of irritated by their job.”

Now in its third season, the show is set in a
fictional Massachusetts town called Sappho, which is—in either a utopic
or dystopic twist—populated solely by lesbians. Although some people
have watched it from the start, Barbagallo says this isn’t necessary to
understand it: “It’s a soap, so you can walk into any episode and get
what the vibe is.”

In a reflection of the play’s universe (or is it the other way
around?), the 26-yearold Greenpoint resident finds her dating world to
be somewhat small. “I have the problem that, in addition to being a
lesbian, I am also in the theater and both those communities are
completely incestuous,” she says. “It’s like incest squared.” But the
scene’s insularity is not without its benefits. A self-described serial
monogamist (current Facebook status: “It’s complicated”), she never has
to look far for her next relationship. “Things just seem to fall into my
lap,” she jokes.

Next
on the agenda for Barbagallo is a show with the Builders’ Association
and a turn as a sociopathic lesbian Iraq war veteran in the independent
film, Made Up Language. She’s also looking forward to finishing
the play that’s been occupying her thoughts 24/7. “I’ve been spending a
lot of my time at coffee shops writing lately,” she says. “Variety,
Bittersweet… I’m a nomad.”

Ellie
Conant

Ellie
Conant knows how to get sexy results. “I handcrafted my parties,” the
30year-old boasts. “I took them from nothing and made them into
something nasty. You’re gonna go there to hook up.”

Despite facilitating steamy
hookups for all at Snapshot (Tuesdays at Bar 13), Choice Cunts (last
Saturdays at Santos Party House) and Muff Muff Give (which until
recently was taking place at Public Assembly), the 30year-old nightlife
veteran doesn’t mix business with (her own) pleasure. “I decided to have
a girlfriend who doesn’t live here because I don’t want to mess with
these girls,” she says, explaining her long distance relationship with a
woman from Boston she met while in Provincetown. “It makes me more
professional. I was fucking my go-go dancer for a while, and it just
gets ugly.”

With
such staid avoidance of omnipresent temptation, it’s clear she takes her
job seriously. “I like to think of myself more as a community builder
[than a promoter],” she explains. “I will honestly say that my parties
have brought in the most diverse crowds ever. I think being an Asian
promoter, more people can access me somehow.” These multicultural crowds
have also been competing with the boys in flashiness. “I think lesbians
have become more fabulous,” she says. “I don’t mean more femmey… boy
dykes out there are getting cute, putting on glitter! We’re all joining
forces to look fabulous and be extreme.”

When not presiding over one of her own parties,
Conant can be found throwing some back at Girls Girls Girls (Wednesdays
at Metropolitan) or Stiletto Sundays (at Maritime Cabanas) with her
pussy posse, which includes DJ Nasty Esquire, party photog Sabrina
Haley, DJ Roze Royce and DJ Lesbian Van
Halen.

And although
she may not be out there looking to win over those new to the pleasures
of girl-on-girl action, she has advice for anyone who is: “Tequila will
turn a bitch. We’re gonna have tequila at every party.”

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Bash Compactor: A Slice of Life http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-a-slice-of-life/ http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-a-slice-of-life/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2010 00:00:00 +0000 The Third Annual Brooklyn Pie Contest filled Williamsburg’s K M Bar with
high drama this past Saturday, when over 50 aspiring master bakers
competed for a chance at culinary greatness. I arrived to find a cop
car canvassing the area on behalf of a girl who’d just been mugged at
gunpoint a mere block away, but, upon questioning the crowd, realized
everyone was too excited about pie to care.Yet more insanity lay inside
the watering hole, which was packed to its tin ceiling with
be-flanneled youths so ravenous for artisanal desserts I feared they
might riot.

“Once you get your pie, please move towards the door!” yelled the event’s organizer Megan Paska over the din. "I had no idea this many people would turn out," she gasped while wrangling the hordes.

Over
at the judges’ table, three chefs bravely took in endless sugars and
fats in the name of anointing the next local pie-lebrity. "I wouldn’t
even do that pie the dignity of swallowing it," Cody Utzman of Papacitos said with a grimace as he spat someone’s gooey failure into his napkin. "It tastes like shit, try it!" chirped co-judge Diane DiMeo. Were they starting to get full yet? "No, I can eat pie," Utzman replied—a girl can dream! "I’m judging a barbecue contest after this," deadpanned judge Seamus Mullen. But
with a good 30 confections left to go, the judges’ stoic facade was
bound to crumble. "I have a tummy ache," DiMeo groaned a few minutes
later.

Indeed,
many entrants were not easy to like, with monstrosities like
chocolate/peanut butter/bacon and what Utzman referred to as a "bleu
cheese sperm disaster" presenting damning evidence that Brooklyn’s
skills in the kitchen have yet to catch up with the number of its
citizens claiming to be "foodies." There, were however, a few bright
spots, like the Mexican chocolate cream pie that ultimately won, and
"The Dude," a most abiding white Russian cream pie. "The crust reminds
me of the sand on the beach in the scene when they’re scattering
Donnie’s ashes," mused Mullen.

In
the end, the sated packs slunk back to their caves, leaving crumbly
carcasses for someone else to collect. Winners were announced, money
was raised for Brooklyn Farmyards and a vegan won a gift pack from The Meat Hook. In the cutthroat world of homemade pastry, one must move up the food chain to survive.

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Books & Crannies http://nypress.com/books-crannies/ http://nypress.com/books-crannies/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2010 00:00:00 +0000 Who knew that 40 years after we put a man on the moon, a woman’s love hole would still be as mysterious to some as the bottom of the fucking ocean? With orgasms going missing left and right and scientists insisting there’s no such thing as the G-spot, the world’s in need of some serious sex ed. Luckily for lovers everywhere, the owners of Babeland have put out an erotic manual, the release of which they celebrated with a party at their Soho location last Thursday.

Prominently displayed at the front of the store, the book’s title proclaimed its helpfulness: Moregasm. “Because why settle for less-gasm?” Crowds of admirers clamored for copies, which authors Claire Cavanaugh and Rachel Venning signed affably with phrases like “Vibe on!” A cake shaped appetizingly like things you stick in your orifices stood guard over many tiny cupcakes, which patrons munched as if practicing for their next performance. Nearby, a man fingered a rubber vagina, musing. “I just saw one of these on TV.The texture’s weird. I prefer the actual equipment, you know?” Kathi Ko, the store’s bespectacled manager, sipped a pink drink. Which was her favorite act in the manual? “I know it all,” she responded, “I work here.”What did she think of the recent controversy regarding the G- spot? “You can’t just find it by poking in,” she sighed. “You have to be aroused and you have to listen to your body.” To help with the first part, there was a tableau vivant of real live couples (one boy-girl, one girl-girl) making out and caressing one another.

A fauxhawk-sporting store employee named Lauren talked up the book, calling the positions “pretty doable.” Were she and her co-workers tenth-level fuckmasters by now or what? “Yeah, we’re really good at sex,” she said with a laugh. “We’re certainly good at talking about it.”

To drive home the point of sexual openness, a girl dressed as a giant, sequined vulva danced to The Pussycat Dolls.“It’s a company costume for events like these,” she explained. Had she volunteered to be the mascot tonight? “Kind of,” she replied. “Once it was assigned to me, I embraced it.”

I couldn’t leave without speaking to the benevolent matriarchs of the franchise. “It’s been an amazing experience,” said Venning. “I feel like we’re on a lifelong sexual journey… in my 20s it was all about experimenting, and now I’m in a relationship and have a kid!”

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Bash Compactor: Drop ’Em http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-drop-rsquoem/ http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-drop-rsquoem/#comments Wed, 13 Jan 2010 00:00:00 +0000 “If you didn’t come to take your pants off, you do not belong here.” Such was the refrain Agent Alex crowed
through the megaphone this past Sunday as one of the “captains” at the
Bushwick kickoff to Improv Everywhere’s No Pants Subway Ride. Going for
nine years running and spanning 42 cities in 15 different countries,
the ride has become a cherished tradition for urbanites undeterred by
those somewhat related bogeymen of cold temperatures and cruel, cruel
mockery. As Alex stated through the megaphone, “It’s not a secret prank
anymore… it’s a parade at this point.” Don’t tell that to the cops.

Following
a brief debriefing in Bushwick Park (just one of many jump-off points
around the city), the crowd marched towards the DeKalb L station. “We
do culture jamming,” explained one Improv-er as he walked, “pushing
convention and mashing up performance art with everyday reality. I
don’t usually wear underwear; I had to put it on for this.” He strongly
suggested I take my pants off to get the full participatory experience.

The
attendees were surprisingly diverse; in addition to the prerequisite
theater kids (dressed, for the most part, how a 20-yearold McKibben
lofts resident imagines grownups with real jobs might dress), there
were some older folks and a decent scattering of regs looking to do
something “wacky.” “I wanted to participate in a trademark New York
event,” one norm-ish fellow said. You hear that, culture-jammers?
Trademark.

Once onboard, the “agents” de-pantsed in groups
and continued to ride like everything was normal, reading, staring into
space and ignoring the man with a stump for an arm begging for change.
Like real actors, some weren’t too natural, bopping along to their
headphones a shade too hard or flipping through their newspapers too
emphatically. Though the occasional rider shielded his eyes from all
that hairy man-leg or switched cars only to find more of the same, most
ignored them completely.

Once all the rides had converged in
Union Square, a pantsless powwow ensued. People sang songs, did the
conga, and cheered at random intervals. An Andrew W.K. doppelganger
climbed the George Washington statue to much applause. A group of
missionaries passed out pro-pants literature, while some
Pantsentologists hawked “Free Pants Tests.” “Who is not wearing pants
who needs pants?” asked one. “Not the girls!” a male bystander replied.
I haven’t seen a group of people this psyched about not wearing pants
since the last time I went to Van Dam.

A group of pantsless
teens made me suddenly concerned there might be perverts about. Did
their parents know what they were doing? “They said if I was getting
arrested, this is the one thing I could get arrested for,” a
floppy-haired boy replied. But wasn’t he afraid of catching cold?
“Sometimes it gets hotter when you take your pants off… it’s the
excitement!” Back underground, the pantsless crowded the station in
unbelievable numbers. A cop posed for a picture with two panty-clad
ladies.Was everything going OK? “So far, so good,” he grinned. The
leader of a drowned-out jazz band was less enthused, summing up the
event’s main idea as he grumbled, “Maybe if we took our pants off, we’d
get more attention.”

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Hens in the Cockhouse http://nypress.com/hens-in-the-cockhouse/ http://nypress.com/hens-in-the-cockhouse/#comments Wed, 06 Jan 2010 00:00:00 +0000  

A parade of men in various states of undress fills the stage. Some are already doing the full monty; others need coaxing. “The sooner you take your shirt off, the sooner we like you!” a slender redhead yells into the mic before leading everyone in a chant of “show us your dick or get the fuck out!” One guy gets naked and stays that way, flaccid member slapping against his balls as he gyrates with his pants around his ankles. The audience, composed mainly of women, cheers him to victory. In the Candy Rain Magazine cover dude contest, the winning quality is attitude.

I’m shocked and impressed by what I see; though I’ve observed many a wild night at gay clubs, I’ve never seen such a display of non-financially-driven heterosexuality. It’s just not part of the cultural landscape.Three young ladies by the names of Callie Watts, “Mama D” and “Yung Ho,” however, hope to change that. “We were at a bar and we were joking around about how Playgirl sucks,” Ho explains. “It had just folded.We were like, ‘We should become pornographers because we could do this shit so much better.’ It was a running joke until one day, someone had a camera and was like, ‘Oh, we should probably actually do this.’” They first made their idea a reality when a male friend—“some dude I was banging at the time,” notes Watts—volunteered to be their first model, photographed his dick for them, and was even so kind as to Photoshop it into a logo.Watts was bowled over. “I was like, ‘It’s that easy to get dicks? For real?’” In a nod to the kitschy “early ’90s pin-up” vibe of Tigerbeat, they dubbed the project Ligerbeat, but re-named it Candy Rain after receiving a “cease and desist” notice from the still-active teenybopper mag.

Regardless of name, the girls’ mission was clear: to entertain both the minds and nether regions of women without veering off course like other magazines have in the past. “It’s not their fault they sucked, ’cause they were owned by these two beefcake dudes,”Watts says of Playgirl, for which she has styled and written.

“They wouldn’t let the editor do what she wanted to do with it. It was supposed to be for women, but then it got into the gay niche and it started selling, and they didn’t want to change the format.” Candy Rain, she says, will remain primarily for ladies because “right now there’s nothing for straight women.” (Candy Rain’s closest relative, Sweet Action, an indie-porn-for-girls pioneer, folded a few years ago).

What female porn consumers want, according to Watts, is a realistic reflection of sexuality encompassing both carnal lust and the inherent humor of floppy external genitalia. “No one ever gives porn a chance to be both [funny and hot],” she laments. “You can make fun of the dick and still wanna stick it in your mouth.” In this vein, the magazine’s stories seek to treat sex with candor. “The content is stuff people can relate to,” asserts Watts. “Like [sexual mishap column] Tales From the Clit. Sometimes that stuff doesn’t work out and there’s blood and there’s piss and there’s puke. Maybe someone loses a tooth.” Another feature, the “midcoitus interview,” takes readers along for the ride as the lady-journalist gets to know the subject in uncommonly intimate ways. And if there’s a boy-girl shoot, it’s always going to be “people who’d want to fuck in regular life” and aren’t faking their chemistry for the camera.

The solo models are also chosen with a variety of “real” sexual appetites in mind.While part of Candy Rain’s mission is to put to rest the fallacy that women don’t like to look at hot naked men, the casting criteria goes beyond the narrow ideal of beauty seen in most pornography, gay or straight. “I think it was a little bit on purpose that we didn’t choose guys who were prosaically beauti ful,”

says Yung Ho. “We got a broad slice of the straight male [population].We’re all about showing people of all races, too. A lot of the time, unless it’s a fetish porn, you don’t get to see people of color.”

Such diversity preempts charges that the culturally savvy, slang-laden magazine only speaks to a young, hip audience.The slang, Mama D explains, is meant purely to reflect how a juicy conversation with its creators would go down face-to-face. As for the generation gap, they have faith in the universal appeal of the dick to unite women young and old. “Sixty-year-olds still look at porn,” says Watts, grinning. “I just sent an issue to somebody’s grandmother. And we’re going to do an ‘Ask a Domme’ column written by our friend’s mom!” All this is fun enough for us girls, but what of the men who pose? Wouldn’t some old guard feminists say that by objectifying men, Candy Rain apes the worst aspects of the patriarchy? Watts, who also works at Bust magazine, almost spits out her beer at the thought.

“They’re the object of the picture, but they’re not objectified,” she says forcefully. “If it’s someone who’s doing porn and he don’t want to, he’s getting objectified. If it’s someone who just wants to be an exhibitionist and show himself, I don’t consider that kind of porn objectification at all.” And unlike with many sex workers, she notes, money is not a factor; all models pose purely “pro boner.”

“I´ve been taking my clothes off all my life,” boasts Jon Winfield Nicholson, the first issue’s centerfold and a visual artist and veteran of various punk bands who now plays in experimental group Excepter. “My friends all probably see me naked two or three times a month… it’s not a big deal to me at all.” Although the majority of his public nudity to date has been inspired less by lust than “teenage confrontation,” he was happy to try posing for erotica, noting, “If I can facilitate someone’s fantasy, I would love to help. That’s why I´m an artist.” He was also drawn to the “ ’70s blaxploitation vibe” of the photo shoot, as well as the sheer thrill of exhibitionism: “The older I get, the more I just wanna show it.”

This enthusiasm helps explain how the magazine will survive. “We have a very DIY nature… we do things cheap,” says Yung Ho. “It’s very hard to cancel something that isn’t costing money.”The first issue, they tell me, was completely funded by a party with a $5 cover (which they waived for fellows willing to drop trou), as well as four small ads. At a thin but colorful 31 pages, it wasn’t the most expensive object to produce, but they hope to make it “bigger, fatter and more juicy” in the future—the second issue is due in early spring—and perhaps expand into the realm of video.

Needless to say, Candy Rain is primarily a labor of lust for everyone involved. “How do you fail if you’re just doing it ’cause you love it?” asks Watts. “As long as we’re dicking around, we’re still winning.”

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Burning From The Inside http://nypress.com/burning-from-the-inside/ http://nypress.com/burning-from-the-inside/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2009 00:00:00 +0000  

 

 

DO YOU LIKE Bauhaus? Yeah?

Let’s watch a video.” Bauhaus is not the first band that comes to mind when listening to Sundelles’ jangley, upbeat garage pop, but after a lengthy bike ride along Meeker Avenue to the very edge of Brooklyn and a descent into the band’s pleasantly cluttered basement apartment, that’s what bassist Davey Sarantos plays for me as he, singer/guitarist Sam Sundos and I sip vodka and pineapple juice.

 

“Daniel Ash created these environments,” he explains over the music. “Jagged, fuckedup guitar parts… they really had atmosphere.”

As it turns out, the guys in Sundelles are just as concerned with mood as those gloomy post punks.With three-chord head boppers bearing lyrics like “I like somebody/ you better keep that to yourself,” the band exudes a rough, simple charm, like the crust punk who shows up for a date with dumpstered flowers and half a bottle of whiskey. But if you listen more closely, there are hints of turmoil that run slyly counter to the catchy melodies. “Some of the newer songs were written in places that weren’t very nice for any of us,” says Sarantos. “‘Dead Youth,’ for instance, is kind of a disenchanted song.”

“It’s about growing up, leaving San Diego to come here, where I didn’t know anybody,” adds Sundos, for whom the band is named. “It’s like, youth dies and you’re just alone.” His first months in New York, he recalls, had been difficult. Initially two-fifths of a fivepiece back in California, Sundos and Saran tos parted ways when Sundos broke up the band and moved to Brooklyn.Then, a happy accident: “I ran into Davey on the street here while he was visiting, and we just talked for a while. He went back home, figured out some shit and realized it was better just to come out here.” Sundos then “texted one of my close friends’ little brother [Trevor McLoughlin] and asked him if he wanted to come out and play drums, and he did.” Just like that? Sundos grins. “He liked my songs.”

A Brooklyn band for just over a year now, Sundelles has acclimated nicely to its new environs, playing wherever and whenever it’s been asked to, from East Village dive Lit to Williamsburg meat market Union Pool to the D.I.Y. spaces the band loves most. “You’re on the floor with everybody and it feels like you’re at a party as opposed to being on some confrontational, pedestal-type stage,” Sarantos says of Williamsburg’s Dead Herring House. And while the boys relish the weirdness of playing with “bands you have no clue why you’re on the same bill as them,” they also enjoy sharing stages with likeminded groups such as Darlings, Crocodiles and The Browns. “We played around 15 shows in two months in New York, and we’re playing for new people all the time and honing our skills as a live band,” says Sundos. “I think that’s the good part about living in New York; you don’t have to really leave.There are so many fucking people here. It’s great practice.”

As for this city’s notoriously reserved crowds, Sundos is unfazed. “All it takes is for that one kid at the show to be tapping his foot,” he says. “Even if he’s got his arms crossed, I know I fucking got him.” In return for such signs, Sundelles’ fans receive free music and eternal appreciation. “It matters that a kid comes and talks to us and wants a CD,” says Sundos. “So if that can get our name out or get people into it, I’m not gonna charge them fucking five dollars to get into my band.You’re not gonna be able to get the money from record sales anyway, it’s all gonna be shows, so you might as well just work it.We just take the money from our band fund and buy 50 CD-Rs, and that’s putting it back in.”

This pragmatic, low-budget ethos carries over to the band’s recording methods; it records all of its songs using Garage Band and internal computer mics.This is not a calculated attempt to fit in with the current wave of acclaimed lo-fi bedroom artists so much as a necessity until fancier equipment becomes affordable. “We record this way because that’s just what we have,” Sundos explains. “We have limitations, but we use those limitations the best we can. It’d be awesome to record hi-fi, though.”

The band is currently working on a debut 7”, which it plans to self-release by early January.There’s already a music video for “Keep it To Yourself,” filmed by Russ Finkelstein (who has also worked with The Soft Pack) and viewable online, which features the boys goofing around on Coney Island with an adorable child they borrowed from a friend. “The video was as fun to shoot as it looks,” says Sundos. “I’ve always loved making little videos…I took video and film in high school so many times it stopped counting as credit.” Was the kid meant to evoke the band’s playful joie de vivre? “We didn’t really over-think it,” replies Sundos. “I just figured it would be more fun to watch a kid run around and have fun. I think living in New York, you forget how easy it is to just have fun.”


Sundelles
Jan. 6, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (at S. 2nd St.), Brooklyn, no phone; 7:30, $7.
Also, Jan. 7 at Bowery Electric.

 

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Bash Compactor: Dark Days http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-dark-days/ http://nypress.com/bash-compactor-dark-days/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2009 00:00:00 +0000 Waxing nostalgic for the good old days is as important a rite of
passage for any freshly minted New Yorker as learning the subway system
or ordering drugs. Luckily, things tend to change so fast that it’s not
absurdly out of the question to utter such thoughts just a few years
into your tenure here. (Remember those halcyon days of 2005 when you’d
stumble from Misshapes to Bar 11 to Morrissey Park? Me neither.)
Staunch Manhattanite Prince Terrence, along with cohorts Carol Sharks and Josh Wildman, are hoping to revisit those not-so-distant days with Circa, their new Thursday happening at the somewhat depreciated Darkroom.

I
found the subterranean bar just like I’d left it in ’06, if a bit less
crowded. Still, a decent number of kids who looked like they’d come
from over the Williamsburg Bridge were bopping along to a playlist that
included Beyoncé, New Order and Bone Thugs N’ Harmony.“I’m trying to
bring back old New York parties,” remarked the ever-leather-jacketed
Terrence. Old like the ’80s? “Like four years ago,” he clarified. “When
I moved here in ’05, there was lots of stuff going on. Places would
play early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Rapture… I fell in love with that.
Now everyone hangs out in Brooklyn. We wanted to bring it back to the
LES.

Only feet from Terry’s DJ booth, some squares of the nouveau LES variety began gyrating in a nasty faux threesome. What of them?

“I’m welcoming,” he responded carefully. “I want them to know where this shit originated. I want my people to overpower that.”

Clad
in numerous black draperies and gold necklaces, the blond Sharks was
even more ambitious. “I hate to say it, but I wish it could be the new
Misshapes,” she chirped as she tweaked her iTunes playlist. Then, after
rattling off her credentials—membership in un-signed band White Diamonds; living in a loft; DJing for The Whitest Kids U Know— she waved me away, saying, “I think I’ve given you a lot of stuff.” Indeed.

As if on cue, DJ Dances With White Girls
appeared. What did he think of the party? “It’s doing good for a cold
night,” he replied, distractedly.“The good thing about a girl who’s
shorter than you is you can look down at her breasts while you talk to
her.”Then, turning abruptly to a curvy redhead:“What’s up? I like your
glasses.”

Photo by Clayton via iheartcomix.com

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