Mavis Staples and the Flaming Lips were among the lineup for the 2015 Nelsonville Music Festival, an annual four-day event produced by Stuart’s Opera House, “a historic, non-profit theater located in Nelsonville [Ohio]”. Both acts returned to the festival after previous appearances in recent years. The Flaming Lips performed a memorable show in 2011, and Staples began to perform in 2013 before her set was interrupted by a thunderstorm. That both artists were interested in another visit to Nelsonville is a testament to the quality of the festival and its growing reputation as a place for music and art enthusiasts to enjoy eclectic programming.
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In writing about John Newman for PopMatters’ “Best New and Emerging Artists 2013”, Colin McGuire claims, “If 2013 was the year… Newman broke through into a good bit of Europe’s broken hearts, 2014 ought to be the year the western world takes notice. The guy is a master at writing songs that beg to be played in arenas, and [debut album] Tribute, if nothing else, proves that the artist behind them is certainly worthy of the stage.” If you haven’t discovered Newman’s anthemic and infectious music—“Love Me Again” truly is the definition of the latter—then there’s no time better than the present, as Newman has just dropped a new single, “Come and Get It”. Unsurprisingly for the young (soon to turn 25) musician, the chorus is positively huge, and catchy in a near undeniable way.
Time has not only been kind to Staircase; it’s also been illuminating. Directed by Stanely Donen and scripted by Charles Dyer from his play, the entire drama consists of Richard Burton and Rex Harrison playing an old gay couple sniping at each other in elaborately bitchy dialogue—which pretty much describes the currently acclaimed Britcom Vicious with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.
In 1969, mainstream critics found the movie tasteless. In the post-Stonewall era, gay activists like Vito Russo in The Celluloid Closet found it embarrassing because, in the context of just about zero depictions of homosexuality in cinema apart from cross-dressing psychos and suicidal sissies, the movie relies on the stereotype of the effeminate, limp-wristed, campy, mother-dominated queen instead of a politically preferred image of butch “mainstream” types. It was the era when one character in the supposedly progressive and groundbreaking The Boys in the Band asked “Why do we hate each other so much?” Films like Staircase and Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George were bleak instead of validating, and activists didn’t want that any more than they wanted movies about drag queens (even though there really were drag queens at Stonewall).
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In August 2015, the Provo, Utah band the National Parks will release their sophomore LP Until I Live. As the lyric video for album cut “Monsters of the North” reveals, however, this seven-piece outfit has already readied itself for the summer months. With elegant typeface laid atop a string of beautifully photographed nature imagery, “Monsters of the North”‘s lyric video feels like a whole summer rolled up into three minutes and 52 seconds. Combine that with a chorus that’s perfect for road-trip singalongs and you’ve got a fine aural/video pairing.