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by Anthony Merino

9 Jul 2015


Welcome to the Circus (2015), Photo: Erik Balle

Perhaps no cultural institution depends more on the naiveté and innocence of children than the circus. The big top is little more than an enclosed container that seals out the conventions of science and the rules of society, creating a menagerie of simulacra. Piercing this shell with any sense of reality eviscerates the illusion. This characteristic makes it very difficult to use as a subject for art.

Any rendition would take place on a continuum between two unappealing poles. The subject matter can be treated with snarky irony, poking fun at the absurdity of the illusion. On the other end, the subject can be treated with empty nostalgia. Either pole has a powerful gravity. Trying to avoid both requires not only a skilled hand, but also a strong critical eye. Danish ceramic artist Lea Nielsen’s surreal depictions of circus stories avoids either trap in the works selected for her recent exhibition Circus is in Town, VÆG Contemporary Art Gallery, Aalborg, Denmark.

by Sachyn Mital

8 Jul 2015


When I arrived at Brooklyn Bowl on June 23rd for the Buy This Fracking Album release show, I walked in, past the informational tables, to the stage to find a man (from Pennsylvania I believe) on stage with a bottle containing some disgusting looking liquid. As he explained, this was the drinking water from his home. It had become so visibly toxic as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, the method by which gas can be released from the earth by drilling and injecting fluids into the ground. The fluids often contain harmful chemicals (which the businesses involved do not have to disclose) and can leech into water tables and wells, contaminating drinking supplies and even shifting the tectonic plates, creating earthquakes. This is somewhat hard to imagine living in the big city, and unfortunately because this isn’t affecting the city directly, perhaps a reason that Brooklyn Bowl wasn’t as crowded as it could have been. Fracking is an important concern for so many people now though, and the Movement Music Records label is taking great initiative to engage a wider audience. You can visit their site to find out more information and to stream or purchase the Buy This Fracking Album. There are also several pledge campaign videos over at Youtube to watch.

There was still much great talent on stage though, including, Amy Helm, Marco Benevento, Michael Glabicki, DJ Logic, Mike + Ruthy, Kristen Graves and more and it was a family friendly affair. I got to catch The Mike + Ruthy Band, whose set occasionally turned into an informal jam session with Benevento and Helm joining them on some songs. They did play some new material too, as they recently released their album Bright as You Can and it’s receiving great reviews, including the one here at PopMatters. On July 7th, they will be again joined by friends for their own album release party at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. Ticket information can be obtained here. Mike and Ruthy also host the Summer and Winter Hoot Festivals at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York (a couple hours from NYC), family-friendly festivals of course (which should come as no surprise given the two tour with their children). More information on the Summer Hoot, happening August 21-23, can be found here.

by Maria Schurr

8 Jul 2015


Photo: Dean Keim

Although not as publicized as Northside Festival sets by the likes of Luna and Run the Jewels, the Northern Spy Records showcase at Rough Trade exemplified the festival’s mission as well as any throughout the four-day, Brooklyn-based festival. Much of this is due to the presence of Shilpa Ray on the Northern Spy bill. Ray has been a standalone talent in the bustling Brooklyn scene for years, cutting her teeth in countless small-to-mid-sized venues before landing a touring spot with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and releasing her full-length, Last Year’s Savage, last month. Last Year’s Savage consists mostly of songs Ray has been developing in those Brooklyn and Manhattan clubs, material that sounded more potent than ever in Rough Trade’s pristine acoustics. Sandwiched between label mates PC Worship and the Sun Ra Arkestra (on loan from El Ra Records), both of whom gave similarly immersive sets, Ray’s performance held sway in its largely minimal presentation, captivating many a weary festivalgoer on Northside’s closing Sunday night.

by Sachyn Mital

30 Jun 2015


The timing couldn’t have been better. Two days after the landmark 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that found the Constitution affirms same-sex couples have the right to marry, New York City’s Pride March, like others around the country, felt celebratory and joyful. As the New York Times reported on the fruitful effects the decision had for organizers, “Odd-numbered years we do well,” James Fallarino, a spokesman for the parade, said. One of the organizers, Chris Martin, said there were about 20 volunteers earlier last week to help inflate balloons. After the Supreme Court decision, his Facebook page was inundated with requests to be included.”

Before the March kicked off, there was a moment of silence as well as a proclamation that the event was not a parade, not until equal rights were obtained for all LGBT people. The New York Times also stated, “At East 36th Street, the actor Ian McKellen, a grand marshal, waved his rainbow flag at spectators. An announcer asked the crowd for a brief period of silence in honor of those who could not be there: those who died of H.I.V./AIDS, those who committed suicide, those who fell victim to hate crimes. Moments later, the gravity gave way again to festivity. The actor Tituss Burgess broke into the national anthem, and scantily clad men wove their way through the marchers.” Check out photos from the festivity below.

by Sachyn Mital

26 Jun 2015


Damien Rice is not afraid of the dark.

Having seen Josh Ritter twice already this year, I was aware that he’s been giving a lot of time on stage to honing new songs. The new material is fascinating and it is a treat to see him perform songs like the enthusiastic “Henrietta” alongside crowd favorites like “Kathleen” and “Joy to You Baby”. However, unlike the most recent time when I saw him perform with Zachariah Hickman, Ritter went solo for this set, on par with headliner Damien Rice. Unfortunately, this resulted in Ritter being drowned out by the collective audience chatter.

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