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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Love, war and other crap at the Gdynia Film Festival, Poland's largest and most prestigious showcase for its national cinema.

Founded in 1974 and now in its 39th year (two were lost to the imposition of martial law in the early ‘80s) the Gdynia Film Festival (15-20 September 2014) is the oldest and most prestigious event in the Polish film calendar, and one of the primary showcases for national cinema. (Recent winners include Agnieska Holland’s In Darkness [2012] and, last year, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida.)


The range of movies, events, exhibitions and workshops that the festival offers clearly plays a large part in that reputation, while its blissful location in the gorgeous Gdynia (the northern seaside locale that’s part of the so-called “Tri-City”, or “Trójmiasto”, alongside Gdansk and Sopot) doesn’t hurt, either. As a first-time attendee, I’ve been struck over the last couple of days by the festival’s excellent organisation and welcoming atmosphere, and by the richness of its programming which offers a sometimes overwhelming choice of things to do and see.


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Thursday, Sep 11, 2014
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist forged their third turntable project, the 'Renegades of Rhythm Tour', from their careful curating of records from Afrika Bambaataa's collection.

If you are a fan of hip-hop, you owe it to yourself to catch the ‘Renegades of Rhythm Tour’ currently making its way across the states. For this event, two renowned turntablists, DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) and Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden) sifted through the historic and legendary record collection of Afrika Bambaataa to create a 90-plus-minute set encompassing all of hip-hop that they are currently touring (dates below). At New York’s Irving Plaza, Bambaataa himself was present in the balcony enjoying the proceedings and perhaps watching with a bit of diligence, given the duo were working with some rare acetates, demos, originals that he has owned, and maybe even performed with, for the past few decades. In an introduction, Shadow held up a record for the audience to show them the giant chunk missing from the near the edge, yet they still planned to spin it in their set. Also on site was hip-hop photographer Joe Conzo, both working from the pit alongside the media and displaying a gallery of his own legendary pieces of hip-hop history from the ‘70s and ‘80s in New York.


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Monday, Sep 8, 2014
A tenor saxophone quartet may not be a typical configuration, but Battle Trance transcended the instrument's capability with their performance of the 42 minute odyssey Palace of Wind.

It’s easy to miss Constellation—I nearly did. The venue, tucked into a small row of brick buildings in Chicago’s North Side, has no flashy sign or major distinguishing marker on its unassuming front face. Its placement near an underpass brings to mind the phrase “hole in the wall.” But on an otherwise ordinary Sunday evening, the intimate venue, which has the layout of a chamber theatre, was given a potent dose of music, spanning a broad range of contemporary art music. Quite a lot of music filled the small space.


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Friday, Sep 5, 2014
The New Pornographers teamed with NPR for a unique performance at the Brill Building - the place that inspired the title of their newest album Brill Bruisers.

NPR’s Bob Boilen introduced The New Pornographers with an explanation of the title of the band’s newest album Brill Bruisers. It had been inspired by the sounds and music that were written in the Brill Building - the same unique one-off venue that the audience was standing in. The Brill Building had ben home to numerous pop music publishing houses in the mid 1900s where many chart-toppers were written. However, the building is currently under renovation, which is why the audience (including Will Sheff of Okkervil River and Neko Cases’s parents) found themselves in a open and industrial-looking construction space for the temporary stage. Boilen was quickly gave the stage over to AC Newman, Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, occasionally Dan Bejar and the rest of The New Pornographers who performed an energetic and sweaty set of new material and older classics. Their set was furious and tight given they only had about an hour to play through songs like “War on the East Coast”, “Brill Bruisers” (which they performed just a block or two up at the Ed Sullivan Theater the night before) and “Backstairs”. Before the last song, “Bleeding Heart Show”, Newman suggested the band had to remember how to play this dusty old rarity but if the audience didn’t laugh at that joke they still appeared more than tickled as many were singing “hey-la” along with the band.


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Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014
The Polyphonic Spree's 'Psychphonic' summer tour is nearing it's end and it was a psychedelic trip worth taking.

The Polyphonic Spree have over 20 members in their band (a smaller amount for this tour) and are currently wrapping up a Summer tour that supports their most recent album, Yes, It’s True. This was my first time seeing them live and, upon first glance at the band, I was immediately struck by two different visions of what I was seeing. Their ‘60s apparel, particularly band leader Tim DeLaughter’s shaggy hair and flowing shirt made it seem like I was either taking a peek into a party with a lot of marijuana smokers or witnessing a cult-leader try to persuade people to join his brainwashed masses. The spinning disco lights that lit most of the show furthered the first hypothesis, that and their Flaming Lips-esque trippy music of course. The show wasn’t sold out but the fans packed in tight near the stage to gaze rapturously into DeLaughter’s eyes presumably. It was such a positive experience that the band did their breakaway hit “Light & Day” twice back to back just wantonly throwing their positivity about.


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