Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mr. Rap Up

Legendary battle rapper Mad Skillz has another look back at 2014.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 3:48 AM

Fans of home-grown rapper Mad Skillz fans know what the end of the year means.

Another “Rap Up,” his annual song about the year in pop culture, which is known for its humor and candid reflection.

Even if mainstream radio ignored his music for the other 11 months, he could count on national airplay for that song, which was always met with great anticipation and intrigue.

But that stopped several years ago, along with new albums from Skillz, who now lives in Los Angeles and is making his name as a club DJ. If you were thinking his rap career was just about over you were probably right.

Until now. On New Year's Eve, Skillz turns back the clock, with a 2014 "Rap Up" and a full album called “Made in Virginia,” on iTunes. Don't call it comeback, however. It's just some unfinished business.

“I'm not rappin' no more. I'm not professionally putting out any more records - at all. I don't have the passion for it,” he says. “I just kept sittin' on these songs.”

All of those songs were done with a Virginia producer named Bink, for an album that was shelved before his last album, 2012's “Thoughts Become Things.” After sharing the music with friends over the years, he recently decided to finish the album. He knows that the audience for his music may not be the same people who bought Young Thug or Iggy Azeala's latest.

“I make grown man hip-hop. We're both grown men, 35 and up. That's the target audience,” he says. “It ain't no young boy … ratchet shit.”

A couple of songs have surfaced from the album, “Rakim Smile,” a soulful track that references the steely gaze of one of hip hop's pioneers. And “All My Favorite Rappers are Dead,” a eulogy for the lives of fallen lyricists and some living rappers who ain't what they used to be. The legendary battle rapper name-checks quite a few well-known artists on the track, but doesn't exclude himself.

“I'm not the same Mad Skillz I was in 1996. I miss that little fiery kid, walking around with a microphone in his back pocket, ready to battle,” he says. “I miss him. I don't just miss the people that are dead, I miss the people that are still here. All I can do is listen to their old stuff and remember the feeling it gives me.”

“Made in Virginia,” might be his farewell album, but don't look for him to hang up the microphone just yet. There's still a bit of '96 in him.

“I'm at the end of the rap career,” he says. “But I'm still the nicest motherfucker out.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

Battle of the Balls

City pulls the plug on Carytown New Year's event.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 5:15 PM

UPDATED: The city of Richmond has pulled the plug on the Carytown ball raise event, as reported by the Times-Dispatch.

"They used the building permit approach," says Schall-Vess. "They threatened New York Deli with an injunction, then told me I did not have permission to 'build' the ball on top.

A special events coordinator with the city told the Times-Dispatch that Schall-Vess should have obtained a permit for a temporary structure on top of a building, but that no applications were made.

original blog post:

It's supposed to be cold on New Year's Eve.

Weather forecasters are saying the temperatures could drop into the teens. But never fear, there will be plenty of balls.

For those not going to the Brown's Island New Years Eve event with its video ball drop, there will be the continuation of the old ball rise in Carytown, this time from the roof of the New York Deli.

"We aren't making a big deal about it," says Byrd Theatre manager Todd Schall-Vess, creator of the event. "We don't want to compete with Brown's Island, just want to continue the tradition."

Last year, the Carytown ball was raised at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Schall-Vess hopes that the ball's return to Carytown this year will create a smaller, community-oriented event for those who live nearby. He can always hope.

So far a building inspector and two police have visited with Schall-Vess about the event, warning him that any extra police presence would be his responsibility.

"This ball rise has happened for eight years . . . seven of those in Carytown, four of those without any sort of party or event surrounding them," says Schall-Vess. ""It seems odd that everyone has forgotten those four years. And after all the effort to continue the tradition last year, why would anyone think it is not happening? "

Organizers of the Brown's Island event have speculated that some 10,000 people will show up to their event.

Of course if you're just not into staring at balls, you could avoid the human smorgasbord and do something more intimate. Lately I've heard a lot of people use some variation of the phrase: "New Year's Eve? No thanks. That's amateur night."

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tin Pan Alley Dreams

New Listening Room Venue Coming to West End near Regency.

Posted By on Sun, Dec 28, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Former marine Kevin Liu and former owner of Harrison Music, Lisa Harrison, are joining forces to open the Tin Pan, a new listening room and restaurant in the former Don Pedro restaurant space at 8982 Quioccasin Road in Henrico County. The space is hoping to open in March with live music four nights a week. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Former marine Kevin Liu and former owner of Harrison Music, Lisa Harrison, are joining forces to open the Tin Pan, a new listening room and restaurant in the former Don Pedro restaurant space at 8982 Quioccasin Road in Henrico County. The space is hoping to open in March with live music four nights a week.

West Enders may no longer have to travel to Ashland Coffee and Tea to get their folk music fix.

The Tin Pan, a new listening room and restaurant, is coming to Quioccasin Station near Regency Square mall in early 2015. The 5,000 square foot venue (3,000 front of house) plans to open in March in the former space of Mexican restaurant Don Pedro at 8982 Quioccasin Road.

Named after the influential Tin Pan Alley songwriting scene of early 20th century, the venue is a joint project of local music retail veteran, Lisa Harrison, who ran Harrison Music for 15 years, and former marine Kevin Liu, who has written a book (“Craft Cocktails at Home”) and contributed to Serious Eats as a blogger.

“Basically it will be music you could have dinner with – folk, Americana, bluegrass, jazz, pop rock,” general manager Harrison says while giving me a tour of the large space that still has ornate dining light fixtures of Don Pedro overhead. Harrison hopes it will be similar in style to Ashland Coffee and Tea, with no standing room, only seated guests. “Artists like Livingston Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones would be great," she adds.

They plan to have live music around four nights a week, featuring national, touring regional and local acts. Harrison is working with an individual talent buyer out of Connecticut for national entertainment as well as some local groups.

Liu cites the Listening Room in Nashville and Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon, NY as models for the space. “Casual but polished, intimate and homegrown," he says. "But really featuring the artists front and center."

The space is still busy being renovated at a cost of around $45,000, but it was clear the focus of the room would be on the large stage and the long bar. Although occupancy is larger, Liu says there will likely be around 160 seats per show. The pair is currently hiring part time and full-time staff, which Harrison says will likely fall somewhere between 15 and 30 positions.

As far as the restaurant goes, Liu says that the concept is to go back to the Tin Pan Alley days around the turn of the 20th century in New York, when the “mish-mash” of American cuisine was born – but with a modern touch.

“We’re going to try to do those things, like spaghetti, but do it right with the right locally sourced ingredients," he says. "And I’m loving the Prohibition era cocktails."

The chef in charge of the large kitchen is Brian Nageotte, who has 20 years of experience cooking in Central Virginia at restaurants such as Firkin and Bulldog in Stafford and Burton’s in Charlottesville. The Tin Pan will be open for lunch but the shows will all be dinner time events, with some live music during brunch on the weekends. There’s also an outdoor patio.

“We’re hoping to draw within a 15 mile radius and further with the national acts,” Harrison says. "We've got a great sound system and top of the line lighting."

Richmonders may remember Blue Bistro was once in the spot and had live music. Harrison says that if you’re in a local band that fits the bill, feel free to contact her at booking@tinpanrva.com.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Letter to Sony Pictures from Todd Schall-Vess

Byrd Theatre manager blasts Sony after being denied "The Interview."

Posted By on Thu, Dec 25, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Unless you've been in a coma or stuck in holiday traffic, you know that the comedy film "The Interview" starring James Franco and Seth Rogen has gotten wayyyy too much attention thanks to hackers.
  • Unless you've been in a coma or stuck in holiday traffic, you know that the comedy film "The Interview" starring James Franco and Seth Rogen has gotten wayyyy too much attention thanks to hackers.

You may have heard that the Byrd Theatre wanted to screen the controversial film "The Interview" on its original release date. Well for those who care . . . Sony Pictures didn't go for it because the Byrd was a "discount" theater.

Here's what Byrd manager Todd Schall-Vess had to say in response to the big whigs at Sony who -- at last check -- were unmoved from their position:

A Christmas Note to Sony Pictures:

"'The Interview' is showing in Northern Virginia and Farmville. The Goochland Drive-In starts it in the new year. And now you can watch it online for $6. But with our FB fans going crazy for the film, coverage from all three local networks plus radio and print and the holiday upon us . . . you wouldn't book it. We have a genuine treasure here -- a 1928 vintage movie palace that is on the national and state historic registers and a closely held local gem with 1300 seats ready to sell out ( and we would have! ) All of the multiplex theatres in the country turned their backs on you, and we didn't.

I said YES, I will start it on Christmas day, YES I will run it for two weeks, YES I will charge first-run prices for it and pay your percentages accordingly. And your response? "We are afraid that your customers will blame us for you having to charge more." Well....that is utter bullshit. And you know it.

Is there anything else you're afraid of? Let's check the list: North Korea, hackers, taking responsibility for your own emails, accusations, threats, the Byrd theatre patrons. Oh, and apparently you have some deep-seated fear of digital security that continues even after the incursion, since it affected your online release of the movie.

So much fear....you should give up the movie business....you aren't cut out for it. Try insurance."

The media coverage of the Sony debacle has seemed pretty relentless lately. A recent Washington Post article noted that if the movie was "seen by audiences around the world, and if copies are pirated in to North Korea, it is a very real challenge to the ruling regime's legitimacy."

Schall-Vess told Style a little more about the background of his attempt to provide "The Interview" for comedy-hungry Christmas patrons:

"Sony beginning to book the film at independent theaters started when a bunch of us that are part of the Arthouse Convergence Network signed a statement saying we were willing and able to show the movie and wanted the opportunity," he said via e-mail. "Rather than embracing that as an opportunity to do the right thing, Sony is using us to leverage first-run chains and promote online release."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Call for Byrd Theatre Memories

Personal stories needed for French documentary.

Posted By on Sun, Dec 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

The Byrd Theatre is looking for your personal stories and memories from a lifetime of movies for a new documentary by a French filmmaker.
  • The Byrd Theatre is looking for your personal stories and memories from a lifetime of movies for a new documentary by a French filmmaker.

As Style first reported back in March, the Byrd Theatre is being featured in a six-part documentary series for European television on the greatest cinema palaces in the world.

This week, they need the public to send memorable personal stories to be featured in the film. They list for example, "what movies did you see as a kid? Did you ever have a special date at the Byrd? Have you ever seen a ghost there?" They'd also love any home movies people have of the Byrd.

You can send your stories to kim@virginiabertholet.com. They'll pull out the best stories and filming will take place between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 at the Byrd and around the theatre.

French director Jean Achache is producing the 52-minute segment on the Byrd that will represent America's contribution to "Collection Cinemas Mythiques" (Mythical Cinemas Collection) which also features segments on theaters in Havanna, Shanghai, Prague and Amsterdam.

"Jean came over to show his short film at the French Film Festival, got to know the [organizers] Kirkpatricks, and just fell in love with the Byrd," says producer Virginia Bertholet. "What we really think Jean is trying to do is not so much tell a chronological story, but tell how the Byrd is such a beloved theater, how much the community loves it and how it has been sustained by this love for it."

The episode, "The Byrd Theatre: A Love Affair," will be narrated and co-written by local author Dean King, also listed as an executive producer. In addition, well-known location manager Isaac Regelson is listed as a co-producer.

If you just want to be seen in the documentary and not interviewed, you can show up for one of the events listed below, when the crew will be filming events in the Byrd.

Saturday, Dec. 27

All three movie shows will feature Christmas sing-a-longs before the show, with Bob Gulledge at the organ. 4:30, 7:15, 9:30 - the public is welcome.

Sunday, Dec. 28

A George Melies short film with Gulledge at the organ and Todd Schall-Vess narrating will take place at 7:15 show. The public is welcome.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Born to Love

Billboard response released by Gay Community Center of Richmond.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 1:15 PM

A controversial local billboard from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) that received national media coverage for its message ("No One Is Born Gay") now has a local response.

A group photo taken by the Gay Community Center of Richmond is now a digital billboard on their property that reads "We are all born to love." Currently it can be viewed 1,300 times a day from I95/64 corridor.

The Gay Community Center of Richmond (GCCR) has released this digital billboard in response to a controversial billboard from PFOX (Parents and Friends of ex-gays). - BK AT GAYRVA
  • BK at GayRVA
  • The Gay Community Center of Richmond (GCCR) has released this digital billboard in response to a controversial billboard from PFOX (Parents and Friends of ex-gays).

Bill Harrison, executive director of GCCR, said they put the word out for the photo shoot mainly through social media and over 400 people showed up on Sunday.

"This gave a lot of people the opportunity to send a very clear message that Richmond is a welcoming city," Harrison says via e-mail. "Once again the opposition gave us a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness. The other billboard hurt lots of folks, I think especially people 50 and older, many of us who had fought our sexual orientation for years. We know firsthand the dangers that can bring."

The ad space is being donated by Lamar Advertising and the billboard will be displayed on I95 and also on I-64 East near the West Laburnum exit. This series will run until Dec. 21.

There are plans in the works for more.

"The other billboards are under design now," Harrison says, adding that he had not heard anything from PFOX. "I did not expect too although I am going to send them a thank-you note. You know how we Southerners are."

Style reached out with questions to PFOX, which lists a PO Box in Reedville, Va. but have not received a response yet.

"The ACLU of Virginia believes that the most appropriate response to speech that offends is more speech," says Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. "The billboard is a great example of this, and the message that we are all born to love is perfect. I was honored to be among the hundreds of people who were at the Gay Community Center for the photo shoot."

Frisky Otter Cam

Presence of otters is good for the health of the James.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Because who doesn't love frollicking otters in the dead of night by the James?

Otters in the James River Park from Friends of James River Park on Vimeo.

These otters were documented by the "JRP Science in the Park game camera sleuths."

Now feel free to return to your regularly scheduled day.

No BS Gettin' Some

New video features familiar local faces.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 2:45 AM

Last summer some Richmonders may remember getting a notice to come out and party with No BS! Brass while they were shooting a new video. Behold the fruits of their party labor: The official release for No BS' "Git It Awn!" shot by Double Take.

Is it me or does this music make you want to watch a good college basketball game?

You'll notice the sweet whip right off the bat. Many will recognize some familiar local faces from skinny comedian Herschel Stratego geeking out in the beginning, to Oscar-worthy miniature cameos by Antonia F.D. Vasser (Richmanian Ramblers) and Giustino Riccio of Bio Ritmo and Fuzzy Baby fame.

You can probably hear No BS bump this live this Friday, Dec. 19 when the group takes over the Broadberry stage for its annual canned food drive. It's $8 to get in with canned good, $12 for erbody else. Gina Sobel and the Mighty Fine open the show.

Monday, December 15, 2014

D'Angelo Finally Releases New Album

Does "Black Messiah" live up to the hype?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Richmond native D'Angelo has finally released a new album, "Black Messiah," which features co-songwriting credits for eight songs with Kendra Foster from Parliament-Funkadelic. - GREG HARRIS
  • Greg Harris
  • Richmond native D'Angelo has finally released a new album, "Black Messiah," which features co-songwriting credits for eight songs with Kendra Foster from Parliament-Funkadelic.

Richmond native and preacher's son, Michael Archer, a.k.a. D'Angelo, did something nobody thought was possible last night: He released his new album. (And yes, he's still going mostly in a funk-rock direction. See video below for more on his musical evolution).

Credited to D'Angelo and the Vanguard, "Black Messiah" became available on iTunes at midnight much to the delight of his legions of fans. The modern soul and R&B star who has suffered from addiction problems was last heard from with 2000's "Voodoo."

The quote of the moment about the record comes from drummer and co-producer Questlove: He called it the “Apocalypse Now of black music” -- in reference to the serious travails that it took to make this album a reality. The cover of the album makes an easy political statement -- especially these days -- with a black-and-white image of people protesting.

You can hear the single "Sugah Daddy" here, and the album's first official single ‘Really Love’ is being released to radio this morning. Style's longtime D'Angelo chronicler Craig Belcher offers this review:

"This is the album D’Angelo fans have been waiting over a decade for -- which is good, if you are wondering what a sequel to 2000’s “Voodoo,” might sound like. But if you were hoping for evidence of D’angelo’s progression and evolution as an artist, you might not find it on “Black Messiah.” But there is some good music.

D’Angelo’s third album recalls the hallmarks of his second, with its muddied production, plodding beats and incomprehensible lyrics, which was part of its charm. But unlike “Voodoo,” which drew listeners in with the Princely “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” or his gentle cover of “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” this album lacks a point of entry for the uninitiated. “Really Love,” the single being offered to radio, clocks in at near six minutes and meanders exquisitely, but doesn’t get far. A song leaked to blogs over the weekend, “Sugah Daddy,” isn’t so sweet on the ears with it’s garbled lyrics and offbeat percussion. Still these tracks are proof that D’Angelo is back, which might be enough for some.

While his musical landscape may not have changed much, there are some welcome additions to his sound. He’s stepped from behind the organ and his guitar work features prominently on songs such as the blistering “1000 Deaths.” Another bright spot is “Betray My Heart,” where he sings of his devotion to a woman, or perhaps his music, over some lovely chords. Surprisingly, he shows little respect for his hometown on the funky “Back to the Future,” singing “Back In Richmond shit ain’t changed a bit/Niggas wit a little piss in got some attitude in/I’m wondering if I can ever ever again.” Well alright then.

D’Angelo isn’t trying to win any new fans with this release. His writing partners, Funkadelic's Kendra Foster and The Roots’ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, aren’t known for making hits and don’t defy expectations here. “Black Messiah” is a dark, self-indulgent work that will appeal to the patient and faithful D’angelo fan, musicians and people who still buy albums by the Roots. That being said, it’s a unique artistic statement in an market overflowing with prefab pop music, and we should be grateful it exists. “Black Messiah” might not save R&B, but it could show some wayward souls the way."

Craig Belcher

In this 2014 video, D'Angelo opens up about his career with writer and filmmaker, Nelson George.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Born Under A Bad Sign

LGBT group photo planned to protest I95 billboard this Sunday.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 5:30 PM

News outlets around the country are picking up the local story of a dishonest billboard off I95 which features supposed twins attempting to discredit scientific research on homosexuality ("No One is Born Gay").

Turns out the South African model on the sign is openly gay and not a twin, but why worry about facts when demonizing?

Paid for by PFOX (Parents and Friends of ex-gays), the billboard near the Belvidere exit is an interpretation of a Northwestern University Dept. of Psychology study that the study's own author disagreed with during an interview with LGBT Science.

The billboard is set to come down Jan. 4, but the company who posted it [Lamar Advertising] has been getting calls from angry residents who don't want to wait that long, as reported by Channel 8 News.

Meanwhile, Bill Harrison at Gay Community Center of Richmond has issued a public invitation: "You are invited to participate in a group photo that will be used to contest the 'No One Is Born Gay' billboard message sponsored by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays. The billboard is located on I95 and has caused considerable outrage.

Please join us Sunday, Dec. 14th at 3:15 PM at the Richmond Gay Community Center, 1407 Sherwood Avenue, 23220. The photo will be used through social media and hopefully as a billboard posting. The picture will be taken at the event hall parking lot on the east end of the building. Please help spread the word and invite all LGBT friends and allies in this historic time in our community."

“This is yet another opportunity for us to challenge ignorance by simply telling the truth," Harrison tells Style. "The billboard has incited so much anger from people across the nation that we wanted to do something that would allow lots of people to react in a positive manner. Conversion therapy does not work. The number of suicides of people, especially teens who participated, has proven that.”
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