Friday, October 30, 2015

Matmos Performing at Black Iris Monday

Acclaimed Baltimore duo also speaking at VCU on Nov. 3

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Known for their work with Bjork, electronic duo Matmos will be playing a small show Monday at Black Iris Gallery.
  • Known for their work with Bjork, electronic duo Matmos will be playing a small show Monday at Black Iris Gallery.

The shows at Black Iris Gallery just keep getting better.

Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos will be performing at Black Iris Gallery this Monday, Nov.2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 or $6 for students and they're available at Steady Sounds record store.

Also, the duo will give a lecture at VCU's The Depot on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.

From the Facebook event page:

The ground breaking electronic duo is known for their innovative integration of musique concrete to more popular forms of dance music with a bend towards the avant grade. In addition to their own work, they've received popular and critical recognition for their collaboration with Icelandic singer and musician Björk, both on studio recordings and live tours.

After many years on Matador records, Matmos now calls Thrill Jockey home. The duo has also been embraced by the fine art community as well playing many exhibitions including the Whitney Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Most recently, they have been part of the ensemble for the Robert Wilson production "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic", featuring Marina Abramovic, Antony and Willem Dafoe. Their most recent album, The Marriage of True Minds, was released in 2013 by Thrill Jockey Records.

The duo will be giving a lecture at VCU's The Depot on Tuesday, November 3rd at 4PM.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

UR Alumnus Lil Dicky Returns

Internet Famous Rapper to Perform Friday.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 1:00 PM

UR grad Lil Dicky is shakin up the rap game.
  • UR grad Lil Dicky is shakin up the rap game.

Hunter Ross with the University of Richmond student paper, the Collegian, reports that one of the school's most famous recent alumni is returning to town this week for a special show.

The rapper David Burd, better known as Lil Dicky, is scheduled to perform for Richmond students on Friday evening at the on-campus Club Tucan at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are required, but can be bought at the door.

Haven't heard of him? Well his videos have millions of views and they're also comedy sketches. Plus, his story of working in a San Francisco ad agency until he got so bored he began rapping his presentations, is a unique back story. Check out the Collegian article, and below, this NSFW video of Lil Dicky letting Snoop Dogg know that rappers who rap about how boring their lives are could have lots of fans:

For more insight on this artist, check out this article over at the Guardian.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Richmond Native and SNL-Head Writer Launches Sports Comedy Site

The Kicker bills itself as "for sports fans by sports fans."

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Bryan Tucker working on the SNL set with host Ashton Kutcher, the last time I went to see him in New York.
  • Bryan Tucker working on the SNL set with host Ashton Kutcher, the last time I went to see him in New York.

For Bryan Tucker, the funny just keeps going.

A Richmond native we profiled seven years ago who rose to the top writing job at "Saturday Night Live" as co-head writer, is not only still doing that job but now he's launching a new online comedy venture with a veteran business manager from the Onion.

The Kicker is all about finding the funny in sports, which seems pretty rife with opportunity. In fact, how has someone not cornered this market already?

Making fun of sports seems like it would be easy. Reminds me of what comedian Todd Barry once said about roasting Chevy Chase: That it would be easier than shooting fish in a barrel. "It's as easy as looking at fish in a barrel," he said. No wait. "It's as easy as being. Somewhere. Near. A barrel."

The website will release daily content featuring videos starring athletes and celebrities, like this one featuring "Weird Al" Yankovic as a grizzled coach.

Tucker told Mashable that other prominent players will include Kenan Thompson, Andy Samberg, Perez Hilton, Wyclef Jean, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jamaal Charles, Odell Beckham Jr. and Eric Decker.

Full disclosure: If you know Tucker at all (and I've known him literally since birth - his dad was my dad's college roommate in the '60s) then you know he's a huge fan of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Tarheel basketball, his alma mater. And his brother, Reed Tucker, who is a features writer at the New York Post, even co-wrote a book about how bad Duke sucks. So expect a lot of Tarheel love, maybe. Or maybe just a lot of Duke hate. Either way, these guys definitely know Tobacco Road hoops.

I've got a text out to Tucker to find out more about the project, which was just announced today, and will update asap.

Right now, the Facebook page already has 10.1 million views ahead of the launch, according to the Mashable article.

After Two Years, CenterStage Names New Executive Director

Janet Starke wants to advocate for local groups more, expand donor base.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 12:44 PM

Janet Starke has been serving as Director of Education since 2009 and became Interim Executive Director last summer.
  • Janet Starke has been serving as Director of Education since 2009 and became Interim Executive Director last summer.

And you thought finding a new Speaker of the House was tough, as my editor noted on Twitter. After two years, CenterStage announced today the hiring of Richmond native and long-time arts advocate Janet Starke as its executive director.

Starke is moving into the role after serving as director of education since 2009, and interim executive director since August. Her first day in her new job begins Nov. 1.

Starke says that the last couple of years have been spent figuring out how to implement CenterStage's strategic plan, which is based on "better conveying and branding ourselves as more than the performing arts center downtown."

In her new role, she says she'll work to not only further regional education programs but also help advocate for local arts groups, who have had some difficulty in the past with costs associated with using CenterStage as a home venue.

"I think we're trying to balance that, with commercial acts and venues, to offset the losses you take supporting the local groups," she says. "We want to continue to be a good advocate and partner with local arts groups, have them in the building and working here, which might involve finding increasing ways of fundraising together."

A year ago, the organization held a fundraiser, Curtains Up, which featured all the resident companies in a preview of the season. But Starke says that events like these likely will come on anniversary years because of the logistical difficulties with season planning and the desire to avoid adding production costs. There are no fundraisers planned now, she says, though she has more autonomy in her new role to explore such options. She uses the potential of collaborating with CultureWorks as an example.

Starke says she's unaware of any momentum within the organization to move from its current bifurcated model -- nonprofit and for-profit working together -- to an entirely nonprofit model as some performing arts centers across the country have done. Any move in that direction would necessarily be part of a much larger conversation with the city, she notes.

"My big focus on the nonprofit side is to achieve success in fundraising for education programming, some nominal arts programming and overall operations," she says. "We inherited this structure [from the city] -- we didn't ask for it. It is a different structure than what you see in a lot of performing arts centers." And because it's nonprofit, she says, "that doesn't mean we don’t operate with sound fiscal intent. We don’t go into this not wanting to make a profit."

Starke says she's excited to take on one of her biggest challenges: increasing the donor base.

"I think people who know me, know I come to the table as a genuine collaborator and supporter," she says. "We're very mission minded. ... I want to help people understand that and come to know us as an organization better."

Former executive director Richard Parison moved on in November 2013 and says he's working as a freelance director.

"Certainly, I think Janet was an excellent director of education," he says. "She has a focus on knowing what the educational needs are in the Richmond region that I think she'll bring to her new position. And I wish her the best of luck."

Here is today's press release:

“We had many outstanding candidates apply for this position, and while resumes came from all over the country, it turned out the person most suited for the position was already within our organization,” said Pamela Royal, Chair of Richmond CenterStage’s Executive Director Search Committee. “She knows the organization’s strengths and challenges, and shares the Board’s vision for moving forward.”

“Janet’s strong relationships with the arts and cultural community in Richmond and her passion for the performing arts will help strengthen Richmond CenterStage’s position as a catalyst for the arts in Richmond. She has the experience we were looking for and the close ties to the arts community that will allow her to hit the ground running with little transition time needed,” said Kathy Strawn, Chair of Richmond CenterStage’s Board of Directors.

Janet is a Richmond region native whose life-long passion for the performing arts dates back to singing in Chester Middle School’s chorus, in Chesterfield County Public Schools. She earned a B.S. in Arts Management from Shenandoah University, and later earned a M.A. in Arts Administration from the University of Cincinnati. Having worked in the field for nearly 20 years, her arts management experience is extensive. She served as Director of Educational Outreach at Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Interim Managing Director at Barksdale Theatre, and Associate Director for the Education Institute at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, among others. She returned to Richmond in 2009 to be part of the senior management team opening Richmond CenterStage. As Richmond CenterStage’s Director of Education, she directed the implementation of a comprehensive regional arts education plan involving public and private educators in 7 school systems and peers among our resident companies, other arts and cultural organizations and area universities, reaching nearly 30,000 students to date. She is a member of the national Americans for the Arts’ Education Council and serves on the Virginia Commission for the Arts’ Area V grants panel. Janet is active in the Richmond arts community both as a performer in the Richmond Symphony Chorus and a patron of all types of performing arts.

“It was a dream come true for me to return to my hometown in 2009 to be a part of opening a top-tier performing arts center. It has been so rewarding professionally and personally to be part of this organization and I’m very excited to help lead it to the next level. We have had many successes in our short history, including the renovation of Altria Theater, establishing a distinctive arts education program and attracting high-caliber performers to our venues. But I also know that we have much more we can accomplish. I’m more than ready to strengthen our relationships with the various arts groups in Richmond and build a strong financial structure to ensure the long-term success of our organization and its programs,” said Starke.

“I’ve known and worked with Janet ever since Richmond CenterStage opened in 2009, and she has always been someone who actively looks for ways to collaborate with arts groups in Richmond. She has involved many of the resident companies in CenterStage’s arts education programming, and has developed strong relationships with all of them. She firmly believes that if we work together, we can accomplish more; and that approach to the performing arts is what we need,” said David Fisk, Executive Director of the Richmond Symphony and Vice Chair of the Richmond CenterStage Resident Company Association. “I know that she will be a terrific ambassador for Richmond CenterStage and for our performing arts community, and I’m happy that the Board selected her for this important position.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

VIDEO: Gwar Covers Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop"

Local monsters return to Onion A.V. headquarters.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Gwar performs at its local Gwar-B-Q.
  • Gwar performs at its local Gwar-B-Q.

It's always fun when Gwar stops by the Onion offices.

The group, led by Michael Bishop on vocals, has proven they can take any song and make it their slave, as they do below with Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop" as part of the Onion's beloved Undercover series (where bands are invited to pick a song to cover from an ever-dwindling list).

Of course, Gwar's version is raw and punked up, with a little Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" action thrown in for good measure.

Other songs the group has performed in the past at the Onion offices include: Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son," Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls," Billy Ocean's "Get Into My Car" and the Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died" in tribute to Dave Brockie.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Artsie Award Winners Announced for 2015

"Caroline, or Change" leads the way with four Artsies.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 12:30 AM

Matt Shofner took home best actor in a musical for his memorable portrayal of the transsexual Hedwig in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
  • Matt Shofner took home best actor in a musical for his memorable portrayal of the transsexual Hedwig in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

The Richmond Theater Critics Circle held its annual award show on Sunday, an affair that's like Richmond's own Tonys show tossed back with a little Golden Globe revelry. Acclaimed local cabaret performer and actress Georgia Rogers Farmer served as the mistress of ceremonies.

The musical "Caroline, or Change," by Cadence Theatre in collaboration with Virginia Rep, led the way with four Artsies. The story follows the tale of a black maid working in a Jewish home following JFK's assassination.

The Artsie for best play went to 5th Wall Theatre's production of "The Human Terrain," which followed the travails of a civilian analyst embedded in Iraq. The Liz Marks Memorial Award for Ongoing Contribution to Richmond area theater went to Bob Albertia, Robert Watkins and deVaeaux Riddick.

Here's the complete list of winners:

Best Play: "The Human Terrain," 5th Wall Theatre

Best Direction (Play): Jan Powell, "Equivocation"

Best Actor (Play): Jerold Solomon, "The Whipping Man"

Best Actress (Play): McLean Jesse, "The Human Terrain"

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Play): Jeff Clevenger, "Hamlet"

Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Play): Sara Heifetz, "The Human Terrain"

Best Musical: "Caroline, or Change," Cadence Theatre in collaboration with Virginia Repertory Theatre

Best Direction (Musical): Billy Christopher Maupin, "Carrie: The Musical

Best Actor (Musical): Matt Shofner, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"

Best Actress (Musical): Desiree Roots, "Caroline, or Change"

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Musical): Brandon McKinney, "Caroline, or Change"

Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Musical): Grace Mincks, "Carrie: The Musical"

Best Musical Direction: Ryan Corbitt, "Caroline, or Change"

Best Choreography: Brad Willcuts, "South Pacific"

The Ernie McClintock Award for Best Ensemble Acting: "The Altruists," TheatreLab

Most Promising Newcomer: Denver Crawford, "The Aliens"

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design: BJ Wilkinson, "The Whipping Man"

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design: Sue Griffin, "Mame"

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design: Kat Conley, "The Whipping Man"

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Joey Luck, "Psycho Beach Party"

Liz Marks Memorial Award for Ongoing Contribution to Richmond Area Theater: Bob Albertia, Robert Watkins and deVeaux Riddick

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Keeping It Small

Black Iris’ Tiny Bar series features Daniel Knox this week.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 9:25 AM

Musician Daniel Knox performs on Oct.21 at 8 p.m. as part of the Tiny Bar series at Black Iris.
  • Musician Daniel Knox performs on Oct.21 at 8 p.m. as part of the Tiny Bar series at Black Iris.

A dimly lighted room with candles lining two walls provides the setting for an intimate performance for 52 people. At Black Iris’ Tiny Bar shows, cellphones are turned off, flash photography is prohibited and the standing audience is respectfully silent.

When renovations began on the multistory space at 321 W. Broad St. in the arts district, the recording studio’s original idea was to use the middle space as a game room with a pool table. “We’ve done so much cool stuff that wasn’t in the original plan,” curator Benjamin Thorp says. “None of this was intentional.”

The gallery discovered the potential of the space accidentally the first time it brought in musicians to celebrate the opening of an exhibit. “We saw what that space was,” says Justin Bailey, creative director at Black Iris Music. “It was our original awareness of that environment, the intimacy of sitting there, hearing music, that did it.”

The Tiny Bar series fully arrived in 2014 with an intimate set featuring Jonathan Russell of the Head and the Heart. When it was announced that bar service would cease during his set, the black-hatted Russell disagreed.

“Everyone knows bar service is not closed when I play,” he insisted, setting the standard for the series. That invitation-only show for a crowd of 52 set the series in motion and soon people were stopping Thorp to ask when the next show would be.

“We’re trying to control the experience, the number of people there,” Thorp says. “We want it feeling like that original show.”

Limited by its size, but no longer invitation only, the Tiny Bar stage holds no more than three musicians and is best suited to acoustic performances. “Our goal is to create a cultural exchange between the artist and the venue,” Thorp says.

“People trust us because it’s a passion project for us,” Bailey says. The same could be said for record store Steady Sounds, across the street, where 54 tickets are sold for each of the shows and albums by the featured musicians are stocked, making it easy for new fans to pick them up.

“It’s also a respite for the crowd to have a musical experience without the interference of social media,” says Black Iris’ David Jackson. “For the musicians, it’s human interaction with the crowd in its purest form.”

The room’s acoustics, paired with a savvy sound technician, ensure that every musician sounds incredible, no matter the musical genre.

“They don’t have to put on a show, they don’t have to ‘entertain.’ Most bands don’t even use their set list,” sound engineer Rich Stine says. “It’s more of an organic situation. The stars align.”

The next Black Iris shows include Daniel Knox, Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; Diane Cluck, Lobo Marino\ and Ben Shepherd, Oct. 23; and Mind over Mirrors, Oct. 28. Most shows start at 8 p.m. Black Iris, 321 W. Broad St. Call 249-9323 or visit 321westbroad.com/calendar.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Interview with Evan McKeel

Update: Local singer advances on NBC's "The Voice"

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 1:20 PM

Evan McKeel faces the Battle Rounds tonight on NBC's "The Voice" at 8 p.m.
  • Evan McKeel faces the Battle Rounds tonight on NBC's "The Voice" at 8 p.m.

When singer Elliott Yamin made his triumphant return to Richmond as a top-three contestant on “American Idol,” he was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Braves game. Back then, a 10-year-old named Evan McKeel wanted to say hello.

“I was really into him and I got to meet him,” says McKeel, now 20 and a contestant on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.” “I connected with him. That really put the bug in my head that I could do this.”

McKeel is facing the battle rounds tonight on the “The Voice” (Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.). Of course, he already finished taping in Studio City in Los Angeles and can’t say what happened. But it’s been a wild ride for the singer with the gritty, blue-eyed soul vocals -- a ride that started several years ago when producers saw him in a YouTube clip and invited him to audition.

McKeel was going to audition for the seventh season, and then his older sister got engaged and he decided to wait to not deflect from her big date. Next, he was supposed to be on the following season and he went through the whole process to the blind audition. But a couple of show dates were changed and his final audition fell on his twin sister’s wedding day.

“That was a tough cross-road decision,” he recalls. “My sister said: 'Go, go do it, I’m not going to ask you to give up that opportunity.' But I decided to stay for the wedding, of course. It’s my twin sister and it only happens once.”

So when he got another chance to be on the show this season, he was thrilled.

“When I found out I was getting to go back I was immensely relieved that I hadn’t skipped out on it twice for nothing,” he says.

McKeel, who sings and primarily plays guitar and piano, grew up singing in church at the West End Assembly of God on Parham Road. He credits his confident and assured performances on television to his many diverse arts experiences at the church.

“There are so many outlets and opportunities for young people to grow in the arts there,” he says. “I was in all the Christmas productions, children’s productions, children’s choir, middle-school choir, so many facets there are all music-based. That was really where God had me as a training ground, all in that one building.”

McKeel says he learned not just how to be in a spotlight comfortably but also humbly. “You learn that you’re not doing it just for you,” he says.

At about age 15, he wanted to pursue music more seriously so he started playing farmers' markets in Goochland and Hanover counties as well as Café Caturra and other nice sandwich shops across the area. “I would grab an issue of Style Weekly and see where other musicians were playing,” he says.

In terms of musical influences, he grew up on so many different kinds of music that he doesn’t like to classify his own style. Some of his favorite singers include: Michael McDonald, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Beck, Carole King, D’Angelo and M. Ward.

He was in a band when the show started, but has since stopped playing with it to focus on his solo career. “I’m just now tapping into recording completely on my own,” he adds, noting that he started recording his own album in January. “We’re hoping to get it done as soon as I have time to start working again on it,” he says. “It’s about half-way done.”

Separate from that album, he also has a soul project he’s working on. Always interested in collaboration, he says he started writing with fellow “Voice” contestant Darius Scott, with the two of them sending each other stuff. “We would like to record some together,” he says. “And I’ve been writing with a couple other contestants.”

McKeel says it’s the friendships he’s formed on the show that have been the most rewarding part of the experience. “Jordan Smith and I roomed together and became really good friends,” McKeel says. “You make so many special relationships ... and you know these are going to be lifelong friendships.”

He says he changed his mind so many times about who to choose as a mentor after his first audition. At first, he was sure he’d pick Adam Levine and he was leaning more in that pop-rock realm. But he had a realization in the last year or two that the music he really loved was at least part soul. Then he decided to go Team Blake (Shelton) because he wanted to try out-of-the-box things and he thought he would be given leeway as a performer. A few days before he stepped onstage, he was thinking Gwen Stefani.

“There can be some strategy to it, I was thinking most singers similar to me are going to Adam, I want to be the oddball or interesting choice on the team,” he says. “But of all of them, Pharrell [Williams] is probably [the judge] whose music I know the most. When I stepped up there, I decided to pick whatever coach is going to give me a chance to show different sides. Then Pharrell asked me to sing a different song [Stevie Wonder] to hear a different side. That was what pushed me to him."

In terms of how much direction the show gives, he takes a politically safe route: “The show is very good at letting you show your artistry and be true to yourself.”

Friday, October 16, 2015

WCVE Airing Robbin Thompson Tribute on Saturday

Also special memorial concert in the works.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 12:10 PM

The late Robbin Thompson will be featured on local airwaves this weekend.
  • The late Robbin Thompson will be featured on local airwaves this weekend.

This Saturday at 2 p.m., WCVE 88.9 FM will air a tribute to the late local singer and songwriter Robbin Thompson, who died from cancer Oct. 10.

The program was originally recorded last year during an "In Your Ear" show from January 2014.

"This one has run before but I redid the whole set-up as a tribute, rather than all our normal sponsorships," says Tim Timberlake with Jam Inc. "The material is from an acoustic show the band recorded. The first set is Robbin's 'Real Fine Day' album, that's Robbin's last album and the [title] song was written while he was dealing with one of the setbacks due to cancer. Very special song for that reason."

Timberlake says the segment also features Thompson talking about how the song was written.

"I hope it's a fitting way to remember him and to hear the band in a way most people haven't," he adds.

Also in the works, Timberlake says, is a big memorial concert featuring some special musicians but no date has been announced yet. And no word on whether former Thompson bandmate Bruce Springsteen will be involved, although the Boss did feature a tribute to the Richmond singer on his official website.

You can live-stream the Saturday radio show here.

Here is "Real Fine Day" by Robbin Thompson, performed in SPARC's "LIVE ART: Tree of Life" concert, Dec. 22, 2013.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Maggie Walker Statue Announced for Broad Street

Public Art Commission to use D.C. artist. Check out his other work here.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 2:30 PM

While it was first proposed in 2010, the city's public art commission announced today that a monument commemorating Maggie L. Walker will be integrated into a new plaza on Broad St. at North Adams in the city's arts district.

The commission selected DC-based artist Antonio Tobias “Toby” Mendez to create the sculpture, which will stand within walking distance of Walker's original home and bank. Walker devoted her life to civil rights advancement and was the first woman of any race to found a bank.

Other works Mendez has done include sculptures of Gandi, Thurgood Marshall and others that you can check out here in his online portfolio.

“Not only will Richmond gain an important new monument that can reflect the diverse heritage and history of a significant local hero, but this effort will also underscore her role as a champion for civil rights on the national landscape,” said Mayor Jones in a press release. “Maggie Walker was a revolutionary leader in business, a champion for breaking down barriers between communities and showed incredible strength as a person that came out of extraordinarily challenging circumstances to create great things.”

Site work on the new plaza begins this fall. The release notes that "the new monument, targeted for completion in the fall of 2016, will serve as a gateway to the historic Jackson Ward community and the new home of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia at the historic Leigh Street Armory."

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