Thursday, December 31, 2015

Listen: The 2015 Rap Up by Skillz

Annual song wraps up the year in culture.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 11:30 AM


It's that time of the year: Time to listen to the annual Rap Up, delivered by RVA's Grammy-nominated rapper and songwriter, Skillz. (Thanks for the heads up, Craig Belcher.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

David Lowery Leading Class Action Suit Against Spotify

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 4:45 PM

David Lowery (in hat) is taking on the giant Spotify with a newly filed class action suit.
  • David Lowery (in hat) is taking on the giant Spotify with a newly filed class action suit.

David Lowery, frontman for alternative groups Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, has filed a class action lawsuit seeking at least $150 million in damages against Spotify, alleging it knowingly, willingly and unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted compositions without obtaining mechanical licenses.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 28 in California federal court. He has retained the law firm of Michelman & Robinson, LLP.

“We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny,” Jonathan Prince, a spokesman for Spotify, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, especially in the United States, the data necessary to confirm the appropriate rights holders is often missing, wrong or incomplete.”

A former local, Lowery is known for helping to start and continuing to produce records at Sound of Music Studios. He also has a home and two sons who live here with his ex-wife. Still touring, in recent years he's become known nationally for being an outspoken proponent of musicians' rights in the digital age and has testified before Congress. He also lectures at the University of Georgia in its music business program. Style reached out to Lowery and will update when possible.

Meanwhile, Billboard has more on the story here; and New York Times provides more coverage here.

And if you want to know just who Lowery is in more detail -- read this deep-dig profile of him from a year ago by Grayson Haver Currin.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Puppet Pirates Invade Triangle Players

Shows run through New Years Day.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 2:45 PM

Puppets Off-Broad Street is working to enhance the puppet scene in Richmond.
  • Puppets Off-Broad Street is working to enhance the puppet scene in Richmond.

It's that time of year when kids home from school need something to do. Time to consider the puppet option.

From Puppets Off-Broad Street comes the return of RVA Winter Puppetfest for its second season with 12 upcoming performances at Richmond Triangle Players. The shows will be staged by three award-winning puppet companies -- including Crabgrass Puppets from Brattleboro, Vermont; their show recently received the 2015 National Puppetry Festival Award for Best Performance.

“We are so excited to have Crabgrass Puppets – ‘The Princess, the Pea and the Pirate’ just won best performance at the National Puppetry Festival in Storrs, Connecticut,” says Heidi Rugg, President of Puppets Off Broad Street in a press release.

Read below for more on the upcoming performances from the release including the schedule of performances:

Applause Unlimited performs their heartwarming adaptation of “Velveteen Rabbit,” and Barefoot Puppet Theatre will share their lively, energetic show “Little Red and the Gingerbread Man.” If you are looking for some swashbuckling, high-seas adventuring, then the “Pirate, the Princess and the Pea” performed by Crabgrass Puppets is your ticket. Crabgrass Puppets is based in Brattleboro, Vermont; their show recently received the 2015 National Puppetry Festival Award for Best Performance.

Performances run twice per day from December 26th through January 1st, with a tiny break on New Year’s Eve. Tickets are only $10 and will be available through the website at www.puppetsoffbroadstreet.org or by calling the Box Office at 804-852-2810.

Dec. 26th: Little Red & the Gingerbread Man by Barefoot Puppet Theatre (10:30am and 1pm)

Dec. 27th: The Princess, the Pea, and the Pirate by Crabgrass Puppets (1pm and 3pm)

Dec. 28th: The Princess, the Pea, and the Pirate by Crabgrass Puppets (10:30am and 1pm)

Dec. 29th: The Velveteen Rabbit by Applause Unlimited (10:30am and 1pm)

Dec. 30th: The Velveteen Rabbit by Applause Unlimited (10:30am and 1pm)

Jan. 1st: Little Red & the Gingerbread Man by Barefoot Puppet Theatre (10:30am and 1pm)

Puppets Off Broad Street is a newly minted 501(c)3 with a mission to inspire imaginations and build community through the art of puppetry.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Update: Local Author Dean King Sues Film Company

Claims Russell Crowe film a rip-off of "Skeletons of the Zahara."

Posted on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 12:20 PM

Local author Dean King.
  • Local author Dean King.

Best-selling Richmond author Dean King is suing the makers of a new Russell Crowe film, "In Sand and Blood," saying the film is based on his 2004 book, "Skeletons of the Zahara."

King is seeking $5 million in federal court from the Los Angeles-based film financing company, IM Global, the Independent Film Co. of London and its chief executive, Luc Roeg, the son of cinematographer and director Nicolas Roeg.

According to a story in Courthouse News Service, King says that Luc Roeg "undeniably, substantially, willfully and admittedly" used his book as the basis for the coming film. The movie is currently in preproduction.

King's book tells the story of American sailors shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815 who are sold into slavery and endure incredible hardship on their journey through the Sahara Desert.

King tells Style that his book had originally been optioned by producers Paula Weinstein and Barry Levinson, along with DreamWorks, who had "worked on it a bunch." But after films such as "Troy" and "Alamo" bombed, the market for historical epics bottomed out and DreamWorks backed out. That's when Luc Roeg stepped in.

"He optioned it [three times] and didn't meet the requirements for auto-renewal, but I let it slide," says King. "We eventually parted ways and he decided he was going to do it anyway. I'm very disappointed in the way this guy has conducted his business. We shouldn't have reached this point. I gave him plenty of opportunities to do this right; the legal system was a last resort."

Interestingly, Roeg acted as a child in a famous 1971 film "Walkabout" directed by his father that is based on a similar story of children abandoned in the rough outback of Australia, led through the desert by an Aboriginal boy.

King says he found the similarities intriguing when he first began working with Luc Roeg, and that he tried to work with him on the project.

"But you can't erase six years of having optioned my work, and me working as consultant on the script, and various other factors," King notes.

More from that Courthouse News story:

"Defendants did not obtain King's permission to copy 'Skeletons on the Zahara' and do not intend to compensate King or give him any credit whatsoever for exploiting the copyright owned by Dean King," the 32-page lawsuit states.

King says his book was based on two memoirs: James Riley's "Sufferings in Africa" and Archibald Robbins' "A Journal Comprising an Account of the Loss of the Brig Commerce." Both works are in the public domain.

Roeg optioned film rights to "Skeletons" from King after a previous deal with production company Intermedia ended in 2006.

In 2008, Roeg entered into an agreement through Independent Film Co. that promised King a minimum purchase price of $250,000 if the company exercised the option agreement; 5 percent of producer's profits; and as much as $50,000 if a U.S. film studio co-financed the film, according to the lawsuit.

After hiring "Public Enemies" screenwriter Ronan Bennett to adapt the book and renewing the option for second time, the agreement to purchase film rights expired on Dec. 7, 2012, King says.

So imagine his surprise when reported on Sept. 29 this year that the defendants were making a feature motion picture starring Russell Crowe, to be called "In Sand and Blood," based on "Skeletons on the Zahara."

Crowe is not a party to the complaint.

"In Sand and Blood" is in preproduction, according to movie industry website IMDb.

"At a minimum, defendants had access to 'Skeletons on the Zahara' through King's work with Independent and Luc Roeg. Further, defendants had access to King, his thoughts, his processes, his original research and all the previously consulting that was directly based upon his book," the complaint states.

King is represented by Chad Weaver, with Edgerton and Weaver, of Hermosa Beach, California, and Kevin O'Hagan in Chicago.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bad Lip Reading Takes on "Star Wars"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Bad Lip Reading got some Hollywood help for its latest spoofs.
  • Bad Lip Reading got some Hollywood help for its latest spoofs.

For those people who don't have tickets to the new "Star Wars" anytime soon, the popular Bad Lip Reading online series has released its takes on the original movie trilogy.

You may not find a better time-waster today.

Special voice talents include Jack Black as Darth Vader, Maya Rudolph as the Princess and Bill Hader as a host of intergalactic goofballs.

Which do you think is the best? My money may go on "Return of the Jedi." It's hard to top Luke talking about not being able to "get back into vinyl," or when Princess Leia tells him she has to go "everywhere you don't." Here they are in order:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Movie Theaters Issue Star Wars Costume Restrictions, Former Employees Share Fan Horror Stories

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 10:50 AM

If you're heading out to see the midnight premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" this week, you may want to leave your lightsaber at home.

As reported by RVANews.com, a couple of movie theater chains with locations in Richmond have issued guidelines for fans who may want to dress up for this week's premiere.

Bowtie Cinemas, which owns the Movieland theater on the the Boulevard, sent out this notice on Twitter encouraging fans to dress up, but asked them to leave the face paint, capes and toy weapons at home.


Regal Cinemas, which operates several theaters in the Richmond area, has issued similar restrictions on costumes.

While some fans are expressing frustrations over the limits, others are sharing horror stories from the Star Wars prequels in the early 2000s. User fusion260 over on the r/RVA subreddit shares this tale of woe:

After working at Regal Cinemas in Fort Lauderdale during the The Phantom Menace, I can tell you it was a nightmare. Fans would come in with costumes and lightsabers and blasters and they would have kids play-fighting in the lobby bumping into customers and causing a disturbance in the theaters from the sound and light effects going off in a dark theater, and there was little we could do about it, per contracts, unless it affected the safety and security of the audience or theater.

There's much more to Fusion260's story on the Reddit thread, including armed guards escorting the film and a mob of angry fans demanding refunds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

CenterStage to Be Renamed Dominion Arts Center

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 9:15 AM

CenterStage venues indeed are lucky to have friends like Dominion Foundation.
  • CenterStage venues indeed are lucky to have friends like Dominion Foundation.

With a $5.5 million grant from the Dominion Foundation, Richmond CenterStage soon will have a new name once it gets the stamp of approval from City Council: Dominion Arts Center.

A press release says "Richmond CenterStage and its venues are part of a successful public-private partnership between Richmond CenterStage, the Mayor’s Office and City Council." But followers of the project might frame things differently, noting the financial issues that have hounded CenterStage from its start, including taxpayer bailouts.

But that's spin for you. Here is the full announcement from CenterStage, issued this morning:

Richmond CenterStage and Dominion Resources today announced that the performing arts complex on East Grace Street in downtown Richmond will be renamed the “Dominion Arts Center,” in recognition of a $5.5-million grant from the Richmond-based energy company’s Dominion Foundation. The grant will be used to support the ongoing operation, maintenance and physical improvement to the facility.

“Dominion is invested in the cultural and artistic vibrancy of our local communities,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dominion Resources. “Our grant seeks to strengthen the performing arts by helping sustain the unique and historic Carpenter Theatre and the other venues at the downtown complex. Richmond’s dynamic arts scene is an indispensable ingredient in making our region an attractive place to live and work.”

The new name is expected to be phased in on tickets and marketing materials beginning early next year with building signage expected to be installed next spring. The Dominion Arts Center includes the fully-renovated, 87-year-old, nearly 1,800-seat Carpenter Theatre; the multi-use space Rhythm Hall; the intimate Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse; and the Genworth BrightLights Education Center promoting arts in education to the region’s Pre-K-12 students, teachers and families. The facility also is home to the administrative offices of Richmond CenterStage, the Richmond Symphony and the Virginia Opera.

“Dominion has long been a generous corporate citizen that has supported many organizations and programs in Richmond, including the local arts community,” said Janet Starke, executive director of Richmond CenterStage. “Having an historic venue like the Carpenter Theatre is truly unique for any performing arts organization. People are amazed and inspired from the moment they walk in – even before the curtain rises. However, having this wonderful, historic facility also means that funds are needed to keep it in the best possible condition for every performer who takes our stage or patron who sits in our seats. Dominion Foundation’s grant will make it possible for us to ensure that our facility remains a treasured destination for performers and audiences alike.”

Richmond CenterStage and its venues are part of a successful public-private partnership between Richmond CenterStage, the Mayor’s Office and City Council. Information regarding the donation and renaming was submitted to the Richmond City Council on December 14. Since the City has an ownership interest in the Richmond CenterStage complex, approval by City Council is required for renaming the facility. That vote is expected to take place at the January 11 council meeting.

Dominion is a significant supporter of the arts community in Richmond, including Richmond CenterStage. In 2012, the stage at Altria Theater was renamed Dominion Stage in appreciation of the company’s $2 million gift that helped renovate that historic theater. Since 2007, Dominion has given more than $4 million to Richmond CenterStage for construction, operations, and artistic and educational programming.

“The soon-to-be Dominion Arts Center is the Richmond Symphony’s home – our performance home and our administrative home – so we know first-hand the importance of having a facility that is well-maintained and in top condition for patrons and performers alike. Many local arts groups use the venues in this performing arts complex, and we’re very grateful for Dominion’s commitment to help keep this place attractive and fully up-to-date,” said David Fisk, executive director of the Richmond Symphony and vice chair of the Resident Company Association. Richmond CenterStage’s resident companies include the City of Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation, Elegba Folklore Society, Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, Richmond Ballet, The Richmond Forum, Richmond Symphony, School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC), Virginia Opera, Quill Theatre and Virginia Repertory Theatre.

Dominion’s grant is being made through the Dominion Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm. In 2014, Dominion and The Dominion Foundation provided more than $18 million to support non-profit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, promote education and encourage community vitality. Dominion Foundation grants are funded by shareholder dollars and are not borne by customers.

Video of the Day: Richmond's Gull Covers Depeche Mode

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Local artist Gull has a strong online presence for his amazing one-man-band approach.
  • Local artist Gull has a strong online presence for his amazing one-man-band approach.

Richmond's greatest one-man band, Gull aka Nathaniel Rappole, is at it again with a remarkable cover of the Depeche Mode classic "Personal Jesus."

As the notes say: Gull performed the track at the Cut the Cord studio for an interview and performance. He played a five-song set that included two covers. "'Personal Jesus' by Depeche Mode is the first in a series of videos featuring Gull's unique stylings." You can find the interview with Gull at http://www.cutthecordradio - Episode 100.

We wrote about Rappole's journey to Africa in March.

VIDEO: NBC-12's 1991 Sign-Off is a Slow Jam Down Memory Lane

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Come with us to the magical year of 1991. A simpler time. A slower time, when TV stations hadn't yet become voracious, gnashing maws of 24-hour content and a never-ending news cycle.

Enjoy a classy parade of Richmond imagery in this sign-off video from NBC-12, featuring a host of familiar faces all backed by that most '90s of instruments: the saxophone. So much saxophone.

Be on the lookout for:

- That snazzy Polly Pocket pink-and-white news set
- Meterologist Jim Duncan in boat shoes and a blazer
- Flying confetti at a children's telethon
- The University of Virginia Rotunda, for some reason
- Anchor Sabrina Squire, who we swear hasn't aged a day in almost 25 years

And don't forget to shed a tear for longtime former sports anchor Ben Hamlin, who left the sports desk in 2008.

(Hat tip to the nostalgia-hounds over at the RVA Subreddit for the find!)

Friday, December 11, 2015

PICK: Big Band Christmas This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 12:20 AM

Get merry this weekend with some of the best jazz players in Richmond.
  • Get merry this weekend with some of the best jazz players in Richmond.

Last year’s sold-out Richmond Big Band Christmas was one of the highlights of the season. It’s back again this weekend, and there are still a few tickets left.

The program is 75 minutes of family-friendly, wonderfully arranged and performed holiday bliss. Organized and by Taylor Barnett, VCU professor and trumpeter in NoBS Brass Band, the ensemble includes many of the best players in Richmond.

The line-up includes most of the Butterbean Jazz Quartet (vocalist Terri Simpson, saxophonist Kevin Simpson and bassist Rusty Farmer) a huge chunk of NoBS (founder Reggie Pace, trumpeters Robert Quallich, Marcus Tenney, and bass trombonist Reginald Chapman), Richmond Big Band leader Rick Reiger and petite baritone sax monster Suzi Fischer. Spacebomb Studios co-founder Ryan Corbett is on piano, Abinnet Berhanu on drums. The ensemble is rounded out by vocalist Laura Ann Singh (Quatro Na Bossa, Miramar) and the inimitable Rudy Faulkner. Rudy Faulkner (vocals).

If you need more justification to have a good time, the performance is a benefit for West End Presbyterian Church.

The Richmond Big Band Christmas goes down at VCU W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, Saturday, Dec. 12 at 4 PM and 7:30 PM, Sunday, December 13th at 4 PM. $15 General admission. $13 Students.

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