Fresh 102.7’s Fall Fest invades Beacon Theatre on Oct. 16

By Rachel A.G. Gilman

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For Fresh 102.7 being a radio station that plays “hot adult contemporary” music, the crowd for the station’s second annual Fall Fest at Beacon Theatre on Oct. 16 was heavily composed of parents and kids. The line-up, composed of Nico & Vinz, Matt Nathanson, Bleachers, Ingrid Michaelson, and Neon Trees, felt a little too compact for the three-hour show.

Nico & Vinz, the self-proclaimed “afro-Vikings” who had this summer’s hit “Am I Wrong,” opened the night. Despite a seated, half-empty crowd, the duo was quite happy to be there, dancing in semi-sync with each other and doing their best to perform tracks from their just released album, “Black Star Elephant.” Overall, their energy was well received.

Next up was Matt Nathanson for an acoustic set of four songs, joking that his full band didn’t come to New York anymore after passing out this summer during a performance in Central Park. Although short, his set included hits “Faster” and “Come On Get Higher,” as well as the reading of a humorous email from Nathanson’s four year-old daughter’s teacher about her inappropriate behavior in class that day, making it an extremely personable experience.

Most disappointing of the night and stuck in the middle of the line-up was Bleachers, Jack Antonoff, which seemed to bring in a larger crowd than the headliners. However, the group was out of it for most of their set, bouncing around in a jumbled mess. Antonoff mumbled the lyrics too quietly over music that was too loud as he continuously knocked his white baseball cap off his head, distractedly. Despite playing all of the hits off their debut album—“Wild Heart,” “Rollercoaster,” “I Wanna Get Better”—it wasn’t until they covered “Dreams” by The Cranberries that the crowd started to stand.

Ingrid Michaelson, despite whispers among the crowd, was not joined by bestie Sara Bareilles, though her set did include the tune they wrote together, “The Winter Song.” She fell into the same problem as Antonoff of frequently having her backing band overpower her vocals, and also found troubles in tuning her ukulele, remembering her lyrics, and keeping her leather crop top grazing just above her leather, knee-pad pants.

Neon Trees closed out the night with a performance as vivid as front man, Tyler Glenn’s, multi-colored leather jacket. Through a seamless set list of hits from “Animal” to “Text Me In the Morning,” including “Mad Love” with vocals from drummer Elaine Bradley, Glenn commanded the stage like a new wave David Bowie, twirling on the toes of his Doc Martens and calling out those in the front row who weren’t into it. Glenn also talked about his public coming out this past April, revealing that many songs off Neon Trees’ latest release, “Pop Psychology,” were inspired by his romantic troubles, including “Sleeping With a Friend.” The foursome sounded better than they do on their records, making their music a true experience and giving Fall Fest the finale it needed to be categorized as a success.

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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CMJ panel discusses contemporary music criticism

By Matthew Mahoney

Via CMJ

One of the many fascinating CMJ panels occurring this week in NYU’s own Kimmel Center was Oct. 21’s panel, which debated the role of music criticism in today’s world.

The panelists were Andre Torres (editor-in-chief of Wax Poetics), Zachary Lipez (Noisey and Talkhouse contributor), Christopher Weingarten (Rolling Stone contributor), Laina Dawes (a heavy metal journalist) and Michael Azerrad (Rolling Stone contributing editor and Talkhouse editor).

The topics generally focused on what music criticism has become, especially in this increasingly digital age. All five panelists agreed, for the most part, that music writing has focused more and more on gossip, which Lipez argued was an interesting topic. However, in general, the panelists agreed that that type of music journalism is not very professional. The panelists also talked about how many music journalists these days often just regurgitate previously published materials.

During the Q & A section, the panel offered many tips on how to become a renowned and respected music critic. Key points were to always be on-time and always be clean and professional in your work relationships.

Another point was about editors: it is important to have a good relationship with your editor, but it is also important to remember that a bad editor can ruin your reputation with poor edits.

Overall, the panel stressed the importance of good research, being polite and professional in your work relationships, and incorporating original ideas into your work.

Matthew Mahoney is a staff writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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Elle King rocks Webster Hall on first day of CMJ

By Matthew Mahoney

Via Matthew Mahoney

Via Matthew Mahoney

Elle King, the Ohio native who currently resides in New York City, took the stage at Webster Hall at about 8:30 on Oct. 21 as a part of CMJ.

She sported a white dress covered in red lips with a black leather jacket.  Her outfit fit her musical style almost perfectly, sassy and sweet but dark all at the same time. King performed without any band: just her stunning voice, an acoustic guitar, and a banjo that she switched several times throughout the show.

King’s music resides somewhere between folk, blues and rock n’ roll, although the show seemed mostly folksy and bluesy due to the lack of King’s normal backing band.

King chatted amicably with the audience between songs, which included several songs from her 2012 EP, along with other cuts and lead single “Ex’s and Oh’s” from her upcoming debut album, which will be released by RCA.

King began performing songs in New York City almost ten years ago at the age of 16. The veteran was easily able to interact with the crowd, who seemed to mostly be there to see the headliners, 80s and 90s British rock band James.

Many of King’s songs are quite tongue-in-cheek, as King played the sarcastic “Good To Be A Man” and “Good For Nothin’ Woman” back-to-back. However, some of her tracks carry a more haunting emotion: “Song of Sorrow,” “Cocaine Carolina,” and “Ain’t Gonna Drown” are proof of this.

King concluded the show with a cover that most people probably did not expect; rapper Khia’s raunchy “My Neck, My Back.” This was met with enthusiasm from the audience once they realized what was going on.

Throughout the show King’s tremendously soulful vocals shone through the crowded venue.

King has two more CMJ shows: Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday and The Living Room on Saturday. Keep an eye out for her debut album, which is sure to be packed with raucous sing-a-longs and darker ballads.

Matthew Mahoney is a staff writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com 

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You should have been watching “The Knick”

By Ethan Sapienza

via Indiewire

via Indiewire

As the camera cuts in to a close up of a pregnant woman’s stomach, Dr. Jules Christiansen’s bare hand, wielding a knife, presses against the exposed skin and makes an incision. Blood begins to ooze out and seep into his fingernails, where minor remnants of dirt remain. The camera cuts, revealing the blood being sucked up and pumped into jars. The surgery commences, attempting to remove the unborn baby. More jars are filled, as more bare hands wielding instruments enter into the body cavity, desperately searching to save the baby, racing against time as more and more jars are needed.

This tense, short surgery begins Cinemax’s new show, “The Knick,” in appropriate fashion, showing off its best attribute: the up close and horrifying medical procedures of yesteryear. The show is set during the beginning of the 20th century, following the often gruesome challenges facing the doctors, nurses and other personnel at the Knickerbocker hospital in lower Manhattan. After the aforementioned surgery fails, Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) walks into his office and puts a bullet into his brain. Thus begins the tenure of Christiansen’s understudy, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), as head of surgery at the Knick.

The show progresses from there, consisting of a cast that provides solid performances, though often relying too much on stereotypically conservative portrayals. Andre Holland plays Dr. Algernon Edwards, a remarkably gifted surgeon whose skin color prevents him from being accepted at the hospital. Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) is a fresh-faced southern girl, though her innocence is undermined by clear sexual tension with Thackery. Juliet Rylance is Cornelia Robertson, the daughter of the shipping tycoon who finances the Knick, who also has her own carnal chemistry with Edwards. And Jeremy Bobb portrays the slimy hospital manager, Herman Barrow, whose debt to unsavory types provides one of the more interesting subplots.

Most of the show doesn’t necessarily follow any one story line, but showcases the interactions, daily occurrences and misdeeds of those who inhabit the hospital: Thackery battles cocaine and opium addiction, along with the constant, mad drive to achieve greatness. Edwards butts heads with Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson), Thackery’s favorite pupil who feels threatened by Algernon. And one of the more interesting portions follows Tom Cleary (Tom Sullivan), the big, brutish, Irish ambulance driver. His antics provide insight into the lives of the lower class, as well as the unruliness of the time (he’s seen having to physically fight other ambulance drivers for patients).

The stories and characters serve as secondary to the true draw and spectacle of the show: the time period and the medicine. Surgeries are gruesome, seem archaic and uncleanly, and are so incredibly well displayed that I couldn’t help but pull at my hair from tension and disgust. Quite simply, the makeup and presentation is thrilling. Ailments ranging from bulging hernias to noses worn away by syphilis are shocking to see, and the treatments for them are equally seductive, though in the most visually repulsive of ways.

Steven Soderbergh’s directing showcases the action to great effect. Unorthodox, distant angles are inherently unnerving, adding to the crowded, bustling and undoubtedly dirty streets of 1900’s New York, which are shown beautifully. Unfortunately, reluctance to ever steady the camera can be a nuisance, as shaky cam is unnecessary in every single shot. The music as well is often absurd. Cliff Martinez (composer for “Drive”) uses his typical blend of subtle though unsettling electronic music, which can be atmospheric, though is bizarre considering the time period. Audio as well fades in and out, and has bizarrely poor quality for a show of its regard.

As a whole, “The Knick” is well worth watching. Its flaws are few, and the stories tend to be interesting and they certainly pay off. Overall, it’s worth watching at least to squirm at the curious medical tendencies from 1900, and for great performances from a talented cast.

Ethan Sapienza is a contributing writer.  Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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“Marry Me” brings the laughs through chemistry

by Talia Milavetz

via EW

via EW

The new NBC sitcom “Marry Me” stars Casey Wilson as Annie (named after the musical by her two gay dads) and Ken Marino, who plays her fiancé Jake. Though charming and funny, Annie is short tempered. Jake has commitment issues; he takes a year to say, “I love you,” and more than six to propose. While the characters’ quirks are funny alone, the real comedy comes from the flaws and dysfunction that occur when the two come together.

The show opens with what appears to be a scene from a typical romantic comedy movie. The couple of six years comes home from an anniversary trip glowing and happy. Annie suddenly freaks out, mad that Jake didn’t propose on their trip, and she starts insulting all of their friends and family. While Annie is clueless, the audience can see that Jake is already on one knee. The real shock comes when both Annie and the audience learn that all of their friends were hiding out, waiting to celebrate the engagement. Everyone is sent home and the engagement is called off. While the idea of this scene is a little overdone, it was executed so well that it was still funny and enjoyable.

The success of the jokes is largely due to chemistry between the actors. The two leads have a great connection. What’s even more striking is the clearly established relationships between the leads and their friends. When Annie goes to a yoga class with her friend Dennah (Sarah Wright), the audience can see that their relationship is lived-in and real which allows the comedy to come naturally. This scene stands out as one of the funniest in the pilot. The yoga instructor consistently calls Annie out on her wonky yoga habits. Since he can’t compliment her on her form, he is compelled to give other backhanded compliments such as, “I’m loving the sweatpants Annie. Way not to give in to the trends.” The comedic timing in the show is consistently spot on, with countless laugh out loud moments.

Yet as the show progresses, it is clear that many of the storylines could use some editing. Annie decides to propose to Jake, which is supposed to be surprising and new, but is really just reminiscent of Phoebe’s proposal to Mike on “Friends.” When Annie comes to Jake’s office to propose, and accidentally mentions their vacation to Mexico, Jake gets fired as he lied and told his boss he was in hospice instead of on vacation. The engagement is off again. They exhaust the “will they won’t they” question and it ends up feeling stale instead of amusing.

The show also uses flash backs in a similar style to “How I Met Your Mother.” While this device works well to give the audience insight on the development of a six-year relationship, its heavy use in the span of a 30-minute pilot simply feels uninspired.

Although some elements feel like a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, “Marry Me” still manages to be a funny and likeable show. The fact that there is so much chemistry already developed in the pilot gives hope that there is a future for “Marry Me.”

Talia Milavetz is a contributing writer.  Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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“Uganda Be Kidding Me” shocks but lacks substance

By Zach Grullon

via EW

via EW

If someone gave you a dime for every time you produced a genuine, heartfelt laugh in Chelsea Handler’s new stand-up comedy special, “Uganda Be Kidding Me,” you would still have a dime. There is indeed just one funny joke through this hour long stand up show, which involves Handler entertainingly demonstrating how your pet cat hides his or her feces in the litter box. But you have to wait through several gross-out and offensive jokes in order to find that one laugh.

Which is not to say that the special is completely without merit. Whenever Handler begins to go on long-winded anecdotes about her annoying best friends (coupled by photos of them in awkward situations) or how she defecated herself on a public beach or her trip through Uganda which inspired her to write a book about her travels, you may find yourself rolling your eyes. Most of this comes from Handler’s delivery of jokes rather than the content in the jokes themselves, although she could have toned down their graphic nature. Do we really need to hear about “dolphin rape?”

While Handler’s frank observational humor has worked to decent results in her past live stand up and television shows, here it feels like she is trying too hard to make the jokes offensive without any real pay off. She randomly shows a pornographic picture behind her of elderly men having a three-way that does absolutely nothing except to be excruciatingly shocking. Even the audience’s laughter was a bit muted at that point. The aforementioned feces joke has a funny opening, but becomes progressively more tired as Handler attempts to up the ante.

Furthermore, Handler fails to use her blunt persona to its best effect. Other comedians use an obnoxious attitude to make jokes at the expense of others, but they also have a healthy amount of self-deprecating humor punctuated throughout the mean-spirited jokes. Handler’s jokes towards her friends feels less like teasing and more like bullying, although there are a couple of her friends that, if you take her word for it, probably deserve to be ridiculed in a public forum for their heinous actions. And even when she goes for self-deprecating humor, they jokes don’t feel well earned or satisfying.

Interestingly, despite Handler’s obnoxious attitude during her stand up, she does reserve the cursing only for certain crucial points. There seems to be a tendency amongst comedians nowadays to throw the f-bomb or any other offensive epithet in every other word for comedic effect. To her credit, Handler understands that we are no longer in the 1970s where constant cursing was something edgy. But that is faint praise to what is otherwise a pass for either a curious Netflix subscriber looking for a solid stand-up hour or fans of Handler’s previous work.

Zach Grullon is a staff writer.  Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 7: “Kill the Moon”

By Nivea Serrao

via A.V. Club

via A.V. Club

Courtney Woods is back! And this week our young companion-in-training is out to prove that she’s more than a “disruptive influence.” But of course that’s not all that happened on this week’s “Doctor Who.”

Lately the series seems preoccupied with consequences, and that’s exactly what Clara makes the Doctor face when she brings up how he told Courtney “she’s not special.” As we’ve seen recently, Capaldi’s Doc has a much more callous way with words than any of his predecessors have – especially when it comes to talking about Clara. But while his companion tolerates his digs at her own appearance, she won’t let him affect a young girl’s self worth, forcing him to confront Courtney and see how his words have affected her.

But instead of apologizing, the Doctor sets about “making” Courtney special, by ensuring she’s the “first woman on the moon.” For all his introspection about what kind of man he is, Twelve seems adamant not to have any kind of deeper conversation with Clara, preferring to go time and space travelling instead.

And of course he overshoots the year, taking them into a future and galaxy not so far, far away (the moon in 2049). This introduces us to the wacky problem of the episode – the moon is actually an egg. However, the issues this brings up are quite real, namely: Kill the moon?

Of course it’s no coincidence that the three people making this big decision – Clara, Courtney and Lundvik, an astronaut they run into – are all women. After all, who better to make this choice about killing an egg before it’s been hatched?

But as we see, even among three women of varying ages, this isn’t an easy decision. Lundvik leans towards killing the moon before it hatches – effectively saving the world. But Clara reasons that you can’t “blame a baby” for simply being born. Lundvik counters with what the creature’s birth will mean for posterity. At a stalemate, Clara throws the decision out to Earth at large, asking them to choose whether they want to keep the creature alive.

Here’s where it gets dicey. The people of Earth choose to kill the moon, but at the last second neither Clara nor Courtney can let that happen. “Ignoring humanity,” they allow the baby to live. That’s when the Doctor returns to show them the consequences of their actions and it turns out Lundvik worries were for naught – the egg disintegrates as the creature flies off, laying an egg in its place.

While this is a happy ending of sorts, the themes dealt with can’t as easily be wrapped up in a bow. This show asks these characters to make a huge decision, and even though Clara fields it out to the world at large, it still comes down to whether she wants to make it. It’s telling that it falls into the hands of the one who’s most of childbearing age – not to mention the one most likely to have a child any time soon.

What’s more telling is that the episode only involves the Doctor when it comes to the initial discovery of the moon. However when it comes to the moment of truth, he heads into the TARDIS and takes off, leaving “womankind” to deal with the choice. Usually, the doctor would have a much larger say in the decision, but as Twelve notes, “It wasn’t [his] decision to make.”

Obviously a woman’s right to choose is a divisive topic, but eventually it comes down to the individual woman. And on that front, writer Peter Harness nails it. But what he doesn’t do is provide a compelling enough argument for both sides. What if Lundvik is right? What if the creature within the moon is the reason the Earth gets destroyed and humans have to move into space? Sure, as the Doctor shows us, there’s a happy ending. But what if there hadn’t been?

The episode portrays Lundvik’s desire to “kill the moon” as evil and wrong – not that “Doctor Who” as a show could ever say otherwise. Yet, it’s worth noting that at the very least her point of view could have been filled in with more shades of grey. Why not give your viewers a tough choice as well?

In any case, Clara’s eventual choice comes with consequences that the Doctor must face as well. This season opened with Clara unsure of where she fits into this Doctor’s world. Now, seven episodes in, she calls him out about abandoning her just when she needed him the most, making her the first companion in recent history to do so.

All said and done, I couldn’t love Clara any more. A companion is supposed to have as much of an effect on the Doctor as he has on them. And this season is finally allowing her to do that. It will be interesting to see how her telling the Doctor to leave her alone will play out – especially since it doesn’t look like she’ll be in next week’s episode.

Do you think “Doctor Who” made the right choice in how it handled the issue? Did you root for Clara when she told the Doctor off? Sound off in the comments!

Nivea Serrao is a staff writer.  Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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