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Dances of Vice: July 4th Rockabilly Night Market

From Dances of Vice:
Enjoy a beautiful summer night dancing and strolling beneath the stars
and sparkling lights of the 2nd annual Dance of Vice Rockabilly Night
Market on July 4th at SRB Brooklyn!

Get ready to rock to the red-hot rhythms of Boston’s international
rockabilly stars JITTERY JACK (Wild Records) featuring special guest
Miss Amy, and New York’s own SUSQUEHANNA Industrial Tool & Die Co.
Burlesque starlet BETTINA MAY will also be among the evening’s main
attractions.

Thu., July 4, 7 p.m., 2013

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The Heat Would Be More Likable If It Stopped Yelling Everything

If you’ve never seen Sandra Bullock blow a peanut shell out of her nose, and you’d like to, The Heat is your movie. That’s not meant sarcastically: It’s one of the highlights of this often dismal but occasionally inspired comedy from Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, which pits Bullock’s hoity-toity FBI agent against a brassy Boston cop played by Melissa McCarthy. The two are thrown together in pursuit of an elusive drug lord, and much of the movie — too much of it — is spent testing the boundaries of how loud and obnoxious McCarthy can be. Feig doesn’t hand this able comic actress the gift of freedom; he simply gives her enough rope, which isn’t nearly the same thing.

But The Heat has a spark of something, irregularly ignited by the unlikely kinship between these two actresses. Bullock’s Special Agent Ashburn and McCarthy’s Detective Mullins both have an attitude problem: Ashburn comes off as a know-it-all who alienates the men in her department (even though she does know it all much better than they do). And Mullins doesn’t give a rat’s butt for anyone else: Told her boss is looking for her, she snaps, “Tell him I’ll be there at sharply go-fuck-yourself o’clock.”

One of The Heat‘s failures is the way it attempts, feebly, to say something serious about the ways women are treated in the workplace. The suggestion is that both Ashburn and Mullins know exactly what they’re doing but don’t get the respect (and, most likely, the salary) they deserve. On the other hand, these two are hell to work with, and, being movie characters, they need to discover their inner vulnerabilities before they can become truly good at what they do. Snore. In the end, The Heat, like Bridesmaids before it, has to be about feelings. That’s often true of male buddy pictures, too, but The Heat could have come up with something better than its “Gee, Officer Krupke”-style “I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived” explanation for why these women can’t work and play well with others.

Yet Bullock and McCarthy work and play well together, which is what counts. It’s possible that McCarthy and the directors who work with her believe that because she’s big, everything she does has to be outsized. In The Heat, that translates to lots of insults and scatological retorts, all delivered at decibel levels suitable for deaf dogs. But McCarthy’s at her best with the subtle reaction shot, or winding her way toward a slow-burning zinger. At times, she and Bullock tease out the best in each other. Bullock cedes everything to McCarthy: She knows she can’t make a bigger noise than her overbearing co-star, so she bobs and weaves between the lines instead. This is accord as chemistry, and it works.

You can see it best in the peanut-snorting scene, where Bullock very obviously — and almost unsuccessfully — tries not to let McCarthy crack her up. That tension, and the release of it, makes the moment glorious. It also highlights a key angle of McCarthy’s gifts as a comic actress: She sops up all the embarrassment around her, freeing anyone else onscreen with her from looking totally ridiculous, which is its own kind of generosity. In other words, she’s the friend to have around when you’ve got something stuck in your nose. Just blow it outta there — you’ll feel much better for it. The last thing you want to do is hold it in.

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STAND-UP & DELIVER

“Semiretired” journalist Chloé Hilliard has written for Essence, Vibe, and the Voice, but like most ambitious New 
Yorkers, she decided one career wasn’t enough. She now pulls double duty as a stand-up comedian and show producer, and each month she hosts Comedy Night @ indieScreen, a night of up-and-coming and established comedians. This month, she welcomes Michelle Wolf (contributor to someecards.com and IFC’s Bunk), Boston-based comic Sam Jay, Amy Carlson (Real Time with Bill Maher), Nore Davis (MTV’s Yo Momma), and Yamaneika Saunders (TruTV, Oxygen, Fox). Come for the laughs, stay late for the after party with music by DJ Sean Malcolm.

Sat., March 30, 9:30 p.m., 2013

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In Downeast, the Free Market Chokes Like a Noose

In the lovely, melancholy documentary Downeast, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin profile the coastal town of Gouldsboro, Maine, the site of the last operational sardine cannery in the United States until it closed in 2010. The film starts a year later, when Italian businessman Antonio Bussone, of the Boston-based Live Lobster Co., decides to revive the town’s industry and restore jobs by applying for a government grant to turn the empty factory into a lobster processing plant. The desolation caused by the plant’s closure is depicted with stark, structuralist camerawork, but this is not ruin porn, and the filmmakers prioritize letting their subjects speak–at town halls and city council meetings, Gouldsboro’s aging residents assert their concerns as lobster fishermen, afraid that the new plant will force them out of the market–while others are just suspicious of change and outsiders. Meanwhile, Bussone grows more anxious, even as his plan gets off the ground; despite the cash in his account, the bank has begun harassing him, claiming that he’s out of money and threatening to freeze his finances. “Where are the American dreams?” his wife asks. The opening of the lobster plant reunites the “family” of white-haired Gouldsboro sardine-packers, assigned separate duties based on sex, but the fact of their age is inescapable, as are the economic pressures on the factory. Redmon and Sabin carefully tease apart the insidious process of American deindustrialization, and by the end of the film the threads they unravel reveal how the free market can choke like a noose.

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Dropkick Murphys

St. Patrick’s Day, or in this case the week leading up to the day, is incomplete without a round of shows headlined by everyone’s favorite Boston-based Celtic Punk band, the Dropkick Murphys. Like another Irish-American brood in the media, the Gallagher family of Showtime’s Shameless, the Dropkick Murphys keep things lightheartedly aggressive and endearingly real. The band is bringing their brazen brand of sing-along friendly hardcore chanteys to Terminal 5 for two straight nights. Don’t forget to wear green.

Tue., March 12, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., March 13, 7:30 p.m., 2013

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7LES and Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck Rap a Comic-book Fantasy

You know that story you hear every now and then, the one about the ballplayer who grows up idolizing some superstar, then finds himself playing alongside his hero during his rookie year in the bigs?

Boston emcee Esoteric and DJ 7L—long joined together under the banner 7LES—can relate. Back in ’93, the pair were young hip-hop pups, bonding over Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Five years later, after dropping a few singles but still virtually unknown outside Beantown, they found themselves in the studio (thanks to some fortuitous industry connections) with Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck, collaborating on the title track to their 1999 debut EP, Speaking Real Words.

“I was starstruck and honored to even be in the same booth with him,” Eso recalls. “That could have been enough, like, ‘I did a record with Deck—I quit!’ ” he says, laughing. “Though it’s not in my blood to quit.”

“Totally starstruck at the beginning,” 7L concurs, “but once we got past that feeling we just did our thing and you could tell we all had some real chemistry.”

The raw, throwback “Speaking Real Words” turned heads in a Def Jux–dominated underground. Eso and Deck kept in touch; the trio reunited a decade later for a track on the fifth 7LES LP, 2010’s 1212. Around that time, Eso also hit Deck with a rough idea for a comic-book-style rap concept album about a ruthless, armor-clad vigilante—neither superhero nor villain—who dominates the world and decimates sucka emcees. Now, three years later, Czarface has arrived.

“[Deck] was down, and I think we all went into it just to do it, without worrying how it would come out,” 7L says of the triad and their self-titled album. “And then it started shaping up and we knew we had something.”

“There’s a lot more communication,” Eso says of his relationship with Deck, “so we wanted to make a whole record that sounded like a lot of thought went into it. At this point, we’re more experienced and he’s been through a lot, too, so we all have that much more life experiences to draw from.”

“Basically, man, Esoteric is a dope lyricist, and I wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t,” says Deck.

Czarface is straight-up boom-bap battle-rap; pop-culture-dappled boasts sliced by 7L’s granite beats, frantic scratches and midnight loops that hearken back to Wu mastermind RZA’s gritty 36 Chambers soundscapes. Deck’s rhymes come correct, which you expect: For 20 years he’s been a scene-stealer on par with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, regularly turning up unheralded amid Wu’s ensemble cast of rap superstars with his hard-spitting flow to drop the lines you remember the most (see: “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Uzi (Pinky Ring),” “Take It Back,” and GZA’s “Duel of the Iron Mic,” for example). But Eso, with his nimble cadence and cunning rhymes, more than holds his own throughout and steals a few scenes himself, even alongside such esteemed Czarface guests as Ghostface Killah, Action Bronson, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, Roc Marciano, Cappadonna, and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire.

Proof comes often, maybe most exhilaratingly in the heist-flick-sounding “Word War 4”: Flutes loop and cymbals skitter like Bullitt‘s tearing through the speakers (you half-expect Steve McQueen to turn up, but a George Carlin “Take a fuckin’ chance!” sample does instead), while Deck and Eso go toe-to-toe trading verses, pummeling each other to the canvas while no clear victor emerges, other than the listener.

“I feel he’s up there on my level as far as being an emcee,” says Deck. “He made me step my game up. He’s hungry, he’s talented. It’s refreshing to hear somebody rhyming like that nowadays. He’s like my damn-near nemesis. He brought his A-game. He inspired me; it’s a perfect mesh.”

“He’s told me that I really held it down,” says Eso. “He’s played it for people and they’re like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ Hearing that’s enough for me. For me, when I was starting out and listening to Wu or Nas, I knew I wasn’t touching any of those dudes. There’s still a little voice inside saying I’m not on their level, so I’m still reaching, but hearing some of the positive reaction to this helps.”

Through Czarface, 7L shook off some old insecurities, too. “I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist and I worried about what other producers would say, and from the nerd angle, if I could rate with the best diggers. But this time I didn’t sweat it, so it was a lot more fun for me just making beats.”

For his part, Deck says Czarface helped him tap into the vibe of Wu days past. “I’m proud that I could go back to my younger self and channel that lyricist once again,” he says. “I’m rhyming about political corruption and life experiences, current affairs, God and devil. This album is cocaine lines on the table—it’s got nothing to do with guns or drugs, it’s a state of mind. I give it to Esoteric: A lot of this was his idea, and everything he ran by me was a go. [It’s] capturing ’90s nostalgia without trying to capture ’90s nostalgia, and I think we did it.”

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Safe Haven: Unable to Ignite

After Katie (Julianne Hough) has spent a week or so in the coastal hamlet of Southport, North Carolina—she’d settled in a cabin in the woods after lamming it from Boston—a neighbor reminds her that things are done differently on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Dixie states have been the settings for all of the movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’s corn-syrupy novels, but Safe Haven, the first to mix in thriller elements, appears to have traveled even farther south, landing in a writers’ room for a telenovela that even Mexican broadcasters might consider too outlandish. As the reasons why Katie is wanted for murder are being parceled out, the guarded Yankee transplant begins to soften around general-store proprietor Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower raising two young kids, who seem to exist solely for the purpose of being imperiled. Safe Haven director Lasse Hallström helmed an earlier Sparks-sourced production, 2010’s Dear John, which was buoyed by the heat generated by Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, but here he is unable to ignite any electric connection between the leads. Hough emits all the charisma of a personal assistant, a mien as dull and blunt as the address of a letter (it’s not a Sparks film without a healing epistle) left by a beneficent ghost, for which Katie is the intended recipient: To Her.

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NEW FRONTIERS

An inspired improviser with an approach to the guitar both well-formulated and idiosyncratic, Joe Morris spent the past three decades refining creative ideas, playing in myriad instrumental situations, and earning what serves as fame on the free jazz scene. Now he has written a book, Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music, which explains the quantifiable aspects of what’s oft-considered a mysterious music—“a methodology that can be used to construct a methodology,” says the bandleader and New England Conservatory teacher. The 27 gigs he has curated at the Stone for the next two weeks will likely reveal the essence of the tome’s tenets. His current cohort stretches from Boston to Barcelona with a variety of characters uniting to make everything from doom skronk (Spanish Donkey) to chamber-prov (Ultra) to ye olde free-bop (Bass Quartet). Need an extended portrait of one man’s provocative vision? Here it is.

Mondays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 16. Continues through Jan. 31, 2013

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Debo Band

With its rolling grooves, heavy arrangements, funky horn sections, and sophisticated singers, Ethiopian pop music’s so-called golden age (1969-74) bears scant resemblance to any other African style of the time. Boston’s Debo Band captures the era’s essence and integrates more recent styles into its eleven-member dance floor rumpus, embellishing the whole shebang with accordion, strings, sousaphone, and other instruments more closely associated with Eastern Europe than with East Africa.

Mon., Jan. 14, 7 p.m., 2013

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A Serious Conversation With Amanda Fucking Palmer

Defending the eclectic and in-your-face rocker Amanda Palmer in public these days is like lobbying City Hall to run a high-voltage wire through a public playground. The reaction to the controversy surrounding her can be so visceral that you miss the point of what she’s trying to do. God forbid you take a good idea like her new album, Theatre Is Evil, and ask for help on Kickstarter to put it out there instead of getting bent over the barrel by some corporate A&R. Or that you invite fans to join in the glory on stage for the sheer fuck-all-ness of it. Because media hype puts food on the table and hits on the company website, it’s easy to forget that the people we take down from time to time are actual human beings who create things like music out of thin air for the enjoyment and betterment of our collective existence. Love ’em or hate ’em, she and the members of the Grand Theft Orchestra are taking turns at the helm of their rowdy little posse, playing Purple Rain in its entirety at Terminal 5 this New Year’s Eve. Palmer talked to the Voice about their upcoming performance and the unifying power of Prince:

What was the worst New Year’s Eve you’ve ever had?

It was the millennium turnover, and I had the flu. Everyone was having crazy parties, and I was sick and in bed.

At around 5 or 6, I got a call from an old high school friend of mine who I’d barely stayed in touch with, who moved into a new apartment in Boston, and just dropped me a line and said: “Hey, Amanda, I’m moving right down the street from you. We’re supposed to do New Year’s Eve. Do you want to come over?”

I scraped my ass out of bed, took a cab a mile down the street in Boston, and wound up in one of the most awkward situations I have ever been in. My old high school friend had another friend of his over and just a bunch of random people I didn’t know. I think I watched my friend macking on some other girl while I sat on the corner of the couch nursing a drink.

Every other New Year’s Eve of my life that I can remember has been onstage. You’ve got to. It’s such a waste not to play New Year’s Eve. It’s such a fantastic celebration.

Tell me about Purple Rain.

Purple Rain is in the Venn diagram of my band, our top influence. It’s the one solid place where we all overlap. If you look at what we were all listening to as teenagers, it’s not drastically different, but it’s pretty fucking different. You wouldn’t have found many of the same records on our shelves. But there are a couple of crossover points: Michael Jackson, Prince. Purple Rain is the perfect example of where we all agree it’s one of the best records ever made.

Have you had an “I made it” moment?

Not one big one, but I have had a couple of moments where I kind of step back from my life and think, “Wow.” I guess no one is going to come along and tell me I’ve made it. [Laughs.] It really is hard to, especially for an artist like me, because I’m just a perpetual underdog. And no matter what I do, and no matter what I make, I feel like I’m permanently dedicated to being a cult artist.

Here’s an “I made it” moment: [Theatre Is Evil] coming out, and the mainstream media ignoring the record. It really does feel like there’s still that insecure teenager in me that wants the recognition from the machine. I want to not only beat the machine but also be recognized by the machine. The grown-up in me shakes her head and says you really can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you want to beat the machine, you have to be willing to live outside the machine.

Last question: Is fame as frightening as it looks?

I think it depends who you are. [Laughs.] No, it’s not. Fame isn’t a real thing. It’s a state of mind. It’s not defined by the outside. . . . I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past year as I worked up to the release of Theatre Is Evil—thinking I’m still totally independent, putting out this record by myself, and I have my amazing cult audience, but how would I feel if all of a sudden the mainstream decided to tap me with its “famous” wand?

I look at my indie music friends who have jumped up a couple rungs on the fame ladder—especially if they’ve jumped quickly—and they really don’t like it. . . . If I looked at why I got into doing all this in the first place, it’s not that I want to be famous. I wanted to be functional, and I wanted to be able to make my living doing that. But fame in itself wasn’t going to do anything for me.

It was such a mantra that fame will make you happy, but nowadays, more and more musicians are realizing that, no, as long as you make a living, and pay your rent, and hang around wonderful people, and do what you want, and make music without suffering, that’s actually much more of a cosmic end. At least musicians are actually asking that and creating real lives for themselves instead of diving into the old-school cesspool.

That’s my next album title! Amanda Palmer Presents Old-School Cesspool. It would be a nine-CD box set with extra cardboard packaging, and it will cost $900. [Laughs.] And it would be put out by Warner!

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra play Terminal 5 at 8 p.m. on Monday, December 31.