After a July 4th of cannon fodder-like fireworks worthy of a Civil War reenactor’s wet dream, here’s a fun Philadelphia fact regarding July 8: Even though the Declaration of Independence was pretty much wrapped up and put through Grammerly’s paces by the Fourth of July, it wasn’t until July 8th that it actually got a staged reading, its first, right outside of Independence Square in Old City (which was then likely known as New City, or City for the sake of smug quotation mark-capable irony). The reviews were mixed, and its inequities were made abundantly clear from the start, but its authors – not crazy about editing in Kerouac-like fashion – left the stately document intact and the nation in psycho-political tatters for centuries to come.
Still, freedom from tyranny was one of its principle selling points, one I am reminded of with a weekend filled with a Patriot Front march through Philly and a Rise of the Moors caravan along I-95. Neither militant group is fair, right, good or admissible, and in a manner of speaking, both provoke their own brands of tyranny over those they wish to silence, then conquer. Now, not to get all Bill Pullman on you, but this year, we’re not just fighting from tyranny, oppression or prosecution, but total annihilation from all fronts. So let’s get Will Smith back in town and fight this shit. IMMEDIATELY. It’s going to be a long, hot summer, and the time to start the cooling psychic fire hydrant spray is now.
Bar plus restaurant complex
Speaking of July 8, that’s the day the not-exactly secret outdoor bar plus restaurant complex is taking over where the former 7-11 resided at 15th and JFK. Teddy Sourias’ Craft Concepts Group revives its Uptown Beer Garden at Love Park with everything from a water fountain made of recycled beer taps (didn’t we do that when we were kids in grade school – oh wait, that was beer can TABS) and a koi fish pond. I’m fond of that.
Coney Shack arrives
Oh, and another space you recognized as something else is changing faces and names this week as Hamilton Court at 38th and Chestnut presto-change-os into Coney Shack; a small-but-mighty NYC chain whose first casual dining Shack away from Coney Island to offer mixed bag Mexican, Southeast Asian and contempo American fare hits University City July 9
Higher ed shuffling
Which reminds me: U of P Pres. Amy Gutmann leaving town for a Biden administration appointed ambassadorship is just the tip of Philly area college chiefs dropping jobs quicker than restaurant workers during COVID. Moore College of Art, Temple University, Penn State and Ursinus are all part of the winter (OK, summer) of higher learning discontent. Are Philly-region university heads, like ants, the first to know of an impending underground danger? Or do they all just know best when they’ve drained the heavy cream from the cash cow and got to get out of Dodge?
More on this as we get closer to the date, but come Thursday, July 22, Diplo’s one-time mausoleum warehouse, Eric Bresler’s Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art – PhilaMOCA to you – will host its grand opening. “We’re back after 685 days of closure,” goes Bresler’s site legend. Stay weird, Philly.
76er Ben Simmons just bought a nearly $18 million estate in Los Angeles. Simmons is rumored to be going to the Charlotte Hornets in a hasty trade. Really, his moving away from Philly only matters if the latter occurs as well. Fingers crossed.
We know that Mayor Kenney isn’t much good for anything save for playing Where’s Waldo with and virtue signaling. But, along with asking him nicely just to pick up a quill and sign the anti-ATV bill before him, maybe he could also signal a veto against Council President Clarke’s bill that promises to downzone much of Girard Avenue east of Broad Street, a sadly underused space as it is, which – in Clarke’s plans – would screw up any economic and-or residential growth.
Gossip world erupts
While the social media planet ogles Philly tattoo love god/rapper Lil Uzi Vert for his still new relationship with City Girls JT, the gossip world is ripe with news that Uzi hit and pointed a gun at his ex, Brittany Byrd, during an argument with fellow rapper Saint Jhn in LA at Dialog Café. Per Byrd’s manager, Brianna, on TMZ, “Uzi has been stalking Brittany since they broke up… Uzi is toxic and mentally and physically abusive. He has been for years.” C’mon, man.
30 years for Brian Sanders
Did you realize that with his newest show, Dragonbutter, starting at 200 Spring Garden Street on July 8, that Philly choreographer/movement art avatar Brian Sanders’ JUNK will have been at his game for 30 years? Time has the most fun when its aerial motion literal movers and shakers are flying high.
Masked Philly: Lady Alma
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during C-19 – from lockdown to the current reopening, present-day un-masking and worrying about Delta variants – I reached out this week to Lady Alma. The Goodly Mistress of Spirited Philadelphia R&B, Post Neo-Soul Division, was last heard from in the middle of COVID doing tracks (e.g. “Landlord”) with fellow Philadelphians Swift Technique, this right after having become internationally famous courtesy of South Africa’s The General De Kok doing a video performance of Alma’s classic “Let it Fall,” and all that following the all-too-sad-passing of Lady Alma’s mother.
“My manager, WalkingBear, and myself began working on a curated music show called ‘Gimme That Music,’ a partnership between us and World Cafe Live,” says Alma of the “perfect platform” to showcase her new music. “I was EVERYWHERE. Definitely a blessing I must say. Then COVID hit and it was like a tornado hit my life as well as my career.”
Used to dealing with adversity from rising beyond the pains of losing a mother, Alma and her manager refused to become unfocused on their freshly set goals. “We got back to the grind creating one of the greatest virtual shows, if I must say so myself, made ‘Gimme That Music’ virtual and took it to Twitch. We also made it interactive as we wanted to give folks an experience that would make them feel a part of the show. What touched me the most, in this pandemic, was how I was able to interact with more people than I normally would. I made new friends, formed new relationships and developed some new business.”
Lady Alma was not only fond of the masks during the pandemic’s depths, she still is and wears one from N-DOWD designer Capri Lewis proudly. Which I totally get. “I AM A MASKED WOMAN,” she exclaims. “Absolutely. You know the Japanese always wore them and so did Michael. I feel the practice of wearing it helps. Nope, I plan on wearing a mask forever.”
What the beloved Alma has coming up next is her first hometown appearance since everything opened back up at the lovely Cira Green rooftop venue on July 16. “I’m bringing the people ‘Gimme That Music’ live with my brothers in music Vertical Current. I’m working on new music with Vertical Current, DJ Terry Hunter and DJ Emmaculate, both from Chicago, traveling for gigs and just trying to be great. What the music will sound like now, will always be good for the soul. Even with being affected by so many energies this past year and a half, my music and sound will always be what it is…SOULFUL, SELFLESS, HEALING, HAPPY and whatever else my FAM calls it.”