Icepack | Aug. 20-27

College kids are going to get COVID-19, more new restaurants and Rodney Anonymous: Behind the mask

College graduate
This week, Icepack chats college, new restaurants and arts bosses and the man behind the mask of the Dead Milkmen. | Image provided

If I remember correctly, now would be the time for back-to-school specials to start, the sales, the driving from, and moving in days.

This is normally a life-defining moment: making friends to drink with (sure, let’s include grade school and high schoolers in the boozing), finding ideals and polemics with which to bond.

Like, for instance, our dumb freshmen friends at Villanova, who just couldn’t socially distance from each other long enough when it came to starting school in the burbs. (I actually went to Villanova for my first year at college. If those kids were in as much of a hurry to get in as I was to get out, I see why this frenzied mess went viral). 

Anyway. Now, what? All you’re hearing from your parents is how you should go to college virtually to keep free from the dangers of C-19. Isn’t this, though, the same thing parents always do when any kid goes off to school: keep you safe from drugs, sex, sexy drugs, fatty foods and weird fashion accessories? And why does no one in a position of control ward teens away from the stupidity of ridiculous-looking college games like Hackey Sack? 

Point is: I know a pandemic is a damn fine reason to do nothing but Zoom schooling, but don’t let your parents push you into it. They’ll always want to keep you from MDMA, unprotected sex and pork rinds – yet, Hackey Sack is OK. Man, I’ll never figure that out.

Credit for kids 

Speaking of back-to-school: As if it wasn’t enough that Penn alum John Legend is doing double news duty (another baby with wife Chrissy Teigen, headlining the DNC’s official Biden-Harris coronation) he’s part of a name-brand group backing a Philly-based credit card startup. Created by Campus Apartments real estate magnate David Adelman (who threw in the first $1.5 mil), the local credit card company, Cred.ai, was funded to the tunes of $18 million by pals such as Legend, 76ers past (Andre Iguodala) and present (Ben Simmons) for a no-fee Unicorn Visa card for college kids just starting out their credit reports. Adelman gets them housed, gets them credit – he owns these fucking kids. Smart.

From a new boss at Theatre Philadelphia and other spots, there’s some fresh faces within the arts and theater scene in Philadelphia. | Image: PW File Photo

New arts leaders 

It’s new executive director week. Philly’s theater scene’s marketing-promotions org, Theatre Philadelphia, got a new boss in Theatre in the X co-founder LaNeshe Miller-White (she’ll keep her gig at the X in West Philly), while University City’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) snagged a new director, Zoë Ryan, from the Art Institute of Chicago. Miller-White (who’ll appear as next week’s Masked Philly inductee) is on the job presently, while Ryan begins her ICA gig Nov. 5. There is a sad joke in exchanging Chicago for Philly, the lesser of two evils, but welcome nonetheless. 

What’s up in the Gayborhood? 

What’s up with Tredici Enoteca in the Gayborhood? Not to be confused with Enoteca Tredici in the Bryn Mawr Village Shopping Center, the quaint, wine-driven, tapas-y Midtown Village Tredici was not yet open when the block popped its top on closed, cross street dining for the weekend (that’s Chesnut to Locust on 13th with Juniper between Chestnut and Sansom along for the ride until midnights). The Schulson-Tinari team’s tables for Double Knot are currently taking up the Tredici sidewalk, and I’m hearing that the 114 S. 13th Street location might get a change in name and concept soon. OK. I’ll miss the vino. That said, we know that Mayor Kenney let Old City’s 2nd Street do the traffic-free zone for eaters, and now Mid-Gaybor-Town-Hood-Village, but why stop there?

HBO fall spectacular

Before getting back to his Off-Broadway debut, on stage and behind the laptop with “12 Years a Slave” author John Ridley on their co-written “Black No More” for The New Group (its 2020-2021 season showing this autumn was moved due to C-19), The Roots’ Tarik Trotter signed up to join Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, and Courtney B. Vance in an HBO fall spectacular: a filmed adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best-selling book, “Between the Between the World and Me.” Trotter also took part in Coates’ 2018 Apollo Theater production of the same name, so he knows the drill.

Saleka Shyamalan

While we wait for her old man to Philly-film his as-yet-to-be-titled thriller for Universal (he did state July 23, 2021, would be its release date), the Shyamalan family focuses on Night’s daughter Saleka – an R&B singer/songwriter with real chops, who I saw first at Ardmore Music Hall opening for Andra Day. Salekas’ debut single/music video launching at August’s end, “Clarity,” was lensed at Ortlieb’s in NoLibs by her sister Ishana Shyamalan. “Clarity” is both of their first music videos, and we’ll look for Ishana’s television debut with the direction of an episode of M.’s “Servant 2” for Apple+TV which just ceased local shooting at July’s end. Boo.

New restaurant

An out-of-the-blue restaurant drop comes Friday as SET – the NYC-based Asian-flavored high-end comfort food with a twist concept – opens in NoLibs at the space formerly occupied by the famed Bar Ferdinand (1030 N. 2nd) at the corner of Liberties Walk and 2nd. Think brunch with Vietnamese Buttered Skirt Steak and dinner snacks like Banh Mi Lemongrass Chicken Tacos. 

Dead Milkmen lead Rodney Anonymous hasn’t let a little thing like a global pandemic stop him from jamming with his friends. | Image courtesy: Rodney Anonymous

Masked Philly: Rodney Anonymous

In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities and what they’ve been up to beyond the pale during C-19, I reached out to Rodney Anonymous, the still-local firestarter of notorious punk rock avatars, The Dead Milkmen. 

Anonymous, a Philly figure usually accessible at local concerts and long walks through the city, has been busy during the pandemic remixing and playing keyboards on records by his friends, “a ton of which happen to be musicians,” he said. “They had time on their hands. I’m reliable with getting things done on time. That’s kept me the most sane.” 

Currently said mixes include work on the new Godmodule album, the Group of Gentlemen in Isolation sonic chain letter with floating collaborators contributing at will, and another big name record that remains a secret until September release. “People with home studios began working harder during the pandemic.”

What Anonymous misses most about being in lockdown is those walks and weekly concert attendance. “Friends made up for it with streaming shows from home, that was cool at first,” he said. “It’s nice seeing people’s homes, especially if their bathrooms are clean.” 

And Anonymous enjoys wearing the mask, or masks as he has friends in fashion design, including his father. “My dad surprisingly has not given me one of his designs, but, I do have like 10 others that I – like Ray Milland in ‘Lost Weekend’ (NICE REFERENCE, says A.D.) – keep scattered around the house.” Anonymous too is vigilant about the mask. He wears one when the postman calls. He crosses the street if, on the few occasions he does leave the house, someone else isn’t wearing one. “I’ve reached that point where I don’t have time to go off on anyone, or get into a fist fight. I walk away.”

As he took pandemics classes in college (“maybe I just know about 1665”), Anonymous figures it will be a while until we take off the masks. When they come off, he’ll start “taking those long walks again, from one end of town to the other.” In the meantime, he and The Dead Milkmen release a 7-inch single for Philly’s charity-based The Giving Groove label (Girls Rock Philly, a youth-centric music-org dedicated to building an intergenerational community of girls, women and trans and gender non-conforming people, is the beneficiary), a cover of Heaven 17’s “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” with the B-side featuring a new original “A Complicated Faith.” That just happens to come out tomorrow, Aug. 21, so buy it, and give generously. Until then: “Look, I’m a fan of ‘The Diary of a Plague Year,’ said Anonymous. “I know that it’s better to just stay in and go nowhere than to risk dying. Nothing out there is worth it.”

  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.