Icepack: Death and parties

Philly cheesesteak
Get a fat helping of all things Philadelphia this week, courtesy of Icepack. | Image: Pizano13

If there’s something I hate about the week before one decade’s close and the beginning of the next – outside of goggles that read the year but are far too awkwardly shaped to be comfortable – it’s death. Could be the famous. Could be people you know. I get overwhelmed with sadness beyond the pale. 

Now, people die every day, and, really, it’s not any more comforting if they croak, in say, March or October. There’s just something shuddering, watching one pass at such an auspicious time.  

Think of people you know who went through gruesomely bad breakups right before Valentine’s Day or divorces before Christmas. Happily-married-me doesn’t even want to watch people going through such hate and hassle, which means no watching “Marriage Story” until like mid-January. 

“Dan Kenney was a gentleman, a quiet soul, made a stiff Manhattan, always had a book around him, and will be missed by one and all.”

I mention all of this year-end holiday horror because Dan Kenney, the GM and bartender at the Pen and Pencil Club, died. After hours will never be the same again. 

Now, the weird thing is, I have forever hated the P&P, Philly’s lone journalist-only private club. Who the fuck wants to drink ONLY with journalists, or those who just want to just drink with them? Not me. BUT. Kenney was a gentleman, a quiet soul, made a stiff Manhattan, always had a book around him, and will be missed by one and all.

Ends of the era 

There’s really no easy way, column wise, to segue out of the death of a loved one, or even a liked one. I probably should have started with something winning and cheery. Ahhhh. Anyway. 

So, this in no way holds the weight of a man’s passing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two ends of the era at Johnny Brenda’s. One is that, after 10 years, Secret Pants Sketch Comedy and Johnny Brenda’s will be no more, with last week’s holiday extravaganza being their finale. Then again, they say this every year, so… 

The other end of note at Johnny Brenda’s is that Chris Ward, their talent buyer and promoter for 12 years, is leaving that post. Barrett Lindgren will take over in his stead. Ward booked David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) and Frances Quinlan of Hop Along (gearing up for her forthcoming solo album “Likewise” coming out on Jan. 31 via Saddle Creek) for his send off, and more than likely drank all of the Original 13 Ciderworks’ Sir Charles Cider that JB had stocked for the event – so they lose a dynamic booker, but save money on cider. I really should have asked what Ward will be doing now that he’s not buying or promoting, but, Sir Charles got to me too.

Author note: Ward just let me know that he’s “staying put in Philly! I’ve taken on more classes at University of the Arts  where I have been teaching a booking class there for almost five years, in 2020. And I started my own wedding DJ business called The Other Wedding DJ.”

New food

In his time, wild Philly entrepreneur Dean Kitagawa has promoted spit-roasted chickens in Rittenhouse and sex toy vending machines citywide, so he’s nothing if not diverse and ambitious. Currently though, Kitagawa is touting what he calls “the best cheesesteak in the city” as well as being “easily in the top 10 of pizza places” in Philadelphia. Strong words, those. 

Where? Kitagawa’s still freshly painted Wood Street hot spot on N.12th Street right across from Underground Arts. I would say the Carbonara pie (white with bacon and eggs, sunny side up) and the eggplant pizza with herbed ricotta look about the best.

New music, too

*We’ll have more to say about this as the situation develops, but, Philadelphia music’s good friend Andy Blackman Hurwitz – one-time Ropeadope label owner, currently holding the note on Studio 1200 management and more – is gearing up to drop a new single and video for the acid jazzy Philly hop ensemble Swift Technique, in collaboration with this city’s first mistress of soul-song Lady Alma. The track is called, “Landlord,” its theme is about not letting the landlord, life or money, get you down, and in its video appears a whole host of famous Philly folks in various formations, as drawn by Erik “Smokey Tunes” Horovitz. 

What’s bizarre, along with a promised contest and pay-it-forward prize money, is that supposedly I am drawn into the video’s artwork along with the Philly famous likes of Grover Washington Jr. and Sly Stallone. Watch YouTube and Instagram as of Jan. 3.

Party on, Mayor 

What the hell does a Mayor Jim Kenney “thank you” party look like? What does a partying Jim Kenney look like, period? I can guess. 

Along with watching him in action at one of activist-restaurateur N.A. Poe’s weed-themed campaign rally parties at Franky Bradley’s before he became mayor, I actually hung out with him in the VIP area of Made in America at the Art Museum several years ago where he wore a tie-dye Bob Marley emblazoned T-shirt, and cargo shorts. 

Are those even close to what level “party” he’s on currently? We’re about to find out as Kenney and Co. throw a free voter appreciation bash at The Met Philly on Jan. 6 with The Geator with the Heater Jerry Blavat and radio host Patty Jackson. 

“What the hell does a Mayor Jim Kenney “thank you” party look like? What does a partying Jim Kenney look like, period? I can guess.”

And while you’re at The Met, bring that venue’s developer, Eric Blumenfeld, one of those big, oversized “get well” cards as he had a run in with his Aston Martin and a tree with two broken legs as its rotten result.

No party here, for now

As we head into early deadline and pre-New Year’s Eve prep (olive oil bath, crown fitting), we got word that the long-awaited big deal concert opening of The Ave Live at the old Egypt address of 520 JUST cancelled – “last minute for undisclosed reasons.” 

That’d be the Yasiin Bey show with Talbin Kweli, talent buyer Derek Dorsey’s dream gig. As it’s a holiday and no one has answers during holidays, let’s hope the Jan. 11 evening with Method Man and Redman stays in place.

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