So, is it me, or do you, too, feel as if this year is as thoroughly hateful as the last?
What’s changed but a single number on the calendar? There was no real demarcation to signal the shift – no fireworks, no parade.
We’ve entered the vacuum of 2021 to incessant, cold rain. There’s the bitterer, chillier pill of waiting until the 15th for everything to open indoors – even then: WHY BOTHER? Nobody’s getting COVID-19 shots. Eagles’ chieftain Doug Pederson is still here through the next season, a promise and a threat. If we dine outside, rather than inside, we are foodie-forced to commit to that eerie, uncalming hum generated by sizzling, high-wattage heat lamps. (No. Seriously. If you’re not noticeably hearing them, yet find yourself ordering white, potato-based items you normally would not, because like, you know, CARBS, those scary, buzzing lamps that unsuspectingly fry the top of your head are weaving their hidden magic).
There’s no winter Flower Show for which to prepare or feign interest. Winter cocktails must be accompanied by food, which ruins half the fun and speed of inebriation that goes with seasonal depression drinking.
Damn, damn, damn, damn, even the usually coolest thing about January, this city’s Philly Loves Bowie extended week created by Doobies’ Patti Brett and WXPN’s Robert Drake, is pushed back to July?
“While this might seem obvious, we wanted to make it official and let you know that we will be postponing our 5th annual Philly Loves Bowie Week until summer 2021,” Drake wrote, to remind us of the fest we’d miss that always celebrated Bowie’s birth (Jan. 8), death (Jan. 10) and his longtime connection to this city, such as Ziggy Stardust dates at the Tower (to say nothing of taping 1974’s “David Live!” at the same theatre) and recording “Young Americans” at 12th Street’s Sigma Sound Studio.
“Details will roll out once we have some to share – but there’s no practical way to produce our 10-day celebration of The Starman while in this pandemic. Until then, stay safe, stay (Aladdin) sane, and listen to Bowie.”
Dag. So, it’s on to February then.
NBA’s dining tips
Hey, speaking of the 15th, did you know that the NBA and its player association just issued a list of safe restaurants in various cities throughout the U.S. that thoroughly comply with all of its necessary COVID-19 distance and health concerns? Yup, and for the 2021 season, whether you’re a baller from out of town or one of the Sixers, you can dine at Marc Vetri’s Cucina, Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy’s Talula’s Garden and Michael Schulson/Nina Tinari’s (Harp & Crown, Double Knot, and Via Locusta.) Atza nize. Also, the NBA recommends Chef Schulson’s handmade bucatini at Via Locusta.
Jake Ewald’s new music
In the not-so-distant past (2017 isn’t that far away, is it?), I wrote about my Philly post-emo favorites Modern Baseball for this paper and elsewhere with alarming regularity. There was/is great reason. MVP M-Ballers Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald were/are one of pop’s great songwriting teams – punk, emo, screamo – and the fact that they never officially broke up (the aforementioned 2017 date was one of an extended hiatus, wishing to maintain mental health and long-term friendships) makes the band as mysterious as they are mesmerizing.
With that, the always soul-folksy Ewald has continued on, solo, under the Slaughter Beach, Dog moniker for a minute. And just like Taylor Swift in her current quarantined goth folksy period, Ewald-Dog’s newest, most homespun album, At The Moonbase – released the day before Christmas – makes a delicious case for great power-pop, but in a moodily intimate setting.
Money for art
You say there’s no cash benefactors for art in a pandemic? You might be wrong. Philly’s Monument Lab public art and research studio just snagged a handsome $4 million grant from the Pittsburgh-born Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to become the first partner in its upcoming “Monuments Project,” its five-year, $250 million initiative that promises to transform the way America’s “histories are told in public spaces.” This goes with the dissection of celebratory public monuments – who should get them, who should not, whose should be scorned and shorn from display forevahhhhhh ala Confederate icons and Rizzo – and the potential diversification of our country’s historical narratives, past, present and future. Good luck and go to it.
Meek’s been busy
Proof that promoting prison justice pays, Philly’s Meek Mill not only signed onto Random House’ new Roc Lit 101 publishing imprint to write about success over the system, but also tweeted out, in the last several days, that he bought a Rolls Royce Phantom (“cuz I always wanted one”), that he is considering moving to Africa (“I want to buy a property in Ghana where do I start? A nice house…I need to feel that experience With my family as another option in life! I don’t wanna dedicate my whole life to the American lifestyle I been living…the odds are too stacked against us it feels like!”), and dropped an Instagram story with a chunk of fresh music and the caption “new flames coming January first.” Good. Cool. All that, and still Millie has time to concern himself with his old flame, Nicki Minaj, her husband and their new baby on the newly-designed Clubhouse app – a mad move that left many readers annoyed that Meek might just be obsessed with his one-time fiancé. C’mon, maaaan.
Masked Philly: Kerri Park
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during COVID-19’s pandemic, I reached out this week to Kerri Park, GM of World Café Live.
If you’ve paid attention to my writings, Icepack and beyond, at Philly Weekly (fuck you if you didn’t, seriously), you know Park has been embroiled with helping to preserve hers and the rest of this city’s live venues through Save Our Stages and her boss, Hal Real’s National Independent Venue Association initiative.
“Philadelphia and live music are two of the things I love most in this world; having so many independent venues in jeopardy has been rough,” said Park.
With that continued (it’s not like Philly live venues got any of Amy Klobuchar’s promised $18 billion, yet) struggle, Park had little time for further adventures away from the hassles of the music biz.
“I am, by nature, a behind-the-scenes type of person, so a little extra anonymity with the mask didn’t bother me.”– Kerri Park
“I’m pretty committed on that front, but, besides that, there’s the continued failed attempts at cooking…Not getting better at cooking, just literally cooking anything at all. So far, nine months in, I am doing a way better job of supporting local restaurants with take-out instead. I was heavily present at protests supporting Black Lives and equitable justice. I walked to and from the venue taking a different route every time looking for murals I hadn’t seen before. I started keeping indoor plants that are actually all still alive, and I’m developing a (non-music) current events podcast with a friend.”
As for wearing a mask, Park’s favorite may be her Save Our Stages face-cover – a constant reminder to keep fighting, a cue she needed to get through these challenging months.
“I am, by nature, a behind-the-scenes type of person, so a little extra anonymity with the mask didn’t bother me. I think the mask situation hit me hardest watching my son having to wear one, something about seeing them on children was way more difficult.”
When the time is right, Park will definitely be ready to stop wearing the mask. Its removal will signal her victory in the war waged against live venues, not only from raging viral plagues, but, public officials.
“Watching Save Our Stages develop from a hashtag to federal legislation has been inspiring; 100 percent reinvigorating my connection to being a more full-time citizen and a better Philadelphian. The pandemic forced me to connect with elected officials to advocate for our survival. I am grateful for that catalyst to engage. As soon as it’s responsible to stop wearing them, besides becoming a regular at as many venues as possible, I plan to take a trip with my son and explore a new city for a few days – right after I get drinks with my staff and toast to their resilience.”