Philly. Your COVID case numbers are up. UP. And it’s your fault.
Just because the weather is warmer, you have to stick with the masks and don’t run up on my grill with your ungracious lack of social distancing etiquette. The party, the game, whatever you have, it is not “on,” as I have had to hear many of you scream, screech and “woo” this week – whether it’s been down on East Passyunk, up in Kenzo, or even further up in Wayne. (That’s right. WAYNE. I like my dining in five tops. At least, I’m not like your mayor, driving all the way to f-ing Baltimore for a maskless meal.)
Besides, too few of you look as good in short shorts and tank tops as you think you do. Seriously. And no “wooing.” So that’s masks AND pants AND no “wooing” throughout the newly sprung spring season UNLESS you don’t mind Kenney and Health Commissioner Farley emptying out restaurants again. And they’ll do it, too. Wolf may be all laissez faire when it comes to percentage points, but the air is sweeter in Harrisburg than it is in Bridesberg. Just saying.
By the way, if we’re going to Wayne, we might as well hit up Ardmore. With that, however, won’t have The Bercy’s finicky French-inspired fare in an old bank building to kick around any longer. Their corner eatery is hooking up with restaurant-entrepreneur Anthony DePaul, come April’s first week, for DePaul’s Table luxury-first steakhouse, with big everything. That works. The Bercy had high ceilings.
Academy of Music gig
As Icepack goes to print, I’m just getting an announcement that instead of 2021 having an Academy Ball, Whoopi Goldberg will host Fanfare for the Future: An Online Gala Celebrating the Academy of Music with music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, The Philadelphia Orchestra, opera diva Renée Fleming, and CBS 3’s Ukee Washington manning the mic on May 13. I might not be a fan of Whoopi’s, but Ukee is ON.
What’s up with the Sixers?
In my never-ending quest to figure out WTF makes Philadelphia sports team owners tick, this week: Basketball. 76ers. President Daryl Morey. The NBA’s March 25 trade deadline. Finding a teammate to play nice and easy with Ben Simmons. That’s right. With LeBron James and Joel Embiid in the same lame leg/bum knee scenario for a time, the Sixers, like Cervantes’ Don Quixote, are shading their eyes from the scorching sun and looking for Sancho Panza on an endless hunt for ageless wisdom and great return court buckets. Morey hasn’t made a Bozo The Clown-like target of himself like the Eagles’ Howie Roseman as yet. But, as of today, we can only dream. Also, I know that one-time, high-scoring Sixer Marco Stefano Belinelli is back in Italy, and balling hard for the LBA’s Virtus Bologna team. Can we get him back? As a fellow homelander, I can make him an offer he can’t refuse. Morey? Book me a flight.
Are nightclubs still a thing?
Philly nightclubs. Are they still a thing? I started this column yeaaaaars ago based almost solely on the restless vibe of Philly’s after-hours scenes (plural, that is how good, full and flourishing it once was between Black, gay, punk and disco/house clubs) and the activities of a genuinely inventive lot who frolicked among the ruins, Evelyn Waugh Vile Bodies style. Now what’s left? An almost exclusive bunch of bottle service spots catering to local sport celebs standing on tiny VIP sections, black lights that do not bring out the best in bad complexions, and the fact that, by night’s end, more than one person will brandish a weapon. Prove me wrong. Send me a photo.
Anyway, I mention all this now because Byblos is in the news this week. Wow. Byblos. They were next to Bar Noir when Downtown 18th Street was the cool dark apex of the nightlife universe, the same tony block where more than a few professional ballers kept women who weren’t their wives. Anyway, Byblos hit the news on Monday morning due to the fact that three men exiting the Rittenhouse area noir boite were stripped of over $300,000 worth of jewelry. Gentleman, I’ve said it a thousand times: Don’t wear fancifully expensive rings to a club that ain’t your wedding ring. Who wants to lose a ruby punching someone in the face? Now, I’m not happy when any man loses jewelry, but, at least Byblos doesn’t have corny black lights, and is open and memorable in the nightclub stakes. That’s progress. And yes, Noto. I know you’re there. I’m just making a point.
New track, familiar faces
Not a lick of it was shot here at home, but the new Imagine Dragons track, “Follow You,” features the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” stars, the married Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson, frolicking in Las Vegas. Wouldn’t Paddy’s Pub have been more accurate? Even the faux Paddy’s in Old City?
One-time, big time Philadelphia Weekly cover objet, guitarist, singer and songwriter Ali Awan has been quiet during COVID. That’s fine, considering that he’s just now announcing that he will release his first new music in a minute late this spring with his Moon Mode EP on fellow hometown label owners Born Losers Records imprint. Expect a single to drop in April, and drop hard.
Masked Philly: Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward
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 Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward, the co-owners of North Front Street’s Evil Genius Beer Company. Which I like. A lot. Not only because Bowen, Hayward and Co. craft a mean set of craft brews, but additionally make certain that each beer has a name goofier than the last.
Therefore, even though Hayward’s concentrated on home repair and things around the house long put off (“I’m getting pretty good at spackling, as well as electrical work”) and Bowen has focused on heightening his musical skills (“I learned to play the piano! Definitely something I’ve always wanted to do”), the evil geniuses behind Evil Genius remained focused on making very serious beer with funny names.
“That was therapeutic, gave us some relief during the pandemic’s tough times,” said Hayward of titling a beer Felt Cute, Might Feed My Husband to a Tiger Later, as inspired by Tiger King on Netflix. Evil Genius also partnered with other businesses for collaboration such as Miller High Life.
“We were picked from all the breweries in Pennsylvania to partner with them on their Brunch So Hard Beer,” said Bowen.
“We also opened a pop-up in Northern Liberties Business Improvement District and in Rittenhouse Square.”
Bowen and Hayward have their masks made by Helen Chung, who’s been stitching since COVID’s start and donates 100 percent of the funds to local restaurants. She also organizes the annual “The Dude Hates Cancer” affair (maskssimply.com).
“I like their adjustability,” said Hayward.
“They cover your nose without moving down while you talk.”
Along with their hope to drink beer without a mask, and Hayward having his second pandemic birthday soiree at his brewery salon, the two Evil Geniuses are building out and gearing up for North Front Street’s reopening of its beer garden shortly, and debuting new and returning releases.
“I can’t wait for the beer garden to fully open so we can share a pint with friends,” said Bowen.