In Which I Take Terrible Photos of Interesting Programs

All sorts of things might make a post, and this certainly qualifies in that regard.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, my dad spent a lot of time in New York as part of his long career with 7Up. When I was a small child in the 1970s and ’80s, I enjoyed going through his collection of Playbills and programs with him, and naturally demanded to be taken to the theatre on every possible occasion. And while I’ve seen some great productions (and some less so – Martin Guerre, this means you) on Broadway, in the West End and elsewhere, my own collection simply isn’t as impressive (yet).

I’ve been attempting to organize his collection since his death in 2006, though I never seem to make much of a dent. But some of these are too fabulous not to share, and, of course, that goes for the ads, too.

It’s worth noting that they aren’t all for plays – this program was for a screening of Mastroianni’s 1961 comedy Divorce Italian Style, shown at the Paris on W58th.  And sometimes there’s a concert – it’s hard to ignore this amazing program from a Robert Goulet show. But we quickly get into the good stuff – a Playbill from the original production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My dad was always a huge fan of Zero Mostel – I’m reasonably sure I saw The Producers for the first time when I was around 6 – and he also liked to recount having seen him in a play in which Mostel flashed the audience.

Showcase Robert Goulet A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

There are more original casts:  we revisit Zero Mostel in Ulysses in Nighttown – I’m presuming the 1974 play was the one involving a nude Zero Mostel, though it’s also notable for starring a young Tommy Lee Jones, David Ogden Stiers and Fionnuala Flanagan – then Funny Girl and the rather tamer Oliver! make appearances.

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There are also some larger-format programs, for The King and I (which I saw much later, on Yul Brynner’s very literal farewell tour) and Golden Boy:

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Among the ads for Tiki bars, cigarettes and furs, there are some amazing pieces – and some very worthwhile bios – young Jerome Robbins looks as though he wants to devour your soul, and a pre-Monkees Davy Jones had ‘the longest part ever written for a teenager’ on the radio (so think on!); one presumes many librettists still consider Benson & Hedges ‘noteworthy’ as the ad suggests:

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But while there’s much more from the world theatrical that isn’t poorly-photographed here, I couldn’t miss out the Kentucky Derby program from 1956 – in case you don’t recall, Needles was the victor that year, the very first Florida-bred to win – he would also take the Belmont Stakes.

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At some point, I’ll need to be a good archivist and make sure staples and paper clips aren’t damaging things, but for now, they are happily climate-controlled and reasonably well stored beyond that. I’ll have to do another installment in future: there’s a bio of a young Elaine Stritch that’s simply outstanding…

Halloween Music & Beer Pairing

Wychwood HobgoblinThere are a number of great beers that seem made for Halloween – Wychwood Hobgoblin, The Lost Abbey’s Witch’s Wit or just about anything from Brasserie Fantôme can work well.  But to really encourage a spooky bring-on-Samhain mood,why not try pairing an autumnal beer with some seasonal music? Thanks to Folk Alley’s Halloween Scream Stream and Spotify, I have a constant rotation of traditional and not-so-traditional Halloween tunes going in the background, and have selected a few music and beverage options below.

Tam Lin – Fairport ConventionTraquair House Ale
I could have chosen any version of Child Ballad 39A – I have something approaching twenty in my own collection (considerably more if you include print), and there is a seemingly endless supply beyond that – but I’m a big fan of this particular one. As you are probably aware, the song tells the story of Janet (also called Margaret in some versions), who must rescue her lover, Tam Lin (insert many variants here as well) from the Queen of the Fairies, who has been keeping him captive at Carterhaugh, a wooded area near Selkirk in Scotland.  Appropriately enough, there is fine beer to be had locally – Traquair House Brewery’s excellent House Ale and Jacobite Ale are both perfect tie-ins.

Witches [sic] Hat – The Incredible String BandMoorhouse’s Pendle Witches Brew
Veering toward the more psychedelic end of the of the psych-folk band’s canon, this 1968 track presumably owes more to chemical experimentation than to the folk tradition, but its trippy lyrics and music are still atmospherically-appropriate for Halloween.  Pair it with Moorhouse’s Pendle Witches Brew for some malty goodness, and raise a glass to the real-life Pendle ‘witches,’ executed in 1612.  Moorhouse’s Black Cat, a mild, is also a fantastic beer.

Lord Of The Ages – Magna Carta / Weyerbacher Old Heathen
Perhaps you have friends who aren’t quite sure what prog rock is.  In response, you might have gone easy on them, offering up some Jethro Tull, but why hold back? This track, released in 1973, has everything: lyrics that might have been borrowed from Tolkien-inspired fan fiction (‘Lord of the Ages rode one night / Out through the gateways of time / Astride a great charger / In a cloak of white samite…’ – you get the idea), a ‘rocking out’ section toward the end, a little chanting and a nearly 10-minute running time.  You may need a strong drink after listening to it, so a Weyerbacher Old Heathen should be just the thing.

Widdicombe Fair – The City Waites / Hambleton’s Nightmare Porter
The most well-known version of the comedic West Country folksong was collected in 1888 by  the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, whose career as an antiquarian, songwriter, correspondent, novelist and folklorist is, perhaps, the classic example of why being a wealthy 19th century churchman was pretty awesome. In the song, a number of stock characters (possibly or possibly not based on real 18th century people from the town of Widecombe in the Moor) borrow a horse to visit the eponymous fair; the mare dies from the effort of hauling a goodly portion of the village around, and returns as a ghost with all aboard. The song, as interpreted by The City Waites, puts the emphasis on the comedy. Although hailing from an entirely different moorland (Yorkshire rather than Devon), Hambleton’s Nightmare Porter still works, and rather nicely too.

Damn These Vampires – The Mountain Goats / Great Lakes Nosferatu
I know, vampires are presently extremely uncool, given their sparkly associations with teenage girls who fear actual boys, but this song recalls a time (not so long ago) when they were still dangerous as well as glamorous (and, frankly, a lot more interesting). Luckily, there is a beer than can help you forget the Twi-hards (or could be employed with caution in a related drinking game, though one suspects that it would be easy to see such a game reach Withnailian proportions) – Great Lakes Nosferatu. This big, red beer is one to look forward to every fall (rather unlike Twilight movies, unless your capacity for ironic viewing is unparalleled).

In the Company of Ravens – Maddy Prior / Black Raven Brewing’s Tamerlane Brown Porter
This spare, haunting tribute to the oft-misunderstood bird, from the Steeleye Span singer’s 1999 solo album, Ravenchild, is a great mood-setter for Halloween, and  Black Raven Brewing’s Tamerlane Brown Porter keeps the spooky theme going with a liquid nod to Edgar Allen Poe.  Appropriately enough, in addition to their porter, the Seattle brewery makes a great IPA called Trickster – also raven-approved in Native American lore.

Happy Halloween! For more on beer and hauntings, check out my story on the Lemp family over at Serious Drinks, or go back a bit further for my pumpkin beer history.

New Things, Old Things

Superfectablog screenshotAfter much CSS/PHP/JavaScript wrangling, DVAG Wire is finally up and running. I have no doubt, dear reader, that you have been desperate to know what has been going on behind the scenes at a number of Philadelphia archives: now you can keep track automatically.

Sticking with redesign mode, I’ve finally migrated Superfectablog from Blogger and over to WordPress and redesigned it, from logo to layout – as the site was approaching its fifth birthday (with only one-and-a-half major redesigns), the move and facelift were long overdue. While the new design is not a huge departure from the old one in terms of layout, the greater control and flexibility afforded by WordPress is very pleasant indeed – it makes up for the temporary traffic drop I anticipate from the move.

While planning the redesigns, I did a little digging for inspiration (or, perhaps more accurately, to review lessons learned) and found some old work in the Wayback Machine: a little feature I did on The Phantom Menace (before discovering its full horror), an old music review and a website for a radio show I built long ago.  While not universally the case, the fact that many of the ads were preserved is oddly pleasing to me.

General Superlatives: 2009

Arctic Club, Seattle
Arctic Club, Seattle

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Rather shamefully, I have no books on this list; while I read many, not a one was published in 2009 – my excuse is that I’m waiting for the new Nick Hornby novel to come out in paperback.  So, in fractured order, here are this year’s Things I Liked A Lot:

Best Thing I Wrote This Year: On Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Memory
Best Race (live): The Haskell (just edging out the Preakness)
Best Race (televised): Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best (human) Race: Dogfish Dash 10K
Best Soccer: US beats Spain, Confederations Cup
Best Trip: Seattle, Arctic Club/MLS Cup/REI pilgrimage/new light rail
Best Airline: Alaska Airlines
Best Live Show (overall): Leonard Cohen, Tower Theater
Best Free@Noon Show at World Cafe Live: John Wesley Harding/M. Ward
Best Beer (draft): Stone/BrewDog Bashah
Best Beer (bottled): Pretty Things Saint Botolph’s Town
Best New Bar: Varga Bar
Best Album: John Wesley Harding: Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead
Best Concept Album: The Duckworth-Lewis Method: The Age of Revolution
Best Random Song: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home
Best TV: How I Met Your Mother
Best Event TV: Doctor Who
Best Movie: (500) Days of Summer
Best Movie Franchise Reboot: Star Trek

A Musical Update

In honor of our new design, I’m posting a hopefully-comprehensive if rather sad list of every band, artist and/or comedian I’ve ever seen live (not including theatrical appearances – that would be an entirely separate and altogether too-geeky list). Without further ado, the music/comedy list – an asterisk indicates multiple shows for each artist in a particular city:

Artist City(ies) Notes
The Aislers Set San Francisco*
The Auteurs London
Bill Bailey London
Ballboy Philadelphia, San Francisco* Under-rated
The Beautiful South San Francisco
Andrew Bird Philadelphia
Board of Education Philadelphia
Saul Broudy Schwenksville Philadelphia Folk Festival (PFF)
Mark Burgess New York
Neko Case Philadelphia
Cast Chelmsford V96
Melanie Chisholm San Francisco Yes, that one
Closet Queen London Obviously a cover band
Leonard Cohen Philadelphia
Harry Connick, Jr. St. Louis
Shemekia Copeland Philadelphia
Crowded House Philadelphia*, Washington, DC Fantastic live
The Cure St. Louis
Terrence Trent D’Arby St. Louis Opened for Duran Duran
David Devant and his Spirit Wife London*, Manchester*, Oxford With their Spectral Roadies, of course; I’ve probably seen them more than 50 times
The Dead Milkmen St. Louis
The Divine Comedy Berkeley, Bristol, Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco* Can you tell which band is my favorite?
Duran Duran St. Louis They know why you are there
Elastica Chelmsford V96
Liam Finn Philadelphia* Both solo & w/E.J. Barnes
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit Philadelphia Support from James Mathé and Caitlin Rose
Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams Schwenksville PFF
God Street Wine New Haven
Goldfrapp San Francisco
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci Chelmsford V96
John Wesley Harding Camden, Philadelphia*, Sellersville Solo and as part of the Cabinet of Wonders with Eugene Mirman, Jonatha Brooke, Chris Mills, Ken Kalfus, David Morse; at XPoNential Festival w/The English UK, Megan Reilly, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Herman’s Hermits St. Louis
Hoots & Hellmouth Schwenksville, Philadelphia* PFF, also in Philadelphia w/Birdie Busch.
Whitney Houston St. Louis It was the 80s
Lee Hurst London At the Comedy Store with Alan Davies
Indigo Girls Philadelphia
Eddie Izzard London, San Francisco
James Bloomington, Philadelphia Amazing live
Joan as Police Woman Philadelphia
Kansas St. Louis
King Missile St. Louis
The Ladybug Transistor Brooklyn, San Francisco*, Washington, DC They often seem to open for bands I like
Sondre Lerche Philadelphia
Bobby Long Philadelphia
Los Campesinos! Austin With The Smith Westerns, Girls
The Lucksmiths Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco*, Washington, DC Love, love love
Manic Street Preachers San Francisco
John McCusker San Francisco
Audra McDonald New York
Don McLean St. Louis It was free
Donna McPhail London At a random comedy club
The Mike Flowers Pops London
The Monkees St. Louis See ‘Whitney Houston
The Moody Blues London, St. Louis*
Morrissey Chicago Love The Smiths, hated him live
My Life Story London*, Manchester, Wolverhampton Yes, even Wolverhampton
Gary Numan Chelmsford V96
Ardal O’Hanlon London He was the ‘surprise guest’
Okkervil River Philadelphia
Ooh Baby Ooh London 3-piece a capella group; opened for DD&HSW
Parker & Lily New York
Mandy Patinkin St. Louis Met him afterward and he did his Inigo Montoya bit for us
Peter, Paul & Mary St. Louis*
Pulp Chelmsford V96
Kate Rusby San Francisco
Pete Seeger Philadelphia Linus’ first ‘real’ concert; Tao Rodríguez-Seeger and Guy Davis also shared the bill
Sigur Rós San Francisco
The Smiles London*
The Soupdragons Bloomington
Stereolab Chelmsford V96
Still Flyin’ Washington, DC
Supergrass Chelmsford V96
The Tallboys Seattle
They Might Be Giants Boston, Cambridge*
Tom Tom Club Bloomington
VHS or Beta New York I hated this band
Rufus Wainwright Philadelphia with Lucy Wainwright Roche
M. Ward Philadelphia
Waterson: Carthy Philadelphia Norma Waterson was absent; Tim van Eyken came instead
The Wedding Present/Cinerama New York*, Philadelphia, San Francisco*
Mike West New Orleans with Myshkin
The Wiggles Philadelphia See ‘Pete Seeger
Robbie Williams San Francisco
‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Eureka A surprisingly good show for a theme park
Pete Yorn Philadelphia

Snow Day Lists

The icy weather affords an opportunity to broadcast a few recent favorites, many of which admittedly have not changed much since November:

Sweden – The Mountain Goats
Laid – James
The Life Pursuit – Belle & Sebastian
Company – 2006 Broadway Revival Cast Recording
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters – The Twilight Sad

February Derby Picks
Anak Nakal
Court Vision
Face the Cat
Tale of Ekati
War Pass

Iron Hill Pilsner Barleywine (West Chester)
Stone XI Anniversary
Troubadour Obscura
Troegs Scratch #7

Year-End Music Roundup

Liam & Neil Finn

This year, I have been mostly listening to:

Crowded House – Farewell to the World, Time on Earth
Eliza Carthy – Rough Music
The Divine Comedy – Victory for the Comic Muse, Absent Friends
Liam Finn – I’ll Be Lightning, Live@Spaceland
Hoots and Hellmouth – Hoots and Hellmouth
The Lucksmiths – Spring a Leak, Warmer Corners, Naturaliste
Math and Physics Club – Math and Physics Club
Kate Rusby – Awkward Annie
The Tallboys – Rubber Dolly
The Wedding Present – Take Fountain, Search for Paradise

Concerts attended in 2007:

Waterson: Carthy (minus Norma Waterson), Mandell Theater, Philadelphia
Crowded House (with Liam Finn opening), The Mann Center, Philadelphia (and also earlier in the day at World Cafe Live)
The Lucksmiths (with Ladybug Transistor and Still Flyin’ opening), DC9, Washington, DC
I suppose technically The Wiggles (The Spectrum, Philadelphia) counts as a concert too…