Adele Bertei’s Venus Flytrap in LA Weekly

I first met Adele Bertei when I accompanied Wayne Kramer’s organization Jail Guitar Doors on a visit to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Jail Guitar Doors brings guitars and musical instruction to the incarcerated. There was a group of musicians that day, putting on a show, and one pixie-ish woman was introduced as Adele. “What’s your last name?” I asked, and when she answered “Bertei,” I got all fangirlish. Bertei was a pioneer of the New York postpunk scene, playing for the Contortions and the Bloods, the infamous all-girl band. As a solo artist and songwriter, she has kicked around the underground and pop scenes on both coasts and in Europe since. She also acted in the incredibly ahead-of-its-time film Born in Flames.

When I heard that Bertei was directing a new web series about an all-girl punk band, I was confident she knew what she was doing. Scenes from Venus Flytrap posted as part of their Indiegogo campaign were even funnier and spot-on than I had predicted. Led by the magnetic singer Tinkerbelle, VFT is Tribe 8 for the Trumpistan era. The cast is so ridiculously cool — Alice Bag, Asia Argento, Nic Harcourt, Margaret Cho, Silas Howard, Lydia Lunch, etc. — I had to write about it, which I did, for LA Weekly.

Adele’s the real deal, and a good soul to boot. She’s still working in the prisons, and started her own support group for women after release, WREN (Women’s Renewal Network). She’s trying to raise $50,000 for Venus Flytrap. Consider it a payment against the patriarchy.

 

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Bjork Completes Vulnicura Cycle

Photo by Andrew Thomas Huang

Almost two and a half years ago, Björk spilled her guts to the world. On the album Vulnicura, the often reclusive musician wrote intimately and emotionally about her breakup with the artist Matthew Barney. It was a public purging of a high-profile heartbreak, a direct and exquisitely rendered “fuck you” to a shmuck – long before Beyonce squeezed her lemons into Lemonade. “I am bored of your apocalyptic obsessions,” Björk sang on the thin ice of “Black Lake,” voicing the sentiments of a million millennial women waiting for their men to join them in the 21st century.

Ms. Gudmundsdottir is finally ending the Vulnicura phase of her astonishing three-decade artistic career. As she told me in an interview for the LA Weekly a few weeks ago, she has begun work on a new album and feels “the Vulnicura cycle is complete.” She delivered her last performance of the album at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night. And what a – shall we say, in deference/reference to her infamous 2010 Oscars outfit — swan-song farewell it was.

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“Shake It Up” Reading at Rhino

My 2010 LA Weekly cover story on the Runaways drummer Sandy West is one of the articles included in Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop From Elvis to Jay Z, a Library of America collection edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar. I’ll be reading from it alongside Jonathan and Kevin on May 31 at Rhino Records in Claremont. Flyer and press release below.

Authors Jonathan Lethem & Kevin Dettmar will be reading & signing copies of their new book “Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop From Elvis to Jay Z” At Rhino Records in Claremont Wednesday May 31st at 7pm.  The book, edited by the two of them, is a six decade survey of superb writing on popular music assembled into one mighty volume.   KSPC Radio Free Aftermath DJ’s Sam & Jojo will be spinning music from 1957-2017, and Evelyn McDonnell, one of the featured writers in the book, will be reading from her section in the book as well as signing copies of her book on The Runaways “Queens Of Noise”.

THE ESSENTIAL PLAYLIST OF GREAT WRITING ABOUT THE MUSIC THAT ROCKED AMERICA
Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar’s Shake It Up invites the reader into the tumult and excitement of the rock revolution through fifty landmark pieces by a supergroup of writers on rock in all its variety, from heavy metal to disco, punk to hip-hop. Stanley Booth describes a recording session with Otis Redding; Ellen Willis traces the meteoric career of Janis Joplin; Ellen Sander recalls the chaotic world of Led Zeppelin on tour; Nick Tosches etches a portrait of the young Jerry Lee Lewis; Eve Babitz remembers Jim Morrison. Alongside are Lenny Kaye on acapella and Greg Tate on hip-hop, Vince Aletti on disco and Gerald Early on Motown; Robert Christgau on Prince, Nelson George on Marvin Gaye, Luc Sante on Bob Dylan, Hilton Als on Michael Jackson, Anthony DeCurtis on the Rolling Stones, Kelefa Sanneh on Jay Z. The story this anthology tells is a ongoing one: -it’s too early, – editors Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar note, -for canon formation in a field so marvelously volatile–a volatility that mirrors, still, that of pop music itself, which remains smokestack lightning. The writing here attempts to catch some in a bottle.

Also features:
NAT HENTOFF on BOB DYLAN
AMIRI BARAKA on R&B
LESTER BANGS on ELVIS PRESLEY
ROBERT CHRISTGAU on PRINCE
DEBRA RAE COHEN on DAVID BOWIE
EVE BABITZ on JIM MORRISON
ROBERT PALMER on SAM COOKE
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN on HEAVY METAL
JESSICA HOPPER on EMO
JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN on AXL ROSE
ELIJAH WALD on THE BEATLES
GREIL MARCUS on CHRISTIAN MARCLAY.

About the Authors
JONATHAN LETHEM is the author of The Fortress of Solitude, The Gambler’s Anatomy and nine other novels; KEVIN DETTMAR is the author of Is Rock Dead? and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan.

This event is all ages & free to the public.

Link to The New York Times review of the book:

Feel free to drop a line with any inquiries to me at the address below.

Dennis Callaci
General Manager
Rhino Records/Mad Platter/Video Paradiso
909-626-7774 X 104
235 Yale Ave
Claremont, CA 91711

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Spend the Summer on Cabrillo Beach!

Spend seven weeks in one of the most famous homes in San Pedro, California. For more than 50 years opera star Eva Gustafson lived in this beachside midcentury bungalow. Fully furnished two-bedroom, two-bath house, plus studio/guest room, sauna, outdoor shower, parking, sky bar, etc. Available June 15 to Aug. 5. Features panoramic views of the ocean and exquisite handcrafted redwood and maple interiors. Watch whales from the dining room table! Fall asleep to ocean waves! Email evelyn@evelynmcdonnell.com for details.

 

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Bjork on Digital and Beyonce

Photo by Andrew Thomas Huang

I can never get enough Bjork. I interviewed her recently for LA Weekly and could have talked for hours. I’ve interviewed her several times, including once in Iceland for a cover of Request magazine, and I always admire her intellectual curiosity and open heart. Plus, we both love Beyonce. I’m looking forward to checking out her Digital exhibition that opens at the Magic Box this weekend, and seeing her at the Disney Concert Hall May 30. Enjoy the story!

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Jimmie Durham’s “Post-American” Tragic, Comic Art

JD_Self-portrait_1986I wasn’t expecting laughter and tears when I went to the Hammer Museum yesterday to see “At the Center of the World,” an exhibition of the art of Jimmie Durham. I knew little about Durham, except for some intriguing banners I’d seen around town featuring his sculpture of an Indian princess: an odd assemblage of snakeskin, feather and wood that’s disconcertingly life-like, its mismatched eyes staring, accusing. I didn’t even know the maker of Malinche was of Cherokee heritage, though that became immediately apparent in the first room, with its totem poles of animal skulls on top of sticks — clever, bizarre, strangely powerful, like the videos, drawings, sculptures, and writings filling the Hammer gallery.

Born and raised in Arkansas, Durham has been making art since the 1970s (when he was also involved in the American Indian Movement). But for the last 20 years, he has lived in Europe. This is the first show of his work since his self-imposed exile, and it’s mind-blowing. Durham, who is also a poet, can be hilariously funny and brutally dark. I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud, but I also at one point burst into tears.

I don’t even know where to begin, this show is so astounding in both its craft and content. David Hammons, Jose Bedia, Brancusi, and Fluxus are all explicit influences. I also see Judy Chicago in the cultural commentary and, again, the humor. His self-portraits, like the one above, are hilariously self-deprecating, while at the same time poking holes in cultural stereotypes – check out his “Indian penis.” Needless to say, this show is also timely and necessary, what with our liar in chief paying homage to his genocidal predecessor (Indian killer Andrew Jackson). I’m going back and I’m taking the family.

 

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Wikipedia Day Panel

I’ll be on a panel addressing the horror of “fake news” and “alternative facts” at Wikipedia Day at the Ace Hotel Feb. 18. For more information, check the Wikipedia page, of course.

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