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  • Frontman/Founding Member Davey Fortner

    Beginning with the opening track off their debut album Throw Up Your Hands for One Night Stands, Freshman 15 played a short, but enthusiastic set at Chinatown’s Santos Party House. The floor was dotted with young fans (and a few 21+s in wristbands) who had arrived early to see the one of the many openers that night. Before the Georgia pop rock band took the stage their statemates, Everybody Run, played an equally empty house. Despite the showing or rather lack there of, both bands played a high energy and spirited sets. Freshman 15 especially played a well-rehearsed, even choreographed show with intermittent, but well-timed stage jumps and similar stage antics. Lead singer and bassist Davey Fortner hoisted his instrument in unison with guitarist Mike Baker, showing a clear chemistry amidst the band. Despite being down a member and having to borrow Everybody Run’s bassist Shaan Singh, they showed no signs of being  tired of the road or of one another. The Don’t Worry Be Happy tour they were on with headliners Carolina Kings and Survey Says was well underway, but even missing a bassist (Davey Hoogerwerf left the band in 2012), Fortner, Baker and drummer Leo Teran powered through.

    The earlier band’s bassist meshed seamlessly with their energy and matched their goofy smiles with a grin of his own. There was a positivity to the set, as there was to their second album, that translated to their live show. “Our California Song”, a sad tune with an upbeat and plenty of crunchy guitar, was the best song of the night, rivaled only by the closing track “Are You Ready For This?” The latter was a fitting choice given the band’s status as relatively unknown and recently unsigned. Perhaps they were right in asking if we were “ready.” Despite their skill, willingness and songbook of good old-fashioned pop rock song, New York didn’t seem ready or rather aware of them. There are plenty of fans off Freshman 15’s brand of music, who are emotionally limping around in search of a pop rock fix in the wake of Blink 182’s recent news, but for some reason the connection isn’t being made.

    The track “Secret of the Ooohs/Wizard of Ahhhs” off of Here’s To Feeling Good, which didn’t make the set, but includes the line “don’t listen to what we’re wearing / a t-shirt doesn’t make a song” is a fitting bridge between the albums. Assuming one is a nod to the other, it sends the same message as “Are You Ready?” and in a way summarizes what Freshman 15 are like live. In shorts, bare feet and facial piercings, the band looks the part of a pop rock band. They want to be taken seriously based on their music not their appearance. As a result, they each seem very comfortable on stage and in their own skin. Fortner and Baker bantered back and forth in between songs, seemingly unaffected by the fact that they didn’t draw a stronger showing. They seemed most at home oddly enough when the band played their cover of MIA’s 2007 hit “Paper Planes.” They mimicked the sounds of cash registers and guns excellently, strumming their strings above the headnut to get the right shrill.

    It’s hard to play an early show to an almost empty house, but Freshman 15 didn’t let it show. The band was popular enough at one point to sell t-shirts and CD at Hot Topic, but they have faded in relevance since 2009 and their first album. It doesn’t help that their second album Here’s To Feeling Good wasn’t as solid as their first. It wasn’t a sophomore slump, but it just wasn’t as strong. The record’s single “Mistaken Ex-Girlfriend” was a low point in the set compared to the smarter, sassier “Phoenix Can Keep You” (Hopefully they’ll return to their original formula for their  third album should there be one.)  Still, the set was solid albeit short and proved that these southerners can really (pop) rock.

    -Zoe Marquedant

  • The women of Brooklyn’s IM Pastry are all phenomenal go-getters, eschewing their home kitchen and shared kitchen rental fees to open a custom cake boutique and cafe in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens.  Founded in 2009, IM Pastry was born after an Instagram image of a gorgeous set of pink quilted Chanel-inspired cupcakes were posted. An immediate social networking following emerged, along with a deluge of custom cake orders from dessert enthusiasts, including celebrities like Carmelo Anthony and Chef Roble. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the women celebrated the soft opening of their cafe this Valentine’s Day 2015 weekend. I was fortunate enough to chat with Senior Pastry Designer Tiffany Washington about embracing Crocs, motherhood, and the art of caking it until you make it. Follow #TeamIMBK on Twitter, @IMPastryStudio on Instagram, and be sure to check out IleneMiriam.com

    Click on link below to find out more about this cake artist’s most prized fashion items after the jump.

    Jacqueline Colette Prosper, @yummicoco

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  • Katya Grokhovsky has been climbing up the ladder of success within the art world for the past five years. Most recently the School of the Art Institute of Chicago MFA graduate’s work was featured in the Huffington Post in an article entitled “Ten Badass Emerging Female Artists You Should Know.” This coincides with Katya’s work in the show Immediate Female is on display through March 8th at Judith Charles Gallery. It is Katya’s tremendous work effort and the bold subjet matter of her art that is helping her to make waves.

    Currently Katya is the artist in residence and teaching assistant at the New York Studio Residency Program in DUMBO. She is also working with the Philadelphia based gallery and performance space Vox Populi as their curatorial fellow in addition to with her own online platform. I recently spoke with Grokhovsky about her work, feminism and where she thinks the role of interdisciplinary artists fits into today’s ever evolving world.

    Anni Irish: What do you think it means to be an interdisciplinary artist in today’s art world?

    Katya Grokhovsky: I am still grappling with the various labels attached to being an artist today. I see the term interdisciplinary even though I use it as a band aid–an explanatory metaphorical bridge for all the various mediums an artist utilizes in their practice. I am more inclined to think of disciplines as fluid, mediums as transitory, ideas as central and genres as limitless.

    AI: So do you think that means that labeling oneself as a painter, filmmaker, performance artist etc is limiting and also speaks to a different kind of approach to art making that a lot of artists are turning away from?

    KG: I think it really depends on the artist, what kind of dialogue you’d like to enter and what audiences you want to reach. I simply prefer to be called an artist but I also understand the demand to push the artist in to a certain stream of mediums and genres, especially when it comes to the commercial value of the work. A lot of art makers today are discarding the boundaries and I think that can both be exciting and quite challenging which is a positive aspect of the dilemma.

    Grokhovsky_Disturbance Image courtesy of the artist 

    AI: How did you end up being the current artist in residency at NYSRP? And what has your experience been like so far as the teaching assistant and artist in resident at the NYSRP?

    KG: I answered an open call online, basically. I am interested in being part of educational programs and having an opportunity to both expose my process and get inspired by the energy of learning in return. I am really enjoying it! It is a great, supportive environment and I am finding myself exhilarated and nervous with a consistent “back to school feeling”.

    AI: How did completing an MFA at SAIC prepare you for the next phase in your artistic development?And having gone through an MFA program and now working with undergraduates at NYSRP what benefits do you see in a fine arts based education?

    KG: I came from Australia to pursue my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a result, my graduate education was life changing and important. My practice then was cracked open, critiqued, questioned and rearranged. It eventually formed in new ways, which I am now continuously employing. I am a believer in education, however, I also understand the difficulties that an expensive fine arts degree poses in USA. I would also advocate for learning in the trenches, free education systems or DIY school post BFA. I think there is great value in both ways.

    AI: You were recently named one of the top ten emerging female artists to watch by the Huffington Post. Has this attention changed the way you view work at all?

    KG: I see it as just another hectic day at the art office. My work doesn’t change according to trends or attention I receive, I am more in tune with the issues I am researching and disturbed by, conceptual problems and ideas driving my practice forward regardless of various waves of success or failures.

     

    Grokhovsky_K_01

    Image courtesy of artist 

    AI: What are some issues and topics you are currently exploring in your work?

    KG: The theme of the body and alienation is consistent within my work, but I am currently exploring issues of female conditioning and ways of decoding it. It seems to be an intricate web of personal and family histories as well as societal pressures, so I am constantly uncovering new layers of behavioral patterns, passed down through generations, etc. There is a lot of research involved.

    AI: How would you characterize the use of feminism in your work?

    KG: Feminism to me is a way of thought and a staple belief. I would say these beliefs back up my work in general, as philosophy, as a platform, and a way of life. My work often deals with the issues of body image, deconstructing and questioning certain expectations of women’s lives, gender conditioning, issues which feminist theories explore.

    AI: What are some projects you are working on at the moment? 

    KG: I am currently working on a new performance House Play which will take place on February 22. It will be part part of my installation in a group exhibition, which recently opened, Domestic Ideals: Nostalgia and the Home at Lesley Heller Workspace. Other projects include a sculptural installation and performance that will be exhibited at the Spring Break Art Show during NYC Armory week in March. I am also the Media Arts Fellow at BRIC in Brooklyn where I am updating my media skills and working on a new larger scale video performance project throughout 2015.

    AI: How has your work with Vox Populi AUX in Philadelphia, and your online based collective Feminist Urgent informed some of your current work?

    KG: I get very enthusiastic about traveling to other places, meeting new artists and uncovering new practices, especially time based mixed media works which I am currently researching in Philadelphia. As artist and curator, I get to step to the other side of the coin and learn in leaps and bounds. I’m sure that this knowledge informs some of my work directly, especially with the fact of seeing it consistently though someone else’s eyes as a curator. My latest project the Feminist Urgent, has connected me to incredible communities, has allowed new collaborations, it is a way for me to keep learning and broaden my scope of inquiry within my own work and my organizational life, so it’s been an interesting journey.

    Author’s note: The past nine months writing for AFP have been amazing! I want to thank Frank Jackson again for giving me the opportunity to cover many of the shows and artists that are doing so many wonderful things in New York City and being able to use the AFP Blog as a platform for that. Be on the lookout for my writing in other publications and be sure to checkout my website and Twitter for updates.

  • Better Days

    Better Days

    I recently had the distinct pleasure of compiling an oral history of the seminal underground New York club Better Days, a ’70s and ’80s contemporary of spots like the Paradise Garage—though Better Days was much smaller and, possibly because of that, less lauded. (You can read that piece in full here, on the Red Bull Music Academy website.) One of the main interviewees for the article was Bruce Forest, an iconic DJ (and later, prolific producer) who was on the Better Days decks throughout most of the ’80s. (In the ’70s, the late, great Tee Scott ran the show.) Forest has a great memory and is a fantastic teller of tales—but, for reasons of space and clarity, some of his best stories had to be omitted from the history. So we figured, why not share a couple of his best ones here?

    Loleatta Holloway
    This story concerns how the inimitable disco diva Loleatta Holloway’s between-song patter became one of the most ubiquitous samples in dance music history. It was all Forest’s (accidental) fault.

    Bruce Forest: “It was not easy to have live performances there. It was a very, very hard room to do live sound in; it was a round room with tons of bass. But we would do it sometimes anyway. Jocelyn Brown probably performed there seven or

    Loleatta Holloway

    Loleatta Holloway

    eight times. And there was Lolleata Holloway. She was one nasty woman when she wanted to be. And she was big; she could have easily kicked the shit out of me. Anyway, when she performs, she does five or six songs, but in between the songs, she does these long chats with the audience—you know, the ‘Oh, honey, one monkey don’t stop no show’ stuff. Of course, I’m recording the whole thing, and the music was okay—but the stuff in between is amazing. Everyone was going nuts. So I took that tape, edited out the music, and I would play the talking over songs, stuff like ‘Love is the Message.’ Kids would vogue whenever I put it on. This went on for years. Loleatta was there one night and heard me doing it, and she said, ‘You gotta promise me you’re never gonna give this to anybody

    Unfortunately, Shep Pettibone was playing one night, borrowed the tape, copied it and gave it to Junior Vasquez. And then, of course, Junior Vasquez released ‘My Loleatta.’ I was livid! I was like, ‘Shep, how the hell could you do that—Loleatta’s gonna kill me!’ Shep just goes, ‘You can outrun her.’ You can still hear those samples on lots of tracks.

    Anyway, I was in London, visiting Norman Jay’s party, High on Hope, at Dingwalls. She was performing that night. I’m standing outside with Norman and Paul Simpson comes up: ‘Ooh, Loleatta saw you in the crowd—you better get out of here!’ I asked why, and he said, ‘There’s that motherfucker Bruce Forest, and I’m gonna kill him!’ Loleatta bursts through the door and goes, ‘I’m gonna fuck you up!’ and starts running after me. I’m running through the streets of Camden Town, yelling, ‘It was wasn’t me! I didn’t give it away!’ She’s after me, going ‘Get back here you pussy! I’m gonna kick your ass!’ And that was the last that I ever saw her.”

    Testing out Trevor Horn’s music
    Horn, a.k.a. “The Producer Who Invented the ’80s,” pays a visit to Better Days.

    Bruce Forest:“The record-company people would come in and want to test stuff there. I would tell them flat-out, ‘I can’t play this’ or ‘This won’t work.’ But Chris Blackwell—who actually gave me my first mix to do in ’82, so I’ve always beenfriends with him—walked in one days with this short guy wearing big glasses. Chris goes, ‘I want you to meet my friend

    Trevor Horn

    Trevor Horn

    Trevor Horn. Trevor goes, ‘I’ve got a record that I think your crowd might like. I look at Chris and he just nods and says, ‘It’ll work.’ So he hands me this acetate—and what it actually was, was what ended up becoming the Sex Mix of ‘Relax.’ It’s like 16 minutes long, and has almost nothing but a kick drum for like three minutes. At first, everyone in the club was kind of looking at me—I’m like, okay, what’s gonna happen with this record? I’m starting to sweat, but of course, something does happen, and the crowd loved it. Trevor was blown away. He had never seen anything like that.

    After that, Trevor would come back with rough mixes of all sorts of things. Eventually, he brought in the Annihilation mix of ‘Two Tribes,’ and said, ‘This is something I through together for you and Larry [Levan].’ I played it, the crowd went nuts, and I told him that he had to put it out. And he did.”

     

  • One great thing about living in NYC is the wide range of new movies to pick from. These two have just opened in theaters: serial killer horror/comedy or backstage ballet documentary? Your choice…

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    The Voices
    Whatever one might have expected from director Marjane Satrapi after the acclaimed adaption of her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis (2007) and the poignant, surreal fable Chicken with Plums (2011), The Voices is not it. (Unlike those earlier films, she had no hand in writing this movie; that honor goes to Michael R. Perry, known mainly for TV work.) A queasy crime thriller disguised as an office romcom, The Voices stars the usually inoffensive Ryan Reynolds as a very disturbed man. Melding the blackest imaginable humor, scenes of bloody horror and some impressively solid acting — Reynolds hasn’t had a role this challenging since 2010’s Buried  — Satrapi has created something quite unique. While not exactly a masterpiece of filmmaking, The Voices is twisted, harrowing and funny, the latter mainly due to a pair of talking animals.

    Reynolds plays Jerry, a seemingly upbeat, nice-guy shlub with a dark past, who works for a bathroom fixture company that also employs luscious Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and down-to-earth Lisa (Anna Kendrick). Sharing his home are dog Bosco and cat Mr. Whiskers, who give Jerry advice when he’s off his meds, which is often. Bosco’s a lovingly supportive type, while Whiskers is a taunting, foul-mouthed provocateur — talk about animal stereotyping — with a Scottish accent (both are voiced by Reynolds). In the grand tradition of animal characters, they steal the show. Though Jerry sees a psychiatrist (the always excellent Jacki Weaver), he lies to her about hearing voices and his condition in general until things get completely out of hand.

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    After a car accident involving his crush Fiona (and a talking deer), Jerry slides further into madness, committing a horrifically bloody murder followed by body disposal involving many Tupperware containers. Goaded by his cat and a disembodied head in his fridge, he continues down this slippery slope, questioning and fighting his awful impulses, leading to an explosive culmination. Well, the movie’s actual ending involves a song and dance number involving Jesus, but that’s really a coda.

    Reynolds, his close-set puppy-dog eyes registering determination, remorse and fear, is perfect as a badly-damaged psychotic. He’s both frightening and sympathetic as he struggles to to reason out his deranged thought processes. The film’s bright cartoonish colors and abrupt shifts in tone (flashbacks to Jerry’s childhood are uniformly wrenching) keep the viewer off-balance and uneasy. This is far from a lightweight romp. While obviously not for everyone, The Voices has its perverse charms.

    Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

    Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

    Ballet 422
    For those fascinated by the impossible artform that is ballet, Jody Lee Lipes’ new documentary Ballet 422 is a must-see. But even those unfamiliar with that insular, idiosyncratic world can appreciate this behind-the-scenes look at the making of New York City Ballet’s 422nd production (Paz de la Jolla) by a rising young choreographer. Justin Peck was just 25 and a member of New York City Ballet’s corps (essentially a chorus dancer) when he was tapped to create a new work for the company’s 2013 winter season in a mere two months. Having created a couple of previous ballets for NYCB, he wasn’t a complete neophyte, but still relatively new to the painstaking process.

    In Ballet 422, we see the soft-spoken but firm Peck working out his fast, spirally movements on the piece’s principal dancers Tiler Peck (no relation), Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar, all of whom contribute to a process that is clearly collaborative. We also witness him dealing with costume and lighting designers, conductor and orchestra, in addition to the minutiae of any dance performance. There are quiet scenes of him alone, concentrating intensely on the playback of a particular rehearsal sequence or patiently waiting for the subway. Though he sometimes appears tired, his focus is unwavering and he remains unfailingly polite and unruffled.

    Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

    Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

    Lipes forsakes interviews, voice-overs and other explanatory devices for a stark cinéma vérité style. There’s no built-up will-he-pull-it-off drama, just unobtrusive, no-frills camerawork, refreshing in its simplicity. By the time we see snippets of the ballet’s premiere — from various vantage points including the wings and overhead — we understand what an accomplishment it is. We also recognize Peck’s obvious talent; Paz de la Jolla is an inventive, energetic ballet that shows off his unique style (and the company’s dancers) nicely. A startling juxtaposition occurs at the film’s end, when Peck transforms from celebrated choreographer back to corps dancer. (It’s not quite as drastic as Cinderella after the ball, but the analogy comes to mind.)

    He has since been promoted to soloist and resident choreographer at City Ballet, with several more works under his belt, including this week’s premiere of ‘Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes, to the iconic score by Aaron Copland. Ballet 422 captures a time not long ago when he was still proving himself; it’s a perceptive look at a crucial phase in a young artist’s career.

    The Voices is playing at AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.

    Ballet 422 is playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street; and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street, Manhattan.

    Marina Zogbi