Action Bronson on Going Major: 'I Don't Wanna Look Like a Schmuck in the First Week'

Photo: Tom Gould
Action Bronson
"What happens if the plane falls or the fucking window busts open and I get sucked out? You don't think about that?"

Action Bronson is gazing at me intently, his piercing blue eyes slightly crinkled thanks to the weed he's smoking, and I have no clue if he's fucking with me or not. With Action Bronson, it's hard to tell. The 31-year-old rapper, born Ariyan Arslani, is a comedian on and off wax. I'm not sure if I'm awaiting a punchline or an existential a-ha! moment.

I meet Action at the offices of Shady Records/Goliath Artists on Lafayette Street. Between Soho and Chinatown, the company owned by Eminem and Paul Rosenberg is situated opportunely between overpriced cold-pressed coffee at La Colombe and a fine plate of $6 Singapore mei fun. It's a small, nondescript building and I'm led to a spacious lounge where Action is fidgeting at the bar. Close friend and collaborator Big Body Bes leans against a wall, while manager Pedro "DRO" Genao breezes in and out of the room. An espresso machine catches my eye, but neither Action nor I know how it works.

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Sanda Weigl Transforms Park Slope's Barbes Into a Mid-Century Gypsy Cabaret

Courtesy of Sanda Weigl
Sanda Weigl
We are in a dingy backroom of a bar with a small stage bearing red curtains and a lit-up sign, "Hotel D'Orsay," up top. Singing tonight is Romanian Sanda Weigl, who regales the small crowd sitting in front of her with Yiddish songs and the Romanian folk and gypsy music she grew up with. Violinist LJOVA, or Lev Zhurbin, accompanies her, his solos heartfelt and playful, depending on the song. It feels like a scene from a German cabaret, maybe one plucked from the Twenties, or the same scene that gave us Sally Bowles.

On this rainy Saturday at Park Slope bar Barbès, patrons young and old sit in rows or at tables on the side, sipping beer and listening to Weigl's voice and LJOVA's violin. It is the second show of Weigl's weekly residency at Barbès, which runs through March 28. She's accompanied by a band or one musician or, in shows to come, by her daughters, too. (She'll also be performing with a band there March 19.) Her repertoire spans German jazz and cabaret, and Jewish folklore from her native Bucharest. Weigl's lullaby voice — sweet, accepting, homey — takes us there, to wherever and whenever these songs were first composed, somewhere pure and far away.

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Jamaican Reggae Star Protoje: 'I Just Felt Like a Bird Out of a Cage'

Categories: Interviews

Photo by Che Kothari
Protoje — née Oje Ken Ollivierre — isn't supposed to be here, or at least that's what he says. The Jamaica native grew up in the western parish of St. Elizabeth, a small country town far from the energy and liveliness of the Jamaican capital. Growing up, St. Elizabeth was never a beacon for music for the young Protoje; there was no musician he could idolize who was also from the area. While his mother, Lorna Bennett, made a huge impact on reggae music with her 1972 version of "Breakfast in Bed" (she opted out of music for law school) and his father, Michael Ollivierre, known as Lord Have Mercy, was a calypso king in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, those weren't the paths Protoje wanted to take.

One of Protoje's first interactions with music outside reggae came when he was in grade school. An older kid was rapping the lyrics to Slick Rick's 1989 classic "Children's Story." Protoje had never heard anything like it, and made the kid sing it again and again until Protoje knew the song from start to finish. Protoje wouldn't hear the original song in its entirety until he was sixteen — there was no access to hip-hop in St. Elizabeth — but that didn't stop him from penning some of his own rhymes.

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Danny Clinch Finds His Fire in the Flash With 'Walls of Sound'

Nicole Fara Silver for the Village Voice
Danny Clinch poses in front of his portrait of Green Day at "Walls of Sound."
Ask most photographers what makes a great image and they'll tell you it's about control. Control over your settings. Control over your lighting. Control over your concept. But for Danny Clinch, the magic is in the chaos. With a portfolio ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Jay-Z, Willie Nelson, Patti Smith, and Björk, he possesses an uncanny ability to find calm in the eye of the storm — and freeze it.

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Lea Salonga Moves Beyond Mulan Toward 'Transformative' Musical Experience

Photo by Raymund Isaac
Lea Salonga
Even if Lea Salonga's name doesn't immediately ring a bell, her voice will. Thanks to a string of iconic roles, her clear, glistening soprano is all but embedded in the American musical subconscious. She was the singing voice of not one but two Disney animated heroines, Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and the titular savior of China in Mulan. Broadway buffs know her as the original Kim in Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's Miss Saigon, for which she won every theater accolade under the sun, including a Tony and an Olivier. She went on to play Éponine and later Fantine in Les Misérables, the first Asian actress to do so.

These days, Salonga divides her time between the stage and television. When she isn't performing all over the world, she's a host and coach on The Voice of the Philippines in her native Manila. Having just wrapped the second season, she's winging her way to New York to perform a one-night-only concert at Town Hall on March 14. The singer will proffer a mix of pop standards and newer songs, plus a healthy slice of Broadway and, of course, a little bit of Miss Saigon.

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For Amanda Palmer, Return to Music Is Like 'Getting in Bed With an Old Lover'

Photo by Kyle Cassidy
Amanda Palmer
To say Amanda Palmer has caught some flak online over the last several years would be a gross understatement. Even if you don't know her music, you might have heard she raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter — then faced accusations of not paying musicians on her tour. (She paid them.) Or you might know she married a famous writer, Neil Gaiman, and got branded a gold-digger, or that she blogged a poem after the Boston Marathon bombings that offended people who thought she was a terrorist sympathizer, or that she wrote an "open letter" to Sinéad O'Connor re: Miley Cyrus that critics thought amounted to butting into other people's business (or piggybacking on an A-list celebrity feud to get attention).

On the other hand, if you don't hate her, you might have loved her now-famous TED Talk or read her book, The Art of Asking, a New York Times bestseller. And you still might not know her music.

"I've missed being identified primarily as a music person," she confessed Monday night over oysters at the John Dory, next to the Ace Hotel.

It's a state of affairs Palmer wants to remedy immediately. Today, in fact.

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Robert Christgau Opens Up About His Memoir -- So Shut Up and Listen

Robert Menzer for The Village Voice
Robert Christgau at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
"There is nothing [in my book] that is going to produce sexual arousal in anyone, I don't believe — unless you're really turned on by good prose."

Robert Christgau is over talking about sex. More specifically, he's over talking about the scenes in his memoir, Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man, that involve hard-ons, bodily fluids, masturbation, and the language that traces the curves of the women he has been with, if the conversation won't progress past these intimacies.

You can't blame him. Going Into the City is hardly a volume chock-full of mattress romps — and yet the sex seems to be getting the most attention. Spin mentions the book's "explicit sexual detail" before the intro of its interview. Grantland's writeup is titled "Maximum Bob: The Dean of American Rock Critics' Memoir Is Revealing, Rewarding, and Full of Copulating," and cracked that he "likes to fuck and review records, and at some point in each chapter he runs out of record-reviewing anecdotes." Newsweek: "Stop Being So Squeamish About Sex, and Other Wisdom From Robert Christgau."

You'd think the guy was a hi-fi Lothario from 1969 to the present day, as opposed to one of the small cadre of writers who laid the bricks to the foundation of rock criticism (at this very paper, no less). While his memoir isn't a pastiche of salacious details, it's not a self-deconstruction of the author's life's work, either. Going Into the City is about living with art, living off it, and surviving both pursuits. Reducing it to sex trivializes that.

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Screaming Females Scale Rose Mountain

Robert Menzer for the Village Voice
Screaming Females backstage at the Knitting Factory
Searing New Brunswick trio Screaming Females would really like it if people stopped making a big deal out of their longevity. Yeah, they've been around ten years, and in those ten years they've cemented a reputation as one of the hardest-rocking, most beloved guitar bands in the U.S. And yes, that is an impressive accomplishment for a resolutely DIY group. But as drummer Jarrett Dougherty puts it, "We're not going to commemorate it. We're just going to keep going."

For them, "keep going" means releasing their fifth studio album, Rose Mountain, out February 24 on Don Giovanni Records. Its ten unrelenting tracks represent thirty-five minutes of kinetic intensity, courtesy of singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster's powerful voice and unmistakable solos, which have become the band's calling card. It's the most ambitious record Screaming Females have ever made, and one that took a grueling journey to release.

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How the Growlers Sold Out a Week of Brooklyn Gigs with 'Beach Goth'

Photo: Taylor Bonin
The Growlers
Brooks Nielsen vividly remembers his band's first critic. A group of SoCal-raised beach rats, the Growlers were piecing together their self-released 2008 debut EP, Couples Vol. 1–4, when they got a major reality check. That it happened to come from one of their close friends' grandmothers, of all people, made it all the more biting.

"She was like, 'You're singing about the beach? People that don't live at the beach don't care about that!' " the frontman recalls years later with a laugh. It's no wonder the shaggy-haired, eccentric vocalist can do nothing but snicker at the long-ago memory. After six years touring the world, his self-described "beach goth" outfit is continually staking its claim as the band you should already know about. Case in point: The fivesome, which also includes guitarist Matt Taylor, bassist Anthony Braun Perry, multi-instrumentalist Kyle Straka, and drummer Scott Montoya, recently sold out an upcoming five-night run at Williamsburg's Baby's All Right. "Something we're doing is clearly working all over the place," Nielsen says. "I'm a happy boy."

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Phosphorescent Captures Magic in Williamsburg on Live at the Music Hall

Courtesy of
Matthew Houck, a/k/a Phosphorescent
Whether you've lived in New York City all your life or you're a transplant from elsewhere, if you stick around long enough you're bound to see it undergo some sort of transformation. Having lived here, written songs here, and played countless shows here under the moniker Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck knows that better than most. Recently, Houck slipped quietly off into the Nashville sunset, relocating for a time to raise a family and write a new record. Houck says that it was time for a "change of scenery." He wrote no "goodbye to all that" essay brimming with wistful memories or bitter gripes. Instead, Houck's New York swan song came in the form of Live at the Music Hall, a triple LP cobbled from four nights of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last December.

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