Big Data's Live Set Makes For Mind-Blowing Commentary on Digital Obsession

Lindsey Rhoades for the Village Voice
Big Data at the Bowery Ballroom
Alan Wilkis does not seem dangerous. Bespectacled and bearded, he looks more like the hipster archetype known to inhabit his hometown of Brooklyn. Maybe even a little nerdy, like the paranoid tech guy that rambles on with warnings about NSA surveillance and net neutrality when he's supposed to be fixing a glitchy program. And in a way, Wilkis is that guy, except he's not in IT — he's the main brain behind Big Data, a synthpop project that uses technology itself to put a very danceable beat behind ideas about technological fatigue and disillusionment. Written with a clever perspective and a tongue-in-cheek tone, Big Data's debut album, 2.0, was released this week and features a slew of big-name contributors from Brooklyn's music scene and beyond. Propelled by Joywave collaboration "Dangerous," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Alternative Songs chart last August, Big Data kicked off their biggest tour yet with a sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom last night.

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Exclusive Premiere: Listen to Shana Falana's 'Go,' off Set Your Lightning Fire Free

Photo by Kaitlin Egan
Shana Falana
Shana Falana may be gearing up to release her solo debut, but the Kingston-based psych goddess is hardly new to the game. Before she packed up and moved upstate, Falana was cutting her teeth in Brooklyn and on tour, constantly working on volumes of material that clutched at the hem of various genres and wavelengths. Everything from chanting with an Eastern European lilt (she sang in a Bulgarian women's choir for a bit) to increasingly undeniable wails to heady drum fills to distortion so fuzzy it puts Jim Henson's whole output to shame make an appearance on Set Your Lightning Fire Free, out April 7 on Team Love Records, and it's a strong new start for the incendiary indie talent.

Take "Go," for example: While the latest track to be released from Set Your Lightning Fire Free hits the ear as a kaleidoscopic, trippy gem that shines as brilliantly in 2015 as it would've in a Berkeley drug den during the Summer of Love, there's so much going on from start to finish that you can't help but lose yourself in Falana's crowing or Mike Amari's pugilistic way with the drum kit.

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Cheap Laughs: Bad Music Videos, Badass Women, Free Pizza, and More

Categories: Comedy

Photo by Mindy Tucker
Lane Moore of "Tinder Live"
This week in Cheap Laughs, we have badass women, Irish gays, pizza, and shame. Now that's what we call a night on the town. Here's our rundown of the best in independently produced New York comedy this week.

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The Guy Who Made the Brilliant 'Hypnotize'-Dinosaurs Video Wants to Go Full-Time

Update, March 26
ACTUALLY, NEVERMIND. Roberts canceled this campaign this morning. When asked about it, he writes to the Voice: "Decided that it wasn't the right move, and that I would be better off continuing to create work in my spare time." He's going to stay at his day job, after all. The original story is below.

Benjamin Roberts wants to keep hypnotizing people.

The 33-year-old Toronto man created a moderate internet hit recently with his YouTube video that cleverly combines Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" and Dinosaurs, the Nineties ABC comedy. Now he wants to quit his "pretty awesome day job" and make similar videos full-time.

"I'm putting together a Kickstarter campaign to basically fund a salary for myself so I can do this full-time for a year," Roberts tells the Voice. "I'm trying to raise the average Canadian salary, which I'm going to use to make one mash-up per month for the next year."

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The Timeless, Intimate Triumph of The Lone Bellow and Then Came the Morning

Photo by Steven Sebring
Brian Elmquist, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Zach Williams of the Lone Bellow
Though the Lone Bellow often make friends on the road, they hadn't planned on meeting a snaggle-toothed creature behind a crumbling headstone in a buddy's backyard in Nashville.

"We went over to Nikki Lane's house, and I found the old graveyard in the backyard," says Zach Williams. Lane, a spur-kickin' disciple of East Nashville, is one of the artists caught in the crosshairs of the alt-Americana/folk rock/gimme-more-lap-steel-right-NOW adjective game that the Lone Bellow have come to run in circles with in recent years. During this particular stopover in Nashville, before they stepped outside, she'd warned Williams and the gang that she wasn't the only tenant occupying the property. "I went out there by myself in the middle of the night. The graves are above ground and cracked open, and she's like, 'Watch out! There's a possum that lives in there!' All of a sudden a possum pokes his little head out and took off running. I met Nikki Lane's graveyard possum!"

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Laura Marling Mesmerizes With the Live Debut of Short Movie at Warsaw

Karen Gardiner for the Village Voice
Laura Marling at Warsaw
On March 23, English folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling released her fifth album, the partially plugged-in and deeply American-inspired Short Movie. At a sold-out show at Brooklyn's Warsaw the same night, she displayed the more determined turn her music has taken on the new record.

Irish act Villagers, made up of Conor O'Brien and a harpist, opened with a quiet set of carefully crafted indie-folk songs with delicate melodies and dark lyricism.

Marling in turn took the stage and began with the restless "False Hope" from Short Movie, a song that tells of sleepless nights and crazed neighbors in a New York City apartment. The gritty guitar hook lays the foundation for her assured vocals singing lyrics that nevertheless still show traces of the awkwardness of growing into an identity, asking, "Is it still OK that I don't know how to be alone?"

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David Byrne Busts Out a Tux and the Best of Talking Heads for Star-Studded Tribute

Jason Speakman for the Village Voice
David Byrne takes the stage at Carnegie Hall for The Music of David Byrne & Talking Heads, 3/23/15.
One sympathizes with the task saddled onto the good folks running the benefit concert/career-spanning tribute to New York institution David Byrne. That job must have been, to invoke the old saw, the rough equivalent of herding cats. Nineteen separate acts? Each to perform a single number? I mean, Jesus.

Yes, one sympathizes, and one can understand and let slide the consequent aura of general slap-dashedness. Witness, for example, the emcee's efforts to tie the whole thing together, her disembodied locutions more than a little reminiscent of Troy McClure (You might remember this next singer-songwriter from such collaborations as...). And that was when she bothered to introduce the next-up at all! Or consider how, with a handful of exceptions, the stage-lighting stayed the same throughout, at a level about four turns of the dimmer-switch too far for a rock show, even during the abeyant silences between songs, when audience members were treated to the sight of big-name musicians wandering onstage, plugging distractedly in, flicking on amps, and, presumably, wondering where the hell the roadies were. You kinda got the sense that everyone signed on for this a long time ago, then forgot about it till maybe the weekend of. All of which is, to be fair, merely so much bitching. After all, evoking a small-town talent show ain't half bad when the talent you've got includes the Roots, Glen Hansard, Sharon Jones, and CeeLo. Oh, and Steve Earle and one-half of Sleigh Bells and Billy Goddamn Gibbons from ZZ Top.

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Here Are All 25 Food References on Action Bronson's Mr. Wonderful

Categories: Action Bronson

Action Bronson in the video for "Baby Blue," which pays tribute to comedy classic Coming to America.
Action Bronson's fans love him, no doubt, but will they love Mr. Wonderful? That was the question asked by Sowmya Krishnamurthy in last week's music feature about the rapper, whose major-label debut is out today.

Bronson tells the Voice: "I don't know. I've given a lot [of music] away. Let's see if the business works for me.

"You want to do numbers. It's a numbers game. Motherfuckers look like, 'Oh, he sold this.' I don't wanna look like a schmuck on the first week."

The story of Bronson, born Ariyan Arslani, and his move to music (a chef who broke his leg who made a go of rap while laid-up) is well-known, and Mr. Wonderful includes the usual sampling of food references, from the adventurous (biting eel by the dozen) to the everyday (a trip to IHOP).

Here's a rundown. Let us know if we missed any.

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Nellie McKay's My Weekly Reader Revisits the 'Stonedest Generation' of the Sixties

Photo by David Kogut
Nellie McKay
According to Nellie McKay, the Sixties made for "the first potent reaction to the modern world as we know it."

"People were so outraged, and outrage wasn't a novelty," she says. "It became co-opted. I'm reading two books by Jerry Mander: One is called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and the other is called In the Absence of the Sacred. I think they were written in the Seventies and the Nineties, respectively, but they're still so relevant today. It talks about stuff we already know — that television is a numbing force and how if technology isn't neutral it will always benefit the corporation and state more than the people. Nowadays, there's very little that's Left and Right; it's all corporations versus citizen. When you have that amount of corporate control, especially dominating media to an unprecedented degree, it's hard to fight that. You're fighting an avalanche. It disempowers you."

The reason for the Manhattan-based singer's jump into this particular political train of thought is the March 24 release of her sixth album, My Weekly Reader, which is a collection of iconic Sixties covers like the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" and the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park."

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Slutist's Legacy of the Witch Casts a Powerful, Feminine Spell

Photo by Suzanne Abramson
Karyn Crisis of Gospel of the Witches
Whether it's the Halliwell Sisters, Stevie Nicks, Hecate, or Melissa Joan Hart's take on Sabrina, feminine power and the archetype of the witch have always been synonymous. Kristen Korvette, a Brooklyn-based writer and founder of the feminist blog Slutist, sets out to celebrate the relationship between femininity and the craft with this month's Legacy of the Witch Festival at Saint Vitus.

Founded in 2013, Slutist evolved from Korvette's desire to cultivate a sex-positive space for discourse online. "I started Slutist as a place to publish writing about music, art, pop culture, and politics through a feminist lens," Korvette explains. "It started out with my writing and then it really took on a life of its own. Dozens of women from New York and around the country got involved and it became a more communal effort." Since its inception, Slutist has featured op-eds, interviews, and round-ups by feminists of all stripes that push past the boundaries of respectability politics and stereotypes while applauding what the mainstream might consider forbidden or taboo.

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