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September 18th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Elliott BROOD Made Feet Stomp on the Lower East Side

Elliott BROOD, l-r--Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet, Steve PitkinThe Ontario trio Elliott BROOD played a great set of new songs for a 7pm set at Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s lower east side last night. The early hour meant light was still pouring in the windows off Allen Street as they hit their first downbeat, but the vibe quickly turned funky for the crowd of about twenty-five, for as I wrote about this band after I first heard their live show in 2012:

“The trio’s gritty sound feels as if it’s been imported from the early days of sound recording. More raw than roots, it’s a sonic stew of acoustic guitar, banjo, reverb-ed Fender Stratocaster, harmonica, and thumping drums.”

Rockwood has excellent acoustics, whether the room is crammed or not. Last night, the mix was great and all instruments could be heard well. They played six new songs from their forthcoming album, “Work & Love” (Paperbag Records), and a couple older ones. They announced it was the first time they were playing the new songs for a live audience. Dressed all in white, Casey Laforet (electric and acoustic guitars, and an array of foot pedals he played in sock-clad feet); Mark Sasso (acoustic guitar, harmonica, banjo); and Steve Pitkin (drums and a keyboard set up next to his kit) charmed all with light banter and interesting song reveals. Casey, a still-new parent, introduced one new song, “Each Other’s Kids,” by explaining they wrote it after realizing how much people in their world universally rely on one another to take care of their young children.

I had met them in 2012, so it was good to re-visit afterward, and introduce all three to my wife Kyle Gallup, and our friend, Mike Fitzgerald. I caught up on all the news with Casey, and learned he and his wife are about to have their second child. Steve appreciated I remembered his last name correctly, something I can relate to, since people tend to spell my first name with two lls, though it only has one. I told Mark he had been in good voice, though he said he actually felt like he might be getting a cold. I gave them the card for my blog Honourary Canadian, which I began after I met them the first time. They began packing up for a show tonight at the Black Cat in D.C., then they’re moving on to Bristol, Tennessee—said to be “the birthplace of country music in the USA”—where they’ll be playing the Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival.

Last night’s only flaw was that the new album isn’t out yet–after hearing the new songs for the 1st time, I’m keen to hear them again. But it will be available Oct 21, and though it would’ve been nice to get a copy right from the hands of band member, I’ll also be glad to purchase it from the great Canadian indie music website, zunior.com, a seller I highly recommend.Elliott BROOD's Work & Love, Paperbag Records

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September 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Amazon’s Douglas Preston Problem Isn’t Going Away

It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s board members respond to Authors United’s outreach to them—if at all—particularly the suggestion that while these people may think they joined the board of a progressive company, that’s actually not what Amazon is any more, if they ever were.

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September 14th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

A Gray Day Near the Great Gray Bridge

I dodged the raindrops during my bike ride yesterday, managing to get all the way up to Hudson Beach and the GW Bridge, and have time to enjoy the view, before it rained hard.

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September 12th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing

#FridayReads, Sept 12–George C. Chesbro’s “City of Whispering Stone,” w/Mongo the Magnificent

City of Whispering Stone frontContinuing my theme from last week, today’s #FridayReads is another mystery featuring Mongo the Magnificent, former circus dwarf turned criminology professor and private eye, in City of Whispering Stone, published in 1978. This plot would have been very topical and timely then, as it concerns Iranian students in NY, an Iranian strongman, a member of the circus that Mongo once performed in, and the political fate of the Shah. In real life, this was all just prior to the revolution that ended with the mullahs in power, which has seen them hold power ever since. In the novel, the strongman has gone missing and the impresario of the circus hires Mongo to locate him. The writing is great, noirish and tough, and very good at revealing the mindset of Mongo, an ultimate outsider who’s never fit in anywhere in his whole life. City of Whispering Stone back

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September 12th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics & History

Annals of (Un)employment Injustice

In a handwritten letter written last month, an Aliquippa, Pennsylvania oral surgeon, Dr George Visnich, fired a female employee, Carol Jumper—who had worked for his medical practice for twelve years—after she informed him she’d been diagnosed with “cancer affecting her ovaries, liver, and pancreas.” Ever since my own brush with wrongful dismissal I pay special attention to accounts like this one, reported yesterday by Huffington Post. The doctor’s attorney has since claimed that the letter was meant to make it easy for Jumper to qualify for unemployment benefits, and that the doctor intended to re-hire her once and if her treatment was successful. And yet, the letter is as curt and unfeeling as anything I’ve ever read. See for yourself:
Doctor's letter
The letter, which I read as filled with eagerness to terminate her before she might cost the doctor an extra dollar in raised health insurance premiums, was shared on Facebook by a friend of the fired employee, resulting in much opprobrium for the doctor and contributions to a benefit fund for Ms Jumper. I detect bad faith on the doctor’s part, with careful wording meant to protect him from the Americans with Disabilities Act, under which “current and recovering cancer patients are protected against job discrimination…so long as the individual is able to perform the job’s essential functions.” He wrote, ” You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014.” He’s evidently tried to absolve himself, by claiming that “this [would] make it easier” for Jumper to claim unemployment benefits, but I detect a convenient calculation behind his words—I believe they were meant to make things easier for him, not his long-serving, mortally ill, employee.

Local reporting on the incident explains that Ms Jumper did not ask anyone to put the letter on Facebook, and that she is focused on trying to get well, not on her former employer. She is probably not pursuing a legal case, which I understand, under the circumstances. Unfortunately, none of the reporting reveals what she’s doing about health insurance now, but I assume she’s been forced into COBRA to continue the coverage she had under her employer. No word in any of these stories, either, as to whether he offered her any severance or help with paying for COBRA. I have to assume he has not. Meanwhile, the doctor’s lawyer says that the attention on the letter has been “very troubling” for his client. Gee, you’d almost think he was the one with cancer.

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September 12th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Elephant Stone, Making Mind-bending Music at Mercury Lounge

Rishi sitarI had a great time at the Elephant Stone show at Mercury Lounge Tuesday night. It was the third time I’ve heard the Montreal band (I earlier wrote about them here), and they were in great form, with frontman Rishi Dhir and his crew really getting down on several psychedelic and funk jams. As cool as Rishi’s sitar playing is, he’s also a really great bassist, and plays it like a solo instrument. Meantime, bandmate Gabriel Lambert is a wizard on 12-string electric guitar. The result is the band’s signature blend of soaring psychedelia, bright pop harmonies, thumping funk, and chiming guitar. If you’d like rock n’ roll that sounds like the Byrds crossed with Indian influences check them out. Frontman Dhir (shown at right) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ I hear echoes of the Byrds and the Beatles, though more psychedelic-ized than either of those giant groups. I got a copy of their new album The Three Poisons after the show. Also in the house was Mike Renaud, aka “Parkside,” of Hidden Pony Records, which handles several of my favorite acts (like Rah Rah, Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale, and Imaginary Cities) and Tyler Bancroft of the aforementioned Said the Whale, who was in NYC for a few days, then leaving to meet his bandmates for a StW show in Calgary. Parkside, Tyler, myself, and some new friends, Jillian Bordeaux and Michael, a colleague of hers from Caroline—a company that works with many indie music labels—went out for beers afterward.

Elephant Stone’s current US tour continues tonight in Philadelphia, and tomorrow in Asbury Park, NJ, Sept 12 and 13. Details here.

Here are more pictures from the fun night.

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September 12th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing

Herbert Lottman, RIP, an American Man of Letters in France

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September 8th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Elephant Stone, Mercury Lounge, Sept 9, 7:30 PM

The Three Poisons, Elephant StoneI’m eager to hear the great sitar-inflected psychedelic band from Montreal, Elephant Stone Tuesday nite at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. They’ll be playing songs from their new album “The Three Poisons.” I’ve heard them play before and really enjoyed their blend of psychedelic sounds and bright pop harmonies. Come hear them if you think you’d like rock music that sounds like the Byrds crossed with an Indian influence. For his part, frontman Rishi Dhir (shown here on sitar) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ Below are the details on their tour of the US Northeast.
Rishi Dhir, Elephant Stone, Bell House Brooklyn, April 2013
MON 09/08 Burlington, VT | The Monkey House
TUE 09/09 NYC, NY | Mercury Lounge
WED 09/10 Washington, DC | Black Cat
THU 09/11 Brooklyn, NY | Rock Shop
FRI 09/12 Philadelphia, PA | Milk Boy
SAT 09/13 Asbury Park, NJ |The Saint