April 2023: WSTR 34.4 FM

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The Radio Rebels of Penn + The Underground World of Philly’s Basement House Shows Street’s Favorite Albums of All Time PG. 20 PG. 29 PG. 25 WSTR 34.4 FM APRIL 2023

Salads Smoothies + Shopping Sprees

With more than 30 shops, 40 restaurants, and 15 sports and culture venues, we’re giving you 85+ reasons to stay in University City. With spring on the horizon, SHOP PENN joins a host of conversations on health and wellness, with a little help from hot spots and hang outs revitalizing the way the Penn community and beyond eats, moves, and lives.

Shop Local.

Shop Penn.



Reps Refresh +
Wants Needs +


Loose, lush, and loud, this issue’s cover captures music as an ultimate, reality–defying, sensory experience. Don’t fight it, just let it elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.



The Land on which the office of The Daily Pennsylvanian stands is a part of the homeland and territory of the Lenni–Lenape people. We affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold the DP and the University of Pennsylvania more accountable to the needs of Indigenous people.


If you have questions, comments, complaints or letters to the editor, email Walden Green, Editor–in–Chief, at green@34st.com You can also call us at (215) 422–4640.

www.34st.com © 2023 34th Street Magazine, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. No part may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express, written consent of the editors. All rights reserved.


Walden Green, Editor–in–Chief green@34st.com

Arielle Stanger, Print Managing Editor stanger@34st.com

Alana Bess, Digital Managing Editor bess@34st.com

Collin Wang, Design Editor wangc@34st.com


Avalon Hinchman, Features Editor

Jean Paik, Features Editor

Natalia Castillo, Assignments Editor

Kate Ratner, Assignments Editor

Anna O'Neill–Dietel, Focus Editor

Naima Small, Style Editor

Norah Rami, Ego Editor

Hannah Sung, Music Editor

Irma Kiss, Arts Editor

Weike Li, Film & TV Editor

Rachel Zhang, Multimedia Editor

Kayla Cotter, Social Media Editor


Allyson Nelson, Copy Editor Deputy Design Editors

Wei–An Jin, Ani Nguyen Le, Sophia Liu Design Associates

Heaven Cross, Cynthia Dong, Raymond Feng, Insia Haque, Erin Ma, Janine Navalta, Allyson Ye


Features Staff Writers

Katie Bartlett, Delaney Parks, Sejal Sangani Focus Beat Writers

Leo Biehl, Dedeepya Guthikonda, Sara Heim, Sophia Rosser, Rahul Variar

Style Beat Writers

Layla Brooks, Emma Halper, Alexandra Kanan, Claire Kim, Felicitas Tananibe

Music Beat Writers

Kelly Cho, Halla Elkhwad, Ryanne Mills, Olivia Reynolds, Mehreen Syed

Arts Beat Writers

Jojo Buccini, Jessa Glassman, Eyana Lao, Giulia Noto La Diega

Film & TV Beat Writers

Alex Baxter, Mollie Benn, Kayla Cotter, Emma Marks, Isaac Pollock, Catherine Sorrentino

Ego Beat Writers

Sophie Barkan, Noah Goldfischer, Ella Sohn, Vikki Xu

Staff Writers

Morgan Crawford, Heaven Cross, Angele

Diamacoune, Rayan Jawa, Enne Kim, Jules

Lingenfelter, Luiza Louback, Dianna Trujillo

Magdalena, Yeeun Yoo

Audience Engagement Associates

Annie Bingle, Ivanna Dudych, Yamila Frej, Lauren Pantzer, Felicitas Tananibe, Liv Yun

CAMPUS 5 My Name, My Story 7 Ego of the Month: Franny Davis CITY 12 Philadelphia School District, MOVEing to Expand Its Curriculum 15 Food Insecurity: Now A Common Reality WSTR 34.4FM 20 The Underground World of Philly’s Basement House Shows 25 34th Street’s Favorite Albums of All Time 29 The Radio Rebels of Penn CULTURE 34 Music For Plants, By Plants 44 Cecily Nishimura Paints with an Experimental Twist 48 A Marxist Analysis of Fred Again
APRIL 2023
by Wei–An Jin

Usually the process for writing these letters is standardized. On the eve of our last production night, I’ll set up camp in the Stroffice and bang out a draft in a couple of hours. It’s easier—and somewhat necessary—because of the time frame they exist in: half reconstructing some bygone anecdote, half addressing the reader of a magazine that has yet to be printed.

Today I’m taking a different approach. This dispatch is being typed out haltingly as Amtrak’s free WiFi cuts in and out. It’s golden hour on the Northeast Regional from Boston to Philadelphia, where the motes of sun seeping in a welcome reprieve from the train cabin’s recessed LEDs. Joni Mitchell’s Song to a Seagull rides Bluetooth waves across the foot–and–a–half distance between my phone and earbuds. It is both blasé and remarkable, how that’s something we can do.

In my more grandiose moments, I like to think of my life as a sort of long–running TV series, with arcs and eras and a cast of recurring characters, each of whom holds some essential part of my character. Of course, the season finale is a crucial part of this model—a hypercondensed period of personal growth, where the stakes and emotions are heightened to match.

Sparing the gory details, this past weekend involved a G&T, a Marxist, a rabbit named Rutabaga, and too many pairs of deadstock jeans.

Suffice to say it gave major season finale. Like, Girls season finale levels of season finale. Is this the first time I’ve mentioned Girls in one of these? It certainly won’t be the last.

And the whole time there’s been a running soundtrack—curated by yours truly, of course. I tried my hand at a bit of masochism with “Montezuma” by Fleet Foxes, but decided that song is owned by Lena Dunham. Then it was the Joan Baez cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which wasn’t quite right either. There’s definitely something sad about the feeling that you’re leveling up as a person, but it’s not only sad.

People bring music into their lives for a lot of reasons, but there’s one I’ve seen shared between all of the people that really care about what they’re listening to. Music lets us build a heightened version of the present while we’re living it. That’s why we develop such deep connections to our favorite albums, even going to the mat for them in roundup form.

For some people, music doesn’t just heighten those moments; it creates them. This issue’s twin features shine a light on two groups that have that, and a lot more than that, in common: the inhabitants of Philly’s DIY underground house show scene, and a student radio station fighting for the space to exist on campus.

Eventually, I opt for “Cactus Tree,” the last song from that aforementioned Mitchell record, to elevate my journey home. It strikes a good balance between melancholy and a feeling of lightness, but that isn’t the main reason. “Cactus Tree” isn’t only mine; I share it with my friend Sophie, who I visited in Boston and who, as I mentioned above, unlocks a version of me I can only be when I’m around her. I love you Soph, and I can’t wait to crush you in Gin the next time I see you.

“And her heart is full and hollow / Like a cactus tree,” Mitchell sings, “While she’s so busy being free.” And the credits roll. Of course, they don’t, really. With the end of one season comes the start of another, and we keep on singing along.

Music has the unique power to heighten our experiences in real–time, so when you reach one of life’s season finales, it’s imperative to choose the right soundtrack.

My Name, My Story

On reclaiming my identity through my name

Ihad two names growing up: my American name and my Korean name. Seems complicated—but not really.

In school, my name was Lydia. For my friends throughout most of my life, I was Lydia. On my license and any legal documents, it was Lydia.

But to my family and to myself, I was always Yeeun.

“Yeeun–ah, how’s school lately?”

“Yeeun–ah, come down for dinner!”

“Yeeun–ah, help me pick up groceries!”

Having only ever been called Yeeun in my home, I saw myself more through my Korean name than what “Lydia” could ever suffice in capturing.

It was through my dad’s sing–songy “Yeeun–ah” that I knew he needed my help. It was through my mom’s “Yoo Yeeun, get your ass over here!” that I knew I was in hot water. It was through my halmoni’s delighted, “You’ve gotten so big, Yeeun!” when she came to visit.

These seemingly trivial moments when I was called by my Korean name were when I felt most myself. It was almost like “Lydia” showed only the image that I had to portray to the public eye, but through “Yeeun” was where I could be authentically me.

It was a no–brainer decision for me to go by my Korean name when I entered college.

Illustration: Wei–An Jin

But what I truly underestimated was how transformative it could be.

Seeing “YEEUN YOO” on my PennCard or the simple act of introducing myself with my Korean name to peers and professors made me feel like I was finally being seen. I realized that it was more than just getting to be called a name I felt most connected to, but also being able to unapologetically exist in my Korean identity. It was a form of resistance and anti–colonialist struggle. But most importantly, it was an act of love.

As a daughter of Korean immigrants, I was told that in order to “survive,” I must “fit in” and “assimilate” myself into American culture. My parents did this from the day I was born by giving me an American name, and therefore, I was forced to position myself as American before I ever was Korean. For a part of my life, I felt that I lost access to a critical part of my identity by having a prescribed American name.

For many immigrants and diasporic cultures, this normalized expectation to assimilate and, to some extent, disregard our identities demonstrates the pervasive nature of how white supremacy and American imperialism can disrupt and erase cultural existence.

And we don’t talk enough about it.

We don’t talk enough about how America has taken something as sensitive and sacred as a name to reinforce its dominance—silencing communities of color and their stories of resilience to make their lives convenient for white people. We don’t talk enough about how the “American Dream” deceives and exploits immigrants into believing that adopting core “American values’’ is a guaranteed path to achieving acceptance. We don’t talk enough about how

harmful and destructive it is for communities to be told that their identities must be sacrificed and simplified in order to truly belong.

America has standardized the spheres of comfort and convenience and how names and identities exist within those spheres. My Korean name is considered to be “unsuitable” and “not easy enough” for English speakers. The reality of adhering to these values by having an American name has been undeniably detrimental to my existence as a whole and the ways in which I navigate the world.

Through my name change in college, I’ve broken away from this harmful narrative and found space to heal. Because one thing this new journey I’ve embarked on has taught me is that reimagination is possible—reimagination led by love.

I changed my name as a way to center my identity and my Koreanness in love. I want to showcase the complexities of being a part of the Korean diaspora. I want to embrace my truth without feeling compelled to explain my truth. But most importantly, I want to love myself as Yeeun Yoo—because, truthfully, that is who I really am.

And it’s as simple as that. k


Franny Davis

Whether she’s writing Bloomers’ spring show or brewing coffee in Wilcaf, this senior finds community all over campus.

What prompted you to get involved in Bloomers?

I just happened to be in the same hall as someone who was going to the late–night event that Bloomers held in the basement of Platt Students Performing

Arts House. I didn’t really see myself getting into anything in performing arts at all, but I saw the show and I thought it was really awesome. Then, I found out that there was a way to be involved without actually having to perform. So,

Hometown Los Angeles

Major English with a concentration in creative writing


Bloomers, Williams Café, Friars Senior Society, Kinoki Senior Society

Franny Davis (C ‘23) did not expect to enter the performing arts world until she spontaneously accompanied a friend to a Bloomers’ late–night event her first year. Now, as head writer of the musical and sketch comedy troupe dedicated toward creating a space for underrepresented genders in the field, Franny channels her creative writing expertise into crafting hit comedy productions. Through countless hours collaborating with her supportive (and witty) fellow writers, Franny truly found a community in Bloomers. And when she’s not in the writing room, she’s surrounded by her friends in the warm aromas of WilCaf, brewing coffee and tea for caffeine–deprived Penn students. As a current part–time student, Franny is taking the time to pursue her passion projects and explore Philly beyond the bounds of campus.

Photos courtesy of Bloomers Biz

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I tried out for writing and stayed in it ever since.

Bloomers has been really special in [finding a community]. It was the first group that I joined and I made a lot of really close friends, really fast. Since my


ple in Bloomers. Whether in the writing room or outside, Bloomers is a really supportive community and a really funny community. There’s a lot of different kinds of people who are able to find this one thing that they’re all really passionate about. As a group, putting that time, energy, and care into something so special to us is really meaningful.

How do you believe your interest in creative writing and your work in Bloomers intersect?

Later in my creative writing studies, I started leaning more toward screenwriting, [which] started with learning how to write for a stage and for people talking. That definitely comes more naturally to me than writing a novel does, because I get really caught up in how to explain little details and I get too nit–picky about what I want everything to look like. I didn’t really have any experience writing comedy until I wrote for Bloomers. The way that my voice changed when writing in Bloomers has also changed the way that I write in other facets.

Can you tell me about your involvement in the senior societies?

I joined Kinoki and Friars my junior spring. Kinoki is geared towards entertainment and media, so it’s a lot of people with really similar interests. It’s been nice to find a group that matches that niche on campus. I had a lot of friends in it from Bloomers, because a lot of people from Bloomers end up being interested in going into entertainment in the future. That also wasn’t something I really thought about before Penn, but after meeting a lot of people who are also pursuing those similar goals and who have similar interests to me, I feel like it ended up feeling pretty natural.

Friars is definitely a much more random range of people. It’s people from all across campus who I don’t think I would have met if not for Friars. It’s been awesome, because I now go to a ton of sports games, which I never went to before. I feel like I’m more familiar with all of these different pockets of campus

that I didn’t even know existed.

Why did you decide to work at WilCaf?

When I was a first year, I thought WilCaf was the awesomest place on cam -

pus. When it finally opened up again last year I took a shot in the dark to see if they would accept me—and I got very lucky. I enjoy going to work, because it’s really fun to work with people who you’re also friends with. We all have re -

Photo by Rachel Zhang

lationships outside of work—we’re a really tight–knit group. That’s rare to find, especially at a job. It’s a really unique experience and it’s just so much fun. People who come to WilCaf love it so much and I feel like everyone can tell that we’re all just having fun.

What’s it like balancing everything you do on campus?

The balance is hard. Luckily, WilCaf is an especially convenient job considering it’s in the center of everywhere that I need to be. But, it got to be a lot. Especially when Bloomers is full on, we’re working and writing for 15 hours a week minimum. That, with classes on top of it, was a lot of work. Now, I’m a part–time student and I’m only in one class. I feel like I have absolutely nothing to do because I’m so used to being busy all the time. Overall, even when everything is at its busiest, it still brings me joy in some way. So it does make it worth it.

Now that you’re a part–time student, what are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

I’ve actually been reading again, not for school, which has been awesome. I’ve been exploring Philly more, because previously I [was] too preoccupied with what’s going on in this 10–block radius. It’s been nice to have more time to be in Philadelphia, considering I’ll probably be moving out soon.

Since you’re a senior now, when you look back at your time at Penn, does any particular moment stand out?

The opening night of last semester’s Bloomers show was very special. The months leading up to the show are like the most nauseating months of your life and then it goes well. I remember Friars being there that night, and I remember my parents had flown in from California to be there that night. It was just very joyful. I feel like at Penn, there’s not a lot of letting loose in that way or opportunities to pursue things that are just passion driven, so moments like that are always very special, where you just feel the payoff of work that you are

proud to do.

What’s next for you after Penn?

I know I’m going to be moving to Los Angeles. I don’t exactly know what

that’s going to entail. This summer I will be a camp counselor. But beyond that, I’m hoping to do something in entertainment and hopefully be able to keep writing. ❋

No-skip song?

“This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes.

Favorite book?

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion.

Dream comedian to collaborate with? Phoebe Waller–Bridge.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird, unfortunately.

Where do you feel most at home at Penn? WilCaf.

There are two types of people at Penn … Those who know what WilCaf is and the ones that don’t.

And you are?

I would hope I know what it is!

Photo courtesy of Bloomers


The LivesMany of Duchene


ong before professor Anne Duchene taught economics at Penn, she played bass guitar in a band. “I wanted to be a rock star,” she says, shifting aside a stack of exam sheets

It's the evening of the ECON 0100 midterm. Across the street from Duchene’s office in the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics building, nearly 200 students are preparing to test their knowledge on everything from comparative advantage to price elasticity. Although the size of her spring class might seem large, Duchene taught three times that many students during the fall semester for her Introduction to Microeconomics course, as she has done every year since 2015.

Duchene is one of the most widely known professors on campus. Over 600 students enroll in ECON 0100 every fall—a mix of prospective economics majors, first years exploring their interests, and non–majors fulfilling general education requirements.

Duchene is many students’

rates are far from the most interesting
Photos: Anna Vazhaeparambil and courtesy of Anne Duchene

leader in their exploration of the economics department at Penn. She lectures to a crowded hall every Monday and Wednesday, and so many first years take her class that their Class Board organizes the "Econ Scream" the night before the first fall semester midterm.

But Duchene’s path to university teaching was far from linear.

After her dreams of rock stardom fell through, Duchene began pursuing an undergraduate degree in France—where students had to declare their majors as soon as they started college. With little time to explore her interests, Duchene chose architecture, but she soon realized that it wasn’t her passion and dropped out after a year. “I had to start all over again as a freshman in something else,” says Duchene. “And I was just wondering, what should I do?”

Her father, noticing her affinity for math and writing, gifted her a microeconomics textbook. As Duchene read, she found herself fascinated by ideas such as analyzing consumer behavior, managing budgets, and maximizing utility. “That really spoke to me, because it was about me and every human being in their everyday life,” she says.

This time, when she started again as a first–year student in economics, “it clicked.” After graduating from Sorbonne University, Duchene completed a PhD in economics. While she found the research process isolating, she discovered her enjoyment of the interpersonal aspects of teaching through her work as a teaching assistant. “You actually have a lot more interactions and you transmit something directly to the students,” she says. “And the students also teach me a lot.”

Duchene began her career as a lecturer at the University of British Columbia and Drexel University. Upon transitioning to Penn, she experienced teaching such a huge class for the first time—and she found it difficult to

maintain those interactions with her students. “It’s like a big ship, and you have to know where it’s going, because if it changes route then everybody is lost,” she says.

real–world applications and regularly updates the textbook to reflect current events. Since students enter her class with varying levels of comfort with math, she aims to impart the “intuition behind the equations.”

During COVID–19, she incorporated group work into recitation and increased the number of assignments to give students regular practice. “I experiment a lot,” she says. “[The class] is changing constantly, and I think it has to.”

While Duchene is aware of the pre–professional environment at Penn, she's also optimistic that students here seek knowledge beyond the purposes of an internship or career path. “Not only are the students extremely smart and extremely driven, but they are also eager to learn,” she says. “Not necessarily for their future jobs, but just for further knowledge. It’s a luxury to teach this type of student.”

So, she urges students to take full advantage of Penn’s diverse course offerings, even if the subject lies outside their vision of “one path” to success. When Duchene studied at the Sorbonne, she found it frustrating that she could only take courses within her major. “Enjoy your classes, because you’re so lucky to be an undergrad and have so much choice in the classes you’re taking,” she says. “Just learn everything.”

Yet even with hundreds of students, Duchene works to forge personal connections. She welcomes students to her office and wants them to feel comfortable speaking with her—the polar opposite of her undergraduate experience in France, she notes, where professors neither held office hours nor learned their students’ names.

“Any personal interaction I have makes me so happy,” she says.

Part of Duchene’s objective is to make her lectures engaging for all of her students, including those who don’t plan to major in economics. She connects classroom concepts to

As the interview finishes, Duchene glances at her phone. The midterm is underway, and TAs are messaging her about a question on the exam. Many of the students in her current ECON 0100 class will never take another economics course at Penn after this semester, but Duchene hopes that students of all interests will at least leave her class with “good memories,” bringing economic thinking to their everyday life, work, or other classes.

“Just telling me that they learned something and they discovered economics … it’s already a huge success,” Duchene says. “Regardless of what they do after that.” ❋

Not only are the students extremely smart and extremely driven, but they are also eager to learn. Not necessarily for their future jobs, but just for further knowledge. It’s a luxury to teach this type of student.”

Philadelphia School District MOVEing to Expand Curriculum

The history of MOVE will now be part of the mandated African American history course curriculum in Philadelphia public schools.

The announced revamp of the African American history curriculum in Philadelphia schools will come closer to demands made 56 years ago by requiring a section on MOVE. On Nov. 17, 1967, over 3,000 Philadelphia students peacefully marched from their schools

curriculum. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the district made taking a class in the subject a graduation requirement for all students. Philadelphia was the first school system in the United States to do so.

The School District is currently developing fresh coursework

Graphics: Ani Nguyen Le

back–to–nature movement, whose run–ins with the City of Philadelphia culminated in the Philadelphia Police Department bombing their house on May 13, 1985. The curriculum is being developed with the help of Mike Africa Jr., an activist and member of the MOVE family, who has maintained documents from and associated with the group. An emphasis will be placed on learning from primary sources rather than from textbooks, and will seek to include community voices.

MOVE was founded in 1972 (and is still around today) as the Christian Movement for Life. Members lived according to the teachings of John Africa, who developed a spiritual philosophy that was based on the sanctity of all living things. The name isn’t an acronym—John Africa believed that life was defined by movement. After fighting in the Korean War, he was horrified by the violence the United States brought upon the Korean people. Indeed, people’s corpses certainly didn’t “move.” The members of MOVE changed their last names to “Africa,” wore their hair in dreadlocks, and staged disruptive but nonviolent protests for environmental rights and against animal cruelty, war, and police brutality. Walter Palmer, adjunct professor at Penn and founder of the W.D. Palmer Foundation, was a chief negotiator between MOVE and the city. Reflecting on MOVE’s philosophy, he says, “I mean, it was brilliant in terms of how they took bits and pieces out of the so–called mainstream society and used it against mainstream society.”

MOVE’s disruptive tactics led to tension with their neighbors and the police. After the mayor at the time, Frank Rizzo, attempted to stick MOVE with health code and weapons violations and, eventually, an eviction order, the city and MOVE engaged in a 15–month–long standoff in 1978 that ended in a shootout, the death of a police officer, and the arrest of nine members of the group. After that incident, MOVE relocated to 6221 Osage Avenue in Cobbs Creek from their previous house in Powelton Village. At their new residence, MOVE would shout over loudspeakers day and night, calling for the release of their imprisoned brothers and sisters. The noise

upset their neighbors, who filed many complaints with Rizzo’s successor, Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first Black mayor. MOVE spent three years on Osage Avenue until Goode obtained a search warrant with the help of District Attorney Ed Rendell. On the night of May 12, the police evacuated the surrounding area. And the next morning, at 6:00 a.m., Gregore Sambor—the police commissioner at the time—shouted through a bullhorn: “Attention, MOVE! This is America! You have to abide by the laws of the United States!” and demanded they evacuate their house. MOVE resisted into the afternoon, even after the police shot 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the house. It was at this point that Goode, who was not present at the scene, authorized the release of a satchel bomb on 6221 Osage.

Ramona Africa, who survived the bombing along with Birdie Africa, recalled in a Vox oral history, “We immediately tried to get our children, our animals, ourselves out of the burning building. We were hollering, 'We’re coming out!' [The cops] immediately started shooting, trying to prevent anybody from coming out of that house. We were forced back in at least twice.” As a result of the bombing, the gun-

fire, or both, 11 MOVE member—including John Africa—were killed, and 61 houses were destroyed. No one was ever charged for the attack. Ramona Africa went on to serve seven years in jail for rioting and conspiracy charges from arrest warrants from before her house was bombed.

In a press conference after the bombing, Goode said, “There was no way to avoid it. No way to extract ourselves from that situation except by armed confrontation.” Goode’s comment encapsulated the typical response to the event, according to Shannon Rooney, vice president for Enrollment Management and Strategic Communications at the Community College of Philadelphia, who wrote her dissertation on how the news media covered MOVE before, during, and after the bombing. She asserts that news coverage immediately after the bombing insinuates that MOVE “got what was coming for them” because of their disruptions to their neighbors and the city more generally. Subsequent coverage lacks any substantiation of the racist systems that allowed the city to bomb its own citizens and how the city should reckon with this horrific incident. As Palmer puts it, “The question is, at what point in time does a sanitation issue or health issue rise to the level of a bombing?”

Indeed, the failure of the media to place the MOVE bombing within a greater arc of police violence against Black people in America has contributed to the history of MOVE largely fading into obscurity, both locally and nationally. According to Rooney, many journalists at the time viewed the MOVE bombing as “just this crazy thing that happened in Philly.” The idea that the bombing was self contained within Philadelphia made it hard for the story to spread and stick in the national consciousness. It wasn’t until Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2022 that the media explicitly referred to the MOVE bombing as direct police violence.

Philadelphia resident and Penn student David Kedeme (C ’25) attended Central High School in Philadelphia, where African American history is a mandated course. He reflects, “Police brutality didn’t only start now. Like, that was a major misconception that I also had when the [George Floyd in-

13 CITY APRIL 2023
If the news coverage is a little bit muddy, a little bit insufficient, then it’s going to fade from public memory, because how else will people know about it? Except for the folks who lived on that block and who tell their friends…

cident] started, which the MOVE incident shows that it really didn’t.”

Rooney also contests that the inadequate news coverage around MOVE has contributed to its obscurity. Most people who know about MOVE know about it from news coverage. Therefore, since it largely isn’t taught in schools, “if the news coverage is a little bit muddy, a little bit insufficient, then it's going to fade from public memory, because how else will people know about it? Except for the folks who lived on that block and who tell their friends,” Dr. Rooney says.

America’s hazy memory of MOVE underscores the importance of its addition to the Black history curriculum. The history of MOVE is part of both Philly and national history and should be included in any Black history course taught in Philadelphia schools. Reil Abashera (C ’25), who also attended Central, agrees: “I think [MOVE] is a critical part of Af -

rican American history.” After learning about MOVE in her International Baccalaureate history class senior year, she was surprised that it hadn't been discussed in the Black history course that she took her sophomore year. She now views her sophomore year history course curriculum as “cookie cutter” and “teacher dependent," but the addition of MOVE to the curriculum is a step in the right direction for addressing these insufficiencies: “I think adding [MOVE] into the curriculum and having teachers basically be forced to teach it will probably get other conversations started.”

Both Reil and David lament a lack of in–depth discussions about race in their history classes at Central, believing that it is through discussion that people make connections between history and today. As David notes, history is most useful when employed to understand the roots of today’s inequalities.

The School District’s announcement coincides with a time where Black history courses are being contested and stripped down locally and nationally. College Board is cutting major portions of its Advanced Placement course in Black studies. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a key proponent in the charge against Black history education, has proposed curriculum changes to include courses on Western civilization aimed at avoiding “ideological conformity” in higher education. If anything, MOVE demonstrates that a lack of education is what breeds “ideological conformity." When parts of history are being contested, according to Palmer, “it forces people who, for the most part, think of those things being important, to rise up.” The history of MOVE is vitally important, and for it to be added to the School District curriculum, Philadelphia is finally starting to rise up and grapple with its own history. ❋


Food Insecurity: Now A Common Reality


Checking the grocery bill after a trip to ACME this year would make any Philadelphian squirm. Nationwide food prices have soared over the past year and are forecasted to continue climbing in 2023. This issue affects low–income residents the most. With inflation and additional benefits through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Pro -

gram (SNAP) set to expire at the end of February, and food banks experiencing tightening of belts, food insecurity is an increasing problem for thousands of Philadelphians, especially with the anticipated increase in demand.

In Philadelphia, the Office of Homeless Services manages four programs to combat food insecurity: the State Food

Purchase Program, Emergency Food Assistance Program, Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program. These programs provide food and funding to food banks and shelters, as well as reimbursements to eligible providers. Liz Hersh, the director of the Office of Homeless Services, says that food pantries are currently see -

15 CITY APRIL 2023
and cuts to SNAP benefits are driving a rapid uptick in food insecurity across Philadelphia.
Illustration: Esther Lim

ing a rise in demand due to inflation. “It’s a horrible thing not to know when your next meal is,” she says, regarding the issue of food insecurity.

Food insecurity has been an ever–increasing reality for Philadelphians over the past three years. Share Food Program, a 501(c)(3) that provides free food through partner food pantries and meal programs to individuals in need, including children and seniors, receives some of its funding through the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Share Food Program is a key safeguard against food insecurity in the Greater Philadelphia region. George Matysik, their executive director and College of Arts and Sciences graduate, explains how the increased demand for food assistance began in 2020. Matysik says that from the start of the COVID–19 pandemic, the demand for assistance was “unlike anything we’ve seen before ... March through September of 2020 was really unprecedented. And then we started to see sortof a leveling–off and a little bit of a decline throughout 2020, going into 2021. And then over the course of 2022, we started to see the need continue to rise again.”

Matysik says that since the end of 2021, there has been a consistent increase from month to month of people visiting food pantries and requesting assistance, resulting in about a 70% increase in need over the past year. He attributes much of this to inflation. Additionally, inflation is a challenge for organizations like Share Food Program themselves, as their internal costs for food and transport increase.

This increase in need for food assistance correlates with the clear, dramatic increase in food prices. Food prices rose overall by 11.4% during 2022, marking the largest increase in consumer prices since 1979. According to the USDA, several pantry staples rose above historical averages in 2022. Fats like butter and cooking oils rose by 18.5%, poultry by 14.6%, and cereals and bakery products by 13.0%. And it’s not just you; egg prices really have soared after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza disrupted the egg supply chain, increasing

their price by 32.2%. Grocery prices are predicted to increase by 7.1% over the next year. Hikes in food prices can also be attributed to the Russia–Ukraine war and economy–wide inflationary pressures.

The effects of food inflation will be felt especially by those who qualify for SNAP. Since April 2020, individuals who qualify for SNAP, a monthly food stipend that can be used at food stores and farmers markets, received an extra emergency allotment. This was in the form of an additional $95 of SNAP benefits per household through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. However, February is the last month in Pennsylvania and most other states that residents can receive the additional allotment, a hard blow with rising grocery prices.

SNAP is still a valuable resource for low income individuals. Benefit amounts are predicated by income by household number. Households of one with gross monthly incomes of up to $2,266 qualify for up to $281 in snap benefits, and households of four making $4,626 can qualify for up to $939.

College students can also tap into SNAP’s measures. Studies place the per -

cent of college students experiencing food insecurity at around 25% to 50%. This can inhibit students’ ability to learn and concentrate, and significantly impact physical and emotional health. Students enrolled in full time college have a slightly different eligibility status for SNAP, yet can receive benefits if their Expected Family Contribution based on FASFA is $0 or if they are eligible to participate in federal or state work–study. Those interested in registering for SNAP can do so online through the State of Pennsylvania’s COMPASS site or by bringing this form into a local county assistance office.

Matysik describes SNAP as the “first line of defense” in food security and the biggest source of government food assistance. He says that with the cuts to SNAP benefits, his organization is forecasted to see a rise in demand from people who depend on Share Food Program for food assistance.

Not only is it a challenge for Share Food Program to meet the needs of residents during inflation while SNAP cuts are going into effect, but the organization is seeing cuts in government funding. After a change in administering The Emergency Food Assistance Program, as much as $300,000 was carved out of funding for Share Food Program. “We’re having to do as much and in reality, much, much more due to the increase in need, with less resources coming from our local government,” says Matysik. Between less funding on a local level and the reduction of SNAP allotments, he adds, “It becomes more and more challenging for us to just be able to provide basic services to people … What you’re seeing is erosion of very important elements of the safety net.”

There are many ways that college students can help fight food insecurity. Matysik recommends volunteering at one of the Share Food Program’s warehouses, organizing food drives, or picking up food through Share Food Program’s Philly Food Rescue app. Food insecurity affects countless people in Philadelphia, both on and off Penn’s campus. It is important to advocate for and address this

It becomes more and more challenging for us to just be able to provide basic services to people … What you’re seeing is erosion of very important elements of the safety net.

This month: adult entertainment, sugar daddies, and spilling that sweet, sweet sorority tea.

“Man heat: boys be warm.”

— Street Goes Gay–for–Pay

“Real men don’t know Elton John, but they do know Meghan Trainor.”

“It’s like sports betting for ladies.”

“Me when I put my money where my mouths are.”

“This is what doctors want lobotomies to feel like.”

— Just Discovered Diet Coke

4PM MONDAY - FRIDAY HAPPY HOUR | 3-5PM $6 MARGARITAS, COPA LEMONADE, MOJITOS 40th & Spruce St., University City • 215-382-1330 • copauc.com
— Chris Olsen, Probably — On Sorority Rush — My Seeking Arrangement Bio

Take It to the Streets What to Do in Philly This Month

This month: From food fairs to zen art talks, sex–forward comedy shows, and indie concerts, April events signify that spring is here.

Going to college in Philly, we’re so often bombarded—on social media and IRL—with seemingly endless options for how to spend our free time. So I’m delighted to announce that Street has done the hard part for you: We’ve rounded up what we think are the can’t–miss events for the month (and you can expect more of these in the months to come) in one convenient place. If I’ve done my job right, there’ll be something in here for every one of our readers, no matter what you like to do with your weekends.

and engage in thoughtful discussions— all for free, on both Saturday and Sunday.

Free for all ages, various times, 1101 Arch St.

Apr. 15: Museum Mindfulness @ Philadelphia Museum of Art

In honor of “Slow Art Day”—which encourages people to look at art for more than just a few seconds—engage in a mindfulness walk through the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. Guided by mindfulness instructor Grady Bates, this event is sure to bring out your inner zen energy. Free for all ages with registration, 11 a.m. to noon, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.

Apr. 15-16: Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival @ Various Locations


3–7: Dine Latino Restaurant Week

Support Philly’s colorful Latino–owned dining scene during Dine Latino Restaurant Week! From Queer Eye reviewed seafood restaurants to family owned eats, Restaurant Week meal deals will leave both your stomach and wallet full. At participating restaurants, buy two dinner entrées and receive a free appetizer or dessert. Prices vary, various times and locations.

band has been lauded for their “lustful, ambient vibe.” Unsure what that means, but there’s no doubt this is the indie concert that will allow you live out your manic pixie dream.

$22–$24, 8 p.m., 29 E. Allen St.

Apr. 7–29: Toshiro Mifune Retrospective

Cherry blossoms, sushi classes, and dance performances—the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival is a weekend full of activities celebrating the onset of spring as the sakuras bloom. Celebrate Japanese culture while immersing yourself in the beautiful foliage of Philly.

Free, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 100 N. Horticultural Dr.

Apr. 23: Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival @ Manayunk Park


6 + 8–9: Phillies Opening Weekend @ Citizens Bank Park

It’s comeback season! The Phillies home opener is Thursday, April 6 against the Cincinatti Reds. Hang out at the stadium for the rest of opening weekend, and be sure not to miss the National League Champions ring ceremony.

$26–$90, 1 p.m.,3 p.m., 4 p.m., 1 Citizens Bank Way

Experience the cinematic mastery of the mid–20th century actor Toshiro Mifune at this retrospective. Mifune, who depicted images of masculinity and action on screen, popularized Japanese culture during a period of tense post–World War II relationships. Dive into a month of history and art on the big screen.

$8 with student ID, various times, 401 S. Broad St.

Apr. 8–9: African American History & Culture

Tired of dining halls? Enjoy the best of Philly’s food trucks at the Manyunk StrEAT Food Festival alongside live music. A pun we wish we came up with, the StrEAT Food Festival will leave you with a full stomach and full heart. Prices Vary, 11 a.m to 5 p.m., Main Street and Cotton Street

Apr. 24–Aug. 6: Judith Joy Ross @ Philadelphia Museum of Art


7: Vancouver Sleep Clinic @ The Fillmore Philly

Despite their name, you won’t fall asleep at this concert! This Australian

Showcase @ Pennsylvania Convention Center

This cultural celebration is one you won’t want to miss. Support local Black businesses, watch live performances,

Noted for her images that are “startling in their transparency,” Judith Joy Ross has been a staple of the eastern Pennsylvania photography scene for decades. This month, see 200 of her transformative and innovative photos—some exclusive—in an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

$14 with student ID, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.


Apr. 26: Porn Stash @ Punchline


Is that bad hook up from the fall semester the last time you laughed about sex? This is your sign to attend Porn Stash, a sex–positive comedy panel that will have you guffawing so hard that you, well ,who knows what you’ll do.

21+, $20–$28, 8 p.m., 33 E. Laurel St.

Apr. 27: GayC/DC @ Kung Fu


Go see the world’s first—and only—all–gay tribute to the of music AC/DC, featuring imaginative renditions of the rock band’s classic hits and exciting costume changes. Even if you’re not a fan of AC/DC’s music, GayC/DC’s fun spirit makes this show a must–see for all.

21+, tickets $15, doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m., 1248 N. Front St.

Apr. 27–29: Penn Relays @ Franklin Field

Spring has sprung, and that means it’s once again time to run on over to Franklin Field for the annual Penn Relays Carnival! Last year, 100–year–old Lester Wright set a world record in the 100-meter dash, so literally anything’s possible. The only thing that’s for sure is that you don’t want to miss out.

Free with student ID, Various Times, 235 S. 33rd St.

Apr. 29: Lizzy McAlpine @ The Fillmore Philly

You may know Lizzy McAlpine from her viral TikTok hit “ceilings,” but this up–and–coming singer–songwriter has a lot more to offer. Hear her critically acclaimed album five seconds flat in her first solo headlining tour.

$145 for general admission, doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., 29 E. Allen St.

Apr. 30: Flavors on the Avenue @ East Passyunk Avenue

This annual springtime food tasting event is back! Enjoy a day spent trying cocktails and seasonal dishes from some of East Passyunk’s highest–rated restaurants. In addition to the food, there will be live music and shops from local vendors.

Free for all ages, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1904 E. Passyunk Ave.

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At 7 p.m. on a 30–degree winter night, the bundled up masses of high school and college students could only be going to one place. No, not a frat, a BYO, or a date night, but a house show. Similar to the ‘90s Riot grrrl movement in Olympia or the early 2000s alternative scene in New York, the house show scene is characteristic of what it means to listen to music in Philly. The scene is underground, and the people who inhabit it are much like me and you, except cooler. They smoke Marlboros, have mullets, and wear tight muscle shirts with wide–legged pants.

Illustration: Callia Thornton Photos : Liz Ni

We’re surrounded by house shows, but you wouldn’t know it until you go looking for them. You’re either in the know—your roommate’s in a band and their friend is a venue coordinator— or you’re stuck DMing venues for addresses.

Taking SEPTA and then walking the rest, my friends and I find ourselves in a neighborhood that seems devoid of activity. I almost can’t tell which house it is, except for some teenagers taking a smoke out front. Unintelligible lyrics with a deafening beat rattle the unassuming house.

This is The Pouch, a venue in West Philly, a little too early in the night for it to be fashionable. I strike up a conversation with someone who seems like a seasoned house show attendee. I ask whose house we’re in. “I don’t know,” they say. “I’ve never been here before.”

It’s a typical house, pretty big actually for someone who’s been stuck in the confines of a tiny dorm room all year. But walking inside, I’m immediately transported to an era pre–internet. Wall decorations include a Hyundai car logo on the wall and posters of various avant–garde art. “Guts, guts, guts!” accompanied by “Time is the word of God,” is splayed across the walls. VCR tapes of SLC Punk and The Craft are ostentatiously set out, beckoning you to take note of the hosts’ appreciation for the alt culture that preceded them.

The Philly DIY scene is vibrant and innovative—so much so that bands from New York come here to play their music. Noise rock band Venus Twins, a pair of identical twins based in Brooklyn, are frequent fixtures of Philly house shows. I talk to Jake and Matt Derting, the 24–year–old members of the band, before their set. Jake, wearing a red Victoria’s Secret lace long–sleeve shirt under a trenchcoat with an Andy Kaufman pin on his lapel, plays the drums. Matt has fading dyed red hair and safety pin jewelry, both the product of an ex. He also has a tattoo of a name tag, name included.

“If we have solo careers, we can become Venus Twin One and Venus Twin Two,” says Matt with a cheeky grin. The twins babble over each other and respond to questions at the same time with a matching blank look in their eyes. No one calls them by their names, but at least “Mom knows now,” they joke.

Their merch consists of shirts that say “Meat is Murder,” an obvious Smiths reference, or so I think. But really, they’re just vegan. A “Fuck Money” sticker is ironically stuck to the merch briefcase. Matt plays bass. “I sing,” he says.

As Penn students, the city’s most prolific and innovative music scene is hidden right under our noses—literally.

Jake corrects him: “Yells.” Venus Twins dropped out of University of North Texas and moved to New York with the hope of starting a band. The twins come to Philly at least once a month, or is it three times a month? They argue with each other, until they come to a compromising consensus of twice a month.

“I’m at a low percentage right now, you know. But I get super high energy before. Crazy and jittery, but not nervous. Just excited,” Matt says. For a band who describes their sound as “audible ADHD,” they’re surprisingly relaxed before their set. Upstairs in the living room, people are playing cards, eating snacks, and talking, while the sounds of the first band’s soundcheck funnel up from the basement.

Walking down the narrow set of stairs, I arrive at a dingy basement that smells of stale piss, beer, and peach watermelon vape. The washer–dryer combo is the most normal thing in the room, surrounded by exposed pipes, hanging wires, and multiple holes in the wall. The only illumination comes from string fairy lights and a fully lit traffic light. Crowds of people stand in cliques, all sporting similarly unique outfits cobbled together from Depop or Second Mile Thrift, pants held together by makeshift shoelace belts. Mullets and long–dyed hair—hopefully not with Splat—add to the noxious environment.

“Breaking is fun” is sprawled across the wall, along with other graffiti. I add my own signature to the collection of “___ was here.”

Ruth and Jack, both 17 years old, come to house shows for “the music, which creates the energy of the crowd.” High school students come to these shows as a proclamation of freedom, even though they can’t help but talk about the new dress they got for homecoming or the algebra homework they still have to finish.

At these shows, dancing means something different, namely moshing and head–banging, but the spatial awareness of the teens and young adults in attendance is greater than expected. Amid the moshers, I realize I have much more personal space than I’ve been granted at a typical indie concert like Mitski or Faye Webster, where the music is much milder.

After the first band, Venus Twins are on, and it’s almost like they pride themselves on being loud. Some people put in earplugs,

while others risk tinnitus. The crowd grows louder, until the amp is turned up, and Matt starts screaming, drowning them out. They’re like the Shear twins if The Garden was noise rock and you couldn’t understand a single thing they were singing. Matt beckons the nervous crowd closer, demanding our attention.

A few times during the set, Matt comes into the mob with his bass, wielding it like a machete. He hands a random guy in the audience a mic stand—the guy shrugs and holds onto it all night. He crashes into the drums while Jake is playing, which must be a regular part of their set: There’s what looks like a bite mark taken out of the cymbals. Venus Twins finishes their set by putting the type of inspirational stickers that you would get from a Kindergarten teacher that say “You’re #1!” on various audience members, who inevitably swoon and profess their love.

“There’s more to say about performing than just the music. It’s a spectacle,” Matt says after the set. He talks about the dynamic quality of music and how it’s a way of interacting with the crowd unique to house shows. “I’m in the drumset; then I’m in the crowd, then behind the mic. Being in the drumset is like a metaphor for being in it.” He abruptly steers the conversation to talk about how a cat looks like a grandfather clock. “Philly has a great scene. You guys are so lucky,” he concludes and then disappears.

Ryan, 26 years old, is a seasoned house show attendee. He looks like a deranged pirate. Before meeting him, I called him “dangerous legs guy”—guy’s got some dangerous legs (could kill a small child). During the show, rather than regular head–banging, his dance moves start—and end—with his legs. The rest of his body stays in place, except his flailing legs, kicking dust everywhere. This seemingly eccentric dance move is planned and long practiced. “I’ve been in the scene since I was 16 years old,” Ryan says.

He can get more “erratic and violent” to fit the music. “You just have to know the genre. People are punching other people at the more hardcore shows,” Ryan says in one of his few stationary moments. He took up kicking because he knows how to kick and has more


control over his body. This way, he won’t accidentally knock over the “less kinetic people,” as he describes them. Ryan doesn’t boot anyone here, but rather, protects people who occasionally disappear to the ground to tie their shoes or find a dropped phone, so they won’t be trampled.

Unto is an indie rock band based in Philly. I talk to the frontman Sam Reeves—who’s turning 27 that Sunday—after his set. As a frequent performer, Sam has several strategies to help calm his nerves when he’s onstage. “I have no thoughts while performing, if everything’s going good. But I’m always nervous,” he says.

Sam will do just about anything to perform. “I’d like to grow the band beyond the DIY scene; it feels like my last musical endeavor.” He started in jazz school but realized it wasn’t for him. Although he’s now an indie rockstar and not a performer in a hotel lobby,

his music is influenced by Black musicians of the '40s through the '60s.

Unto’s other band members are all almost a decade younger than Sam. It’s hard organizing young people in a band, and they’ve already cycled through seven people who quit. Nevertheless, Sam’s grateful for the Philly house scene.

“It’s very accessible. I’m newer in the community, but I’ve met a lot of people,” he says, adding that Unto has a new single on the way, which is coming out “uhh March something.”

As I’m talking to the bands, the last set wraps up. A girl climbing up the stairs proudly proclaims, “I think I have tinnitus!”

For my next house show adventure, I find myself in Luigi’s Mansion—a house with stolen menus featuring Saxbys and some burger joints plastered on the walls. A fee

of five to ten dollars is required for entry. “Let maybe five or so more people in after them. This is getting packed,” says the person handling the money. I discover “packed” means less than 20 people.

This basement is just like The Pouch—low ceilings with pipes that you can hear when someone flushes. Stacks of beer cans, Monsters, and Arizonas sit on the vents. Five electric guitars lay across on couches like people, next to a washer and dryer, of course.

The first band starts with a simple yet effective acknowledgment: “That’s for my grandmother.” While they play you can feel the bass through the ground. The lights are engineered to turn on and off, as if powered by a real crew. For a DIY band venue, a lot of work goes into the performance. Someone operates a full sound board all night.

Eventually, I go upstairs to take a breather.

MARCH 2023 23
There’s more to say about performing than just the music. It’s a spectacle … I’m in the drumset; then I’m in the crowd, then behind the mic. Being in the drumset is like a metaphor for being in it.

The ceiling of the basement is vibrating violently, as if it’s going to crash in on itself. I decide I need to get out of there, quickly. Lucky for me, I already have an interview lined up for tomorrow.

Running In Circles just finished their first EP, which they began recording in April 2022. The indie pop band is a duo of Zac Pacuraru, a first–year student at Temple, and Aden Dubin, also a first year, from Drexel. They grew up together and started the band in the beginning of their senior year. Between house shows and gigs at Drexel, the two “love performing in the city,” Aden says. Living in Philly together makes it easier to find time to write music.

“We were both pretty musical people growing up from our families. So it all started with us when we would hang out, just over the weekend, we would play music together and then that sort of evolved into what it is today: writing songs and making music,” Zac says. Being able to perform with other bands and their peers at their respective colleges is one of the best parts of playing in house shows. The scene is huge, and there are friend groups within it—split between Drexel and Temple—

that connect a lot of people to the shows. “It’s absolutely accessible, especially for college students. Every weekend there’s a bunch of venues, a bunch of lineups, bunch of bands, and the amount of music that’s just at the collegiate level is ridiculous,” says Zac.

As a DIY band, Running in Circles are their own managers and producers. They describe the process of booking a show, which involves agreeing to fill a slot for a show or reaching out to venues themselves. “It's not really like anything business,” Aden says.

The community is welcoming and carries less pressure than a typical concert, the duo explains. “The house show scene is super DIY. A lot of the time you're just setting up a bunch of equipment in someone's basement, so sound quality is not always where we'd want it to be. But it's a lot of fun nonetheless, and you get to scream your face off if you want to,” says Zac.

Finding these shows is easier than you’d think, but for regulars, it’s as much about the scene itself as it is about the entertainment value. “Going to house shows, you sort of know locations and people who own them. But there's also Instagrams and communities on social media that advertise these shows all the time,” Aden says.

House shows are advertised on Instagram, like on the @houseshowphilly account, updated every Wednesday. With multiple venues across Philly catering to several subgenres, there’s an abundance of shows—all you have to do is DM the venue for an address.

As per the @houseshowphilly highlight reel, there’s a clear sign of respect to maintain this core community. “NO HOMOPHOBIA NO RACISM NO SEXISM NO ABUSERS…” the list goes on, “The ppl who attend will only be ppl who contribute to a loving, inclusive and safe community.” Caring for each other is a priority among the bands, venues, and audience.

For bands like Running In Circles, getting people to shows is important, as it’s often their main source of revenue. Making money “is still a work in progress. You know, the occasional 38 cents over the past two years from Spotify,” jokes Zac. When performing at a show with an entrance fee, bands receive part of the revenue, split amongst the acts on the bill and the venue itself.

“I mean, ideally this picks up in the next couple of years and then my dream is to drop out of college because [the band] becomes so successful,” says Zac. “I want to do this for as long as I can. It's a good hobby to have.” Aden responds with “Facts.”

Across the shows I attended, there was a palpable sense of togetherness. Venues espouse inclusivity and there’s the unified yet unique aesthetic of the concertgoers that lets game recognize game. People don’t use their phones or record—there’s an emphasis on being in the moment. Despite the lack of house show culture at Penn, these venues exist close to campus for a cheaper fee than some clubs and a more gratifying experience than frats. The music scene in Philly is burgeoning and also a means of transition for many bands before reaching the elusive tier of indie success, like becoming the next Mannequin Pussy. It’s proven possible. Philly has birthed some of the dominant names in the genre today, from Temple’s own Alex G, to Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast who worked her way up from coat check at Union Transfer.

Supporting these bands by going to their shows is a way to get in on the ground floor of new culture as it develops, right below the streets of Philly. k

WSTR 34.4FM APRIL 2023 25
Eight enduring records that define what it means to listen to music.

What qualifies an album to be the best? Year after year, Rolling Stone, Anthony Fantano, and countless TikTok users try their hand at curating and re–curating their top albums ever. With various factors involved, whether you care more about profound lyrics or inventive melodies, what it really comes down to is this: How has this record stood, or how will it stand, the test of time?

Street’s own list is short but full of breadth; it spans decades, languages, and genres, from Icelandic post–rock to Russian electronic. Our favorite albums of all time can’t encompass all the songs that we love—there’s way too many. But this list does attempt to embody everything that we love about music, its translatable qualities that stick with us for years past that very first listen, making it truly timeless.


The Hissing of Summer Lawns

No album is more instrumental to the development of the shoegaze genre as My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 Loveless . It hooks you from the first strum of iconic glide guitars on the opening track, “Only Shallow,” and keeps you entranced with its hazy vocals and melancholic tunes. The Irish–English band spent two years recording the album across 19 studios, employing numerous engineers to create their distinct noise–psych sound. The mythology behind the album’s creation credits My Bloody Valentine with the bankruptcy of Creation Records due to their high expenditures. Loveless went on to inspire notable acts across the spectrum of shoegaze and rock, including Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, Mogwai, Deftones, and Slowdive.

HALLA ELKHWAD music beat

1975 1991

I feel kind of bad for the other albums on this list—they can’t compete with Joni. Joni, with the unimpeachable eight–record run. Joni, who hoovered up the dialectics of art that came before her (Sinatra v. Cohen, impressionism v. expressionism) and set the bar for the pop auteur mononyms in her wake. Think Prince, Björk, SZA.

This album is nothing if not a massive flex. Backed by the finest musicians of her time, Joni Mitchell pushed her compositional and lyrical muscles like an Olympic athlete. And she made it look effortless, even on “Shades of Scarlett Conquering,” “Harry’s House / Centerpiece,” or the album’s title track, character sketches so meticulous that, in the hands of a lesser writer, they’d crumble under the heft of their own detail.

Hissing is not as note–perfect as Blue, nor as viscerally stirring as Hejira. But spend enough time listening, and it reveals itself to be a sort of poetry in motion, endlessly ripe for analysis. Or maybe just endlessly ripe.

WALDEN GREEN editor–in–chief


My Bloody Valentine

HANNAH music editor Joni Mitchell

Sigur Rós’s fifth full–length studio album, With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly , is an immersive and mesmerizing experience beyond simple description. While departing from the band’s commonly–known ethereal style, the record nonetheless preserves the essence of its music—emotions in their purest form. From the elated and jubilant “Gobblediaook” to the solemnly hypnotizing “Ára bátur,” it’s almost like Sigur Rós is quietly comforting you in a whisper that after they’ve played and played endlessly, everything will be “All Alright.”

WEIKE LI film & tv editor

1991 2008 2014 1994

Jeff Buckley’s Grace is an album that is both frozen in time and timeless. With gut–wrenching lyrics exquisitely preserved in the rich amber of his vocals and Michael Tighe’s masterful guitar–playing, Buckley’s only studio release seems to get better with age. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t an instant hit in 1994, nor did sales pick up after his death by drowning in 1997. It wasn’t until the mid–2000s that Grace began to get the love it deserves, receiving praise from legends like David Bowie, who told Pulse it would be one of the albums he’d take with him to a desert island, and Jimmy Page, who cited it as one of his favorite albums of the decade. It’s the kind of record that gets under your skin and haunts you in the best way. Grace, in its 57–minute–three–second entirety, is a life–changing sensory experience that will cause you to feel in ways you’ve never felt before, whether you’re 13 years old or 30.

ARIELLE STANGER print managing editor

Although not as much of a commercial success as his sophomore album, Hozier’s self-titled debut album is the one that I find myself constantly returning to. Hozier starts with the powerful “Take Me to Church,” which received critical acclaim for its controversial discussion about the Catholic church’s discrimination against homosexuality, and ends with the vulnerable “Cherry Wine,” which addresses yet another difficult subject: domestic abuse. The themes of many of the songs are powerful and push listeners to the point of being upset. However, the tone ebbs and flows, as Hozier also consists of songs that are more sonically upbeat, such as “Someone New” and “Jackie and Wilson.” Hozier’s soulful voice and poetic lyricism make each song extremely intimate and moving, and the dark, bluesy sound of the record is comforting in times of melancholy, frustration, or even boredom. Hozier is a timeless album, one that remains just as impactful each time I return to it.

WSTR 34.4FM APRIL 2023 27
KELLY CHO film & tv editor Grace Jeff Buckley
With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly Sigur Rós
Hozier Hozier

In the grand tradition of the melancholy Russian genius (think Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, and Ilya Repin), Moscow–born singer Kedr Livanskiy gives us the perfect Slavic sad–girl soundtrack. 2016’s January Sun, with its dreamy synth fade–outs and ethereal vocals, gives us a heaping dose of post–party angst. On eight tracks, alternating between Russian and English titles, the record gives us all the woe of a fading night—the feeling you get when the dance crowd dissipates and the vodka runs low.

And with its endless pulsating beats and catchy vocal loops, this album makes for great walking music, too. So don your finest cossack hat, throw on the shades, and power down Locust Walk like it’s no one’s business. You’re listening to Russian electro. Enough said.

A poetic masterpiece and history lessonwrapped up all in one, Jamila Wood’s Legacy! Legacy! takes us on a journey throughout our collective consciousness and within ourselves. An English teacher from Chicago, Woods drew on her academic background, looking to her heroes such as James Baldwin and Jean—Michel Basquiat as a vehicle to explore the role that an artist of color plays in society. She mixes classic R&B motifs with modern styles to tell both their biographical stories and her own struggles as a Black woman in the modern age. There’s no doubt you’ll dance as you dissect your inheritance within society and the legacies we carry.

If you’re an artist, take a listen to “Basquiat” featuring Saba as Woods discusses the role of anger in Black art. If you’re a poet: “Giovanni” embodies the meaning of collective consciousness, drawing from my favorite poem, “ego trippin” by Nikki Giovanni. If you’re a musician: “Muddy” explores a legacy of cultural appropriation through the musicianship of Muddy Waters.

NORAH RAMI ego editor

Taylor Swift unpacks her insecurities and delves into emotions of shame and revenge on her concept album, Midnights. She turns the nights spent in her room, scribbling away on paper, into an innovative record that explores her most vulnerable thoughts. The album explores a myriad of issues that many think of when they’re struggling to fall asleep, including problems with body image, which Taylor describes in “You’re On Your Own, Kid.” She exclaims, “I hosted parties and starved my body like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” She even looks back at her internalized fatphobia in her music video for “Anti–Hero,” highlighting her growth. After the release of Midnights, Taylor surprised fans with an additional seven tracks as a part of Midnights (3am Edition). On both versions, Taylor creates a relatable masterpiece, capturing the moments where she has intense conversations with her past self while tossing and turning late at night.

MEHREEN SYED music beat

IRMA KISS arts editor 2016 2019 2022 LEGACY! LEGACY! Jamila Woods January Sun Kedr Livanskiy Midnights Taylor Swift

With the loss of their cherished station house, WQHS is fighting to keep the magic of college radio alive.

Photos : C.H. Henry

If you’re used to Penn’s infamous pre–professional culture, walking into the studio of WQHS—the University’s only student–run radio station—might feel like a culture shock. Graffiti scrawled across the bright blue walls declares that “love is the answer” and “love is fury,” while overflowing racks and bookcase shelves full of CDs and vinyl records provide ample inspiration for any music lover. At the beginning of their shift, WQHS DJs enter the broadcasting space attached to the main room—which is equipped with comfortable leather chairs, soundproofing, microphones, and a soundboard. The stream is online, so first, they have to get an audio streaming provider called Caster.fm up and running. During the stream, they can select songs on Spotify to broadcast, add live commentary over tracks, and if they want, connect a turntable tool that enables them to play vinyl records.

Originally built as a power plant in 1924, the Hollenback Center containing WQHS’s station looms large at 3000 South St., where its red brick exterior is nestled among train tracks and Penn’s athletic fields. It’s on the very edge of the east boundary of campus and a 20 to 30–minute walk away from most off–campus housing units, which are concentrated to the west of 39th Street.

For Station Manager and host of “Ode to Underground” Giselle Wagner (C ‘24), the lack of convenience and community of the space mean she has a “love–hate relationship” with the location. On the one hand, she says, it’s definitely less than ideal for DJs with late–night slots to trek half an hour back home after running their show. But there are upsides: “It gives us our own little space,” Giselle says. “This is somewhere we can collect and be creative and do our homework without someone bothering us. Also, the space itself is very different than on-campus—it’s very colorful and lively.”

Back in 2007, when Max Hass (C ‘11) first joined WQHS as a DJ, this love–hate sentiment was already common among those involved with radio. As new first years, Hass and his friends hosted an indie rock show that occu

pied the less–than–coveted slot of Sunday night (or rather, Monday morning), beginning at 12 a.m.

Just like in Max’s day, the weekly schedule for WQHS this semester is crammed with eclectic blends of music and commentary along with some more talk radio–style shows. Depending on when they tune in, listeners can expect anything from DJ Harper Prentice’s (C ‘26) “Back to the Zoo,” if they “want to feel like you’re walking on the streets of NY hearing a range of music on a warm summer day” to Alex Zhou’s (C,W ‘25) “Sunday Scaries,” which strives to soothe with “classical music for the soul, and hip–hop for the heart.”

The radio offerings span a world of languages, genres, and vibes. Many hosts try to take the listener on a journey through their lives via music—like Naomi Bekuretsion (C ‘25), whose show encapsulates “the music of my every day with me, inspired by all the people/places/things/feelings/thoughts that make up my world.”

The first time Max ventured to the studio, he recalls being confused about how to enter. Was it through the ground floor entrance or the South Street level? Once he got his bearings though, it became “a little sanctuary” outside of his usual spaces where he could share the music he was passionate about with an audience—mostly his roommates at first, but which grew over time.

“Especially if you’re there for a nighttime show, it’s quiet. There’s literally just shelves and shelves of music around you at all times, CDs, vinyl records,” Max says. “When you’re sitting there with the microphone on, talking to whoever’s listening, you’re also looking out over a portion of Philadelphia.”

More than ten years after Max’s era, Lex Giglio (C ‘25), host of “matchboxx,” entered the studio for the first time. They recall being immediately obsessed with the space—from the Sharpie drawings and random stickers placed on windows to the vinyl records and CDs lining the walls. “Physically being there, it’s unlike anywhere else that I’ve been,” they say. “There’s this unabashed creativity to it all, you can tell that it’s a space that people, over the

While Penn’s student radio has been making memories in Hollenback since the early 2000s, its full history dates back nearly 80 years. The station now known as WQHS was originally founded in 1945 as a part of WXPN, which broadcasted on AM radio frequencies. In fact, WXPN—now staffed by professionals and student interns—was formerly run entirely by Penn students. But an array of scandals struck the station in the 1970s: Students aired “obscene” sexual content, the station’s business manager mismanaged funds and was impeached, and there was even a case of suspected arson. The Federal Communications Commission conducted investigations, eventually fining the University for WXPN’s misconduct, and the station shifted away from student control.

In the middle of all this drama, WXPN AM changed its name to WQHS—which came from a combination of the Quad, Hill College House, and the so-called “super block” encompassing the high rises and the west side of campus. WQHS kept its student radio roots as WXPN gradually expanded its scope and prestige.

By the time Max arrived at Penn, WQHS had suffered a different setback: A storm blew out the antenna they used to broadcast AM radio,


which had been located on top of a high rise. According to Hass, the lack of action or assistance from the University to replace it was typical of the relationship between the administration and the radio. In the end, the station switched to a completely online presence due to a lack of funds.

“People just saw it as something of a lost cause,” Max says, “which was disappointing. When there’s very little support from the University itself, even while the University actively supports all kinds of other artistic endeavors on campus, you [think], ‘Is this really going to be worth it?’ Maybe we just make do with what we

Now that the radio is fully online, the requirements for it to survive are far more basic. Giselle and Leah Van Dyke (C ‘23), last year’s station manager, agree that there’s one absolute essential: a physical space equipped to maintain the radio’s 24/7 live stream. “The single most important thing for radio is keeping the broadcast going,” Leah says. “There’s no radio without a stream.”

So when Rodney Robinson, the Office of Student Affairs associate director, informed Giselle in late January that HVAC renovations will force the radio station to leave the Hollenback building for a year, she was shocked. While Robinson typically meets with the new station manager at the beginning of the board year to talk logistics, she was apprehensive when he mentioned a renovation she hadn’t heard about at all in the email he sent beforehand.

At the meeting, “he essentially was like, ‘Great meeting you. Congratulations on your position. You guys are going to be kicked out March 31 for an entire year,’” Giselle recalls.

Initially, the only suggestion from the administration was to temporarily move into WXPN’s space, which Giselle says was confusing, since today, WQHS is a “completely other entity.” When asked for comment on WQHS’s current situation, WXPN’s General Manager Roger LaMay wrote that “It’s an unfortunate situation and we are sympathetic to the students involved. We are at full capacity in our facility, but if there is another way for us to be helpful, we will try to do so.”

According to Giselle, Robinson said in the meeting that since WQHS survived outside the

31 APRIL 2023 WSTR 34.4FM
Physically being there, it’s unlike anywhere else that I’ve been. There’s this unabashed

studio through the COVID–19 pandemic, the group should be able to continue without relocating to a new space. The difference, Giselle says, is that “COVID was something that was out of everyone’s control. This is something that’s in the University’s control.”

After hearing the news, Giselle rushed to inform the board group chat, summoning everyone for an urgent midday FaceTime call to unpack the situation. The station had just over two months to figure out how to move forward.

“It felt like a punch to something that I really cherished,” says Josue Ruiz (C ‘25), WQHS’s music director and host of “Girl Boss Radio,” about the renovations. “It sort of feels as though it’s our responsibility now to justify our community’s existence,” they add. “Although our community is here, and our community is stable and thriving, a lot of the administration is finding it hard to see that.”

As a first–generation, low–income student, Josue says that it can be difficult to find a comfortable niche in the Penn community, adding that “institutions like this may not have been

built for me but I still want to be participatory.”

In WQHS, he found a space where openness and self–expression were encouraged. The “peace and tranquility” of the studio combined with social events open to all general body members made the community a welcoming place for Josue, and it’s become a major part of their life.

WQHS’s Financial Director Griffin Weil (C ‘25), one of the hosts of “6PM in Philly,” was similarly shocked at the news. For Griffin, being involved in WQHS has offered him a carefree space to forge closer friendships by bonding over rock music. He says the news was hard to hear, and that he “felt a little bit disrespected in the sense that there weren’t any accommodations made for the radio station to continue operating.”

Giselle knows that no temporary space will be exactly like the Hollenback, but she says that a small setup will suffice, as long as they have 24/7 access. “All we’re asking for is essentially a room that up to ten people can meet and where there can be one computer that runs 24/7, a mi-

crophone or two, and a soundboard.”

In a scenario where this doesn’t happen, Griffin adds that incorporating commentary on Spotify could be one possibility. “It’d be us playing music and then recording voice memos and talking about it in between segments, so it’d be like a podcast episode,” he says. Leah, however, emphasizes that something critical is missing when student radio can’t broadcast live.

Of course, this isn’t the first time WQHS has had to operate without a studio. During the pandemic, a Discord function allowed the group to stream and offer live commentary alongside tracks.

But this isn’t exactly the glimmer of hope it seems. Discord wouldn’t work as an easy fix this time, since the music bots—a function that allows users to broadcast songs to all users in a channel—that the station used were taken off of the platform. Even back then, Leah says that it wasn’t ideal. Listenership took a hit throughout the two–and–a–half semesters that students were out of the studio and into the server due to the added barrier of listeners having to make a Discord account.

It sort of feels as though it’s our responsibility now to justify our community’s existence. Although our community is here, and our community is stable and thriving, a lot of the administration is finding it hard to see that.

Tpecially stings for Leah, who experienced only one full semester of normalcy before joining the board, just in time for everything to be turned upside down. The 2022 board year, which she helmed as station manager, was one of rebuilding. Her overarching goals were reviving the community and increasing web traffic.

She explains that aside from the accessibility and lively atmosphere that the stream provides, getting site traffic for the radio to rise opens up a whole world of opportunity.

“When you’re an online radio station for Discord, no one’s gonna invest in you. So now that we have a stream up, if we get engagement up, then we can start to get that fundraising that we’re missing out on if we lose our stream,” Leah says.

Web traffic numbers on WQHS’s blog are valuable assets. Writers from the station attend concerts and interview musicians in the area, producing content for the blog. When it comes to getting free tickets for these reviews and speaking with bigger artist names, showing off the blog’s traction goes a long way.

“My thought process was, if we use last year to build a community again, then by this year, we should be on track to start getting more of those benefits of advertising,” Leah says. “It does feel like, ‘Oh, if we can’t have a stream, then everything that we were working to set ourselves up for this year is gone.’”

Before hearing the news about the renovations, she was excited that Giselle would get to continue the progress she’s made. Now, the board might have to return to square one.

The board members haven’t lost hope yet, though. The day after hearing about the renovations, Giselle started a petition to move the station to a temporary location, which has garnered over 500 signatures. In early February, she met with administrators from OSA, who told her that they were searching for a temporary space. Recently, Katie Bonner, OSA’s executive director, suggested touring Irvine Auditorium to look for a potential broadcast space to Giselle and other board members, but nothing has been settled yet.

In response to a request for comment, University spokesperson Ron Ozio wrote that “The Office of Student Affairs has been working hard to meet the needs of the students affected by

the University’s renovation of the Hollenback Center. OSA is moving quickly to find the best solutions for WQHS following a very productive meeting with student leaders to better understand their needs.”

temperature of the building, and “a lot of things just weren’t stored properly.” Lex, the station librarian, adds that while administrators have said they will find storage to protect the music, it’s unclear whether it would be separate from the space they will broadcast from, if one is found.

According to Lex, many student DJs turn to the station’s extensive collection to add a special feel to their shows. Vinyl records were also a big part of Lex’s music journey. Growing up, their father’s love for classic rock and metal records gradually rubbed off on them and sparked the passion that led them to get involved with radio at Penn. “There’s something very special to me about having [a record] in your hands and saying, ‘This is my copy. It’s real, and it’s right here.’”

To Lex, who labels themself as a “huge music nerd,” the ability to broadcast yourself—sharing passions with the whole world through a student radio—is incredibly meaningful, and so is continuing a decades–long tradition. Leah agrees, adding that college radio allows students to express more niche interests, and “talk about the music the way you want to” rather than having to cater to mainstream tastes and avoid certain topics.

“I get kind of sick and tired of all the classic rock stations always playing the same three songs every time it rains. Trust me, it rains outside: ‘Riders on the Storm,’ ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,’ or ‘Who’ll Stop the Rainw?’” Leah says.

Another part of the college radio magic— and part of the relocation challenge— is storing the hundreds of pieces of physical media currently housed in Hollenback, which include albums and tracks that bands from around the world have sent to the radio for airtime exposure. Right now, the studio in Hollenback offers not only the ability to record and broadcast high–quality audio, but also a temperature–controlled storage environment, which could be jeopardized by renovations.

Leah remembers that back in March of 2020, when the physical station was shut down as a result of COVID–19, there were issues with the

Max echoes these sentiments, saying that the creative control that students have to play more underground music is unique to college radio. “There is an ethos to those types of stations, and a certain aesthetic,” he says. “A big part of that comes from the creative freedom and independence that something like a student radio station has, compared to stations owned by Clear Channel or Cumulus [Media] with somebody in the New York City office dictating what all 5,000 radio stations need to play at 11 a.m. on a given Thursday.”

Josue also emphasizes that WQHS provides the opportunity to explore both the vinyls in the studio and his own identity by sharing music. “I think that in all senses, the community and the individuals [are] embraced in college radio,” they say.

At the end of the day, Lex has faith in the community they’ve built. “I believe in us,” they say, before signing off the way they always do: “‘Long live college radio.’’” k

A big part of that comes from the creative freedom and independence that something like a student radio station has, compared to stations owned by Clear Channel or Cumulus [Media] with somebody in the New York City office dictating what all 5,000 radio stations need to play at 11 a.m. on a given Thursday.

Music For Plants, By Plants

How Modern Biology is creating calming melodies with a little bit of botanical assistance.

Walking through campus, it’s easy to feel the shift beginning to take place. The weather is getting warmer, the sun is setting later, and the grays of winter are melting into mottled greens. Slowly but surely, spring is coming, and with it comes plants’ time to shine. Blooming flowers and the fresh green leaves will take center stage. The scenery is beautiful, but for some, there’s more to these plants than just their looks. They’ve sought to answer the bizarre question: If plants could sing, what would it sound like?

From the low swooping vibrations of an Amanita muscaria mushroom to the high–pitched jumpy notes of a star fruit, musician and biologist Tarun Nayar brings these hidden voices to light. Under the stage name Modern Biology, Nayar has gained a large following and millions of views on TikTok by posting short clips of various plants producing sound. He uses a process called biodata sonification, where the natural rhythms of living organisms are converted into soundwaves. When connecting a synthesizer to various plants, the plant’s bio–electric energy triggers different notes to play. The results of his experimentation are, well, a bit wonky. But, Nayar has found

beauty in these weird beats, using them to create what he calls “organismic music.”

By combining these discovered sounds with a bit of music production, Nayar has created full–length songs. He’s produced multiple albums, including a holiday album centered around the Am -

anita muscaria mushroom and another inspired by Hawaiian vegetation. With the release of his most recent single “Aegean Sea” on Feb. 3, Nayar teased an upcoming album focused on the foliage of the Northern Gulf Islands.

Though Nayar’s music varies based on the plants used, all of


his songs have a calming natural sound. The rhythms are organic and, at times, there’s no rhythm at all. At its core, the goal of Nayar’s music is to amplify the natural sounds of plants, no matter how strange they may be.

receptive to music. Some readers criticized the work, describing The Secret Life of Plants as pseudoscience unsupported by any substantial scientific evidence. Others, however, took the notion of plants enjoying music to heart.

son’s intentions were clear. Garson created the album using a Moog synthesizer, which had only been invented a few years prior. Mother Earth’s Plantasia features a tracklist of ten songs, each one inspired by different plants. The music has a defined composition and feels like the soundtrack of a walk through a magical plant world. It’s a whimsical and beautiful listen—to humans and plants alike.

Mother Earth’s Plantasia received little commercial success when first released, due in large part to the fact that it was difficult to come by. A copy of the vinyl could only be obtained by either purchasing a houseplant from the Los Angeles store Mother Earth or a Simmons mattress from a Sears outlet. In the years after its initial release, the album gained a bit of an online following and in 2019, was re–released by Sacred Bones Record to a significantly more receptive audience. It has since gained status as a cult classic for both plant and music lovers, contributing to the popularization of plant music.

Music revolving around plants isn’t some new hippy concept. In fact, plant music is an old hippy concept—dating back to the ‘70s. Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants popularized the idea of plant sentience as a whole, but more specifically that plants were

Canadian composer Mort Garson’s 1976 album Mother Earth’s Plantasia was created with an audience of plants in mind. Between the subtitle “warm earth music for plants and the people who love them” and an album cover featuring a potted plant snuggled between figures holding hands, Gar -

Through technological advances and works like Mother Earth’s Plantasia paving the way, Nayar and others like him have redefined the genre of plant music. It’s no longer just inspired by and created for plants; it gives them the leading voice. Plant music is certainly experimental and a bit out there, but it’s got charm and a whole lot of heart too.

So the next time you’re walking down Locust, don’t just stop to smell the roses. Listen to them too. k

Illustration: Heaven Cross

How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact the Future of the Music Industry?

AI might become the songwriter’s new best friend.

The day has come: You can type a few words on your computer and generate an entire combination of song lyrics with chords that haven’t existed before. With the rise of AI, programs like ChatGPT have been using language technology to fix code, compose text messages, and write essays. Now, many artists can use these same AI tools to aid them in the process of creating more captivating melodies and song lyrics at the click of a button. This begs the question: how will AI–generating tools affect the music industry as we know it today?

Many recent attempts have been made to generate music using AI software such as WaveAI. The most noteworthy is Curtiss King’s DIY 2 album which was number one on the iTunes Hip–Hop Charts in August 2022. Artists have already begun capitalizing on software such as WaveAI to spark

Erin Ma creativity. WaveAI specifically claims to be “Powering the next generation of human expression” through its two features, LyricStudio and MelodyStudio. While LyricStudio provides lyrics, suggestions based on the genre, and rhyme schemes, MelodyStudy presents original ideas for melodies and chords based on the lyrics inputted by the musician.

Maya Ackerman, the CEO of WaveAI, explains the role of the software: “Our AI is not designed to compete with musicians or steal the spotlight, but instead be an ally acting as a humble sage, sitting quietly in the background until you need its help.”

Artists such as King have main-

ly used AI as a source of inspiration. Rather than replacing artists, AI has been developed more so to generate ideas to create more emotionally complex and innovative songs. Songs generated by AI will never be able to replicate the same individuality and emotions as songs written by people. Society has always seen art and music as outlets to express human creativity—AI can’t oust people. Musicians still need to draw upon their personal experiences to create music that people can relate to on an emotional level.

Although a few songs have been created by AI alone, no AI–generated songs have become truly popular. Most songs composed by AI have not


gone mainstream because they are not as meaningful and are unable to draw upon key human experiences in a way that is relatable to listeners. AI won’t be taking the jobs of songwriters, because they can’t compose genuine and relatable lyrics about important milestones such as the euphoria and exhilaration of falling in love.

AI has been used by artists and music enthusiasts alike. Applications such as Endel and Tuney have customized sounds, music, videos, and podcasts by tailoring them to the user’s preferences. For example, with an Endel subscription, users can listen to personalized soundscapes in order to focus more efficiently, lower stress levels, or sleep better. The app uses technology to generate music with tempos and melodies that match users’ heart rates, locations, and step counts. With these unique features, apps such as Endel won’t replace songwriters, but Spotify might have some competition.

Instead of artificial intelligence replacing musicians in the future, machines and artists will coexist and collaborate together. For example, technology has already led to a rise in the creation of mashups and lo–fi music. By introducing editing elements such as frequencies, saturation, and distortion, anything can be turned into lo–fi and provide listeners with a different dimension of the song.

AI can be used as a major tool that makes composing music more efficient and targets sounds to listeners’ tastes. With the development of AI, no one would have imagined that rather than replacing songwriters, musicians could increase their lyrical creativity and style in harmony with advanced technology. k

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'Titanic' was Hollywood's Last Perfect Melodrama

Titanic hasn’t aged a day since 1997. That’s not just because it still dominates cultural discourse (that damn door), or inspires popular parodies, or just became the third highest–grossing film ever (again!), but because it still somehow feels completely revolutionary. More than ever, it’s the antithesis to “modern cinema,” which relishes in self–referential storytelling and superhuman power fantasies. Titanic may be big, but it displays a reverence for human emotion—and for human lives—that you’ll never find in a superhero movie. A restored version of the film in 3D has just returned to theaters, and it amplifies the ways in which Titanic was groundbreaking in the first place. It was Hollywood’s last completely inescapable original piece of drama, and there’s a reason it still resonates.

Modern audiences seem to either love (or love to hate) Titanic, and reevaluating it is a casual pastime for the average film critic. It’s been called everything from the greatest movie

of all time to a 3.5 hour commercial. When it first premiered, the popular criticism leveled against it was that it was 50% corny romance and 50% incredible disaster movie, with many critics taking umbrage at what they felt was a one–two punch of cringey dialogue and unconvincing performances. However, the second half has consistently received universal praise. Rewatching it, the difference between the teenage love story and the epic disaster film may seem jarring, but it doesn’t seem wrong.

These criticisms, while understandable, ignore the real point of Titanic: It’s a perfect melodrama, one that actively engages with the collision between its vulnerably romantic beginning and its technologically destructive ending. It’s both silly and serious, intimate and impossibly big. It’s a miracle that this film worked, and while we could compare it to every other blockbuster or mega–romance on the planet, Titanic truly does stand in a class of its own. It’s every single kind of movie that doesn’t

get made anymore—an enormous original studio blockbuster romance helmed by performers just becoming movie stars with ridiculously good special effects that look just as innovative today as they did yesterday, all tied together and set triumphantly at sea. This is no run–of–the–mill, rushed CGI Marvel movie. The special effects in Titanic don’t just serve as backdrops for cheaply made action figures to smash into each other; instead, they represent James Cameron’s commitment to bringing historical accuracy and emotional authenticity to the spectacles that are so commonplace to modern audiences. It’s a genuinely transformative and seismic achievement.

In one of the film’s first scenes, modern–day shipwreck explorer Bill Paxton narrates his excavation of the wrecked Titanic to a camera. He’s in the middle of lamenting “the sad ruin of the great ship sitting here, where she landed at 2:30 in the morning, April 15, 1912, after her long fall from the world above,” when his as-

Twenty–five years later, Hollywood still hasn’t come close to James Cameron’s epic.
Illustration: Heaven Cross

sistants start laughing at him. “You’re so full of shit,” one of them crows, and thus, the spell is broken. Paxton’s character is minor to the story, but he’s clearly both the stand–in for the audience and for Cameron himself. He’s a cynical treasure hunter, bored by the monotony of disaster and unaware that he’s about to have his heart broken by a love story. Titanic isn’t just the story of Jack and Rose. It’s also about us—about the capacity of cynical and overstimulated 21st –century audiences to still be swept away by emotion. Titanic may actually be the greatest melodrama ever set sail.

A quick definition: A melodrama is a story with exaggerated events, characters, and narratives, all guided by pure emotion. Perhaps no film since Titanic has ever asked us to surrender completely to a story like it did, to let it just wash over us. In an era where our biggest films are snarky, self–referential, superhero movies, Titanic’s sincerity is a breath of fresh air. In what is perhaps the film’s most famous and romantic moment, Jack and Rose hold each other while standing at the bow of the ship. Jack tells Rose to close her eyes, and when she opens them, she feels like she’s flying through the waves.

Backed by a glorious sunset and endless blue ocean, they kiss. Celine Dion plays. The audience gasps and swoons.

But Cameron doesn’t just ask us to surrender to the emotional potency of the teenage love story; he also anchors it to an unimaginable human tragedy—and he does it fantastically. Upon a rewatch of this film, you’ll realize how much time we spend with ordinary passengers in the second half. Jack and Rose take a backseat to the horror of watching musicians play until their deaths, watching a mother read her children a story while the water rushes in. The Captain’s death is given long moments of pathos and so is John Astor’s guilt at sneaking into a lifeboat. By submerging the intimate, perhaps corny, love story inside historical tragedy, the film gains an epic, mythological quality.

And this basic story of star–crossed lovers becomes iconic. Each character, from Rose’s maid to Rose herself, is given a space and a moment of their own. At the end, when their ghosts crowd the staircase in its iconic final scene, you feel the power of so many lives and so many deaths. The emotions are big, and the people cast long shadows.

It’s this reverence towards people—people rather than technology—that gives Titanic its spark. After Rose has finished her tale, Bill says that even after all this time chasing the grand ship, he’s never really understood the Titanic. Seeing the human cost behind the computer model and the old hunk of ship metal has moved him beyond anything else. Modern audiences are so rarely confronted by the emotional weight that powers spectacle, and special effects are rarely used to do more than dazzle. This is why Titanic resonates with modern audiences, now more than ever. There are absolutely bigger, more spectacular movies, but none that are so human. When Spiderman fights Thanos in space, the action is bloodless, the set is all computer–generated, and the status quo is always safe. Compare that to Cameron, who literally built an ocean to submerge his vision in.

Fewer and fewer films truly transform us and the people around us. Even fewer really want to. But Titanic does. It wants to break your heart, consume your imagination, and keep you coming back for more, even 25 years later. k

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“A New Old Play”: Clown Spirit and Handmade Craftsmanship

Qiu Jiongjiong’s fictional feature debut is an intimate and mesmerizing ride in Chinese history and mythology.

Illustration: Lilian Liu

The film A New Old Play opens with its protagonist’s death. The audiences follow a rickshaw operated by two demons, Ox–Head and Horse–Face, who are subordinates to the king of Hell (“yanluo wang") and escort the now–dead Qiu Fu into the underworld in Chinese mythology. They find Qiu Fu in a dense fog; he immediately recognizes them as messengers from Fengdu, the capital of Hell, and realizes that he has already passed away. But the demons are neither malicious nor vindictive, nor does Qiu Fu seem to be saddened by his untimely death. Instead, they banter with each other in traditional Sichuan dialect, before embarking on the highway to hell, literally.

The opening sequence perfectly encapsulates the bizarrely fascinating quality of Qiu Jiongjiong’s three–hour–long fictional feature debut. A New Old Play is ambitiously magnificent and all–encompassing, yet also at times adroitly playful and incisively satirical. A unique blend of fiction, family history, experimental theater, and historical epic, the film traces the life of Qiu Fu, a Sichuan opera actor specialized in the role of “clown” (“xiaochou”) from the 1930s to 1980s. Through his personal perspective, the film keenly observes the enormous transformation of Chinese society as the Japanese, the Nationalists, and the Communists successively wreaked havoc upon the ancient land. While most epics of such breadth and length often opt

for a solemn and ruminative tonality, A New Old Play completely subverts the expectation, yet still generates momentum and creates huge space for introspection.

It is worth pointing out that the connotation of clowns in the diegetic world is somehow different from that of the Western society. While usually associated with goofy circus performance, as well as homicidal urges with repeated appearances in horror films, clowns, or “xiaochou,” in the context of Sichuan Opera faintly allude to a sense of melancholy. The clown is often depicted as someone who is poor, coarse, does not possess much agency in deciding the course of his life—but at the same time, he’s resilient, darkly humorous, and finds joy in misery and mundanity.

The protagonist Qiu Fu is very much a “clown,” as he drifts through his life in the intimidating waves of wars, political changes, and cultural revolution. Nonetheless, his aura of nobility constantly shines through. Perhaps director Qiu Jiongjiong puts it best during one interview, as he refers to the “clown spirit” as “the core and quintessence of my cinematic grammar,” and characterizes the clown as a figure of contradiction: “His humble, modest demeanour hides a brave soul; there is sadness and melancholy under a playful, clownish exterior.”

The mise–en–scene of A New Old Play also perfectly complements its

historical narrative and playful altitude. Instead of seeking photorealistic quality with expansive settings and costly CGIs, the director revives an ancient tradition of handmade craftsmanship. The film is shot entirely in obviously contrived sets with stage props and painted canvas, and forgoes any sense of depth as the cinematographer operates the camera to move only horizontally. To give one simple yet brilliant example, the film uses huge plastic bags blown by wind to mimic the turbulent waves of a river. The result is a film that actually resembles a play (as the title suggests); however, in intentionally creating a sense of comical foreignness, it also magically approaches history and reality even closer in an expressionistic manner.

A New Old Play is without doubt a wholly cinematic experience. While its usage of Sichuan dialect personally struck me deeply in bringing me back to my homeland of Chongqing, it will provide a mesmerizing, breathtaking ride for every audience, as grand as the scope of Chinese history and mythology and as intimate as one’s noble struggle against destiny.

Released by Icarus Films, A New Old Play is still touring in sporadic theaters around the United States. If you happen to catch one of its screenings, remember that as you exit the theater, you will not be the same person as you were three hours ago. k


The Story of GentileschiArtemisia Is Still Being Written

There’s so much to learn from this Italian Baroque Artist.

“Artemisia Gentileschi, was in almost every aspect of her life, a path breaker … [she] established herself as an equal of any male artist of her time” says History of Art professor Sheila Barker. “Because of her unorthodox and brazen path in life, [she] was always surrounded by controversy.” Hundreds of years after her death c. 1656, Gentileschi remains the subject of debate. Recently, the curators of an ex -

hibition at the Gallerie d’Italia in Naples titled “Artemisia Gentileschi in Naples” have given full attributions to the artist for four works. Because Gentileschi collaborated extensively with other painters in her studio, the question of attribution is complicated and subject to much academic discourse.

Of the 21 images involved in the exhibition, Triumph of Galatea (c. 1650) is one that has been re–evaluated in terms of au -

thorship. The painting is on loan from the National Gallery of Art, which attributes the work solely to Cavallino, claiming that “examination of the work has found no evidence of the separate hands of both Artemisia, to whom the commission was awarded, and Cavallino.” Curators of the Naples exhibition, on the other hand, believe that because the works were created in Gentileschi’s workshop she “is the owner of the commission and the creator

Illustration: Callia Thornton

of the composition,” as Giuseppe Porzio says.

Difficulties and complexities surrounding the attribution process have also affected three other works of art originating in Gentileschi’s studio: Israelites Celebrating the Return of David , Bathsheba at her Bath , and Susanna and her Elders . Some attribute the works broadly to her workshop, and some to other male artists with whom she worked, like Bernardo Cavallino, Domenico Gargiulo, or Onogrio Palumbo. While attribution may seem like a minor nuance, in the case of Gentileschi especially, it is more than pertinent. Such a discovery, if convincing to the majority of Gentileschi scholars and curators, will give additional perspective into the artist’s fame. It will also allow the works to be better preserved for future generations, according to Barker, who also serves as the Executive Director of Studio Incamminati School for Contemporary Realist Painting and is the titular Founding Director of the Research Program on Women Artists at the Medici Archive Project. With a larger library of Gentileschi’s works, academics have the opportunity to uncover more about her technical skill, patronage, workshop, and overall contributions to artistic canon. Barker elaborates, “We learned more about the success of her business enterprise because the more we see multiple hands contributing to these paintings, the more we know that she had a bustling workshop full of lots of people working underneath her,” she says. “And of course, that multiplicity of hands is exactly why it’s so hard for our art critics and art experts to agree about an attribution.”

In terms of Gentileschi’s work, her unique story, including her mother’s death and her brutal rape as a teenager, are both reflected within and countered by each studied brush stroke. According to Barker, within Gentileschi’s work she discusses “not only the realities that men and women of her time deal with, but depicts a world in which the potentiality of individuals has no limits, and the great, the brave, the good, the courageous always win.”

Interestingly, although she was a woman living in a religiously conservative and masculinist society, Gentileschi was

widely recognized and celebrated. Her esteemed patrons included the King of Spain, Pope Urban the Eighth, and King Charles of England. Barker believes correct attributions allow us to see the wit and inventiveness behind her undeniable success—they expose the real issues that impact a woman’s ability to achieve and ultimately act as valuable shortcuts for helping women thrive even today. She asks, “how can we give young women with talent and drive the necessary things they need to excel and to reach their capacity and their potentiality for greatness?”

The developing story of Gentileschi

should motivate the art historical discipline to do more for women artists. Barker notes that even at Penn, only one history of art course dedicated entirely to a woman has been taught. While previous courses have focused on male artists like Michelangelo or Andy Warhol, only one such course was taught by Barker roughly two years ago. She hopes that the continued revision and relevance of Gentileschi will serve as a challenge to her colleagues, both at the University and beyond, stating that “the history of art is incomplete without [the] stories of women like Artemisia.” k

APRIL 2023 43
How can we give young women with talent and drive the necessary things they need to excel and to reach their capacity and their potentiality for greatness?

Cecily Nishimura Paints with an Experimental Twist

This student lives and breathes fine arts at Penn—always with a spirit of unrestrained creativity.

“Iwas told by my professors that when you’re in school, it’s really good to take the time to experiment,” Cecily Nishimura (C '23) tells me in a crowded coffee shop. So that’s what she tries to do.

As a senior at Penn who makes herself present in nearly every art–related field—with a major in design, and minors in fine arts, architecture, and art history—Cecily experiments and takes inspiration from all around. Her

latest works include animations, oil paintings, risographs, web design, and paintings on fabric. “I feel like this has been an ongoing thing with my academic career that I’ve been switching from one medium to a different one,” she says.

Graphic: Katrina Itona, Illustrations couresy of Cecily Nishimura

“It’s not that I get bored with it, I just like experimenting with different things.”

In the past, she’s done more animation and design projects, but while working on her theses this semester, Cecily wants to focus more on physical practices. “They’re more direct,” she muses. Along with these theses in fine arts and design, Cecily has been busy making a risograph zine and oil paintings in the last few classes of her Penn career.

For Cecily, inspiration comes from earlier periods of her life. Growing up in Providence, R.I., she was raised in the art community surrounding the Rhode Island School of Design, where her mother taught art history and now works in library administration. As a child and teenager, she took continuing education classes at RISD, as well as sewing lessons that now influence her practice.

This idea is present in her recent work, Dove : an oil painting of cloth framed by

ribbon, with a small dove cupped in two hands on top of the fabric, surrounded by cream–colored lace and ribbons. Cecily’s theme of experimentation strikes again.

“I wanted to push looking at different mediums and ways to create paintings that weren’t just oil paint.”

Her academic path at Penn has been as experimental as her art practice. Cecily came to Penn as a visual studies major, quickly switched to architecture, and then to design. With her three minors, though, she keeps herself in each pocket of the arts here on campus.

But each sphere influences the others. She tells me about how a religious studies and art history class trickled into her art practice with ideas of symbolism, and how her animations influence her paintings. The realization comes later, though: “When I approach it, I don’t necessarily think about the connections, but then afterward, it’s like there’ll be things

that [are informing] each other and [I’ll] draw connections between them.”

Cecily has been trying to loosen up with her style, as in her painting Girl with Horse this past semester, and an animation she made earlier called Where’s My Horse? One can’t help but draw connections between the two, as she does. After the tedious process that is animation, Cecily is painting more because it’s more “direct,” making it more natural and unrestrained.“This semester, I just want to be a bit more experimental,” she says. I find another recurring motif between her painting Dove and her risograph zine, both of which include images of birds.

From all the art she’s shown me, I know Cecily has accomplished just that. She takes advantage of the luxury of being able to experiment and decide what you like in college, which is a reminder that many students on the Penn career conveyor belt need. k

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Corecore: TikTok’s Exercise in Technological Pessimism

Corecore is as absurd as it is cynical. But do these virtual collages of technology’s ills say anything new?

TikTok is full of hashtags that end in “–core”: cottagecore, balletcore , bormcore. Each of these “cores” relates to an aesthetic

or a micro–trend. For example, videos under #balletcore show young women, who are mostly not actual ballerinas, dressing in soft pink, frilly

pieces and tying their hair with ribbon. A “–core” on TikTok refers to a certain aesthetic that fringes on being disingenuous.


Corecore embodies this spirit: Know Your Meme explains that corecore makes “a ‘core’ out of the collective consciousness of all ‘cores.’” Corecore uses videos we see on an everyday basis that, alone, are insignificant, and stitches them together to evoke emotion, usually sadness or loneliness. The people making corecore videos are not necessarily experts in human culture or emotion, but make videos that comment on and evoke these feelings nonetheless. Corecore has recently taken the internet by storm, with its hashtag having 1.4 billion views on TikTok.

It’s hard to truly understand what corecore is because, as with every TikTok trend, the idea seems to change with

every video. There isn’t one singular set of requirements for a video to be corecore; it seems that anything, if it’s weird and sad and deemed “real” enough, can be corecore. TikTok user @masonoelle—who is credited as one of the earliest adopters of corecore—posted a statement to TIME magazine on their Instagram, stating that “The whole point of this stuff is to create something that can’t be categorized, commodified, made into clickbait, or moderated—something immune to the functions of control that dictate the content we consume and the ideas we are allowed to hold.”

Chance Townsend, a writer for Mashable, writes that corecore videos originally sought “to push a certain message, with either an anti–capitalist or environmentalist “slant.” These origins are still present.

For example, one video under the corecore hashtag opens with Doja Cat’s red, bedazzled look at Paris Fashion Week, where her face is painted red and her body is covered in 30,000 Swarovski crystals. The video then cuts to a clip of someone explaining that she “can’t afford to drink, can’t afford to get food, can’t even afford a hamburger.” Working a regular 9–5 is no longer paying the bills. The dichotomy of these two clips evokes an unpleasant, visceral response. In this way, corecore nudges social unrest, making artful commentary on society’s issues.

Here, technology and our society’s constant need for grander, bigger, and better played a role in Doja Cat’s exorbitant look. Meanwhile, the rest of “us” struggle to afford basic necessities—making corecore videos a commentary on the ailed state of the world.

Another video under #corecore received 7.0 million views and 1.9 million likes. It starts with a screen recording of quickly flipping through the TikTok app, overlaid with a screeching “beeeeep” and a viral TikTok sound. The screen flips faster and faster, then cuts to a black screen with white words: “Wake up.”

The music changes to slow piano, and we see people in moving chairs drinking soda from WALL–E, clips of everyday people on their phones in the streets, the bill-

boards of New York, and clips of speeches of Mark Zuckerberg. Someone warns that our era now may be “the last interaction we had, and there’s something beautiful in that.” It encompasses the idea corecore seems to offer: We are slipping toward a depressing, lonely world in which everything is the same and nothing truly matters.

This video more directly accuses technology as the cause of our society’s pitfalls. People are no longer connected to each other, no longer able to live in the moment.

Corecore touches on other subjects as well—yet another video under the hashtag shows clips of interviews with men who are asked to rate themselves on a scale from one to ten. They reply with low ratings. It then shows an interview with Billie Eilish, who asks, “Why is every pretty girl with a horrible looking man?” The video itself is self–pitying: at once frustrated at the way that society has decided to portray men and a method of letting out their frustrations.

There are corecores that comment on the experiences of women, too. One video shows the dangers of being a woman, of how women of different races are fetishized, of women deemed “submissive” being more attractive. Another remarks on how women are not treated as humans—our culture allows everyone to view women as “lesser than” without consequence.

Corecore ultimately is commentary about the state of our world, about how technology and our culture is slowly ruining us. It’s a result of how disconnected people in our culture feel—technology, hate, and fear has taken over so much of our lives. Technology is scary. We are starting to feel its extremely harmful effects, and it’s clear that people feel thezse effects will only become more pronounced.

Corecore is a symptom of our technological ailments. It juxtaposes the “all is well” style of TikToks that are aesthetically pleasing or more humorous. Despite its pessimistic tone, perhaps viewing corecore provides a sort of catharsis second only to fixing the problems raised by technology itself. k

APRIL 2023 47
Illustration: Katrina Itona

A Marxist Anal ysis of Fred Again

How has the mystical power of capitalism reached the heart of house music?


I reach for my phone and a text glares at me, pulsating with urgency.


Despite my utter inability to describe this person, I do not hesitate to pull up Ticketmaster, getting in line for this Fred Again male. Whoever he is, I must get tickets. Energy courses through my body, tingling in my fingers as I wait in line. I am number 2,000 on Ticketmaster. Soon it will be my time to purchase tickets to Sir Fred Again. After all, it is Fred Again.

But who is Fred Again? Why has the world stopped, why am I suspended in a titillating game of chance, fighting the Ticketmaster gods to purchase a ticket?

At lunch with my friends, the same energy courses through my body. My friends and I are unable to form cohesive sentences. The name Fred Again is repeated with such frequency that his spirit imbues the air with a very tangible energy. We look at each other, somberly agreeing to pay up to $150. Again, I am not really sure who he is.


One hour, two hours. We get into Ticketmaster heaven and yet the system crashes. The gods don’t bless us with tickets. The air that was charged one second ago collapses. Empty vacuum. Faces crumble. No Fred Again.

No worries. It was just a concert. Just a concert that sold out Madison Square Garden in less than two hours. Just a concert.

My friends and I get a text later that evening. $125 each for four tickets. Take it or leave it. The air is charged again. We take it. Who is Fred Again?

Post–ticket mania, I google Fred Again. I do know some of his songs! Fantastic, money well spent.

The rest of the week a strange feeling comes over me. Despite my utter inability to explain who Fred Again is, what the stuff of his music is and why he held the ability to tear me away from the tranquility of Moelis, Fred Again assumes, in my mind, the position of a status good. I casually ask friends if they’re going to his concert, nonchalantly throwing his name out and proudly, yet subtly (I don’t want to be too ostentatious) mentioning that I did indeed manage to acquire tickets. I am going, you are not. Don’t worry, next time!

The phenomena are strange. How is it that Frederick John Philip Gibson, the 29–year–old DJ, single handedly sold out Madison Square Garden with a two–hour notice within two hours? How did Gibson manage to create an informal market with astronomical prices completely at odds from the actual use–value, or material value, of his product? And why has his name, rolling off my tongue with a soft confidence, come to assume a value equivalent to any Moncler, any Canada Goose, any Balenciaga school bag? Sure, it’s Fred Again. But why?

These are big questions, questions that consumed Karl K. Marx for more than ten years and cost him several boils on his rear side. They are the stuff of his four volumes of Das Kapital . So how can we begin to tackle these

questions, explain what happened in the span of four hours on an otherwise calm Wednesday afternoon? Marx would attribute this phenomenon to none other than commodity fetishism.

Despite Fred Again’s lack of support from many true DJ fans, his ability to construct artificial hype enabled him to transform his concert into a commodity— one comprised of use value and exchange value that can be bought and sold in markets. Through the mechanisms in these markets in this case the dual Ticketmaster market and informal market created—an arbitrary value for the concert came to exist, a value innately at odds with the intrinsic worth of the concert and, equally, the inputted labor. After all, how can an arbitrary number, $125 for example,

possibly capture the value of music, mired in art and sound and experience and music? How can it capture the amount of labor involved, from Skrillex’s Tumblr–reminiscent performance to the on -

stage light show, the very social relations constituting the concerts?

The answer is that this arbitrary number cannot convey the real value of the concert. It’s just a made–up product of capitalist market forces. Its consequences, however, should not be taken as lightly.

Graphics: Cynthia Dong

Consider the interplay between music as art and capitalism—are these two notions not antithetical, music representing an art of high form that should remain unscathed by capitalism? Marx cannot help but agree. Though he might have opted for Frederic Chopin or Franz Schubert as his choice of music, the fact remains that Fred Again constitutes music in this day and age. Yet, the reselling of it had the very effect of allowing music as art to fall prey to capitalism and wedding art in a quest for profit. Despite the concert being incredibly fun, with Fred’s music possessing me in a quasi–spiritual experience, the bureaucratic procedures surrounding Fred’s concert screamed profit–making.

The effect? The concert and the term Fred Again transcended the very art they were mired to, transforming into high–value commodities in and of themselves, uplifted by the clamoring arms of fans clinging to the purported hype of Gibson. His actual music? Secondary to the phenomena occurring.

As such, on that fine Wednesday afternoon, I did not buy a concert ticket. I invested in a commodity with short–lived social status, encouraging the ultimate modern expression of abstraction from art, allowing said "art" to transcend its innate form and assume a shell of value. Nice.

But why exactly did this reduction of art as art occur? In other words, why was I gripped by a fervent need to wait for 2,000 people to buy tickets just so that I might get a chance? Though social me -

dia hype and marketing no doubt play a role here, Marx posits that it is the phenomena of commodity fetishism that enables this feat. The monetary number attributed to tickets by Ticketmaster exists at odds with the true amount of labor input involved in the concert production. Ticketmaster did not bother to ask questions about the social relations involved, and neither did excited resellers, reducing the concert to a superficial relationship between concert as commodity and ticket buyers.

The labor, the real life, the human core of the product became obscured. Instead, the market value of the commodity became the inherent property of the commodity itself. The concert, in the eyes of ticket buyers, became a mere shell of value, abstracted from its artistic art value and labor input. Through this arbitrary allocation of value, these commodities come to appear more valuable than they are, evidenced by the fact that I dropped Bakunin in honor of said Fred Again. A mystical quality to say the least.

A big cheer to Fred Again, a concerto of capitalism orchestrated by a master capitalist who steered my little queer leftist self on a bus to New York to experience two hours of bopping in the flash of the stroboscopic lights of Madison Square Garden … all before spitting me back to Philadelphia in a 3 a.m. Megabus. Capitalism may fall short in a lot of regards but it is, indisputably and admittedly, fun. Sorry, Marx. Well played, Fred. k


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