Music, Mayhem and Magic at the Troc

For Fans Of: The Arctic Monkeys, Kasbian, The Strokes (as if that weren’t a given)

Download This Now: “Out of the Blue,” “Ludlow St.”

I’m a Strokes enthusiast and Julian Casablancas fan, but I sat nervous before his Sunday night performance at the Trocadero.

Between reading less-than-stellar reviews of his solo album, Phrazes for the Young, and recollections of drunken Strokes performances plastered across YouTube, it was all I could do not to storm out of the Troc screaming, “I can’t watch!”

Ok, bit of an exaggeration, but I had my doubts.

After a 90-minute wait for the opening band (despite a set stage), lights dimmed for the first set, and we were hit with (literal) jungle noises blaring from the stage, courtesy of opening act Tanlines.

Despite the onslaught, the Brooklyn-based experimental-pop duo moved the crowd. The combination of colorful stage lighting, music so loud the seats vibrated and a keyboardist who couldn’t stand still to save his life culminated in a sea of dancing bodies amid the floor crowd, and legit head nodding in the balcony.

45 minutes after Tanlines closed, the lights again dimmed and a six-piece band poured onto the stage: two drummers, two keyboardists and two guitarists. However, there could have been 10 musicians on stage; half of the band played multiple instruments over the course of the night, rotating keys to percussion to bass, plus vocal contribution. One drummer even broke out a cowbell.

Their leader, Casablancas strolled on stage, decked vest to boots in black leather, looking irreverently cool (despite all the cow) with shaggy hair and a, “yeah, I just woke up, but it’s OK ‘cause it’s me” gait.

The set opened with a country-esque tune, which Casablancas’ voice carried with a deep, faux-drunken drawl. Subsequent songs were like musical Matryoshka, with genres folding into each other on every track. In any given song you found 80s pop rock wrapped in soul, cuddled with rave-synth and tucked in tight by a taste of Johnny Cash. I swear there was even a dash of early 90s R&B in there.

On par with the music was a near-acrobatic display of energy from Casablancas. In the middle of the show, Casablancas leaned singing against a speaker, which, upon gauging stability, he hoisted himself on top of. After standing on it for a second, he proceeded to climb into the balcony and walk as far as his cord length allowed into a cluster of fans (of whom I will not admit my jealousy).

When his cord ran out—after the crew rushed to untangle what was left of it onstage—Casablancas turned and stepped over the balcony railing onto a thin ledge to sing. A few seconds in, he (remembering gravity once again) stepped back into the balcony before climbing back onto the speaker, and down to the stage to finish the song.

My jaw = practically dislodged.

Knowing his performance wouldn’t be complete sans a Strokes cover, Casablancas and a keyboardist eased into a rendition of “I’ll Try Anything Once,” a B-side which some in the crowd thought was a slow version of “You Only Live Once.” Different songs, I assure you.

Blind adoration aside, the show was an energetic display of talent by Casablancas and the accompanying band. I left the Troc, scanning walls for posters to snag and quietly laughing at myself for having doubted.

Casablancas is the lead singer of The Strokes, the band that practically revived playing great music with effortless cool. How could his performance be less? To quote Phrazes, when it comes to supporting performers you love, “your faith has got to be greater than your fear.”

Lesson learned.

You can contact Kara Ashe at

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

I attended the Pennsylvania Ballet Academy of Music production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker just a few days after Christmas. The Avenue of the Arts was a beautiful, glowing blue of city lights and freezing, chilling winds. The theatre appeared crowded, a bit chaotic, and well lit, with those famous, dazzling chandeliers.

The ballet opens with a lovely overture followed by the classic scene of opening presents and the first appearance of the beloved Nutcracker gift. This sequence is done very well, with all the dancing toys and children, introducing a carefree, youthful joy to the mood and atmosphere. This is followed by an elaborate dream sequence with fighting rats and soldiers, and of course, the heroic Nutcracker.

The second act takes place in the land of the sweets, and includes the much loved dance of the sugar plum fairies. This act has by far the better music, and dancing as well.

The show features magnificent choreography, incredible discipline, extravagant costumes and impressive scenery, a personal favorite set of mine being the second act’s magical candy cane dream land.

There are also many staging special effects like during the Rat King/toy soldier/Nutcracker battle sequence, where the glowing blue Christmas grows at least twenty feet and then the Nutcracker moves across the stage in a bed, via a track/pulley system presumably.

There’s also a great deal of stage planning evident at the ballet’s end when the two lovers sail away on a ship into the clouds, a conclusion that embodies the pure fantasy and joyful celebration so essentially prevalent in this story.

There’s also a breathtaking point where a female dancer, I believe it was the Sugar Plum Fairy, remains balanced on the very tips of her toes while gliding slowly across the stage through sheer skill and concentration, and most likely a seamless special effect; a truly wonderful moment. Amy Aldridge did a superb job in this role.

There was an interactive text messaging question/answer aspect to this show which is a new tactic being used to encourage audience participation and engaged interaction. There were a couple questions displayed throughout the theatre and the audience could text their answers to questions like, “Which Nutcracker character would you most like to be?”

I thought the new technique was a fun and interesting way to keep kids and parents engaged, but I would have found it more effective to display the answers or send a text response with results in return.

The boys’ choir also sang along with the orchestra for a brief period, and contributed a moving, beautiful performance as well. Their dreamy, innocent voices really added a fitting quality to the mood and sound of the scene.

The most impressive performers may have to be the talented children, ranging in age from about five to fifteen, who were tight, in synch, and energetic. I was really amazed by their abilities and coordination, considering their extremely young age and experience level (not to mention the challenging costumes they were wearing).

The only thing really missing in this well-rehearsed, well-executed performance was a little more drama and emotion during occasional sequences. At times, it seemed to rush from scene to scene without much build-up or transition, especially between the male and female romantic dances. However, the ballet itself is very light and happy, and I feel they handled the material very well in that regard; there just could have been a bit more contrast between the light and dark.

All in all, attending The Nutcracker was a very enjoyable experience and I would recommend it to anyone trying to get in the holiday spirit and see a great show in the process.

And don’t worry—if you missed the production this year, this has undoubtedly become a Philadelphia tradition and will be with the city for years to come.

Happy New Year!

You can contact Allison Saft at

Flyers Update: Sixth in the Conference

Riding a three game winning streak, the Dallas Stars came to town on Jan. 12.

Michael Leighton still in the net, the Flyers started fast with the opening goal by Scott Hartnell. Dallas tied it early in the second, but the team responded with a goal from Darroll Powe. The Flyers scored three more goals in the second period. Simon Gagne made it 6-1 early in the third and the Flyers won 6-3.

Ray Emery was activated and was Leighton’s backup in his return from injury.

Thursday, the Flyers were in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs for the second time in about a week. The Flyers were a totally different team from the won that easily took care of Toronto last week. The game was scoreless until the second when Toronto scored twice. They added two more in the third for a dominant win.

Scott Hartnell missed the game with the flu and Danny Syvret will be out for a month after suffering a separated shoulder against Dallas.

The team headed to Washington last Sunday afternoon. Emery started his first game in over a month.

The Flyers played very well and opened the scoring with a wrist shot goal from Jeff Carter. Former Flyer Mike Knuble tied the game quickly. James Van Riemsdyk wasted no time getting the lead back. And that lead was gone about four minutes later.

The team struggled after that and the Caps took advantage. Washington got a power play in the second and a shorthanded goal in the third. Still trying to tie the game, Braydon Coburn pulled down Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway. He was awarded a penalty shot and scored to finish off the Flyers. Danny Briere scored a late goal in the loss.

The Flyers returned home on Tuesday to begin a six game homestand.

RJ Umberger and coach Ken Hitchcock returned to Philly with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers were up 2-0 when Umberger scored twice in the second to tie it. Jeff Carter got the lead back with his second of the game on a goal right off the face-off. Chris Pronger scored a late second period goal that was the eventual game-winner in a 5-3 Flyers win. Dan Carcillo scored the last goal.

The Flyers got a huge win on Thursday against the Rangers. Van Riemsdyk scored the opening goal in the first period. Mike Richards had a power play goal late in the second and that was all Ray Emery needed for his first shutout in a long time.

The Flyers faced the Carolina Hurricanes in the last meeting on Saturday afternoon. The Flyers came out firing and got a highlight-reel goal from Carcillo early in the opening stanza.

Carolina got a late power play goal in the first. The Flyers seemed to be out of the game for most of the second, but woke up late when Pronger and Carter scored less than two minutes apart. Carolina cut the lead in half but Carter sealed it with an empty-net goal for a 4-2 win.

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a visit on Sunday afternoon. The game was very tight and very defensive and there were not many shots combined between the two teams.

Jeff Carter scored the opening goal from behind the net. Penalties hurt the Flyers as the Penguins scored both goals on the power play. They tied the game in the first.

Both teams had chances, but not that many. Late in the third, Kimmo Timonen took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck out of play. The Penguins scored on that power play and won the game 2-1.

The Flyers are sixth in the Eastern Conference. They are off until this Thursday, Jan. 28 when the Atlanta Thrashers come to town. The New York Islanders will face the black and orange at home on Saturday, Jan. 30.

You can contact Colin Fry at

Flyers Update: It's Looking Up

December is finally over for the Flyers and it could not have come soon enough for the orange and black. The Flyers struggled mightily in the last month of 2009 but finished on a high note and they have carried that into the New Year.

Four days before Christmas, the Flyers hosted the Florida Panthers in their last home game of the calendar year. The team was badly outplayed and was beaten 4-1. They were also beaten when Brian Boucher had to leave the game after having his finger cut during the game. Michael Leighton, a former Flyer who was recently claimed off waivers, finished the game.

The team began a six game road trip that Wednesday which took them to Florida. Leighton was given the reigns to the net with Ray Emery already out and Boucher recovering. The team looked better and won 5-2 against Tampa Bay in their last game before Christmas.

The day after Christmas, the Flyers were up 3-0 in the third period against Carolina with 11 minutes to go. The Hurricanes stormed back to tie it and force the game into a shootout. The Flyers pulled it out.

They escaped New York with a 2-1 win against the Islanders the next day. The team fought hard despite getting in late because of problems with their flight.

The team remained in New York to face the Rangers in their last game of 2009. The Flyers made the Rangers look like nothing as they demolished them, 6-0. Leighton made 22 saves and Simon Gagne had a natural hat trick in the win.

The Flyers first game of 2010 was the first NHL game of the New Year. In what has become an NHL spectacle, the Flyers were picked to compete in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins. The game took place at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. Over 40,000 people were on hand, many of them Flyers fans. The game was very competitive and a good defensive battle. Dan Carcillo took part in the first fight in the three year history of the Classic. After a scoreless first, Danny Syvret scored his first NHL goal in the second period.

The Flyers held the lead until there was less than three minutes remaining in the third. Former Flyer Mark Recchi tied the game when he deflected in a power play goal. The game went into overtime, the second one in three years. Marco Sturm tipped home the game-winning goal, about two minutes in.

The last two teams to win the Winter Classic have gone on to the Stanley Cup Finals, but both have lost.

The Flyers finished their road trip in Ottawa last Sunday. In a very strange game, the Flyers led 1-0 before trailing 4-1 after the first period. Leighton was pulled. The Flyers tied the game in the second. In the third, the Senators scored three goals and won 7-4. Alex Kovalev had four goals for Ottawa.

The Flyers returned home on Wednesday to face Toronto for the first time this season. The Flyers led 4-0 in this game before the two teams traded four goals in the third period. The Flyers won easily 6-2. Danny Briere scored two goals and picked up his 500th career point. James Van Riemsdyk scored for the first time in 10 games.

Thursday, the Flyers looked for their first win against Pittsburgh this season. The Flyers were the better team coming in as the Pens had lost five of their last six. The Flyers came out very well and had two two-goal leads in the first which both turned into one goal leads. The Flyers lead 3-2 after one.

The Flyers kept up the pressure in the second and scored two more, the first of which resulted in the exit of Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Jeff Carter scored his second and Mike Richards added an empty-netter as the Flyers won 7-4.

The Flyers looked to keep the roll going on Saturday against Tampa Bay. They dominated most of the game except for early in the third. The Flyers lead 1-0 when Peter Laviolette called a time-out early in the third, and it worked! Scott Hartnell broke a lengthy slump. Tampa stayed in it with a goal with seven minutes remaining. Then, of all people, Blair Betts took over the game and finished with two goals, one of the empty-net kind. The final was 4-1.

The Flyers resume play today, Jan. 12 when Dallas pays a visit. The Flyers will visit Toronto and Washington on Thursday and Sunday before beginning a six game homestand.

You can contact Colin Fry at