A Box Opera, A Poetry Olympiad & Hiphop's Silver Anniversary

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:21

    So let's enjoy this week's dazzling bounty of events, which crackles underfoot like a blazing carpet of leaves. But hey, don't step on those boxers. Yeah, they're actually performance artists, but don't think for a second that the bout between Jonathan Ames and David Leslie is one of those acrobatic nonplays that rope tourists in every holiday season?y'know, The White Man Group?no, it's real. It's at least as real as the Holyfield-Lewis fiasco, the rematch of which will be broadcast on pay-per-view Saturday night. For those who haven't read in Ames' NYPress column about Wednesday's somewhat-lighter-weight fight, know that he and Leslie are training with actual boxing trainers?grizzled old guys like Mickey from Rocky, as I understand?and both want very much to prevail. No matter who triumphs, "Box Opera" is certain to win the all-time title for most sponsors of any downtown event?plus a special mention for being the very first one not funded in part by Time Out New York since the wannabe bible's logo-happy launch. (11/10, 8 p.m., at Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk St., betw. Houston & Stanton Sts., 477-5829, $20, $50 ringside.)

    Some ways to satisfy your God-given bloodlust less literally, more literarily, include Saturday afternoon's Poetry Olympiad, which pits students from various New York MFA-in-poetry programs against each other in a lively team slam. The prize is an engraved beer keg called the Silver Barrel, currently in the possession of the New School. But don't just go to root for your favorite grad school (I know), because Olympiad host Brooklyn Brewery will also award four $500 prizes for the best beer-related poems and artworks created on the back of Brooklyn beer coasters, and you may have entered this competition and forgot all about it (deadline was Sept. 30). If not, just cheer heartily, especially for Sarah Lawrence?the only team whose name fits the reliably stirring four-syllable, five-clap singsong sports chant. (11/13, 2 p.m., at the Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th St., betw. Wythe & Berry Sts., Williamsburg, 718-486-7422, free.)

    An even less raucous, yet no less hotly contested, battle will be staged Wednesday at the Museum of Television and Radio. As part of their new "Television and the Cold War" series, the museum is hosting a live panel discussion on the "The Culture of the Cold War," with William F. Buckley Jr. across the table from Nation publisher Victor Navasky. Not as entertaining as it would be if they boxed ("Will-iam Buck-ley!" Clap, clap?clap clap clap!), but still. (11/10, 7:30 p.m., 25 W. 52nd St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves., 621-6600, $10.)

    Those old 50s arguments can seem pretty live in an age where intellectual dispute rages over such Cheez-It-vs.Cheese Nip issues as whether hiphop turned 20 or 25 years old this year. It depends on whether one counts from the first hit records or, as the venerable Zulu Nation chooses to, from the date of the first birthday of the venerable Universal Zulu Nation: Nov. 12, 1974. Parties thrown by the Nation are to Gang Starr heads as The Nation is to Fugazi fans?which is to say they're potentially very enlightening. Thursday's Silver Anniversary bash, at the Cooler, will feature Dujeous? and Poor Righteous Teachers. PRT's last scheduled appearance, at Wetlands back on Erev Yom Kippur, turned out to be a blistering, mostly a cappella set by MC Wise Intelligent?the most righteous rapper to ever bless a mic, and apparently the only Poor Righteous Teacher left standing. (11/11, 9 p.m., 416 W. 14th St., betw. 9th & 10th Aves., 229-0785, $10.)

    Conveniently for transition-sentence-mongering me, both old commies and young conscious hiphoppers will enjoy visits from major musical heroes this week. Pete Seeger will discuss "Music in the History of Struggle," as part of a celebration of his 80th birthday, Friday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center. (11/12, 7 p.m., 310 W. 43rd St. betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 229-2388, $12, $10/adv., $5 for persons at least 62 years younger than Mr. Seeger.) And mighty-voiced, Gang-Starr-produced Jeru the Damaja will perform at the next SubVerse showcase, Tuesday at S.O.B.'s. Co-headlining this show is Bahamadia?another brilliant MC long past due for a new album. (11/16, 204 Varick St. at Houston St., 243-4940, $15.) If you don't know about Jeru or Bahamadia, consider picking up the recent compilations Best of D&D Studios Volume One or Soundbombing II, which are excellent and include historic contributions from those two, respectively.

    At the moment, your local corporate record store is well on its way to being packed to the gills with brand-new releases from market-tested rock stars. Either Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Metallica and Korn all coincidentally completed their big projects at once, or a whole lot of record company assholes are having the exact same fantasy about a huge fourth quarter. Despite what the music magazines are reporting, the new albums by each of the above are very much like the last hit albums by each of the above. Rage, for instance, can still only write sort-of-heavy riffs, and have again come up with so few of those as to require strict rationing?one per song. The Battle of Los Angeles was produced by Brendan O'Brien?an expert at crafting the hard sound that's not too hard for radio assholes, as he did for Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots?and has about as much going on in the low end as a Maxim covergirl.

    Foo Fighters' There Is Nothing Left to Lose is also lightweight, though intentionally, and with the big plus of some songwriting talent behind it. With this new one Dave Grohl joins the ranks of Paul McCartney and J. Mascis as another self-motivated star driven to put out top-notch solo singer-songwriter material under a band's name. Nothing is every bit as polished and fun to listen to as Band on the Run or Green Mind.

    I'll get to the rest of the hyped new releases as they hit the shelves. In the meantime, some hype of my own, for techno CDs no less: this group called Daddylonglegs, which is a Howie B project (he's the guy who helped U2 with Pop and Bjork with Homogenic), has a new album called Horse, which I recommend. Hard to describe?it's warm, lush and pulsating like My Bloody Valentine or ambient Aphex Twin, but with modern disco-Brit and triphop beats. Lemme just call it instrumental dance music you can get your head all the way into?dense and dubbed-out like Underworld or Orbital but with the abstract emotive weight of, say, Tricky without the rapping, or Pink Floyd without the heavy hand.

    Another electronic album that's been getting my blood flowing is Death in Vegas' The Contino Sessions, which seems to be designed for people who grew up on Bowie and Iggy, then moved on to Joy Division and the Pet Shop Boys. Like Spiritualized but not so Northern-soul striving, Contino features deeply hypnotic, almost gothic, dirge-rock. It'd be awesome if Death in Vegas could perform live in a domed room with lots of red velvet couches, but instead they're playing not-quite-so-lush Irving Plaza, next Wednesday, Nov. 17. (17 Irving Place at 15th St., 777-6800, $17/$15 adv.) For those who prefer not to move on, there's the Pet Shop Boys' 80s-classicizing new album Nightlife?as good as any other Pet Shop Boys album?as well as the Boys themselves, performing Thursday at Hammerstein Ballroom. (11/11, 311 W. 34th St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 564-4882, $35-$45.)

    And speaking of blood flowing, Film Forum is showing Roman Polanski's famously X-rated version of Macbeth starting Friday. (11/12-18, 209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.) As for other film happenings, there's the Mix Film Festival of gay and lesbian underground works. Opening night, Wednesday, will include a screening of the promising Gang Girls 2000. The first film by badass-chick photographer Katrina del Mar, it's a Super-8 short featuring Kembra Pfahler from Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Squid from the Lunachicks and, so far as I can tell, every single stunning, pierced and tattooed female bartender in the East Village, all playing murderous gangsters. (11/10, 9 p.m. at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave. at 2nd St., 505-5110; see mixnyc.org for festival schedule.)

    And speaking of squids, there's a 25-foot-long, 250-pound one newly on display at the American Museum of Natural History. They're billing this particular Architeuthis kirkii from New Zealand as the world's best-preserved specimen of the largest invertebrate on Earth. Check it out on your way to the 23rd-annual Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, at the AMNH from Friday until Nov. 20. This year's offerings include about 80 works, many followed by discussions with the directors. Documentary junkies like me do not want to miss American Gypsy, a five-years-in-the-making chronicle focusing on Romani civil rights battles in Spokane (11/16, 8:45 p.m., and 11/19, 6:30 p.m.); The Specialist, on the trial of Adolph Eichmann (11/18, 6:30 p.m.); or Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back, about life in a town on one of the Aleutian Islands and featuring an incredibly evocative soundtrack by the Boxhead Ensemble (11/18, 6:30 p.m.). Dammit?those last two are at the same exact day and time. (11/12-20, enter at 79th St. & Central Park W., 769-5305 or amnh.org/mead99 for info, $8 per program?90-120 minutes' worth of material?or four programs for $28, 10 for $65.)