Advance the Story: Remembering Jonathan Valania

“Your voice is smoking” — ”Jesus, Etc.,” Wilco BY JOEY SWEENEY | A life of writing teaches us this: If you do it right, you will have raked over enough coals so that when they come to visit after you’ve died, they will find a beautiful soft carpet of ashes to walk upon, and breathe in, and carry at the very least the whiff of the ancient lessons. This is a very Jonathan Valania-style lead to a piece, and I do it because I want to invoke him here, and because I also want to name the very first thing […]

Jonathan Valania: A Fundraiser and Celebration of Life

A night of remembrance — and fundraising: November 10 at the Pen & Pencil Club in Philadelphia There will be free food, a cash bar, some tears and laughs — and fundraising. Proceeds will support Phawker in perpetuity and a scholarship in Jonathan’s name at his alma mater, Moravian College.   Tickets are $50 each and must be purchased in advance. Can’t attend? You can still make your donation at the link. No tickets will be sold at the door — click the “Buy Your Ticket” button now to register and pay.   Jonathan was a leading voice in […]

R.I.P. MAGNET Senior Writer Jonathan Valania

MAGNET Magazine: We are beyond shocked and saddened to share that MAGNET senior writer Jonathan Valania passed away unexpectedly September 11. Valania (virtually no one ever referred to him by his first name) was an extraordinary writer whose lengthy cover stories and features helped define the editorial voice of the print magazine throughout our 25-year, 150-issue run. He literally traveled the world for MAGNET, hanging out with and interviewing musicians at length to give our readers a glimpse of a side of these artists they could never see on their own. Valania was a larger-than-life personality who was never afraid to […]

REST IN POWER: Jonathan Valania, writer and Philadelphia music and cultural scene fixture, dies at 55

The Phawker founder reviewed acts from Iggy Pop to Celine Dion, always with a strong point of view and language that “sparked off the page,” said Sam Wood, a former Inquirer reporter and friend. Jonathan Valania, a rocker turned widely respected music journalist, died Saturday, Sept. 11. He was 55. | Photo courtesy JoAnn Loviglio by Kristen A. Graham Published Sep 12, 2021 Jonathan Valania had a rocker’s swagger and a critic’s mind. People opened up to him, and then he told their stories to audiences large and small — sometimes reverently, sometimes bitingly, always with insight. For 30 years, he […]

INCOMING: Back In The Saddle

  A man who needs no last name, Willie is to Country what Neil is to rock: the Buddha, bestowing laid-back grace on all those who bask in his benevolent THC-tinged glow. Born April 30, 1933, in Abbott, Texas, Nelson begins writing songs at age seven. After serving briefly in the Air Force during the Korean War and studying agriculture at Baylor University, Nelson moves through a series of luckless, low-paying career changes–disc jockey, door-to-door vacuum and encyclopedia salesman. By 1958, in dire financial straits and married with children, Nelson is forced to sell his songs for cheap (“Night Life,” […]

NPR 4 THE DEAF: David Byrne On Bullseye

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER NPR: David Byrne is, of course, the lead singer and frontman of the Talking Heads. The band recorded hit songs like “Psycho Killer,” “Life During Wartime,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” and so many more. He is also a solo artist in his own right and has recorded instrumental electronic albums, pop records, and spoken word. He’s collaborated with Brian Eno, St. Vincent, Philip Glass, and Selena to name a few. He’s written books, scored soundtracks, even wrote and directed his own movie, 1986’s True Stories. If you wanted to find a common […]

TONIGHT: Free Brittany!

Artwork by XZIRTAEBX Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama — by a postal worker, a nuclear plant night watchmen, an animal clinic worker and a house painter — as a viable alternative to watching the cars rust, which was the prevailing pastime in Athens at the time. Having weathered a dues-paying, teeth-cutting cover band purgatory of sports bars and country dives and all the mightier for it, the Shakes began building buzz when the breathless blogger hype proved not just believable but vastly understated. On 2012’s million-selling Boys And Girls, Alabama Shakes sounded like Exile On Main […]

LIVE MUSIC: Laura Mann’s Got A New Living Room

  BY DYLAN LONG Walking her dog along the streets of Ardmore last summer, Philly music scene veteran Laura Mann happened upon a distinctive Masonic building that struck her fancy. “I have to see the inside of it, she said to herself. Fast forward to September 4, 2021, Ardmore will officially become home to the new-and-improved Living Room 35 E, a 300-400 music space pioneered by Laura Mann, a veteran of the Philly music scene. Located at 35 E. Ardmore Avenue, the titular venue is a precise set of steps away from her previous space, Living Room 35 East, notably […]


  BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR I was always surprised that Tom T. Hall wasn’t recognized during the Great Alt-Country Scare of the 1990s in the way that, say, Johnny Cash and, to a lesser extent, Willie Nelson were.  Sure, there was the obligatory tribute album to The Storyteller (as TTH was often called) that included No Depression stalwarts at the time such as Richard Buckner, Joe Henry, Iris Dement, and Whiskeytown.  They called it Real: The Tom T. Hall Project and it almost seemed like a reclamation effort to rescue the great man from obscurity.  Hall was an […]

IN MEMORIAM: Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

  NEW YORK TIMES: Indeed, Mr. Watts was a man of contradictions — a jazzman in the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, an old-fashioned gentleman among pirates and bad boys, a homebody who spent much of his work life on the road. It was also his contradictions — his loose, swinging style combined with his love of precision; his idiosyncratic technique combined with his remarkable versatility — that made him such an exceptional drummer, and the perfect musical partner for Keith Richards in forging the Stones’s signature sound. As the band’s former bass player Bill Wyman recalled: “Every band […]

BEING THERE: Garbage @ BB&T Pavilion

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER Any aging Gen-X-er worth their scuffed-up Doc Martens will wax nostalgic for music’s middle-alt era, but Thursday night’s show at BB&T pavilion was better than any Third-Eye-Blind reunion supported by the Spin Doctors and the Nixons.  A pandemic postponement from last year, Alanis Morissette’s now-25th-plus-1 celebration of the release of her seminal 1995 debut record Jagged Little Pill traded originally scheduled supporting guest Liz Phair for Cat Power, and retained post-grunge synth-rockers Garbage when it came to at long last to the BB&T Pavillion on Thursday. Twenty-eight years on now, after their inception as drummer and […]

CINEMA: The Candyman Cometh

CANDYMAN (Directed by Nia DaCosta, 91 minutes, 2021, USA) BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC No horror movie monster has as much socio-political bite as the titular demon in Candyman, Clive Barker’s riff on the Bloody Mary same-my-name trope. The first film in the series, 1992’s Candyman setup the franchise’s tragic origin myth, introducing us to Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), a late 19th Century artist and son of a slave killed by an angry mob when he fell in love with and fathered a child with the white daughter of a wealthy landowner. Daniel wasn’t simply lynched either, these things require […]