Events

2018 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

For pop culture junkies, it’s easy to go way too hard at the Vulture Festival knowing that you could be getting the inside scoop on Syfy’s Deadly Class one moment and touring Grand Central Market with Phil Rosenthal and Nancy Silverton the next. We learned our lesson from last year and paced ourselves accordingly on Sunday, focusing on a handful of the festival’s returning “signature” events. Read on for some of our favorite moments from Day Two.

Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay Host Feminist AF

There’s nothing like a good walkout jam, and co-hosts Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay nailed it with a throwback to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” as they took the stage alongside guests America Ferrera, Ada Limón and Carmen Maria Machado for their Feminist AF reading series. Gay began by reminding the audience that just last week, 110 women were elected to the United States Congress. This transitioned nicely into a reading of “Be a Good Boy,” from the collection Forty-Four Stories about Our Forty-Four Presidents; the flash fiction piece centers around an intimate moment between John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie in their White House bedroom as John considers how the building does not feel like home.

Poet Ada Limón captivated the audience with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” a visceral evocation of female strength through the image of an “8-pound female horse heart.” Though the poem was written several decades ago, it was recently published in her collection Bright Dead Things and won a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Carmen Maria Machado followed with her self-described “hit single,” “The Husband Stitch,” from Her Body and Other Parties. The story—whose title refers to an extra stitch given during the repair process after a vaginal birth, supposedly to tighten the vagina for increased pleasure of a male sexual partner—plays on the schoolyard tale of the girl who wears a mysterious green ribbon around her neck.

Pants-sharing BFFs America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn closed out the reading series, each sharing intimate, emotional essays. Ferrera read an excerpt from her personal contribution to an anthology she recently edited, called American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures; the essay discusses a trip to Honduras when Ferrera encountered her estranged father’s grave by happenstance. Tamblyn followed by taking us back to Election Night 2016—a night she spent at the Javits Center in Manhattan amongst fellow Hillary Clinton supporters, watching “Katy Perry anxiously chew[ing] on a celery stick.” Tamblyn’s essay, from her upcoming collection Era of Ignition, follows her journey through carrying a pregnancy to term post-election and her worry about keeping her daughter safe in this world. She ended her reading by playing a recording of her daughter’s heartbeat, eliciting heavy sighs and a smattering of sniffles from the audience.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast Live!

At this point, our Vulture Festival experience wouldn’t be complete without an absurd musical number from Rachel Bloom. Thanks to Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino of Off Book—an improvised musical podcast, just like the tagline says—a lucky handful of folks got to experience just that, in an oddly fitting velveted lounge in the basement of The Hollywood Roosevelt.

McKenna and Reino are forces of improv nature, spinning a hilarious melodic tale about Disneyland’s Tower of Terror ride right before our very ears. There was fantasy! There was drama! There was a song about STDs! At one point, they even sang a number about being forces of literal nature with McKenna’s “Lightning” and Reino’s “Thunder” shepherding special guest Bloom along in her role as “Hurricane.” I can definitively say that I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. And, as McKenna and Reino told the audience, it’s impossible to experience that exact musical ever again.

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Music

Two Brothers’ Epic Journey Through Their Dad’s 1,000+ CDs

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to a CD. And I don’t mean pressing play on Drake’s latest release on Spotify—I’m talking about sliding in a scratch-free holographic disc into your mid-2000s MacBook, or perhaps popping one into your Sony boombox’s top-loading tray, if you’re feeling fancy.

But if you were to ask brothers Shawn and Cameron Jefts about their current familiarity with these relics of the recent past, they could probably tell you dozens of hours worth of stories. In fact, they’ve done just that, in a podcast called Pop/Rock, which older brother Shawn describes as “two brothers who haven’t spoken to one another in ten years listen to one of the 1,000 some-odd CDs in their father’s collection one week at a time in alphabetical order while their parents continue to deny that they gave away their oldest son’s dog when he was 15.”

Read on for a chat with the bi-coastal duo about cataloging their father’s CD collection, growing up in Alaska, and the podcast’s origins in a Facebook post about colored hair gels.

How did you come up with the idea for this podcast?

Shawn Jefts: Cameron and I reconnected a year ago or so when I got married. I thought the podcast might be a good way to keep that connection alive and simultaneously pay tribute to our dad [Bobby Jefts] while making good-natured fun of him. I floated the idea to him in a Facebook message, cryptically asked our mom to send me a picture of our dad’s CD collection (which is on three big shelves in the living room), and we were off.

Cameron Jefts: This is absolutely Shawn’s fault. A few months ago, as part of the lead-up for an intimacy-themed variety show, I was asked the question, “What is the sexiest (or least sexy) thing you’ve ever done?” So I posted a goofy little story on Facebook about my sixth-grade experiences with brightly-colored hair gels:

 

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Shawn responded with a thoughtful reflection on reflection, I lobbed a C- joke about our shared love of Daft Punk’s Discovery album, and then—out of nowhere—Shawn throws the idea down on the table:

 

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Could you give a little history about your dad, his CD collection, and his relationship with music?

Cameron: I DJ’d for my college radio station, and one day, I was just kicking back playing The Shins or whatever, and I looked up at the station’s founding charter hanging in a big frame on the wall to see our dad’s name on it. I mean, come on. Bobby’s influence.

Shawn: Our dad is the biggest music fan I’ve ever known. I remember our mom complaining quite often about the amount of CDs he purchased. When we were kids, he would often try to share his music with us, but what 8-year-old kid wants to listen to his dad’s music? Anyway, the older I get, the more I’ve appreciated to love our dad’s quirks, like his lifelong commitment to things he personally experiences. We grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and bands don’t come here very often. The Presidents of the United States of America (remember “Peaches?”) came up here in 1994, and we went as a family. That was my first concert. Our dad will now buy every CD they release, on the day it is released. We listened to those CDs so many times that I know every lyric on them. All because they came up to Alaska once. Our parents came to visit me a few years ago in Los Angeles, and we went to a USC football game. Within five minutes of getting to the campus, I knew he’d be watching every USC game, every Saturday, thereafter.

What was the most surprising album that you found in your dad’s collection?

Cameron: We’re still cataloging everything, but the biggest surprise so far is how many compilation albums are in there. I only have specific memories of one of these (titled Happy Days Jukebox, a tie-in with the sitcom), but there’s all kinds of stuff in there: genre compilations, by-the-decade compilations, compilations from particular record labels, greatest hits albums. Some of my favorite titles are ’60s Frat Rock; Midnight Groove: The Art of Smooth Jazz; The Best of Country Sing The Best of Disney; Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us; and Front Porch Pickin’. I am unironically stoked to listen to each and every one of these. But in terms of being surprised by particular albums, I think the weird part is that everything totally fits. There are definitely a few that seem random—the Cheech Marin children’s album Me Llamo Cheech: El Chofer Del Autobus De La Escuela, for example, or the album Blooming Dynasty by the Chinese band The Flowers—but there’s a concrete explanation for everything. Our dad used to be a Spanish teacher, hence the Cheech, and I remember him telling me about how he purchased Blooming Dynasty during a trip to China after asking a taxi driver for some recommendations of local music.

Shawn: Cameron made me aware that some of the CDs on the shelf are not necessarily dad’s. Some are our mom’s, Cameron’s, or mine. Which, I would think, explains the presence of the Baja Men’s Who Let The Dogs Out on the shelf. Dad’s discovered that he really likes Beck recently, and that surprised me. The amount of random compilation CDs on the shelf is staggering. The Bee Gees’ One Night Only is out of place. There’s a Foreigner album I’m hoping isn’t his also.

Cameron: Yeah, Who Let the Dogs Out is definitely mine, as is Aaron Carter’s Oh Aaron and Samatha Mumba’s Gotta Tell You. Most of our CDs are in these big plastic storage bins in the garage with other childhood stuff, but it looks like a few made their way into the general collection over the years. There are also a few mysteries—are those two Josh Groban albums mom’s or dad’s? There’s a bit of a sleuthing component, is what I’m saying.

What are you up to when you’re not hanging out and listening to CDs?

Cameron: I live in New York, where I’m a dramaturg and a comedian, which is an absurd combination of things to be. I co-host and co-produce Paper Kraine, a monthly variety show of new comedic performance. We define comedy broadly, as “anything in the spirit of fun.” That’s also where I do live recordings of my other podcasting project, Imaginary Friends, which I’m also launching this summer. I’m also the dramaturg-in-residence for Forklift, the new works development series at The Loading Dock Theatre, and I work as a curator and creative consultant around the city. I also, like, do yoga and stuff sometimes?

Shawn: My wife just cranked out a baby seven weeks ago, so I mostly just change diapers now. I work as an attorney for a health care corporation in San Francisco. I play on an inclusive rugby team called the San Francisco Fog. I play hockey when I can. I have another weekly podcast about Cornhole culture and strategy called Man Seeking Cornhole. Don’t look for that podcast, that’s a joke.

The first six episodes of Pop/Rock are available to stream on SoundCloud and iTunes starting today.

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