The Disco Diva’s Diva An interview with the legendary Linda Clifford

As disco divas go, few are as down-to-earth, warm, and genuine as Linda Clifford. Forty years after the release of her breakout album If My Friends Could See Me Now was released, featuring the chart-topping dance club hit title track, Clifford is still hard at work, regularly touring as one of the First Ladies of Disco (along with Martha Wash, Evelyn “Champagne” King, and Norma Jean Wright) and performing at various festivals and fairs. Four of Clifford’s most cherished albums, the aforementioned If My Friends Could See Me Now, as well as 1979’s Let Me Be Your Woman and Here’s […]

Late Summer Dance Fling

Anyone who’s familiar with the work of Róisín Murphy shouldn’t be surprised by the concept of Irish electronic dance music. Heck, even U2 has been known to dabble in electronic beats. That said, the aptly-titled Pleasure (Red River) by Irish electronic dance band Le Galaxie definitely ups the ante. The ten dance-floor-ready tracks on Pleasure are as forward-thinking as they are nostalgia-inducing, mixing modern dance moves with a healthy respect for disco history with a splash of new wave. The merger of electronic and organic instrumentation with the shared vocal duties by May Kay Gegharty and Michael Pope also give […]

One of the Great Believers-An interview with writer Rebecca Makkai

If you’ve been waiting for the arrival of the best book of 2018, look no further than The Great Believers (Viking, 2018), the new novel by Rebecca Makkai. Starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, as well as an A- review in Entertainment Weekly, are not exaggerations. Makkai’s dazzling epic about the AIDS epidemic and its impact on a group of friends in Chicago during the 1980s is insightful, sensitive, revelatory and nothing short of a tearjerker. I had the privilege of speaking with Rebecca on June 19th, the publication date of The Great Believers. Gregg Shapiro: Rebecca, I’d […]

Queerer than Ever

Remember when lesbian rock was measured on a Melissa Etheridge scale? The way you could find common ground with other Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, K.D. Lang, Joan Armatrading, Melissa Ferrick, and Two Nice Girls fans. Then, along came Sleater-Kinney, Kaia (and The Butchies), Tegan and Sara, Le Tigre, Team Dresch, Mary Gauthier and Ani DiFranco, and the world began to shift on its axis. These days the spectrum has broadened to include Brandi Carlile and Brandy Clark, St. Vincent and Sia, Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani, Julien Baker and Beth Ditto, Lucy Dacus and H.C. McEntire. Courtney Barnett’s brilliant 2015 debut […]

Addiction & His Muse

When it comes to album titles, gay singer / songwriter Steve Grand came up with a good one for his second album. Not the End of Me (Stevegrand.com), on which Grand deals with his pre-sobriety downward spiral, is definitely fitting. Facing his demons head on, Grand has written some of his most visceral songs for this album (check out “Disciple”). Nevertheless, Grand knows his fan-base well enough to also include the kinds of songs his devoted followers will appreciate, as in the case of “You or the Music.” We spoke about the new album and his newfound clarity in July […]

What’s So Funny?

Great comedians make you laugh and think. Great comedy stays with you long after the laughs have subsided. If you’ve seen Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix comedy special “Nanette,” you’ll understand what this means. Gadsby singlehandedly raises the bar for comedy, putting it out of reach for many other stand-up comics. “Out On Stage” (Fathom Events / Comedy Dynamics), which is being shown in theaters for one night only on July 24th, shortly after “Nanette” began airing, will suffer by comparison. True, it features a multitude of comics, not just one. But the main similarity is that “Out On Stage” touches on […]

Seasonal Gaiety

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating. LGBTQ musicians are making some of the most captivating and inspiring music out there. Since the beginning of 2018, new releases by queer artists such as Jim Andralis, Lucy Dacus, H.C. McEntire, and Sarah Shook rank among the best to be heard. Beginning with the release of her eponymous 2005 debut recording, Brandi Carlile has consistently delivered outstanding albums, including The Story and Bear Creek, that have earned her a devoted following. With a goose-bump raising vocal range and the ability to write songs with immense emotional impact, Carlile doesn’t disappoint with […]

Second City Soundcheck

After a lengthy absence, the Chicago rock music scene is back on our radar again. With the reunited Smashing Pumpkins (minus D’arcy, of course) embarking on a huge concert tour and Liz Phair’s 25th anniversary reissue of her groundbreaking debut album Exile in Guyville (under the moniker Girlysound to Guyville) on almost everyone’s playlist, the Second City sounds good. In addition to the Girlysound to Guyville reissue, Liz Phair is also being feted on vinyl via the LP reissues of 1994’s Whip-Smart and 1998’s Whitechocolatespaceegg (both on Capitol / UMe). Arriving as it did so soon after Exile in Guyville, […]

Cover Girls (and Guys)

Sister Orchid (Palmetto) is not the first time quirky singer / songwriter Nellie McKay has turned her attention to the songs of others on an album. That distinction belongs to 2009’s Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. And on 2015’s My Weekly Reader, she sauntered through the 60s. For Sister Orchid, McKay applies her unconventional interpretive skills to a set of jazz standards with fragrant results. The subtly bubbling organ on opener “My Romance” gives the song a lighthearted texture. In fact, much of the album has a pleasing, airy Blossom Dearie quality, particular on numbers such […]

Not So Simple Simon

At first glance, you might not think that gay director Greg Berlanti’s 2018 gay rom-com(ing out movie) Love, Simon (Fox 2000) has much in common with the Oscar-nominated 2017 gay rom-dram Call Me By Your Name, but you’d be wrong. First of all, both films are based on novels. Love, Simon is based on Becky Albertalli’s 2015 YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda while Call Me By Your Name is based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman. Additionally, both novelists are, as it turns out, straight. Just wait, there’s more. Simon and Elio, the lead characters in […]