dashiell hammett night.

chickfactor attended dashiell hammett night at the horse hospital on saturday. it was a special evening celebrating the classic american crime fiction writer, where they had some folks do readings from three of his books (the american accents, when attempted, weren’t exactly convincing, but cathi unsworth and max decharne at least looked the part), showed the glass key starring my hair idol veronica lake and had some live blues in the 20s/30s style by the sandy dillon speakeasy quartet, who sounded all right but it was somehow hard to focus on the music because of the singer dillon’s kooky and intense onstage antics. my pal jennifer was hoping that ed harcourt was going to sing tonight but he was just a sideman (who played singing saw at one point). it was a nice and chilled out evening anyway, and we like the idea of mixing different media into one event.

farewell isabella.

we met isabella blow once at the photographers gallery and took her photo but can’t find it at the moment. she was like of course you can take my photo, as if you even need to ask. she was a rare veritable fashion icon in london: unmistakably her, the queen of chapeaux, a master of personal style, standing out amid a dull, bland sea of boringly blond and boho babes (kate, sienna, yawn) commonly thought of as fashion legends by herd followers. she fought depression her whole life, she had cancer and she died of a drugs overdose earlier this month. read the obit from the independent for more details about this original and imaginative character.

photograph: steven meisel; hat by philip treacy

ms wright.

one of chickfactor’s most prized possessions is an annabel wright original belle and sebastian image created for the new yorker in 1998. it hangs proudly on the wall in whatever city we happen to be living in and we adore it. once famous for being “aggi pastel” (chickfactor’s other founding editor once sang about her in that black tambourine tune “throw aggi off the bridge” but I can assure you it was meant in the sweetest of ways), annabel has other big things on which to focus these days. you have seen her art on many an album cover (pastels, sleater-kinney, teenage fanclub, bill wells trio, dump, yo la tengo, etc), and if you happen to be up in scotland, you can check out the scottish show for some more. we pulled this random image off her agency’s website.

image: annabel wright

top cat.

since I’ve been a cat power fan since the early ’90s (we were the first to interview her back in 1996 for timeout new york and of course chickfactor), I have seen her like two zillion times, but my pal lauren had not so we went to see ms charlene at the london forum on 1 may. the show was packed and sold out and seemingly filled with chain-smoking (and coked-up) cretins and fashion world wannabes. the crowd didn’t make too much sense to me in an indie way until I saw this so-hip-it’s-stupid magazine cover on the newsstand the very next day, and then it all made total sense. it’s their special white trash issue. oh well, good for her. the show was very professional, she was a lead singer who walked around and made lots of gestures and the band was good. it was a vast improvement over the last show of hers I’d seen in london, where she was slumped in a chair and unenergetic and her typically insecure self. her new role as slimmed-down muse to karl lagerfeld, draped in chanel jewellery, has clearly given the raspy voiced lady a shot of well-deserved confidence. shame about the new fans and the gross cover line, though…

image: i-d

tara in london.

tara jane o’neil is famous for being a musician (she was even in enchanté flagship act containe for a while there in the 90s), but many people may not know she is also a visual artist. chickfactor recently attended the opening of her one-woman show at the fab arsenal art gallery 96 gillespie. londoners who are not busy on 21 may should head to the gallery for her the exhibition’s closing night party, from 7 to 9, where the portland-based artist will be playing some songs.

image: sunbird strings by tara jane o’neil

owl be seeing them.

minneapolis has always been famous for pop (like prince, hüsker dü, the replacements, etc) but some of its acest pop bands are just not famous enough (the hang-ups, the legendary jim ruiz group, dearly, etc) and most of them rarely make the shlep to london. lucky for londoners, alison labonne (who has long been a jim ruiz sideman) is bringing her band the owls, along with her hubby brian tighe (of the hang-ups), to the buffalo bar on friday 25 may. of course, in general the couple-led band can be a very suspicious concern, but in this case the owls are excellent pop tunesmiths not to be missed!

photograph: courtesy the owls

this is the story.

• a while ago I told some of you that there would be a chickfactor 17, which would be nice because chickfactor 16, our first online issue, came out more than two years ago. I lied. we aren’t going to do another issue like that, instead you will see longer pieces throughout the year (such as the debsey birdie interview below). I know this website has been short on content since it launched in 2002, but I have been trying to add more content. I would like it to be more like chickfactor magazine, but with regular news updates so feel free to email me your news items. I don’t really like writing record reviews anymore (after 20 years of doing it, are you surprised?), but I do plan to do more music coverage (and not just silly hair and fashion articles).
• chickfactor turns 15 this summer, our first issue came out in sept 1992, and we hope to have some events in our favourite major cities. not sure who is playing yet but the pines seem keen to get out of semi-retirement, fingers crossed.