Friday, May 28, 2010

206 Zulu at Folklife

It's NW Folklife weekend of course, and you don't need me to tell you that there's plenty of music worth hearing, but the event that most grabs me is the annual 206 Zulu Showcase at the Vera Project on Sunday night.

The third "Zulu Jam" boasts a most impressive lineup of notable Seattle hiphop artists and rising stars including Helladope, Suntonio Bandanaz, Hi-Life Soundsystem, DJ Dev-J and Marissa & SK of Sport'n Life.

Props to Folklife for recognizing the populist nature of hiphop. If the universal appeal of Zulu culture proves anything it is that hiphop is music by and for the folks. On Sunday, May 30 from 7-10pm at Vera. Like all of Folklife, the show is free and open to all ages.

Photo of Silver Shadow D at last year's Zulu Jam by Studio Narvaez. Thanks!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sonar et Gravité

Two beautiful and simple pieces of music animation from Montreal based animator Renaud Hallee in which notes, beats and the time between them are represented in various forms. The one above is abstract but extremely effective; the one below is concrete but somehow even more mysterious. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stencil Workshop

Seattle stencil artist Soule put in her time painting pretty pictures in the street and unlike most graffiti artists managed to turn her moxie and her talent into a legitimate living.

Soule, known to friends and family as Kim McCarthy, sells her paintings and pottery online and at boutiques across the country.

Starting in June, Soule is offering workshops in the art of stenciling. The workshops take you through the whole stencil process from design to application, using a variety of mediums. All skill levels are welcome, and the plan is to teach classes that range from basic skills to creating layered multi-color images. All paint and materials are included, but you've got to bring your own images to make it work. All classes take place the month of June 2010, and times will vary depending on participants' needs. It's a rare opportunity to learn this useful technique from a master, and you've only got until May 31st to register. Visit Soule's website for more details and registration. Word.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sun Ra

Today is the birthday of Sun Ra, born on May 22, 1914. Named Sonny Blount by his parents, Sun Ra was an internationally acclaimed source of breath-taking musical creativity.

Sun Ra believed in eternal being, and was deliberately obscure about his origins. However, a common story is that he grew up in Birmingham, Alambama and played piano by ear almost from infancy. He played local concerts as a child and became a student of famed music teacher John T. "Fess" Whatley while in high school. Before he graduated, Blount was playing piano professionally at society dances and in nightclubs.

In 1936 Blount was awarded a scholarship to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, where he had a visionary experience that was to have a major long-term influence. He claimed that a bright light appeared around him, and whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself. And I went up ... I wasn't in human form ... I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn ... They talked to me. They told me to stop attending college because there was going to be great trouble in schools ... the world was going into complete chaos ... I would speak through music, and the world would listen. That's what they told me.

Blount left college and from that point on he became a devoted musician. He rarely slept, and transformed the first floor of his family's home into a conservatory-workshop where he wrote songs, transcribed recordings, rehearsed with the many musicians who were nearly constantly drifting in and out, and discussed Biblical and esoteric concepts with whoever was interested.

In October 1942 Sun Ra was drafted but declared himself a Conscientious Objector, citing religious objections to war and killing, and refused to serve. At his hearing, Blount declared that if he were inducted, he would use his military weapons and training to kill the first high-ranking military officer he could. He spent five weeks in jail in Jasper, Alabama, then was sent to a Civilian Public Service Camp in Northwestern Pennsylvania. He was classified as 4-F due to a hernia and briefly returned to Birmingham before leaving for good. Blount legally changed his name to Le Sony'r Ra in 1952.

Over his life, Sun Ra's collaborators ranged from tight swing trios to his massive Arkestra, which could include more than 30 musicians, dancers, singers, fire-eaters, and special effects. Over all, he led bands for nearly 60 years, made at least 125 records, and performed every kind of music from hotel-band schmaltz to massive percussion suites to synthesizer pieces that twittered and clunked like a demented video game. He played free regular gigs in a park near his Philadelphia home, and traveled to Egypt several times with the Arkestra to play before the pyramids. Even after a stroke in 1990, Sun Ra kept composing and performing, ending his career on double-bill concerts with Sonic Youth.

Sun Ra left this world permanently in 1993. More of his epic biography here. Below is a fun video collage set to an Arkestra recording from the late 1960's. Many more such things to be found on the Youtube.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Make Art Anyway

Arts Corps has been described as the biggest school in Seattle without a building. The non-profit network employs about 30 teachers who bring arts education to kids in underserved neighborhoods. In 2009 they brought arts classes to more than 3,000 students in 35 locations. This year Arts Corps was one of two established organizations selected to run the national pilot project MusicianCorps that has hired 21 teaching fellows to bring music classes to public schools, community centers, parks, and low-income housing across the country.

In Seattle, individual schools have been hacking away at their arts programs for 30 years. A 2009 district-wide survey of how much art instruction kids actually get revealed that local elementary students are lucky to get 10 hours of classes annually. Art and music are taught most, with theater a distant third. Yet there are dozens of studies which demonstrate that with arts education dropouts decrease, kids are more engaged in learning, and students develop learning skills that become habits that they are able to transfer into other aspects of their life.

Musician Corps is a kind of domestic Peace Corps for artists. It hires musicians to teach music, and then uses music as an avenue for civic engagement, community building, and making connections across culture, race and so on. According to Carla Moreno, the Honduran-born musician who is leading the Musician Corps program at Meadowbrook View Apartments in Lake City, “this is what it really looks like when you're serious about arts education for 'underserved' kids. It's the opposite of the classic, quick field trip—this is an immersion, and not just for kids, but for teachers who adjust to make it work, and adjust again, and again.”

The program's national administrators will study and assess its effectiveness in Seattle and the other participating cities - Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans. They hope to show Congress that an Artist Corps deserves a fully funded place along with such service programs as Teach for America and the Peace Corps.

The Stranger had a terrific article last week about the program, including profiles of the four teachers running programs around the city. The full story is here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Balkan Gypsy Violin Gang Dance

The brass band takeover of Seattle continues in style. A huge lineup of international talent & noise converges on the Underground Events Center this Saturday, May 22.

The Brass Liberation Band hatched a plan to meet up with the Bucharest Drinking Team for a night of Balkan music. The energy unleashed by those two bands snowballed into a night of musical debauchery that now includes Seattle's drum-and-brass darlings Orkestar Zirkonium, the Vancouver-based Romanian violinist Lache Cercel and his band Roma Swing, plus Romani Traffic Jam, which includes members of the Brass Liberation Orchestra with director Rumen Sali Shopov and dance master Sani Rifati. This is a one-time convergence, you will NOT see this collection of musicians anywhere else!

Tickets are just $10 before the show and 15$ day at the door. Underground doors open at 8PM and music starts at 9PM SHARP.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

House Hunting

Have I mentioned that we Gurldoggs are looking for a house? I never saw myself as a home owner, but at this moment in my personal history, it genuinely seems like the path of least resistance. Poet David Wagoner has thoughts for the occasion.

House Hunting

The wind has twisted the roof from an old house
      And thrown it away,
And no one’s going to live there anymore.
      It tempts me:
Why not have weather falling in every room?
      Isn’t the sky
As easy to keep up as any ceiling?
      Less flat and steady?
Rain is no heavier, soaking heavy heads,
      Than a long party.
Imagine moonlight for a chandelier,
      Sun through the laundry,
The snow on conversation, leaves in the bed,
      Fog in the library,
Or yourself in a bathtub hoping for the best
      As the clouds go by,
Dressing for dinner according to what comes down
      And not how many.
And at night, to sit indoors would be to lose
      Nothing but privacy
As the crossing stars took time to mark their flight
      Over the mind’s eye.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beckett at New City

Already tired of the sunshine and longing for November's gloom? New City Theater is here to help with their presentation of Samuel Beckett’s Eh Joe, their second Beckett production in two years. New City Theater is well known among the Seattle cognoscenti for their pitch perfect presentations of the darkest and most soul chilling modern theater, and Beckett has always been their guiding star. Eh Joe tells the “story” of an old man, trapped in a room, listening to voices in his head, and staring unblinkingly toward the audience. Astoundingly, it was originally written for a BBC television production. It’s paired with Landscape, another one-act play in which nothing happens, by Beckett devotee Harold Pinter. Directed by Janice Findley and starring Mary Ewald and Kevin McKeon, the plays open tonight and run Fridays and Saturdays until the end of May. Advance tickets available here.

New Work by C215

I admire Banksy as much as anyone does, and feel like he's entitled to all the success he can muster up. That being said, in my opinion his stencil work doesn't hold a candle to the brilliance of French stencil master C215

I posted about his work once before, but some recent images have demanded further consideration. First, pieces like this one started to surface around Europe and in NYC. While it's still recognizably C215's work, the incredible layered stencils and expressionistic color work are brand new and just take his already compelling images to a whole other level.

Second, C215 mounted this amazing 6 x 10 meter paper stencil on a wall in Rome as part of a fascinating group show in which several Fascist-era housing projects have become the canvases for large stenciled posters by prominent European street artists. More on that show here (in Italian) and here (in English.) According to his website, "This is a portrait of a Romanian lady that I glued to fight racism against gypsies in Europe since there are more and more pogroms done to them since they integrated Europe, with camps put on fire etc. without reactions of authorities." Great photos from the exhibit here.

It's fascinating to see how this smart and talented artist has developed his voice over the years, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joseph Beuys

Today is the 89th birthday of Joseph Beuys, born May 12, 1921 in Krefeld, Germany. Beuys worked as a sculptor, draftsman, performer, musician and teacher throughout his idiosyncratic career, but his most lasting influence has been as an art philosopher.

Beuys deliberately obscured his own biography. Born during the Third Reich, he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a child, and flew in the Luftwaffe as a young man. In 1944 Beuys’ plane was shot down in a remote region near the Crimean border. For the rest of his life Beuys claimed having been rescued from the crash by nomadic Tatar tribesmen who wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health. Other accounts of the event differ, but it was an early example of Beuys unconventional relationship to facts and ideas.

After the war Beuys studied "Monumental Sculpture" at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. He produced drawings and sculptures throughout the 1950's, and became professor of monumental sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1961. In 1964, as part of a festival of new art coinciding with the 20th anniversary of an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, Beuys created his first performance, which was interrupted by a group of students attacking him and punching him in the face. A photograph of his bloody face was circulated in the media, and Beuys realized the power of performances to provoke reactions.

Beuys’ first solo exhibition opened in November 1965. The performance piece, titled "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare" featured the artist with his face covered in honey and gold leaf, an iron slab attached to his boot, seen through the gallery window. He held a dead hare, into whose ear he mumbled muffled noises and explanations of the drawings that lined the walls.

He followed this act with a series of spectacular, ritualistic performances, including his first piece in the U.S., "I Like America and America Likes Me," in which Beuys flew to New York and was taken by ambulance to the René Block Gallery in Manhattan. He wrapped himself from head to foot in a huge blanket of felt, shared a room with a wild coyote for three days, then headed back to the airport in the ambulance. As he later explained, "I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote."

Beuys' commitment to political reform increased as he got older and better known, and he was involved in the founding of several activist groups including the Free International University, which emphasized the creative potential in all human beings and advocated cross-pollination of ideas across disciplines. In 1979 he was one of 500 founding members of the international Green Party, eventually serving as a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament.

While he courted debate, discussion, and teaching as part of his expanded definition of art, Beuys also continued to make objects, installations and performances into his old age. He lived the last years of his life at a hectic pace, participating in dozens of exhibitions and traveling widely on behalf of his political organizations.

Beuys died in Düsseldorf in 1986.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Punk Rock Flea Market!

The next Punk Rock Flea Market is just around the corner, returning to the Underground Events Center on June 5. The PRFM is basically unstoppable at this point, getting bigger and better with every incarnation. It's Seattle's best flea market in my opinion, welcoming vendors and purveyors of music, movies, clothing, toys, furniture, jewelry, soap, candles, computers, radios, books, belt buckles, balloon animals, bike parts, vintage porn, ceramics, roller skates, spray paint, incense, cupcakes, pickles, arts, crafts, pretty much anything you got.

A few good changes this time around - the event is now open to all ages all day, and the bands are going to play outdoors so that there can be live music DURING the market. Seems like a better way to take advantage of the sunshine and it will hopefully get a bigger crowd in to see the bands.

Like always, the space has been generously loaned for the day by the good folks at the Low Income Housing Institute, a non-profit organization that builds homes for homeless and low-income people all around the Puget Sound. Table fees and entry donations go to them.

The glorious poster for PRFM #8 was put together by Chelsea Conboy a damn talented young designer who also just completed all the design work for Bumbershoot 2010!

There's still some selling spaces left, but get word back to the organizers quick if you want a booth, and keep your eyes on Gurldoggie for up-to-the-minute info on bands, vendors and taco truck appearances.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Francisco Mora

Don't miss a rare showing of linocuts & lithographs by Mexican artist Francisco Mora at Davidson Galleries. Mora was born in Michoacán in 1922 and relocated to Mexico City in the 1940's where he was part of the seminal Taller de Gráfica Popular, a graphics workshop that built on Mexico’s rich tradition of printmaking in order to further a variety of revolutionary political and social causes. The picturess on display include many gritty graphic works depicting the daily lives of miners, farmers and Mexican laborers, as well as several finely rendered portraits of revolutionary giant Emiliano Zapata. Large displays of Mora's works are seldom seen outside of collections at the Museum of Modern Art and the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.

The show at Davidson runs until May 29.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kid's Bike Swap

The annual Kid's Bike Swap takes place this Saturday, May 8 at Genesee Playfield in Columbia City.

Kids are invited to bring their old bikes and trade up or down for their next bike.
The Bike Swap is one component of Bike Works’ non-profit mission to facilitate the flow of affordable bicycles within the community while preventing fully functional bikes from ending up in landfills. The unique event provides families with a cost-effective way to trade an outgrown bike for one that provides another season of riding. Each bike that is brought to be swapped is assigned a trade value, which can then be applied towards a “new” bike. Generally, children leave with a new bike costing no more $12. Families looking to buy a bike without a trade-in are welcome at noon.

About 120 families come out for the swap each year, many of them regulars who return every spring. Genesee Playfield is at 43rd Ave. S. and South Genesee Street. Get there early to get a good deal!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Queen Shmooquan: Plugged

Queen Shmooquan - the quasi-religious ultra-bizarre high priestess of junk culture - was all set to become the brightest star in Seattle's absurdist firmament. She wowed the crowds at Northwest New Works, blew them away at the Erotic Art Festival, unexpectedly opened for a Stone Gossard side project...and then she went and got herself knocked up.

Two upcoming "UnPlugged" shows (at the Rendezvous on May 6 & at the Can Can on May 13th) are our last two chances see Queen Shmooquan in pre-natal action before she goes on an indefinite hiatus. Parenthood changes everyone, and there's no telling what sort of effect it will have on the psyche of the preposterously political, riotously scatological, preciously sexual wild-child we call Queen Shmooquan. See her while you can.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Peter Carey

Novelist Peter Carey writes wildly entertaining stories which focus a broad and bright spotlight on colorful characters in and around Australia. It's a style that has won him two Booker prizes - one for "Oscar and Lucinda," an epic tale of a young priest seized by a vision of a glass church in the Australian Outback, and another for “True History of the Kelly Gang," which recounts the story of Australian folk hero Ned Kelly. Carey was recently honored on a pair of Australian postage stamps, one of six authors recognized as part of a "Living Legends" series.

Mr. Carey’s newest book is his first to be set exclusively in America. “Parrot and Olivier” takes place in 1830 and is an “improvisation,” as Mr. Carey calls it, on the history of Alexis de Tocqueville. He reads from and signs his new novel at Elliot Bay Book Co. on May 6. Tickets are free and available at the door.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Surrender to Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman is the childlike, stubborn, deliberately antiquated, overwhelmingly delightful creator of a uniquely golden thread of kindness in the dark fabric of punk rock. For more than 35 years, since singing about being sober and loving his parents on the still incredible Modern Lovers eponymous debut released way back in 1976, he has been the quiet revolutionary in a striped jersey at the front of the room. His simple, elegant, quietly euphoric touring show features only himself and long-time drumming companion Tommy Larkins reminiscing about New York ("The demolishing of an old building/Brings the smell of 1890 to the breeze") giving relationship advice ("Don't lecture her/you'll remind her of her father") and rejecting the accoutrements of the modern world ("If we think we can cheat sorrow/well, we can't.").

Hearing him sing is a pleasure. Watching him dance is indescribably life-affirming. He manages to channel Prince, Elvis and Ricky Ricardo all the while playing tribute his beloved Velvet Underground. Jonathan plays at the Tractor Tavern on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 4th and 5th. Tickets available here.