One of my favorite artists had an opening reception at Verlaine's last night (yes i did two of these last night). John Tebeau has an approachable style. Working principally in acrylic, Tebeau gets busy re-presenting what is domestic, nostalgic, and iconic in vivid color that smiles on vector-based art. I bought one of his pieces in September 08. I'll be back for more. If you dig lychee martinis, Jack Kerouac, and bold colors - get down to Verlaine and dig what is diggable. Heck, buy a piece and let's get America back on its feet.
A friend of mine invited me to see Erik Otto's work at the Doma Cafe and Gallery. The scene was mellow. We sort of made the event because most were into their coffee and macs. The five of us had some time to catch up and check out Otto's work, which is darn good. Otto is a graphic designer who has found that sweet balance between his commercial and artistic practice. Below is a photo of a bag he designed for Jansport. Well done, Erik. I believe his next stop is Philly.
K'naan traversed the Atlantic ocean to escape the volatile violence of Mogadishu, Somalia and made his home in Toronto, Canada with a determination to be heard. Some call him an emcee, others say he's more of poet over beats, but he's a versatile artist with many brushes and colors on his palate.
Wednesday Feb 26th marked a historic day in his career. He found himself on stage in New York at SOB's performing one day after the release of his album, Troubadour. It seems he's been able to breach some commercial and mainstream markets with a movement that represents and alternative world view.
On a night that made it feel like spring was creeping in. K'naan brought his life experience and travels to HOT 97's "Who's Next Showcase," hosted by Peter Rosenburg. He had an anxious crowd mesmerized weaving intricate bars over fusion rhythms. He kept it interesting with live elements and even brought hip hop veteran Chubb Rock on stage to rock his single collaboration, "ABC's."
I had the opportunity to do a remix to his single that I hope will make some noise for both of us. After the show we got a chance to chop it up and realized we're running in some of the same business and artistic circles. I wish this brother the best.
On June 21st I had the pleasure of adding Stevie Wonder to my short list of moving concert experiences. My list is short because I am a proud hater, but I was in good company and ready for something special. Soon the cheesy Trump Taj Mahal lights and watered down Budweiser would fade away and I would find myself in a parallel universe based on feeling not sight. Speaking of sight, my only criticism of the concert was the placement of the side screens that killed the sight lines for those in the cheap seats.
The show sort of started on time and Wonder made a modest entry, escorted by his daughter Aisha. “Isn’t she lovely?” I thought. Other than that corny pun, this will not be a rundown on all the great Stevie Wonder hits. What really stands out from an event designer’s perspective is the environment, the intimacy, and participation Mr. Wonder engendered with his performance. Strategic effort was put into the sequence of songs to pull the audience out of a spectator role and into an active one. Stevie would play keys while directing the audience to sing then he would jump in. This was all done with ease and a sense of humor. “Some of ya’ll are messing up my lyrics, man.” “The ladies sound weak tonight.”
Of course this style of participation is not new, but it felt different. Dig the next example. The music for Part-Time Lover came on and the crowd went nuts, but before there was any singing, Stevie rehearsed the crowd on singing the bridge, the “doop dooooo doop doop do dooby doo” part. After he was satisfied with our sub-par doobying, he sang the first part of the song. He then yelled for Q-tip to come out [of nowhere] to rock what appeared to be a freestyle while we chirped the bridge. It was fun and it left me with a greater appreciation for what I already believe and incorporate into my events – an emphasis on participation. Audiences are not only fans who want to fill a room and be counted. An audience is a body of discerning tastes that want to engage the space, have choices, and be the experience. It’s really cool when legends like Stevie Wonder are willing and eager to make this the fabric of their live art. Surely everyone who bought a ticket would have been content to sing along in our own un-orchestrated ways, but we happily accepted the invitation to do more.
Participation was fresh on my mind on the way home back to Brooklyn. After a short bus ride and a long train ride, we were blocks from our place. My other half reminded me that we should check out this performance by the Blind Cotton Theater Company (That literally is the name of the troupe) that was being held in their backyard. Shakespeare in the backyard, right… Blind Cotton all live together in this house in our neighborhood and decided to have a free performance of impromptu Shakespeare to introduce themselves to the community. A full spread of hot dogs, burgers, Kool Aid, and other things I don’t eat were available for me to look at. They also started sort of on time, and more importantly, they kept the theme going. Their performance was very intimate and built on participation. Before the set began, “insult cards” were passed to the audience – Shakespearean disses like “You’re as fat as a bean-fed horse”. The crowd was small but diverse, lively like the Stevie Wonder concert, and eager to be the experience they came to see. We knew the show was about to jump off when the stage was drawn – with chalk. Very low tech but very effective and the performance was quite enjoyable I might add. Blind Cotton did their thing and so did the audience – yelling Shakespearean disses at the actors and actresses with perfect timing. With each jeer, a louder laugh from the company and the audience.
H.R. Britton is the host of a fresh storytelling series taking place at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. These events are held in the Museum’s Visitor’s Center/Shop, which can hold a little over 100 people, so the space feels full with a small crowd, especially when they can’t stop laughing. The topic for this installment in the series was “Subway Stories”. Even the Puerto Rican women who told the tale of being mugged on her way back from art school peppered this horror with jokey-jokes. She was one of the features, but like most open mic events, the devil is not in the details but in the audience. Don’t we all have a subway story worth sharing? Those who were bold enough to put his or her name in the hat had some great ones.
On June 5th, Splashlight Gallery hosted the opening of Vision Fantastic, featuring work by photographers Andy Eaton, Alexandra Cateire, Justin Farkas, and Reed + Radar. If you are a photographer living in New York City, you probably have heard of or been to Splashlight Studios so forgive the public service announcement to those who have not. Check this place out. Splashlight is one of those hip professional hubs were the commercial and fine art photography world share passed hors d’oeuvres. I ended up at Splashlight this particular night at the invitation of a friend who works in event promotions. As it turns out, she could not make it, but I needed to meet with another friend who works in public relations about this cool new project we were pitching on out of town. What a great way to begin a conversation about events, media, and art. The space was clean and not too crowded so we could take in the art and join the conversation buzz that was a decibel lower than the music – just the way I like it. The only complaint is that the swag was a coupon to a tanning salon. (?!) Anyway…I look forward to the next opening and the rumored grand opening of Splashlight’s new 60,000 square foot home in SoHo this summer. I’ll keep you posted.