February’s First Friday

Last night marked the February edition of First Fridays, Phoenix’s monthly art walk. I never pegged Phoenix for an artsy place myself, but First Fridays is the largest art walk in the nation, attracting thousands of people every month.

People crowd the street.

People crowd the street.

I found this month’s offerings among the best yet. For frequent attendees like myself, several activities and participants have become staples of the night — break dancing, violin-loop-pedal guy, ghost busters, Irish drum corps, et al. They return month after month and provide some continuity, but the night’s magnetism always comes from new vendors, who continue to add variety and uniqueness to the mix.

A couple perform across from busy booths.

A couple perform across from busy booths.

This month, a group of Capoeira dancers raised the bar for ethnic eccentricity. Capoeria, a Afro-Brazilian dance closely resembling fighting, involves a circle of participants and two or more dancers in the center. The music accompanying Capoeria is played primarily on a berimbau, a bow-like percussion instrument.

A performer plays the berimbau for Capoeira dancers.

A performer plays the berimbau for Capoeira dancers.

Friday’s Capoeria group had all these traditional flairs. They set up their dance circle at the intersection of Garfield and 5th streets, drawing a huge crowd that just intensified the dancers’ spirit and bravado.

The galleries along Roosevelt also come alive on First Friday. Their cramped rooms have difficulty handling the masses of people at the art walk and things get quite crowded. The night serves artists well, however; giving them enviable exposure — even if the majority of people are poor college students unable to splurge on art.

Personally, I’ll never get over the charged atmosphere of First Friday. So much creative youth out in the warm night air yields incredible energy — creative energy. More than once, I’ve stumbled upon groups of guerrilla artist; painting, spraying and fabricating amazing works from anything handy. This time, I was impressed to see a group weaving moccasins from rubber bike tires. This spontaneous urge to create and share tops my list of reasons to love First Fridays; there’s nothing like it.

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