Category Archives: events

Events in the community

Okkervil River @ ASU

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

Last night Okkervil River played a free show for Arizona State University students. Getting to see a band voted high on the best new music for free doesn’t get much sweeter.

I only saw the second opening band, a local group called Austin Gibbs — named for the lead singer. Gibbs was plesent enough and a good chillout before the main attraction, but his songs struck me as accutely two-dimensional. Most of them were love-related, cliche songs that really didn’t push the envelope lyrically or musically. Still, it was good to lie in the grass and just bob heads to.

Okkervil River, however, was amazing. This band has garnered a lot of attention from music critics and, while I can’t say I love every song, the live set was great. Their music has a surpising amount of intrumental depth that I never noticed until actually seeing all the intruments.

The crowd enthusiasm added to the experience too. Unlike most free concerts, which tend to attract a mostly apathetic crowd, people showed some real following for the band, belting out lyrics and clapping along through the entire show.

Okkervil River @ ASU

Okkervil River @ ASU

The set was shorter than most concerts — only a bit over an hour for the headliner. But the length seemed fine, and Okkervil played their most recognizable collection. Also, an encore was guarunteed — as my friend pointed out, “you know they’re coming back out; they haven’t used their mandolin yet!”

ASU Art Museum Film Festival

ASU Art Museum's Annual Film Festival: the turnout

ASU Art Museum's Annual Film Festival: the turnout

Last night was the 13th annual ASU Art Museum Film festival. The turnout was great —  50+ (edit: 1000+ so much for my ability to estimate crowds) people with lawn chairs and blankets spread out over the museum’s architecture in the warm night.

Oh  yeah, and the films were great too. Entries from all over the country were presented back to back, and I liked every one. Film festivals always present a great opportunity to escape from the formulaic, perpetual echoing of film-culture. They really challenge people to both feel and think through the visual/audio presentation. You may not always understand pieces, but understanding isn’t what’s important — it’s the sensations they provokes.

I took the opportunity at intermission to shoot my first panorama, using my crappy little digital camera. I just free-handed it so the images didn’t line up perfecty, but some creative cropping fixed that. Above is the full image in a low-quality format for the web, and I’m trying to create a player that allows you to zoom and move around the image, but it’s not working yet — WordPress may not allow me to embed it without some serious fennangling . I like how it turned out though; maybe I’ll do more panoramas soon.

Civic Space Park opens

enter the vortex

enter the vortex

"Her Secret is Patience" hovers over the Cronkite School.

"Her Secret is Patience" hovers over the Cronkite School.

About half a month behind schedule, the Civic Space Park opened today, bringing a large, urban-style park to Phoenix.

The park looked excellent — lush grass, chessboard-topped tables, polished and cleaned architecture. And, of course in the middle of it all, was Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience,” the giant “mothership-looking sculpture” (as my friend described it) that hangs over the space.

Water is good at 100+ degrees.

Water is good at 100+ degrees.

City council members, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, representatives from ASU and the community spoke at the opening. Gordon emphasized that the park’s completion made Phoenix final look like the fifth largest city in the nation — which appearances or not, it is.

Crowds gathered for the opening.

Crowds gathered for the opening.

Personally, I can’t wait to chill on the grass between classes at the Cronkite School. The park looks and feels (think grass on your toes) great. I’m just a bit miffed it didn’t open earlier; the good weather won’t last long.

McDowell Mountain Music Fesitval = The Flaming Lips

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

I just saw The Love Blisters play The Flaming Lips’s “Flight Test” for the Phx New Times.

Now I’m beyond excited for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival!

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

I’ll admit, The Flaming Lips are the majority of my reason for going (please let Wayne Coyne dress as either an alien or a bunny rabbit). But the whole festival seemed a bit expensive: “$50 for tickets to a music festival when I only want to see one band.” After pondering the lineup a bit longer, I’ve assured myself this will be a solid day of music — including rumors of a drum circle.

For those not acquainted with The Flaming Lips, GET ACQUAINTED! I say this mostly because I’ve tried before to describe the sonic gestalt that is The Flaming Lips and failed miserably. Suffice it to say, if you’re into anything from dream-poppy bliss to obscurely happy punk-rock, this band could be for you. They’ve been around for 25+ years; background shouldn’t be required at this point.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

Jimmy Carter @ Changing Hands and Obama in Mesa — talk about Presidents’ Day week

As part of his promotional book tour, former President Jimmy Carter came to Changing Hands Bookstore Friday. Carter’s newest book, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” expounds on his push for peace and draws from his experience being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Former President Jimmy Carter addresses the audience.

Former President Jimmy Carter addresses the audience.

Carter has visited Changing Hands before. In fact, when he dropped by two years ago to promote “Peace Not Apartheid,” his presence drew quite the crowd — not all of whom were parsimonious with the president. Many protesters assembled to send a message to the president and the myriad press members assembled to cover the event.

This time around, the signings went smoothly — almost too smoothly as the president offered little time to those who came out to see him.  From behind black, queuing tape, the president delivered a short address promoting his book and praising President Obama’s efforts at negotiations. He noted that the first printed copy of his book was presented to Obama, drawing a look-at-the-kitten-esque “aww” from the crowd. ‘How can the most powerful men in the world talking about the most entrenched conflict in human history be cute?’ I jotted in my notes. Carter then turned to the truly gigantic line of people waiting for a appropriately placed book signature.

While Carter signed book after book in an assembly line manner, occasionally glancing up and smiling at people as the passed by to follow their book to the end of the line, I wandered off.

I approached a sign-toting group assembled in along McClintock Drive, in front of the store. There, I met Na’im Robinson. Robinson and his group weren’t traditional protesters; they were more like (pro)testers, assembled to show their support for Carter and his message.

Few people heard the president before he commenced signing.

Few people heard the president before he commenced signing.

As a member of the Muslim community in Gilbert, Robinson took pains to explain the importance of mutual peace. During his explanation, a nearby man holding another sign turned and said, “Hey, I’m Jewish.”

“See!” Robinson exclaimed, firmly shaking the man’s hand and patting him on the back. “We can come together.”

Current President Obama also landed in the Valley Tuesday afternoon. He plans to promote the stimulus he just signed, speaking at Dobson High School in Mesa.  Mesa has been hit particularly hard by the housing crisis by relying on contruction for the majority of its economy.

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.