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Month: October 2010

Sufjan Stevens, Wiltern LG

Sufjan Stevens, Wiltern LG

I’d been looking forward to seeing Sufjan Stevens for quite some time.    Many years in fact, since after 2005’s Illinois he nearly gave up live performing – or at least touring.

To my surprise the standing room only section at the Wiltern was filled with folding chairs.  Apparently someone had predetermined that this audience didn’t stand up, and they were right.  The only time anyone stood up was before Sufjan came back for the first (and only) encore.  If I’d have known that I wouldn’t have purposefully picked loge seating.  Every other concert I’ve attended at the wiltern in the lower section has been a disaster; people pack in like sardines and there is always some jerk pushing people around, forcing thyself in front of you, or just plain seven feet tall blocking your view.  I decided after seeing Mogwai a few years ago that I’d always buy Loge seats from then on.  So – of course, at this show, everyone downstairs is sitting nice and polite like.

There wasn’t an official opening act.  The internet had reported that a band would open, but instead Sufjan’s pianist and friend DM Stith played four songs.  DM Stith is just one guy and a guitar.  It reminded me a lot of Glen Hansard’s busking act.

Sufjan opened with Seven Swans and once complete introduced himself, dispelling any myth about the proper pronunciation of his name.  I now finally know it is “soof – eee- yon.”

He then proceeded to play 75% of his new album Age of Adz.  Some of this sounded much better with live instrumentation (Sufjan experimented with beatboxes and electronica on this album), especially the ending of the title track.  Sufjan would later explain, in an EIGHT MINUTE SPEECH before Get Real Get Right, that the entire album, and the imagery used were based on the life and art of Royal Robinson.  Many songs (mostly those from Age of Adz) featured fantastical animated spaceship/planet/monsters imagery projected on a giant screen behind the performers.  The ending of Age of Adz in particular, with a descent through a long winding staircase in space reminded me of the ending of the live interpretation of Lateralus on Tool’s 2001 tour.

Before getting to Age of Adz Sufjan played Too Much, which had a collage of what I guess I’d describe as narcissistic hipster imagery projected behind the band.  In the photo below he’s wearing a mask, but in most of the other photos the figure was clearly Sufjan himself just dancing around wearing a hipster tank-top and “vogueing.”

That was my first clue that Sufjan had taken an unfortunate turn as an artist… but more on that later…

Below is a shot from the beginning of Age of Adz showing Royal’s painting (and album cover) on the big screen.

I wasn’t able to capture it in a photograph, but during many songs a veil of thin material came down over the band.  This had two purposes.  #1 It made the band look fuzzy like a photo from an old camera (or a new camera with Vaseline on the lens)  #2 The fabric was actually a thin projector screen, and once in place crazy visuals were broadcast in front of the band, like on the song Vesuvius lava bubbled up until eventually rising above the band.  The screen was opaque though – so lots of light and visuals still came through from behind with spotlights circling and flashing silhouettes of the band on both screens from time to time.

Towards the end of the night Sufjan announced that we’d better get ready for a long 25 minute journey (or something like that).  I groaned.  This meant we were going to be treated to the new song Impossible Soul, which takes basically one melody and tries to play it in as many genres as possible.  Now this wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that after the first ten minutes one of the genres was rap.

This hip hop element was no surprise at this point in the show though.  A few earlier songs from Age of Adz had embraced a hip-hop aesthetic, with Sufjan and his crew donning various paraphernalia and dancing appropriately.  The “funk” portion of Impossible Soul was particularly egregious though as, to my surprise, Sufjan dashed artistic credibility to the wind and turned on Auto Tune.   Yes, Sufjan Stevens, the guy who wrote whole albums about states in the union, and writes melodies on the banjo…. used autotune.

Why?  I have no idea.  But I certainly feel “becked.”  In 2002 Beck released Sea Change.  That album was his best album, devoid of any electronic influence, a stripped down almost “country” album.  It didn’t sell well (of course), but critics united in it’s praise.  So, I was determined to catch Beck the next time he was in town (Columbus at the time).  Soon, tour dates were released including the Wexner Center.  To my dismay he played almost the entire album Midnight Vultures, complete with a crew dressed up in 70s bellbottoms and fros with psychedelic/disco visuals.  I was horrified and felt betrayed.  I had come to see him perform the only Beck album that rolling stone gave a five star review to – and I got “Sexx Laws” instead.

Sufjan’s embracing of hip hop felt a little weird – but autotune crossed the line – and by the way – Sufjan, you’re a little late to the party.  It was LAST SUMMER that a rapper already released a song called Death of Auto Tune.  At one point Sufjan ran to the front of the stage with his dancers and started break dancing (or something, I’m not up on hip-hop dance moves).

To assuage the older fans like me, the next song was Chicago, which somehow felt a little forced.

Then it was off to the dressing room before an encore.

The encore was a little strange.  The songs were all done with little instrumentation.  It started with Sufjan by himself on stage standing at the piano playing Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois.   After that was an acoustic version of Casimir Pulaski Day, then a four man banjo group version of That Dress Looks nice on You, which I enjoyed but many around me in the audience seemed confused by.  To end the show Sufjan, alone on a darkened stage, fingerpicked his guitar and sang John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

I heard people in the audience complain about the encore as they walked out.  Most of them thought it was “weird” that he ended the concert with such a depressing song about killing people.  Apparently these were fans that had never listened to Illinois in its entirety.  I almost agree with them though.  Rock and Roll tradition has certainly been to “rock the F out” on the final song and end with a bang.  An encore of acoustic numbers felt kind of like an afterthought to satisfy the “old folks” in the audience who had expected to hear older material.

Complete setlist:

Seven Swans

Too Much

Age of Adz

Heirloom

I Walked

Futile Devices

Vesuvius

Now That I’m Older

Get Real Get Right

Enchanting Ghost

Impossible Soul

Chicago

(encore)

Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland Illinois

Casimir Pulaski Day

Dress Looks Nice on You

John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

On the way to the car I noticed I’d parked right around the corner from Cafe Jack, which I’d always heard about but never seen: the coffee shop in a boat.

Here is someone else’s photo of it during the day:

On Sunday Sam and I went to the Melrose Trading Post to look for the “branch of life LA” booth that I blogged about after seeing on the Art Walk.  We walked around the entire thing twice and couldn’t find it.  We did, however, run into Sam’s coworkers who had a booth selling Halloween costumes there.

Art Walk October

Art Walk October

Pepperdine is doing their best to chew up their MBA students before spitting them out in a few months.  I now only get over 5 hours of sleep on days that start with S.  I still managed to set aside two hours to visit the Art Walk.

Anyone who pays anything to park downtown simply doesn’t know their way around or is afraid to walk a few blocks to get to their destination.  I found free parking (some meters are free after 4pm downtown) near main and 7th.  I’d never walked east on Main to get to the Walk and I found three new galleries on my way.  The first two were on 7th street.  The second was some kind of lame skateboard culture shop with some art on the wall to qualify as a gallery.  The second was the Zzyzx Gallery of Nautral Science.  The shop is very small compared to how they represent themselves online.  I appreciated the emphasis on the art involved in scientific museum pieces, something usually overlooked in science and history museums.

The gallery had many nice detailed drawings by Rachel Diaz-Bastin:

Just half a block east on Main was the Not for Sale gallery.

The gallery was sort of a tiny homage to pop art with a few real pieces, although it wasn’t clear if they were for sale or not.  A lone proprietor sat in the middle of the tiny gallery at a schoolhouse desk brandishing a wooden baseball bat. (he was in the back when the photo below was taken – but you can see the desk)  Note the giant Kaws sculpture and the Banksy street signs in the back.

Near the window was this Jesus Relics vending machine.

A few blocks more and I was back across from the old Regent in the art fair (still back to being free admittance).

Kit Kan was selling interesting plant arrangements under the name Branch of Life LA.  I actually wanted to buy one of the “shady” arrangements – but I didn’t want to carry around a delicate glass+living thing all night.  He said he’ll be at the Melrose Trading Post the next two sundays – so I’ll try to catch him there.

My dinner was the next-door fries+philly cheese steak booth (although it still pisses me off that these people don’t put green peppers in their cheese steaks…who the hell leaves out the green peppers?). They should have paid me for the free advertising as in the next five minutes everybody on the street was asking where to get what I was eating.  Of course, eating wasn’t a problem on the Art Walk, there are more food trucks downtown now than cockroaches at the Orpheum, and more parking lots reserved for food trucks than cars.

Across the street on Main from one of the food truck lots was this band that always turns up on the Art Walk somewhere.

A brand new gallery opened (or perhaps it was last time when I didn’t attend) for the art magazine/web site bluecanvas.

The art was surprisingly good, especially the pieces on this wall…

They were actually all good pieces, but my favorites are these two:

John Brosio

Kent Williams

Brooke Shaden also had about six pieces up.  she is a very good photographer+digital photo manipulation artist.  I first heard of her in March when I was supposed to share gallery space with her at Gallery Godo.  I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to show with her.

Another artist had this wall sized piece:

Elsewhere (close to the thankfully closed Phyllis Stein gallery) on 5th was this gallery picking up where the Stein left off.  Apparently ugly wallpaper nailed haphazardly to the wall is a work of art.

I didn’t even take any photos in Bang Gallery.  The art has gotten worse.  There was a room labelled as “!!!” (sorry idiot, there is already a band by that name…didn’t you know?) – this was an electronic act, but it was essentially a recreation of a project I did in an electronic arts class in 2000 using a drum machine to control musical notes/passages in coordination with projected images.  Of course, when WE did it we added colored (with a separate projector) fog, projected everything onto a sheet that moved with the music (thanks to fans behind it coordinated with the computer) and a theremin type of sensing device that changed the music based on who was walking in front and how close they got.

This piece at bang was just some Phish fan with a electronic drum set and a projector hooked up to a laptop.  “oooh, it shows an explosion when you hit the Tom – cooooool!”

As usual the two galleries on the Walk with the best showing (although Blue Canvas is certainly giving them some strong competition) had new work up.

The Temple of Visions was actually kind of dissapointing.  There were some pieces I enjoyed by Ryan Johnson and a few others, but there were less standouts than in the past – and much less variety (no Zar paintings for example).  At least they got rid of the clothing racks idea.

Erial Ali

Andrew Gonzalez reminds me a lot of H.R.G.

Next door I revisited the Hive’s Hell vs. Monster Mash show.

Jeff christensen

Larkin, who does some amazing detail.  I’d really like to talk to this guy some time and ask him just how he makes such teeny tiny strokes with acrylic paint…   Maybe I just need higher quality paint that doesn’t clump up so much…

and here is a slightly higher res photo of the wall I blogged up a few weeks ago – with my painting (the little orange one on the left) just inches away from Chet Zar (the giant one in the center).

Anna Judd had two paintings that I liked a lot – but I can’t find them on line and failed to take a picture.  I’ve seen her plant based work in other galleries before and it is in some cases better than her figurative work.  Here is a sample:

Below is a painting by Jinx called Your Skull is Red.  I could not find any information about Jinx on line.  There is another artist called Jinx that makes low quality more cartoony stuff, I don’t think these two are related.

Everyone on the street was talking about how “nobody showed up this month because of that idiot that told everyone it was cancelled”  Oh well, too bad there weren’t throngs of people making it impossible to move about… that really sucks…

Brewery Art Walk & Beyond Eden Art Festival

Brewery Art Walk & Beyond Eden Art Festival

On Saturday Sam and I took a break from schoolwork and headed to the Brewery Art Walk.  I’d been to this art walk twice before, the last time in early 2009.  I don’t think I’ll go again – as most of the art was exactly the same, and hardly any was impressive at all.

What we did see was a ton of hipster doofuses (although, adding “doofus” to hipster at this point may be overkill as it is implied…).  Hard to see from the photo – but do you remember those color shifting jackets and hats?  Not hypercolor-  but the other kind of color shifting where the color changes from red to green based on your angle of view… remember those?  I had one, you had one – we all had one.  That guy has one now – his hat.  However, I really doubt he had it in 1992, as he would have been about two years old…  Same thing with his “vintage” 1994 white plastic sunglasses and his girlfriend’s tight white jeans.  (I’m talking about the jeans he is wearing) Don’t get me started on the shirt… or the other loser over there in the sweater that wasn’t even cool the first time around.  At least when our parents get embarrassed about wearing bellbottoms they have the excuse that what they wore was fashionable and new at the time – how will a former hipster explain all this to their children?

Perhaps my contempt for these people is rooted in jealousy.  Anyone who knows me well enough to have seen my “style” knows that I don’t have any and have a terrible time finding clothes that I’m 1) comfortable in and 2) look “good” in.  I have to admit that because I’m so uncomfortable with my own stylistic appearance that I envy these hipsters’ ability to throw on things that they KNOW (right?  I mean, they’re aware they look stupid…right?) look terrible and just not care.  And since it is a “culture” or “fad” now they even compliment each other (you wouldn’t believe the things this  group in front of us was saying to each other).

On the last trip to the brewery I went in to the “art church” and saw this contraption – but this time there was a performer attached to it.  The song wasn’t that interesting and the use of various horns and sounds was at best comical, not artistic.

We spotted the final resting place for Richard Gere’s Lotus Esprit from Pretty Woman… now THAT’s dedication to the hipster lifestyle!  (not really – I think this is a little newer by a few years by the look of the round tail lamps – but the overall body for the Esprit never changed)

and then next to it was whatever this is…

The last gallery we went into on the way out was not a gallery at all but something like a florist slash organic artist.  The shop was run by Sarah Nam with a few apprentices and used lots of bamboo, driftwood, lotus’ and moss.  A lot of the pieces were tastefully arranged and were the kind of thing I’d like to have in my home one day – if I can ever afford a nice home.

To be fair there were two other “galleries” that we liked.  The first had artist made glass sinks.  The second had papercraft greeting cards that sprung out three dimensional cuts of buildings (and other things) when opened.

Later Saturday night we went to the “real” art show, the annual Beyond Eden show, showcasing what is now called the New Brow movement.

There was a lot of good or at least interesting art on display.  However, apparently, we’ve been good at visiting trendy galleries because most of the art we’d already seen when it originally opened at the various galleries represented (Lebasse, soap factory, etc.).   The only “art celebrity” I saw in attendance (although I’m sure there were several as I don’t know what a lot of artists actually look like) was Audrey Kawasaki.  I thought maybe she would have a piece up from the Copro as she occasionally has shows there – but no such luck.

There were a few pieces by two artists I’d heard about but never seen (their work) in person:

Billy Norrby and Jeff Ramirez

After trying to find Jeff’s pieces on line I found this other piece – and realized we’d seen his work at Thinkspace before.

There were a few artists outside doing some live work….

It was a little disappointing not to find anything new this time around (or at least new that I liked) as last year’s show was my first introduction to Eric Fortune and a few others.

Hive

Hive

I’ve been trying to have a painting at the Hive Gallery every month now since May.  In August my painting got bumped because it was too large.  It resurfaced for the September show, but I don’t think I posted a picture here because I ended up missing the Art Walk.  Below is a photo:

For the October show I was a bit worried.  I knew the show was going to have a “Hell vs. Monster Mash” theme – and I didn’t know what to do.  With school back in session I really had limited time to come up with anything – but I did it!  I tossed around a few different ideas and settled on one.  Then I had Sam take photos of me (which I will NOT post below) for reference.  From those reference photos I made this sketch:

From there I wanted to take another look at the bone structure to make sure everything was in place… (most of these are lousy cell-phone camera photos, so I apologize about the quality)

It was then time to transfer to the little canvas for the first wash (note the positioning of the right hand and left foot in the sketch compared to the wash).

Clearly I was going to run into my old nemesis Mr. Background if I didn’t do something… so I brought the piece into photoshop to do a color study:

And three weeks later – with little time to spare the final was done.  This photo is from the Hive’s web site as I did not have time to photograph the piece before delivery.

Note the red slippers on the right – that was Sam’s idea and I thought it was a good way to move the eye around the painting.  Note how there is almost a line going from the top left to bottom right with positive space on one side and negative on the other.   By the way – the perspective from this angle is crazy – I had to shoot some photos here at work with a friend beside me to make sure it would make sense to see the shoes and nothing else of Dorothy at that angle.

At the gallery opening last weekend I was asked if the red shoe girl was a zombie because of the blue “skin.”  I replied that Dorothy was wearing blue socks in The Wizard of Oz.  And….she was!  (see below)

This show was notable for me because my piece was only a few feet away from Chet Zar’s piece (again- cell phone camera, sorry…) :