Earlier this week, my friend Nate invited me to see his band Camp Ground perform at Mercury Lounge. They delivered a dreamy set of richly layered alternative synth-pop. I then stayed for the following indie rock act, Steel Phantoms, who were quite good as well. These guys also treated us to an assortment of projected graphic art, thanks to Carmen Osterlye.
At larger showplaces, unless you’re very tall, you might have to stand near the front to get a good view of the stage. In a more intimate venue like Mercury, any spot is fine, and this night, being in back was the way to go! These projections intermittently blanketed the entire room, creating ephemeral moving prints on the backs of everyone’s shirts. I spoke to Carmen afterwards to tell her how much I enjoyed the display, and shared with her how I loved when the graphics were cast on the whole audience, activating everyone as part of the artwork!
Work on the album continues with “Revel in the Sun”…maybe it’s because of summer, but this is more of an outright dance number. It could be what would happen if Detroit techno got shipwrecked on a tropical island? I may just keep it short, because I like the idea of reversing things…making the atmospheric pieces the main event and tracks like this as interludes.
At Sky View Center yesterday, while passing through one of the upper levels, I noticed this whole array of paper pinwheel stars dangling from the ceiling. It’s nice to encounter something like that where you may not expect it – art can be anywhere. It reminded me of an experience my friend Karen had just last week. She was enjoying an evening concert of Belle and Sebastian in the park, then looked up to find some trees bathed in a surreal purple glow. Karen alluded that it was just as magical as the performance itself, if not more. Thanks to her for inspiring this post!
The title comes from a recent episode of The Big C, where the terminally ill main character spends one of her last moments with her teenage son, opening all the birthday presents she had bought for him for the rest of his life. One was a book on birdwatching. She explained to him, “I thought when you approached 30, you might get into [it], because you always point them out…up so high, I would never notice…I always look where my feet are heading, but you always look up.” The last present he unveiled (and was most delighted by) were packs of fireworks for his 18th. He immediately lit them and marveled at the man-made shooting stars. The mother smiled affirmatively and remarked, “Always looking up.”
Back to the album, this is my latest draft, “Bittersweet”. As much as I love dance music, I can’t ignore my affinity for soundtracks/film scores…so why not embrace both in one set? I think there’s room for this piece as an interlude or closer.
Taking a little detour today from the album-in-progress to share “Quincy”, an update of an old track of mine. I started this one around 2004. It might be too mellow for the album, but I really like the jazzy feel of it, and the theremin-esque synth voice adds a little eccentricity that is in keeping with my recent material. Have a great week!
Yesterday I went with a friend to view the “Gutai: Splendid Playground” exhibition at the Guggenheim. Started in the mid-1950s, the Gutai group was a postwar movement of artists in Japan, which included fine art, performance and film. My friend remarked that she loved the title of the exhibition, and seeing the crowd, it was aptly chosen, because there were dozens of families there with small children who were fascinated by and engaged with some of the more (and sometimes not-intentionally!) tactile or video-oriented works.
Admittedly, I was not terribly familiar with this movement. Having studied visual art, I had taken my fair share of art history courses, but there was a predominantly Western/Eurocentric focus, especially when it came to modern art. The few times Asian art was covered was in reference to classical period / traditional / religious works, so this was a great opportunity that the Guggenheim provided, to learn more about them.
Curling upwards through the cylindrical progression of the museum, I saw pieces that reminded me of Western artists such as Joan Miró and Jackson Pollock, but often created through more unconventional methods. Kazuo Shiraga, for example, applied paint solely with his feet, creating large-scale pieces of broad, continuous strokes, and Akira Kanayama built small remote-controlled vehicles to aid in his curvilinear drip abstractions. There was a standout piece by Kumiko Imanaka that laboriously applied hundreds of thin, wavy, colored metal strips in a successive rotating pattern, creating a fantastic optical illusion that appeared to shift as you walked past it.
Actually, many of these works displayed carried on the theme of circular, modern and minimal…how perfectly complementary that they should be shown at the Guggenheim, a venue that is all those things! “Gutai: Splendid Playground” is on view through Wednesday, May 8.
Yesterday on the Lower East Side, I was on my way to meet a friend when this bold stencil piece caught my eye. It was painted on the side of a temporary housing unit (the kind you might see at large construction sites or movie sets) located adjacent to a neighborhood playground, tying-in very appropriately as a site-specific work. I grabbed a quick snapshot and realized later that the tagline was slightly clipped, but the message is, “Stay curious.”
Just as the toddler depicted, pointing in a state of wonder at the silhouetted pigeons, I recall instances of children intrigued by their feathered friends at the park, sometimes running towards them to catch a better glimpse, only to chase them away. The piece reminds and encourages us to take a minute to stop, explore and marvel at the world. Many of us look to movies for an experience or an escape, and quite often, those filmmakers and writers are extracting from or trying to recapture moments they took to immerse themselves in the real-life inspirations they’ve encountered. It’s kind of a symbiosis of life and art. It also reminds me of that infamous line in John Hughes’ classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that I probably needn’t quote. I certainly would have missed out on this if I hadn’t paused.
One of the things I love about street art – whereas galleries and museums have limited operating hours, these kinds of public works are open for all to discover any day, any time. This piece was created by Joe Iurato. You can view more of his work at www.joeiurato.com.
Here’s the preview track, “Descentigrade” from my album in progress…sort of old sci-fi flick meets broken beats. While waiting for the train the other night, I noticed the turnstiles and lights on the lower level resembled some 1950s science fiction film contraption from overhead, and thought it would make a complementary cover photo.
Track title provides direct link if the embedded player isn’t displayed.
Wednesday night, the Lower East Side was presented with a winning triple-combo of powerful, gritty rock & roll and stunning visuals in a great-sounding venue, thanks to Chainwave and Ismael Medina at Pianos in New York City.