Local Art News

The unique economics of Washington craft beer

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 12:05am

There are currently 274 breweries in Washington state, and 78 in the Emerald City. No other city in the world can boast Seattle’s numbers. Even San Diego, long championed as the city with the most breweries, falls just short of Seattle at 74. Portland has 58. Statewide, a whopping 83 breweries opened for business just last year alone, a nearly unparalleled rate of growth.

Beer is a major economic force in the state. The craft beer industry contributed over $1 billion to the state’s economy in 2012, and it’s easy to assume that number has since grown, with an additional 103 breweries setting up shop in the past three years. Furthermore, over 75 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in Yakima Valley. Sure, Oregon and California’s brewers bring in more money overall, but Washington is in a unique economic position. As Bart Watson, economist for the Brewer’s Association, put it, “When both the resources and the beer are made in state, all of that revenue goes right back into the state.”

According to the Brewers Association, the national industry took in over $33.9 billion in 2012, and now employs over 115,000 people. Small brewers have become big business, and legislators are starting to take notice. A bill called the Small BREW Act is about to start making its way through Congress, with real implications for Washington’s economy. It would change the federal tax rate on beer for those breweries producing less than six million barrels a year. Since only one brewery in Washington (Redhook) produced more than 60,000 barrels last year, the new tax rate would be a boon for breweries statewide, potentially invigorating one of the state’s most self-contained cash cows.

“Small brewers have been anchors of local communities and America’s economy since the start of our history,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D – MD), who introduced the Small BREW Act. “The federal government needs to be investing in industries that invest in America and create real jobs here at home.”

If passed, Cardin estimates the breaks will help generate an additional $172 million in the first year alone, and another $990 million over the next five years. He also predicts 5,000 new jobs in the first 18 months after the bill passes and an astounding 6,400 more jobs over the following five years.

However, a version of the bill failed in 2013, and an opposing bill is also making the rounds in Congress: the Fair BEER Act. Like the Small BREW Act, the similar sounding Fair BEER Act would also provide lower tax rates on barrels of beer produced by smaller breweries. However, there’s a reason the Fair BEER Act is supported by Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors , while the Small BREW Act is not. Hidden within the Fair BEER Act are also tax breaks to the four largest corporations in the industry, which control 89 percent of the market.

“The Fair BEER Act is essentially a red herring,” Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewer’s Guild, told Eater. “It proposes an unrealistic amount of tax cuts that predominantly benefit the biggest players in the industry — also known as the only breweries who are cutting jobs and shipping profits offshore (and are, in some cases, owned by foreign-controlled conglomerates).”

As noted, Washington’s in a prime position to benefit from craft beer’s steadily growing place in more pint glasses and fridges, and legislation aimed at building the industry. The reason is Yakima Valley, home to the vast majority of all hop acreage in the USA. The area is unique, in that farmers there can grow three distinct varieties of hops in three different parts of the valley. The Moxee Valley is known for its aroma crops, the Yakima Indian Reservation grows what are perhaps the best alpha level hops in the world, and the Lower Yakima Valley grows huge amounts of the super alpha variety. Washington brewers have a constant stream of three distinct varieties of locally grown hops.

Small Washington breweries support local hop and grain farmers. Local bars, brewpubs, taprooms, liquor stores, and restaurants also keep the money in the state. Washington features America’s most brewery-rich city, and is the primed to benefit from all those suds. When people think of the craft beer capitol of America, they often think of Oregon or California. When you look at the numbers, maybe Washington deserves the title.

Categories: Local Art News

A New Renaissance–We’ll Have to Invent One–A New Renaissance For A New Age.

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 9:19pm
      I think I must have been about five years old, living in Los Angeles and watching old re-runs of the “Six-Million Dollar Man” when I first ran into the concept.  Steve Austin–the “bionic man” was being held “Bond Style” by a megalomaniac, hell-bent on destroying the world! But, why? Just because!  Well, […]
Categories: Local Art News

Inner States: 3 poems for America

Crosscut Arts - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 5:00am

Editor’s Note: The three poems excerpted here are from Inner States, the as-yet-unpublished collection of 50 poems — one for each of the Unites States — by artist and author Lorenzo Moog.

I was born in Minnesota and live and write in the state of Washington. Three things happened within a few months of each other that led to this writing experience:

First, a road trip across the United States during which I was constantly delighted and amazed by the landscapes, the regional variations, the plants and animals and the light. I made notes.

Shortly after that trip I read the results of a survey of college sophomores in which 65 percent were geographically illiterate about their own country. For instance, a large sampling said they “weren’t sure” whether Miami was in the state of Florida, which was disheartening to say the least.

Finally, on the train from Boston to Philadelphia I was astonished by the squalor and decay of the towns and cities along the way as the train lumbered through Connecticut, which was very at odds with my previous experiences of that state.

When I returned to Seattle I wrote the first piece, Connecticut, with four more states quickly following at random. The rest evolved over a period of three years as I made discoveries about myself as a writer, a person and an American. In the process of writing the collection of 50 poems, Inner States, college sophomores were never very far from my mind nor were the extraordinary landscapes, the flora and fauna, and history and astonishing diversity of the country we call America.

Here are three of the 50 state poems:

CONNECTICUT

View from the tracks in Bridgeport, Conn. Credit: Flickr users David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott

If you want to see Connecticut
take the train south from
Boston, it’s quite a trip.
You’ll be relieved of all your
pre-conceptions of this as a rich
and privileged place.
The railroad view may not
be perfectly accurate but
it’s another bookend look down
the row of life’s stories
from Darien and Greenwich
and mansions by the sea.
Oh yes, there’s ocean front
real estate here and mountains
too and pretty old towns in
the interior with lots of emotionally
cool tortoise shell and linen types
mingling with the rednecks.
In estates, historic houses,
beautiful gardens or trailer parks,
Anglophiles and hairy-backed
Mediterraneans are all jostling
under a very pale blue sky.
Its tasteful here, the very best
and tasteless here the very worst,
an exercise in class Americana
from the country clubs, green
in Hartford, to the squalid gray
and crumbling towns along
the track.
Connecticut is like a balancing act
of jugglers on tight ropes.
Some of the jugglers have nets
beneath them, some of them do not.

DELAWARE

Rebobeth Beach. Credit: Flickr user Ed Keer

Once one day in August in the dog day heat
of the Johnson administration
my young friend and I headed north
from Washington to Rehoboth Beach
on the Delaware shore.
Before air conditioning
that town was where many in Congress
brought their weary selves in summer
to escape the heat of the capitol and
the burdens of manipulating the Constitution.
On crossing the state line into Delaware
it wasn’t long before we smelled the sea feeling
heat rise up from the two lane road lined
with black-eyed daisies and Queen Anne’s lace.
We bought a watermelon from a country kid
with two teeth and a bottle of gin for
two dollars fifty in the town.
The beach was hot,
we roasted, but refreshed ourselves liberally
with alternating mouthfuls of sweet, red melon
and the gin.
The rest of that day and night
is a blur except that I recall when walking
along the shore by moonlight our footprints
shimmered silver in the sand and we slept
on the beach with strangers.
The horseshoe crabs, a species little evolved
in 250 million years, crawled among us to lay
their pearly green eggs, fertilize them,
then depart, knowing that waves would later
cover the nests with sand; horseshoe crabs
had been coming to Delaware for a long, long time.
As the luck of youth would have it we had spent
the night in front of a good hotel.
We shambled into the dining room to the disdain of the classical
waiters who assessed us with disgust but my friend,
being from the privileged class, barked at them
in a language they understood.
The taste of the food has never left me; eggs,
poached in mussel stock, served with a golden
filet of striped bass.
Even with my bleary eyes
and sandy clothes I delighted in the setting
of the spacious room with doors thrown open
to the morning, warm sea breezes billowing
through frothy curtains.

WASHINGTON

View from Orcas Island. Credit: Flickr user Homini:)

This place has a split personality.
It’s called the
Evergreen State
but that is only a half truth.
A better name would be
The Green and Gold State
as rugged Cascade Mountains
split the state in two,
leaving the east side dry and golden,
the west side wet and always green.
Mountains matter here.
Newborn, snow- capped mountains,
seething with red-hot energy,
slumbering volcanoes awaiting their time.
The Olympics rear up on the coastal side,
the Cascades cut the ground in two,
Mt. Baker looms, St. Helens growls,
Olympus broods, Rainier rules over all.
The Cascades, rippling down the middle,
cast their climactic — emotional spell
over land and people alike.
The east is apples, lentils and wheat
with Spokane,
isolated, determined and reserved.
The west is computers, coffee and jets
with Seattle,
quirky, eccentric and cultured.
In these two regions, east and west,
it is the simple difference between
no and yes.
Native languages spill out in many places,
names of the rivers for instance;
Duwamish, Skykomish,
Stilaquamish, Snohomish, Quilcene
,
rivers Chief Seattle called,
not just water but the blood of our ancestors.
Rivers, land, and people, are all in concert
with the solid rhythm of towering mountains.
Clouds, the organs of union between
the mountains and sea results in cool
gray rain that falls placidly onto the land.
Out on the farthest point west, Cape Flattery,
the northern Pacific crashes
into contact with USA-America
for the first time … in the company
of otters, whales and puffins,
salty spray mingling with forest fog,
then heading east.

 

Categories: Local Art News

The Weekend List: African dance, comedy horror improv and an artistic celebration of the Duwamish River

Crosscut Arts - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 5:00am

* Events that are $15 or less

DanceGarden: A Celebration of World Music & Dance *

Not only does this event showcase contemporary and traditional dance and music from across the African Diaspora — in other words, it’s a feast for the eye, ear and soul — it’s free. Performers include Gansango Music & Dance, De Cajón Project, Bahia in Motion, Dance Brazil, Flamenco Danzarte and Suzanna & Friends.

If you go: DanceGarden: A Celebration of World Music & Dance, The Neptune Theatre, July 2 (Free) — F.D.

 

Duwamish Revealed *

Estuary, a sculptural installation and performance space by Christian French.

Seattle’s only river is being showcased and celebrated with a whole host of art installations, performances and workshops all summer-long. There’s a tapestry made from recycled materials that’s outfitting the South Park bridge. There’s a large illuminated and mirrored sculpture by Ben Zamora holding court at 12th Avenue South and South Elmgrove Street, also in South Park. And Buster Simpson tackles climate change and the river’s temperament in an installation involving two skinny and very tall chairs floating on spheres on the river at 8th Avenue South. You can actually see Anne Blackburn’s Witness, which is documenting human and animal activity along Hamm Creek with a motion-sensitive wildlife camera, by taking a look at an Instagram feed. But the whole point of Duwamish Revealed, which is organized by the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle and features more than 3 dozen artists and performers, is to get you to connect with and think about this often-dismissed waterway. So check out the map and the calendar of events and spend a couple of hours at the Duwamish taking everything in.

If you go: Duwamish Revealed, Various art installation sites along the Duwamish from West Seattle south to Georgetown, Now through September 30 (Free)—F.D.

 

Museums on Us *

Roger Shimomura, American in Disguise, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 34 × 34 inches.

If you happen to have a Bank of America account, your card grants you free admission to a handful of Seattle museums this weekend. Head to Northwest African American Museum (open Sunday only) to catch the last day of Stranger Genius winner C. Davida Ingram’s exhibit Eyes to Dream: A Project Room, exploring identity and beauty. The Wing Luke Museum continues to present its acclaimed Do You Know Bruce? exhibit, which is all about Bruce Lee. It’s also added a new exhibit Constructs: Installations by Asian Pacific Women Artists. Other local institutions offering free admission this holiday weekend include the Seattle Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Bellevue Arts Museum. Perhaps the exhibit I’m most looking forward to is TAM’s An American Knockoff, featuring 53 pop art paintings and prints exploring two of Roger Shimomura’s major life events: his family’s internment during WWII and his move from NYC to the Midwest. And in case you need another motivator for some cultural exploration: museums tend to be air-conditioned.

If you go: Museums on Us, Various cultural institutions throughout town, July 4 and 5 (Free)—N.C.

 

Zola Jesus (DJ Set) Youryoungbody, Nightspace *

If mysterious and edgy electronic sounds are at all your thing, Kremwerk is the only place you should be Thursday night, other obligations be damned. This is a darkwave extravaganza, with genre master Zola Jesus performing a rare headlining DJ set. Typically, singer/songwriter/producer Nika Roza Danilova (she’s American-born and of Russian and Slovenian descent) performs her excellent, slightly gothic original material. On this occasion, she’s “dusting off her wildest records” according to her Twitter page. Supporting her is Youryoungbody, who interpret New Wave style synth sounds with a more modern EDM perspective, and Nightspace, an impressive solo singer/producer with a slightly industrial sound who performs awesome  barebones, beats-and-keyboard sets.

If you go: Zola Jesus (DJ set), Kremwerk, July 2 ($8)—J.S.H.

Blood Squad *

Comedy horror improv troupe Blood Squad is always stellar and it’s one-night only shows are such a rarity (they only do these kinds of events three times a year). So whether or not Amber Waves of Brain actually delivers Independence Day-themed horror, the show featuring four improv vets should elicit tears of laughter and moments of genuine surprise. Consider this your unparalleled introduction to Seattle improv (with the bar set quite high). But act fast because the shows always sell out.

If you go: Blood Squad, The Annex Theatre, July 3 ($10)—N.C.

 

 

Grace Love and the True Loves *

“Seattle’s first lady of soul” certainly deserves the title she’s been informally awarded. Grace Love sings like she has an old soul,  bringing the kind of rapturous charisma rarely found outside a gospel choir. Her voice is mellower than some of her neo-soul contemporaries—like Sharon Jones or Bettye Lavette. But she doesn’t have the deep, demure vibe of Mavis Staples either. Love’s singing voice is mellow, rich and sublimely melodic. Behind her, a just-jazzy-enough funk band matches her energy and tone perfectly. Some might call her sound dated, or anachronistic, but, in actuality, it’s timeless. She opens for funky jam band Dug at the Lo-Fi this week.

If you go: Grace Love and the True Loves, The Lo-Fi, July 3 ($10)—J.S.H.

Porcelain Raft *

In 2012, Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice described Porcelain Raft’s penchant for “burying his hooks and lyrics in layers of shimmery fuzz until they sounded so far away that you had to squint just to make ’em out.” This is a perfect characterization. Mauro Remiddi, who performs under the aforementioned moniker, got his start scoring films in Italy and began layering shimmery guitar on top of keyboard loops and Sparklehorse-esque vocals in 2010. His music has a definite chillwave feel, but it’s crystal clear and stirring. Porcelain Raft avoids the mind numbing reverb doldrums where so many shoegaze and dreampop groups take up residence. Remiddi truly pulls off the solo artist approach, carrying the charisma that seemed so much easier to find back in the singer/songwriter heyday of the ‘90s.

If you go: Porcelain Raft, Barboza, July 7 ($10)—J.S.H.

 

Sarah Kay *

Sarah Kay said she first regarded spoken word poetry as a combination of her two secret loves: poetry and theater. Her TED talk, which has had over 7.8 million views, shows the power of poetry to highlight the beauty in everyday minutiae as well as the complexity of the world. Kay, who’s from New York City, will be performing alongside beloved Seattle superstar poet Karen Finneyfrock, with all proceeds benefitting Nepal relief.

If you go: Sarah Kay, Fremont Abbey Arts Center, July 8 ($12)—N.C.

 

March of the Penguins with the Seattle Symphony

The delightfully poignant documentary is paired with a live performance of Alex Wurman’s score as played by the singular Seattle Symphony. Oh, the drama: will that penguin egg hatch? Oh, the cuteness: penguin chicks!

If you go: March of the Penguins with the Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, July 8 (tickets start at $25)—F.D.

Categories: Local Art News

Growing up Muslim in the Northwest

Crosscut Arts - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 10:01pm

For Amina Al-Sadi, America is the only home she’s ever known. As a half-Iraqi, 25-year-old woman, she is dedicated to her Islamic faith, but reminded constantly how many people see it as somehow un-American. Her headscarf causes others to treat her as an outsider, but to take it off would feel like defeat. In Part Two of this series, Al-Sadi discusses her experiences as a Muslim growing up in Puget Sound, and how the season of Ramadan connects her to the Islamic community, even as it brings conflicted feelings to the surface.

 

Categories: Local Art News

Catching Up With 179 – A Latina Street-Artist And Community Organizer Living And Working In The Contemporary World!

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 7:27pm
As Seattle reconstructs the Salon-think of the 19th century, it becomes more and more important to speak truth to power.  But is that really a bad thing! Recently, I was very lucky to speak to Seattle street artist, muralist, painter and community artist Angelina Villalobos, aka 179 about what it means to be a female […]
Categories: Local Art News

City Superheroes: Skillet’s Josh Henderson

Crosscut Arts - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 5:00am

Our biweekly City Superheroes column highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: chef Josh Henderson and visual artist Ben Horak.

Moniker: Fresh

Given Name: Josh Henderson

Other Aliases: Hendu, Hurricane

Superpowers: Mechanical and physical reinvention (like his bacon ham cannon), Clairvoyance

First Appearance: August 2007 “slinging burgers and running from the health department” with the first Skillet airstream food trailer

Local Haunts: Loretta’s, How to Cook a Wolf and Golden Gardens cooking hot dogs

Archenemies: McDonald’s, Cocoa-Cola, Apathy

Even Heroes Have Heroes: His two sons: Huck and Walley; San Francisco Michelin Star chef Stuart Rioza; girlfriend Kimberly

Origin Story: Born and raised in Seattle, Josh moved around with his family as a youngster but eventually returned to Seattle. He became interested in cooking during high school and studied music at Western Washington University before attending culinary school.

He started the Skillet food trailer in 2007. The business was holding on by the skin of its teeth for a year and a half in before Josh came up with the idea for bacon jam. “It was a condiment we put on our burger, inspired by an onion compote from a place in Santa Fe. I just added bacon to it.” The jam became so popular that customers began asking for it in jars. “Then Martha Stewart put it in her online Christmas catalogue” and Josh sold 150,000 jars in one month. “That kept us going.”

The jam’s reception was a turning point for Josh, the first moment he recognized he had the ability to see into the future clearly, to always know the right move to make. It was also an example of Josh’s knack for reinvention, leading to his crime-stopping bacon jam arm cannon.

His Philosophy: “Make it delicious and keep it simple.”

What’s Next: A number of openings in October and November with his Huxley Wallace Collective, including a rotisserie chicken window, a bottle shop and brewery and his Rite of Passage restaurant.

About the Illustrator: Ben Horak is a Seattle-based cartoonist and graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies. His art has appeared in periodicals including The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly and he is a regular contributor to the Intruder comic newspaper. Find out more about Ben at Grumptoast.com.

To see all our City Superhero series, go here.

Categories: Local Art News

Eleven great photos from Seattle Pride 2015

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 1:14pm

Beyonce and Taylor Swift ballads reverberated between buildings. Batman rollerbladed through parade traffic in a Speedo. Boy Scouts marched in full uniform, in support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that gay marriage is now legal nationwide. This year’s Seattle Pride had it all — from plain T-shirts and jeans, to glitter and nipple pasties. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the parade.

 

Feeling safe, the Caped Crusader shed the majority of his suit. At Pride, the angels wear latex hot pants and matching Chuck Taylors. Boy and Girl Scouts marched in full uniform. This Boy Scout brought a look of sheer determination to his parade marching duties. Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of dancing at the event.

This won’t be the last time we see this gender neutral sign around town, we suspect.

 

 

Categories: Local Art News

The Fabulous Downey Brothers on aliens, band rules and those crazy costumes

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 5:00am

I’m convinced that The Fabulous Downey Brothers are secretly the cast for an upcoming sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s title: Dr. Frankenfurter in Space.

Inspired by the deranged showmanship of high-energy New Wave bands like The Talking Heads, The B-52s and Devo, this seven-person Seattle-based group takes on-stage theatrics to another galaxy. Ornate, handcrafted headpieces, full-body eyeball suits and gratuitous applications of black lipstick are just a few key elements in the Downey Brothers’s expansive wardrobe.

Musically, the group — named for brothers Sean and Liam, who write and sing most of the songs — is as manic as it gets. The keyboards, guitar work and Sean’s singing all carry the whimsy and breakneck pacing of The B-52s, with hints of the garage-punk underpinnings so popular among young Northwest musicians today.

Beneath the antics, costumes and whimsy of their music, there is something substantial, something meticulous and philosophical about the Downey Bros. The group is utterly unlike so many of its musical peers who slap out messy guitar riffs wearing stained denim and slack-jawed expressions. This band possesses a feverish drive to entertain (and yes, confuse) audiences by any means hilarious. Strip away the makeup and the aping, and there is a deep-seated sincerity.

During a conversation with Sean and Liam Downey, keyboardist (and Sean’s wife) Chandra Farnsworth and guitarist Alex Link, a hint of that sincerity peeked out through all the quips and jibs.

JSH: Sean, When did you and your brother Liam start playing music?

Sean: Interview is over!

Well, we got that out of the way quick.

Sean: Our parents would play records during dinner. The B-52s, Devo, The Talking Heads. That’s it. I got a guitar, Liam got drums.

How old were you?

Sean: I was 13. So Liam was 10.

When did the band start?

Sean: Four years ago. In Olympia. Christmas happens every year… (trails off)

Chandra: We decided to play a bunch of Christmas songs. The band played its very first show on New Years Day.

Alex: I missed that show!

Chandra: You did; you missed our first show. That was okay though, because the first show was the only show we ever did without costumes.

So it became apparent after the first show that costumes were a necessity? Why was that?

Sean: We really like Zolo music.

Chandra: There’s a certain freedom that comes with wearing a costume. It gives you more license to get away with stuff, to push it a little more.

Sean: We need it to be a mystery. Do you know what Zolo music is?

The bandmates costumed up for their new album photo shoot. Credit: Josh Linn

Why don’t you explain it to me?

Sean: It’s a musical genre but also a fashion thing. It’s like New Wave music with cartoony shapes and colors. Like Devo. We tend to revert to that because it’s the easiest way to explain what we do.

Alex: The reason I wanted to do costumes was because of something David Byrne said: “Everything on stage needs to be larger than life.”

Chandra: It’s about reaching the back row too.

Alex: That’s why I like the [costume] head pieces.

Chandra: We try to be a band we would want to see. Great music is one thing, and it’s definitely a great reason to go see a live show. But when you can capitalize on that visual element you’re giving people more bang for their buck.

Sean: I don’t think this has been published. It was Halloween, and Liam made his own costume out of cardboard [for a school contest]. He cut it out into this lobster. It looked really DIY. Everyone else was doing a gimmick or doing some store-bought costume. I thought about the things Liam was doing while we were making this band.

Alex: Sean and I did the rock and roll thing in high school, and it was pretty boring.

What was the first set of costumes you made?

Sean: We went to the thrift stores and bought blue.

Alex: Little tiny blue hats.

Chandra: Blue glasses.

Sean: Blue everything. And black lipstick. I think that was my idea.

Chandra: At the time, because it was sudden, we all just sort of bought stuff. Since then, it’s become much more handmade.

How often would you say you change your costumes?

Chandra: The general theme is that we run with one or two costumes for a year.

Sean: We put in a costume change [during the live show] at some point too. There didn’t used to be a costume change.

Chandra: We’re trying to work in three one day!

You started in Olympia, and then you came out to Seattle. Could you compare the two musical scenes?

Sean: Seattle’s way more saturated.

Chandra: More bands per square inch.

Sean: In Olympia you know most of the bands who are playing. A lot of bands have come through Olympia or originated in Olympia, so it has its own thing. But so does Tacoma. Tacoma is so often overlooked.

Chandra: Olympia doesn’t have the same permanence as Seattle because it’s a college town. A lot of bands form temporarily and then disband. A lot of people make their homes in Seattle and sink their roots down here.

Alex: And they have a GREAT psychedelic rock history.

Are there any venues in Olympia we should know about?

Chandra: The Valley was a good time.

You’ve been around for a few years now. Do you feel like you can draw a decent crowd when you play?

Sean: We tend to get lucky. We open for other really good bands. We’ve opened for huge audiences, but they’ve never been OUR audiences. We’re still a very young band, and it’s hard to gauge what our fan base is. We see a lot of happy faces and we can’t talk to everybody.

Is it ever bizarre opening for those large audiences that came to see other groups?

Chandra: We recently opened for Randy and Mr. Lahey from Trailer Park Boys.

Sean: It was sold out!

Chandra: We look at it as a great opportunity. We have a great opportunity to do whatever the hell we want. … It’s like an assault. That’s what we like to call it. We go in, change costumes and leave the audience with so much to process they can’t help but get into it.

That’s partially why I wanted to interview you. On stage, you rarely present as human. You’re these insane caricatures. I had to find out what was beneath the exterior.

Sean: [Referring to himself, Chandra, Alex, and Liam] We live together, and our house is quiet after 10 p.m. We never have parties.

Chandra: It’s a really delicate thing. We live in an era where you can track any band you want. Follow their Instagram and know about all their shit all the time, getting updates constantly. We’re a really visual band, so we’re torn between giving [the fans] everything and maintaining that sense of distance and mystery that is so compelling. It’s hard, with this internet (laughs).

Sean: It’s hard, because I work with bands, so everyone knows I don’t wear makeup all the time.

The Downey Brothers in performance

I’m sure you heard that local DIY venue The Josephine shut down recently. It’s an almost cyclical thing with these places: They become popular and the fire marshall or whoever busts them because they’re not up to code, or they get torn down as an area gets developed. Is there anything that we as citizens or lawmakers can do to make music more accessible in Seattle?

Alex: The old Funhouse [another DIY venue since shut down] was kind of what launched us in the Seattle scene. Honestly, no, I don’t think there’s anything we can do unless money is taken out of the equation. The reason the Funhouse shut down is because it was prime real estate and they wanted to build condos. If you look around Seattle, everywhere is condos now.

The “Razing the Bar” documentary about the Funhouse said it perfectly: Seattle prides itself on its music and whatnot, but they’re shutting down every place that breeds bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. The problem is all those places are owned privately, and if the landlord wants to make more money, they’re gone … [Liam Downey arrives] … Hey Liam!

There’s a recorder on, just so you know.

Liam: Oh helllllo!

Sean: (to Liam) We were talking about your lobster costume. Tell us how you made it.

Liam: (to Sean) The same way we make all the head pieces … I didn’t think you were the one asking the questions here.

Do you remember why you made it?

Liam: I wanted to win the costume contest! I didn’t win.

Who did?

Liam: Someone bought an inflatable thing. It was a private high school, so that was sort of acceptable. Whoever spends the most money wins.

We were also talking about DIY venues. Do you have any thoughts on their importance?

Liam: The reason they’re getting shut down is because the majority of the world hates art. So until that changes they’ll keep going away. They are important though, because they’re the only places anyone can play. You don’t need a demo to play them.

Can you tell me about some other local bands that you’ve enjoyed listening to or playing with?

Sean: We’re all in different scenes. We all like very different bands. I’m going to go with Wimps. Rachel Ratner and the boys are great songwriters.

Liam: Witches Titties are great too. They’re really liberating, they break down barriers and they use magic (chuckles).

What do you mean, barriers?

Liam: They have no genre … and the lead singer, she was a high school student in the ’80s. So it’s really interesting to see her perspective on music. Witches Titties feels like her accumulation of what she thinks about music, and she’s seen it all. Especially when it comes to punk music. She’s seen punk go through New Wave, Industrial and Grunge.

Chandra: Punishment is awesome, and so is Nightspace. They tear that shit up by themselves. And there’s more good bands in Tacoma, too: Mirrorgloss is amazing. So sassy!

Let’s switch gears: I’ve always loved the mid-set transition in your shows where Liam comes out from behind the drum kit and sings. How did you come up with that? Is it just a way to give Liam a turn to perform the songs he wrote?

Liam: Basically, yeah. I can’t play drums and sing at the same time. Well, I can, but I don’t like to … It’s not like we planned [the transition], but every time I’ve tried to be the front man [full time] it always backfires. If you’re doing something that’s a little bit aggressive people can get pissed off … It’s the patriarchy winning. People will be like, “you fucked with that guy, you deserved it.” That’s not true. Especially when [a dispute] is about a material thing. When I’ve been attacked for knocking over someone’s drink, I’ve screamed, I’ll buy you a new one!

Has this been a problem for you?

Liam: I guess so. There was one time when I threw my headpiece  — which was soft! — into the audience and it hit the wrong guy, but he actually turned out to be nice. The other time, I knocked over a guy’s drink and he got really cerebral about it. He waited for a weak moment when we were done playing and sucker punched me.

Chandra: And that was after he threw beers at us on stage.

Liam: it was just something so un-personal that he took so personally.

I’d like to hear about how you prepare for shows, because there’s so much choreography compared to many other bands.

Sean: We argue. We’re trying to sit down and talk about things though. It’s all normal band stuff; we rehearse.

Chandra: Things get refined the more you try them out on stage. It becomes apparent what needs to be changed. … We’re trying to move into a more focused and conceptual phase, mostly just to keep ourselves sane.

Sean: We have to start imposing more rules.

Chandra: We have so much creative energy. David Byrne was talking about how Talking Heads had certain unspoken rules. They wouldn’t sing songs about “ooh baby baby.” We have a lot of rules that aren’t strict and spoken, but understood.

Alex: One rule is that we’ll never make a girl look sexy, like a sex symbol — unless it’s a satire.

Chandra: Another thing we try not to do is write songs about really intense personal experiences. They’re all very general; they could apply to anyone.

Sean: We’re an anti-political band, but that’s political (laughs).

Choosing not to make certain statements is a statement in and of itself.

Liam: For me, it’s always been about the postmodern strive for something that’s not human. Not another love song, not another party song. For me, it’s mostly science fiction [that inspires me].

Chandra: We don’t want to idolize ourselves or make ourselves characters within the band. We’re very unified. We want to give the sense that we’re all replaceable.

Liam: We’re an organism! … We’re kind of weird about the band name right now, because it just centers on me and Sean.

Given your costume choices and songwriting I must ask: Have you ever been contacted by aliens?

Liam: They contact me every night when I close my eyes. In fact, they’re here right now!

I didn’t ask if you’d seen too many episodes of The X-Files.

Sean: People who have smoked Salvia or taken psychedelics can access these beings very easily. Sometimes the dosage is not enough; it doesn’t work for everybody. But the Salvia will take you away whether you’re ready or not. That’s how the band is: We’re going to do our thing whether you’re ready for us or not, and the aliens are among us all the time. They’re talking to us, making things happen and syncing things up. The ebb and flow is there. Some people have to meditate a little harder to see them. … Or you can just smoke some Salvia.

Liam: Our thoughts are aliens.

Alex: Me being a pilot, they communicate with me through the RF channels. They give me ideas to make the band better while I’m flying around Friday Harbor. It sounds like a digital mishmash, but I understand it.

Categories: Local Art News

Gargoyles: 2014 “Independents Day” Sale! – July 4th from 11am-5pm & July 5th from 12-7pm

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 3:19am
Gargoyles 2014 Independents Day Sale Please join us in celebration of small business & keeping it strong. We are having our “Independents Day” Sale July 4th from 11am-5pm & July 5th from 12-7pm Come in for 10-25% savings! We encourage everyone to support their local independent restaurants, coffee houses & shops. Copyright © 2015 The Gargoyle Statuary, […]
Categories: Local Art News

Craig van den Bosch at Shift Gallery Presents: “Nano Systems” – July 2, 2015 – August 1, 2015

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 1:53am
Craig van den Bosch “Nano Systems” Shift Gallery 312 S Washington St, Seattle, Washington 98104 July 2, 2015 – August 1, 2015 Opening Reception First Thursday Art Walk, July 2nd 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. * Dance Performance during the opening reception by: Karin Stevens Dance *     Artist Statement: Inspired through observation of the […]
Categories: Local Art News

Faith and gay rights: An easing of the culture wars?

Crosscut Arts - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 9:51pm

With the U. S. Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, are the culture wars (or at least this front in the culture wars) now over?

Will marriage equality for people who are gay and lesbian be not only legal, but also accepted throughout the land? Or will the Court’s June 26 decision inject new fuel into the culture wars, much as its Roe v. Wade decision did in 1973? Is this, so to speak, Fort Sumter or Appomattox?

While I don’t expect disagreements over marriage equality to now be completely over and done, I do think that the Court’s decision signals a broad cultural acceptance of those whose sexual orientation is same-gender and of their right to full participation in society and the institution of marriage.

Which is quite remarkable. Or at least it seems remarkable to me how significantly our society has changed its views on this issue in what, from an historical point of view, can only be considered a relatively short time. Certainly, for many, these changes have been “a long time coming.” And yet when you consider how slowly change often happens, the acceptance of these shifts have taken place stunningly quickly.

What explains the rapidity of this change, and the likelihood of a cessation — though not disappearance — of conflict over the acceptance of gay and lesbian people and marriage equality? A major share of the credit goes to the gay rights movement. It has been well organized and persistent. Its leaders and participants have been courageous and focused. In another way, the AIDS crisis probably also did much to stir public awareness and sympathy, as well as mobilizing gays.

But there’s something else that has happened. As gay and lesbian people began to be increasingly open about their sexual orientation in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, more and more people realized that they had friends, colleagues and family members who were gay or lesbian. Where you stood on the issue became quite a personal matter. It wasn’t an abstract issue. It was about Joel, Charley, Alice and Sarah. It was about my aunt and your brother. In this instance, social change had a face and a name, often the face and name of someone quite close to you. And that has made all the difference in the world.

But what about the faith communities — in particular, Christianity — and the attitudes of religious people in the wake of June 26? Will they now, with the Court decision, be reconciled to gay rights and marriage equality?

First, let it be said that there is no single Christian position on this. It is true that some of the most vocal opponents of gay rights and same-sex marriage do identify themselves as Christian and do root their opposition in their faith. It is also true that some of the staunchest advocates of gay rights and marriage equality also identify as Christians and found their activism in their faith.

My hunch is that Christians (and people of other faiths) who disapprove of homosexuality and of gay marriage will continue to do so, but that they will be increasingly a cultural minority. There seems to be, in battles like the one this year over Indiana’s enactment of a “religious freedom” law, a sense of acceptance on the part of conservative Christians that society is going another direction on this. They get that. They just don’t wish to be forced to personally buy in.

My further hunch is that if some minority dissent can be tolerated (get your wedding cake from someone else), it will probably help the issue to go away. If, on the other hand, people chose to go to the legal mat with dissenting bakers, florists and clergy, some conservatives will behave the way most people do when they feel their back is up against the wall. But live and let live can go two ways.

I also observe that among evangelical Christians, who have tended to oppose gay marriage, there are generational differences. Younger generations do not appear to share their parents or grandparents views on the issue. Again, this has a lot to do with knowing actual gay and lesbian people.

On a personal note, for me as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, this issue has been a part of my life and work for 40 years. The very week in 1977 I began as a pastor at my first church in Carnation, Washington, the national body of our denomination voted to support the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons. The next weeks and months at my new congregation were filled with angry conflict as some threatened to leave the church (and did), while others stayed and struggled to work through the issues. Though I was called to another congregation in the early 1980s, sometime in the 1990s that same congregation called its first openly gay minister.

Those who were not at ease with the church’s support of gay rights were not necessarily bad people. Nor were those who pushed for change necessarily the good people. It was all more complex than that. What I did see happen, as suggested earlier, is that many were increasingly open to hearing the story of, for example, parents in the congregation who had a gay son or lesbian daughter. Others observed the gay man at work or the lesbian who served on a town board and concluded, “These are decent, responsible people; we can live and let live.”

Time will tell if live and let live now prevails, or if the Court’s decision galvanizes new levels of conflict. My guess is that we are closer to Appomattox than Fort Sumter, and that we are ready to move on.

 

Categories: Local Art News

Now Showing: “Güeros”, a lovely Mexican road movie

Crosscut Arts - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 5:00am

The bracing, beautifully made Mexican film, Güeros, is the kind of unabashed ode to cinema we rarely see on our screens these days (and when we do, the screens are usually small, and the audiences even smaller).

A winner of several 2014 Ariel awards, Mexico’s version of the Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography, Güeros is a sweet, shaggy road movie, albeit one that confines itself to the four corners of Mexico City. It combines a playful romance, a gestural nod to the country’s politics circa 1999 and a search for an elusive, cirrhotic folk singer.

Shot in black and white and boxed into a retro 4×3 frame, the picture is clearly nostalgic for the early films of the French New Wave. Godard’s Band of Outsiders and The Little Soldier are referenced, as is Truffaut’s freeze-frame ending to The 400 Blows.  And then there is the shout-out to the D.A. Pennebaker documentary on Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back.

But director Alonso Ruiz Placios stakes out his own stylistic flourishes as well. The movie is buoyed by a graceful, free-floating camera, a layered sound design, an appreciation for the interstitial sequence — a flurry of close-ups here, a panicky black-out there — and an eye tuned to the random encounter, the flux of life, in one of the world’s most vital, imposing cities.

The story, such as it is, follows a young teen, Tomás, after he is sent to Mexico City to live with his older brother, Sombra, a procrastinating grad student and his roommate, Santos. They meet up with Sombra’s sometime girlfriend, Ana (her striped sweater echoes Jean Seberg in Breathless; her black-haired bangs and dark pooled eyes a dead ringer for Anna Karina in Band of Outsiders) and embark on a semi-aimless search for old folkie Epigmenio Cruz, who once, as we are frequently told, “made Bob Dylan cry.” In the soft background of this odyssey a student-led protest occupies the central university, and these four urban middle class travelers puzzle over the meaning of the moments they encounter.

Güeros, which means a blonde or light-skinned person, is both an unapologetic paean to the art and craft of cinematic device, and an acknowledgement of the gulf between Mexican art house cinema made for the critical intelligentsia — where poverty porn usually rules — and the popularity of dumbed-down fare for the masses. It doesn’t make an impassioned stand for or against either genre. It is content to amuse itself with a buoyant, casual awareness of the many lost generations that drift through a society. It’s also too easy to overpraise a film that dazzles like this one, but what the hell: Güeros is easily one of the best films of the year.

This review first appeared in The Restless Critic blog.

Categories: Local Art News

The Weekend List: Gaylen Hansen at Linda Hodges. “Soul of Pride” at Neumos. Thai Curry Simple’s after-dark Pop Up

Crosscut Arts - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 5:00am

* Events that are $15 or less

The Westerlies *
They’re one of the most innovative quartets — two trombones, two trumpets — producing sweeping, soul-stirring music rooted in jazz and classical. Their debut album from 2014, Wish the Children Would Come on Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz, remains one of my go-to albums when I want to escape. I’m a big fan of this New York City-based quartet and what makes them even more likable is that all four musicians hail from Seattle, graduates of Roosevelt and Garfield high schools. They’ve been in town for a couple of weeks working on some new music, which they’ll unveil when they play the Royal Room on Sunday.

If you go: The Westerlies, The Royal Room, 5 p.m. June 28 ($15) — F.D.

Keeping it Real: Social Justice + Social Practice *

Artist C. Davida Ingram at opening night of “Eyes to Dream: A Project Room” at NAAM in April 2015.

How are artists responding to the shooting deaths and killings of unarmed black people? For the past couple of months, the Northwest African American Museum has been presenting Seattle artist C. Davida Ingram’s reaction, a collaborative multi-media presentation that’s anchored in the visions of what a changed and different society might look like. Ingram partnered with more than 300 local community members in a project about resistance and hope. In a special public event Thursday night, you can hear from the artist and some of her collaborators, and contribute to the project.

If you go: Keeping it Real: Social Justice + Social Practice, Northwest African American Museum, 7 p.m. June 25 (Free with museum admission, which is $7 for adults) — F.D.

Gaylen Hansen *
If you’re the sort of person who goes crazy over photos of puppies or that video of Golden Retrievers that’s making the virtual rounds, then you owe it to yourself to see Gaylen Hansen’s show before it closes Saturday. Hansen’s paintings of critters are wonderfully charismatic and they deliver such joy. One evening, I stood and watched as people entered the gallery and one by one, each person gazed at a painting and smiled.

If you go: Gaylen Hansen, Linda Hodges Gallery, Through June 27 (Free) — F.D.

The Juan Maclean
Recently, someone described newish venue Kremwerk’s decour to me as a vampire lounge, equating it to the “Fangtasia” nightclub from the Showtime series True Blood. After seeing a performance there recently, I must admit the comparison is valid — and it’s awesome. Kremwerk’s darkly classy vibe should mesh well with The Juan Maclean’s DJ set this week. He’s a veteran musician and affiliate of the almighty DFA records, the label started by LCD Soundsystem frontman and universally- revered producer James Murphy. Juan Maclean’s original material (he has three albums out) falls well within the style of dance music Murphy champions so fervently: The New Wave and rock influences are strong, but Maclean’s productions retain the architecture and drive of dance pop. It’s hard to say how exactly this will translate into a DJ set, but I expect a combination of innovative original productions and perhaps some obscure remixes and throwbacks. Regardless, the man is very, very good at what he does.

If you go: The Juan Maclean, KremwerkJune 25 ($20). 21+. — J.S.H.

Queer Central: The Soul of Pride *
There’s an abundance of DJ sets all over Seattle in honor of Pride festival this weekend, but none funkier than “Soul of Pride,” going down at Neumos on Saturday. Sassyblack, one half of local art-soul dynamo THEESatisfaction, is among the list of DJs slated to perform. Her band’s original material proves two things: her knowledge of the hip-hop and soul genres is encyclopedic, and she’s unafraid to push the boundaries of these genres and take them in new directions. Producer Action Jackson, the musical backbone of another fantastic local soul group, Fly Moon Royalty, is also performing. His influences are more traditionally hip-hop and his talent for spot-on percussion arrangements rivals that of any musician in this genre. General Meow, BassTan, and Toya B are also spinning tracks.

If you go: Queer Central: The Soul of Pride, Neumos, June 27 ($7). 21+. — J.S.H.

Thai Curry Simple After Dark Pop Up
Known for its perfectly crafted takes on iconic Thai dishes, Thai Curry Simple will be hosting an After Dark Pop-up. The festivities will take place at the I.D.’s historic Bush Hotel (mere blocks from Thai Curry’s darling brick-and-mortar), and benefit the Chinatown-International District’s senior meal program. Thai Curry’s food is all perfectly spiced, delicately flavored and showcases fresh ingredients, from herbs to jackfruit. This seven-course meal, priced at $35, includes Tom Sap soup, beef and mushrooms in an infused lemongrass broth and panang curry with pork.

If you go: Thai Curry Simple After Dark Pop Up, The Bush Hotel, 6:30 p.m. June 27 ($35) — N.C.

Urban Craft Uprising *
Urban Craft Uprising’s Summer Show is here, with many returning vendors and a growing list of new ones. While I love ogling (and dreaming about owning) all the pottery, jewelry and fiber arts, I find myself increasingly drawn to the growing food section, where you can find awesome functional gifts for yourself and others. One of my favorite newer inclusions is Addition Cocktail Spices, which blends a host of inventive cocktail spices (akin to bitters) such as Curry and Allspice. If you happen to go on Sunday, you can’t miss the tangible excitement and celebration of the Pride festivities at Seattle Center.

If you go: Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, June 27 and 28 (Free) — N.C.

KEXP INXS Night
The station has been pulling out all the stops to raise money for its new studios at Seattle Center, and one of its coolest strategies has been to organize cover nights of classic groups by contemporary local artists. This time around, it’s the songs of INXS, a band whose value seems somewhat lost on the Millennial generation. INXS is one of the few groups that truly deserves the genre tag dance rock; the band didn’t shy away from the overblown, anthemic sound so popular during the ’80s (the group’s heyday) but the disco and pop influences can be felt throughout their material, courtesy of the crisp and funky guitar and keyboard work. It’s exciting then that a fantastic local rock fusion artist, Telekinesis, is headlining this cover night.  Michael Lerner, the heart and soul of Telekinesis, started out as a more traditional indie rocker. His more recent material however, embraces keyboards and dance-y song arrangements, much in the way INXS gave rock music a poppy shot in the arm. This is a good opportunity for younger people to familiarize themselves with a band that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten, while simultaneously helping KEXP help artists that deserve to be recognized.

If you go: KEXP INXS Night, The Tractor Tavern, June 30 ($14). 21+. — J.S.H.

Categories: Local Art News

EMP: Chronicler of Seattle’s pop roots

Crosscut Arts - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 4:30pm

EMP is more or less Seattle’s ultimate package — a chronicler of past rock ‘n’ roll and an encyclopedia of present popular culture, all in a futuristic-looking building. For the museum’s 15th birthday on June 23, museum leaders threw a gigantic party in which they both celebrated EMP’s accomplishments and outlined the lessons that they had learned along the way.

The birthday bash also served as a formal introduction for the new exhibits What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones and, in a choice that gets back to the very roots of the museum, Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970.  The museum also featured a wide array of props from works of science fiction, from the Delorean in Back to the Future (courtesy of Seattle Time Machine) to the Command Chair in Star Trek to the TARDIS in Doctor Who.

But this being Seattle, the star of the show was the city’s rich musical history and EMP’s role in documenting it. Over its lifetime, EMP — originally known as the Experience Music Project — has devoted exhibits to classic rock ‘n’ roll acts such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and — of course — Jimi Hendrix. EMP has also helped foster Seattle’s musical scene through its Sound Off! program, an annual battle of the bands that gives young musicians a chance to jumpstart their careers and have their songs heard. Local artists and Sound Off! alumni such as Bleachbear, Dave B, and Manatee Commune returned the favor by providing musical entertainment for the party.

The new Jimi Hendrix exhibit, “Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad 1966-1970″. It collects various Hendrix memorabilia from his travels in North America and Europe.

“It’s not just that Seattle has a great music community,” said Patty Isacson Sabee, current CEO and director, said of the acts both past and present. “Seattle has great music because Seattle has a great community.”

Controversy, shmontroversy
As with any teenager, EMP has seen its share of troubles. In its opening years, the museum was hounded by financial troubles; fortunately, those days appear to be moving into the rearview mirror. Jasen Emmons, EMP’s curatorial director, estimated that nearly two-thirds of the museum’s revenue comes from general admissions, while the remaining third is covered by grants, private events and contributions from Allen. Emmons noted that Allen has gradually been cutting back on his contributions, hoping to get the museum self-sustaining by 2018; what this means for EMP is that driving attendance has become more important than ever.

“We’ve gone, in the last three years, from 400,000 visitors to just over 600,000 visitors per year,” Emmons says — the highest annual admission since 2001, the year after the museum opened.

Still a bit of a sore point, even after all these years, is the museum itself and its architectural design. “I love the fact that it’s really pushed the boundaries,” Emmons said. According to Emmons, architect Frank Gehry was inspired by the energy of the nearby Fun Forest Amusement Park, as well as pictures of classic (unsmashed) guitars such as Gibson Les Paul Goldtops and Fender Stratocasters.

EMP’s architecture was met with considerable criticism upon the building’s construction, and though some deep-seated derision still lingers, popular perception regarding the museum’s design has begun to change toward the positive. Words like “cool” and “iconic” are used by tourists and locals alike to describe the building, but even so, some resentment remains.

“When they originally designed it and built it, I was mad about it,” said Seattle native Stewart Visser, who was taking part in the celebration. “I thought it was an ugly building, and still kind of do.”

Evolution of EMP
EMP was founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, whose love of rock music stretches all the way back to his teenage years, when a friend turned him on to Jimi Hendrix. The original plan for EMP was to be a museum solely for Hendrix, a plan that was revised in favor of providing a wider context of rock music. Even today — and despite that the museum has hosted many exhibits that are not about Hendrix — EMP is still seen by some as Allen’s personal love letter to Hendrix, but to reduce EMP to that is to ignore the majority of what it has to offer.

“Over the course of the last seven or eight years, we’ve started to evolve into this popular culture museum and do things like horror film, science-fiction, and fantasy,” said Emmons. The expansion beyond rock music came with the incorporation of the Science Fiction Museum and Fantasy Hall of Fame, at which time EMP realized that its best course of action was evolving toward, as Emmons put it, becoming an institution that presents popular culture.

“By having a broader umbrella, it allowed us more flexibility about different aspects that we could explore,” Emmons said. “It allowed us to broaden our audience, and it offered more variety to the visitor.”

Frank Catalano, a cultural observer in addition to being a tech consultant and columnist for GeekWire, praised EMP’s evolution from music to popular culture as “a smart move and a good move for both Seattle and the museum.”

“It is one of those developments that really both highlights the importance of pop culture and the arts in general, and also the importance of Seattle in pop culture,” Catalano said of EMP’s ties to its home city.

Also essential to EMP are its community outreach programs. Sound Off!, the competition among local musicians, was one of EMP’s first programs, and it quickly outgrew the museum’s modest expectations into a program that the museum is most proud of. Winners of Sound Off! are rewarded with studio time to record their songs, or even shows at music festivals to play them live. Despite the competition, Emmons was pleased to report the “incredible sense of camaraderie” between the bands, and mentioned that booking agents have started coming to the semi-final performances looking for talent.

Bleachbear, one of several Sound Off! alumni who helped EMP celebrate its birthday. Bleachbear were finalists in the 2015 competition.

“It’s really become a launching pad for a lot of artists,” Emmons added.

In addition to Sound Off!, EMP’s Students Training in Artistic Reach (STAR) program connects youth music ensembles — bands and orchestras — with experienced directors and professionals to offer them valuable advice in performance. Isacson Sabee cited these programs as one of the most important things that EMP has been doing.

Referring to the heavy emphasis in schools on science, technology and math, Isaacson Sabee said, “A big part of what we want to do is make sure we keep the arts in STEM learning, and help kids really have an opportunity for their best approach to using their own innate creativity to further their own artistic, educational, and social development.”

But most important to EMP are the people who come back to it time after time. Emmons spoke fondly of the “geeks” whose passion and excitement for such diverse elements of popular culture as Nirvana and Star Wars gives the museum cause to take pride in how far it’s come — and how they can keep moving ahead.

“It’s a way for them to connect with other people who are equally passionate,” Emmons said of the museum’s loyal patrons. “These people want places to get together and celebrate the fact that they love this stuff so much … people want to be together, doing this stuff with people who really love it.”

And for countless Seattleites — whether they identify as hippie or hipster, Trekkie or Whovian, Potterhead or Muggle — EMP offers a place for these people to share their passion with others.

“We’re about fandom,” Isacson Sabee said. “We’re about loving what you love.”

Photos by Jacob Nierenberg

Categories: Local Art News

Discover the identity of Mrs. Goldberg this Friday, June 26th at the Opening Reception

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 2:00pm
  Who is Mrs. Goldberg? Find out at the Opening Reception this FRIDAY at 6pm   Nichole DeMent, Rose Tea was Mrs. Goldberg’s Favorite, mixed media encaustic on board Mrs. Goldberg, A Curated Life features a group of talented local artists in a variety of media. The individual pieces, each one interesting, well-crafted, and unique, will come together in the exhibition to […]
Categories: Local Art News

Reviving Seattle’s creative spirit by inciting cultural trouble

Crosscut Arts - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 7:45am

Knute Berger’s recent piece in Crosscut about Seattle and creativity raised several good questions, most importantly I think at the article’s conclusion, when he asks rhetorically if the city is delivering what it takes to “nourish people with creative appetite”. In response, it might be useful to consider what brought some of us with strong creative appetites here in the first place.

I arrived in Seattle 1973, along with my wife Patricia, from Italy where we’d been working and studying for two years. We met in Berkeley a couple years before going to Italy, she finishing her architecture degree, me trying to set out on a course of being a visual artist. In between Berkeley and Italy we lived in a loft in San Francisco. We left San Francisco as the city was gentrifying around us at an alarming rate — all our artist friends were being forced out of their lofts.

We chose Seattle, because like so many others, we’d camped up here in summer, and had left dazzled by the surrounding beauty. But it wasn’t really that. The city was exceedingly laid back, asleep, even comatose. Most unlike San Francisco, it wasn’t in the slightest bit self-conscious about its place in the world. There were cheap rents and cheap eats. We both pretty easily found as much work as we wanted. We didn’t really think through whether we’d stay, but Seattle offered a chance for us to experiment with life, with our young skill sets and with one another, all without economic pressure.

Seattle wasn’t much on anyone’s radar in the ’70s because it was sort of nowhere, which in fact was its primary attraction to us, and to many of the other artists who arrived around the time we did. We knew we weren’t at the center of anything. But we had space, for both our studios and our ideas, and time — months and years, to mess around, alone and collaboratively. We survived, even thrived, on benign neglect.

Those times however, are long, long gone. Seattle’s not going to be cheap and easy anytime soon. And it’s no longer nowhere.

So if creative people, whom I would define as those who generate their work by using their hands, hearts and minds in concert, can’t find easy livin’ here then, as Knute asks, are there enough other benefits to being here to override the steep costs? Yes and no.

If I were young, and pretty much penniless as Patricia and I were when we arrived, I’d keep moving. I’d pick maybe Detroit, or some other Rust Belt city. Geez, you say, “but it’s cold, dark, screwed up and nobody goes there.” That’s exactly what our San Francisco friends told us when we were moving to Seattle. But there is wide open opportunity in these places to invent yourself, feed your passion, stake out a career even — as there was here once upon a time.

If on the other hand, you’ve got some economic wherewithal, have carved a niche for yourself, why not? In large part due to Seattle-based efforts, the world is far more culturally decentralized than it used to be. An artist can make work here and it can be seen (if not always experienced) all over the place. Hey, the eats are steep here now, but they’re good.

The biggest disappointment for me is that historically there’s been only the ever so tiniest overlap between the tech community and the artistic one here. That potential bleed would seem to offer Seattle unique possibilities. What if tech, scientific and medical research entities partnered as a matter of course with artists here, not for product production or promotion, but for the sake of basic research — just to see what might bubble up?

I understand that there is inordinate pressure to “ship” or “publish,” but what if there was some time/place at these institutions set aside for dreaming, with artists? If this could happen, ideas could be nurtured in ways that the old space/time continuum supported long ago. The effect just could be far-reaching and artists would be involved as they are in few other places anywhere.

I do believe the artists of my generation owe this place something. We benefited enormously by being left to our own devices (and I certainly don’t mean digital ones). In return we ought to be pushing at the culture institutions to loosen up in as many ways as we can muster.

We used to have long unruly hair and we used to think we were going to change the world. Okay, so the hair’s gone and maybe change is too strong a word, but we can still shove. We can and should help Seattle nurture its creative self by continuing to cause cultural trouble. If somehow we’ve accrued some influence, we should use it to shake things up. A shook-up Seattle will always be far more interesting.

Categories: Local Art News

Inslee wants tribal reburial for Kennewick Man

Crosscut Arts - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 11:07pm

Gov. Jay Inslee wants the 8,500-year-old Kennewick Man remains returned to several Inland Northwest tribes for burial.

On Tuesday, Inslee sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — who are in charge of the skeleton dubbed “Kennewick Man” by non-Indians and “the Ancient One” by the tribes — to request the remains be repatriated. His remains are kept in the basement of the University of Washington’s Burke Museum.

In 2002, scientists won a long legal battle with the tribes to study the remains, which were discovered in 1996. In recent years, the Smithsonian Institute and other scientists have unveiled results of those studies. A recently published Danish study concluded that Kennewick Man is genetically linked to Northwest tribes.

“Now that DNA analysis has demonstrated a genetic link to modern Native Americans, including those in the State of Washington, I am requesting that the Ancient One be repatriated to the appropriate Tribes as expeditiously as possible,” Inslee wrote. “Our Washington State tribes have waited nineteen years for the remains to be transferred for reburial. During this time several studies have been completed, from the recent DNA analysis to numerous books. Rarely have Native American human remains been subjected to such intensive investigations and examinations.”

“The latest results, having ended many of the questions surrounding the identity of Kennewick Man, means that it is time we respect the Tribes’ repeated requests for repatriation,” Inslee added.

Inslee asked the Army to provide a timeline for the repatriation of the Ancient One and offered help from the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation.

Several Inland Northwest tribes have agreed upon a secret reburial site.

Tribes involved with the remains include the Wanapum, the Yakama Indian Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.

The skeleton was discovered in 1996 along Kennewick’s Columbia River shoreline. The skeleton — incredibly intact for being 8,500 years old — sparked a legal duel between Mid-Columbia tribal nations and a group of anthropologists led by the Smithsonian Institute. The tribes argued that the skeleton is one of their ancestors and should be reburied in accordance with the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. But the anthropologists wanted to study the bones, and argued that there was no evidence of a direct relationship between the skeleton and today’s tribes.

Part of the dispute’s background has been a practice of anthropologists digging up Indian remains and storing them in museums, often unstudied, and violating Native American spiritual beliefs. The Smithsonian was a repository of unstudied Indian skeletons until Congress passed the 1990 law to begin repatriation of remains.

In 2002, a group of anthropologists won federal court approval to study the skeleton. Meanwhile, both sides agreed to store the skeleton at the neutral Burke Museum at the University of Washington, where it is today. The anthropologists physically examined Kennewick Man for two–a-half weeks split in two segments in 2005 and 2006. For the following six years, more than a dozen experts analyzed the bones in numerous ways.

The scientists concluded that the man came from the West Coast, based on naturally occurring isotopes in his bones that pointed toward a diet of marine animals such as seals. Kennewick Man was a wandering hunter, 5-foot 7 or 8 inches, theoretically 160 pounds, with a major league baseball-caliber right spear-throwing arm and a Polynesian-like face with good teeth.

The team concluded that he was younger at his death than originally estimated — likely 39 or 40, rather than 50. A stone projectile point — a spearhead — was found in his right hip. The Ancient One also has some healed fractured ribs, indicating he had been banged up badly sometime before his death. Though he was purposefully buried along the Columbia River, scientists have not figured out how he died.

Last week, the scientific journal Nature published an article from researchers in a Danish DNA study that linked Kennewick Man to Northwest tribes.

The DNA sample used for the Danish study was extracted from bones previously tapped for genetic material. The research team included scientists from Copenhagen, but also U.S. institutions such as Stanford, Southern Methodist University and University of California Berkeley.

The DNA was compared against samples from North and South American tribes, and with other available databases. Some tribes refused to provide DNA samples — the Umatilla, for example — while the Colville, after much discussion and consultation with elders, decided to participate in the study.

Categories: Local Art News

When tragedy struck a NW baseball team

Crosscut Arts - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 8:00pm

I am the shadow sinister called Fate … I am the Master Umpire, and I call the plays the way I see them. I have raised my arm, and nine grand boys are out – Spokane Indians memorial program, 1946.

The tired old bus carrying the Spokane Indians minor league baseball team slowly crawled across Snoqualmie Pass as nightfall descended on the rain-slickened highway on June 24, 1946.Four miles west of the summit, Gus Hallbourg and fellow pitcher Bob Kinnaman were talking about fishing — weren’t they always? — as they watched the Snoqualmie River trickling across the bottom of a gorge.

“This,” Hallbourg told his good friend, “would be a hell of a place to go over, wouldn’t it?”

It was not long after that the bus began skidding, slamming into the guardrail, demolishing concrete posts holding cables in place. Suddenly, the bus hurtled into hell, flipping again and again and again down the mountainside. The men inside were thrown about violently. Some were sent crashing through windows as the bus burst into flames.

An eternity later, there was silence, except for the crackling of flames and the groans of dazed, injured men trying to escape the wreckage. Six players lay motionless; they were dead. Another died en route to the hospital. Another died the following day. Still another died one day later.

Nine men dead. No single incident in our nation’s history has resulted in the deaths of more professional athletes.

Hallbourg, the last survivor known to be alive, died in 2007 at the age of 87. The year before, Hallbourg granted me what I believe was his final interview. We had spoken several times previously. As always, his memory remained keen and his manner respectful.

“You can’t really understand it until you’ve experienced it,” Hallbourg said in a phone interview from his home in Manteca, Calif. “It’s tough, even now. You come through the war without a scratch, then this thing comes along. It was so tragic.”

The summer of 1946 was a wondrous time in America. The nation was beginning its recovery from World War II. Many of Spokane’s players served in the war and were thankful to be alive, reunited with their families and playing the game they loved for a few hundred dollars a month in the Class B Western International League.

The mood of the Indians was particularly upbeat that fateful Monday morning when they boarded their Washington Motor Coach charter for the trip to Bremerton. The night before, right fielder Bob James singled in shortstop George Risk to cap a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth of a 10-9 win over the Salem Senators.

“You always had a good time on the bus,” Hallbourg said. “You were always talking. We were a close-knit team.”

Sixteen players started out on the trip, including catcher-manager Mel Cole. Just 25 years old, Cole replaced former Pittsburgh Pirates star Glenn Wright (whose drinking problem had become too big a problem) as manager the day prior to the season opener.

“I know I’m a very lucky fellow to get the job,” Cole said.

Two months later, Cole was dead, his pregnant wife a widow. Two other crash victims, 24-year-old second baseman Fred Martinez and 31-year-old catcher Chris Hartje, also had pregnant wives. Pitcher George Lyden, 22, left behind a wife and two young sons.

Also killed were James, 24; Risk, 25; first baseman Vic Picetti, 18; outfielder Bob Patterson, 22; and Kinnaman, 27. The death toll might have been higher if third baseman Jack Lohrke had not left the team during a lunch stop in Ellensburg after learning he had been called up to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

One year after the crash, Lohrke reached the major leagues with the New York Giants. He became known as Lucky Lohrke.

“I think I was the lucky one,” Hallbourg said.

Those who witnessed the charred remains of the bus straddling a log hundreds of feet below the highway were amazed that anyone survived.

“I have covered many tragic accidents … but I have never seen anything like I saw tonight,” a photographer told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “It was like a nightmare — the smashed bus burning in the canyon and the rain slanting down and the mountains looming all around.”

The six survivors suffered burns, abrasions, bruises and bone fractures. For some, their baseball careers were finished. Hallbourg recovered from burns to his pitching arm in time to play later in the season, his first since entering the Navy in 1942. He retired from baseball after the 1948 season.

Bus driver Gus Berg, who suffered extensive burns, said he was forced to swerve toward the shoulder to avoid a black car that crossed the center line of what was then a two-way highway.

The Indians struggled to finish the season with replacement players. More than $100,000 was raised for the injured players and families of the deceased. Entertainers Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, a Spokane native, were among those who made donations.

None of the Indians ever gained much sports fame.

Hallbourg said he never forgot crawling through a window frame to escape the burning bus, then seeing his friends scattered about the hillside. Some were alive. Some were not.

“I saw a couple of the dead guys — and I won’t mention the names of them — and you couldn’t believe it,” Hallbourg said. “And the day before, you were playing ball with them. You knew they’d passed away; you knew they’d been killed. It was just unbelievable.”

Categories: Local Art News

My own ethnic identity ‘fraud’

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 5:00am

Before the scandal in Spokane over the racial identity of the now former head of the local NAACP, I was preparing to make my own confession.

It turns out my claim to a little ethnic cred is not supported by science.

I recently had a DNA test to see what could be learned about my heritage. My immediate family is participating as well and we’re comparing notes. I found out, for example, that 2.4 percent of my DNA is Neanderthal.

That’s a bit less than the norm for people with my background, and less than my wife’s. On whether that explains certain aspects of our relationship I won’t dare to venture any thoughts.

The general picture wasn’t a surprise, but rather it confirmed what I know about my family history: my paternal grandparents came from Norway and Scotland, my maternal line came from England, Scotland and Ireland in the mid-17th century. There was a rumor that we also had in our blood what my grandfather described as “a pinch of French.”

My chromosomes generally comported with known genealogy. Using available databases and trends in identifying ethnic groups, the genetic odds are I am 99.9 European, with nearly 57 percent of that being British and Irish, and .1 percent Asian & Native American. There’s also a dollop (less than .1 percent) Ashkenazi. As a Jewish friend of mine said, “I could have told you that!”

But the big shock was how little Scandinavian I am.

I have long known that my background was mixed, but my Nordic heritage was emphasized as I was growing up.

I was named Knute Berger, after all, the third of four Knute Bergers in a row. We ate lutefisk at Christmas, celebrated Norwegian independence day, ate Scandinavian cookies at Christmas. I had family in Ballard — I even lived in Ballard for some years, in a bungalow previously built and inhabited by a Norwegian sea captain. We had family friends and relatives named Viggo, Thor, Ole, Leif, Sven. I was in high school before I learned that “uffda” was not common American slang.

My Nordic roots have been a part of my identity.

Now I feel like a fraud.

The DNA test says I am at most 4.9 percent identifiably Scandinavian, and 1.5 percent Finnish, and perhaps much less. My identifiable Nordic ancestry could be as low as 1.3 percent.

In other words, Viking blood does not course through my veins, unless it returned to Scandinavia with those swept up from raids in other parts of northern Europe.

I feel as if I’ve been admiring the Leif Erikson statue at Shilshole under false pretenses.

My good friend Peter Jackson, son of Sen. Scoop Jackson, has always suspected this was so, jokingly reminding me that I was only a quarter Norwegian while he is at least half. Turns out, he sniffed it out. What’s the old saying? Just because the cat’s in the oven it don’t make him biscuits — or in my case, krumkake.

What explains it? I suspect that old world ethnicities were a lot less “pure” than our oral and cultural traditions would have it. My “Norwegian” grandfather likely got his genes from many places. He once described the Scottish as simply “shipwreck Norwegians,” suggesting kinship with his Scots wife. But perhaps his Norwegian ancestors were shipwrecked Irish monks.

Science will eventually untangle things with greater specificity and more accuracy than family tradition.

In the meantime, we live in a world where gender or race identities — and whether these can be a matter of choice — are the subject of public debate. But our ethnic identities have been more fluid. We Americans who are mutts of the melting pot have always felt free to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Syttende Mai or Columbus Day as we choose. We have cultural fluidity even while we grasp at aspects of heritage to give us some sense of stability, until our mood shifts. Many of us from European ancestry came from an even older melting pot that was frequently stirred.

And just like a stew pot, it can serve up some surprises.

The bad news is I was forced to ingest piles of lutefisk in my youth without any genetic predisposition to like the stuff. The good news is, I’ll never again have to feel as if my dislike of the gelatinous fish mass is a mark of ethnic failure.

Next Christmas, I’m switching to haggis.

Categories: Local Art News

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