Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Broadway Center Reaches Out To Hip Hop

This press release just came out over the Tacoma Arts Listserv:

With Immediate Response to Community Concerns Broadway Center Will Host A Hip-Hop Community Dialogue

Hip Hop music is at risk of being marginalized in our society as solely focused on violence and the degradation of women. The Broadway Center will host a community dialogue to challenge those assumptions and discuss ways in which Hip Hop music can be presented in a safe and positive manner: A Hip-Hop Community Dialogue on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 3 pm in Theatre on the Square.

David Fischer, Executive Director commented, “I believe there is a fantastic history of artistry in hip-hop; and I also believe there are artists who aren’t brandishing guns and celebrating the abuse of women. The Broadway Center is committed to diverse access, but also in making sure our venues are safe and welcoming for the entire community. The upcoming community dialogue is designed to empower our community to better serve the Hip Hop audience.”

This dialogue is a free event and will be open to the public. Mediator and University of Puget Sound Professor, Dexter Gordon will facilitate the dialogue with intentions of maintaining an environment where all voices and opinions will be spoken and heard. Broadway Center encourages dialogue participants to attend with an open mind and willingness to listen and learn.

Broadway Center has invited Tacoma City Officials and members of 2012, while encouraging other community leaders to attend and participate in this dialogue.

The Broadway Center embraces a tremendous diversity of performing arts and audiences. Various Broadway Center community dialogues are hosted annually. This year, the Broadway Center has hosted Urban Explorers, African Heritage, and Latino Culture dialogues. Future dialogues slated for the upcoming year include Communities of Faith, GLBT and Asian Culture.

For more information about Broadway Center’s community dialogues, contact Lucas Smiraldo at 253.591.5341. For information and details about upcoming events, visit www.broadwaycenter.org.
It's good to see them actually reacting to the whole E40 show fiasco in a positive manner. I have some degree of fear that the dialogue will devolve into the hip hop community being angry and the BCPA administrators being defensive, but hopefully that won't happen. I know some of the people involved in the decision to nix the show, and while the (admittedly minimal) information that I've seen leads me to believe that they dropped the ball rather severely on that one, I also know that they are reasonable people, smart people, and genuinely interested in pushing to highlight the positive aspects of hip hop, and diversity in general.

Hopefully we'll have some of the level-headed arguments seen here, rather than just a bunch of upset people who have given up on the Broadway Center altogether.

This Week's Excuse For Meat/Cheese/Onions/Bread

I know I already mentioned this yesterday, but I thought I'd give it the spotlight today, because... well, because I can. And because it's been a while since my last Excuse.

It used to be that if you asked me what my favorite bar was, I'd have an easy answer: the Parkway. Great selection, great atmosphere, friendly people, entertaining bartenders... a worthy replacement for NPCC, my beer vendor of choice for my two 21+ years at PLU. Truthfully, it's still my favorite bar, but The Red Hot is ALSO my favorite bar, which complicates the question a bit.

The Parkway is, at its heart, a regulars bar. If you keep going back you'll inevitably see the same group of people coming in after work day after day. In some bars this is a bad thing. A newbie walking into a neighborhood, blue-collar bar will often get the stink-eye and the cold shoulder from all the old-timers who don't want anyone invading their space. I've never run into that at the Parkway. People who are clearly regulars (the bartenders know them) that I've never seen will happily start up conversations about beer, sports, books, or anything else. Everyone just seems glad to be there, and glad to see others there as well. I have heard occasional complaints about it being too busy, which leads a few to go to other bars. But they never stay away for long (they must not, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to hear them complain).

As if the vibe and the beer weren't enough, the Parkway also serves up one of my favorite sandwiches in Tacoma (I suspect there may be a blog series on that topic in the future): the Parkway Cheese Steak. There are many variations of the Philly cheese steak to be found around town (often at teriyaki places for some reason), but the Parkway remains one of the simplest and best. Meat. Cheese. Onions. Mayonnaise. On bread (a hoagie roll, specifically). I suspect you could get mushrooms or peppers on it if that's your style, but it defaults to the most basic.

Since I know there are people out there who like sandwiches but don't go so much for the meat, I'll put in a quick plug for the Thai Veggie sandwich as well. I haven't had it, but I've seen it, smelled it, and watched other people enjoy it, and all signs point to tasty.

Aaaaaaaaanyway... I don't generally need an excuse to go, any more than I need an excuse for a hot dog. But tonight I have one: Boundary Bay Brewery Night. Boundary Bay is based up in Bellingham. My experience with their beers is pretty much limited to the IPA, but I'm sure that will change tonight. I've been to a few brewery nights at the Parkway, and they generally consist of at least half a dozen different beers from the featured brewery, plus the usual rotating assortment of good stuff. There also tend to be raffles for brewery merch, and just generally a lot of bartender shouting.

I'll be there with a bed full of cheese and mayo. And I'll be there early, because that place is going to get pretty dang full.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Three Days, Three Things To Do

It's a full week here in Izenmania territory, so I'll just jump right into it...

Tuesday (that's today!): Go Local Or Die

Since the majority of my readership come via feed»tacoma, this probably isn't news to anyone, but tonight at 6 PM the Local Life folk will be hosting the second of their Go Local Or Die charrettes, this one featuring Derek Young (Exit133), Amy McBride (City of Tacoma Arts Coordinator), Roxanne Murphy (Community Relations Specialist for the Tacoma Community & Economic Development Department) and Justin Mayfield (Broadway Farmer's Market).

The topic this time is "Innovative Co-working with arts, business, education, and urban living". Should be fairly interesting. I went to the first one and it inspired this rant. Hopefully this one will get someone as fired up as the last one got me.

Wednesday: Boundary Bay Night @ The Parkway

On Wednesday night at 6 PM one of my two favorite bars, The Parkway Tavern, is hosting a Boundary Bay Brewer's Night. Boundary Bay is a Bellingham-based brewery (ack! alliteration!) who, among other things, make a mean IPA (mean = good, at least in an IPA). If previous brewer's nights are any indication, there will be a brewery rep, a bunch of raffle schwag, and a whole host of BB beers to complement the usual assortment of tap mainstays. Also, the place will be full, both because of the event and because it is a weeknight, and that's what happens at the Parkway.

Thursday: Out Of Sight... Out of Mind @ Rhapsody In Bloom

I have been foolishly spelling the band's name with a comma rather than an ellipsis. Silly me. Anyway, as previously mentioned, a group consisting of myself, my dad, bassist/singer/songwriter Goodwin Trent and special guest Sue Tjardes will be cranking up the acoustic tunes at Rhapsody In Bloom on Thursday night at 7 PM. Come on out and support your local musicians and your local, err... me!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Out of Sight, Out of Mind To Kick Out The Jams At Rhapsody In Bloom.

We'll kick them right out. And then do you know what we'll do? We'll invite them back in, as politely as possible. We'll even hold the door for them. Just so we can kick them out a second time.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind is, primarily, Don Izenman and his longtime collaborator, bassist Goodwin Trent. As you may or may not recall, I recently stepped in with them for a couple gigs, inspired by Goodwin's questionable health post-surgery. Goodwin ended up fine, but we had enough fun that I appear to have become something of an actual band member. It's been a fun experience, hearing versions of my own songs that I would never have achieved alone or with Mr. Fusion, as well as working with new instruments, new tunes, and new styles.

So next up: A Rhapsody In Bloom on 6th Ave. For a variety of reasons, this gig is shifting away from our usual array of folk/country cover material and placing the spotlight firmly on original work. Goodwin and I both have a decent library of material that we've been frantically teaching each other in recent weeks. Rounding out the set will be a special guest appearance by fellow Tacoma music mainstay Sue Tjardes.

I've had a lot of fun teaching everyone my stuff, and learning some really good material from Goodwin and Sue, and I suspect that others may have similar amounts of fun observing the results. So, if you have the evening spare, roll on out to Rhapsody In Bloom next Thursday, March 27th, at 7PM. And guess what? It's free! (though donations are accepted and encouraged.

Details available here.

Deborah Page == Wow

(The above statement evaluates to boolean true)

I spent the evening out at ArtWalk tonight. Started off at The Helm for the opening of their Children of Nature show. I generally fail at art criticism, largely because I just walk through, experience the art, and leave, without really absorbing artists, titles, etc. So let me just tell you that I really liked some of the pieces, and was rather unimpressed with others. But I heartily recommend you go, because the stuff that was good was really good.

Next up: UWT Art Gallery for... some guy! (real helpful, ain't I?) I think his name was Nate something. Unfortunately the gallery does not appear to have any real online presence, so I cannot discern the details for you at this time. I really enjoyed the paintings, though. Very frenetic and flowing, more motion than form.

After snagging a new Almond Roca cupcake at Hello, Cupcake (fairly unimpressive... still tasted good, but did not capture the essence of Roca in the manner that I had hoped) I popped over to the Tacoma Art Museum to scope out the Chuck Close/Bob Holman exhibit (the only thing at the TAM that wasn't there last month). There was some extremely cool stuff here. The variety of things Close is able to do with a single photograph (including machine-weaving them into giant digitally plotted tapestries) are mind-boggling. The most impressive thing about the accompanying poems, to me, is how Holman managed to craft the poems into visual art. Each poem went beyond its words into a highly aesthetic layout and construction. Cool stuff.

All that is fairly irrelevant, though. On my way home I went to Sanford & Son to check out the Bad Girls & Bold Boys show at The Lark Gallery, a collection of 24 artists who randomly drew Brothers Grimm fairy tales to turn into art. I had also heard that some woman named Deborah Page would be playing music, so I thought I'd stop in and catch a song or two. I like music, after all, so it seemed the sensible move.

I actually got very lucky that she was tuning up when I walked into the building, or I may never have made my way into the performance space. That place is a frickin' labyrinth. Anyway, I followed my ears in and learned that she was just getting ready for her second set. Pretty small audience. Four people up front, a couple other folk in and out, and a couple that clearly knew the musicians.

The first song sucked me in largely because it reminded me of some of the solo work of one of my favorite artists, Seattleite and Goodness front-person Carrie Akre. But that comparison really only lasted one song. Halfway through the second song I was completely hooked.

The performance was Deborah on vocals and, some of the time, a twelve-string guitar, accompanied by Paul Uhl on guitar and bass (he is much better at guitar than bass, by the by) and a laptop with the backing beat and synthesizers pre-recorded.

Among other things, I was very impressed by her ability to perform extraordinarily touching and sweet songs with bizarre techno-esque beats. I attribute this largely to a soft touch on the guitar and and extraordinary, dynamic, soaring voice. She's one of those people that you just love to watch sing and play, not because she's a garish or "out there" performer, but because she is so obviously passionate about the songs she's singing.

I know some people feel that a live show is the one and only true testament to a band's worth, and I can't agree with that. I love a good live show, certainly, but I also love a good, well-crafted album. Something I can absorb in my natural state (hermitude). So of course on my way out I picked up a copy of her new CD, For. I got it home and, despite my first inclination to just listen straight through, I couldn't help but start jamming along, largely to work on my E-Bow technique. I tell you what... it's as fun to play along to as it is to listen to. I had to make myself stop just so I could actually listen to the music and the lyrics (which are also awesome, by the by).

Anyway, that love-fest aside... I did eventually make it down to the Lark. There were some great pieces there, but really it just reminded me why I shouldn't go to art openings. 1) I don't generally talk to artists (or musicians) about their art, preferring to absorb it on my own terms and craft my own meaning; and 2) I don't schmooze. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could. So given that it is a small space to begin with, and given that it is showcasing TWENTY-FOUR different artists... it was a little cramped. Which would have been fine if I was in one of the conversation clusters, rather than being forced to standing conspicuously in the middle of them to get a look at the art itself. I may have to go back another time, just so I can get a better look at a few things.

So what's on the docket for next ArtWalk? Well, another Deborah Page show, for one. And possibly the one at Jazzbones the night before... Plus I'm crafting some plans for a possible artage of my own that evening. More on that later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Izenmania Done Moved!

Hey kids... for a variety of reasons I have decided to make some changes in how I host my blog. The relevant bit is that it is now at http://blog.izenman.com rather than http://www.izenman.com.

For the moment I'm leaving all the files up at www to aid the transition, after which I will redirect straight from www to blog until I start using www for other things.

That is all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Corporate Art, Izenmania Style

I don't generally consider myself an artist, at least not in the conventional sense (by conventional I mean visual... I participate The Arts, primarily as a musician). I'm a mediocre sketcher at best, and I rarely draw anymore, with occasional exceptions. I certainly don't paint or sculpt or anything. But heck... sometimes an idea just sort of strikes you, and you run with it.

So SiteCrafting, where I work, is getting new business cards. This, combined with the fact that I never ever give out business cards, means I have a whole crapload (probably in excess of 500) of outdated cards. It seems a mighty waste to throw them all out. So I grabbed a stack (about 105) and brought them home, and here's what happened...















Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We're Not Conquerors. We're Just Nerds. Nerds With Sandwiches.

Something has been bugging me for a couple weeks, ever since the Driscoll Incident. Dan Voelpel started it. Driscoll carried it on. Neither of them can really be blamed, though, because since then it just keeps going and going, popping up nigh everywhere. To quote Voelpel's Trib article:
Fired up by the inspiration, some in the crowd decided they needed to act to take back Frost Memorial Park, next to the North Park Plaza parking garage, from the ne’er-do-wells who hang out there.
Ever since then, the phrase "take back the park" has been bouncing around the feed like mad. Everyone's saying it, from participants to academic observers. And, quite frankly, it's just making us look like idiots. Any outside reader with a little bit of neighborhood activist experience is going to look at this and say "What? You can't drive off unwanteds by eating lunch in a park on a sunny Friday at noon." And they would be absolutely right. If we really were out to get "ne'er-do-wells" out of our neighborhoods, the lunch hour is not the time to do it. How much criminal activity or whatever was really going on that we somehow foiled? Probably none. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I haven't seen a lot of crack dealers trying to cash in on the lunch rush.

I mentioned in an earlier entry the group of elderly women who set up a card table on a drug-ridden street corner and played bridge in the middle of the night. That's how you drive off criminals... go to a place where they are, when they are there, and plant yourself. The notion that the same thing will be achieved by what we did (and will continue to do) is ludicrous.

So what were we doing? When Patricia first brought it up at the Go Local event, her reasons were fairly clear: word on the street suggested that the city was looking at constructing a fence around the park to discourage criminal use. Unfortunately this has the side-effect of discouraging legitimate use as well. However, as it stood, the trade-off was an easy one to make because there simply weren't enough law-abiding park-goers. The goal, as I understood it from Patricia, and passed it on to the feed, was to demonstrate use, and thereby prevent the fencing off.

Unfortunately, once one article latched onto the "take back" notion, everything got twisted around. Driscoll took Voelpel's statement and, curious to see what "taking back the park" was like, went down there. I would have been curious too, if I hadn't organized it to begin with. The fact is, even if we had been there in force that day he would almost surely have been unimpressed. We aren't demonstrators. We aren't vigilantes. We're barely even activists at this point. We're a bunch of businesspeople and residents using a park the way it ought to be used: eating lunch, socializing, networking.

I fear that a lot of this is just shades of the "flash mob" debacle from last year... one person uses a phrase not recognizing that it doesn't fit the circumstances, a couple other people latch onto it because it's catchy. Those being described object at first, but eventually pick it up as a joke. Eventually it has entered common use and everyone has forgotten that it has very little to do with what was actually going on.

I'm all for taking back the park. Any of them. If anyone feels like meeting in the same park at 1 AM on a Saturday morning, I'll show up, guitar and all, and lead a frickin' sing-along. I won't do it by myself... stories of this working demonstrate that it is most successful with a group large enough that the aforementioned goons and dealers recognize that they won't be able to intimidate them. I don't care how afraid you are to walk around by yourself at night... nobody is going to attack a band of 10 bystanders just so they can sell a rock or two.

But I'm also all for what we're doing now. Because I think it is important. But it's also important to understand what's really going on. The fancier our label, the loftier we make our goals seem, the less impressive our effort becomes. We did a good job of using the park as a park. But if you pretend we were trying to reclaim it from villainy, we just look like a bunch of misguided incompetents.

And here's the kicker: it really is largely my fault. If I had thought of all this before everything got started, I probably would not have gone with:
We can keep the dialog going and start retaking our public space at the same time.
In my head I was thinking much more eagerly of the idea that one meeting wasn't enough, and that getting everyone together with whatever excuse would be good to keep up the dialog. Unfortunately I didn't think my phrasing through and now this "take back the park" catch phrase is rattling around the blogosphere, when it really shouldn't be. We either need to ramp down the rhetoric to match the action, or ramp up the action to match the rhetoric. I know which makes more sense to me. How about you?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wright Park Fusion

Okay, so as far as music goes, you'll mostly hear me talking about the now-mostly-defunct This Shirt Is Pants (probably in an effort to unload some of our pile of CDs on you... it's true, I'm shameless) or Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, the group of my dad's that I've been playing with (March 27th, 7-9 PM at Rhapsody In Bloom, by the by). But in truth, my musical heart will always be in one place: Mr. Fusion.

I started playing and writing with my buddy Erich nigh on 8 years ago, in the Spring of 2000. Over the years we've played a small handful of shows, recorded one album (admittedly demo-quality) and accumulated a catalog of (apparently) 40 tunes. I'm sure we could have a lot more, honestly, but it's been a very off-and-on process, with large gaps (months, nearly into years sometimes) where one or the other of us will be busy with school or work or some other thing.

However, we've finally reached a point where we both have quality full-time, fixed schedule jobs, some spare time, and a large build-up of creative energy, so Mr. Fusion is happening again. Unfortunately I live in an apartment, and Downstairs Man is not always pleased to hear us a-rockin', despite our best efforts to keep it quiet. Saturday, however, we had a brilliant idea. The weather is starting to be more reliably decent (or at the very least dry), and so, after the latest request to keep it down while Downstairs Man graded papers (can't fault him for that), we decided to pack it up and head out to Wright Park (a whole block away).

It worked out great... we found a spot right by the park's cannon, just off G, sat down on a couple rocks and played to our hearts' content. It is always good to have a chance to up it to full volume... I'm a fairly loud singer, and the doumbek can rattle a room a bit, if given the chance. Better still, we had a chance to entertain a few passers-by, be they walking their dogs, carrying groceries, going for a jog or just looking for someone to talk to (and my, wasn't that an interesting conversation...).

Anyway, we both had a lot of fun, and, weather permitting, I suspect it will be turning into a regular thing. So if you're ever wandering around Wright Park on a nice Saturday afternoon, don't be surprised if there's music in the air... it's probably us. Taking back the park for acoustic musicians everywhere. Or something. You may even start to see us elsewhere... Frost Park? Tollefson Plaza? Who knows? If there's a couple places to sit and no-one to complain about the volume of our un-amplified guitars, anything is possible.

Also within the next couple months I'll probably start posting samples of our renewed recording efforts. Good times to be officially had by all.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Izenmania: Now With More ART!

This fine piece of Tacoma cartoon commentary (originally seen here) is now a permanent fixture in my home:



It looks down at me from above my computer/blogging station/recording studio to inspire my own personal blogger uprising.

The Tacomic birthday party at the Helm was, like so many of these little gatherings, a joyous cluster of the Tacoma blogland community... everyone from TacomaChickadee to TacomaMama to Girlfriend In Tacoma, plus of course Clan Freitas, the Urbanist, and His Nachoness himself. And many others that I am leaving out because I only feel like making so many links per entry.

There were also quite a few people walking by, presumably leaving Barber of Seville, who peered inside and then scampered off, clearly not brave enough to join us (probably because by the time they got out the show was winding down. I do wonder, however, if maybe a sign on the street that said "ART SHOW: More then 100% free!" or something to that effect might have drawn strangers into what may have looked like kind of a private party (what with everyone talking to everyone as if they knew each other)