Shifting Gears

As you may have noticed, I deleted the “Events This Week” posts and have altogether skipped posting anything for this week. The reason is this: this blog has quickly become too much of a chore and I have decided to stop updating it so that I can focus elsewhere.

Since I still believe in and care about the arts in this area, I will continue to write about them, but that writing will (hopefully) begin occupying other digital and printed venues. (This week I am planning to send a revised version of the review I wrote for Taylor Norris’ show to Numbers.)

Perhaps someday I will venture into a quarterly zine or start a FB page. For now, I have to re-adjust my dispersal of time and energy.

If you’re not sure where to learn about events in the Tri-Cities, there are MANY resources for that. Granted, none that I’ve noticed are totally comprehensive (it’s a harder task than you might think – I know, I’ve tried it), but they are worth checking in on.

Plus, most places now have Facebook pages and they post updates regarding their events (The Hideaway, Mecca Lounge, Galaxy Lounge, The Bonnie Kate) or they have websites with frequently updated calendars (William King Museum, The Hands On Museum, International Storytelling Center, The Down Home, The Acoustic Coffeehouse).

I hope you are enjoying our fantastic weather and get out this weekend to see some shows.




Second Saturday: At PROJEXx w/ Joseph Riner, Sterlin Hammon, Joybang, & Nerve Endings

As I typed “Second Saturday” into the title space, I stopped momentarily because I don’t know if Second Saturday on Walnut St will continue and grow without Nikki Hamblin in Johnson City. I hope it does (though obviously not for PROJEXx). And I hope that title reads like a talk show intro.


FF: Oct 5th

I didn’t get many pictures at all of First Friday because I was occupied at Venus & Fur…




There was a lot of great stuff going on, though, and I recommend trying to see those exhibitions before they come down. I definitely will, especially now that I’m not trying to finish 32 paintings in 2 weeks (read: madwoman).

If anyone has some photos or videos of FF they’d like to share, I’ll add’em to the post. For now, to relieve some of my discomfort about a post revolving around myself, I’m posting a stolen photo taken by Brian Paddock of Joybang playing at The Mecca Lounge downtown. Daddy Don’t of Knoxville played, too. It was a lot of fun. I love that place, those people.

The Unchained Tour

Yesterday was a truly special day at ETSU — three raconteurs and two musicians of The Unchained Tour performed exceptionally charming, engaging, funny, encouraging stories and songs. The cast at this particular event consisted of Dawn J. Fraser, Peter Aguero, and Neil Gaiman.  Joel T. Hamilton and Rachel Kate (Gillon) opened and closed the show with each of their own songs. (Please look them all up online.) I had heard about it because people kept saying, “Did you hear Neil Gaiman is coming?” This was always said in a tone of wonder and uncertainty. It was hard to believe. I expected a hologram or an old emerald green suitcase with a voice box in it, but I also expected to enjoy the story, no matter how I received it.

When I learned more about why Neil Gaiman was coming to Johnson City after reading the Facebook invitation and watching their video, I became even more interested in attending the event. Raconteurs, live music, local support — I love all that stuff! However, I was worried that some people who came to see Neil Gaiman would be disrespectful to the other performers (similarly to how some rude individuals yell for the “headliner” at a concert while the opening band is playing or speaking), or would demand signatures and pictures at inappropriate times. Thankfully, in no small part due to the wonderful stories already shared with us, everyone seemed absorbed in the moment and less in the idea of seeing (and possibly meeting?!) Neil Gaiman.

Which I think was the whole point of the show.

Not regarding “the dude who has done some stuff” specifically, but generally speaking, the point was to exist in the moment without the mental distraction of documentation, narration, and impressing your Facebook friends. Peter Aguero insisted in the beginning of the show that everyone turn off their phones, and not to worry about getting a shot of any of the performers because “there are better images of them online anyway”.

“You want a picture of Rachel Kate performing? Google it. She’s there. I promise.” Lord knows there’s plenty of images of Neil Gaiman. And his hair.

Speaking of Peter Aguero, aside from telling a really intimate and funny story of his own about meeting his wife, he was also a perfect host. He did a fantastic job of keeping the mood light, yet intimate. Almost immediately after he began speaking, I felt deeply connected to his presence, to the presence of the band, to the presence of the audience, to this act of sitting and listening, to laughing. To my own presence.

I liked that all of the stories were personal. As much as I appreciate any good story, whether it’s personal or not, whether it’s even factually correct or not, it’s my opinion that stories are often told better when they are rooted from a personal place. Some place inside that says, “This is true.” If it’s someone else’s story, you can still acknowledge and speak from the part of you that feels this story. Artists do it all the time in plays, operas, and other performances. And that’s when the performances really stand out, really impact my life and remain in my memory.

That said, just because a story is personal, doesn’t make it a good one. You may have said or heard the facetious one-liner joke, “Good story, bro” or “Wow, that was a really good story. Tell it again.” Many people have read part of a memoir that left them marveling at the author’s ability to remain lodged up his or her own ass. Every storyteller, or raconteur, that performed yesterday reminded me of why personal stories can be so compelling. It renewed, at least in me, a sense that a personal story thrives when it’s not being told to impress, to posture, to indulge, to gain attention, to flatter, or to get paid (although getting paid is nice). Personal stories are their best when the heart of the storyteller is present and being shared. In the metaphorical sense, not in the cannibalism sense. We weren’t in the auditorium that long.

Actually, the whole theme of the tour is the heart. Jokingly, Peter Aguero said, “it’s pretty simple the tour is shaped liked a heart…” so there you have it. Dawn told us a story about a dog who “thinks he’s blacker [than her]” who accidentally helped her find a balance between her past and present. Peter told us a story about being adventurous and squeezing the gonads of life. Neil told us a story about being happy for three days, about elephants and a dog who knows a lot about being chained. If you look at their posters, the heart’s probably the first thing you notice — a map with a heart roughly drawn on it, with names like Boone and Asheville as points of reference. And perhaps that was the best way for a group of strangers to come to a campus in northeast Tennessee and tell stories so that we would listen, so that we would walk away feeling like we had experienced something unique and beautiful and meaningful, so that we might want to tell our own stories and listen to those of others.

Although we were lucky enough to see this event for free, I think it’s absolutely worth paying money for and you should if you’re even remotely close to any city along its route. Thank you Dawn, Peter, Neil, Joel, Rachel, and George Dawes Green, thank you to everyone at ETSU who made this possible.

FF: Sept 7th, 2012

A few quick snapshots from First Friday, September 7th in Johnson City:

The Day on Fire preview reception at Tipton Gallery

“Necklace for 2012”, 2011
Robly Glover, TX
Found objects, sterling silver, riser with battery-powered turntable
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

“The Moment Before The Apocalypse: Russia”, 2012
Gregory Martens, WI
Reproduction of monoprint
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

Detail of “The Moment Before The Apocalypse: Planet Earth”, 2012
Gregory Martens, WI
Screen monoprint on paper
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

Side note: I also really like Adam WilliamsIn Trying Times, Don’t Quit Trying and Casey Jex Smith‘s Dingershare, but I couldn’t get decent photos of them. And similarly, I totally failed to take any non-blurry photos of Jordan’s new jewelry. The two following images were the best I could do. They all have lovely, hand drawn details that are worth an up close gander.

Jordan’s jewelry at Venus & Fur

Jordan’s jewelry at Venus & Fur

this mountain playing downtown, in front of Nelson Fine Art Center

This post is pretty sparse because I’ve been rushing around and just wanted to get something together for a follow up post. I hope to write more in the future, although I kind of like the idea of FF re-caps just being photos (hopefully better quality than the current example). We’ll see.

I went to the other art receptions, but I didn’t feel particularly engaged, so I didn’t take any photos. They just weren’t my cup of tea. Felt too safe, too controlled. (Not that I like dangerous tea, I don’t care what Jill Tracy says.) On one hand, I feel like I should record what I experience, but on the other hand, I’m not sure it’s my responsibility to record everything, even my disliking of things. I’m not a critic, after all. However, I do see value in discourse. Thoughts?