Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
This cool bookcase was a recent find at Retro Ranch, one of downtown Phoenix’s inspiring vintage shops found in the Melrose District along 7th Ave. The shop is full of treasures, such as this one-of-kind bookcase that doesn’t have an identifying label or stamp. To this shopper, the lack of a label simply adds to its mysterious allure.
The bookcase consists of three pieces that stack on top of each other, including an extended shelf perfect for displaying an eye-popping vintage phone. I like the dark wood with its antique appearance, but I love the unique patina that results from a scattering of worn spots. Maybe it’s a look that only a true vintage collector could adore, but I think you might feel the same way!
Another find included these blue gray “Zodiac” pointed-toe ankle boots that I discovered in the clothing section. Yes, that’s right – Retro Ranch has a clothing section full of irreplaceable shoes, frocks and accessories that will inspire anyone to get up in the morning and pull together a dynamic new look.
I like the gently worn 80’s vibe of these boots, which makes them a perfect accessory to simple, or a more polished look. This label is seemingly no longer in production, which is all the more reason to browse through Retro Ranch for more undiscovered beauties!
Retro Ranch, 4303 N. 7th Ave., 602-297-1971
Want to share your love? Send a note to email@example.com and tell us what YOU like.
Our last When Brains Collide meeting subject “In a Rut” brought together several artists and non-artists to discuss the frustration of not knowing what to do next. We huddled in the cool and dark Cartel Coffee on the hottest day in years (119º, to be exact) and managed to come out of the meeting with some new ideas to move forward.
One of the biggest suggestions? Do anything. Just start something, even if it doesn’t seem like a thing you can see through to the end. Do something completely different, start some drawings, try a performance, doodle—just be in a space where you can devote time and energy to creating something, even if it ends up not being that productive. Something eventually will happen, right?
The next biggest suggestion was to get out and see what others are doing. Travel. Inspire yourself, or, if you don’t see anything you like, push yourself to do a better job than what you see. Several of us have checked in after the meeting to see where we’re at with our work and we’ve all managed to begin to crawl out of that rut.
Next When Brains Collide: “Things Don’t Work”
Working with technology in your latest project and running into problems? Trying a new computer program and not yet getting the hang of it? Making a foray into video and not sure where to start or what to start with? Worked with multi-media for years and would love to lend a helping hand? Maybe we can help each other.
This next meeting welcomes anyone who has extensive knowledge of using technology in their work or those newbies who have started tinkering but have run into a wall. There’s only so much you can find through searches on the internet and discussion forums often end up being nerds slinging insults and impatient questions at each other. If you’d rather discuss your issues in an environment where it’s ok to not know, please come to the next When Brains Collide on Saturday, July 27, at 12 p.m. at Cartel Coffee on 1st Street and Washington.
All are invited: designers, artists, performers, writers. The more diverse the crowd, the more diverse suggestions we can make.
If you go:
Event: When Brains Collide
Date: Saturday, July 27, 2013
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Cartel Coffee, 1 N. 1st St. (corner of Washington and 1st St.)
Arizona musicians often find their groove at the Rhythm Room, and tonight promised a genre-defying roster of four local groups taking the next step into a larger performance arena.
Bad Cactus Brass Band headlined the evening with sassy, energetic New Orleans-style tunes kicking off the release of the group’s new album, #musicbombing. Bad Cactus was founded in 2009 by sousaphonist Benjie Messer, a composer, trombonist, and music educator.
Captain Squeegee, another of tonight’s ensembles, is a hard-to-categorize Comicon-loving brass-rich band led by singer Danny Torgersen, while Chris Peña Group describes its music as “a mixture of pulsing synths, punchy basslines and art-rock sections…somewhere between angst and ambition…to the tune of electro-funk sautéed with a dash of jazz-infused pop.”
The instrumentation changed dramatically when Simply Three took the stage with its partnership of three classically trained string players. Cellist Zack Clark, a friend of both Messer and Torgersen, joined double bassist Nicholas Villalobos and violinist Olivia Lemmelin; all three musicians earned their bachelor’s degrees in music performance at Arizona State University.
Simply Three formed in October 2010, when Clark and Villalobos found a kindred spirit in Lemmelin. “She was loud, and…energetic, and she was exactly what we were looking for,” says Clark. The trio recorded soundtracks for the independent films Brahmin Bulls and Within, and frequently performs school concerts around the Valley.
Although he didn’t come from a musical background, Clark began playing the cello at 10 and fell head over heels in love with the instrument. “In ninth grade…we played ‘Nimrod’ by [Edward] Elgar, one of the Enigma Variations,” he recalls. “Professor Timothy Russell was the conductor, and I remember…he explained that Elgar wrote this for his wife. He told us about his love for his wife, and…to try to feel that love while we played.”
Clark laughs lightly. “That was life-altering. I cried the next time we played it — I felt Elgar’s love.” He continues, “It was this sublime spiritual experience, and that’s when music…really touched me.”
Villalobos and Clark grew up together in the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra, and later decided to form their own ensemble and perform their favorite music. Clark remembers thinking, “Why should there be boundaries?”
Since the inclusion of a double bass pushed beyond the limits of a typical string quartet instrumentation, the duo added a violin and created their own arrangements, starting with “Yesterday” and other Beatles favorites and continuing with standard wedding repertoire.
Today, their signature tunes run the gamut from Gautier to One Republic, Clark’s favorite band. “Our best stuff is different, that we save for the live shows,” says the cellist. “We do ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele and ‘Clocks’ and ‘Fix You’ — kind of like a mash-up of those two songs by Coldplay.”
“We [also] do…’Orange Blossom Special’ and ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’” he adds, “because Olivia is really good at fiddling.” Other repertoire includes Metallica’s “Battery” and a Michael Jackson mash-up of “Earth Song” and “Human Nature,” as well as a soundtrack blend he describes as “Lord of the Wars” — The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
The ensemble also plays Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” mixed with Justin Timberlake’s new song “Mirrors.” “One of our goals is to stay really, really current and put out one new video a week on YouTube,” explains Clark.
Improvisation is important, too. “Nick can throw down some sweet grooves on his bass,” he continues, “and we just kind of learn the progression and then…just jam… It’s a really fun point in the concert…that’s when the magic happens.”
As Simply Three builds its fan base through appealing arrangements and raises money through a Kickstarter project, the group continues its outreach with the goal of a fall school tour through Utah and Idaho along with more recordings. December brings the hope of a Christmas album and performances as featured artists on December 8 for Westwood High School’s holiday shows, as well as a free concert.
The trio has an enthusiastic mentor in ASU’s new tuba professor, Deanna Swoboda, as well as management from Dow Artists and a possible sponsorship by Eastman Strings. “We just enjoy playing the music we love for audiences and kids,” says Clark, “showing them that you can play whatever you want.”
All photos courtesy of Simply Three.
- Simply Three with Bad Cactus Brass Band, Captain Squeegee, and Chris Peña Group at the Rhythm Room on July 10
- Bad Cactus Brass Band interview with Blaise Lantana on 91.5 KJZZ (from 2011)
- Simply Three performs in two Christmas shows on December 8 at Westwood High School
DPJ’s Bike Chic series by Nathan Simpson. You may see him around town scouting locals who not only ride their bikes but look dapper doing it.
Occupation: Barista at Jobot Coffee/ASU Journalism Student
Her neighborhood: Tempe (but she works and plays in Downtown Phoenix)
What’s your favorite thing about Downtown Phoenix? The culture. I’m from a smaller town in southern California and I didn’t expect it…but there is so much culture here, especially Native American and Latin.
What are your favorite places downtown? Even though I work there, I hang out at Jobot a lot. I really love Lawn Gnome; I go to a lot of the events there. I also go to Carly’s a lot because it’s open late.
What’s would you consider your style? Is thrifty a style? I’d say it changes up from day to day, but it ranges from indie to vintage with a lot of bohemian looks.
What are your favorite places to shop for fashion? I actually shop at Ross and T.J. Maxx a lot but also thrift stores. The boutique shops on 6th Street (GROWop, Cellar Door) are also some of my favorites.
Biking fashion tips? When I wear a short skirt, I wear bike shorts under it. When I wear a long skirt, I’ll tie it in a knot to keep it from getting stuck in the chain.
Biking Essentials: The bike is Skinny Benny, which I’d never heard of before but it has this kind of gangsta dollar sign on it that I’d like to cover. I’ve only had it about a month, but I’m going to add a water bottle holder and a lock mount. I also want to add drop bars because I got pretty addicted to them from my last bike.
What she’s wearing: I got the dress from Marshall’s. The boots, I think came from Khol’s. I got the bag at Buffalo Exchange. I love fringes. I got my rings from swap meets and street shows. Turquoise jewelry is my thing.
Theater-goers looking for fresh repertoire sated their hunger earlier this month with a daring, historically-based production justifiably billed as “sexy-pants.” Phoenix Theatre pushed beyond its standard line-up of expertly-staged Broadway musicals to offer Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, giving audiences a sample of the provocative works planned for the troupe’s new black box venue in the coming season.
In the fledgling years of the United States of America, the hot-tempered and fiercely patriotic Andrew Jackson rose from obscurity to become the seventh President, following John Quincy Adams and preceding Martin Van Buren. Along the way, Jackson’s controversial path included defeating the British as a general in the War of 1812, serving as first governor of Florida, fighting accusations of an adulterous relationship with his own wife, establishing the Democratic Party, defending his contentious policies leading to the forced relocation of Native Americans, and representing Tennessee in Congress.
Impressively, he was also beloved by the American public, winning the popular vote. Jackson was elected by a tremendous margin in 1828, but his victory in the Presidential race was overshadowed by the death of his beloved wife Rachel.
Jackson’s action-packed life story is fascinating, but is it the stuff of theater? Phoenix Theatre took a well-justified, successful gamble with its run of Bloody Bloody AJ performances, which ended June 23. “This isn’t an encyclopedic account of Jackson’s life,” said director Ron May. “You’re not getting a stage version of a Wikipedia page. There are a handful of blatant anachronisms cozied up right next to historical fact,” he continued. “But for the most part what happened, what he did, is dead-on.”
May has made his name in the Valley theater scene both as an actor in shows like Nearly Naked Theatre’s Fuddy Meers – including ovation-winning scenes with a sock puppet — and as Stray Cat Theatre’s founding Artistic Director, offering works like The Dianalogues, columbinus, and Learn to be Latina. May has also directed for Actors Theatre and Black Theatre Troupe.
Bloody Bloody AJ is an emo rock play with music (as opposed to a full-bore musical), peppering action, quirky narrators, and impassioned monologues with “angry young men singing about how unfair life is, and angsting and angsting and angsting” — the very definition of the genre, according to May.
He’s always drawn to the works of Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, who also wrote Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant and Heddatron for their theater troupe Les Freres Corbusier in New York. ‘They have a wicked sense of humor, an enormous awareness of pop culture, and an off-the-wall sense of theatricality,” declared May.
“[Bloody Bloody AJ]…does for history what ‘The Daily Show,’ for me, did for daily news — made it accessible, interesting, relevant, and a hell of a lot of fun,” said May. “America at the time was a young nation — kind of prepubescent, still trying to find its footing.” He continued, “Andrew Jackson ultimately becomes its mouthpiece — the best front man you could possibly have for an ‘emo nation.’” May added, “The show is like an insane mash-up of ‘Schoolhouse Rock,’ ‘South Park,’ and a Fall Out Boy concert.”
Actor Joe Kremer described the play as “like a parallel universe. It’s in the history, but it’s all these modernizations of language…. He [Jackson] says stuff like ‘This sucks!’” (some of the most PG-rated dialogue in the show, which carried provocative “mature audience only” warnings).
At the same time, the piece revealed glimpses of Jackson’s personal and ideological vulnerabilities, bolstered by the pleasantly enjoyable shock of Caleb Reese’s clear, melodic voice in the title role, which pointed to his nine-year run with busy local cover band The Instant Classics.
Joe Kremer played multiple parts in Bloody Bloody AJ, including Jackson’s political rival Henry Clay and the Native American statesman Black Fox, who negotiated many of Jackson’s treaties.
“Henry Clay’s just kind of funny, and just like an old, grumpy politician…I would call it ‘My dad in a bad mood on a Sunday morning,’” he said, laughing. “Black Fox is a lot more stoic, and…at the end of the show, very serious.” Kremer concluded, “Black Fox is more me, where Henry Clay is more of a portrayal of a character — let’s put it that way.”
As for using Kremer in the role, May said, “The show was written so that non-Native actors could play the Indians, but…[the] biggie is making sure we represent the Indians in the show in a way that isn’t offensive, doesn’t simmer in stereotype.”
Regarding the production as a whole, Kremer said, “It’s tight jeans, big boots…. When you wear it [the costume]…it’s this eyeliner feeling.” He continued, “I think that’s the big difference — I mean, you could do a show about Andrew Jackson and the 1800s…just based on what’s there…but how fun would it be?”
Kremer said, “I have a 16-year-old daughter…there is no way I could get her to sit…and watch a documentary about Andrew Jackson. It just wouldn’t happen.” He chuckled wryly. “But I could get her to sit in the show and…actually be interested in who he is and what he did and…‘Wait a minute – what did he do? Indians? Why would you do that to people?’”
He started his acting career in Nearly Naked Theatre’s 2002 production of Equus, starring with May in Fuddy Meers and Take Me Out and working under his direction in The Laramie Project and other shows. The actor’s credits include Noises Off, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Much Ado About Nothing, [sic], and, most recently, Phoenix Theatre’s run of Our Town.
It was a bit of a jump turning from Thornton Wilder to Andrew Jackson, admitted Kremer. “How different is it? Uh, wow… I don’t know how to describe it without some drug reference,” he said with a grin, “because…it’s kind of going from this realm of seriousness…to just this constant thing of laughter…so it’s a very different vibe.”
“Going from drama to comedy…it hits a tightrope, because you come into it still in that dramatic role. It’s difficult, but it’s doable,” continued Kremer. “One of the things we did with Our Town…we took away a little bit of the reverence,” he said. “So once the reverence is gone, going between those two is pretty easy, because they’re [both] shows, they’re just a little different, and you have to just pay attention to what’s in the text, and that’ll guide you into good places.”
Watch for May’s upcoming productions at Stray Cat Theatre and other venues around the Valley. In October, you’ll have a chance to see Joe Kremer as a conflicted Chicago police officer in the dark, gritty comedy A Steady Rain by Keith Huff, produced by Actors Theatre.
- More about the historical Andrew Jackson from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center
- Phoenix Theatre’s upcoming 2013-2014 season
- Stray Cat Theatre
- Actors Theatre