The Miracles of the Web

As memory has it at, I went to a lightly-attended film festival of black-and-white, experimental works in the early ’90s, while finishing up school in London. The short feature that really grabbed my attention was called “Another Girl Another Planet,” directed by Michael Almereyda and named after a song by The Only Ones. The film’s compressed-by-Pixelvision look, story about 20-something romantic ennui and, if honest, presence of actress Elina Lowensohn conspired to hook me. A tricky journey to find my own copy of the film followed.

In time, I’d find it in a box of tapes submitted for inclusion in my hometown film festival, but that only came after some obsessive, pre-Internet searches that eventually had me on the line with Almereyda, who was editing another film when I reached him by phone; as awkward calls go, that was one of them. While he didn’t ship the tape to his annoying superfan, as promised (said only to get rid of me, I’m sure), the quick conversation with him and the discovery of the tape in that big, ol’ box of lightly-marked VHS tapes cemented the movie in my mind. If not my favorite film, per se, it became the most-important and I’m not sure that it’ll be bounced out of that slot, ever.

Over the next decade-and-change, I’d watch the tape at least 20 times; the short, sub-hour film’s dialogue becoming so well-known to me that watching it was becoming less of a joy, my brain moving more into autopilot with each view. An ill-timed loan, though, caused that tape to move into a second life of being lost-to-me. It’s been four years since watching “Another Girl,” though that’ll change this weekend.

Inserting myself into a conversation about VHS tapes at the bar, I talked about the movie, how I’d lost in the tape in a friend breakup, how I’d searched for it on different forums with no luck. Within about three-minutes, one of the folks in that discussion asked, “is it about 55-minutes?” “Yeah, why?” “It’s on YouTube.” Simple as that. What was lost had been found.

The discussion, from there, veered into all sorts of threads about the worth of things, how everything will end up in the public domain eventually, and how the notions of ownership are being (re)shaped regularly. Those are all worthwhile, thoughtful conversations, but I’ve gone on too long already. (And the spirit of “Another Girl” is brevity, after all.)

There are not one, but two uploads of “Another Girl Another Planet,” available on YouTube today, Wednesday, July 26. I won’t assume them to be there forever and look forward to uploading it to my personal entertainment microchip in a few years. {Edit: one of the two are whacked; here’s hoping that I’m not giving up the goods on the following, now-single transmission…}

Now Hear This & Comedy Coverage, via stlmag.com

Can say that St. Louis Magazine, specifically those sections headed up by arts editor Stefene Russell, has been very good to me of late. After struggling to find a consistent blog presence at stlmag.com in mid-to-late 2016, I hatched an idea about 30 years old: a weekly music column. Turns out that the idea’s found a home and that’s quite pleasing. So far, four pieces have been published, including this week’s, which has a variety-pack approach.

In addition to the music coverage for the blog, there was a perceived need for some added material on the local comedy scene, be it standup, improv, game-/talk-show based or other. For starters, I’m going to roll out a series of occasional Q/As with local comedians. The first one’s just appeared and more will follow.

-30-

 

 

Yes, I’d Love to Join The Board of Artica

At some point in the late, weird days of 2016, I caught myself saying these words aloud, in this very order: “I think I ought to join a board.” Having served a couple of brief tenures on the boards of local non-profits over a decade ago, I knew the kind of situation that’d keep me interested and active. As it turned out, an opportunity presented itself nice-and-quick.

After years of covering the arts festival Artica, I look forward to joining the board as of, uh, right now, giving me plenty of lead time to help promote this October’s edition. And, yes, I see myself mostly working that promo angle, rather than signing on for on-site art creation; attendance at the event, though, almost requires some type of active, live-time engagement, so we’ll see how that manifests itself.

Also, along with the artist and educator Con Christeson, I’ll be working on the curation of an up-’til-now retrospective of Artica, which will likely be booked for mid-2018 run.

While I certainly gained a lot by attending multiple Artica events and writing about them, primarily for St. Louis Magazine’s website, I look more forward to this type of participation. Super-excited.

Some photos from past events here:

Artica 2016
Artica 2015
Tiny Totem Pilgrimage
Artica 2014
Artica 2013
Magic River Door
Artica 2012
Artica 2002

Introducing Eat Sandwiches

Kinda crazy for me to think about, but I’m the co-owner of a sandwich shop.

Chef Byron Smith will handle the kitchen. Which, interestingly enough, he built, by hand, from scratch.

Jeff McGraw will handle the books. As a pretty fair cook, himself, he’ll add onto Byron’s menu ideas.

And Fred Hessel owns the building, a sharp little storefront at 3148 Morganford, in the heart of that district’s growing food-and-beverage scene. (Together, Fred and I co-own the Tick Tock Tavern, along with Steven Smith.)

Our opening date’s a floating one, though located somewhere around the middle of October.

The Eat Sandwiches FB page is live and will have the deets as they become available. Just as our name is imperative, it’s imperative that you “like” us there immediately. And, there, folks, you see my role in the operation.

Reporter’s Notebook: Andrew Franklin

Twice this year, for the RFT, I’ve written stories on musician Andrew Franklin. One, published in May, detailed his pitched battle with cancer; the other, published early today, noted his passing at the too-young age of 29.

15210173754_9d48569df7_kWe were introduced a while back by Kelsey McClure, who mentioned that Franklin’s band at the time, Big Brother Thunder & The Master Blasters, was looking for group photos. At the time, I was working on a personal photo project called The Magic Door and, so, he, I and the rest of his band met out back of an auto repair shop on MLK Boulevard, taking pics until dark. Later, we worked on another series with the group, at Cherokee’s Bomb Door. And not much more than a month ago, we met for that purpose again, this time meeting up at Nebula for a series of shots with his new group, Sugar Kings; I can’t say I did a good job with the Sugar Kings shots and wound up getting some decent pics of each musician, but without ever getting that keeper, full-group shot. Would that we could do it all over again!

A few months prior, I’d met with Drew and his longtime partner Jessica Bellomo, catching up at Soulard Market. We sat outside on the steps of the bandstand and chatted for a good hour, before the two went inside to shop for produce. An anecdote that I’ve told since came out of that. (I’ll share it here, then will turn things over to those who knew him better, those I reached out to for the second RFT piece.) Here’s how “the potato story” goes…

Drew was talking about “food as medicine” at one of their stops in the market. Just down the row, we stopped again as he was putting a couple dozen potatoes into a plastic bag, which he handed to the farmer. Weighing the produce, the farmer asked for $2.90 and Drew handed him three dollar bills, telling him to keep the extra 10-cents, that he’d grab an extra potato to even things out. So, that didn’t go well.

27890848462_fceb93c183_kThe farmer, lacking anything resembling social grace, handed back the bag and the singles, saying something like “I only sell what I’m paid for,” which prompted a memory I’ll take with me for a bit. Drew took the bag of potatoes back and calmly, without a word, poured them back into the bin. They then exchanged another word, or two, after all, but all points had already been made. While Drew’s lanky body had obviously been stressed by his cancers and their treatments, his spirit had plenty of spark left; he was not about to take shit over a dime’s worth of potatoes. Not that day.

Random, maybe, but it’s the impression of him that’ll last with me longest.

Here are what his friends had to say when asked to contribute some thoughts to today’s RFT piece. Due to story brevity, I was unable to include most of these, so they’re all here, minus any real edits:

Darian Wigfall: I’m still collecting my thoughts a bit. This is hitting me pretty hard. He was one of the first people to buy my book and one of the first people I met and liked in the music scene in St. Louis when I was writing music buzz for Examiner.com. I loved his band, his spirit; he was a good friend. He was a good friend to a lot of people. He was a fireman, which is one of the most dangerous jobs there is, and a great athlete. That was my guy, man. Even though we didn’t see each other often because he was busy, and so am I, but we always would call each other ‘brother’ when we would meet up with friends for music or drinks or at a show.

27601239162_2a3ffb501b_kDonald Williams: A few things immediately come to mind when I think of my friend Andrew Franklin: kindness, sincerity and his smile. He always had a smile for everyone he knew. The two of us had a lot in common and our conversations almost always touched on our bands, being bass players, writing music, and what it all meant to us. As he was dealing with his cancer there was a period of time where the chemo was really wearing on him. We stayed in touch whenever he was feeling up to it and there were times that I could tell he was absolutely exhausted. I wanted to cheer him up and hear him laugh again so one night Jesse Gannon and I took him out to dinner. Afterwards, he said he had some energy and wasn’t ready to go home so we met up with our friends Darian Wigfall and Ted Brookins for a couple of drinks.  It’s difficult to not have fun with that crew of people but that particular night our conversations were so hilarious and outrageous that some of us were in tears while the rest of us were screaming. At several points, Andrew said it actually hurt to laugh. A few times during the course of the evening, it crossed my mind that there was a very good chance I might not get to hang out with him again. There was a very good chance that his family, girlfriend, and close friends might soon lose him. I don’t know if the others noticed when, for a few minutes here and there, I would withdraw from our ridiculous conversations to watch Andrew. I just sat back and watched him tell his stories, crack his jokes, enjoy himself and enjoy our company. I thought about how good it felt to help make him happy, to see him smile, and then I thought, that’s exactly how he always made us feel. That night with that group of friends is how I’ll always remember Andrew Franklin.

14200301076_1a17e534a5_kKelsey McClure: Drew and I rarely had to call each other to hang out because we had a habit of running into each other at late night bar spots. The night of the Boston Marathon Bombing, we found each other at the Gramophone on open mic night. Drew had come to play and I to drink because it didn’t seem the night for jokes or to be alone. So Drew refused to get on stage, unless I did, too. He coaxed me up by playing to my utter vanity and insisting a full band back my set. But more importantly, Drew swore to never speak of it again if it went poorly, which I insisted it would, having not prepared and also forgotten I was about to take the stage with the bass-playing love child of James Brown and Richard Pryor. There wasn’t a time after that night when we crossed paths that he and I weren’t blowing plans out of proportion to recreate that night in a bigger, better way.

Mathias James: I met Drew when he was about 16- or 17-years-old. Shoulder-length dreadlocks and a thirst to make music his life’s work. I immediately took to him. Despite me being a solid decade older, we ended up having a lot in common. Our love for that FUNK. Good, soulful hip hop. Our mutual zest for the way music enriches your life. Our mutual affinity for the game of baseball. Over the years, Drew became one of my trusted few. Part of the inner circle. Now and then, months would go by without seeing each other, especially when he was out saving lives with the Fire Dept., but when we’d reconnect it was always like not a single day had passed. Early in our friendship, I brought him in to audition for the vacant bass player role in Core Project. I was rooting for him to get it; perhaps he was still somewhat green at the time, so he didn’t. Immediately after that, though, he used that as fuel to go out and become one of the most soulful, innovative, celebrated musicians in STL. He became twice the musician I’ll ever be. I’ll miss Drew terribly. He was always there with a smile and a huge hug. He was one of the most genuine and passionate people I’ve ever known. I’ll be forever grateful to have been his friend.

John Harrington: Every time we played a show & didn’t get paid or I wanted to go to a party instead of practicing he would always say: “Forget about all that side track BS. Let’s get back to the music.” He also was a revolutionary & full of wisdom & would say: “We can’t sit around complaining about what we don’t have, if we don’t get up & go get what we want!”

Dan Mahfood: Not only was Drew a heavyweight in the music scene, he gave his all as a firefighter, brother, son, and cancer victim. Always blew me away that during his battle with the disease that this guy had the determination and strength to keep getting on stage and spreading love through his music. A true hero and funk soldier. RIP to a legend.

-30-

 

 

 

An RFT Two-Fer

Delighted to have written two articles that appeared in this week’s Riverfront Times. That phrase last happened in, oh, the 20th century.

One feature details the efforts of Phil Berwick and his associate Kapp, as they merrily decorate the streets of St. Louis with Berwick’s decades-in-the-making Merferd character. The article grew out of a very different initial angle, which would’ve bounced out of the presumed arrest of the tagger Super. With this approach, the article would’ve delved into more the “traditional” graffiti scene, if such a phrase exists. Instead, I came across the works of Berwick and quickly shifted focus, ditching the usual names for this relative newcomer – and complete outlier – to the local street art scene. Glad to have been able to do so, aided by an understanding editor realizing the real story presented itself later-than-expected.

In the same issue, I interviewed Andrew Franklin, a bass player, only 29, working through the serious effects of cancer treatments. The story touches on his health, his new band (The Sugar Kings) and his approach to life. Was an intense piece to work on, giving a sense of someone creatively flowering, even as their body strains to keep up. Glad to have been entrusted with telling such a story, by both editor and subject.

EDIT: As if on cue, I was invited to DJ Wilson’s KDHXtra blog, Collateral Damage. Talked about the stuff above. Here’s that clip.

-30-

RFT Rotation Reset

01-Cover__2_Not going to lie: it’s still a bit unusual to see my name in/on the Riverfront Times. It’s been a good, long while since I was a staffer at the RFT, a run that encompassed most of the ’90s. It’s even been over a decade since a short freelance run in the early-2000s. As a veteran of very mixed experiences as a reader/consumer of the RFT since, I’m appreciative of the new energy brought to the paper by its fourth ownership group and by new(ish) editor Sarah Fenske, with whom I’d previously worked with at Feast.

This week’s cover, on moving from a vegetarian to a meat-eating diet, was something that grew out of the “Ax to Table” project that I attempted (but didn’t complete) while freelancing with Feast in 2015. It’s surprising for any abandoned project like that to enjoy a second life, especially with as prominent a rebound as an RFT cover.*

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve profiled legendary bar builder Bob Burkhardt, have interviewed Pokey LaFarge and have a story in the can, featuring new-to-St. Louis blues musician John McVey.

This new stretch of work with an old publication’s been fun. And that’s all I have to say about that.

(* The piece drew a rebuttal. Huh.)

Live: thenew20th.com

FullSizeRender(2)Working for Alderman Cara Spencer of St. Louis City’s 20th Ward, I’m writing a year-long series of blog posts around the people, places and developments within that corner of South St. Louis. The project got off to a slower start, but just as the weather’s allowed for a little more traveling within the Ward, the stories are starting to appear.

This short feature, on Earthbound Beer, is how I’d like the blog to look/read as the year progresses.

With a little luck, another project of the same sort will be undertaken with the next month. As always, updates as they come.