Saturday, December 24, 2005

a sadly beautiful day in New Orleans...

Back in September I promised to savor a cup of jo at Cafe du Monde this December as a form of "pffffft" to all the doomsday talk I'd heard about New Orleans.
We (Tricia and I) did have that cup of jo just yesterday and it was chicory good. It was a beautiful day and the French Quarter was bustling. We wanted to give as much as we could to one of our favorite American cities for she is reciprocal. So we also had a pint of Abita, a catfish poboy and a white chocolate caramel turtle. All was good, especially that poboy. I do not know why other American cities cannot do bread the way New Orleans can. Maybe it's the same mysterious reason New York pizza is exceptional. Anyway they're still pumping out the good stuff in the Quarter, but we found that this doesn't mean the Big Easy is back.

The Quarter is missing a HUGE chunk of its labor as well as many proprietors. Most establishments had to lessen their hours of operation to stay in business. Many are still closed. All have "Help Wanted" signs. If you ever wanted to work in the Quarter now is the time to get down there, jobs a plenty though you might be doing dishes. It's the working class that's gone missing after all. This sudden vaporizing of labor has spawned some odd stories. We asked our bartender where to get a good po-boy. She hesitated. She wanted to tell us to go a couple of doors down but that was no good because the new unskilled cook they hired burned the kitchen down with his first roux. This upset our bartender greatly (apparently they made a great gumbo). She pulled out a weekly pamphlet that some enterprising local carts around Quarter. It's called "What's Open." She calls this her phone book. "What's Open" started out as a one page flyer but by the time we had one it was a four page pamphlet. It's growth is a good sign but what we saw outside the quarter was anything but.

Coming into New Orleans through the commercial suburbs along Clearview Avenue and then Airline Ave, N.O. doesn't look like a city in crisis. You see a few rooftops with blue tarping, enough so you realize they might've had a good wind storm recently. But the roads are full, just packed in fact. Then you hit Tulane Ave and there's no getting around the disaster. Every store is closed, many gutted. The sidewalks are full of junk, so are the medians. The stop lights are replaced by makeshift stop signs. Even the businesses that don't appear to have been damaged are closed, including the fast food chains. That's when you know you're in a dead city, when Burger King has shut its doors. Then you hit downtown and it's bustling and then you hit the French Quarter and on a beautiful day like Tricia and I found, it's pretty easy to forget the misery you just past.

What's not so easy to forget is an afternoon drive through the Lower Ninth Ward. I've read the papers and I thought I knew what to expect but nothing prepared me for the devastation we witnessed or the sadness I felt passing through an entire neighborhood caked in flood residue, gutted; cars left where the water dropped them maybe a little off the driveway where they were parked, maybe leaning against a parking sign, maybe on the lawn. The lawns gray with flood filth, littered with odd scraps and piled high with destroyed furniture. The houses graffiti-ed by FEMA, SPCA, former residence: "Cat rescued," "None Dead," "Moved to Tuscon (phone number included)." The saddest graffiti reads "We'll be back." After driving through the neighborhood, that sign doesn't read like a brave act of defiance but an act of helplessness. Who would want to live in one of these treeless, lifeless neighborhoods where every single house must be rebuilt from the ground up; with the levy so close almost every house has a view. Who would want that reminder, having lived through it? Not many it is obvious to see. But we did witness people cleaning up their past, living in FEMA provided trailers in their gray front lawns in front of the ugly reminder of their former lives on the smelly lifeless block that used to be their neighborhood. If it was me, I think I'd be off to Tuscon with the rest of the gang.

But it's important to remember that this imagery is of specific neighborhoods and certainly not the city as a whole. The city is bustling along. What a beautiful day we had in the Quarter, can't wait to go back.


Yahoo! for Good - Make a difference this year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Friends in Texas (and Chicago too)

Friends in Texas I hope to see you Dec. 29th in Austin, New Year's Eve in Houston and if you're hungry fer lunch we're taking the churchbus to Driftwood on the 30th.

Tricia and I will be stopping off for a Beignet and a ninth ward tour some time on the 23rd so if you happen to be in the Big Muddy look for us on the patio.

Friends in Chicago, you might consider the Metro for your New Year's Eve celebration. New Pornographers headline backed by SubPop's newest uberpop sensation Rogue Wave. I played in a short-lived ill-timed misunderstood band with Gram Lebron who now plays guitar and keys for Rogue Wave. Gram shown a wickedly flickering energized lamp on Houston for a few years with his Club Safe Parking and his somber group schrasj. Now he gets to take that energy around the world. He also gets to meet and play with my friends the M's who open the show at Metro New Year's Eve. The M's themselves are on the move having just signed a contract with Polyvinyl Records (of Montreal, AM/FM). Their album comes out in February.

To all the bands on the road this winter - rock on!

To all my friends in Texas - CAN'T WAIT!


P.S. Check out the M's and Roque Wave (and hell even the New Pornographers) on MySpace. RW's rendition of Buddy Holly's "Every Day" is particularly catchy. And while you're on MySpace, check out churchbus' bastardization of a Doug Sahm song, Sexy Ranger Man.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New Track du Jour

Artist: Bill Weita
Track: Live at Moe's Bar & Grill (Cleveland, OH)
Location: Moe's Bar & Grill (Cleveland, OH)
Date: 11-03-2005
Comment: Bill played with THE LATEST at the first gig of their November 2005 Tour. This piece makes up the entirety of his set. It was recorded live to stereo on a handheld mp3 player (Neuro HD30).

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kathleen Judge Part II

Click here for Part I. What follows is an "email interview" and two examples of Kathleen's charcoal drawings...

When did you start doing show posters?

Since 2000. Came back from a job in NYC & ended up bartending at the lovely Hideout & started doing posters for a number of bands playing there or residency type shows (Honky Tonk Living Room, Deanna Varagona's Gospel Jubilee). I had been experimenting with using scratchboard in the mid-90's & then really fell into the medium when i started making posters. The boldness of the B&W seemed to work well with posters (& hold up well when xeroxed). Then I did some Hideout Block Party posters --following in the footsteps of the awesome Robert Valdez. Since then I just take 'em as they come. Originally I didn't silk-screen the posters. I'd do the image & the excellent Steve Walters, of Screwball Press, would print them for me (note--many of my early multi color posters Steve printed for me--I'm not so fancy when I print them myself--they tend towards 2 or 3 colors AT THE MOST). Steve ended up getting pretty busy w/ jobs so I figured I better learn how to print. So I taught myself from books (poorly, as I'm not too good at following written directions) Steve took pity on me and started letting me print out of his shop on Western Ave.(a few years back). I've enjoyed the camaraderie of a shared space. So many different artists w/ different techniques, images, ideas. Keith Herzik prints out of Screwball also Jason Fredricks and a load of other fine folk. I have recently been getting into woodcut prints (artprints not posters) & that has really captivated me.

Is there a show you are most proud of promoting?

HMMM? I'm not making loads of money making posters so I try to take jobs I'd be proud to promote, and have fun making the poster. I've worked jobs doing artwork that I hated & thought would go away, & then was haunted by it being printed up & showing up everywhere--that's a lesson and a nightmare. I try to like who I make a posters for and like the posters I make. Let's see...I'm pretty excited to make a poster for an amazing musician especially those who are still going strong in old age, for example: Ralph Stanley @ Schuba's, B.B King & Bobby Blue Bland @ The Sabre Room, Oscar Brown Jr @ the Hideout, Jimmy Martins Documentary by George Groehl. I have loved doing one of a kind tickets for shows--which thanks to the Hideout, I've had a few opportunities to make tactile tickets to shows such as Neko Case/Kelly Hogan tix (one time on sandpaper the other each ticket was a polaroid), Alejandro Escovedo(one set in wood & metal, another set of tix in leather), The Handsome Family,(that ones too hard to sum up), Oscar Brown Jr (seed packets) & Bobby Bear Jr. (fake fur) I love making tickets. As the world moves foward in technology I move two steps back. Who REALLY wants to print their tickets out on their home computer when they can have a ticket made of wood & metal (made in a HIGHLY inefficient manner)? Who?

Is there an art piece you are most proud of?

Last year I had an opportunity to do illustrations for a book of Slave Narratives. It was a great honor. I love history. These stories are really amazing (go read the book 'Growing up in Slavery'). Here I am this white woman 100-200 years later getting an opportunity to translate visually some aspects of these people's life stories. These people's stories are truly inspiring. I was overwhelmed and honored. It's funny--all my life, unconsciously, I've wanted to be able to show my parents something like this that I did art for--my Dad was deceased before I received this assignment but my Mom was still alive and she read the book & was inspired by the stories. I'm currently working on illustrating a children's book w/ Jeff Bulington --& though we've been developing it a looooong time, I'm pretty proud of it so far & hope I feel the same when it wraps up & hopefully gets published.

Inspiration? Heroes? Mentors? Idols?

So many. Most recently I've been inspired by Paul Farmer (Read 'Mountains Beyond Mountains').

Boy, heroes? Other than people I know, and family, there are probably too many to type & my memory has gone scattershot on me. A few years ago I saw this puppet theater group from South africa (I believe they are called Handspring) they integrated this fantastic animation into the performance. It was drawing under a camera technique with charcoal. Found out it was animated by William Kentridge. Strange, I've had some people tell me about him before I'd ever seen his work & that I draw in a similar style. Now that I've seen his work, & become a fan, I can understand why some folks have said that--I think it's the way he draws w/ charcoal. I watched a video about how he animates & I was highly distracted that he managed to draw in nice dress slacks! In all my days of working in charcoal I can't figure out how he does that.

I know you traveled with Neko. How many tours have you been on and what is your role?

I've toured with her since 2000. My role has been taking care of merchandise. Share in the driving & whatever else may need doing--within reason. They're some of my best friends there (Neko, Jon, Tom & many others, depending on tour). The tours have ranged from a week or two to a few months. Works out well w/ my freelance lifestyle & my severe love of the road & rest-stops. A year or so ago, I went on the road w/ Neko and also researched the poster scene in various cities and how the clubs work with poster artists. I was surprised at the lack of venues seeking out silkscreened poster art for shows. In fact I spoke w/ one promoter and basically the deal he has w/ the artists is they get some booze. Made me realize how great Chicago is right now. Bands & venues are hiring artists to make posters for them. Pretty much every block in certain populated areas have layers of posters hanging. That's exciting. when I was in L.A., San Fran, Seatle and other cities, I was surprised that most the posters are xeroxes. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of artists all over making posters I just don't see their wk on their streets like I see it in Chicago. Made me feel proud of this town & the bands and artists in it. Yeah chicago!

Age (you don't have to answer, hell you don't have to answer any of these)?

Late 30's. Hope that doesn't affect my budding hollywood career.

Where are you from originally?


Why Chicago?

I like industrial cities. Cities with metal. I'm still surprised that I've been here this long.

Favorite food, domestic animal, car part?

I like all kinds, lately I'd say Indian. I'm also a big fan of Okra, fried or pickled. I'm a fan of dogs. ENGINE.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Not now but after I send this to you I'm sure I'll have many other things to say. Feel free to write back if you want me to give more info or answer any new questions.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kathleen Judge Part I

Kathleen Judge is a lover of grit. She makes Chicago her home and doesn't just deal with the city's intrinsic grime; she seeks it out. Judge welds and performs other dirt-producing acts of freelance labor. She moonlights at a smokey bar tucked into an industrial neighborhood on Chicago's north side. On her own time, she has been known to paint with rust (see example below) and produce large charcoal studies of junk yards. Recently Ms. Judge held a rare solo art show at her mechanic's garage. Kathleen makes grit a part of Culture not at all something to be ashamed of or masked.

Maybe you have seen her work already. Kathleen is a Concert Poster artist with a slew of show prints including many for her musical comrades. In her poster line up are shows for Kelly Hogan, Neko Case, Oscar Brown Jr., and many others who have graced Chicago's stages. Her poster art is silk screened and based on clay etchings (note the gritty nature of this medium - okay maybe I'm reaching a bit). The originals were recently on display at 3 Bros. Auto along with the 2006 Auto Shop Calendar that she created for the proprietor (a clever way to ensure good service). Recently I caught up with Ms. Judge via email, she agreed to answer a few questions though she warned me that typing is not her forte. Stay tuned for that interview here. In the meantime enjoy some of her art work.

continue to Part II