Although it wasn't First Friday, Roosevelt Row had a collection of artists rivaling the monthly gathering of art and art-inclined. Nü Dek, an art collective, curated a show at Lawn Gnome Publishing located on 905 N 5th St. in Phoenix.
The performance included poet Steve Roggenbuck, a nationally renowned blogger, poet and multimedia artist. The sets of poetry were divided up by musical acts Longbird and Injury Reserve, with Rogggenbuck performing last.
attention ARIZONA: tonight im doing a show in Phoenix, and tuesday im doing a show in Tucson!! http://t.co/QrKCyqznYt pic.twitter.com/QeJbXVaVKQ
— steve roggenbuck (@steveroggenbuck) January 23, 2015
Read more coverage of Roosevelt Row here!
Nü Dek was co-created by Dane Jarvie, an English Literative alumnus, after his graduation from ASU. His continued interest in organizing performances helped spawn the project.
"We were still very much interested in putting on shows... we just wanted to put on shows that weren't really constrained to a certain form," he said. "We wanted to have more of an experience with all the art styles."
Khayree Billingslea, the co-founder of the project, praised the difference in the contemporarily relevant, lyric-driven and characteristically independent nature of the acts.
"We book more concept-based shows now," he said. "We have a hip-hop band, we have a folk band and we have poets plus a celebrity poet. What we're trying to showcase here is the badass use of the word."
The choice of Lawn Gnome was no random act of kindness. Billingslea stressed the importance of experiencing art in a space where there are no assumptions about what the art has to say.
"Lawn Gnome is ... the only place I feel comfortable going because the walls and everything look like it's dirty, and everything looks like someone glued it together with their heart and their love," Billingslea said.
Read more coverage of poetry-related incidents at Lawn Gnome here!
Besides the poets, the live bands were local yokels Longbird and Injury Reserve.
Longbird performed a new song that included trumpet and guitar solos, with the trumpet interludes performed by two members. There was also violin pizzicato and syncopated, intricate stringed combinations.
Injury Reserve had the crowd come up in front of the stage to dance to the intense set. These performers knew how to get the crowd riled up for the third round of poetry.
Roggenbuck, a poet and video maker made famous on YouTube, is currently touring the U.S. promoting his book.
"I'm going to read a few poems and a lot of these new goofy stories that I've been writing," he said. "Then, if it's a good show, I will also get into some banter in between and that sort of becomes part of the performance."
By the time his set rolled around, the schtick was in full-force. Reading some poetry from his laptop, he interrupted his reading to ask "Who's seen 'Shrek the Halls?'"
After a group of people in the front raised their hands, he asked the gathering "Now, is that correlation or causation?"
Roggenbuck described his improvisational videos, of which he records an hour of footage and cuts it down to two minutes. He uses a GoPro camera with a wide angle lens to shoot these videos.
Roggenbuck was interested in coming to the Southwest because of its beauty and the relatively cheap cost of living.
"I think I'm actually moving to Tucson because I feel like it's cheaper and actually a little bit cooler (than Phoenix)," he said.
In front of a sheet, upon which was projected changing neon lights, the show commenced. There were three rounds of poetry, much like a poetry slam event. The poets included crowd-pleaser Beth May, Red Tank member Elijah Pearson, organizer Khayree Billingslea, "Them" zine founder Jos Charles and longtime poet Devon Johnson.
Charles, who founded a trans* literary journal in Los Angeles but currently lives in Tucson, is working on their second issue of "Them."
When speaking on their poetry writing process, they stressed the importance of reaction in the creation of poetry. Their writing is about connection with the audience in creative ways.
"It's not expressly surreal because there are moments of contact," they said. "I think there are times when I want to just say 'something says something' and just want to describe the gesture, (letting) the particulars sit in the background of the gesture."
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