Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Is Antisemitism Rising to the Threat Level?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 4:28 PM

  • Courtesy of static flickr.com
I'm Jewish. I've watched intently as the antisemitic alt right has grown in prominence during and after the presidential campaign. Breibart.com gave the haters a voice, orchestrated by Steve Bannon, Breibart's executive chair. Trump retweeted some of the alt right's garbage because he liked the way it sounded. After his election, he made Bannon his closest advisor, making Bannon the most powerful man in the White House except for, or maybe including, Trump himself. An exultant group of alt righters gathered in D.C. after the election, ending their celebration with a speech by Richard Spencer who exalted white people using language reminiscent of the Third Reich. He ended his speech with, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail Victory!"

But through all that, I honestly wasn't very worried that antisemitism would rise to the level of a serious problem. I've been focused on the very real threats to Muslims and Hispanics whose daily lives have been harmed and whose feeling of safety within our country has been imperiled. Worrying too much about antisemitism as I sit on my reasonably safe, secure societal perch has felt a bit self indulgent. Sure we're seeing some visible signs of hatred toward Jews, but it has always been there hiding just under the surface, and watching it peek its ugly head out of the cess pool where it lives didn't seem too consequential.

Until now. Now, following the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries and the bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers across the country, including our JCC here in Tucson, it's beginning to look real. I'm still trying to keep it in context. The Trump administration's moves against immigrants and Muslims are a far more immediate, day-by-day concern. But I'm no longer unconcerned about the threat of antisemitism.

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Cinema Clips: Toni Erdmann

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 1:30 PM

Ines (Sandra Huller), a terse, corporate type is busy trying to conduct international relations involving big dollars when her dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) shows up with a goofy wig and fake teeth as Toni Erdmann, corporate coach. He throws a wrench in the works with his prankster ways, and Ines must learn to lighten up or reject the dad.

The results, while a little predictable (and long winded) are fairly interesting thanks mainly to Huller, who anchors the sometimes-silly film with a true sense of realism. Her performance is top notch, and makes the film worth seeing. She also spends a good chunk of the film’s final act-which takes a major turn for the satiric-naked, which is pretty daring.

Simonischek is fun in the dad role, although his antics are sometimes a little too outrageous to buy in what is basically a serious movie about father-daughter relationships and coping in a cold business world. Director Maren Ade might choose to use a little more restraint with future films (this movie would work fine at two hours and didn’t need nearly three to tell it’s story).

While I’m not convinced any daughter would allow her father to mess with her at work in this fashion and is anything near realistic, it is a movie where make believe things happen, and a nicely enjoyable one at that. It was recently announced that the film, made in Germany, will get an American remake starring Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson, who will allegedly come out of retirement to play the dad role.

Streets of This Town: Blue-Nosed Pit

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 12:30 PM

This little photo series will feature random pics I take on long walks through Tucson—to sort of coincide with my column Tucson Salvage. It's called "Streets of this Town" and it begins today.

I met this guy Dan at Navajo near Stone Ave. He was selling is lovely blue-nose pit Romeo for $200. I didn't have $200.
Dan and Romeo. - BRIAN SMITH
  • Brian Smith
  • Dan and Romeo.

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EDM Fest Roundup: An ABunDance of Wobbles!

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Squad at Wobbleland. - ZION CROSBY
  • Zion Crosby
  • Squad at Wobbleland.

As we walked into the gates of Wobbleland in (San Jose, Calif.) on a recent Friday I couldn't help but notice the swarm of ravers donning the same trendy merch from their favorite artists: Black “Snails” shirts that have “#VOMITSQUAD” on the back and white images of snails on the sleeves, Japanese lettering and shuriken with “RONIN” on the back of the white Datsik shirts. Then there's all the sacred geometry printed over the black Damascus shirts. The few people who did wear color could be spotted from the back of the venue. Now considering this was a dubstep show and not a psytrance event, it's understandable why there was a lack of color and homemade outfits. But this wasn't the only difference I saw.

At rave in the U.S.—that is, not in Europe—it's common for people to show up with their “squad” and stay with them the whole show. Most of these younger ravers react to the music according to cultural relevance; when a DJ uses politically savvy visuals or pokes fun at modern topics. They jerk their bodies to the nasty vibrations and make stinky faces as their bodies wiggle to the bass-heavy drops.

Last Saturday night (Feb. 25) I went to A-Bun-Dance on Spring Street in Los Angeles and met many folks from Arizona since this event organizer hosts pre-parties for Gem and Jam Fest in Tucson. Here we had a unique blend of handmade outfits and jewelry sold by local merchants and often traded among attendees. The ideas that these crafts have become trendy, and various alterations are sold by many artists, it still comes from a relatively “underground” source instead of an established brand: sparkly hoods connected by a gold chain, or furry canes with crystal balls on top, and, of course, massive amounts of intricately wire-wrapped gems.

The people danced and reacted to each other much more like the European crowds; with grace and flow. Ultimately, I love both scenes (Euro and stateside) equally as they both warmly welcome outsiders and are eager to see each part of the scene grow. At all events I see both crowds intermingling regardless of the differences. We come together to create a community where ideas thrive and humanity as a trait survives. No shit.

*Zion Crosby is Bing Crosby's great-grandson, was raised by Jack Klugman, and Tucson is his new honorary home.

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Song of the Day: Green on Red 'Hector’s Out'

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 10:28 AM

Green on Red 'Scapegoats'
  • Green on Red 'Scapegoats'
The trepidation and tension is so lovely and palpable it plays like the perfect backdrop to an August monsoon roiling over the Rincon Mountains, darkening slowly all of Tucson. There’s some Southern gothic too, coming on like a debilitating booze relapse, or the devil himself, where it’s so hot “even the birds won’t sing,” and you’re “too tired to make love, but not to fight.” Daniel Lanois would’ve killed for the cinematics here—the rising strings, the guitar and noise drones, the top-shelf reverb. Then Dan Stuart’s whisper-talk lifts and there’s reasonable fear in his tone, but he steers clear of cliché, emphatically singing this defining line: Hector’s out of prison … He’s gone berserk. The enusing strings go mad-house and Stuart's little world has gone berserk. That's when the entire tune hits home, hard.

That one line defines the creepy. There wasn’t a soul who wasn’t afraid of real-life Hector, including this digit, and Dan Stuart, co-writer of this beautifully muted haunt. See, Hector’s an Old Pueblo legend and murderer who terrified teens in the early Tucson punk rock scene—Pearl’s Hurricane Bar, Tumbleweeds and the Night Train. I saw him nearly kill a guy on 4th Ave with his fists once. He got out of prison and this tune—one the five best Tucson songs of all time—came into being. (More on those other songs soon).

*Note that Al Kooper helmed this album (Scapegoat, 1991), and the Tucson-weaned band by this time was down to Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet. 

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Monday, February 27, 2017

A Dispatch From Tucson Hip-Hop Fest 2017, Lando Chill, Jaca Zulu, Murs, and More!

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 6:18 PM

Spawning from the potent mixture of sperm and eggs deposited during the mid-’90s at Skrappy’s (an erstwhile downtown Tucson youth collective), “artists like Big Meridox, Jivin' Scientists, and James Ciphurphace were paving the way before I was even there,” says musician/writer/promoter Black One (aka Jaron Ikner) giving props and providing some history about the early days of Tucson’s hip-hop scene.

Black One performed─along with more than 100 acts, rappers, b-boys, emcees, DJs, producers, graffiti artists and educators─this past Saturday night as part of the Tucson Hip Hop Festival 2017, a massive and inclusive celebration founded in 2015 by organizer Pike Romero, presented this year by UA’s College of Humanities’ Africana Studies program and the Rialto Theatre.

“The Hip Hop scene [took off] at Vaudeville Cabaret, then moved to Club Congress, The District Tavern, and now it's at Mr. Head's every second Saturday,” says Black One, adding, “The scene has become much more community-based with more camaraderie and respect amongst artists. My night, Chronicles, was pretty vital. We did that for nine years and featured not only local [hip-hop] artists, but artists from across the country.”

As for the future of Arizona hip-hop, Black One says, “I think that we will always have great artists come out of the Tucson scene. We already have some of the best in the country and that will continue.”

This year’s jam packed Fest offered a full-blown representation of all aspects of hip-hop culture in the Old Pueblo. Here are but a few highlights from the main stage.

Street Family Blues: Sophisticated chill. - XAVIER OMAR OTERO
  • Xavier Omar Otero
  • Street Family Blues: Sophisticated chill.
Street Blues Family
Delivered a sophisticated chilled-out set─influenced by neo-soul, jazz, and R&B—with melodic saxophone lines, textural keyboards and pristine Telecaster guitar riffs held together by an in-the-pocket rhythm section. Lead singer Reymon Murphy at one point explained to the crowd, “It’s about letting this bullshit go …”

Jaca Zulu: "Bouncing off Invisible walls." - XAVIER OMAR OTERO
  • Xavier Omar Otero
  • Jaca Zulu: "Bouncing off Invisible walls."
Jaca Zulu
A Tucson transplant, by way of Sacramento, was on fire bouncing off of invisible stage walls—trench-coated!—delivering a slammin’ set thick with raw energy and fierce beats. (By the way, Jaca Zulu’s ’16 EP Signals is available on SoundCloud.)

Marly B: "i need a smoke break." - XAVIER OMAR OTERO
  • Xavier Omar Otero
  • Marly B: "i need a smoke break."
Marley B
“How many of you enjoy weed in here?” Marley B asked the audience. “I need a smoke break.” “Smoke Break” is a song off his latest album. And smoke he did, in a wicked set joined on stage by Lando Chill, Johnny Redd, Jaca Zulu and Cash Lansky. Marley B is promoting his new album Grow.

Lando Chill: "Am I illegal?" - XAVIER OMAR OTERO
  • Xavier Omar Otero
  • Lando Chill: "Am I illegal?"

Lando Chill
Wearing slender hips, jeans, Lando Chill confidently took the stage. It was effortless. His t-shirt posed timely questions:  “Am I Illegal?” on the front and “How Can You Tell?” on the back.

Shit, Lando Chill is, pretty much, blowing up, cult followings all over this country. And it stands to reason. He had the main stage at 191 Toole literally packed with a diverse audience—from wide-eyed children accompanied by parents to fawning tweens and head-nodding grownups. Chill’s latest, 2016's For Mark, Your Son sizzles.

What's in an acronym? Murs: "Making Underground Raw Shit. - XAVIER OMAR OTERO
  • Xavier Omar Otero
  • What's in an acronym? Murs: "Making Underground Raw Shit.
Former member of L.A. rap crew Living Legends, which LA Weekly says is "one of the biggest success stories of the indie-rap movement, having sold 300,000 units ... all by them-damn-selves."

His name is an acronym that has had different meanings to the artist at different times: "Making the Universe Recognize and Submit" or "Making Underground Raw Shit,” are just two.

With a career that dates back to the mid 90s, and 22 albums to his credit, Murs hit the stage, in a hoodie, armed only with a laptop and a mic and, basically, as they say, killed it.

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How Susan Holden and Don Armstrong Uphold the Honor, Tradition and Beauty of Folk Music

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Don Armstrong with Friends is playing the Rhythm and Roots Concert Series at Hotel Congress on Sunday, March 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. - COURTESY OF RHYTHM AND ROOTS CONCERT SERIES
  • courtesy of Rhythm and Roots Concert Series
  • Don Armstrong with Friends is playing the Rhythm and Roots Concert Series at Hotel Congress on Sunday, March 5, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Rhythm and Roots Concert Series is showcasing a variety of folk genres including Americana, blues, bluegrass and Celtic. The series, which gives musicians the space and resources to share their craft, is taking place this week at Hotel Congress with two free shows.

“‘Music is medicine’ is our motto,” says the series director Susan Holden. “Rhythm and Roots wants to bring—especially in this day and age—some healing with music.”

Monday night features a Mardi-Gras-themed party featuring the Carnivaleros. The band pulls from Eastern European sounds, with remnants of old western movies, as well as borrowing from genres like zydeco, waltz and swing. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., with the Carnivaleros on at 7:30.

Don Armstrong with Friends will play on Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. A longtime, local folk musician, Armstrong spent 42 years performing with his wife Victoria Armstrong until her death in 2014. They recorded nine albums together, empathetic songs that could make you cry or want to hop in your car just to feel wind in your hair. His debut album comes out later this year on Ronstadt Records.

“When you hear his music, it kind of transports you to either where he was when he wrote it or what he was thinking,” Susan says. “He just has his own unique style, and you can hear sort of the history of folk music come through him.”

The concert series was founded in 1996 by Susan’s husband Jonathan Holden. Before his death in 2012, Jonathan brought some big-name folk and blues artists to the Southwest, including Richie Havens, Dave Van Ronk and New Riders of the Purple Sage. Holden was also known for his part in founding Tucson community-radio station KXCI.

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Have Some Fun and Help Planned Parenthood Fight for Your Rights

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 2:30 PM

With the GOP Congress and Conman-in-Chief looking for ways to eliminate funding for the organization, Planned Parenthood may have never faced a more dire future. Show your support for safe and confidential sexual health care for women and men at the Very Big Show (Of Suppport), featuring a jamboree of fun.

You’ve got circus troupes with Flam Chen and Cirque Roots. You’ve got laughs with cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and Unscrewed Theater. You’ve got music from Desert Voices chorus vocalist Katina Murphy, mariachi performer Diana Olivares and house band Michael P. and the Gullywashers. And to top it off, you’ve got mimes, clowns, jugglers and much more, including an appearance by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who has some experience being the ringleader of a local circus. 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 4. The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets range from $25-$100. More info at rialtotheatre.com.

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Tour of the Mission Garden at Tucson's Birthplace

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@ Mission Garden Saturdays Corner of Grande Avenue and Mission Lane.

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