Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: Dancin' In The Streets

24 August 2009

Dancin' In The Streets

August 7 - 9 marked the first Dancin' In The Streets Festival at in Denver, a romp two years in the making (due to the red tape involved in persuading city to shut down its busy Five Points intersection for a party). Not only was it a weekend of multiple sets from great bands like Darkstar Orchestra, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, and Cornmeal...it was also an explosion of live art the likes of which I've never seen. Not only did I get to work on several paintings of my own, but I also participated in a few massive and enduring collaborations. It was a weekend of playful experimentation and satisfying artistic community. Enjoy!

2009 08 07 Dancin In The Streets Festival
(Darkstar Orchestra, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Billy Kreutzmann and Papa Mali, Nailhouse)

16"x24", paint marker on masonite

A two-tone gold background and fat red markers got this off to a fun start. The nature of improv: what I had intended as a kind of Indonesian jewel-relief ended up very strange and sort of insectile. I have half a mind to lay a coat of gold spray paint on top and keep going, letting all of it drift sort of holographically out of a metallic fog...

2009 08 08 Dancin In The Streets Festival (Hot Buttered Rum, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, Head For The Hills, Cornmeal)
16"x24", paint marker on masonite

Fat white marker on naked masonite laid the foundation for this maze of flourescent tubing. Sheet after sheet of partial outlining gave it a glistening metro vibe but complicated the layering...ultimately, it's hard even for me to follow the lines, and my eye drifts aimlessly through the labyrinth of closed loops. Which is actually kind of cool, but it lacks the coherence of a strong central image.

2009 08 09 Dancin In The Streets Festival (Everyone Orchestra)
16"x24", paint marker on masonite

The most intricate background work I've ever done – four colors (blue, maroon, purple, and gold) plus extensive scratching and blending – made the major challenge with this piece trying to leave enough of it exposed. So I saved it for a one-set quickie with the beloved Everyone Orchestra, and made my experiment with this one more about the technique than how I was filling space. After working with brushes on the Welton Street Mural (pics below), I was on a paint-smearing bender and tried streaking the wet white marker as I laid it down. The bubbles all have a soft glow from this, and it was fun to apply – one hand chasing the other, rubbing the masonite before it dried. Everyone Orchestra's fabulous line-up, including Bill McKay, Steve Kimock, Dominic Lalli, Reed Mathis, and the entirety of Hot Buttered Rum, made for another great show – what I've routinely come to expect as one of the most memorable sets of the festival. And I was all jazzed up because right before the show, EO's conductor Matt Butler showed me that he's been using my painting from their set at 10,000 Lakes Festival as his iPhone's wallpaper. So yeah. This painting will never, never turn out right in a print. I like that.

2009 08 09 Dancin In The Streets Festival (Disco Floyd & Nershi Mosely Deutsch Miner)
16"x24", paint marker on masonite

I spent half an hour getting in people's way trying to set up my easel to paint in the crowd for Leftover Salmon (asking people to move so I could run an electrical cord for my lamps, accidentally setting up too close to someone's video camera, half-blinding people with my ridiculous full-spectrum CFL...), and then as soon as they hit their first long-delayed note the skies tore open and dumped an enormous storm on us all. Half the crowd ran for shelter, including me – even though I can theoretically paint in the rain on masonite board, I had my prints out and I was worried about being plugged into a street lamp for power during the lightning. So I ran breakneck back to the tent at the front gate, where I had to put all of my supplies up on chairs because the whole place was starting to flood. As I looked down the alley towards Welton Street through the downpour, a fountain erupted out of one of the manholes. I later heard that all of the Five Points intersection was underwater, including the amps for Stage Two. It was a pretty epic catastrophe to end a weekend of otherwise idyllic weather, and most of the Sunday-nighters were scared off. But that just meant that the late-night sets indoors at Quixote's were for the determined remainder. Disco Floyd (exactly what they sound like, a Discoed-out Pink Floyd cover band) was great fun, and the supergroup SCI's Nershi and Mosely put together included Erik Deutsch, one of my favorite keyboardists. My first monochrome painting. I look forward to more.

Unfinished Massive Two-Panel Collaboration (approx. 8 feet tall) – w/ Frenchie, John Bukaty, Scramble Campbell, Norton Wisdom, Darci Hill, Michael Garfield (...and probably a few people I am forgetting)

I never saw what the finished product looks like, so hopefully I'll make it back there in the next month or so and can post an updated picture. But in the meantime, here's the last of what I saw: another big fun mess of the kind that only happens when you have a ludicrous number of live painters all in one place. ALL FOUR of the "elders" of live painting (at least in the States) were there: Norton Wisdom, Frenchie, John Bukaty, and Scramble Campbell. These are the guys that were heroes for MY heroes, if you know what I mean. Which made working on this, and the Welton Street Mural, a real honor. And it was extra cool to work right on top of Wisdom's little dragon and rider...I had never heard of him before painting with him in LA at the Global Sound Conference last year, but he's on a whole other level. (He sets up a huge backlit screen and works with wet paint, creating new portraits out of the old ones every few minutes. It's very different from any other live artist's work I've seen, very alive and engaged.)

Collaboration Detail – Norton Wisdom & Michael Garfield

Here's a closer look at my tiny contribution to the panel, all of the intricate penwork I threw on top of Wisdom's fantasy figurine. I might open the original fullsize image in a new window and get a closer look at it, because at this size it's hard to see all of the feathery features.

2637 Welton Mural

From across the street, here are the results of a huge collaborative effort from over a dozen live artists. John Bukaty, bless that man, organized the whole thing – he secured gallons of acrylic paint and a sizeable scaffold, then scheduled us all in to work in three- or four-hour blocks during the music. Don Callahan helped run ship while Bukaty was away on Saturday. This mural is going to remain outside Cervantes and Quixote's indefinitely...which means my "Starry Night With Giant Squid" contribution is just about the most public and eternal thing I can lay claim to. Not that "public" and "eternal" are necessarily better...just more obvious.


[Update: To my INCREDIBLE disappointment and outrage, the owner of the building had the Bianci brothers (who manage Cervantes & Quixote's) paint over this mural. Apparently some people can't tell the difference between grafitti and artwork, desecration and blessing. If it weren't so pointless to stay pissed about this, I'd probably enlist people to send angry letters and burning excrement. Well. I'll have more pictures of this mural up soon...as a memorial to something beautiful that happened, once. Christ. I'm glad I took a lot of pictures.]

When I get back from my travels in mid-September, I'll be posting a review of Dancin' In The Streets and a more thorough write-up about my experience with the other painters at ColoradoMusicBoard.com...so stay posted for those. In the meantime, here are some other recent festival write-ups you might enjoy losing yourself in for an hour:

Colorado Music Board – Windows Into Rothbury Festival

Grateful Web – 10,000 Lakes Festival (coverage by day):
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday