Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Impromptu Happenings

Photo by John Heino
One of the criticisms leveled against social media was that it would leave us all isolated from one another as we interacted via Facebook and mobile devices rather than face-to-face. Two recent experiences, however, showed me the power of social media to create impromptu happenings and grassroots cultural experiences in ways that did not happen before.

Back in the 60's and early 70's the scene was always at a place. I remember a coffee house in Morristown, New Jersey, probably echoed and re-echoed throughout the country, where people gathered to listen to folk music, hear poetry, get together and share the spirit of the times. You met people there, or went there with friends.

Today, with social media, I get the impression that place is less important. Here are two examples.

Coffee and Cigarettes

The invitation read like this:

Bring your favorite coffee cup and blanket, wear your pj's, and smoke your smokes if you so choose.

We will be brewing up some Duluth Coffee Company beans, enjoying the solo acoustic tunes of many different artists. Join us for this living room experience. Nappers are welcome.

If you would like to be added to the lineup, just comment on the event. There will be a PA (sam hagen thank you) for vocals and plug in guitars if you wish. Each act plays a few songs (originals preferred).

Lee Petersen, Mary Bue, Gabriel Moll, Christopher Bruhn, Daniel Rosen, Ryan Lane, Sonja Bordal, Hattie Peterson, Abraham Curran, Ariane Norrgard and Gaelynn white, Matt Palmquist and Jared, Jay Benson, mark blom, Nate Holte, Emily and Terry, Max Ripley, Aaron Gall (sugar ray), Savannah Villa, Dan Dresser, Amy Lynn (Poetry), Nick Pascuzzi (Poetry)

invite your friends if you wish. bring food if you wish.


Two different friends invited me and though I had a fairly packed schedule already this past Sunday, I made up my mind to check in and check it out. Brought my sketchbook and even brought a poem to read if the opportunity should arise. (Which it did.)

I was hesitant at first because of the name of the gig. When I was in high school I went to a party once in which I counted 28 people in the living room, all puffing on cigarettes. My friend Tom and I were the only two of those 28 who weren't smoking. The air was dense and we left soon after we arrived. But Coffee and Cigarettes was just a mood-title, I think. I saw no one smoking. The only thing being inhaled was the music. Not sure if I saw any blankets either. It was a warm space, made warmer still by the music-energy in the room and the feeling that everyone was welcome. And I didn't see any candles, though I saw lots of coffee. In other words, it was a good vibe.

The gathering was a mix of people from a range a spaces in their life journeys, mostly younger but many quite seasoned. Couches and chairs lined the perimeter of the room and all were filled. There were books here are there, and guitars. I saw respect for one another, and pleasure taken in the creative expressions of the various musical artists. The singer/songwriters had been encouraged to perform original music and not covers, and it was apparent that is a lot of latent talent in this town.

A few of the people I heard were Emily Hart, Terry McCarthy, the consummate showman Eric Gall and Brooke Hamilton, who began by doing an interesting version of Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love, a personal favorite.

I wished I'd been able to stay for the poets, but Amy Lynn, who teaches writing at two of the colleges here in the Twin Ports, did let me read the three pieces she'd assembled that morning for the occasion and I was reminded once more of how deep and strong the talent pool is in this town. Impressed is an understatement.

Live Painting @ Bev's Jook Joint

A month ago this event did not exist. But a lot of Superior businesses are staring at hard times ahead with the planned tearing up of Tower Avenue next year. Bev's Jook Joint, next to Goin' Postal, has already seen a thinning patronage, so Andrew Perfetti and friends decided to put an event together "to put a smile on her face." Three bands, four artists, Saturday Night Live, November 17.

By means of Facebook and social media, a really great party ensued. Dusty Keliin and I setup easels, Becky Brandt brought her charcoal and paper, and a fourth artist stepped in as I was cleaning up near midnight.

The music was great, as there seems a remarkable abundance of talent in this community. Crowds gathered and good times were shared all around.

What impressed me most is how fast the word can get out using these new communication tools. Instead of isolating us, it is powerfully effective for bringing us together.

Music and art, Live at Bev's. Photo by Tal Lindblad.

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