June 30, 2017 – The Mission Creeps

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To close out a month of images of performers, musicians, circus acts, and poets, I decided to reach back to the Zombie Prom and the band The Mission Creeps, and a photograph of lead singer James Arr. The following is lifted from their website, which describes their style and method more effectively than I imagine I could:

“Hailing from Tucson, the same diverse music scene that spawned Calexico and Bog Log III, The Mission Creeps spin tales of a different, darker kind of desert, one of lonesome highways and ghost stories. Inspired by art and film noir and horror movies, The Mission Creeps take their cues from bands following similar inspirations, such as The Cramps, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Joy Division, and Deadbolt.

Rue Morgue Magazine described their sound as “awash in surf guitar” and noted singer James “Arr’s ability, much like Nick Cave, to switch between seductive narrative and a raving yelp.” Supported by the throbbing rhythms of bassist Miss Frankie Stein and drummer George “of the Jungle Beat” Palenzuela, a scary good time can always be had at their shows. With six releases, they continue offer up musical tales populated with witches, killer gnomes, and parties for the undead while providing beats that keep the body moving and the demons at bay.”

Every performance is memorable. These guys don’t phone it in.

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June 29, 2017 – Omni

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I could write a hundred-page essay about ‘Omni,’ and I’m still considering it. There’s no way I could distill the qualities of this person into a quick post like this. I met Omni on 4th Avenue near downtown Tucson. During the entire time I knew him, he was living out of his car, a Dodge Omni, and spent his time in local coffee houses writing “spells” into Bibles lifted from hotels, playing open-mic nights, scribbling artwork and signs on cardboard, and strumming the strings on street-corners. He was a pleasant guy, and often made friends with local college students and kindred hippie spirits, so he never went too long without a decent meal or a shower.

He wasn’t ever anything you’d consider ‘normal,’ but he was always smiling, writing music, and entertaining people with his wild conspiracy theories. I imagined he’d had brushes with the law, but it’s pretty inevitable when loitering is your lifestyle. I remember hanging out various flop-houses where he was allowed to crash, and abandoned apartment units he discovered were unlocked. I watched him scrub his teeth with salt in lieu of toothpaste, and I watched him make friends with non-English-speaking emigres who could play the bassoon, guitar, trumpet – and I hung out with them in their squatter spots, candle-lit with no electricity, making music and trying to communicate without a common language.

Omni wasn’t mentally together; many likely assumed that he was on the Asperger spectrum. To my knowledge, he has yet to be diagnosed. Years after he left Tucson, after he packed up his gear and drove out of my life, I learned that he wound up in some legal trouble in Colorado. To my knowledge, he’s still behind bars after having hunkered down into a chemical toilet to spy on girls using the toilet during a yoga festival. He was spotted running from the scene, covered in feces, and was later apprehended. The news didn’t necessarily surprise me, but it was sad to learn that this guitar-playing vagabond had somehow wound up in a position like that.

I don’t forgive him his trespasses, but I can recall very pleasant moments with him, and recognize that he is mentally ill. I suppose we’ll see what happens as his legal situation unfolds. After violating his parole, he has been sentenced to six years in Boulder – you can read about it HERE.

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June 28, 2017 – Pyrotechnic Theater

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This is Ruben Palma. He decided – after a series of miscommunications that are, ultimately, no single person’s fault – that he doesn’t much like me. I had endeared myself to a local performance troupe, but joblessness, poverty, and the threat of homelessness motivated me to focus my efforts on, well, not winding up homeless and starving. I don’t think that these folks realized that I was promoting them for free and that I was desperate for legitimate work, but they definitely felt burned when I up-and-vanished to spend time with individuals who could actually put food on my table.

I’ve always appreciated what these guys do, and I hold no ill-will personally.
But my experience, and this is a big one, has definitely been that photographers should be more than happy with published “credit” for their work, rather than a paycheck to actually feed themselves and pay their rent. This was a unique moment in my life, when I realized how thoroughly undervalued my craft really was. I literally had people abusing me on social media because I wasn’t in a position to work for free…because I was living on a friend’s couch, in abject poverty.

After Ruben had dismissed me from social media – after a torrent of unpleasant invective – I ran into him one time at a local night club. Rather than let things be completely awkward, he astonished me by walking straight up to me and addressing the elephant. It wasn’t so much an apology as a request to leave the past in the past – and that was enough for me. We shook hands and walked away from each other, back to our respective friends. I’m not sure what the guy’s up to these days, but I hope that things are going well for him.

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June 27, 2017 – Society1

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Years ago, when I was in college, I took it upon myself to do a photo documentary revolving around body modification subculture. I spent all of my free time in a local piercing and tattoo shop, going to weekend performances, and learning about both the contemporary execution and history of scarification and flesh-suspension practices. I hopped a ride to Los Angeles with the owner of the shop to attend a performance by a group called CoRE (Constructs of Ritual Evolution) at The Key Club on the strip.

I sat in the back seat of the car during most of the drive, hungover from a night of moaning about relationships and chatting about art with an old friend, and drinking way too many whiskey and sodas; I pretty-much felt like hell during the whole ride. On the long stretch outside of Yuma, in the front seat, the driver and his girlfriend sparked a joint, but all I could do was close my eyes and try not to feel nauseous. We rolled into Los Angeles after dusk, headlights scattered through red-flag smog-laden air, with about an hour to spare before the show.

The opening act was Society 1, a metal band founded by Matt Zane, a man concerned enough about his image enough to have removed his year of birth from his wikipedia page and edit-out his participation in the Los Angeles pornographic film industry. I don’t really understand why, of course; the attitude of metal is to not give a fuck about that kind of thing.

Society 1 performed a solid set and Zane was unforgettable. Halfway through the show, he sang while sitting prostrate, center stage, facing away from the audience, while hooks were installed in his upper back. He performed the second half of the show suspended from the flesh, microphone in hand, swinging above the audience. It doesn’t get more metal than that, kids. Definitely an experience I won’t forget.

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The Curious Man – A Chaos Portrait

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Years ago I produced a series of images with a group of people, most of which I wouldn’t be able to name. These images were made by doing speed-drawings of friends and strangers – and self portraits – in simple pencil. These were usually executed in two minutes or less. Then we’d lay out other drawing materials – markers and charcoal and chalk and ink – and try to finish the piece in an additional one to two minutes.

These are basic gestures, and the untrained nature of the execution (alongside the frenetic energy generated by a huge time constraint) resulted in some some interesting pieces. I believe this is an image of me sitting in the smoking patio at one of my favorite neighborhood bars in midtown Tucson.

But I can’t really be sure…

June 26, 2017 – Erin Deo

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Erin Christine Deo is a mysterious woman. I only met her the one time, several years ago at the Cabaret de los Muertos, so it’d be a challenge to try and put her qualities into words; I never got to know her that well. There’s something undeniably magnetic about the woman, though. She seems to draw attention even a room filled with people, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. She wasn’t the only beautiful belly-dancer to perform that night, but when she left the venue in a glowing yellow cloak, into the night and down toward The Grand Hotel & Saloon, it seemed like all eyes were on her.

I’m not sure precisely what she’s up to these days, but her social media presence indicates that she’s still performing, still her lovely hippie self at, according to her page, “The Department of Sunshine and Rainbows.” She certainly has the confidence and stage presence, and this is one of my favorite photographs from both years that I covered the Cabaret de los Muertos.’

You can follow her on Istagram HERE.

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June 25, 2017 – Terry Wolf

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Artist, musician, rancher, motorcycle enthusiast, hippie, and so many things more, Terry Wolf is a force of nature. I don’t have her life story, but my understanding is that she has lived near and far, done a fair bit of traveling, and has endured about as much as life can throw at a person. She has her own patch of land outside of Historic Bisbee where she raises wolf pups and, on occasion, has bonfire celebrations where she invites the whole town to come down and dance, drink, and be merry by the fire.

She used to work a couple of days a week down at Mimosa Market, a small bodega up Brewery Gulch. Two of her wolf pups would sleep on the worn wooden floors all day while Terry stood behind the glass counter, manning the register. Her first husband’s ashes were scattered on the hilltop above Mimosa Market, where a man had constructed a makeshift shrine decades ago; the white cross at the top of the hill can be seen from the outskirts of town. She was also the very first person in Bisbee to buy one of my paintings – a Dia de los Muertos themed mariachi piece – which was a huge boost to a new artist in town struggling to get his footing.

Some of my favorite memories are listening to Terry play the guitar while John Cordes would play the fiddle – springtime afternoons on the outside porch at The Copper Queen Saloon. Folks from out of town would sit outside on Sunday mornings, drinking cold beer a mimosas, while Terry did her thing. On occasion Mark Pierce – another of this month’s performers – would drag out his stand-up base and play with the band.

Check out Terry Wolf and the Back Porch Swing here.

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