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 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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June 21, 2017 – Mark Pierce

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What is there to say about Mark Pierce? The guy is a true original. A tattooed ruffian with a charming twang in his voice and a slow, smile sly that conveys an almost menacing confidence. He’s an alumnus of The West Texas Millionaires, a country group that calls Bisbee home, but he’s definitely got a punk edge. His torso is slathered in tattoos and he’s imbued with a country-punk style. Whether he’s slapping the stand-up base playing the fiddle, you’ll never mistake this gentleman as anything other than a showman.

These day’s he’s rockin’ a sizeable beard and is the proprietor or Bisbee Soap and Sundry.
You couldn’t miss him struttin’ down the road if you tried.

You can check out his shop’s page here.
You can check out The West Texas Millionaires here.

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June 17, 2017 – John Doe

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John Nommensen Duchac, professionally known as John Doe, is a signer, songwriter, actor, poet, and guitarist. He is most broadly known for co-founding the LA punk band X – a group he still participates in – but he has also been performing as a solo artist. His compositions span a variety of genres, including rock and roll, punk, country, and folk. In today’s image, we see him performing in his country mode at The Bisbee Royale.

I am genuinely of the impression that most artists – true, in the bloodstream, unable to turn it off artists – naturally progress and experiment and often dip into different styles, experiment with blending genres, and even migrate to different media (from music to painting, or sculpture to poetry, or any combination you could imagine) in the pursuite of novel ways of expressing ideas and keeping their creations challenging on fresh – not just to the rest of the world, but to themselves as well.

John Doe is one of these people. Always trying new things. The leap from punk to country may not seem feasable, and it takes people like John Doe to throw his hands in the air and say “fuck it, guys – it ain’t that big a deal.” The leap from music to film is probably a little more intuitive; Doe has performed in dozens of movies and television shows including, just to name a few, Road House, Wyatt Earp, Boogie Nights, Carnivàle, and Roswell.

I only met him briefly, but he seemed appeared undeniably pleased to be playing to a thankful audience in an out-of-the-way small town. He was all smiles and handshakes and put on a great set.

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June 11, 2017 – Ghost Town Gospel

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Lifted from their website, I couldn’t say it better myself:

‘Ghost Town Gospel is straight out of Oakland, blending traditional American folk influences with elements of punk, pop, and protest music driven to create a candid portrait of life in a broken America. Relentless touring musicians, you’ll be sure to find Ghost Town Gospel at a music hall, festival, dive bar or sidewalk near you.’

I had the pleasure of connecting with this group a few years ago, just before New Years Eve. One of their band-mates was an old college friend of mine, and they played a set at The Bisbee Grand Saloon before crawling up the mountain to unpack their gear at my hilltop home. A booze-fueled evening of living-room jams, huddles around laptops watching videos, telling stories and pouring beverages ensued, until that sun came up.There’s nothing like connecting with energetic creative folks, and there’s nothing like live music. If you ever get the chance, this is a group of people worth looking into.

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June 07, 2017 – Carlos Arzate

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Living in Tucson for a majority of the past fifteen years, I saw a lot of bands come and go. Many of my college buddies had garage bands and a few of them had it in them to hit the downtown music scene. Most of them have scattered to the wind these past few years as degrees were earned, families begun and careers established. There are some,though, who have had some serious staying power here in Arizona, and Carlos Arzate is one of them.

Carlos Arzate is a singer-songwriter, native to Tucson, whose songs draw inspiration from his personal life growing up in the Sonoran Desert. I believe I read an article in The Tucson Weekly that described his style as “Sonoran Soul.” It’s got a ring to it, but it implies a softness that, while present in many of his songs, doesn’t communicate the dynamism of his work.

Arzate is just as expressive and kind in person as he is on stage, and he’s deeply anchored in the music scene, collaborating with other prominent musicians. I have enjoyed every performance and would absolutely recommend checking out Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls. The songs tell a story, communicate an emotion and paint atmospheric pictures.

This is one of my favorites, written as a first person narrative of a laborer who chooses to risk the dangerous journey across the desert to the United States in search of a better life.

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June 01, 2017 – The Song-Man

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I’ve been trying to pick some kind of theme for each month and, after looking through the endless archive of images I’ve collected over the years, decided that I would see if I could identify a month’s worth of interesting “music and theater performance” images to share. I’m not a veteran concert photographer and I’ve always have a difficult time getting good images; low light environments and a pitiful lack of knowledge regarding flash photography and artificial light, I’m sad to admit that the terrible photographs outweigh the good ones by a sizable margin.

Nevertheless, I have managed to squeeze-out a few good moments.

We begin today, on the first of June, with the image of a guitar-man wielding his instrument. I lament that I don’t even recall his name. All I recall is that he was an opening performer at a night club in Bisbee, Arizona – a one-man band whose performance was nothing short of mesmerizing. He made the guitar do things I hadn’t seen before, making it both a percussive instrument as well as constructing a melody. It was close to magic, what he was able to do, and the room fell completely silent when he began to play.

If you recognize this man, please add his name in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
“Performance June” has officially begun. See you all tomorrow!

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