Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent
In like a lion? Nah, thankfully March came in more like a lamb. And despite the murky mist, First Fridayers were afoot, eager to ogle the city's art-smart scene (or check out its soundtrack). We popped in a few of the best of March's FF go-tos for a bird's-eye view.
VISUAL ART EXCHANGE
A Warehouse District fave, VAE set the tone for the night with its arguably dichotomous pairing of "Found," an inside exhibition that incorporated found objects and materials, with "Left Behind," a sort of discovery of now-obsolete technology. Eight-track tape anyone?
A show and scene-stealer, "Left Behind" wasn't just a compilation of the démodé or an implied glorification of the iPhone and the Internet. For starters, the progressive exhibit was showcased as a transformation of a street-side POD. Yes, POD as in the storage containers you hoard your hangings-on in. It's not often people are told to "think inside the box."
The premiere of project with Wake County high school students, PODS Art on the Inside Installation Project, "gives students the opportunity to transform a conventional storage container into an unconventional work of art," said VAE Executive Director Sarah Powers. The partnership will showcase the container art installations of four local schools, beginning with March's exhibit by Apex High School students under the direction of Apex High Visual Art Instructor Leatha Koefler.
And transform they did in a "room" comprised of yellow-page painted walls, with board-game pieces rendered as wall art, and a single assembled window casting images from a slide projector. CDs hung from the yellow-page-lined ceiling, and a bench constructed of floppy disks sat on the left occupied by a newspaper-stuffed model held together with packing tape.
"In essence, technology is inescapable," wrote participating artist Paige Smith on a sort of exordium affixed at the front of the POD. "Living in today's world is simply a matter of being cunning enough to keep your head above the water and not end up left behind."
Besides Smith, other Apex High artists included Rebekah Alfonso, Anthony Corrao, Quincy Denham, Marisa Laspaluto, Kylee Monroe, Karen Ortiz, Peter Pappas, Jill Schmidt, Brian Taylor and Jing Yuan.
The PODS-VAE partnership will continue with First Friday installations from Garner Magnet High School (April) and Southeast Raleigh Magnet (May), with a finale by Sanderson High School in June.
DESIGNBOX/GONER KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
The POD experience certainly wasn't hurt by the storefront melodious music makings by local indie rock band Goner at neighboring designbox. Supplying the night's soundtrack, and a serendipitous supplement to the 8-track and CD-purposed POD, "beloved Raleigh musical institution Goner" jammed sidewalk-style to a substantial crowd that spilled well into the streets.
On the heels of its March 1 Kickstarter Campaign launch for their upcoming fourth album "Faking the Wisdom," Goner put on an hour-long FF busking show, where they performed a handful of songs mostly acoustic, street music/busking style while handing out Goner Patron Cards with info on upcoming events related to the 60-day campaign.
If the crowd lingering in the March mist for a street-side show is any indication, the 'kickstart' is off to a successful start. Find singer/keyboarder Scott Phillips, bass player Greg Eyman and drummer Chris Dalton at a host of upcoming events, including a rock show at Kings (March 30) and a Black Coffee Red Wine cafe event at Morning Times (April 14). Follow Goner on Facebook to get the dirty on the deets.
After hours, the night's vibe continued as Flanders Gallery jazzed it up with an after party hosted by Durham's The Art of Cool project, a jazz and arts advocacy nonprofit assembled to promote jazz throughout the Triangle.
Featuring the Al Strong Quintet, with special guest saxophonist James "Saxsmo" Gates, the sold-out show answered the call. Looks like the sax is still sexy after all. "I think we're filling a void," said The Art of Cool co-founder Cicely Mitchell. "At first we thought, maybe this is just happening in Durham, but let's test it and see if Raleigh will want it. And obviously, they do."
With lights barely aglow, bites by gastronome The Oxford, and a cast of vino varietals, the mood at Flanders' funk fest was sultry. As part of the show, Strong and Gates paid tribute to jazz sax-sensation Cannonball Adderley.
"This is wonderful," said Mitchell. "This is just wonderful. We didn't know how we were gonna be received [in Raleigh] because any time you expand outside we've been doing it in Durham for seven months you can't be sure how it will turn out. ... This is just great for a first First Friday, first kick off of a concert series."
Inspired by the respect that jazz no doubt deserves but rarely gets (often played, as Mitchell noted, by musicians who have their masters degrees in the art form), The Art of Cool, spearheaded by Mitchell and trumpeter Al Strong IV, seeks to elevate jazz from the bistro-background music scene and give it a home, with long-term goals of a regional jazz fest, an international jazz fest and an endowed space for jazz, such as a jazz supper club (but from a nonprofit standpoint).
Look for upcoming First Friday performances by Brian Horton (a staple at Durham's fav speakeasy Whiskey) and Harvey Cummings. And if you cant wait until next First Friday, prop up at LabourLove for the Bull City's Third Friday where the featured group is The Beast.