Tag Archives: Phoenix arts and culture

The Blarg No. 56: Howl Theatre Project

2017 has a lot to answer for, but it’s offered up some amazing moments as well—for Limited Engagement in particular and myself along the way. It’s been rough but rewarding keeping up with the weekly format. I kinda miss the monthly live show, but if I bring it back, it needs to be something that sets it apart from the regular podcast—something special. I’m not sure what that something is yet, hence the continued hiatus as hurl ourselves into October, hoping to burst across December’s finish line. Hoot N Waddle is coming along, slowly but surely. It’s not where I was hoping it would be yet, but patience is something I’ve never been great with. We’re doing Hoot N Waddle right, and that takes time.

To that end, we launched our first podcast on the network, a partnership with Jessie Balli and Chatterbox, the appropriately titled Chatterpod. You can hear the pilot as a Limited Engagement episode (LE 50), and the first official show on the Chatterpod landing page (more episodes are coming soon, I promise). Also, this last week, I recorded a show for Leah Marche and Mike Pfister at The Nash—it was fucking awesome. I’m not sure exactly how or when that is going to come out, but it’s a long-term partnership, and there are more shows to come. Then, this month we’ll be setup over at Phx Zine Fest to record anyone interested in sharing their experience—vendors and attendees alike. Should be fun.

Adding to the milestone of our “Best Podcast” nod from PHOENIX Magazine in their Best of the Valley issue, Phoenix New Times just named Limited Engagement “Best Cultural Podcast” in their Best of Phoenix 2017 issue. It’s really cool to have the show acknowledged and legitimized in the media like this, but I’ve gotta say, it stresses me out a little. Now, I feel like I’ve got more people paying attention, and when you’re named the best of anything, there’s this tendency for people to wait for something to slip quality-wise, so they can say, “Eh, that show’s not that great.” I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep doing what I’ve been doing. I think I can handle that without imploding. I’ll let you know.

This week, I talk to Chris Danowski, Bethanne Abramovich, Jamie Haas Hendricks, and Jake Jack Hylton of Howl Theatre Project. I had a blast talking to these guys. Somehow we managed to get completely absurd while weaving in a serious discussion on the state of independent theatre in Phoenix, as well as talk about the craft and work involved in mounting a stage production. Their most recent show is The New Phoenicians, and if you ever have the opportunity to check out anything they do, you absolutely should, because they’re awesome.

Listen to LE 56 – Howl Theatre Project

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The Blarg No. 55: Scotty Spenner

Once you get the ball rolling, it’s really hard to get it to stop. Not that I want it to stop—maybe just slow down for a little bit so I can take a nap. It seems to hold true, though, that it’s either deluge or drought, not much in between, and I’ll take the deluge any time. Hosting a weekly podcast, when the bank of recordings dries up and the bookings aren’t happening, things can get pretty harried, so I don’t feel like I can turn anything down. Then, on top of Limited Engagement, I’m doing the work to get a local podcast network off the ground, there’s a lot that goes into that, and it’s not like we’ve got a crew.

I don’t mean to complain. Like I said, though, a nap would be nice. I’m tired. It’s a good tired, but tired nonetheless. Hoot N Waddle is gathering momentum. You can already listen to the first show, Jessie Balli’s Chatterbox podcast, endearingly titled Chatterpod, and there’s much more to come—a lot of irons in the fire. Chatterpod also goes up weekly, so be sure to subscribe through Apple Podcasts (it will be up on other services like Stitcher and GooglePlay soon). There’s still a lot I can’t talk about until details are cemented, but the momentum is forward. Inexorable, but exciting.

Speaking of exciting, I was talking with Charissa Lucille of Wasted Ink Zine Distro (that conversation will go up in a couple of weeks), and I’m very excited to announce that we’ll be setup at this year’s PHX Zine Fest to document the experiences of anyone wanting to share them—vendors and attendees alike. Should be very cool.

On this week’s show, conversation and music with Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductee Scotty Spenner. Our talk went all over the place, and I had a blast. You can catch Scotty playing with with True Flavor Blues every Sunday afternoon at Copper Star Coffee, or in Celtic rock band Saints of Eirinn. Friday night, September 29th, he’ll be playing a solo gig presented by Emancipation Arts at The Trunk Space. Listen to Scotty’s playing at the end of the show, and you’ll hear exactly why you should go.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 55 – Scotty Spenner

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The Blarg No. 54: The SunPunchers

Guys, things are stressful out there. Unless you’re in a coma—then you might be able to relax. Maybe not. I don’t know, I’ve never been in a coma. Perhaps being in a coma is very stressful. For those of us relegated to a life of horrifying consciousness, though, it’s a real shit show—especially if you are compassionate, or have something like a conscience. Whether it’s a natural disaster (which I firmly believe we are experiencing at a much higher rate due to all the man-induced damage, because science, and really, when it seems like each successive event is the worst of its kind, how can you argue against?), or the daily, often hourly what-the-fuck moments handed down from governments regional, national, and international, it seems impossible to complete one reflection on how to positively impact/change/resist one situation before being forced to react to the next.

How do you cope?

Sometimes, you have to shut the world off, or risk being overwhelmed. Sometimes, you need a little break. Sometimes, despite the heat, you need a warm blanket of an album to soothe your frayed and frazzled nerves. For me, one of those albums is Some Fantastic Place. Released by Squeeze in 1993 (nearly 25 years ago!), Some Fantastic Place came at a time in the band’s career where they were being largely ignored commercially, and only about five years out from calling it quits for a second time (the first being back in 1982—I could go on and on about this band if anyone’s curious…anyone?), which is a shame, because they were making some of the best music of their career, and SFP is often considered by fans (myself included) to be the third in a trio of albums (preceded by Frank (1989) and Play (1991)) that showcase the band at the height of their abilities both in the lyrics of Chris Difford and the music (and voice and guitar) of Glenn Tilbrook. The album that followed, Ridiculous (1995), is pretty good, though not as consistent in my opinion, and the last album of Squeeze’s second coming, Domino (1998), has some great moments, but is one I really only suggest to completists. If you’re still with me at this point, there is a third act to Squeeze, and the first album to come out of it, Cradle to the Grave (2015), is a very fine return (essentially a soundtrack to a TV show for the BBC that I have not seen, the album reminds me a lot of Kinks albums like Arthur or Lola Versus Powerman that had a very definite throughline—an almost Broadway musical-like quality), and their new album, The Knowledge, is due out this fall (if you couldn’t guess, I’m very excited).

Why am I going on and on about Squeeze right now? Especially recommending an album that came out roughly a quarter century ago? Do I need a reason? This is what I do in times of stress that isn’t drinking excessively (thankfully something I’ve managed to break the habit of), compulsive eating, or just checking out completely. We’ve got to stay engaged, and for me, this means taking a step back every once in awhile, listening to a favorite album, and trying to play along to and master Glenn Tilbrook’s riff on “Third Rail” (read: cursing and failing). What do you do? How do you manage? I’m genuinely curious.

This week’s Limited Engagement features four of the five members of The SunPunchers: Betsy Ganz, Jon Rauhouse, Serena Fonze, and Dominic Armstrong (Lindsay Cates was not in attendance). These four fantastic musicians crammed their gear into our front room, played two gorgeous songs (“Hold You Now” and “Sodium Pentothal Blues”), then sat and talked to me for about an hour or so. Have I ever mentioned how much I love having musicians on the show? If I haven’t, you should know that it is a tremendous amount. You can get The SunPuncher’s EP, Honey, on their website, and their first full length album, Levity (which is one of my favorite albums of 2017 thus far), is available on Bandcamp, or you can pick up a copy locally over at Stinkweeds.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 54 – The SunPunchers

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The Blarg No. 53: Gift Children Books

Saturday night, Janell and I had the great pleasure of seeing first The SunPunchers, and then the Howe Gelb Jazz trio at Valley Bar. The SunPunchers are a superb Americana band led by the sizeable songwriting talent and beautiful voice of Betsy Ganz, and featuring the talents of Mr. Jon Rauhouse—a veritable wizard of a musician. I’m not just praising The SunPunchers because they’re going to be on the show soon, that’s just an added bonus. I highly suggest you check them out—they are equally stunning on record and in person.

For a little while there, it looked like I was going to get a chance to talk to Howe Gelb for the podcast, but it didn’t happen. We were first emailing, then texting back and forth all the way up until the last text I received from him just prior to The SunPunchers set, which reads, “meyer fo.” I’m not sure what that means, I think it was supposed to be “maybe so” based on the conversation we were having, but somehow “meyer fo” is better. No big deal, I think I’ll get to talk to him some day, and it was pretty cool to have a text-versation with a musician whose work I admire deeply.

Howe’s set was fantastic. He and his band have a tight telepathic connection—they have to in order to keep up with the unpredictability of the show (he half-joked about midway through the set that he hasn’t had a setlist in over 35 years). Several references were made to his advancing age and the effects of jet lag, but during a break between piano sets, Howe broke out an acoustic guitar and proceeded to display some impressive, agile, nimble licks. His style as a guitarist is that rare, precious mixture of technical know-how and effortlessly emotional execution that punches you in the head and the heart all at once. The cherry on top was hearing the gorgeous, haunting vocals of Lonna Kelley float over the last few songs of the performance. Howe Gelb’s album Future Standards (which features Kelley heavily throughout) is a gem, and I highly recommend it.

On this week’s show, our 53rd, I talk to Nazlah Hassan, the founder of Gift Children Books, an organization with the mission of getting books in the hands of children from families with economic hardships who would otherwise be unable to afford them. The organization holds annual bookfairs in Harlem and Phoenix, and the Phoenix bookfair will take place on November 11th at Booker T. Washington Child Development Center. November 4th, in the same location from 9am to 5pm, Gift Children Books is holding a fundraising book sale where members of the public will have the opportunity to purchase from a selection of 1500 titles written by and about African Americans.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 53 – Gift Children Books

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The Blarg No. 50: Chatterpod pilot

It is getting increasingly difficult to feel good talking about anything other than the horrorshow the country is quickly turning into, because really nothing else seems as important or prescient. Not to mention the headshaking level of disbelief. Whether actually an out and out fascist himself or not (I honestly think that this individual’s narcissism issues overshadow everything, and that they actually do not give a shit about anyone else), for the first time, possibly in American history, there is an individual in the White House who refuses to categorically denounce fascism. Additionally, this individual is so cowardly, they refuse to place the blame for an act of terror and hatred squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. Notice how I have thus far refused to use the words president, man, or even person, because people, men, and presidents don’t act the way the thing we currently have as our representative to the rest of the world is doing. I can’t help but feel that it is an enormously dangerous distraction from the real damage that is being done by the people behind the scenes. An extreme case of wag the dog. It’s frightening, and if you’re not frightened, then you’re not paying attention, or worse.

At some point, though, you’ve got to stop taking in the poison and get some fresh air, or risk giving into despair and hopelessness, and there’s a very long way to go and a lot of work to be done. For me, this almost always takes the form of filling my head with music, and I don’t know how many who read this are aware of it, but Neil Finn (he of Split Enz and Crowded House fame) has been staging a series of weekly Facebook live shows that will culminate with the recording of his new album (also live), which will then be available the following week. It’s an ambitious, exciting project that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen done before, and if you’re someone who enjoys great, melodic pop music, I highly suggest you head over to Neil Finn’s website to learn more. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing for a break, and enough of an unsolicited plug for Neil Finn.

We have on our hands here the 50th edition of Limited Engagement. That’s a kind of milestone, right? I thought it was, and for a while I’ve been teasing a new project, so I thought this was a good occasion and platform to announce it properly.

Hoot ‘N’ Waddle is a project Janell and I have been knocking around for a while, a business we started that has been used to funnel Limited Engagement projects through, but what exactly we were going to do with it wasn’t ever fully cemented. Then, as I was looking for some sort of Phoenix podcasting community and not really finding anything, Janell suggested that I create the community—an idea that sounded great, but one that I was also very hesitant to take on, as I wasn’t convinced I could carry it out at a level that would be up to my standards or something that anyone else would even be interested in. I promptly forgot the idea, or filed it away somewhere, or something, because at some point this summer, after a particularly productive shower, I came downstairs all excited, saying that we could use Hoot ‘N’ Waddle as the hub for arts and culture podcasts in Phoenix, at which point I was promptly reminded that, yes, this was a great idea, and it wasn’t in fact mine. That’s alright, I’m a big enough man to admit it, and a good idea is a good idea.

Launching this Fall, Hoot ‘N’ Waddle will be a home for arts and culture podcasts in Phoenix—a sort of podcast co-op. Some shows will be hosted directly on the site, in other instances we will be more of a portal to a show’s existing platform. In some cases, I will be recording and producing the shows, while Janell creates the design aesthetic; some shows will be entirely the product of their creator/host from top to bottom. I can’t give out all the details yet, or name all of the shows, as some conversations are still in progress, but do stay tuned for more details, and if you’re interested in either creating a show for Hoot ‘N’ Waddle, or including your existing show in the project, contact me at jared@ltdengagementpod.com. The website will be launching soon. For now, if you want to stay up to date on the progress of Hoot ‘N’ Waddle, like the Facebook page, or follow Hoot ‘N’ Waddle on Twitter.

This week, for the 50th episode, we’ve got our first Hoot ‘N’ Waddle show. Created, produced, and hosted by the amazing Jessie Balli, Chatterbox is a weekly storytelling series that takes place on Wednesdays at Fair Trade Cafe. Chatterpod, the podcast version of Chatterbox, features stories told by those participants who consented to have them recorded and broadcast. This is the pilot episode, so we’re throwing it out there as a special edition of Limited Engagement, but future Chatterpods will be their own thing. I’m very excited to be working with Jessie, and Chatterbox is a great storytelling series, so go out there and support it!

Listen to LE 50 – Chatterpod Pilot

Best,
Jared

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