What to do when there’s ‘nothing’ to do…

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Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance troupe will be performing for the Dairy Center's Virtual Variety Show Fund Raiser on Thursday, June 18.
Courtesy of Frequent Flyers

VIRTUAL EVENTS

Front Porch Concerts — presented by Louisville Rising. 6 p.m. Friday, June 12 (and following Fridays through July 31), louisvillerising.org.

Each Friday night from June 12 through the end of July, a band will perform live at The Louisville Underground and the performance will be live-streamed directly to your home. The project encourages folks to order cocktails and dinner from local restaurants, sit on their front porch, and celebrate the strength of our community together. On June 12, enjoy jams from Home Groove Band, with performances in following weeks by Chain Station (bluegrass), Face (a capella), Hazel Miller & The Collective (jazz/soul) and more. While the event is free, Louisville Rising asks those who can to make a donation. The money raised will go directly to small local businesses. 

Super Fandom Henna by Boulder Public Library. 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 (and Thursday, July 16 at 3 p.m.), facebook.com/events/boulder-public-library.

Explore the world of henna and celebrate various fandoms in this free workshop. Learn henna basics combined with design tips and instruction for creating fun pop culture-inspired designs, everything from Harry Potter to Studio Ghibli, narwhals and unicats. For teens, grades six-12. Registration necessary. Once you’ve registered, pick up your henna kit at the Main Library by June 13 (Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., or Wednesdays from 2-7 p.m.) 

Nellie Marie Clay, photo by Mick Leonardi

Nellie Marie Clay — presented by Little Tree Concert Series. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13, littletreeacoustic.com.

Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter Nellie Marie Clay is making her Little Tree concert a fundraiser for the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa. The Greenwood District works “to preserve African-American heritage and promote positive images of the African-American community by providing educational and cultural experiences; promoting intercultural exchange; and encouraging cultural tourism.” Donate $12 per person to tune in and enjoy Clay’s soulful folk songs and contribute to the Greenwood District’s ongoing mission. 

Courtesy of Frequent Flyers

Inside/Out: a Virtual Vacation Variety Show — presented by The Dairy Arts Center. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18, thedairy.org.

With the inimitable “Gender Illusion Technician” Mrs. Eda Bagel at the helm, the Dairy is set to host its first Virtual Vacation Variety Show, featuring entertainment from Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Stories on Stage, Boulder comedian John Novosad, and the rockabilly sounds of Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene. All tickets ($25 for a household) and donations from this event will directly support the Dairy’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The Dairy has partnered with McDevitt Taco Supply and River and Woods to provide ticket buyers a curated take-out meal just for this evening, including kalua pork, teriyaki salmon and sweet potato tortas. 

THEATER

Courtesy of Buntport Theater

‘The Grasshoppers’ —presented by Buntport Theater. 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, June 11-27, with additional dates/times likely to be added. Parking lot of Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver, 720-946-1388, stuff@buntport.com.

The drive-in’s not just for movies anymore. 

Denver’s Buntport Theater launches its mini drive-in theater experience, The Grasshoppers, on June 11, offering stir-crazy theater lovers a socially distanced live performance.

Clocking in at just 35 minutes, The Grasshoppers offers a comical twist on a nature documentary that finds parallels with our current-day trials and tribulations. The action will take place from the Buntport parking lot, where patrons will be able to watch from the safety of their cars. While the show requires a vehicle and a smartphone, Buntport will provide alternatives for anyone without a smartphone. 

The original story was inspired by a historical swarm of locusts that infested the Rocky Mountain region beginning in 1875. In August, the live show will get a video companion piece made in collaboration with Fannypack Films and Adam Stone as a part of the 3×3 Projects initiative. 

Tickets are donation-based, but those unable to pay may still come for free. Audience members should bring masks. While bathrooms will be available, patrons are asked to request access only when necessary.  

HEAVY ROTATION: Jazz adjacent

A collection of new(ish) releases with experimental leanings

by Caitlin Rockett

‘Black Treasure,’ by Zara McFarlane

British jazz singer Zara McFarlane explores her Jamaican heritage in this pulsating track that blends Jamaican folk traditions with the futuristics beats of London-based producers Kawake Bass and Wu-Lu. McFarlane wastes no time calling out European colonization: “First you see something you like / An X that marks the spot / On a quest to find / What you have not got … You tell me that I’m lost / How can that be when you cross the world to find me? / I will not be a reflection of your reality.” By the end McFarlane  celebrates: “Yes I’m black treasure / Yes I’m made of precious stones.”

‘Fire is Coming,’ by Flying Lotus, David Lynch

Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) released a deluxe version of his 2019 album Flamagra in May of this year, giving us a chance to revisit FlyLo’s sixth studio album. David Lynch narrates this spoken word track that morphs from menacing to foot-stomping in under three-and-a-half minutes. Ellison’s penchant for free jazz and shuffling percussion is built in: his great aunt was the late, great jazz pianist Alice Coltrane and his grandmother was singer-songwriter Marilyn McLeod.

‘Nebbia,’ by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile 

This track comes as a follow-up to the Grammy-winning The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, multi-hyphenate string player Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolinist Chris Thile. The new album — Not Our First Goat Rodeo — is named after an aviation term for a situation in which myriad things must go right to avoid disaster. Nebbia is an Italian word for a thick fog or a haze. You move in and out of the fog as the track progresses, but you never feel lost. These musicians — like trained fighter pilots — know exactly where they are going. There’s no video, but you can listen here.

‘Hope She’ll Be Happier,’ by Nick Mulvey

Bill Withers would love this elaborately picked version of his 1971 song “Hope She’ll Be Happier.” In Nick Mulvey’s hands the track becomes darker, building to an ominous fever pitch by the end. Where Withers’ track is gospel-tinged, Mulvey’s leans into progressive folk. Both versions reflect the narrator’s deep pain and introspection, but Mulvey’s noir track amps up the remorse all the way to 10. There’s no video, but you can listen here.

‘Chapter,’ by Penguin Cafe

NPR’s Bob Boilen has called Penguin Cafe’s music “a universal dream state,” built on the foundations of music from around the world, and on the dreams of band leader Arthur Jeffes’ late father, Simon (who led an outfit called Penguin Cafe Orchestra prior to his death in 1997). This track, from Penguin Cafe’s 2019 album, Handfuls of Night, is inspired by The Terra Nova Expedition, officially the British Antarctic Expedition, led by Robert Falcon Scott. In 2005, Arthur Jeffes scored a BBC documentary about the expedition. Frantic strings and scattershot hand percussion open this track in true cinematic fashion, evoking images of dog sleds crossing a vast tundra. 

PODCASTS

“The paradox of education is precisely this — that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”  — James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers,” 1963.

Here are a few podcasts to continue your education and deepen your examination.   

‘Unlocking Us with Brené Brown’ — Ibram S. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist.

Ibram X. Kendi, the bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, and the director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, discusses racial disparities and the policies that have enshrined these disparities since Reconstruction. “Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy,” Kendi writes in his book. “It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people.” It’s inadequate to merely not be racist, Kendi says: we must be anti-racist, willing to confront our inherent biases and dismantle racial inequality from within and without. — CR

‘Good Ancestor,’ Ep. 023 — Kimberley Seals Allers on Birth Without Bias.

The host of the Good Ancestor podcast, Layla F. Saad, is an East African, Arab, British, black, Muslim woman who was born and grew up in the West, and lives in the Middle East. The intersectionality of her identities has driven Saad to explore “one burning question: How can I become a good ancestor? How can I create a legacy of healing and liberation for those who are here in this lifetime and those who will come after I’m gone?” Saad’s podcast gives voice to change-makers and culture-shapers who are exploring anti-racism, personal transformation and social justice. In this episode, Saad speaks with journalist Kimberley Seals Allers, who has researched — and experienced first-hand — the socio-cultural and racial disparities of birth, breastfeeding and motherhood in America. — CR 

‘The Daily’ — The Sunday Read (June 7, 2020): ‘The Condition of BlAck Life is One of Mourning.’

Claudia Rankine is a Jamaican-born American poet, playwright, educator and multimedia artist. In this essay for the New York Times, Rankine reflects on the reality of repetition in the systems of institutionalized racism, from Emmett Till to Michael Brown, from those who died in the hulls of slave ships to those who died at the hands of law enforcement: “The Black Lives Matter movement can be read as an attempt to keep mourning an open dynamic in our culture because black lives exist in a state of precariousness,” Rankin writes. “Mourning then bears both the vulnerability inherent in black lives and the instability regarding a future for those lives. Unlike earlier black-power movements that tried to fight or segregate for self-preservation, Black Lives Matter aligns with the dead, continues the mourning and refuses the forgetting in front of all of us. If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement made demands that altered the course of American lives and backed up those demands with the willingness to give up your life in service of your civil rights, with Black Lives Matter, a more internalized change is being asked for: recognition.” — CR

HOME VIEWING: Spike Lee

by Michael J. Casey

Spike Lee’s latest film, Da 5 Bloods, will be available to all with a Netflix login on June 12. Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis are four aging Vietnam vets who head back to the jungle to reclaim the remains of their squad leader (played in the flashbacks by Chadwick Boseman) and the crate full of gold they found and buried for safekeeping.

Despite the music featured in the trailer, nothing about Da 5 Bloods appears to be a cut-and-dried story of ’Nam. Lee isn’t that kind of director. He’s challenging, inventive, brash and electric — a true titan of the American independent scene decked in tortoiseshell glasses and Knickerbocker-coded blue and orange threads.

A cinema without Lee is no cinema indeed; here are four more to celebrate the iconoclast from Brooklyn.

‘Chi-Raq’ How do you get men to stop fighting, killing and blowing each other up? How about withholding sex until peace is achieved? Adapting Aristophanes’ comedic play, Lysistrata, Chi-Raq is a cinematic smorgasbord: Colorful, playful, kaleidoscopic, zany and moving. The movie is most entertaining when Samuel L. Jackson holds the stage, but Lee makes sure to ground entertainment in reality and loss. These deaths aren’t just another gangbanger gunned down in the street, or just one more coffin in the ground: It’s another empty chair at Christmas time, one more incomplete family photo at Mom’s birthday. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

‘BlacKKKlansman’ Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is Colorado Springs’ first black police officer, and he’s a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. How Stallworth came to be a KKK member is a laugh — most of BlackKklansman is — but the laughter isn’t without teeth. Stallworth is in real danger, and not because he’s an undercover cop, but because he’s black. The rest of the world is drunk on images of white superiority, and Lee knows it. One of the greatest tricks Lee pulls off in BlackKklansman is how he weaves the images of old Hollywood through contemporary conflict. Second verse same as the first. Streaming on DirecTV and HBO Max.

‘Malcolm X’ If Denzel Washington only acted in one movie, and that movie was Malcolm X, then Washington would still be one of the greatest actors of his generation. Washington fills every inch of the frame with explosive fury and words that cut like daggers. His “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us” is one of the rare times where the movie improves upon reality. Lee’s massive bio-pic runs nearly three and a half hours, and it flies. Streaming on Netflix.

‘Do The Right Thing’ It’s a brief exchange, but it’s a big one: Da Mayor: “Always do the right thing.” Mookie: “That’s it?” Da Mayor: “That’s it.” Mookie: “I got it; I’m gone.” Ninety minutes later, Radio Raheem is dead on the ground, choked to death by a racist cop, and Mookie throws a trashcan through Sal’s Pizzeria. Pandemonium breaks loose, and long-festering hate boils to the surface in Bed-Stuy. If Lee made the movie today, it would be too on the nose, too ripped from the headlines. But at 30 years old, the film feels more like a prophecy. It’s not. The violence, hatred and intolerance in Do the Right Thing is a tale as old as time, one that will never go out of style. For rent on all major platforms.