Art, fashion, and rock join forces in local shows

The band Needle Points performs with costumes, props and facepaint. "We started kind of jokingly having a visual aspect," says Needle Points' front man, Colin Holloway, "but people really liked it." (Kristin Guessford)
The band Needle Points performs with costumes, props and facepaint. "We started kind of jokingly having a visual aspect," says Needle Points' front man, Colin Holloway, "but people really liked it." (Kristin Guessford)
Posted: April 25, 2014

Wearing a half-moon mask, Jacob Brunner sits on the floor and layers loop upon loop of dissonant sound on a Yamaha keyboard, adding to the ruckus with drumstick and shaker.

A psychedelic tapestry serves as backdrop. Dream catchers float in the air. Audience members line the artwork-covered walls. In the next room, more art, more audience: A TV casts a sea of haze atop a mock fireplace, while half the room swims in a light installation. Poet and musician Marshall James Kavanaugh gives a dream-story preamble before donning a unicorn mask and blasting away on trumpet.

Welcome to the latest edition of the recurring Good Vibes party at the Dream Oven, a do-it-yourself venue in a Kensington house that's part of a growing Philly scene mixing music and art together.

The house, owned and curated by Kavanaugh, is a living work of art, he said, where the traditional concert experience - an array of folk, acoustic indie-rock, and experimental noise-music - cross-pollinates with art in a variety of media.

Kavanaugh says he wants to transform audience members from passive beholders into part of the art. Brunner sees it: "It's their reaction to the space, their energy that's driving me," he said of the audience.

Changing audience energy is what the psychedelic garage-rock outfit Needle Points wants to do with every show, they say, creating a carnival atmosphere with costumes and props.

"We started kind of jokingly having a visual aspect," Needle Points' front man, Colin Holloway, said, "but people really liked it."

Danielle Kinoshita, the creative linchpin for the band, said, "Since our first show we've had a bright look and try to decorate the stage and, if possible, the venue as well."

Their costumes and makeup range from hippie chic to full-out wizard's robes to go with a fuzzy, 1970s guitar-rock aesthetic. Covering the bass amp and stage are shrouds made of blankets and tapestries. Props and giant cardboard pieces suggest a connection to something transcendent.

All this derives from the same impulse that often impels Kinoshita, one of two drummers informing the band's dance vibe, to jump into the crowd. "You dance with people and add to their energy," she said. "You help make them feel more involved."

Every member of Needle Points is involved in some form of visual art. Kinoshita is a designer for the specialty clothing brand Free People; Holloway is a painter who has shown his work in Philadelphia. Their April 11 show at the monthly Guitar Army party at the Barbary in Fishtown transformed the stage.

Altering an entire space is the aim on Saturday at Indy Hall in Old City, with the return of the Saturday Synesthesia parties, courtesy of the nonprofit record label Good Behavior. Set for the last Saturday of the month June through August, the shows combine fashion, art, and music.

Silk graffiti installations by Aubrie Costello will hang from the walls. Giant cloth banners by Mike Jackson and show curator Sean Martorana painted with abstract dancers will act as room dividers. Fabric sculptures by Alexandra Orth hanging from the ceiling should, with the door always open, catch the breeze.

Donnie Felton - founder of Good Behavior and front man for the band Grubby Little Hands - will perform as LMNOP, providing an electro-soul soundtrack heavy on vocal and guitar loops. Models wearing designs by MADE Studios of Old City will weave through the crowd. (Several of the models will be the designers themselves.) Martorana noted that LMNOP's jazzlike improvisations complement and inform the movement of the models.

Martorana also likes what Digital Youth, the opening act, will bring to Synesthesia Saturday. They "have a fun, up-tempo, hip-hop, electronic feel that plays upon the artful, lighthearted fashion designs by MADE Studios," he said.

For his part, Felton said that "the connection between everything is something I haven't grasped yet. We're trying to hit as many senses as possible. From there, who knows what can happen?"

At a show at the Little Berlin gallery and collective in East Kensington, the audience got directly involved, encouraged to sling mud on canvases or paint with found objects while a punk band played. At a February show at the Delaware Center of Contemporary Art in Wilmington, Eric Danger Clark, a Little Berlin cocurator, crawled naked through a bag filled with balloons and trash. The psychedelic band Spacin' played under dimmed lights, and a sea of balloons was unleashed upon the audience, who were encouraged to pop them.

Artist Scott Bickmore, sitting beneath one of his monochrome works at the Dream Oven, describes it as "the 'ghost' versus substance." Bickmore said he's channeling the ideas of former Roxy Music keyboardist and conceptual artist Brian Eno. "Substance is the direct. 'Ghost' is what he calls an oblique strategy. You're letting yourself be shaped by your environment."

"There's a different energy when you circumvent the traditional," said Little Berlin cocurator Lee Tusman. "People aren't unique in only wanting a concert or a gallery experience, so why not give them both?"


ART SHOW/ MUSIC

Synesthesia Saturday: Music, Fashion & Fine Art

7 p.m. Saturday at Indy Hall, 22 N. Third St.

Tickets: $15, couples $25; groups of 4 or more $45. Information: http://arts.indyhall.org

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