Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Art! The Music! The Madness! Second Fridays Strikes Again

It was time once again for Second Fridays and despite the damp and chilly setting, the event rocked on and has truly established a creative atmosphere that entices you to come and soak it all up. Downtown Excelsior Springs really put on the dog last night and as far as I'm concerned, completely outdid themselves.

This monthly event typically centers around art and artists and while these were certainly on grand display, the music really sent me soaring last night. The businesses established some serious atmosphere...dazzling art, fascinating artists, flavorful food and a fantastic and diverse array of musicians. My distractions were legion last night...I found myself so repeatedly mesmerized by the people, the art and the music that I needed to snap myself out of it and move on to the next business to try to take everything in. Last night was so abundant with creativity and entertainment on and around Broadway that it was a challenge...albeit a fun check it all out.

The evening began with me helping Keith set up for the Celtic band called Shortleaf in the Hall of Waters (they were supposed to be playing outside but moved them inside to spare them the ill wind). I moved on to the Gallery Off Broadway; as I'd been anticipating the shindig in their surreal corner of the universe: new artists with fascinating pieces, a new Corkscrews and Canvas class and the return of Billy Beale's smooth tuneage. I met artist Barbara Akers of the Northland Art League who showed off her wood-burning work as well as artist Kelly Berkey of Minnesota displaying her grand designs. Kevin put out another sumptuous spread, featuring satay-style chicken and beef with marvelous sauces including bourbon barbecue and my new favorite: honey-chile. Fortified by the nibbles and a mango martini, we were off to stroll the other businesses...

We stopped by Broadway and Penn, which was packed and featured a band as well as the gorgeous artwork of Sherie Renne. Willow Spring Mercantile's artist was the ebullient Stacey Cahalan displaying her awesome cardboard constructs, candles and Blue Raddish Studio co-op coolness. The Merc's musicians were Stone Corner Choir. We had dinner at Willow Spring and I found myself a bit spellbound by the stirring folk harmonies of this talented pair....and let's face it, anything that distracts me from my food must be something else, indeed. Not that the food wasn't fighting hard for my attention....Daphne's spicy, creamy hot bacon dip and beautiful spinach salad with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, red onion and marbled croutons had us swooning. Did I mention the warm croissants with housemade honey-vanilla butter? Well, I am now....damnation, they were good. Mix in an ice-cold Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard and a harmonious version of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry floating around us....well, I could've kicked back right there for the rest of the night.

Keith's duty as downtown director called and we moved on down the street. Ventana Grill was showing off the artistic talents of one of their own employees: Natalie Randall and her detailed work. I returned to the Gallery where the C and C class was in full swing and gobsmacked to realize that someone actually built that wild woman Kathleen a stage. The point is that the classes continue to grow and folks were struggling to see Kathleen. Fine, but Great Maker, we've let that woman loose on a stage.....where will this lead? Only time and wine will tell....

I was presented with the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with one of the other visiting artists to the G.O.B.-the enigmatic Jonny Feelgood. I was already somewhat fascinated with this young artist just from visiting his website. His artwork seems to reveal him as a man of a thousand faces in a sense.....he is clearly involved with multiple types of creativity. I was taken by his video work and he told me that his first passion was filmmaking. While speaking with him, I learned that his personality matched the diversity of his artwork....although, that isn't obvious at first. Jonny's voice was a soft, Southern-tinged lilt that was at times difficult to follow but soon became melodious in its own right and somewhat hypnotic. Listening to Jonny talk about his art, his loves, his life is like witnessing some type of soft-spoken performance art...I found myself mesmerized; hanging on every word. Jonny's wisdom and insight belie his youthful appearance; his still waters run seriously deep. My favorite Jonny Feelgood painting is The Solidarity Tree. I believe his masterpiece is yet to come....and when it does, it might just blow our minds.

After my interview with young Mr. Feelgood, I sat for awhile; again absorbed in some stunning music. The sultry blues of Billy Beale got an astoundingly able assist by Kevin Morgan's brilliant flute playing. Listening to these two play off each other was blissful....once again, I just wanted to curl up on the overstuffed sofa and wallow in that smooth and soothing music....and I did for awhile. After a few minutes, Molly and I walked over to the Hall to take in the Celtic goodness of the Shortleaf band. These folks played some gorgeous Irish music with accordions, violins and mandolins and the music just soared and danced through those art deco corridors. Their music was an Irish blessing that was positively bewitching.

K and I ventured over to catch the PyroSapiens unleash some fiery fun poolside at the Elms. Their flaming performance had everyone watching in awe; from the Library Lounge crowd to the wedding party from the Grand ballroom. Their pyrotechnic performance was the perfect way to cap off the night. Driving home, I reviewed the night in my head and thought: By Jove, these fine folks of Excelsior Springs have done it. They've worked damn hard to get it right and they truly have....many of the downtown businesses have worked together to create a fantastic atmosphere of diverse creativity that draws you in and then makes you want to just settle in and spend the evening just absorbing it all.

Bravo, Downtown Excelsior!


Lisa Mandina said...

Hmm, I see a theme of Irish for both you and me Friday night. I got mine from a movie though, not quite the same. Sounds like a great time. I'll have to try to get there in June.

Lydia said...

Wow! Does that ever sound like a fun night! So many wonderful sights, sounds, tastes, feelings... wish I could have been there to experience it all, but your beautiful writing takes me there! Thank you CC!!

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