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The Broken String Band @ Hendershots (3/5/17)

While Hendershots isn’t usually the best place to actively listen to music, the Broken String Band kept the atmosphere lively and the drinks flowing at their EP release show on March 10. Their upbeat, homegrown feel kept everyone in high spirits and even encouraged some dancing. They played songs from their new EP, “Prologue: Somebody’s Daughter”, and covered a few well-known songs including “The Weight,” popularized by Bob Dylan, adding their own bluegrass flair to it. Their three part harmonies backed by a delicious upright bass line brought a whole new dimension to my idea of bluegrass.

Sean Stephansen’s banjo playing was an obvious highlight of the ensemble, with Laura Camacho’s upright bass adding an unexpected layer. Taylor Thompson on the guitar leveled it out and a solo from “Doctor Pogo” on the drums did not go unappreciated. The balance of this band is impeccable and their chemistry is undeniable. The dueling twang of the banjo and the thump of the bass took me to a bluegrass jazz club paradise in my mind. Even if you don’t enjoy bluegrass, you can’t deny they love what they do and they’re good at it. At times the crowd was signing along and tapping their feet to the bass.

While the seating was pretty limited, people seemed happy to stand around at the bar and even sit outside and have the twangy tunes drift through the open roll up windows. As I stood near the bar, a little girl, no older than 8, approached the bar with her two younger sisters in tow and they began to pull miscellaneous coins out of their pockets and scatter them across the bar top until they had 3 dollars and fifty cents, enough to purchase a hot chocolate. The laid back atmosphere allowed this to be adorable instead of irritating and everyone looked on with smiles as they thought back to a simpler time.

Lyndon House 42nd Juried Exhibition

A microcosm of the artistic character of Athens was created by juror Susan Krane at the Lyndon House 42nd Juried Exhibition, which opened this past Sunday. The works ranged from paintings to sculptures to fiber to a TV screen playing a video loop. Each piece provoked quiet consideration, some leaning towards deeper themes. The show encompassed everything from abstraction to photography, each piece caused me to think, and I left the Lyndon House feeling lighter and more thoughtful than when I entered.

The pieces I found the most intriguing fit the Athens narrative of quirky, humorous, and a little envelope-pushing. I was impressed with Krane’s ability to hone in on the spirit of Athens even though she comes from San Francisco, clear across the country. Perhaps the spirit of the art we create remains constant, as a uniting force across our many states. These were the types of things the pieces made me contemplate.

My list of favorite pieces, however, did not align with the Merit Awards in the slightest. Sam Cherof’s “Study of Color and Texture”, an American flag covered in the blackest paint so that only the texture was recognizable, was by far my favorite. It made me contemplate the individual fibers of our country as I stood and stared at it for several minutes. I am always in favor of a piece that makes me think about politics without telling me what to think about them, a feat achieved by few.

Helen Kuykendall’s “Cabbage” also gained a lingering ovation from me. While many would critique its simplicity, the absurdity of the cabbage’s placement right in the center of the frame made me laugh out loud in the empty gallery. The borrowed beauty of the cabbage in its natural habitat made this painting particularly effective. In comparison to many of the other pieces, its simplicity almost seemed to poke fun at the pretentiousness of it all. The lack of message was screaming from the canvas.

As a photojournalist, I am never particularly impressed by artistic photographs and find them either too simple or too pretentious. Most of the photographs, albeit beautiful, fit one of these two. Ginger Goekjian’s “Untitled 2 from Sand Series” was the exception here. I spent several minutes just trying to figure out the scale of the photograph. It could have been a square inch of sand on the beach or a square mile from a drone just as easily. This concept fascinated me, and I remained perplexed until I finally spotted a set of bird footprints in the bottom corner and realized it was just about life-size. The sinewy trails left by water cutting through the sand captured my attention for longer than I care to admit. This photograph makes you think like a painting.

The final piece I will bring attention to is Rusty Wallace’s “Artists are like Clouds.” This piece caught my attention for a single reason, which was that I imagined it comically hanging on a wall in my house. At first glance, it appears to be a beautifully framed completely blank, white, canvas. Upon closer investigation, I realized the words “Artists are like Clouds” were printed as tiny and as spaced out as possible across the canvas. While I wish it said something better, the idea of hanging a seemingly blank canvas in my house is appealing to my sense of humor. Were the price less than $1200, I would have seriously considered buying it.

I felt that each of these pieces as well as the others included in the show, held both universal and local appeal simultaneously. The show as a whole felt like Athens, but it also felt like much more than Athens. And therein lies the purpose of art. Bravo, Lyndon House. 

Reed A. Hanna: Bassoon Recital

Hanna offered no introduction or warning before launching into his first piece, Pierre Max Dubois’s Etude No. 10, much like a surprise Beyonce album. And much like a surprise Beyonce album, it did not disappoint. Explaining Dubois’s Etude No. 11, Hanna said it reminded him of chaotically getting ready for a party that goes off without a hitch despite the rush. I watched the tendons in his forearm move along with the fast paced notes. By the time Diane Kessel joined him on stage for a duet, I was totally entranced.

“That’s a lot of notes played in a short amount of time,” he said, after finishing a particularly fast paced portion of Harrie Janssen’s “Sonata for Bassoon.” He slowed down a bit for the duet with Kessel and her flute, a light, airy piece that blended the two instruments perfectly. I found I could alternate focus on either instrument while the other complimented it perfectly. Despite the many time changes, they stayed together perfectly, glancing up now and then in an almost disbelief. They finished to a tremendous amount of applause considering the small audience.

But of course, Hanna saved the best for last. His performance of “Pimpin’” by Jacob “TV” ter Veldhuis, complete with a warning about the language, was like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard. Veldhuis uses live samplings, in this case from conversations with pimps and prostitutes, and arranges over them. “Pimpin’” was written for saxophone and it showed as the sultry, richer notes poured from Hanna’s bassoon. In comparison to his duet piece with Kessel, it was like he was playing a completely different instrument.

Hanna finished out the recital with George Fetner’s “Black Lion”, a show-stopping piece that included electronic effects and five stands to hold all the music because there “wasn’t time to turn the pages.”  This piece showcased his range, pushing out the lowest and highest notes all in the same breath. Its obvious that Hanna has mastery of his instrument, and a great taste for pieces that showcase that mastery.

Cafe Istanbul 4: Athens, Georgia

Cafe Istanbul is a rare gem hidden between Utage’s mediocre sushi and the horrifying dive bar sludge of Jerzee’s on Clayton Street. It feels like a bar, complete with blistering drink menu, and yet somehow it has an attentive waitstaff and churns out perfectly seasoned lamb kebab? I’m sold. The plates were simple, but each item was uniquely flavorful and satisfying. The restaurant itself is like Taziki’s hot older sibling: cheaper, in the heart of downtown, with the addition of a fully stocked bar.

When I arrived at 8 pm on a Sunday night, it was deserted. I kept looking for reasons why, and I couldn’t find any. The appetizer selection was modest, but stuck to the timeless classics: tzatziki dip, stuffed grape leaves, etc. I ordered lamb, beef, and chicken kebab, which came with rice and a salad. Each meat was tender and bursting with mediterranean goodness. Rice is usually just rice, but the addition of chick peas and the perfect moisture to stickiness ratio made this rice an equal with the meat. I found I was enjoying a forkful of the rice all by itself.

The waiter was scarce, as the restaurant was devoid of all life at this point. But he somehow magically appeared just in time to refill my drink, to whisk away plates, to suggest dessert. Although the room was empty, it still felt warm due to the large amount of lamps. I could almost imagine packed tables, a crowded bar, and maybe even people dancing in the big open space between.

A quick google search for “mediterranean food” helped explain why it might have been so empty. I had to type in “Cafe Istanbul” to find any information on it. It seems to have been beat in the search engine optimization category by Keba, Mediterranean Grill, Taziki’s, and the Sultan. When I finally did find some reviews on “Cafe Istanbul 4”, its official name, they were stellar. For restaurants to thrive in a college town, its usually imperative that they have a strong online or social media presence to draw in the younger crowd. I don’t think Cafe Istanbul was empty for anything other than lack of knowledge that it existed.

Looking at their facebook site, it appears they have themed dance nights at points throughout the year, and they seem to do very well. I will definitely be marking my calendar and planning to attend one in the near future. If the food is just as good and I can dance it all off, I can’t imagine a more ideal place.