Phoebe Blue’s ‘Creative Happenings,’ a night of DIY entertainment, to retire …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 24, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On the third Wednesday of the month, incense fills Hashtag Bar with fragrant smoke and a haze that seems to slow patrons down.

The Van Duzer Street space transforms with “Phoebe Blue’s Creative Happenings,” a variety show conceived by musician Phoebe Blue, a Stapletonite with big blue eyes and an original sound that matches her quirky sensibilities. Nearly two years in the making, she’s created her own brand of DIY culture through the monthly performances.

The nights are lightly attended, despite the broad tastes the artists represent, from folk to rap to something called “peace metal.” On the up side, the relatively low attendance means no one is chatting loudly in the back, breaking the focus many of the performances elicit.

But on the down side, the sparse crowd shows how difficult it is to create and sustain this kind of original entertainment on Staten Island.

Blue plans to retire the show in three months, when she will have brought together 145 artists on Staten Island, never once repeating an act.

“It’s about closing a chapter on a good note and concluding that story and going onto another one,” Blue said. “Sometimes you have to let something die to find new life.”

MAGIC: THE HASHTAG GATHERING

The monthly shows are as open-ended as their name suggests. Creative Happenings gets started with a few songs from Blue, followed by a handful of other acts, including dance, poetry, spoken word, stand-up or other types of music.

“Once a month, we make magic happen,” Blue said.

Blue discussed the history of the Creative Happenings one afternoon from her Stapleton apartment — a space which reflects the whimsical spirit of her shows. Her two pet rats crawl onto her lap as colorful bulbs and skylighting cast a rainbow aura around her face. Walls are lined with art friends have gifted, a hula hoop, pages from a book, Gumby figurines. Next to a television sits a mini-telephone booth full of CDs.

From her apartment to the monthly performances at Hashtag, creativity appears to follow Blue.

“When the show starts, everyone pays attention and that’s the idea,” Blue said. “Everyone has an authentic time, and they’re possibly surprised that it can hold their attention spans.”

CREATIVE BEGINNINGS: ANTI-FOLK

Happenings might not have happened if Blue hadn’t discovered the genre that formed her into an original musician. She picked up her first guitar at 16, but it wasn’t until she was 19 when she discovered the elusive genre of “Anti-Folk.”

The genre has been around since the mid-1980s and includes contemporary artists like Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor and the sometimes bashful Grammy award-winning artist Beck. With quirky songs about everything from political movements to tacos, it politely says “thanks but no thanks” to the preceding 60s-era folk music with a raw, punk-like approach to its music and lyrics.

“You just need to tell a story, maybe with a little humor thrown into it,” Blue summarizes.

She didn’t know she was an anti-folker until she performed at one of the movement’s more prominent venues on the Lower East Side and an anti-folk expert labeled her as such, she said. But it gave her a community and female musicians she could look up to and a newfound career goal.

With a couple different bands over the years, Blue has made a name for herself in the anti-folk scene, performing among other accomplished musicians at the New York Antifolk Festival.

Watch her most recent video with her band, Phoebe Blue and the Make Baleaves, here:

Fast forward a few years. Discouraged by the lack of artist-friendly venues on Staten Island that curate their own shows, Blue gladly accepted an offer to curate her own show at Full Cup about two years ago. Rather than wait for some venue owner to provide a night of entertainment, she created it herself.

“It’s a way for us to cut out the middleman,” Blue said. “We’ll leave that to Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

Blue originally envisioned it first as a way to fill a hole in her own life for artistic performances on Staten Island. But it quickly filled a hole in the arts scene on Staten Island, where there are many artists but few venues.

Even when the Full Cup closed, Blue moved the show around Staten Island, from storefronts to her front porch. She even held one inside her third-floor apartment, which she shares with her boyfriend and fellow musician, Tom Bones.

The show has gotten to a point now where artists from as far away as Australia request to perform at her shows on Staten Island. They find her by Googling “Anti-Folk.”

BOOK-ENDS: GROWING BY CHANGING

Two years will have been a solid run for Creative Happenings, Blue conceded. Like any good Scorpio, Blue recognizes that she’ll only grow by changing, she said.¬†The next Creative Happenings will be on April 15. After that, there will only be three more.

Blue will continue to perform around Staten Island, Brooklyn and the LES. But unless someone asks her, she won’t be curating shows like the one at Hashtag Bar.

Blue is 27 years old — young in human years, but “about 77 in music years.” So while the decision to end Creative Happenings largely stems from a desire to move onto the next project, there’s a sense that Blue is letting go of a dream, perhaps regretfully.

“When I discovered anti-folk, I sort of put all my eggs in one basket, and thought that would be my career,” Blue said. “But it didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s going to happen. In a way, I think I’m past my prime.”

Article source: http://www.silive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/03/phoebe_blues_creative_happenin.html

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