Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dream of a complicated northern Italian gig swap


It will take a moment to explain how, in the middle of my first ever art show, in downtown St. Louis, I became fixated on the idea of touring the show, or elements of it, to Northern Italy, and then coming back with a bunch of northern Italian rock bands.

It all started with Italian national radio, a previously foreign concept that must now be seared into the minds of people who stuck around until the end of the show, for embarassing reasons I'll get to.

A producer for RAI, as the station is known, contacted me because one of his journalists was traveling here from Rome and wanted to interview a journalist in St. Louis about the Barack Obama campaign. In the process of coordinating that interview, I developed a rapport with the producer, who bears the name Massimo, a name I love to death, which I can say over and over again, Massimo Massimo Massimo, though I know full well it's a common name in Italy.

I was trying to get Massimo and his journalist, Bruno, to come out for a drink and to see the show. They had a long day of radio work, but called me from dinner, just around the corner, at about 9:30 p.m. The show was supposed to last until 10 p.m. Art events usually drag on at least an extra half-hour, so when they asked me what was the latest they could come and still see the show, I said 10:30 p.m. That was my first mistake.

Dana Smith, who had some of his local music paintings in the show, had been excited earlier to hear that Italian national radio might be crashing the party. So I found him in the crowd and told him the good news. We started to get excited about it. That's where the dreaming came from. I began to dream about the rockers I know in Northern Italy and envision a complicated, multimedia, trans-Atlantic gig swap, where a group of people who document the St. Louis music scene would show our work in northern Italy, their local bands would perform at the show, we would document them as they performed, and then we would show our paintings and drawings of them back in St. Louis, at a show where the northern Italian bands would perform, again (maybe with some of our local bands) - and maybe with some of their local artists in attendance, who could document the St. Louis show and start the crazy cycle all over again.

Somehow, this idea was born of the expectation that Massimo and Bruno were on their way to see our show, and somehow their seeing our show seemed essential to this fanstasy starting to slouch toward reality.

I approached the guy who owned the space (and who was letting Kim Richardson use it for free). He struck me as kind of an odd bird, fidgety and inward. Also, he had earlier volunteered that he is voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin. I do have friends, people I like and respect, who plan to vote Republican in this election, but I'll admit that hearing this voting preference from someone I don't already know and like presents an obstacle to my wanting to get to know or like them.

I told this guy the good news. To him, it was not good news. The party was over at 10, just like he had said upfront, Italian national radio or no Italian national radio. "I have other commitments," he said.

Likeable or not, reasonable or not, Republican or not, susceptible to the magic of Italian national radio or not, this man did own the space. It was obviously up to him whether or not we stayaed there another 15 minutes. Obviously, the thing to do was to call back Massimo and Bruno, let them down easy, get over it and prepare to meet them at The Tap Room.

But I was all goosed up on my first ever art show and good strong beer and the fantasy of a complicated, multimedia, trans-Atlantic gig swap, so I proceeded to do my best to make the owner of the space miserable until we all finally filed out of his loft, without national Italian radio ever having made the scene. I'm probably lucky this guy is not prone to physical violence. I'm sure I prodded him enough to have inspired some fisticuffs, and not only am I not tough, but I have fresh dental work that would have made getting socked in the face last night a really, really bad idea.

Massimo and Bruno did show up at The Tap Room. They played foosball. They enjoyed the local band - ha! that should have been enough to kick off the concept of the complicated, multimedia, trans-Atlantic gig swap! - but we were onto other things, by then, talking shop on journalism and the unbelievable possibility that the United States might actually revive its international image as an intelligent and desirable nation after Nov. 4.

I split early. I have a 5-year-old. I like to wake up with her on the weekends, fresh and early. When I got home, I saw I had missed a call from Massimo while rocking out to The Jayhawks on the way home. I called him back.

"We were wondering if you could tell us where to go where ... would be girls," he said.

"Girls to meet, or ... girls who take their clothes off?" I asked.

"Girls ... to meet," he said.

That's not my department, anymore, but I pictured late-night hipsters at CBGB or Mangia and directed them to South Grand. They got lost once. I redirected them at about 1:30 a.m. I still don't know if they ever got where they were going or found any local girls. I hope so. When I called Kim this morning to thank her for the show and to apologize for antagonoizing the guy who loaned her the space, she said she wished she had known the Italian national radio guys were looking to meet local girls last night.

"I would have played with them," she said.

Massimo's cell phone messages now contain this piece of intelligence. We shall see what happens next.

And I will send this post to my friend Andrea, the northern Italian rocker with the very great band Van Cleef Continental, to see what he thinks about that complicated, multimedia, trans-Atlantic gig swap idea. That's him, above, trying on the Mets hat I have him a few years ago when he and his bandmate Mateo met me at the Milano airport (I was passing by on my way to West Africa). That pile of CDs on the table between us are now in the collection of The Skuntry Museum Library, by the way. Anyone who wants to come out and drink beer and listen to northern Italian rock music should come out and drink beer and listen to northern Italian rock music.

That's probably as close as we will get to drawing and painting Van Cleef Continental at a gig in northern Italy, with our drawings and paintings of St. Louis musicians hanging on the walls. But who knows?

1 comment:

andrea said...

Difficult, but it could be great.
We know places where it could happen here.
We have already experimented other connections between music and visual arts, and it always worked out fine.
I love this stuff.

I had a lot of fun watching the pic and remembering the thin boy I was. Ha!