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On The Scene 

by Clint Burgess

If you haven't taken the opportunity to experience downtown's Visual Arts Tour, Friday night's offering was probably not the best time to make your maiden voyage into the center of our city's art action. Not that the art featured was sub-par -- it was Mother Nature who decided to make the rounds and take in some culture. Wet snow, slushy streets and chilly temperatures weeded out the casual art enthusiast from the hardcore art fan. As is the norm at cultural events, art means many things and music was a featured medium on this arts tour.

The tour was the perfect event to see a lot of art in a short amount of time and in an atmosphere anyone can enjoy. Just one of the venues that featured live music was the space formerly occupied by Merlin's on Browne. Canned Music performed some of their folksy acoustic tunes to add to the menagerie of artwork. The beauty of live music in this atmosphere is the intensifying qualities that music can have on art. Although relaxed and more of a side note, the acoustic sounds reverberated off the artwork, the people and the space, creating a buzz that was energizing. Along the rest of the snow-laced streets, there were also plenty of coffeeshops and eateries around to keep passionate onlookers fueled and firing on all cylinders.

One such spot was the Spike Coffeehouse, always a hub for live music and warm brew. As a preview for her performance at the Met this past weekend, Amy Bleu steamed things up with her sultry vocals and acoustic hymns. Bleu presents a paradoxical style that seems at odds with her delicate demeanor. Her acoustic guitar-fashioned songs about deeply personal emotions gave listeners a glimpse into the shadowy psyche of this solid performer. As usual, the Spike glistened with the aroma of java and splashed various works of art on the exposed brick walls.

While the Spike was a familiar spot for sounds from the local scene, another more unusual spot was the setting for some bluegrass with a twist. Rick Singer's photography studio on Main Street featured the subtle sounds of Big Red Barn. Attendees at the studio were treated to fresh vegetable platters and a side of bluegrass dip. The four-piece got toes tapping with their traditional arrangements garnished with a few elements of contemporary music. Having hauled a huge standup bass out on a horrible night for weather, they scored points in my book. The bass, banjo, guitar and mandolin made for ear-friendly tunes, and onlookers enjoyed their time with the group. Singer played gracious host as those who were out and about stopped in to check out his work. Hundreds of photos were displayed, revealing the photographer's broad interests and diversity of techniques. One particularly moving series of photos were black-and-whites that had been done at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Md. These haunting images portrayed statues and architecture, bringing to life the eerily inanimate beings and illuminating the otherwise morbid cemetery structures.

Publication date: 02/12/04
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