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Archive for April, 2011

Weekend Preview: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars

It seems like the band has been all I have been talking about on this blog, but that’s because I’m very excited for them to be here!  It’s our last show, and we’re really going to go out with a bang. 

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars formed in a West African refugee camp during the civil war in Sierra Leone which lasted from 1991-2002.  That was 11 years of pain, fear and loss that these band members, and so many others, couldn’t go home. They had to deal with the tragedy in order to being in the healing processes, and their way was through music.

If you want to understand what happened in Sierra Leone, the BBC did a wonderful job diving into the conflict and explaining the issues in a reportWARNING. This was a brutal conflict, and the things the report talks about are enough to turn stomaches. Read at your own discretion.

If you’re just in the mood to know more about the band, click here.  You can read the NPR articles and give the band a listen before you come out to see them on Saturday!

Tech Tuesday: Catwalks

(This blog post can also be found under its alternate title “Tech Tuesday: Caitie Still Really Hates Heights.”)

There are three things in life that creep me out: Hearing something move in the dark, the mouse from Chuck E. Cheese, and heights (I have photo proof of the last two. Ask me about it sometime). But since Katie gave me the suggestion to feature the catwalks here at CCA in my Tech Tuesday posts, I had to give it a shot.

Had I been able to think clearly, I would have gotten photos of the guts of the building before we enter the catwalks that lead into the main theatre, but thinking clearly just wasn’t happening.

Those are some shots of the catwalk overlooking the stage. The catwalks are mainly used to help position and adjust lights and sound for the performances.  They also help techs do maintenance or move around the theatre if they need to do so quickly and quietly.  Since we have three theatres at CCA, the catwalks have to be positioned above all three while still remaining hidden.  If you remember the Tech Tuesday: Lighting post, I took a shot of a bank of lights from the stage.  Behind those lights is the catwalk for the main stage, and the yellow circle is about where I was standing if you were standing on the stage looking up.

Very high up, but very cool.

Cross your fingers for next week’s Tech Tuesday. If all goes as planned and the stars align I’ll have something really cool to show you guys.

Monday Mashup: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars

In the mood for some amazing and inspirational music? Have a taste for international songs that tell a story? Looking for something to do on Saturday? Do you want to give me a cookie?

The answer to those questions should be yes, by the way (and I’ll take a chocolate chip cookie, thanks).

This weekend is our last musical performance until our summer concert series, so if you miss it, you’re out of luck for the next few months! I’ve already talked about Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars a few times, but that’s because what they had to go through and how they dealt with their trauma makes for an amazing story.  So watch the documentary, read the NPR articles  , take a listen and come see them this weekend.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars on NPR

First things first. Has anyone watched the documentary on Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars? What did ya’ll think? If you haven’t, don’t worry, you still have a week before the performance to get a copy of the documentary.

In the mean time, there are two really cool articles about the group on NPR, so check them out and let me know what you think!

Here they are on Tiny Desk Concert, which is basicly a segment dedicated to music on Fridays.  It gives you a great idea of what you’re in for. http://www.npr.org/2011/04/06/133593913/sierra-leones-refugee-all-stars-tiny-desk-concert

This one is from a year ago and gives some great backgroun into the group: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124734833

Tech Tuesday: Now What?

I knew this would happen. You’ve met the main tech crew, you saw some of the features in the theatre that are essential to performances and I covered all of the basics.

Now the fun can start.

In addition to Bill, Jimmie and Dean, we have techs who work a show by show basis (including Kevin, who gave me the idea for Caitie’s Chandler Crawl) who are all kinds of awesome, and behind the curtain still that most people don’t get a chance to see, like sound checks.  Look for that one in the beginning of May.

In the mean time, are there any questions you’ve had about some of the technical stuff that goes on here at CCA? Let me know, and you may find the topic you raised in a future Tech Tuesday blog post!

Monday Mashup: Hotel California and Spencers Theatre of Illusion

I don’t know if it’s because I love The Eagles, or if I still have a crush on Don Henley, but I was really looking forward to Hotel California performing here over the weekend. And boy, was I not disapointed. It was like I was actually at an Eagles concert, because the lead singers sounded just like Don and Glenn Frey. But nothing I can say will do Hotel California justice, so just watch the clip and you’ll see what I mean.

On Sunday, we had Spencers Theatre of Illusion, and they were a blast. There are magic tricks that everyone can pull off, and then there were illusions that the Spencers did, including one that Hodini did in the 1920s once, and then never did again. I don’t have any clips from their show, but that just means that you’ll have to catch ’em next time they’re in town.

At this point in my Monday Mashup, I usually give everyone a preview of what we have coming for the weekend, but this weekend is Easter, so we don’t have anything scheduled. Instead, I’d like you folks to do something for me (if you have Netflix this will be a piece of cake).

Beg, borrow, rent or bribe, but get your hands on a copy of the documentary Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. It’s the documentary about the band that will be here on April 30. If you watch the documentary, you’ll see what this group went through, and it’ll make watching them live even better. 

 I bawled through the whole documentary though, just as a warning.

Weekend Preview, part 2

Life this weekend is going to be nuts, but I’d much rather be busy than bored.

First off, if anyone is going to Buzzcation tonight, you have a chance to win two tickets to Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, so go, donate to charity and enter the raffle. And come say hi to me. I’ll be the scared stiff person in the corner trying not to be shy.

Saturday night we have Hotel California, and I’m playing The Eagles at top volume today to celebrate. I love that this group plays their songs just like The Eagles did. It isn’t just one lead singer and then a few back up guys that we can pay attention to when we aren’t staring at a Don Henley look-a-like, but a harmony that brings so much more to a performance. Can. Not. Wait.

Then on Sunday, you should come out and see Spencers Theatre of Illusion (you can read my interview with Kevin here). It’s very family friendly, so if you want to bring your little ones, you have nothing to worry about. To make it even cooler, Kevin uses magic to help people, so make sure you ask him about the Healing of Magic, and watch how excited about it he gets. You can really tell he loves everything about his job.

So come out for a sweet double header weekend, and because these are two of out last three shows for the season! Take in all that you can before we slow down (just a tad) for summer.

Weekend Preview, part 1

Kevin Spencer loves what he does. I spoke with him yesterday and he was talking a million miles an hour right out of the gate (good thing my j-school skills taught me how to keep up). Sometimes, interviewees can be nervous, but not Kevin. Good thing, because his job isn’t something that can be done while hiding behind a desk.

“I was 5 years old when I told my mom I wanted to be a magician,” he said, and he hasn’t looked back since. But it isn’t enough to just perform magic, Kevin wanted to add a new element to the time-honored tradition.

“Magic was never presented in a theatrical environment, which is the perfect place for a magician. So we take great magic, wrap it in great theatre and totally engage the audience,” he said. To the Spencers, which is made up of Kevin and his wife Cindy, engaging the audience is more than just asking one or two people to come up on stage.

“There is one trick we perform where we ask everyone in the audience to do something and everyone can leave the show saying that they participated in the show,” he said, adding that when a magician uses people who audience members know, they know that it wasn’t a set up.

But for Spencers, it isn’t just about the tricks. With their Healing of Magic and Hocus Focus programs, they help patients going through physical therapy and those with learning disorders, respectively.

“It’s much easier to engage in therapy when that therapy is fun,” said Kevin. He would know, having gone through therapy himself a few years ago.

“We have 40-50 simple magic tricks that help patients reach specific therapy goals, and they’re done with all the same moves that traditional practices have,” he said. This program has been put in place at over 2500 hospitals and rehab centers, as well as at the University of Alabama where Kevin is an assistant occupational therapy professor.

How many times have you seen a magician who teaches at a university? Come over on Sunday and you can say you have!

Tech Tuesday: The Most Elusive Man In The World.

But you can call him Dean.

Dean has been the sound guru at Chandler Center for the Arts for the last 15 years, but he started out in a much different place.

“I went to school to be a studio engineer, moved to Phoenix to find work and kind of fell into live sound,” he said, adding that it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with it. He got his start by mixing bands at a local blues bar or $20 and the occasional sandwich (which is also how I got my start in journalism/PR/social media, by the way) and eventually landed here.

“Working in a studio, you put in long hours, and with live, it’s always something different.  And my favorite part of working here (CCA) is there are all kinds of events, unlike other venues,” he said. 

‘”I like the variety, there’s desk work, running the stage, maintenance and repair, so my days are broken up and keeps the job from getting too arduous.”

The hardest part of his job, though, was getting started.

“Sometimes when you first start, you feel like you’re getting snubbed, but if you stay dedicated, you’ll find something,” he said. His advice to sound techs trying to break into the world?

“Perservere and stay dedicated. Go to tiny places that don’t really have a sound guy, or help out a friend’s band by mixing sound,” he said, because a gig that can only pay for your gas and maybe your dinner could be what opens the door for your next job.

If you would like to see him in action, he’s going to be doing sound demos April 27 and 28, so come down and say hi!

Monday Mashup: Street Beat, Hotel California and Spencers Theatre of Illusion

With Street Beat here this past weekend, the band nerd* in me was in heaven. The best way I can describe it for someone who missed it this weekend, was that you got two shows for one. It was Stomp meets Blue Man Group with less face paint and more dreadlocks flying around (watch the video, you’ll see what I mean).  Before you watch it though, make sure your speaker volume is set at something reasonable.  I don’t want comments about how watching the video made you lose your hearing for a day.

Two videos this week? Hot Dog! This one is more about the dance aspect of Street Beat, which is awesome in its own right.

Want to know something funny? Everyone who owns a car in my family has at least one Eagles CD in their glove compartment, myself included (no shame.) That’s why I’m glad I’ll be around for Hotel California this weekend. They’re a tribute band that doesn’t sound like one, and they use all band members to create their sound, just like the Eagles did. This is one of CCA’s last shows of the season, and it really is a case of saving the best for last.


Not in the mood for music, but still want to come down for something to do? We also have Spencers Theatre of Illusion making a stop here on Sunday afternoon, and this isn’t your average magic show. People from the audience take part in all aspects of the show, so make sure you check them out and maybe you can be a part of it! Although if the Spencers make you disappear, can you tell me where they send you? I’ve always been curious about that.

*I mean no disrespect, but if you could have seen me in high school, you would agree.  For four years, I lived and breathed marching band. I spent every spare moment in the band room, walked in step around campus, conducted music in my truck and found the expression “tooting your horn” to be especially hilarious.

Oh who am I kidding, I still do.