I interviewed Thao Nguyen way back in Giant Robot 44, after she signed to Kill Rock Stars but before she released any albums on the fabled Olympia label. She had a cool story to tell, unabashedly citing the influence of the Lilith Fair movement to leave her family’s laundromat in Virginia, move to San Francisco, and make music to raise spirits, enlighten minds, and change the world–and maybe shake some asses in the process. Since then, she went on to form a band (The Get Down Stay Down), forge a fruitful partnership with Mirah, and tour with the Portland Cello Project. In the midst of all that, I somehow convinced her to contribute a series of articles to Giant Robot (issues 57-59 or so) and the coolness of that really hit me when I heard her on PRI this week.
So I was stoked to catch the record-release show for her newest release with The Get Down Stay Down at Fingerprints Music in Long Beach last week. We The Common seamlessly empowers her folkie roots with heavy production, at times with nearly hip-hop beats and keyboard flourishes, yet retains her natural and populist vibe perfectly. This was the first time for the group to play new songs such as “City” and “Age of Ice” and they sounded great. Even better was getting to introduce Eloise to Thao. I hope to catch up with her again when she hits the road for a proper string of shows in the spring. So should you.
To most, Giant Robot Biennale 3 at JANM is simply the biggest, best group show that an indie artist can be associated with. It isn’t very often that pop-rooted, independent fine artists (Asian or not) are given a top-shelf venue to gather and shine. Eric does a rad job of cultivating this scene, and has built up a real family of artists in the process. I am really proud to have worked with him on the magazine that has showcased so many of them.
So as the end of publication nears its two year mark, attending the opening felt a lot like a family reunion to me. I hardly get out to Sawtelle these days, and see Eric and the artists pretty rarely. So while it was especially cool to see the amazing art on the first day (such as the sculpture by Ako Castuera, above) it was just as rad to see so many people that I have grown close to (like the Big Boss Robot and his family, below).
Okay, it’s not like I knew everyone there. After I answered the person who checked me in that I was with four guests instead of one, she looked annoyed and asked, “Are you an artist?” No, but I quickly took the stickers for my wife Wendy (who designed GR mags 18-68), daughter Eloise, niece Lucia, and cousin visiting from New Zealand and moved on.
Right after the opening remarks by Eric and JANM representatives, Wendy and I saw our friends Susie Ghahremani and Michael Esten. They drove up from San Diego in time for the Chickfactor concert and stuck around to see Susie’s customs in the opening!
Working mostly at home has its benefits. I get to see my daughter way more than a lot of parents and the house is a lot cleaner than when I spent my days at the GR compound. But I do miss companionship–even if it’s just Eric’s cats! In the last week, I actually saw a lot of people, though. If you read your copies of Giant Robot magazine carefully, you’ll know who some of them are. (Some are more obscure than others.) Quiz time:
a. Maker of Drunken Master comic and zine, prints, fine art, and more
b. MMA fighter/bouncer
c. Longtime Giant Robot ad guy who kicked my ass in the “Fight Back!” feature
d. Writer of the blind massage travel piece from Thailand
e. All of the above
a. Co-founder and publisher or GR mag/gold glove softball player and sometimes lead-off hitter
b. Janitor, busboy at GR shops and gr/eats
c. Indie filmmaker and punk rock photographer
d. Slave of two cats and an empire
e. All of the above