Live Music, Live Art event set at Crash Music

Mike Easterling
Guitarist Danny Quinlan performs a solo during a recent Afrobeatniks gig.

FARMINGTON – The creation of visual art isn’t normally regarded as a spectator sport, much less something that is set to the soundtrack of a live band, but that’s exactly what will be on tap this weekend when Crash Music in Aztec presents the Live Music, Live Art event with the Afrobeatniks and six local artists.

While the band is performing its brand of dance music that combines West African, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz influences, Meredith Rose, Beth McClure, Dan Groth, Tirzah Camacho, Michael Gautier and Crystal Hazen will be offering live art demonstrations, not only blurring the line between visual and auditory creativity, but also the one between artist and audience.

As unusual as it sounds, it won’t be an entirely foreign experience to some of the participants. Afrobeatniks drummer and percussionist Bradley Hoessle said his group has performed with dancers before and welcomes opportunities to explore new forms of creativity.

“With our music, it’s kind of a collaboration of efforts,” he said last week from his home in Mancos, Colo. “We get our energy from each other and from lifting the energy of the crowd.”

Rather than thinking of the live art demonstrations as something that will distract the attention of the audience, Hoessle is eager to see how that change in dynamics impacts his band’s connection with listeners.

“Oh, I think it’ll be a big plus,” he said.

The Afrobeatniks perform this weekend at Crash Music in Aztec.

The Afrobeatniks are a trio — Hoessle is joined by guitarist Danny Quinlan and bassist Alexii Carrey — that is joined by a revolving group of other local musicians for its performances, frequently horn players. The group will perform as a five-piece outfit for this show, when it is joined by Easton Stuard of Hello Dollface on flute and keyboards, and Dean Mullen will play congas, djembe and percussion.

While the Afrobeatniks’ lineup is flexible, Hoessle said the inspiration for the band’s music remains steady from gig to gig — the popular, folkloric and spiritual music of Africa. Hoessle is so serious about understanding those styles that he recently returned from a five-week trip to Guinea, West Africa, where he studied traditional drumming and dance. The part of the trip that made the biggest impression on him, he said, was the way music could be heard in the background of almost every experience, providing a soundtrack for a walk through a market, a wedding, a baby-naming ceremony, a party or a dance.

Hoessle and fellow Coloradoans Quinlan and Carrey share a passion for Afro-Cuban, Latin jazz and calypso music, so he said it didn’t take long for them to find and identify each other as musical soul mates. But when they began developing their material and playing live gigs, Hoessle said they quickly realized it would be difficult to achieve the kind of big sound they wanted just as a trio. That’s when they began testing the boundaries of what they were doing by performing with other local musicians.

But that approach requires a lot of trial and error, Hoessle said.

“It’s hard to find people with the sensibilities of rhythm and melody that we like,” he said, explaining that many of the local players the group has jammed with have a tendency to fall back into Westernized funk and jazz grooves that don’t fit seamlessly into what the core trio of the group is doing.

The band has tried to distance itself from the popular music pack in southwest Colorado, he said, where rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk and especially bluegrass dominate the local scene. Still, Hoessle insisted that the last thing the Afrobeatniks are trying to do is perform an inaccessible brand of music. In fact, he said, audience reaction plays an integral role in what the Afrobeatniks do.

“As a drummer, I’m always exploring rhythm and, hopefully, inspiring people to dance,” he said. “It’s a two-way street. I’m trying to get some energy from the crowd so I can give something back to them.”

The Afrobeatniks draw on West African, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz styles in their dance music.

Interacting with an audience is something Aztec painter Tirzah Camacho has had some experience with, as well, as she was one of the founders of a Durango, Colo., public studio where visitors were free to stop in and observe the artists at work. She’s also conducted a few live art demonstrations in bars where live music was being played, so it’s unlikely she’ll encounter anything at this event she’s hasn’t already faced.

One of the keys to make an experience like this a success, she said, is being able to deal with the distractions.

“You don’t have the ability to focus as much as you would in your studio alone, but the fun part is having people with you in the middle of your process,” she said.

Camacho said one of the things she enjoyed when visitors stopped by the public studio in Durango to watch her work was asking someone to take a seat. She would then knock out a quick portrait of that individual, often to his or her delight.

“That was fairly successful,” she said. “That sense of immediacy adds to what you’re doing.”

Camacho, who also works in mixed media and carving, said she hasn’t decided what project she’ll work on during the show, explaining that it would be highly unlikely she’d be able to start and finish a piece over the duration of the show. She said she was leaning toward starting a piece in her studio and finishing it at Crash Music in front of the audience.

She said she’s expecting an entertaining evening at this weekend’s event.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” she said, adding that she finds attempts to shake up the normal creative process a healthy and nourishing thing.

The idea of creating art in front of an audience makes Durango painter Meredith Rose, who has never done it before, a little nervous. At the same time, she’s looking forward to the experience and already has a plan for the evening.

“I’ll probably bring my large easel and finish the piece I’m working on right now,” she said, describing the oil-on-linen work as a painting of the Sistine Chapel placed in a forest setting with gnomes around it.

Given her eclectic subject matter, it comes as little surprise that Rose said she’s looking forward to working in a nontraditional setting.

“This is great,” she said. “I really like the more alternative venues, the alternative shows in alternative spaces. I like reaching a wider audience than just a gallery type of art show.”

She’s not sure what to expect in terms of how the surroundings will impact her creative process, given the fact that she said she typically works very quickly and very expressively.

“It’ll be distracting if people keep asking me questions,” she said, giggling. “Maybe I should bring my headphones. I guess it depends on how participatory people are.”

Painting in a studio is a solitary process that doesn’t feature the distractions of an audience and a live band, she said, but Rose joins Camacho and Hoessle in expressing curiosity about how the energy is different.

“It’ll be interesting, probably off-the-wall different,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.


If you go

What: Live Music, Live Art with the Afrobeatniks and Meredith Rose, Beth McClure, Dan Groth, Tirzah Camacho, Michael Gautier and Crystal Hazen

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19

Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec

Tickets: $15 at

For more information: Call 505-427-6748