Diverse items coalesce at Small Engine
It sounds like a setup for a joke: Two Gypsies and a newspaperman walk into a bar …
Only in this case, it’s not a bar but the subterranean Small Engine Gallery in a venerable Burque neighborhood. In what must be his third or fourth show space in as many years, noise/experimental musician and educator Raven Chacon hosts outsider events in a building that, yes, was once a small engine repair shop. In fact, if you have a hard time locating the venue, just look for the storefront that still says “Nick’s.” The gallery’s audience capacity is small, and since it’s on the edge of a residential area, parking is tight. So show up early, respect the neighbors and be prepared to squeeze inside.
And squeeze you will, because the celebrated A Hawk & A Hacksaw always draws a dedicated crowd. Zinester Mike Smith will read ... ummm … the headlines. This isn’t making much sense yet, is it? Fine, because the news doesn’t always make sense. Therein lies the inspiration for this multifaceted event.
Smith is a quietly brilliant writer. A wry sense of humor permeates his work, mostly to be found in photocopy zine form (see Wires! Quarterly and Notes from a Slowly Dying Suburbanite). His latest project (launched in early 2012) is the modestly titled New Mexico News, which began its life as a Twitter feed. That microblog’s limited word count is the perfect spot for his take on the news, inspired by Félix Fénéon who worked as a newspaperman in the early 20th century. He wrote fait divers, or diverse items, explains Smith. “These little two-to-three-line long news summaries of 1906 France; little glimpses of larger stories distilled to their barest essences—little haiku-like news gems.” In this information-inundated age, the fait divers format is a nice and decidedly haunting antidote.
Consider these lyrical items from the News:
“Rain used to fall on the Middle Rio Grande Valley and find whatever routes down to the river. And it's doing that now, the streets in flood.”
“Fifteen, he drank, in Carlsbad. Maybe it was like music after years of silence. Or like silence after years of noise. Or maybe it was gross.”
“A girl, 3, waded too near a boat in Elephant Butte Lake, and its propeller killed her. Later, once the water settled, there were fireworks.”
After his first week of tweets, Smith was contacted by musician Jeremy Barnes about collecting each month’s items into a newspaper format. With Louis Schalk, designer of A Hawk & A Hacksaw’s album covers, Barnes laid out the format of the print News, a copy of which will be given away with each paid admission. The money collected from the show will go toward printing the third issue. Echoing a musical taste steeped in tradition, Barnes adds his own section to the paper, Old New Mexico News, faits divers based on news items from 100 years ago.
With rotating members, multi-instrumentalist Barnes (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel and Bablicon) formed A Hawk & A Hacksaw that plays music in the Eastern European, Turkish and Balkan folk traditions. In 2005, violinist Heather Trost left Albuquerque band FOMA (cellist Ariel Muniz, drummer Heath Dauberman and frontman Edward Burch) and became Barnes’ partner in life and in the group. The pair then spent two years in Budapest, forming collaborations with Romanian and Hungarian musicians and recording three follow up albums to Barnes’ original 2002 release. In 2010, the duo founded L.M. Dupli-cation Records for their own work and that of folk-based musicians.
All of this adds up to a show that is not your average gig. It’s fitting since neither the News nor Small Engine Gallery are average endeavors. If you too are feeling un-average, this is the late summer show to see. Me, I’m still trying to come up with a punch line to the Gypsy/newspaperman joke.
A Hawk & A Hacksaw
with Drake Hardin and Mike Smith
Sunday, Aug. 26, 6 p.m.
Small Engine Gallery
1413 Fourth Street SW
Admission: $5, all-ages