Variedades Brings "The Desert" to The Echo

Rub?®n Mart?¡nez' performance salon to focus on the immensity, beauty, and fearsomeness of the desert, Nov. 12

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: November 7, 2011

Variedades Brings "The Desert" to The Echo

The fourth installment of VARIEDADES, the regular "performance salon" hosted by author and performer Rub?®n Mart?¡nez at the famous Echo club in Echo Park, will focus on an expansive theme: the Desert, in all its immensity, beauty, and fearsomeness.

An eclectic bill of artists will render the "land of little rain" as desert scribe Mary Austin once called it, with music, spoken word, comedy, performance art and even a "performance lecture" by a leading theologian. The result will be a dramatic and poignant portrait of a place where Mexican migrants cross a searing land, monks seek spiritual purity, soldiers wage battle and students stage revolution the many deserts within the desert.

The show features legendary alternative folk figure Victoria Williams (founder of Sweet Relief), internationally recognized performance artist Elia Arce, comedian/playwright/activist Richard Montoya of Culture Clash, and author and Loyola Marymount University theologian Douglas Burton-Christie. The show pays special tribute to the powerful art scene that's taken root in in recent years in Joshua Tree--a Mojave desert destination long popular with Angelenos.

Angelenos are certainly obsessed with the desert. Sometimes we even say that we live in it. (We don't--you have to cross over the mountains to get to it.) It is certainly our escape-landscape, a screen upon which to project all kinds of desires and fears, and a real, physical place to inhabit. (In the 1990s and first decade of the new millennium, the desert West saw the fastest population growth of any region in the country.)

As long as people have been traveling to the desert, artists have been representing it. The desert is a recurring character in both the Old and New Testaments. It is the setting for the American passion play of the Western. These days it is often the mise-en-sc?¿ne for narco noir and neo-nativist politics--Arizona's SB 1070, an electrified "border wall."

VARIEDADES v.4 will approach this vast, contradictory space the same way we've approached our previous themes (migration, the drug war, anarchy): with artists of different genres and generations bringing passion and humor, pathos and spectacle to illuminate our theme.

VARIEDADES is inspired by the Mexican vaudeville shows in 1920s Los Angeles in which Mart?¡nez's grandparents were regular performers.

The series is made possible by a generous grant from the Material World Foundation (http://www.georgeharrison.com/mwf/main.html) and Liz Garo and The Echo.


Victoria Williams, a brilliant and idiosyncratic songwriter and musician, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and for several years has made her home in the Mojave desert village of Joshua Tree, California. She is the founder of Sweet Relief, a fund that provides assistance to musicians struggling to make ends meet while facing illness. She has played with, and has had her music recorded by, a veritable who's who of American pop--Neil Young, Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, Lucinda Williams.

Elia Arce is an international artist working in a wide variety of media, including video installation, performance art, experimental theater, writing, photo, video and sculptural performance. She is a 2010 Fulbright Fellow and winner of the 2010 American Masterpiece Award. Arce is a dual citizen of Costa Rica and the U.S. Arce lived in Joshua Tree for several years and produced several performances based on her experiences in the desert.

Josh Kun is a writer, music critic, and professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, where he directs The Popular Music Project at the Norman Lear Center. He has written about the various meanings of the desert of Palm Springs, where his grandparents spent their retirement years.

Ted Quinn is an artist, musician and cultural activist, as profiled in the PBS documentary "Nowhere Now: the Ballad of Joshua Tree." He is also the host of the Local Music Showcase on Z107.7 FM in Joshua Tree. A longtime collaboration with Fred Drake, founder of the legendary Joshua Tree recording studio, Rancho de la Luna, continued until Drake's death in 2002, when Quinn organized the posthumous release of Drake's The Sky Party. In addition to numerous solo albums, his work appears on (Queens of the Stone Age) Josh Homme's "Desert Sessions 5 & 6."

Angela Garcia is assistant professor of anthropology at Stanford University and the author of The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande, set on the spectacularly beautiful high-desert landscape of northern New Mexico, which also happens to be the site of the most devastating epidemic of heroin addiction in the country. She is a native of Albuquerque.

John Pirozzi is a cintematographer-director-producer. He is the creator of numerous music videos for bands such as Calexico, Queens of the Stone Age, and Vic Chesnutt. His feature-length documentary Sleepwalking Through the Mekong follows L.A. band Dengue Fever on their first trip to Cambodia. A desert rat from the East Coast, John befriended and collaborated with many of the celebrated early figures of the Joshua Tree music scene--among them Victoria Williams and Ted Quinn.

Joe "City" Garcia, guitarist and songwriter, is a native of New Mexico and weaver of Latin, spiritual and r&b styles. He has also collaborated with many artists in different disciplines, from performance artist Elia Arce to dancer Victoria Marks. He is the host of the Urban Desert Cabaret series at the Pig 'n' Whistle club in Hollywood.

Playwright/poet Richard Montoya is author of Water & Power, Palestine New Mexico, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose and The River. He is a founding member of the performance trio Culture Clash, which has been creating works for the national stage since 1984. He is committed to the dark and hilarious currents locked in the flotsam of America's margins and border regions. Tea Baggers, Cartels, Militias and Taco Zonistas beware.

Douglas Burton-Christie, known to his friends and colleagues as a "crunchy latter-day
monk," has been exploring the world of desert monasticism, ancient and modern, for over 25 years. He is the author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism. A professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University, he has spent extended time living with monastic communities in the deserts of California, Wales, France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. But he is not a monk. He lives in the desert of Los Angeles with his wife and five children.

A native of Los Angeles and the son and grandson of immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador, Rub?®n Mart?¡nez holds Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University, and is an artist in residence at Stanford University's Institute for Diversity in the Arts. An author and a veteran journalist, he won an Emmy Award for his work in public television. As a musician, he has collaborated with the likes of The Roches, Los Illegals, Ersi Arvizu, and Marisoul Hernandez.

Mart?¡nez del R?¡o, the VARIEDADES house band, features Rub?®n Mart?¡nez and his longtime collaborator guitarist Joe "City" Garc?¡a. The group is rounded out by veteran accordeonist Dennis Gurwell and two younger musicians, Juan P?®rez on bass and Francisco Huete on percussion, who between them have played with some of the most creative Latin acts in Los Angeles (Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Quetzal).

A writer and director for theater and film, Colin Campbell was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film, Seraglio. His play, Golden Prospects was nominated for five LA Weekly awards and was Critic's Pick in TimeOut NY, LA Times and LA Weekly. He is currently in post-production on his third feature film, Guido, starring Alki David, Billy Zane, Armand Assante, Gary Busey and Lupe Ontiveros.

NOV. 12, 5:00 PM, $10
The Echo
1822 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Info: 213-413-8200, http://www.attheecho.com

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