Cool off with culture in downtown Chandler

IMG_1807Arizonans don’t have to travel far to take advantage of cool, cultural offerings. Five air-conditioned locations in downtown Chandler offer respite from the heat and provide satisfaction for summertime cultural cravings — music, theater, art, film and literature.

At Chandler Center for the Arts, free summer concert performances start Friday Aug. 2 with the Bad Cactus Brass Band at 7 p.m. Other performances are jazz musician Dmitri Matheny on Aug. 16, a blend of flamenco and mariachi — “FlaMEXico!” on Aug. 23, and a music variety show for youth, “Plugged In” on Aug. 24. Tip: Since these shows are free and seating is first-come, first-served, you may want to get there when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Allow extra time to check out the center’s gallery.

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Xico Arte y Cultura Galeria is an art gallery, shop and studio dedicated to traditional arts and crafts by Native American and Latino cultures. Find jewelry, paintings, multimedia art, folk arts and crafts at the shop, located on the west side of A.J. Chandler Park. Many of the items carry colorful Dia de los Muertos themes. Tip: Check this non-profit organization’s Facebook page for upcoming special exhibits and artist demonstrations. Open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

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Stop by the versatile Vision Gallery and view special exhibits: “Decision Portraits by Susan Lenz” until July 26 or “Fine Art Photography by David Miller” beginning Aug. 2. About 300 regional artists’ works are on a rotating display. Don’t miss the popular “Art-O-Mat” — itself a mini art gallery, a showcase of mini art. It’s really a converted cigarette machine. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tip: Sign up for the gallery newsletter and you’ll get first news about special exhibitions and artists’ opening night receptions.

Cool off with a “hot” read from Chandler Public Library’s Friends of the Library summer book sale. Buy Library discard books at 4 for $1 through the month of July! And if you stop by on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 6, you can watch a showing of one of the flicks in the Get Reel Documentary Film Series hosted by the Library in partnership with Public Television’s Point of View series. Tip: Don’t forget your library card to check out a Cultural Pass for free local museum visits.

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Gangplank, downtown Chandler’s collaborative workspace, comes alive with arts, crafts and music as the indoor location of the Downtown Chandler Art Walk on third Fridays during the summer months. Desks and computers make way for displays of sculpture, photography, painting, ceramics and jewelry from 6 to 10 p.m. So if you don’t have plans yet for this Friday, July 19: Come and enjoy music by Chris Buzan and a glass of wine while you stroll through the exhibits at Gangplank, located at 260 S. Arizona Ave. Learn more about Gangplank and its Wednesday brownbag series talks, health initiatives, community classes, business workshops by visiting the website or signing up for the weekly newsletter. Tip: Park in the city parking garage directly across the street, on the east side of Arizona Avenue. (Entrance to the garage is on its east side — off of Washington Street. It’s No. 10 on this handy downtown Chandler parking map.)

Combine any of these “artsy” venue visits with dinner at one of downtown Chandler’s cool restaurants, and you have the makings of a masterpiece — a memorable night out on the town.

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Music Instrument Museum deserves (at least one) encore appearance

Suspended instruments in the Music Instrument Museum's main staircase foyer

Suspended instruments in the Music Instrument Museum’s main staircase foyer

 

"Electric acoustic" guitar from South Africa at the Music Instrument Museum

“Electric acoustic” guitar from South Africa at the Music Instrument Museum

 

Visitors use wireless headphones to hear streamed music samples at exhibits

Visitors use wireless headphones to hear streamed music samples at exhibits

Videos demonstrate instrument performances

Videos demonstrate instrument performances

One of my favorite exhibits, homage to Adolphe Sax

One of my favorite exhibits, homage to Adolphe Sax

The Music Instrument Museum is “number one” among Phoenix area museum attractions on Tripadvisor.com. In December I had the opportunity to find out why. It’s like a Disneyland for music lovers; one could easily spend the entire day here, and still wanting more.  I suppose if you absolutely hate music, maybe one day is enough.  It’s not merely a museum for old folk instruments; and it’s certainly not just all about music. It’s more about global cultures and all forms of expression, communication – the total human experience. During our recent visit, I immediately began making notes how my next visit could be enhanced. Here are some things to know before you go:

1. Go early. Naturally if you haven’t been to the MIM yet, you’ll just have to trust me: Time will pass very quickly. I’d recommend getting there soon after the 9 a.m. opening and be prepared to spend a good chunk of the day.  We arrived shortly after 10 a.m. on a Monday morning and before we realized what was happening, we had already spent three hours and we were still in the first geographic exhibit room.

2. Visit on a weekday. One drawback about visiting the MIM when schools are in session is you may be competing with field trip tours for quality listening space. You may want to steer clear of the school groups as you move about the exhibits. However, on the day we visited, the loud school groups were gone by lunchtime and we virtually had the entire second floor to ourselves. I found this advantageous for taking photos (non-flash) of the exhibits or spending extra time listening to various recordings. If a large family or school group is concentrated on one exhibit, simply move to another then circle back later.

3. Consider bringing your own wireless headphones. I didn’t really have any problems with the headphones given to me at the counter, but I had wished I had a pair to better cancel out extraneous, external noise. Sometimes it is a bit hard to find the “hotspot” of the streaming music at particular exhibits, and several times I was picking up streams from other nearby exhibits.  I thought it may be a better listening experience to have premium equipment. But of course, the experience is only as good as the recording, in most cases.

4. Have lunch in the cafeteria. This is a special treat in itself. Much of the menu comes from local farms and food sources.  Don’t miss this! Plan to take a leisurely lunch break and enjoy farm fresh and deliciously prepared menu items. Even the beer and wine are local. Kick back and enjoy the bright and airy lunchroom. You will need a lengthy lunch break to give your eyes, ears and feet a well-deserved rest.  Portions are fairly large: we split a sandwich, salad and dessert.

5. Plan your self-guided tour.  Next time we’ll know this: map out your route around the rooms before embarking the exhibition expedition. Each of the geographic galleries has its own merit. Because we started chronologically through Africa, the Middle East and Asia, by the time we got to America, we were already tired and hungry.  On our next visit, I think we’ll start in Europe and North America with popular, contemporary music, then work our way back through time.

6. Don’t miss the special galleries. No matter where you start your tour of MIM, don’t forget the first floor galleries, including a “hands-on” experience gallery where you can pound on drums and pluck harp strings; a rotating gallery featuring a famous musical artist’s life and work; and a special exhibition gallery for traveling exhibits.

7. Watch instruments being restored and preserved. In the conservation lab, visitors can watch through a window as technicians preserve, restore and repair instruments for display.

8. Check the concert calendar. Because we visited during the Christmas season, the calendar included holiday music. These evening and matinee performances are fee extra, but well worth consideration. For example, Grammy winning composer-songwriter Jimmy Webb is in the house this week.

9. Consider leaving the toddlers at Grandma’s house. Although there are several instruments children can try playing in the Experience Gallery, most exhibits would simply not appeal to children younger than elementary reading age. I think most toddlers would simply be bored by visiting MIM. I’d recommend bringing them along when they are old enough to appreciate the listening and learning about music.

10. Know at least one more visit is required. Even after six hours, we still didn’t see it all, but we acknowledged that with the traveling and rotating exhibits, some instruments being repaired, there was no possible way to see everything. Just knowing that the geographical galleries were still being filled and expanded prompted us to anticipate our next visit to the Music Instrument Museum.  There’s so much happening here, you’ll want to sign up for its newsletter and announcements, or even consider becoming a donor or volunteer.

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Planning a vacation? Don’t forget the music!

Don't forget to pack the travel tunes on your next trip

Travel and music: Two of my passions. One almost always makes me think about the other. When I pack for a trip, before I think about clothes,  I think about what music I will bring. There’s too much about the entire subject of travel tunes, road trip music, vacation songs, to cover in one blog. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

We have music for: leaving home, coming home, moving or staying. We have music for trucking, biking, hiking, riding, driving, boating and flying. There are long lonesome highway songs for solo trips or happy sing-along songs for family vacations.

There are songs about cross-country explorations, exotic destinations and global nations. Many songs have been recorded about boats, RVs, trains, planes and automobiles. We use music for our highways and byways, toll roads and freeways, back roads and interstates.

Out of state visitors bring travel tunes about Arizona. What’s the first song that comes to mind when you think of Arizona road trips? Is it Take It Easy from the Eagles? By the Time I Get to Phoenix from Glen Campbell? Several songs are entitled, “Arizona” – most popular are those from Mark Lindsay, Kings of Leon and The Scorpions. Hundreds of popular songs give a simple reference Arizona — a lot about Tucson: “…take me down to Tucson…” or “…all roads lead back to Tucson…”

Great vacation memories can be created with music. It’s another form of souvenir. Those slack key guitar tunes bring back images of Hawaii. Reggae, ska and calypso remind me of Caribbean islands. Many of us have a loaded up a separate playlist for each aspect of traveling – for soaking rays on the beach, sitting around the campfire or driving along desolate highways. Travel songs have the ability to prompt a personal memory. For instance, whenever I hear Allman Brothers: Jessica, I’m always reminded of driving through northwestern Ohio at sunrise, on my way from home back to college. Another Allman Brothers song: Little Martha, makes me think of a sunset drive along a stretch of State Route 288 between Young and Globe.

Road-trip music also has a practical side. It can keep us awake if we’re getting sleepy. In the days before Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy and Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, we’d have to turn up the volume on the radio, 8-track, cassette tape or CD player. Or sing — yikes! We’d have to pop in a song to energize us while that truck stop coffee was still taking effect. Songs like Golden Earring’s Radar Love have kept many night drivers alert. What worked for me: Poco’s Grand Junction, Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway or Little Feat’s Let It Roll. They create a high energy highway driving mood.

When traveling to my favorite weekend getaway spots, I like to compile songs about the journeys and the destinations: Songs from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers for Puerto Penasco. Mark Mulligan’s music for San Carlos. Then I mix in some Mariachi and traditional Mexican music to enjoy while I’m there. For beach escapes, I combine indigenous island musical styles and artists with popular ex-pat, ‘trop rock’ or ‘island country’ anthems.

Hundreds of music databases containing thousands of songs with dozens of key words are there for the exploring. You can come up with your favorite travel tunes playlists. Check websites and blogs for lists of music. Look at others’ compilations on iTunes or Spotify. One website has 885 road trip songs to review.

Great music makes miles pass quickly

 

Here are some of my favorite travel tunes — they’re recordings that make me think of traveling, destinations, or its music I just like to listen to while driving down the road.

Americano – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Back to the Island – Leon Russell

Blood Pressure – Mute Math

Blue Boat Home – Peter Mayer

Boats – Kenny Chesney

Calamity Song – The Decemberists

The Coast – Court Yard Hounds

Counterclockwise – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Dig a Little Deeper – Peter Bjorn

Eastern Standard Time – Skatalites

El Rayo-X – David Lindley

Evangelina – Hoyt Axton

Grand Junction – Poco

Hana – Ozzie Kotani

Heaven or the Highway out of Town – Refreshments

Hitchin a Ride – Green Day

Ho Hey – Lumineers

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Last Ride In – Green Day

Little Martha – Allman Brothers

Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting

Manana – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Mercury Blues – David Lindley

Olinda Road – Hapa

Place in the Sun – Darden Smith

Roam – B52s

Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow

Texas Tango — David Lindley

These Roads Don’t Move – Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

Toes – Zac Brown Band

Up Up Up – Givers

Welcome to Paradise – Green Day

What I Got – Sublime

You are a Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie

Readers: what’s on your road trip playlist? Or your flight mix? Please use the comment section below. I’m always looking for new music for traveling!

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