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Brian Posehn hates his only tattoo

In Journalism, Other on April 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Brian Posehn lost his tattoo virginity at the tender age of 41.

We talked about popping his ink cherry and other things for this piece in the Alligator. (He’s coming to Gainesville April 13!)

But he said some funny things that I wasn’t able to squeeze into the story, so here is the interview Q & A.

Brian Posehn

Brian Posehn (Photo courtesy of Generate)

Talk about the title for your latest album, Fart & Weiner Jokes.
Brian Posehn: You know it was sort of a joke. But I do indeed have a lot of fart and weiner jokes. It was also kind of me making fun of myself, “Lower your expectations, it’s time for the  fart and weenier jokes.” I like to think I do more. It’s just a little self-deprecating jab at myself.

The fact that I’m on a heavy metal label [Relapse Records], I wanted the cover to reflect and have it look like an old-time label album but then with this big goofy joke.

And then having it on radio and making the deejays say Fart and Weiner jokes was a lot of fun for me.

What’s the difference between playing a comedy club and a rock venue?
BP: Nobody goes to a rock club to see comedy by mistake. Even though I’m pretty established, when I play comedy clubs, I still have people who don’t know what they’re in for.

Sometimes I’ll be in Dallas, and there will a 60-year-old conservative lady with her arms crossed saying to her husband, “Is this guy going to talk about fart jokes and his penis the whole time?”

Rock venues are more suited for younger fans. People who don’t want to have to pay a lot. It’s a cheaper night out.

Do you think your jokes are universal or pretty specialized to an audience?
BP: Definitely not [specialized to one audience]. But those people are going to like it on another level. I purposely don’t just dwell on heavy metal. There’s the Slayer joke.

But I feel like I hold people’s hands. Because I don’t want to lose anybody. But on the other hand, you will appreciate it another layer if you do like metal. I think I walk people totally through it.

Can you describe to me a fan who you have seen or met who you never in a million years would have thought would be a fan of yours?

BP: There are people that hit that age range [60s] and love the dirty stuff. Every once in a a while, I’ll look out and see an older woman when I look out there. And then I watch her a couple minutes later, and she is laughing harder than anyone out there.

And the strange thing is the multi-generation thing. Somebody your age [20s] comes out and their parents like it too. I’m like, “I hope that was comfortable listening to that together.”

Do you play metal on a regular basis?

BP: I was right before you called me. Pretty much every day. I listen to other stuff. I’m not just a metal guy. But I’ve always just been obsessed with music. I listen to it morning and night and always in my car.

Occasionally I deviate form the metal. All the stuff I grew up on I like. Rap. Rock. But I’m more of a metal head than anything.

I’ve never played an instrument. I tried and it just didn’t happen.

But I’ve loved [music] since grammar school. Kiss at 9 years old and then AC/DC and Van Halen and then just went heavier and heavier.

My last day job was working at a record store. I wanted to be a metal journalist and then dropped out of journalism. But I have had a lot of writing jobs.

What’s your favorite part about playing a college town?

BP: The kids. I mean, I feel like I do better in those places. There are smart kids, and even though I’m 20 years older than them, I feel like I still have the same interests. Anybody who likes to have a beer and play video games I have a lot in common with.

What do you do about people who are “more metal than you”?

BP: That’s where the song came from. It was me commenting on a thing that I’ve noticed since I was young. Being into Metallica before anyone who was into Metallica and there was a friend of mine in my neighborhood. And you’re already calling me a sellout?

I feel like I sit in the dark [because there are comparatively few huge metal fans] and with some guys you have this instant bond and then some guys just try to test you. Anyone who has spent half of their life listening to metal.

The funny thing is people will listen to that song and not get it. They’ll say, “That song is not even metal.” I’m just like, “Oh god, you don’t even get it.”

You been compared to Snuffalupagus. How accurate do you feel that is?

BP: I love that. That’s the thing I talk about in my act. Maybe not on this record. I have, you know, compared myself to a Muppet. I do the voice. I know when I do the angry voice it sounds like a lot of Jim Henson voices.

When I was younger I kind of compared myself to Eeyore.

My wife would laugh if she heard you say that I am like Snuffalupagus. That is a big part of my persona where it’s just you know lovable and kind of beaten down.

Do you have any tattoos?

BP: A horrible one. I waited till I was 41 to get my first tattoo, I think. It was total peer pressure and being completely hammered with a bunch of my friends. We all got the same thing and now I have this horrible thing on my middle finger. I wear a ring because I hate it so much.

I went home to wife and said, “Honey, I did something stupid?” And she’s all, “Did you sleep with a stripper?” “No, I got a tattoo.” “Oh, good.”

It’s 666, the sign of the devil. It’s so stupid! It’s sort of a reference to the kid in The Omen and Iron Maiden. I hang with out a bunch of idiots so it was someone else’s idea. They are all covered in tattoos so it didn’t matter to them. But I had my virgin skin.

I drive by a laser removal place every day and think about getting it removed.

UF grad’s piano bar offers musical variety

In Journalism on February 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Take a step into Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar downtown and enter the world of Billy Joel. And T-Pain. And Garth Brooks.

Brad Heron shares a toast with the crowd at Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar in downtown Gainesville. (Photo by Britt Perkins)

Rockeys, 112 S. Main St., opened New Year’s Eve but is already one of the few bars downtown that can pack in a crowd by 10 p.m. And, unlike other spots in town, variety is not lacking here.

Last Friday, the crowd la, la, la’d along to “Crocodile Rock” and didn’t miss a beat during the transition to “Low (Apple Bottom Jeans).”

Two pianos back-to-back and a drum kit fill the raised stage where crowd requests alone determine the set list Thursday through Saturday. Local live music reigns on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A $6 bid can get your request bumped to the front of the line, but an opposing $7 wager can make sure the first chords of “Party in the U.S.A.” are also the last.

It’s all about interaction at Rockeys. The players banter with one another and are not shy about talking directly to the crowd. And sometimes, they do more than just talk. While on stage, each player has a hand-held spotlight, ready to select volunteers for games and serenades. Recently, Rockeys hosted an impromptu “booty-shaking” contest with participants ages 21 to 61.

Brad Heron, owner and house piano player, said the “ageless” factor where everyone checks their egos at the door is one reason people can have a good time at Rockeys.

After graduating from UF in 2004, Heron toured the U.S. playing professionally, building his repertoire. But Heron, a self-proclaimed diehard Gators fan, said each college town reminded him of his alma mater.

“I missed Gainesville,” he said. “And I had such a good time here, and I was having such a good time in other college towns, I thought, ‘Man, I’d really like to do Gainesville.’”

Heron partnered with Scott Schmailzl, owner of Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar in West Des Moines, Iowa, and longtime friend from the piano circuit.

Tim Buie of Savannah, Ga., also joined Heron in Gainesville as a house player.

Although there are regular appearances, the lineup doesn’t always stay the same.

Every week, a guest player from another town joins the regulars on stage with a different background and different skills, which helps keep things interesting and fresh, Heron said.

After going through “a million” names, Heron said they settled on the combination of the words “rock” and “keys” to brand the new piano bar downtown, but that’s often how people still refer to it.

However, naming was not the biggest challenge people said they would face. The 21-plus, non-smoking requirements, on the other hand, were. But instead of being a problem, Heron said those two factors are what he gets complimented on most, besides the friendliness of the staff.

And as for Heron’s favorite song to play?

“I probably wouldn’t sit in a room by myself and say, ‘Oh, I feel like playing some Lady Gaga right now.’ But in front of a crowd of people that want to hear it, I mean, there’s nothing more fun than Lady Gaga.”

Story in the Independent Florida Alligator on Thursday, Feb 10.

Alissa Walker tackles the questions of a student journalist

In Design, Journalism on February 10, 2011 at 10:30 pm

In my search for footholds of advice in the upward climb of building a career in journalism, I reached out to to one of my favorite journalists Alissa Walker, an L.A.-based writer with passions for design and gelato.

She replied with speed and friendliness and allowed me to ply her with the nuts-and-bolts questions wracking my soon-to-be-graduated mind. Not to be greedy, I’m sharing her answers with you.

Thanks Alissa!

Alissa Walker (Photo by Cicilia Teng)

Q: Many of us students don’t get paid for the pieces we write when we are building up our portfolios. How do you transition to getting paid to write, and how do you figure out how much to charge?

Alissa Walker: That’s a great question, especially since I can’t really remember how I made the transition. I think at first I just wrote for whatever the publication said they would pay me. Every publication is different so you really have to figure out what each piece means to you. Are you going to meet your hero, report on something close to your heart, be exposed to an audience drastically different than your own? Are you going to have fun? These are all the things to consider. Now, of course, I know the exact dollar amounts attached to each of those things and I’ve been able to make my own rules. But back then it was all about experimenting, and sometimes, really messing up!

Q: How do you feel about blogs and social media? What have you found to be the most important or effective practices when it comes to these types of media tools?

AW: Blogs and social media are my best friends. I think that getting the word out about my stories through various outlets is part of the job of being a journalist now. I also think there’s an art to it and it’s just as important as honing your voice. I also like the short-form nature of social media: Twitter and Flickr are two of my favorite ways to tell stories because doesn’t take very long to “publish” something you’re proud of. I also like the ability to be very, very personal in my writing so I look forward to writing on my blog—if that could be my only job I think I’d be really happy. Next I’m launching a Tumblr, just for fun!

Q: What do you do to alleviate the “Holy shit, I need a job RIGHT NOW!” anxiety?

AW: Well, I have regular gigs now with publications so that feeling has largely gone away (only to be replaced by different anxieties!). But I’ve been there and that feeling is pretty awful. I think writing helps, quite honestly, doing a fun essay on your blog that you can share with the world and feel like you’re contributing to society. The other thing to do is just get away from the computer since staring at it will only remind you of money. Take a long walk and you’ll come up with new story ideas that you can pitch.

Q: The temptation to write about everything is strong, but it seems that many employers are seeking someone with a specialty. Sometimes specializing in journalism doesn’t seem to be enough. How do you brand yourself as an expert in certain areas while still remaining able to write about so many different topics?

AW: I think specialization is both very important and a bit overrated. I very early on became “branded” as a design writer which was great for people to remember me for jobs. But now, I think people are more likely to remember you, as a person, and all of your interests, since it’s so easy to get a picture of you from looking at your blog, or Twitter, or Facebook page. A focus is great, but many focuses, or passions, is really smart.

Q: How do you become an expert at something you have an interest in covering but may not have formal training within that field?

AW: Enthusiasm! I am in no way a design expert, or a transit expert, or really even a gelato expert. But I am a highly-qualified nerd in all those areas. Go to every conference and event, ask lots of questions, meet everyone you can. Write about your topic as if its the most important thing to you in the world, and you’re instantly an expert.

Q: How can I can get an internship/job at GOOD magazine? What are skills or qualities do you feel editors are looking for that they may not often find?

AW: We’re currently looking for staff writers and we look for interns at different times during the year. When you apply for any edit job, I’d recommend first and foremost reading the publication—you have no idea how many people just don’t take the time to get to know it. The other piece of advice I’d have is to come to the table with ideas. Have ideas for new columns and areas of coverage that shows you’ve thought critically about the publication. And finally, if you have other strengths like photography or party planning, mention that. We don’t need more writers who cower behind computers. We need people who can get out there and pitch in on any project.

Q: I read in another interview you say you’ve “only” been in L.A. for nine years. Where did you move from? What advice do you have for a brand new transplant to the city? When do you feel you will drop that “only” from your explanation of your time in Los Angeles?

AW: I went to journalism school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then to an advertising school called Portfolio Center in Atlanta. After school I was desperate for a job during the burst of the dot-com bubble, and then took a freelance gig in Sacramento. It was there that I realized I should actually move to a city I liked, and worry about the job later. So I ended up in LA. My advice for transplants (to any city, really) is the same advice I have for myself: Move to a very dense, diverse neighborhood where there are people who are different than yourself, and try ditching the car and walking as many places as you can. As for the “only” nine years, ha! I always joke that when I hit my 10th anniversary I’m going to make buttons that say LAX. Maybe then!

Q: Anything else you would like to say to almost-graduated students embarking on their careers?

AW: Don’t worry too much about job titles or even jobs for that matter. Work on building your own brand, meeting a mentor, and creating a body of work that you’re proud of. The money, and the work, will follow.

Stars still aligned: horoscopes the same, experts say

In Journalism on February 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Social media sites were ablaze last week with outraged updates after news reports said the horoscope we knew and loved was all wrong.

“I am not a Cancer!” one outraged Leo wrote online.

This recent astrological discovery is attributed to Parke Kunkle, astronomy professor at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College and board officer at the Minnesota Planetarium Society. In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kunkle said not only were there actually 13 constellations in the zodiac but also that the dates assigned to each sign were off by about a month.

“I was startled to see it in the news,” said Peter Barnes, assistant scientist of astronomy at UF. “It’s not new at all.”

This isn’t a discovery in the field of astronomy, which is the science that studies celestial bodies.

Nor is it a discovery in the field of astrology, which is the practice of interpreting and predicting information about life based on celestial bodies and their movement.

Astronomers and astrologists acknowledge they have known about these phenomena for some time.

But the primary reason this science doesn’t affect your horoscope is the astrological zodiac is seasonal.

“From the outset, it was clear that the zodiac signs were not meant to be constellations,” said David Cochrane, curriculum director for the Avalon School of Astrology in Gainesville.

According to Cochrane, ancient humans knew about the constellation Ophiuchus, in addition to many other constellations. But, intentionally, they created a system based on 12 signs.

Therefore, the dates of zodiac signs haven’t changed at all. So Capricorn, fear not: You are still the ambitious and responsible character you always were. And Gemini, your talkative duality was never and will never be in question.

This story originally appeared in the Independent Florida Alligator on Thursday, Jan. 27.

Not easy being green? With help, planting made simple

In Journalism on January 26, 2011 at 2:15 am

If you’re looking to revamp your home decor and your attitude, the resolution could be simple: Liven up your living space.

Adding living things to an apartment or dorm makes people feel better, experts say, and it’s no question that they add something personal as well. And if cleaning dirty hamster cages and fish tanks isn’t your thing, try something simple. Get a plant.

”[Plants] can give people a sense of purpose to know there is a living thing depending on them,” said Jeffery Hubbard, UF greenhouse manager.

Even if you’re not an expert gardener, there are only a few simple things to remember. First, Hubbard said, there are certain varieties that are best suited to dorm and apartment life.

“You want to get something that’s been grown in shade and is already adapted to those conditions,” Hubbard said. “The harder to kill the better.”

Hubbard advised going to a small, local nursery to select plants. Generally, he said, employees there will have a deeper knowledge of the needs of each type of plant and can do a better job of matching you with a suitable green friend. In Gainesville, Hubbard recommended Garden Gate Nursery and Harmony Gardens.

After selecting a plant, the next step is finding the right place to put it.

There is a “recipe” for each plant, according to Garry Trafford, who has been selling plants at farmers markets across the state for 20 years, including at the Union Street Farmers Market, which is open every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Gainesville.

Lucky bamboo,  a variety that’s actually not a bamboo at all, flourishes in low-light environments, Trafford said. Bonsai is another plant that’s good for plant keepers who are limited by space constraints, such as students and office workers. Plants that are also easily maintained in small areas include the bromeliad, orchid, ficus, aglaonema, sanseviera (or snake plant), dracena and chamaedorea palms.

Price also makes these “pets” suitable for any budget, as they start at $6 each.

Just keep in mind, it’s not always “the wetter the better,” Hubbard said.

“Over-watering probably kills more plants than anything else,” he said. To avoid this, test the soil with your finger. If it feels moist to the touch, it’s finished drinking.

Original story.

Getting intimate with a University Avenue favorite

In Journalism on January 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm

BY BRITT PERKINS avenue contributing writer

Exploration is a vital and vigorous part of the college experience. You’re not under your parents’ roof. It’s time to see what’s out there. Wild Iris Books is a place to start finding out. Located between Midtown and downtown at 802 W University Ave., Wild Iris is one of the last remaining feminist bookstores in Florida. Opened in 1992, Wild Iris has established itself as not only a store but also as a community resource for artists and organizations looking for a supportive space. The store, in association with its sister nonprofit Friends of Wild Iris, has hosted open mic nights, workshops, discussion groups and art exhibits.

“We are always open to partnering with any groups,” said Erica Merrell, co-owner of Wild Iris Books.

Reading selections range from the less-corporate LGBTQ nonfiction, feminist thought and pagan options to health, cooking and general fiction. “We have everything a normal bookstore would have and then some,” Merrell said. “And if we don’t have it, we will order it for you with no shipping charges.”

Creating a haven where people can ask questions they may not be able to elsewhere is an essential aspect of the Wild Iris mission. It is important to the owners to suspend judgment and offer help. Customers are welcome to ask questions about anything, from gift ideas and decorating tips to organic hygiene products and earth-based spirituality.

“You’re not going to shock us,” Merrell said. “Nothing here is taboo.”

And while there are resources for gay students through LGBT Affairs at UF, Wild Iris offers additional resources.

In stock are books that can help gay students come out. There are also books that students can give to their families to foster understanding.

In light of recent tragedies involving bullying and suicide, books like “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws” can be an important resource.

Other products take a lighter tone on the road to acceptance such as the bumper sticker that reads, “I don’t mind if you are straight, as long as you are gay in public.”

In the broader range of merchandise you’ll find items from candles and incense to art and sculpture to old-fashioned soda and herbal tea. And guys, this place isn’t just for women.

“We are not man-haters here,” said Cheryl Krauth, another co-owner of Wild Iris Books. “We love all of the men in our lives.”

And the men seem to appreciate Wild Iris as well. Merrell’s husband was the one who introduced her to the store when she relocated to Gainesville. Krauth’s son, who will turn 21 this month, spent most of his teenage years working at the bookstore.

“We want to help men see the feminine side that both men and women have,” Krauth said. “How else are we going to come together as a society and celebrate all of who we are?”

There is still is plenty to do to balance the gender issue, Krauth said. For example, women working full time earned on average 80 percent of what men were paid in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Krauth, a Gator since 1983 and currently an information technology professor at Santa Fe College, took over ownership of Wild Iris in 2004 after hearing a rumor at a party that the bookstore was closing. Unable to stop thinking about the possibility of the store being shut down, she was determined to help keep its doors open.

“It had such a unique character and was something we didn’t want to lose in the community,” Krauth said.

Merrell’s background is in corporate book sales, but she knew she wanted to spend her time at a place that she loved. After spending several years volunteering with Friends of Wild Iris, Merrell made the organization her full-time focus in 2009.

“When the opportunity for ownership came, it was perfect,” Merrell said. “I could remove the corporate and be a part of a place that made me feel good.”

An extension of the community feel can be found in the Wild Iris Cafe. With people to talk to and a selection of coffee, wine and beer, it’s a change of scenery from the typical library offerings.

“We all have this little voice that has questions,” Merrell said. “You can honor that. The only thing we don’t want here is disrespect.”

Story straight from the Alligator…

Holi-DIY

In Design, Environment(al), Journalism on December 12, 2010 at 12:58 am

By Kat Bein and Britt Perkins,
Avenue Writers

It’s that time of year again.

Just in time for finals — and all those end-of-semester projects you’re just starting — it’s the holiday shopping season. Naturally, you’ve already burned through your scholarship and grant money, and now you’re scurrying to sell your clothes, video games and blood plasma to make enough money to buy sweet gifts so your friends think you care.

Do you even have time to go shopping?

Well, good news: It doesn’t have to be that complicated.

At the Avenue, we’re poor, busy college kids, too, and we put our ears to the ground to find the best ways for you to make or buy memorable and creative gifts for everyone you know.

In this issue, we’ve got the details about the Glam Indie Craft show, where you can load up on locally crafted gifts. And if you need an excuse to procrastinate, we have the details on the best place to go to make your own gifts for Mom and Dad. We’ve even got a way you can turn that 99-cent record from the thrift store into a serious work of custom art, courtesy of two talented UF artists.

Consider this your holiday gift from the Avenue.

MUSIC TO YOUR WALLET

Tony Feria is a junior majoring in food resource economics. David Aronson is a senior majoring in painting. Together, they are Zombie Vinyl, and they’re bringing dead records back to life.

For about $15 to $25, these guys can turn a boring, old record into a beautiful, shiny design of your choosing.

Feria got the idea to use records as an artistic medium when he saw something similar at an art festival, and he pitched the idea to Aronson when they became roommates. After experimenting with different techniques and paints, they’ve settled into their own style. The duo layers patterns and homemade stencils with spray paint to create their art.

They usually stick to what they know and love, and the walls of their downtown apartment are covered with their creations, depicting their favorite bands, DJs and hip-hop artists. Their work isn’t confined to musical acts, and they’re open to recreating pictures of friends and famous works of art.

The guys have only just begun their business: They created their first vinyl in June, a two-tone portrait of John Lennon.

To check out their work, visit zombievinyls.com, or find them on Facebook, which is where they prefer you place your orders.

GO LOCAL — THEN GO HOME

Featuring the works of 30 local artisans, the second annual Glam Indie Craft Show offers unique gifts for even the toughest Secret Santa pick.

The biggest bonus: Meeting the artisans and handling their wares allows you to avoid the perils of misleading Web pictures and questionable sources.

Derby ladies from the Alachua County Rollers will be skating swag bags to the first 100 attendees, and DJ Phred will be providing the music. Terranova Catering will be on hand to help with your shopping munchies.

The craft show is Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the downtown Gainesville Thelma Bolton Center, 516 NE Second Ave.

What to look for when you hit up the show:

Kim Taylor, Gainesville’s own Sassy Crafter blogger and organizer of the Glam Indie Craft Show, offers insight into this year’s crafting trends.

1. Dude crafts

Because “cute” and “crafty” go together like peas and carrots, some of you more macho folk may not be down for an overload of adorable. But handmade can get very rugged indeed.

Look for: wallets, screen printed tees, tattoo aftercare cream

2. Cruelty-free/vegan body products

No matter what your mom says, it’s not just what’s on the inside that counts.

Look for: eye shadow, lotion, body scrub bars, shaving soap

3. Upcycled items

“Upcycling means taking something that had one purpose in life and turning it into something fresh and new,” Taylor said.

Look for: auto parts as necklaces, coffee bags as wallets, vintage children’s book covers as notebook covers

4. Amigurumi

Japanese for “crocheted stuffed doll,” Taylor describes amigurumi as “quirky, cute and plushy.” These crafts vary in size, color and theme, so they are perfect for kids or the young at heart.

Look for: sea creatures, elves and Lady Gaga

GATORS DO IT ON CAMPUS

Nothing says, “I love you, Mom” like something with your signature chicken-scratched on the back. The Arts and Crafts Center, located in the basement of the Reitz Union, can help you make this happen.

“Even if someone believes they are not artistically inclined, we still encourage them to come in,” said Stefanie Upshaw, the student manager of the center.

Choose from colors like “Pink Passion,” “Granny Smith” and “Pepe le Blue,” then apply them to a ceramic ornament (from $3.50 for an ornament to $16 for a gnome). All glazing and firing is included in the cost. Dec. 15 is the last day to paint a piece before break, and those creations will be ready for pick up Dec. 17.

The center is open from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Original Story

Gifthorse photos

In ArtnDesign, Journalism on October 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Handmade bags designed with belt loops line a wooden display bench at Gifthorse on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Will Brennan, 22, looks over screenprinted T-shirts at Gifthorse Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Roberto Evans, right, owner of Gifthorse, rehangs a pair of pants as he talks to Will Brennan who looks over screenprinted T-shirts on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Amy Casaletto, 21, browses screenprinted T-shirts at Gifthorse on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010.

Amy Casaletto, 21, decides to buy a T-shirt in her favorite color, purple, while Andrew Curcio, 26, looks over merchandise at Gifthorse.

Roberto Evans, owner of Gifthorse, helps customers with their purchases.

Will Brennan, 22, buys two pairs of Obey pants from Roberto Evans at Gifthorse.

Local business expands to two locations

In ArtnDesign, Journalism on October 20, 2010 at 4:43 am

At a time when the recession was blighting the economic aspirations of many, artist and entrepreneur Roberto Evans didn’t seem to notice.

Bearded yet baby-faced, the 27-year-old Gainesville native decided to channel his creativity full-time in September 2008 with Berto’s, a dorm room-sized niche in the Sun Center that housed his screen-printed T-shirts, mixed-media art pieces and other made gifts.

Nearly two years later, Berto’s has evolved into two distinct downtown spaces: The Exchange and the newly opened Gifthorse, located at 101 N. Main St.

As Evans started carrying more retail items earlier this year, it became harder to convert The Exchange into a venue for artists and musicians. Gifthorse opened for business August 27 to solve the space issue Evans was facing. It houses all merchandise that was formerly at The Exchange and features a second-story art gallery. The Exchange is now solely an art school and exhibition space.

With the country still shaken from the longest recession on record, it may be hard to believe that a business would consider expansion, especially a company so vested in the arts. But one of the reasons Evans has managed to survive as a small business is that he doesn’t consider he runs one.

“Honestly, I never thought of doing my own business,” Evans said. “I still don’t think of it as a business. If I hear that word, it kind of freaks me out. It’s like, ‘No, this is what I want to do.’”

Evans cites that fact that he hasn’t felt the need to remove himself from the day-to-day operations by hiring as part of his success: He is the only employee.

Evans also remains connected to the local pulse in Gainesville. When business slowed during the summer months, he focused on music shows, art shows and even dance parties to cater to people’s interests and still pay the rent.

“Sometimes you just have to flex a little bit,” Evans said. “And if you don’t do that, you’ll break.”

Evans aims for the “feel-good factor,” where someone is genuinely excited about what he has to offer.

“I like that feeling,” Evans said. “And I like being part of the Gainesville community.”

The grand opening for Gifthorse will be Saturday, Nov. 6, at 101 N. Main St. and will feature artist Sebastian Castro in the art gallery.

Story in The Gainesville Sun

Surfer Blood: Back in Florida

In Journalism, Music on September 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm

You can tell a lot about a band by its MySpace profile. Go to the page for the indie rock band Surfer Blood and all you’ll get is a white background with the “Sounds Like” section featuring timeless videos like “cat eating sour apple lollypop” and “Cat says NOM NOM NOM while eating sour cream.”

Surfer Blood--Photo by: JUCO

I asked Thomas Fekete, 22, guitarist for Surfer Blood, to explain.

“Basically our label really pimped our MySpace out and put up kind of a cheesy background and just, like, all these weird links to MTV,” Fekete said. “One day we just went on our MySpace and we were like, ‘Whoahhhh, what the fuck is this?’ so we just took it all down and put those cat videos up. “

It’s this boyish sense of humor that has helped the alt-pop band stay grounded through the media whirlwind surrounding their lauded single “Swim.”

Sound-wise, Fekete said comparisons to Weezer, Pavement and Sonic Youth are flattering and pretty accurate as they are definitely huge influences. Heavy emphasis on guitar and singable, noisepop choruses make Surfer Blood’s album “Astro Coast” perfect for road trips. And thankfully, they avoid corny, Beach-Boys-esque lyrics about the ocean and its visitors.

The West Palm musicians had been playing together for only about six months when things really started to get big. That’s when their reverb-heavy summer anthem “Swim” made it to number 37 on “The Top 100 Tracks of 2009” created by the highly influential music Web site Pitchfork, landing them in the company of Jay-Z, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Lady Gaga.

It’s a teenager’s wet dream. The band went from playing to small crowds of friends in West Palm to the festival circuit where up to 9,000 people were in the crowd. What Fekete describes as “a crazy year” is an understatement, filled with intense moments both good and bad.

One of the good ones happened at the BBC studio in London. Head down, sound checking before a radio program, Fekete looks up to find none other than Jason Schwartzman, who ends up being a huge fan of their record.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Fekete said. “And then he actually went on air for an interview and told the interviewer he was star struck when he saw us. It was pretty cool.”

It’s probably easy to have a good time at any venue when you’re in a band that’s blowing up, but Fekete is eager to play in Gainesville and enjoy our delicious vegan eats.

“Reggae Shack is my favorite place ever,” Fekete said. “I get the jerk tofu. It’s the most insanely spicy thing I’ve ever had. So good though.”

Surfer Blood will be playing at Common Grounds Monday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. Entry is $12.

[Official story for the Alligator]