First Friday

Uncommon occurrences

Macro-Fi’s First Friday party marries music and art, with an underground flair all its own

Painters Casey Weldon (foreground) and Chance Gomez work to music at Macro-Fi’s Common Ground First Friday afterparty.
Photo: Jacob Kepler

A painter mixes colors as electronic beats vibrate the palette cradled in his arm. Emcees spit rapid-fire rhymes in the direction of his canvas, on which a young woman’s face begins coming into focus. Amid the finishing brush strokes, another young woman—this one quite real—arrives onstage and begins singing atop an industrial sonic backdrop.

Strange setting? For most. At Common Ground, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

There’s really only one rule at Macro-Fi’s monthly party, held at the Bunkhouse after every Downtown arts district First Friday gathering: anything artistic is fair game. That includes punk rock, experimental noise, hip-hop and, yes, live painting. “We’re a home for the homeless,” says co-organizer Johnny (last name not disclosed), aka Professor Def. “If you have nowhere else to play, play here.”

Tonight’s January 2 edition actually marks an anniversary—one year of consecutive First Fridays since Johnny and Macro-Fi collective co-founder Scott Quering (aka local poet Amir Rikkah) began throwing Common Ground afterparties. That fact wasn’t advertised on the event’s fliers or evites, however. The Macro-Fi crew simply stacked up another quality lineup, albeit with one significant cherry on top: Tim Holland, better known as Sole, of touted San Francisco collective Anticon.

The bearded rapper’s presence has all but packed the smallish Downtown venue to capacity, with scene mainstays, Common Ground regulars and local hip-hop heads streaming up to the door and happily plunking down a $10 cover charge to get inside. “Sole was one of my heroes in high school,” says Blair Dewane, frontman of The Skooners. “I can’t believe they actually got him.”

The Skooners are one of more than 20 local acts flying under Macro-Fi’s sort-of-a-label/sort-of-not flag (One Pin Short, Holding on to Sound and Mob Zombie are a few others). Macro-Fi’s primary mission: support. “We’re not a booking agency; we don’t take any money from the bands,” Johnny says. “We just ask for our logo on fliers and CDs. Eventually that brand might be worth something.”

Sole’s set is memorable; contrary to an early lyric (“I only rap ’cause I ain’t smart enough to write”), his rhymes are consistently intelligent, meaningful and, to the delight of the die-hards snuggling the stage, easily discernible above his backing beats. Though much of the crowd surely showed up to hear the headliner, the room shows respect for the slew of early and late local performers: electro explorer The Doodler (aka Jeff Madlambayan), rapper Okword, industrialists Warped Angel, hip-hop-topped experimental outfit Caused By the Sun and hip-hop pair The Dyslexic Duo.

“Macro-Fi is totally artist-driven,” says Madlambayan, who helps run sister underground collective Uno Momentum. “People might not even go to First Friday, but they’ll always be at this afterparty.”

Former Las Vegas resident Casey Weldon, back in town for the holidays, enthusiastically signed on for live painting when Scott Wood and Mike Biggs—Macro-Fi’s visual arts wing—came calling. Throughout the night, Weldon demonstrates his process in real time, working alongside fellow painter Chance Gomez, their easels propped within feet of the action onstage. “It’s fun stuff, being another part of the entertainment,” says Weldon, now based in New York City. “I paint to music at home, but here it’s more in your face … and 10 times louder, too.”

Photo of Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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