A view from the protests with Mudpuppy's Odalys; Local musicians talk quarantine & creativity
The local youth-led DIY scene has always been as much about activism and social justice as it is about music. Case in point, the time this reporter witnessed an outspokenly gender-fluid and gloriously flamboyant local teen band begin a show with the intro "This song isn't just about punching Nazis…"
But while local house parties and pop-up shows have always been pretty issue-aware and activist-friendly, it's one thing to talk about change and another thing to march for it. After all, getting your house party venue red-tagged and shut down is a much different form of "civil disobedience" than being part of protest march or staring down a line of police in riot gear.
For at least some in the local DIY scene, standing up publicly is, without question, the right thing to do. That number includes Odalys Catalan of local band Mudpuppy, who found herself in the thick of a protest against police violence that took place in Downtown Tucson on May 29.
TucsonSentinel.com: How did you hear about Friday night's protest/action? And what motivated you to join it?
Odalys Catalan: "I heard about the protest from Food Not Bombs' Instagram."
"I was really disheartened to hear that a lot of the protests being organized were mainly organized by white people who were demanding for Black Lives Matter Tucson to do a demonstration. One of the main things that drew me to this specific protest is that it was organized by Black and brown people who were angry and wanted to do something. I knew it had heart and good intentions, and it wasn't some performative garbage to put on Instagram with a hashtag."
TS: Can you give us a quick "eyewitness" recap of the protest from your perspective?
OC: "First off, it was safe. Everyone around me was caring for each other and making sure everyone was okay. Everyone looked out for each other.That's something I want to clarify, since people are constantly painting these protests as horrible, violent acts." "The protest started at Armory Park and we walked all around Congress Street, Fourth Avenue, and those surrounding areas. I think we walked for four hours non-stop. We occupied the intersection in front of the federal building for a while, as well. It was powerful, full of energy, and there was complete unity."
"The people causing trouble and getting confrontational with police were white, which endangered black protestors. Nothing was really dangerous until police started confronting people and there was heckling and physical violence."
TS: Obviously, there are lots of reports of property damage in Downtown, but on the live stream I saw of the event, none of that seemed to be happening. Did any of you witness looting or damage going on? Was it a separate thing from the organized protest? And, if so, was it discouraging to know that that kind of thing was happening and that the peaceful activists might get blamed?
OC: "Some of it happened alongside the main group. The buildings that got damaged were mainly the corporate buildings like the bank and the Marriott, at first. I don't think it was the original plan to be like, 'Let's go throw some rocks in a window,' but the anger and energy just accumulated. "
"Besides that, though, there was some drunk people stumbling in just causing trouble and picking fights and wrecking shit, and these people were not protestors. What did upset me was some white 'allies' who were purposely ruffling feathers of the police and getting violent, which again, put black lives in danger. It's like, use your privilege to protect these people. If you're white, or passing, police won't target you, and if they do, they probably won't be violent."
TS: As a young musician what do you think the role of young people and especially creative young people to react to and amplify the state of the world and social justice issues especially?
OC: "Every person should be an activist. I said in an old interview that not everyone has to be vocal and political, but oh what bullshit that was. If you have the ability to look away and step out of the conversation, you're extremely privileged and need to keep yourself in check. Turn around and use that privilege to help people who don't have the option to opt out of the issues."
"Young people are the future. I saw kids as young as 10 out there tonight, screaming 'I can't breathe' and 'say his name.' Young people have a huge influence of the future, especially creatives.
"Make art, music, do some dance. Make people uncomfortable. Art has no bounds, and that's powerful. It forces people to think, it makes people uncomfortable. Young creatives have a responsibility to amply these issues, and to empower the disenfranchised. If you're not speaking out about issues, then there's a problem. If you're on a stage and you have people who paid to see you and you're not encouraging change, what is wrong with you...you know?"
"It's like, punk started by marginalized groups to bring awareness and revolt against the oppressor, most of them were young angry people who needed to do something. Today, young pop artists like Bad Bunny are using their platform to bring awareness to issues with in your face tactics. Even Ariana Grande is speaking up. Taylor Swift. Hayley Williams. That's cool as fuck."
TS: Do you think there's hope for change in the air? What do you hope that looks like?
OC: " There's absolutely change in the air. I'm 18. I haven't seen much. But seeing all the protests at such a grand scale and the mass action really gives me so much hope. The past four years have been insanity with how much people have risen up. I hope, honestly, the system is going to be dismantled And made to fully support the people. I want black people to be able to walk in the park without looking over their shoulders. I want my brown brothers and sisters to be let out of cages. I want justice for indigenous people who go missing or get raped or murdered and go unheard of. And I think we can genuinely accomplish all of that."
TS: How are you doing (and feeling) right now, just as a human being?
OC: "I'm feeling great, thanks! I love you all so much and thank you to everyone who is supporting me through everything. I got a new guitar for the first time in ten years, her name is Margaret, and I can surprisingly play comfortably being 1/3 of the size of people guitars are marketed to."
TS: As a short-scale bass player, I know how awesome it is to finally find an instrument that fits you right! And glad you're doing ok. Stay safe out there!
Creativity in the time of corona
It's been kind of a weird time to be a music writer lately. Things have seemed kind of unstuck in time, as Vonnegut might say. Most bars and venues are still shut down, and though a few "socially distanced" in-person gigs are starting to surface here and there, most music events are livestreamed and it seems that even those have become fewer and further between. It's uncertain when bands can safely start touring again or when recording studios will reopen.
Those of us who love going out to see live music on a regular basis have been feeling adrift for months now. We seem to be nowhere near this pandemic's end, but we're tired of the uncertainty and isolation of it all. We miss house party gigs and album release shows, weekend nights venue-hopping from show to show seeing our local favorites and falling in love with touring bands, randomly stumbling across musicians we didn't know we were going to love, seeing the same band names on flyer after flyer before we finally relent and check them out on purpose.
It may seem kind of trivial in the greater scheme of things, maybe. But for lots of us, it was creative comfort food, a social alchemy we could count on to connect with each other, recharge our temporal lobes, feed our ears and our hearts and rev up our adrenaline before facing the world each week at work or school or in the studio or in some cases behind our keyboards writing about the whole experience for posterity.
For a few in our local music community, the isolation has been fruitful. Sometime Tucsonan Marianne Dissard, for example, released her second new quarantine inspired cover this week, interpreting Janis Ian's "At Seventeen"while Birds and Arrows debuted the video for the song "Truth Or Consequences" and launched another track, "Gemini" a few days ago.
Meanwhile, Matt Rendon has been at work on new Resonars tracks throughout the lockdown, with the band's digital release "2020 Blindside" now counting two volumes and 20 tracks, with more likely on the way.
But, predictably enough, a lot of local creative folks (including your friendly neighborhood music columnist) have definitely been feeling the weight of this loss
Stella Di Rossi (Method to the Madness): "Emotionally this disease has been a nightmare for my family. Having global relatives abroad between Egypt, Italy and spread out, we had many losses. Many of my musical peers who I've worked with have also become infected, passed or became isolated for health reasons."
"After the death toll to my friends and relatives reached 12 people, I became severely depressed and reclusive. It became a struggle to want to stream or create. Our tour was cancelled, we lost what work we had struggled years to achieve and the band was forced due to my health issues to spend two months on quarantined sabbatical."
"Our drummer works from home so his income was not affected. However, my source income and our bassist's were completely wiped out. Financially, it's almost destroyed my savings as a single parent that supports her family independently through music and artwork. "
"But the isolated time gave me time to work on avenues we were considering to stream and distribute digitally with our label. We have found that our band being built on a digital based platform gave us an advantage. Having a g lobal audience, caused a boost in streaming and a spike for the band in popularity. We got closer to fans around the world and formed a more personal relationship, even sent a few t-shirts as signs of hope. It's been bittersweet.
"Eventually as things opened up my bassist came back (from a location 200 miles away) and we are slowly integrating back to a new normal with caution."
Joyce Luna: "I have not been able to write at all during this time. I think for me I am experiencing all of it oh, and have not had the time or emotional energy to synthesize it all into art. I also was very lucky to be able to transition my private therapy practice to video sessions, so I have been okay financially." "About a year ago I decided it was just too hard to try to earn any income through music well living in Tucson, so I started focusing more on the other work I do that I also love! I'm really grateful I followed my intuition on that one, for sure."
"I do feel like it is our job as artists to create music that reflects the injustice in the world. Music that helps inspire people and gives them energy and hope to keep working to make the world a more just and peaceful place, and to provide entertainment sometimes too, because we all need that!"
"But we artists are also human beings, and when hit with what Don Lemon calls the two viruses of racism and COVID-19, it can take some time to make art. I would add in other viruses of course, like sexism, antisemitism, white nationalism and so forth. I'm personally exhausted and I know a lot of us are."
"Sorry Julie, I know I'm rambling. I guess what I want to say is that music is the one thing that gives me respite and inspiration and re-energizing during times like this."
"Music is the one thing that brings people together who are extremely different from each other, but who don't care, because they get to create and play music together."
"It might sound hokey, but it's the truth! That's why it's been at the heart of every and any movement against injustice and oppression anywhere all over the world."
"Music is the mother of all healers."
Plans for venue reopening are somewhat in flux right now and live streams get added by bands daily, sometimes at the very last minute, so be sure to follow your favorite local bands and venues via social media to catch it all.