Okcate’s Out and About: Keep in Mind

imageHi there folks! This is my neighborhood; I get to see sunsets, large trees, and open sky, though I’m just a few minutes from the buzz of Downtown and right next to TU. A lucky city dweller am I.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the growth Tulsa’s got going on, and while I’ll be one of the first to admit I’m psyched about much of it, some current development and future proposals have got me worried.

I began to write a blog about this issue many times, but I kept hitting a wall. So here’s a slightly different approach:

Keep in Mind:

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a look around here

At the sky, the rivers, the ground
Listen close to the sounds

The buzz of the bees, the chirps of the birds, the pulse of the Earth

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a good look around here

Open yourself, let them in
The sacred sites of the city
The ones that hold mystery
Hold soul, hold heart, teach history

Glass and steel make a sparkling skyline
But there’s life in a tree line
That man just can’t fake
Love in old neighborhoods
A faux-finish can’t replicate

Let’s make our changes
Our rearranges
Our mark

But keep in mind

The sun will warm you, and the moon will guide you
There is no late-night street light
That can love you like that

Glass and steel make a sparkling skyline
But there’s life in a tree line
That man just can’t fake
Love in old neighborhoods
A faux-finish can’t replicate

Let’s make our changes
Our rearranges
Our mark

But keep in mind

The leaves will grant you breath
The blue of the sky, the green of the grass
Is truer than any buck you pass

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a look around here

And keep this in mind

In the name of progression
In the search for perfection
Profit margins, and the bottom line

The balance is fine

Okcate’s Out and About: Girls on the Run YWCA Tulsa

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Unlike the girl pictured above, (who is rocking those laps!) I’ve never been what some might call a natural runner.

Growing up, I had the distinct talent of falling up stairs, tripping on flat surfaces, bumping into doorways… You get the (very awkward) picture. My feet had a way of growing faster than the rest of my body, and it took me years to catch up and learn how to use them properly.

But at least I was cute???

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They say cuteness helps kids survive; I’m glad because I needed all the help I could get…

I could swim and bike all day long, so not drowning and balancing on two wheels presented no problems for me, but running was definitely hazardous to my health.

In the past decade however, the theatre, dance, and fitness training I’ve pursued throughout my life has percolated and rattled around in my head and my body enough that, recently, I’ve decided to re-visit that childhood source of embarrassment, running.

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Also embarrassing: that picture in the upper left corner. I was eight. And a Hobbit. Don’t judge me.

My attitude toward running really started to change a couple of years ago with a certain 5K celebration at the University of Tulsa, my alma mater. Girls on the Run YWCA Tulsa (Tulsa County) was in its second season, and I had joined the program for the first time as a volunteer coach to help coach the girls at McAulliffe Elementary.

As an assistant coach throughout the season, I not only encouraged the girls to embrace the runners within themselves, but, at the 5K, I also got to experience the thrill of participating in a group running event for the first time in my life. The girls, their family members, and coaches were all there––all running and cheering each other on!

I finally understood why people train for and run marathons, 5Ks, and fun runs. They are uplifting and empowering, and folks are pulling for each other.

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The GOTR girls and me, training up.

As the YWCA Tulsa website states, “Girls on the Run is a transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd – 8th grade. We teach life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.”

And it also teaches the coaches a great deal about life as well. It is full of lessons about self care, being kind to yourself and others, discovering your potential––lessons we sometimes forget as the adult world becomes increasingly demanding.

Since the fall of 2013, I have completed three 5Ks, a half marathon, and a 6.2 mile leg of a marathon relay that I ran with my YWCA Tulsa coworkers! The relay is the event I’m most proud of to date, as it was the first time I did not walk/run, but ran the whole way!

Granted, some of it looked more like glorified jogging, but I can confidently say that I did not walk it. And I finished within my goal time, which, considering my last month of training got derailed by my mom going into the hospital, was quite the surprise.

It was good day, if I do say so myself.

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Mentoring the GOTR girls and working with inspiring coaches who bring their experiences to the table has been a truly transformative experience for me. I am glad we can be there for these girls to share in their successes and hardships, all the while encouraging physical confidence and helping them build self-esteem. 

Girls on the Run provides a safe place for girls to share their thoughts on their emotions, relationships, aspirations, and fears. It provides an opportunity for these girls to discover athletic potential they may not know they have. GOTR encourages, and it teaches the girls who, like I did, do not believe themselves a “natural runner” the tools to train up for an event that will prove that belief false.

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It gives them goals to work toward and personal bests to strive for. This spring, two of the girls who finished last in previous 5Ks came in close to the middle of the pack this spring! They were welcomed at the finish line by coaches, family members, running buddies, and their teammates.

“Girls on the Run’s mission is inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. The vision of Girls on the Run is to envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”

Keep an eye out for this chapter of Girls on the Run International in the next few months. You too could selfie it up with Volt, a Girl on the Run, and her running buddy (which in this case, was my sister)!

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And of course we got our faces painted, because, you know, theatre kids…

YWCA Tulsa will host its first ever Girls on the Run Community 5K in August. Be prepared to see a whole bunch of empowered girls with their running buddies––sisters, moms, dads, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends––supporting and sharing in the success of these great girls.

Maybe I will see you there, or perhaps you’ll join us to find out, firsthand, how transformative this program is, for the participants and volunteers alike.

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Okcate’s Out and About: Guthrie Green

Respite. We needs it.

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So it’s been a few weeks, I know. Between my last post and this current one, my life has been upended. My paternal grandmother—and last grandparent—passed away from Alzheimer’s, and my mother suffered two strokes and a seizure that put her, and kept her, in the hospital for nearly two and a half weeks. The scariest part was when she lost consciousness and stopped breathing from the seizure. The second scariest part was when, to recover from it, she spent five days in ICU, sedated and intubated for three of them.

I am still processing all that has happened; sometimes I feel like it was all a very bad dream. One peppered with incredibly supportive family members, friends, and co-workers.

Though it was one of the most surreal—or perhaps most real—times in my life (at one point I was helping one of the techs situate my mom in bed while coordinating with my sister, via phone, my grandmother’s funeral home paperwork that my dad needed to send to my aunt in Texas) I am happy and grateful to say that Mom is recovering steadily. And though I am sad she has walked on and will miss her very much, I am thankful that my grandmother is no longer suffering. I hope peace has found you, dear Grandma Daisy.

I feel blessed that my family members and I have managed to make it through this time without completely losing our collective marbles. We are looking toward the future—and to life settling down as much as it is inclined to do so.

And I am so, so, so, so, glad Mom is finally back home and continuing to recover. She’s received—and still is getting—exceptional care and rehab throughout this whole experience and for that, I am incredibly appreciative. Props to all the nurses, techs, doctors, therapists, cafeteria workers, housekeepers, etc., at Hillcrest. You all are a bunch of seriously beautiful people.

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I call it “Hospital Panorama”.

This was the view I saw from my mom’s room the morning she woke up; it was the probably the prettiest sunrise I’ve seen to date, overcast and all.

Life has a way of making us appreciate even the the cloudy days, and it teaches us lessons… or at least underscores the heck out of them. If I have learned anything from this turn of events, it is that relaxing when you can, doing things that bring you joy, spending time in the sun and outdoors, hanging with loved ones, are not luxuries in life, but necessities.

After Mom had was well enough to move to rehab at the Kaiser Rehabilitation Center, I took a little time out (with Mom’s blessing, naturally) to hit up Guthrie Green for a pre-game Roughnecks rally and enjoy time in the sun, listen to music, people watch, and chat with friends.

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Ryan Magnani, Mark Gibson, and DJ Spencer Livingston Gainey!

These guys rocked our socks off. Seriously, I took my shoes off and sat barefoot in the grass.

Though it was just a couple hours, it was a break I very much needed, and I am glad that such a community space exists in Tulsa. Every event that is put on there is free and open to the public. It is a gathering place for concerts, food festivals, celebrations, rallies, farmer’s and art markets, 5K events, and marathon finish lines. Basically, if you can think of a community event that celebrates and inspires, Guthrie Green has hosted it, or would probably be down for hosting it.

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And they do the winter holiday season up right!

Now, I don’t work there, so you may want to contact the folks who do first before quoting me on that statement.

Anyway, like I said, the Green has shown us how important a community space is to a city. Around it, art galleries, restaurants, and museums have sprung up and flourished, and the monthly Art Crawl attracts thousands of people each first Friday of each month. The Brady Arts District is still renovating and repurposing old spaces in the area, and I imagine this next phase of construction will only bring more awesomeness and economic growth to the district.

The place has come a long way since days of old. My husband remembers just how bleak and creeptacular the virtually abandoned industrial park that used to occupy this area was. He’d go to The Gypsy with his high school friends and walk past the abandoned buildings and empty lots which he tells me, and I quote, “looked like a scene out of Robocop with less gunfire. The original one, not the remake we don’t speak of.”

The importance of accessible green space to a person’s well-being is indisputable. Sometimes us city dwellers forget that we are still solar-powered creatures who enjoy grass, trees, and nature, but when we remember, we flock to outdoor events. Even the ones with allergies drug themselves up with antihistamines and anti-inflammatories in order to soak in the great outdoors.

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Such beauty may bring you to tears. Or maybe it’s just the pollen making your eyes water.

Guthrie Green is a place I have visited often. And scenes like the one above are a familiar sight to me, but I appreciated it on a whole new level when I went two Saturdays ago. It was alive with activity and filled with people of all ages enjoying the day; and trust me, these days, I am working on enjoying all my days.

There was even a little boy who looked like a tiny Bruno Mars getting his groove on to the music. He knows what’s up.

So lemme break it down for you: If you’re feeling down, or if you’re not, if you just want to get out, get some fresh air and sun, hear some music, join in a community event, meet up with friends… you get the picture, check out the Green’s website and calendar of events. And keep up with the goings on via social media; share the events with the people in your life!

Spring has definitely sprung, (my un-mowed lawn can attest to that) and festival and market season is truly upon us. And the folks at Guthrie Green know how to work it.

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Okcate’s Out and About: A City in Pictures… And a Big Announcement!

For many, Spring Break means relaxation, but for aquatics managers (like myself) it means kicking our certification season into high gear! Summer will be here waaayyy sooner than you think.

This past weekend, this week, and next weekend I was, am, and will be extremely busy teaching American Red Cross Lifeguard and Swim Instructor certifications at YWCA Tulsa (where I spend my usual weekday daytime hours managing the aquatics program at the Midtown location).

So, due to my current workload, I will not be putting a blog out this week. Instead, let me leave you with a few of the (recently photographed) sights of the city I’d like to share with you; this time, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

photo 3A late winter sunset over Downtown Tulsa. I captured this heavenly blaze on my way to a Blue Whale Comedy Festival meeting. A person could get used to that kinda view…

photo 5 (1)“Down the rabbit hole.”

My husband and I were recently spending a rare lazy Saturday strolling around the very much under construction (in the best way possible) Brady Arts District.

Renovations abound around these parts; I can’t wait to see what transformations will take place this year!

For something a little different, here we are at the corner of the BOK Center. It is a late winter day—warm sun, cool shadows. The Tulsa Oilers were playing and won that night!

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And this is one of my favorite coffee shops in town. The Phoenix is nestled in the Tulsa Pearl District and has been too good to my husband and me as we work on our publishing endeavors.

photoSpeaking of endeavors…

I am happy to say that The Astonishing Bobcat: Hero Worship is finally formatted and will be sent to the distributor within the next week!

I will have to share that journey sometime… What a road it’s been—and still is! Thanks for all the support, folks; it means the world.

And thanks for taking this short but sweet tour of (just a little bit of) T-Town with me; there is much excitement and growth on the brilliant horizon these days. I’ll write again soon and get you back to your regular programming next week!

Okcate’s Out and About: Mainline Art & Cocktails

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Ever since I can remember, I have loved and appreciated quality art, and I have my bohemian-souled parents to thank for that. I grew up in an arts community on the East Coast, and it was there that both my mom and dad encouraged my sister and I to investigate and pursue all things creative whenever we could.

Summer breaks, especially, were a time of freedom from traditional schedules, and our days were with filled creative projects and hours of outdoor (and inspiring, vista-filled) adventures. During these long, hot days, there was much crafting, singing, dancing, acting, reading, sketchbook-filling, art fest and gallery-attending, tree-climbing, bike-riding, beach-strolling (and nearly getting swept out by the tide-ing … buuut, that’s another story).

So when I moved to Tulsa, though I was excited about college and other things going on in the city, one of the things I missed was visiting art galleries and attending exhibit openings on a regular basis. Now, maybe there was just an over-abundance (if there can be such a thing) of these establishments where I come from, but I have trouble recalling times when there weren’t shows going on.

OceanSeriously, these things were straight up family and community events. Between the unveiling of new pieces and the ginormous Atlantic cocktail shrimp hors d’oeuvres the galleries served up, you did not want to be the poor soul who missed out. For the folks who live in the Golden Isles of Georgia, art is just a part of everyday life.

Unfortunately, in an industrial city, which was very much the type of city Tulsa was when I moved here, art seems to be something that is not particularly accessible or commonplace. But, I’m happy to report that much has changed in Tulsa over the past decade. The founders of Mainline, Kelly Knowlton and Katy Eagleston, are two of a number of business owners in the now flourishing Brady Arts District seeking to bring art to the community at large.

Kelly and Katy started their establishment with the idea of bringing art to a living-room type space to inspire people to accept it as something meant for everyone. And in my little ol’ opinion, they succeeded.

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This space is intimate, comfortable, filled with fun decor, and at each seating area sketchbooks and colored pencils sit, waiting to be used by someone who may get the hankering to doodle while they relax with the beverage of their choice. Fun tip: go there with friends and allow each person to draw one object, pass the sketchbook, and continue until the group deems the picture finished. You will certainly learn a lot about each other…

Also, the bar proper is a handsome black granite type structure, and showcases pretty much my favorite chandelier ever.

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This picture cannot even capture just how sparkly this fixture is—just another reason to pay this place a visit, whether it is on a quiet weeknight, or a hopping (but not crazy unbearable with noise) weekend evening.

I especially like to drop in during the monthly First Friday Art Crawl, when live music is often going on and new exhibits are revealed. As the website states, “Mainline … features two gallery spaces for monthly rotating exhibitions. One of these spaces highlights historic Oklahoma artists and the other serves to promote emerging local[s].” And it makes good on its promise. There is an ongoing call for artists, so if  you have pieces you would like featured, check this link out.

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The gallery’s current contemporary show is “pyrotechnic arboretum” by local artist Chris Wollard. It is the gallery’s first 3D exhibit, and is a unique and clean looking collection of tree sculptures crafted out of metal. Very cool to see in pictures, but even cooler when viewed in person. The lines are lovely, the display intriguing, and some of the sculptures are even illuminated.

And in case anyone is thinking of getting me any presents in the near future, I totally dig melty tree shelf in the upper left hand corner of the above photo, just sayin’…

Well, there you have it folks. Whether you are stopping in for a quiet moment to relax and admire the space while sitting on some living-room-comfortable furniture, going out with friends for a celebration or book club meeting (yep, I’m that person), or looking for a lovely date night place, Mainline’s got you covered.

photo (2)It is a beautiful space with a community-based mission and is part of the new Tulsa Renaissance; I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. The art is accessible, the drink prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is easy.

Okcate’s Out and About: The Circle + Calaveras = A Fine Pairing

Today, as I write this entry, my tummy is full and happy. It is full of delicious Mexican food from Calaveras Mexican Grill, a new restaurant that lies in the heart of the Kendall-Whittier district of Tulsa. This area of town has seen much renovation and development over the past few years—changes that have been nothing but beneficial to our community ‘round these parts.

Out in front and leading the charge, and adjacent to Calaveras, is the historic Circle CinemaAs I have mentioned before, I moved to Tulsa nearly ten years ago. At that time, The Circle, as us locals call it, was undergoing a new wave of renovation, one that I have been lucky to witness as it has expanded and brought in new theaters and screens.

It’s mission, “to foster understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the human experience, and create community among the viewers in the restored historic Circle Cinema”, is being realized as it grows with an ever-improving Tulsa.

Through its community events and involvement in the growth of the Kendall-Whittier area, it enhances the culture in this part of town. It hosts everything from movie events around social justice and activism, to workshops for young filmmakers, to the annual Academy Awards live broadcast event.

Which brings me to my happy and filled tummy. Okay, so maybe I didn’t eat this much, but here’s a visual of some of the goodness…

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With a business card like that, how can you go wrong?

My sister’s and my birthdays fall thirteen days apart in the shortest month of the year. It’s hard to celebrate her day with friends and family, my day with friends and family, and still manage to do something with just each other for some bonding time.

This squeeze usually results in many mini-celebrations with different folks throughout the month. There’s also our dad’s birthday, and those of a few cousins and friends, as well. If you see me out and about in February, it’s usually because someone I care about is getting older.

So, for our joint celebration this year, Tallulah (yep, her name is all kinds of unique too) and I decided on a girls’ night out at the Circle Cinema’s OSCAR® Experience. For just $15 ($10 for members), you could have access to the event, light eats, a cash bar, and a night of award show excitement.

Enter Calaveras Mexican Grill.

Now, usually, when I hear the phrase light eats, I don’t generally get all kinds of excited about it. However, the light eats they promised that night were so very tasty! And better yet, they didn’t leave you feeling heavy—but they were substantial enough to keep the hangry away during the three-hour-plus event that was filled with all the award excitement you would expect. Like opportunities for red carpet arrival pics, giveaways, and meeting your favorite (cardboard) celebrity…

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What a guy!

Attendees were encouraged to put their fanciest foot forward, and Tallulah and I love old-Hollywood glamour. She went all out, and I helped her get ready for the night by doing her makeup and hair. We even completed her look with a vintage fur I’d inherited from a friend of mine. 

I, however, had been up since 6:30am that morning and had been at work until noon. And as much as I love dressing up as much as the next lady, I was not feeling it much that night. Plus, the temperatures had dropped steadily throughout the day. Donning a dress was not my idea of staying warm and toasty—hence the casual look to my photo above. Still, I pulled on my best pink sweater and a nice pair of jeans (to my credit, I did put on lipstick and sparkly earrings) and happily played assistant to Ms. Silver Screen.

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Pictured above: My college degree at work, folks.

A fun time was had all around (shout out to the fabulous host Kristin Dickerson of KTUL), and best of all, the proceeds went to The Circle! And like I said, the food was phenomenal. I love that the two businesses partnered up for the event, in true community fashion.

So, this weekend, when the time came to pick a place for a birthday lunch with my in-laws today, I recalled that certain deliciousness I had experienced last week and chose Calaveras. You know, just to make sure I liked it. One can never be too careful when researching a good restaurant, you know.

Apparently, I chose wisely. The place was a hit with everyone. The menu is extensive, featuring a wide array of vegetarian and meat dishes. I chose the wet burrito (so filling and full of distinct flavors!), and my husband, who rates Mexican food restaurants on his personal tamale scale, said they were some of the best he’s had. And when I ate a slice of chocolate mousse pie for dessert (because, birthday lunch), I thought I may have heard angels singing, just a little bit. It’s flavors were complex, and though it was decidedly rich, it was not overwhelmingly sweet.

Bonus! The atmosphere is fun and artistic. The walls and ceiling feature artwork, much of it centering around sugar skulls and dancing skeletons—I really dig the look of the Dia de los Muertos decor in this space.

All in all, to make a long post short, the next time you want to support the artistic and socially relevant aspects of movie-making, check out the Circle Cinema. And because being a patron of the arts is hard work, get you some tastiness next door at Calaveras Mexican Grill. As a certain movie star might say, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful (and delicious) friendship.”

Okcate’s Out and About: The Mark Gibson Duo at The Fur Shop

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I’m no career musician; I’m no professional singer. But I have been listening to all kinds of music since I can remember, and I do know what exceptional talent and hard work looks and sounds like.

It looks like The Mark Gibson Duo. It sounds like Mark Gibson and Ryan Magnani playing their hearts and souls out for nearly three hours (taking only one break) at The Fur Shop, which featured a newly rearranged upstairs.

Or anywhere else, that is.

I’ve watched them perform a handful of times over the past year and a half, but as of late, I’ve been able to see them on a more regular basis. And I will tell you this; when they play, worlds collide, galaxies form, and solar systems are born. Okay, that’s maybe a bit hyperbolic, but only a bit. Each performance is new, inspiring, and fresh, and I could easily go to every one of their sets, but then I would be a creeper, so I’ll just stick to every other time… right???

Now, I have seen Gibson perform solo, and man, that guy will take you places with his vocals and guitar skills; I honestly could listen to him for hours. In a totally “I’m literally here for the music because I love live music and don’t want to be a groupie” kind of way.

When these two musicians come together, like they did last night, this experience is only amplified. If there is a zone that is solely made up of acute rhythms, moving, groovy bass lines, intricate, rocking melodies, and soaring, passionate vocals, they were there. And they were in it. And they shared this zone with the audience. And it was awesome.

Well, that’s all well and good, you might say, but why were they awesome? Well, I’m glad you asked. I will break it down for you, right now.

1) Mark Gibson’s vocals: This man has one of the best voices in quality and range I have ever witnessed. To put it in theatre terms (acting training and all that) Mark Gibson sings with the immediacy and all encompassing depth of your best Shakespearean actor. Mark Gibson Billy-Shakes. This. Stuff. Up.

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He was on the breath, he was on the meaning; he let the lyrics and melodies flow through his entire being until the only thing to do with them was to let them escape, fully realized, out of his mouth. To those who do not have a background in Shakespeare—he was so amazingly good! Go see him; let me know how it goes.

 

2) Mark Gibson’s guitar skills: This man can take an acoustic guitar to new heights. He not only worked the strings like a person who was born with a six-string in his hand (and he’s only been playing since high school which makes his skills even more awe-inspiring), but he also knows his tech.

He balanced the audio in the room like no one’s business—you know, so you could actually hear the notes. Now, I say he because, like I said before, I’ve seen him play solo, and his awareness of the space he plays in is never in question. But, no doubt, Magnani deserves just as much credit for this balance as well.

Speaking of Ryan…

3) Ryan’s Magnani’s four extremities: A bass guitar in both hands, a tambourine strapped to his right foot, and a kick drum worked by his left. If the guy put a harmonica in his mouth, he could roll down the street in his own one man band.

You know how some people can play multiple instruments? Well apparently multiple instruments wasn’t enough for Ryan. He had to learn how to play them—all at once.

And he kills it. I’m telling you, the layering of these fellas’ music is incredible. Incredible. You hear it all. You get the the rhythms, the bass line, the melody, the vocals, and you get the words! Mark Gibson is intelligible when he sings! Oh my, I thought they didn’t make them like that anymore.

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4) They looked so happy to be there: They were feeling the music; they were sharing it with the audience, sharing it with each other; they had fun, and they supported each other on stage. There was no sense of upstaging or competition, just the music working as they rolled out song after song—exciting originals and superb covers. And as a bonus for the evening, near the end of the set, Ryan and Mark led the audience in song, wishing Ryan’s mom (who was in attendance) Happy Birthday! Also, they totally welcomed dancing at this set, which I was happy about.

Confession: I dance in public… Oh, the struggle is real.

Well, that’s about it. Follow them, go to their events… I hear tell of a trio, which I will definitely have to see. Download Mark Gibson’s debut album, Beautifully Deconstructedit features a more mellow sound than what The Duo had going on last night, but nonetheless, it is very well done. Support makes the new albums happen (there’s one coming out this year!).

Thanks to The Fur Shop for hosting a stellar night of music, and thanks to The Mark Gibson Duo for helping my friends and I celebrate my soon to be 30th birthday. It’s actually the 26th, the same as Johnny Cash’s, which made the “Ring of Fire” cover they rocked all the more awesome for me.