Scenes From Last Night's RAW: Dallas Showcase at Life in Deep Ellum.
Life in Deep Ellum served as the venue for the RAW: Dallas Encompass event last night, which featured more than 40 local creatives in the fields of art, fashion, music, film, hair and make up, photography, performance art and accessories.
It was quite the scene: Art and artists alike were lit by a combination of table lamps, candles, studio lights and a laser display beaming from the venue's main stage at the room's back. Projection screens flanked the main stage, too, ensuring that all attendees had a prime view of the show's video components.
As a whole, the scene itself was much like a large-scale show-and-tell. Artists stood by their display tables and their works, ready to pounce on any attendee looking their way. And the eclectic variety of art on display — from custom paintings and T-shirts designs to tattoo artists inking attendees and a performance art piece featuring women dressed as dead bunnies — was rivaled only by the diversity of the attending crowd. Within an hour after the doors opened, the hundreds of guests on hand were forced to weave between one another as they made their way from artist to artist.
Guys in fedoras rubbed elbows with girls in cocktail dresses. Ladies covered in body paint mixed with men in suits and bowties. Goths mingled with punks. Streetwear enthusiasts mixed with flannel-donning grunge types.
Brandy Adams of the WAAS Gallery and Jesse Porter of Cool Beings hosted the event. Adams in particular appeared to serve as the fairy godmother of the show, decked out in a tutu, fairy wings and bejeweled glasses. Between frequent pauses to chug Red Bull, she explained the purpose of the RAW organization — highlighting emerging artists in cities across the globe — thanked the sponsors and called the show “the largest indie event in the U.S.” in her opening commentary.
In the far corner of the venue, artist Ashley Whitby busied herself applying zombie gore makeup to a shirtless male model. The surrounding admirers grew in numbers as she fluttered, shoeless, over a red throw rug. She was clearly focused as she moved between her muse and her black Stanley Fat Max tool chest, which was filled to capacity with makeup and other necessities. As she dried the applied fake blood with a hair dryer, she occasionally glanced upward. When her model stood at last, in all his undead glory, a second spectacle occurred as attendees rushed to grab their cell phones and take photos of the finished product.
At the opposite end of the room, young painter Moises Vega and a female assistant seemed nearly oblivious to the activity around them. She painted on a mannequin with her back to the crowd and as he painted on a Day of the Dead skull. Their display table was adorned with a skull as a centerpiece and a number of religious candles scattered atop its surface. A number of painted skateboard decks and canvases hanged on the display wall behind the duo. By night's end, all four of the decks had been sold.
DJ Kurve dropped a hip-hop mix for the crowd as artist Abel Garcia took the main stage to paint a canvas on the spot for the eager audience. Garcia was clearly at home in the spotlight, looking relaxed as his assistants prepared his materials and he tucked his painting rag — an old, paint-covered wifebeater — into the back pocket of his jeans. His canvas was primed with flat colors and a few scribbles, reminiscent of any outdoor wall within a mile of the venue. He then began to apply bright colors with graffiti markers and nodded to the beat of the music blaring overhead. Within minutes, he flipped the canvas over to reveal the image of a crowned Biggie Smalls come to life; he'd been painting upside down, turns out.
Later, Dallas rap duo A.Dd+'s Paris Pershun wore a black and gold T-shirt and Slim Gravy strode onto the runway portion of the stage in a Detroit Red Wings jersey, before delivering a brief set. The setting was a bit more appropriate than their performance last week at the Dallas Museum of Art where they twerked against middle-aged art patrons. But the set, though great, was also far too short for the likes of this duo. All the same, hostess Adams served as the group's unofficial go-go dancer as she bounced around the back end of the stage in her pink tutu to the group's rhymes.
The Zack Weber Band from Austin proved a strong addition to the lineup, too. Weber brought the funk despite his clean-cut suburban appearance. He was able to move from James Brown covers to Led Zeppelin tunes with the ease and skill of a seasoned performer and later switched places with his drummer as his trio performed “Rapper's Delight” to the delight of the crowd.
“This next song is called 'Songbird' and I wrote it for my bitch-ass ex-girlfriend,” Weber then shared, introducing one of the original pieces in the set. He was perfectly at ease in front of the crowd — all smiles and jokes, with the talent to back it up.
Other than a few snags here and there with performers and equipment snafus, it was a remarkable night. And as RAW's presence in Dallas grows, we only expect more of the same in the future.
All photos by Scott Mitchell.