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Culture Report: The Border Wall Is No Match for Music

Barbecue barons go behind the smoke in a podcast, puppets in City Heights and more in this week's roundup of the region’s arts and culture news.
border wall music

A member of the Orquesta de Baja California plays at the border. / Photo by Maria Teresa Fernandez

More than 70 Mexican and American percussionists will perform Saturday in a cross-border concert in Tijuana and Imperial Beach. Their stage: The state park where the international border wall runs into the Pacific Ocean.

Musicians positioned on both sides of the border will be playing composer John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit,” a piece written for a percussion ensemble and meant to be played outdoors.

The border concert begins at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, and it’s part of the San Diego Symphony’s “It’s About Time: A festival of Rhythm. Sound. And Place,” a month-long celebration of percussion music happening at venues throughout the region until Feb. 11.

Renowned percussionist and University of California San Diego professor Steven Schick curated the festival. He warned those who want to see the free border show will have to hike about 30 minutes to the site.

“This musical experience is not going to have ushers, drinks at intermission, cushy seats and valet parking,” he said. “If you want to hear this music, well, you’re going to have to walk 30 in and 30 out. You’ll have to sit on the ground or wander around. You’ll have to be as invested in this music as the musicians are, and I think that’s an astonishing thing.”

The musicians will start in close proximity to the border, then move with their drums, sirens, conch shells and other percussive instruments farther away from one another as they play their way through the hour-long piece. By the climax of the song — when the musicians are playing the loudest — they will be spread out about a quarter mile north and south of the border wall. Then as the music winds down, they will slowly make their way back and cluster near the border wall.

Many musical and other events have been held at Border Field State Park. Most are organized as acts of protest meant to demonstrate the participants’ opposition to the border wall and strict immigration policies.

Schick said he’s aware of the political implications of a border concert, especially at a time when the immigration issue is paralyzing the federal government and President Donald Trump is demanding money for the new border wall he promised during his campaign.

“I think the immigration debate as it’s framed in Washington is different than the conversation we have in San Diego,” he said. “There are a lot of people and ideas that cross this borer. A wall is probably not going to change that very much. Those musicians on the other side of the border, they’re my friends. No physical boundary will keep me from talking to my friends or keep me from feeling like I’m a neighbor to the people in Tijuana, and our music underscores that.”

• Schick talked more about his background in percussion music and the impetus for the festival in an interview with KPBS.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

A Podcast About Business and BBQ

In interviews for their podcast “Behind the Smoke: BBQ War Stories,” which launched last year, Shawn Walchef and Derek Marso do a few things consistently. They talk about cooking meat, they discuss the entrepreneurial spirit and the business strategies of each of their guests and they cuss. They cuss a lot.

“We wanted to bring people into the real life of what it’s like to do the shit that we love to do,” Marso said.

Behind the Smoke podcast

Shawn Walchef (left) of Cali Comfort BBQ and Derek Marso of Valley Farm Market are the hosts of the new “Behind the Smoke” podcast. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Marso is the third generation family owner of Valley Farm Market in Casa de Oro, and Walchef owns Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley. The two have been friends for a decade, and together they organize the annual charity Spring Valley BBQ Fest.

Walchef is big on social media and digital marketing. So when podcasts started gaining popularity in recent years, he told Marso they had to start their own.

“And then he literally, three days later, was like, our first guest is coming in next week,” Marso said. “I was like, no, we have to get a room and get all the gear. But he had already bought it all.”

That was in May 2017, and the two have posted a new episode every week since. They record in a makeshift podcast studio above Valley Farm Market.

Nearly 40 episodes in, the two say things are going well. They’ve gradually built up an audience and they get good feedback from listeners who say they learn as much about barbecue as they do about business.

“Podcasting, it’s kind of built for barbecue because it’s low and slow,” Walchef said. “You literally have to be consistent and it’s done over a long period of time, so it’s not about how many people are listening. It’s about us really caring about the people who are listening.”

By doing interviews with many local business owners who are also direct competitors, the two hope the podcast helps build a stronger, more connected barbecue culture and community in San Diego.

“Kind of the same way the craft beer community did it,” Walchef said. “They didn’t cannibalize each other; they actually made each other better because they were an industry.”

• A new podcast and live show called “An Evening With Billy Galewood” is kicking off Saturday and will continue every Saturday through February at Java Joes in Old Town.

Puppets in City Heights, Beautiful Bunnies in the Gaslamp and More Arts and Culture News

• Local arts duo Collective Magpie has been working with students in Tijuana to come up with public art interventions that address border and immigration issues. Learn more about their work and see their resulting exhibition, which opens with a public talk this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Collective Magpie

One of the many public interventions held by Collective Magpie. / Photo courtesy of Collective Magpie

• It’s your last chance to catch the Vantage Theater production of “The Color of Light,” a play about artist Henri Matisse. (KPBS)

• The City Heights Puppet Project continues this year with a workshop involving veteran puppeteer Jason Johnson. I wrote about the project last year. 

• Cygnet Theatre announced its newest season.

• A retired librarian is the man behind “Indigenous: A Mestizo Journey,” a new exhibition at the Vista Library featuring portraits of people from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and the United States. (Union-Tribune)

• The Chula Vista Heritage Museum opened a new exhibit exploring the history of the Spanish-speaking people of South Bay. (Union-Tribune)

• Get to know more about Lauren Siry, the artist behind 1805 Gallery in Little Italy. (SDVoyager)

• Eleanor Antin and Barbara Kruger are just two of the famous females featured in a new show at UC San Diego that celebrates artists who paved the way for greater inclusion by addressing issues of race and gender in their work.

Here’s a free music and theater performance for kids, compliments of Arts for Learning.

• Well-known director and actor Maria Aitken is in San Diego directing The Old Globe’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” (Union-Tribune)

• This year’s Lytle Scholarship Concert at UC San Diego includes a big finale featuring four accomplished pianists playing together on stage at the same time.

• The San Diego Museum of Art’s popular “Culture & Cocktails” event is happening this week. Folks can drink and listen to music while they take in the “Modern Masters from Latin America: The Pérez Simón Collection” and “Frida and Me” exhibits.

• Artist Dean Ramos’ solo show is on view at Art Produce Gallery in North Park through March 3. (Union-Tribune)

• Have you come across the large painted rabbit sculptures scattered across the Gaslamp? You can meet some of the artists behind the beautiful bunnies on Thursday.

• Starting Friday, local students will be performing “Letters from the Wall,” a series of vignettes by local playwright Dave Rivas based on the true stories of people affected by the  border wall, immigration, deportation and separation.

• San Diego Opera is taking on Ástor Piazzolla’s tango opera “Maria de Buenos Aires” this week. The show is part of the new Detour series, and its aim is to introduce San Diegans to opera outside the grand opera tradition. Most of the performances have been sold out. (Union-Tribune)

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

• Green Flash Brewing Co. recently announced major layoffs. CityBeat’s beer columnist explains how the craft beer industry seems to be adjusting to a crowded market.

• The San Diego Food System Alliance was awarded a $500,000 grant from the state to help some large food production facilities reduce waste.

• The beers at Del Mar’s Viewpoint Brewing are just OK, but the view is great. (Union-Tribune)

For its 35th birthday, Rubio’s is offering folks a deal on its famed fish tacos. ICYMI: Our interview with Ralph Rubio, the man behind the restaurant.

The first Rubio's

The first-ever Rubio’s is on Mission Bay Drive in Pacific Beach. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

• You don’t need to be able to sing to join the new San Diego Beer Choir. The new singing beer group launched in October and returns to North Park Jan. 31. (Reader)

• There’s a new craft cidery in North Park. (San Diego Magazine)

• Tacos Perla in North Park has officially been replaced with The Taco Stand. (Eater)

• The annual Caffeine Crawl, a guided tour of craft coffee shops, is happening this weekend in the North County.

• Local rapper MC Flow is stoked that legal dispensaries are now a thing in San Diego. Her new song “Welcome to the Dispensary” is making the rounds on the internet. (Canndora)

The bike-themed Coffee Hub & Cafe is turning 1. Meanwhile, the Cafe La Maze steakhouse in National City is 77.

• Soon, there will be a Breakfast Republic restaurant in every single one of San Diego’s neighborhoods. Their pancake flights are pretty dope. (Eater)

• Bay City Brewing partnered up with three local coffee roasters on some new beers you can try at an event Saturday.

• This new cafe in Hillcrest sure is big and beautiful. (Eater)

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org with arts and culture news and tips. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

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