Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Chat With Paul from Wonder Fair About Final Fridays' Cat People, Harry and the Potters, and Regional Sodas

Today we're chatting with Paul from Wonder Fair about the gallery's Final Friday opening called "Cat People," the continuing cultural relevance of "wizard rock," regional sodas, and the delightful taste of milk-based cocktails. Enjoy! And please see the Harry and the Potters' gig at Wonder Fair tonight at 7:00 (FB event page here ) and the "Cat People" exhibit which opens tomorrow (FB event page here ).

Chip: Like all humans, we love looking at cats being cute and doing funny things, and this month’s Final Fridays exhibit, Cat People, sounds, well, adorable. What can we expect to see, and what the hell is a “milk bar?” And will it also sell PBR?

Paul: My brother Joe has a theory that Cat People will be the next pop culture craze. Vampires took over a few years back, and then made way for zombies. If he's right and Cat People are next, then we're on the cutting edge. If he's wrong, that's fine, I still think we have a cool exhibition. Most of the art on the walls concerns the human-feline relationship. I think the cat-loving community subconsciously yearns for a deepening of that relationship and the eventual transformation into a hybrid Cat People race. I don't mean that in a sexual way, but we did watch the 1982 psychosexual thriller "Cat People" starring Nastassia Kinski as research for the exhibit.

I'm not sure what the Milk Bar will be serving yet. I've been on tour for the last week and a half and am writing to you from our van. As soon as I get back to Lawrence, I'm going to hit the Iwig store and see if I get inspired. Rest assured there will be at least one milk-based cocktail. We're hoping that most visitors have had their own White Russian-inspired epiphany and learned that milk and alcohol should be consumed in moderation, so yes, as always, there will be PBR available.

Richard: To be honest, we were a little worried when Wonder Fair came under new management after the era of BARRR and the gang keeping it weird down there, but so far the gallery's freak flag still seems to be flying high. Tell us about your vision for the gallery and what it can offer? What demographic are you appealing to the most?

Paul: The whole reason we got involved was because we loved what Eric Dobbins and crew had brought to Lawrence. When Wonder Fair first opened, it seemed like a missing piece of downtown Lawrence had finally been revealed. I think it really reflected how unique and weird and playful Lawrence can be.

Meredith had been a volunteer at the space and when those guys eventually moved on to the "Big City" (KC), they turned to her to take up the mantle and keep Wonder Fair alive. I think it plays an important role in Lawrence as a place to highlight the work of emerging artists, both on a local level and a national level. We also want Wonder Fair to be a place where you can experience art rather than casually observe it and we factor that into our curation of the gallery space and the shoppe as well as the music and art events we've been hosting. We want to be a place that involves and engages the community.

Wonder Fair always had a kind of magical vibe: first when it was in the basement and now in our current location above the Casbah. We want to keep that magic alive. People have to make a commitment to climb up those stairs without knowing what the payoff will be and we try to honor that by making a trip to Wonder Fair something that is both visually and intellectually rewarding.

This already sounds rather professional, so to avoid sounding like a total douche, I'd rather not discuss things like "target demographics." Suffice it to say, we want everyone to come to Wonder Fair because we have cool stuff that is well-designed and made by people with faces.

Chip: Paul, we know your band Harry and the Potters has achieved great success, and we certainly love “wizard rock.” What do you think is the future of the genre now that the Potter series has reached an end? Does it have staying power, or should you perhaps be forming a Hunger Games band, perhaps called Katniss and the Arena-Rockers, with a lead singer who shoots a bow and arrow?

Paul: Let's cut to the chase: this is a nice way of asking if my band is still culturally relevant. I've been answering this question since 2007 when the last Harry Potter book came out. Things have changed a bit for us since then. In those days, we were playing 120-130 shows a year, but now we've scaled back to about 50 or so. It's enough to keep us alive without dominating our lives and allows us opportunities to focus on other projects (like Wonder Fair). But back to the relevance part which is a fair question. It's true that Harry Potter is not really a perpetual media topic as it was for much of the last decade. However, the significance of these books is really lasting and profound. This may sound weird, but I think that Harry Potter was, in many ways, the rock star/culture icon for this current generation of teenagers and 20-somethings in the same way that Kurt Cobain was for kids in my generation. Maybe I'm only saying that because I am in a van right now and we just listened to Nevermind (FYI: it is still awesome).

Last night we played a library sponsored show in an elementary school in Springfield, MO. About half of the audience was from this Harry Potter generation and I think a lot of them came to the show because they want a way to continue to celebrate and involve themselves with this very significant part of their youth. Maybe it's the same reason I still go and see They Might Be Giants when I have the chance (FYI: they are also still awesome). But the other half of the audience at the show was an entirely new generation of Harry Potter fans: really young kids who have parents that are now raising them in this magical world. So, in a sense, we are still functioning with much the same purpose and intent as when we originally started our band nearly 10 years ago: to subversively turn America's wizarding youth onto the world of DIY punk rock.

As for the Hunger Games stuff, fuck no, we won't be throwing our hat into that arena. That would make us look like opportunistic assholes. And yes, I'm sure there are many people who probably already think that's the case and maybe they're correct to some degree. I'm just trying to keep as much of my integrity in tact as possible while still dressing up as a teenage boy wizard.

Richard: Tell us what’s on the horizon for Wonder Fair in 2012? Will there be any events centered around the inevitable Mayan apocalypse?

Paul: 2012 is the Year of a Million Dreams. Or at least I assume so. I've gone to Disney World a couple times over the past few years and every time I'm there, it always seems to be the Year of a Million Dreams, so I assume things aren't any different in 2012.

We're dreaming of helping to turn Lawrence into a print mecca of the midwest: fine art multiples at affordable prices. A medium for the people! To that end, we've got a print invitational happening over the summer which we hope to maybe turn into an annual event and then we have a great show in the fall with KU professor and print ambassador Michael Krueger and a couple of his buddies.

Wonder Fair will also soon serve as Lawrence's only soda speakeasy. As we've been touring through the midwest, I've been stocking up on regional sodas that are unavailable outside of certain geographic regions. We're rolling hard with cases of Moxie, Cheerwine and Faygo. Not sure of the legality of this project. I heard a while back that 715 had their Dublin Dr. Pepper confiscated, so that's why we're going for the speakeasy thing. Mum's the word, guys.

Here's the funny pic for the Harry and the Potters show:

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