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Review: Wild fashions (and a little old-timey music) at ARTpool's TRA'shion Fashion Show




(This is the 30th entry in Soundcheck's summer concert series, The 50-50 Club. For previous entries, click here.)

Another predictably unpredictable night on the fringes of old St. Pete.

A crowd of 33,273 packed the Trop to watch the Rays, A's and Smash Mouth. There was a kid-friendly version of Andy Warhol's Factory going on at the Morean Arts Center. Cafe Bohemia was gearing up for a night of oddball music and art.

And over at ARTpool, it was time for yet another of their fabulously funky monthly parties -- the second annual TRA'shion Fashion Show, featuring artists from all over Florida showing off, and then selling works inspired by, their fashion creations.

I don't use the word "gem" lightly, but that's precisely what ARTpool is -- a gem for young artists in a city that cherishes its love of the arts. Founder Marina Williams' totally artist-driven boutique-gallery-artspace constantly blasts fresh air into the local art-party scene, especially on big nights like this one. Last year's TRA'shion Fashion show sold out.

Obviously, when you think of edgy art-driven high fashion, you think of one thing: Old-timey riverboat music.

Good thing the post-show headliner Saturday night at ARTpool was the Jim Morey Band.

(After the jump, get photos of some of the craziest fashion creations of the night...)

Jim Morey is a man of many hats (and I mean that literally; he actually does possess a fairly large hat collection). The singer-trumpeter is part of the local bands Lounge Cat and the Helios Jazz Orchestra, and he gigs regularly at joints around town. And he's got a bit of a Johnny Depp thing going on.

Of course, if you're going to show up at a fashion show, you'd better have a bit of a Johnny Depp thing going on. ARTpool is a funky-artsy-hipstery place, but many people where there just for the runway action, and as a result, lots of them looked like their outfits were not exactly secondhand, if you catch my drift. Williams, for her part, wore gown made of Skittles. I'm not kidding.

There were actually two fashion shows on the night, one indoor and one outdoor. The interior of ARTpool is deliriously cool, from the art and photography on the walls, to the gold-painted dinosaur toys for sale in back, to the silver cassette-tape necklace pendants, to an impressive selection of tie tacks, to a Girl Scout sash from the '70s, to a (possibly real) autographed Smothers Brothers program for only $5. The next time I need a gift for someone, I'm definitely coming back here.

But Saturday, unless you had a VIP seat, inside ARTpool was probably not where you wanted to be. It was hot in there, and packed, and the models had to catwalk practicaly across your lap (which, okay, maybe wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world). Also, the live music was outside, and since that's part of the reason I was there, that's where I headed.

The band charged with scoring the runway show was jazztronica trio the New Math, which features Jonathan Milton, an old friend of Williams' and a St. Pete Times buddy of mine, on soprano sax. He described the group's sound as Bjork meets M.I.A. meets Nine Inch Nails, with jazz and classical touches. To me they were kinda trip-hop, kinda Miri Bin-Ari, with a heavy Middle Eastern influence. It was perfect runway music.

And when the indoor show wrapped up and the models finally headed outside, it was -- in the words of Tim Gunn -- on like Donkey Kong.

Having never attended a fashion show, I didn't know what to expect or where to look at any given moment, but the sheer artsiness of the designs made it tough to look away. It was like a particularly challenging episode of Project Runway come to life*.

There was the guy in the hoodie that covered his entire head like a burlap sack. There was the lady in the dress covered with stuffed animals. There were brides, shirtless dudes in ties, girls in T-shirt miniskirts and at least one crocheted bikini. There was the girl in the gown made of Target bags, and another wearing a dress made from Coca-Cola cases, and another made from Zephyrhills water labels, and several wearing gowns made from newspapers.

And then after the runway show ended, and most of the strangely attired models had dispersed, on came the Jim Morey Band.

How to describe their sound? It's very nostalgic; part swing, part country, part jazz, part barbershop. It's the music the Little Rascals might have liked had they grown up to be teenagers. Or it's like Leon Redbone, maybe. Or O Brother, Where Art Thou. Or the music from Arrested Development**. Or Steamboat Willie.

This probably makes no sense to you, the fair reader. Why, you wonder, would a hip art collective book four mint julep-soaked Soggy Bottom Boys 'n' Girls -- a banjoist, a bassist, a fiddler and a singer-trumpeter -- to play their big, wild fashion show?

To me, the answer is simple: The Jim Morey Band is different. Wildly different. There just aren't many Twain-age bands out there these days, playing a style of songs favored by chaps who carry tins of Dapper Dan pomade and ride the old-timey bikes with the big front wheel. This is mustache-wax music -- and as if to drive that point home, the band wore fake curlicue mustaches.

My point is: Anything as crazy-different as the Jim Morey Band has a home at ARTpool. And our community is the better for it.

Besides, at times, the music was downright fit for jitterbuggin'. Why, when the band played When the Saints Go Marching In, some of the towering, fishnet-clad models began to cut a rug. You'd have sworn you were back in a 1920s speakeasy:

Yep: Just another predictably unpredictable night on the fringes of old St. Pete.

-- Text/photos by Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Check out a bunch more photos below...

* Sorry for the multiple Project Runway references in this post. As we established during my Lady Gaga review, the editors of Elle aren't exactly about to beat a path to my door to hire me away anytime soon.

** But not, unfortunately, Franklin Comes Alive. Although that would have been awesome.

[Last modified: Sunday, July 12, 2009 3:28am]


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