Even in the midst of summer swelter, last week's First Friday proved to be the epicenter of all things cool in Bako.
On this particular evening the place to be was The Foundry for the solo art show debut of Bakersfield artist and social activist Jorge Guillen, who titled the collection "Chicano -- In the Last Days of the 5th Sun."
By the time I arrived, the streets were full even though the sidewalks retained the near-100- degree heat from the afternoon. My Frida Kahlo shirt, worn in honor of her birthday, was fully baptized in sweat. I wasn't looking very embraceable, but I managed a few brief hugs from some brave friends. Right outside The Foundry, author Nick Belardes was signing copies of his book "Lords: Part One" and raising funds for his Random Writers Workshop with help from local bloggers Matildakay and Jane Hawley.
Inside, cold Mexican beer and sweet wines were being served while socializing was in full swing among a mix of local artists and supporters, including photographers Coy Townson, Tanya X Leonzo, and Foundry curator Christina Sweet.
At the center of it all stood Jorge Guillen surrounded by attendees and well wishers. I've gotten to know Jorge over the years as one of the more colorful personalities in the local art scene. In conversation, he speaks like his paintings look --always poetic and full of energy. I still recall the first time I ran into him outside the Padre painting the power box on the corner of 19th and H streets. You know the one -- street scene, swirly colors, a camel. It's a work in progress with countless interpretations. For me, it's just a really ingenious way to get noticed on some prime real estate. There isn't a day that goes by I don't shoot a glance over to the corner to see if he's there with his boom box, blasting Rage Against the Machine next to his ice chest, working on touch-ups. Car exhaust and the elements aren't kind to street art, so it's nice to see that commitment to his craft.
"It makes you feel like a thousand bucks to get your own show and see people come to admire your work," said Guillen on Wednesday about the success of Friday's show, adding that two of his 10 featured paintings sold during the opening, with more inquiries coming in daily. "I'm elated. It's a blessing and it motivates me to continue, that someone outside of my being wants something that I created."
Guillen went on to share that the response from his family was equally satisfying, given his working-class roots in the fields of Lamont where the occupation of "professional artist" isn't the preferred career path.
"My family keeps me grounded. I consider myself coming from a family of artists, but we haven't always been allowed to pursue that. My grandmother, Guadalupe, was a writer and poet. I'm just continuing that legacy. My dad said, 'Que bueno' (very good), but my family still says, 'Go get a job.' My mom was really proud too. They've seen these paintings every day for months at my home, so when I have a success, it justifies my work to them. It was just a great night."
Keep an eye on Guillen in the coming months.
In September, he'll be participating in Metro Galleries' "Latination 4," plus showing at a variety of community events, including Third Thursday at Mill Creek and more.
"Chicano -- In the Last Days of the 5th Sun" runs through July 26. The Foundry is located at 1602 20th St.
For more information, call 388-0278.
B-Town Blues Fest
Tickets are on sale for World Records' 8th Annual B-Town Blues Fest on Sept. 15 with Coco Montoya, Ana Popovic and Eric Sardinas at the CSUB Amphitheater.
As in years past, there are a variety of ticketing options to suit everyone's budget. Reserved tickets are available for tables of six for $40 each. General admission lawn seating is $30. Seniors, college students and active military are $25. High school students and children are admitted free. Dinner tickets for the catered Jake's/Frugatti's/Coconut Joe's yumfest happening during the event are $10. Houchin Blood Bank will begin handing out $5 lawn seating discount coupons to blood donors on Aug. 13. For more information, call 831-3100. World Records is located at 2815 F St.
In other World Records news, according to a regular email newsletter sent out by store owner Pat Evans, the 28th annual Scott Schwebel Memorial Golf Classic held two weeks ago helped raise $2,000 towards a character development program at Beardsley School. Shwebel co-founded the longstanding independent music store in 1982 with Evans, but died in a tragic car accident a few months after it opened its original storefront in East Bakersfield.
Of Athena, False Puppet at B Ryder's Bar, 7401 White Lane, $3, all ages, 7 p.m. Friday, 397-7304; followed at 9 p.m. by Barstool Saints & Crooked Folk.
Instead of heading to Camp Crystal Lake in search of a machete-wielding lunatic on Friday the 13th, we suggest a safer form of mayhem. Santa Barbara pop punk trio False Puppet just performed in front of a wild Vans Warped tour crowd and have one of the most rabid fans on the coast line. Their latest self-titled ep is catchy fun and perfect for the summertime blues. Opening are Bakersfield's Of Athena. Stick around for a special evening rockin' and rollin' punk double bill with Crooked Folk and Barstool Saints at no extra charge. What a bargain?
Dizzy Wright at B Ryder's Bar, $12, all ages 7 p.m. Saturday, 397-7304. This Las Vegas rapper's "SmokeOut Conversations" album hit number two on iTunes' hip-hop chart upon its release in April, but refuses to embrace the mainstream.
Regularly boasting of his indie status on his desire to "edutain" his listeners Wright's rare visit to Bakersfield should not be missed.
It's not often our area gets a chance to catch new rap acts currently making waves. Also appearing are Jarren Benton, DJ Hoppa, and Irv Da Phenom.
"Troubadour Blues" screening at Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St., $5, 7 p.m. Tuesday, 323-7219. "Troubadour Blues" is a feature-length documentary that explores the fascinating world of traveling singer-songwriters where honest, authentic songs reflecting the human experience are still being sung on street corners and coffeehouses all over the world. The film features performances by Peter Case, Chris Smither, Amy Speace, Garrison Starr, Dave Alvin, Jeff Talmadge. Special live opening acoustic set by Bakersfield's David Nigel Lloyd prior to the screening. Presented by the Kern River Blues Society.