Stephen Steinbrink and his band French Quarter are frequent guests of Irvine's Acrobatics Everyday, and that's usually where they feel within their element. The singer-songwriter hails from South Phoenix, Arizona, where he eschews traditional venues in favor of basements, warehouses and living rooms.
French Quarter's plaintive guitar pop is best performed in close quarters, where the audience is rapt and the focus is on music. When not performing, Steinbrink manages several personal and group projects which give meaning to the expression "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." Ahead of tonight's performance at U.C. Irvine, here are five ways Stephen Steinbrink keeps busy during the recession.
1. French Quarter's recent recording session at Dub Narcotic Studio marks Steinbrink's 15th collection of songs. Founded by K Records' Calvin Johnson, another proponent of lo-fidelity pop, the Olympia-based studio has produced the music of singer-songwriters Kimya Dawson and Mirah. Steinbrink's last set of recordings, Rennet, featured his usual sparse guitar arrangements as well as his foray into Arthur Russell-inspired disco pop. It's not clear whether the new Olympia recordings will further explore new textures, but it's certain Steinbrink has no shortage of inspiration, whether it's summertime heartbreak or Arizona desert.
2. In addition to his music, Steinbrink is a painter and cartoonist who regularly exhibits his work in galleries and sometimes distributes his work free of charge. His most recent project was a free hand-drawn comic book zine he gave away to fans. You can visit his blog and print your own copy of "Moodes Boone."
3. As if being an itinerant musician and painter wasn't enough, Steinbrink's day job is working as an art instructor for children. He also organizes free workshops to teach people how to make their own comic books and zines.
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4. When local independent venue YOBS announced it would close its doors in South Phoenix, Steinbrink and his friend James Fella of Gilgongo Records rushed in to fill the gap by founding the Yellow Canary Dance Hall. The warehouse venue, scheduled to open in July, will also serve as community center, print shop, art gallery and lecture hall. "With James as an owner of a semi-successful underground label and myself as a touring musician, I feel like we have a vastly different perspectives and set of ideals than other show bookers in town, who I believe to be greedy, self-obsessed, soulless pigs, with the exception of a few," Steinbrink told the Phoenix New Times.
5. Steinbrink and his band hit the road when they're not busy making the city of Phoenix a better place. Tonight, they perform at U.C. Irvine's Cross Cultural Center with fellow Phoenix locals The Teeets, San Luis Obispo's Hollow Sunshine and Life's Blood labelmate Kevin Greenspon. The show starts at 9:00 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at the door.