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The growing legacy of St. Vincent

AN ARTIST ON ALL FRONTS

St. Vincent, also known as Annie Clark, is an enigma. She comes off as well-read, especially for someone who dropped out of music school halfway through her junior year.

Photo: Jeremy Holder • CU Denver Sentry

Her musical persona is rife with cultural and literary references, from the name of her first record, Marry Me—a frequent catchphrase of Maeby Fünke in the cult comedy show Arrested Development—to the name St. Vincent itself—borrowed from a Nick Cave song that describes the hospital in which the British poet Dylan Thomas supposedly died. Not only does she have a curated yet informed taste in media, Clark has a variety of artistic talents. She began her musical career at age 12 by picking up a guitar. The release of her first record in 2007 marked Clark’s debut as a singer, while this year marks her directorial debut. St. Vincent creates her work with a multimedia approach, and her immersive style resonates with fans all over the world, including right here in Denver.

On Nov. 17, in an effort to mirror this multimodal artist, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Colfax transformed its classic 1950’s Beatnik-style bar into an event themed after Clark’s newest album, Masseduction, by casting the checkered black and white walls in a bath of soft pink, gold, and blue lighting. The event was set up to pay tribute to the album through decorations and lighting that matched with the record’s overall aesthetic. On the other side of the bar, an array of turntables, mixers, and speakers cluttered a curtained wall and a sound system was set up for broadcasting the evening’s music throughout the entire cozy lounge.

Three different collaborators all came together, giving rise to an event that combined multiple platforms of visual media and music with other senses, such as taste, to create the ultimate multimedia experience. While the Alamo Drafthouse played a generous role as host, and Denver’s SoundDown Party provided dozens of headphones to be used for a silent disco. Vinyl Me, Please served as the connecting collaborator that     brought the event together.

Photo: Jeremy Holder • CU Denver Sentry

Vinyl Me, Please has members from over 46 different countries, according to Emily Greenstein, an event coordinator for the record club. Every month the club distributes one selected record to its members, but this particular record club adds a unique spin on the concept. Along with a record of the month, a featured craft cocktail recipe is included. “I think the best way to experience an album is to just put it on and sit back, maybe sip on something, and really listen without any distractions.” Grenstein said. “Each month we come up with a different cocktail that, we feel at least, goes really well with the album,” Later, Greenstein casually strolled up to the record player bathed in dim blue light, seemingly innocuous due to her petite frame and short brown hair styled like a summer camp counselor, and switched the album to an early LCD Soundsystem record.

This month, a bartender named Brittany Metheny, who has worked with the Alamo Drafthouse for a little over six years, created the cocktail for St. Vincent’s Masseduction. The event began with a demonstration from Metheny, whose pale blue hair sparkled from behind the dazzlingly bright and copper-finished bar as she held up a champagne flute and carefully poured each ingredient in. During Metheny’s demonstration, tracks from St. Vincent’s newest album drifted softly in the background while a compilation of her music videos were edited to match up with her latest record. The album, pressed on a dark pink vinyl, sounded crisp but not overwhelming in the interactive room.

St. Vincent has had quite the busy year in 2017. She directed her film, XX,  that premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and released her fifth studio album, Masseduction, on Oct.13 after dropping two singles that were accompanied by music videos she was instrumental in creating.

2017 also proved to be a year full of landmark feminist moments; St. Vincent’s film boasted an all-female directorial team, while St. Vincent herself shattered a glass ceiling when she became the first woman nominated as the Record Store Day’s Ambassador for 2017—a title that nobody truly understands or knows the real meaning of.

After the cocktail demonstration, a makeshift movie theater comprised of various couches haphazardly shoved off to one side of the bar began to fill with more attendees, St. Vincent-inspired cocktails in hand. A screening of XX was in order, the next event on a packed itinerary for the evening. “This is the second St. Vincent party we’ve done this month,” Josh Thompson said. “We had our first about two weeks ago at a bar on Blake Street, but we haven’t been back to the Alamo since August so we thought we’d throw another one for this record, because it’s just such a great album.”

Thompson, as it turns out, works as a resident DJ under the artist name Details for Vinyl Me, Please in Denver and helps put these events together. He was slated to take over the decks when the screening of XX finished, during the silent disco portion of the night.

A silent disco involves driving to a public space, where people mingle over drinks, food, or small talk. Suddenly, everybody ends their conversations and snaps on massive headphones that tune into different radio channels. For some people, going to live shows doesn’t sound appealing or is downright impossible, so enjoying music in other forms while creating such a social atmosphere can serve as a good alternative.

On one channel, the album Masseduction played. On the second, a curated mix put together by Thompson played and included songs that he felt embodied the sounds that St. Vincent drew inspiration from in her work. “I try to put myself in the head of the album, so to speak.” Thompson said. “I try to understand the artist themselves and where they are coming from, but I also try to find direct parallels in the album at hand too.”

The genre of the record of the month varies every time, meaning Thompson has to do some deep digging into each album of the month chosen by Vinyl Me, Please. As a result, his library of music ranges all over the place. Not only is Thompson’s taste varied, but his collection is numerous: “I have about 8,000 vinyl records in my collection at home,” Thompson said.

The power and versatility of St. Vincent’s work has impacted fans through film, music, and even fashion. She has inspired creations in her honor, from cocktails to DJ mixes to photoshoots. And because St. Vincent had such a successful year and has inspired many artists across all mediums, the folks at Vinyl Me, Please decided to honor her by selecting her record as the record of the month. Overall, St. Vincent’s diverse and eclectic approach to art was aptly captured in a party that mixed all sorts of mediums to create an immersive homage to the muse-like artist.

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