Mural by Cynthia Lujan at the Ice House Arts Complex during ICON LBC on Friday, June 7. Photo by Asia Morris.
Mural by Otis Woods at the  Ice House Arts Complex during ICON LBC on Friday, June 7. Photo by Asia Morris.
Mural by Joey Stupor and Bodeck Hernandez at the 
Ice House Arts Complex during ICON LBC on Friday, June 7. Photo by Asia Morris.

ICON LBC on Friday night at the Ice House Arts Complex started out as any Hello, Welcome event usually does. Pull up in the Lyft, crane your neck looking up at June the Goon’s enormous painting on the outside of the warehouse, wait a few minutes for the guard to check your ID, walk up five flights of stairs to arrive breathless and more concerned for your health and heart rate than for the beautiful art around you.

But you know what assuages those concerns? A six-dollar cup of room-temperature Chardonnay expertly poured from a box by a smiling woman likely volunteering her time to serve warm wine. I was perfectly happy until I spotted a man across the way with a grimace, much like my own, as he stared, perturbed, into the watery depths of his lukewarm libation.

The event, a partnership with Long Beach Architecture Week, was described by its organizers as “a new experience.” There were two things that were noticeably different from previous mural shows: the lighting and the temperature. Five or 10 people twirled and swayed to ethereal sounds and vocals (or their own beat, it was hard to tell) emanating from experimental DJ Kenny Zhao. The darker, club-like atmosphere with blue, pink and black lights encouraged this I’m sure.

Also, it was hot. So hot in fact that I witnessed multiple people get on their hands and knees to stick their heads through the head-sized hole in the wall facing Anaheim Street. There’s also a pretty decent view of the city out there if you’re willing to get down and dirty to see it. Yeah, I’m so not ready for summer.

At one point, I saw LBAW co-founders and partners Sal Flores and Brian Trimble standing side by side with their arms around each other, beaming at their surroundings, as any parents would while watching their progeny receive their college diploma. They, LBAW co-founder Dan O’Brien and Inspired LBC founder Josh Garcia, organized the event and told artists to paint something iconic, whether that be a building, a person or anything the artist deemed deserving of the adjective.

Otis Woods’ surreal-looking mural was one of my favorites, Cynthia Lujan’s was one of the best I’ve seen from her yet (her obsession with street signage is truly something to behold) and the collaboration between Bodeck Hernandez and Joey Stupor looked like a scene from Mario Kart but with a dog, a child and Stupor’s self-portrait of him as an alien-like being prancing down a rainbow road instead of race cars. (Asia Morris)

Eckart Preu is not a rock star. Still… Photo by Stephen Carr

It geeks me out when someone who is not a rock star is referred to as such. This usually happens when someone is very popular for a time, completely ignoring the fact that rock stars many times are not popular or really even liked—Mick Jagger, Kanye West—that what gives them their otherness, is that we recognize that no matter how we feel about them and their boorish, narcissistic selves, we can’t help but be drawn to them, like it or not, and they know it, though they really don’t care, which draws us even more to them.

So, I will not degrade you or myself—not here, anyway—by calling Eckart Preu, a rock star. That would be stupid. He is the music director of a classical orchestra in a medium-sized market; the Long Beach Symphony. No amount of special “Pops” evenings featuring symphonic tributes to Motown is going to change that.

And yet, Saturday, when Preu wheeled around on his conductor platform so quickly, violently and borderline out of control that he nearly spun himself into the front row, there were traces of him not really giving a damn what anyone in the packed Terrace Theater thought at that moment. Glaring out into the darkness, his face and clothes dripping sweat, he exuded very much a “Are you not entertained?” vibe punctuated with the rock star-ish “I couldn’t care less.” Dude had done his job.

So had the other 119, or so, musicians and performers from the Long Beach Camerata singers on stage. They had just finished Beethoven’s Ninth, the final portion of that being, as you know—and let’s pretend you do—the “Ode to Joy.” As I wrote about in the piece below, it is arguably the most popular, beloved piece of music ever written and will jack up any crowd, so the fact that crowd was into it was not surprising.

‘Oh, you’ll know’: LB Symphony’s Eckart Preu talks ‘Ode to Joy’

But the fact that the sold-out crowd sort of exploded after the orchestra and singers hit the final note, and did it again after the encore, the fact that I observed the elderly couple sitting right next to me reaching for each other’s hands—their eyes never leaving the stage—and once having found each other, clutched on to each other like they were riding out a storm, lashed to the mast. The fact that all of this was happening in and emanating from a crowd that, like so many you find at arts organization events, was significantly populated with folks who, if not actual former members of the Bull Moose Party themselves, likely had a favorite uncle who was, made all of this craziness that much more crazy.

Preu seemed to sense the intensity when he came onto the stage. Gazing out at the full house, he took the mic and talked about who was retiring and then brought out Lynda Sue Marks, the percussionist who was retiring after this performance, after being with the orchestra since 1957. He then jumped into some Handel, took a break, came back and proceeded to conduct the Ninth like it ran over his dog. He was relentless, at times quite literally working himself breathless. Preu was so intense that, at one point, a sudden laser-like focus on a member of the orchestra was so fierce that one of the vocal soloists misinterpreted the look and began singing about five minutes before he was actually supposed to come in.

For whatever reasons, the whole night had that feel about it, even before I got inside. There seemed to be a palpable buzz outside the Terrace Theater, maybe because this was the closing performance of the symphony’s season, maybe because a lot of fun people showed up, dressed in interesting ways or saying interesting things. I passed two of whom were doing the latter as I made my way to the metal detectors, and heard one say to the other, “… no way was I giving him any kind of orgy vibe.”

Rock and roll! (Steve Lowery)

Steve Lowery is the Long Beach Post's Arts & Culture editor. You can follow him @SteveLowery12.

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