Furry Fashion Show at the Firehouse

9 Jan

One happy unicorn.

The Firehouse has a giant pirate ship made from shopping carts docked in its back dirt lot; a skeletal, welded metal UFO perched atop its roof; and two makeshift wooden stages where people perform everything from fire-spinning dances to obscene sci-fi rap in sexy cyborg costumes. That’s just part of the peripheral grounds. Inside The Firehouse are artists’ apartments and studios, and a gallery (currently featuring a steampunk-themed show). It’s one of the longest-running independent artist collectives in downtown Phoenix, and I’ve seen a slew of quirky, fun stuff there.

It seems like every time I go there on a weekend with my girlfriend, Bootstrap, she somehow ends up becoming a last-minute part of whatever show’s going on. (Previously, she: participated in the annual “Fight Club” event by local promoters Sadisco*, getting into a chain-link octagon and wrestling with one of our friends; portrayed a “slave girl” devoured by someone in a giant Cthulu costume; and donned a metal breastplate for friends to use grinders on during an event by now-defunct group Grindwhore.)

So it was this past First Friday, when Bootstrap and I showed up at The Firehouse to watch a “steampunk fashion show,” and she ended up onstage in a giant hot pink bunny mask as part of a “furry fashion show.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When we first arrived, we ran into Wynter Holden and her husband Adam, who were both participating in the steampunk fashion show. Wynter and I worked together at Phoenix New Times, and we still run into each other at various steampunk, costuming, and generally geeky events and conventions. A little over a year ago, I wrote a feature story about steampunk, focusing on local artists like triplets the Brose Brothers, who took steampunk costuming and prop-making to epic levels. I also wrote a blog criticizing overdone steampunk trends at the Wild Wild West Con in Tucson. That blog received more than 10,000 hits and 126 comments, most to the effect that I was an elitist bitch who didn’t know what she was talking about. But my whole point with that blog was that too many people were just donning top hats and gluing gears to things and calling it steampunk, and that very few people actually made costumes that stood out in terms of both aesthetics and craftsmanship.

This is a wolf, but we prefer chupacabra.

Well, the Holdens’ costumes stood out Friday night. Adam made a pair of kinetic aluminum wings for Wynter; they were attached to her hands, and she controlled the movements of the wings, which had an impressive span. Adam was wearing a top hat with a plush orange squid on top, its tentacles cradling a clock with exposed gears – which worked, at one time. I should point out here that I dig gears. My complaint is with purely decorative gears in stupid places – glued onto the toes of motorcycle boots or imitation Renaissance arm cuff bracers, for example. But gears that function in clocks and props are cool as hell.

While the steampunk fashion show was the headline thing of the night, there were two other “fashion shows” on the Firehouse stage. The first was a costume show from the local comedy performers of First Friday Night Live, and included a two-person cow costume with a lively back end, a giant crushed velvet squid with wild and crazy flailing tentacles, and the pope with three gay cardinals.

Bootstrap got recruited for the furry fashion show (which followed the FFNL catwalk) earlier in the night, when a girl named Carla – who makes some awesome animal masks – mentioned she needed a few more people to wear her masks for the show. When Bootstrap heard there was a psychotic bunny mask she could wear, she headed backstage to get ready.

First Friday Night Live cast members dress to impress, or be damned.

Local three-piece band Jellied Brainz played a few songs on the second stage in-between the three fashion shows. I’d never heard them before, but they had an interesting setup: a female keyboard player who sang off-key, another woman playing a baritone brass horn, and a male drummer who also sang (slightly more in-key than his bandmate). Their sound was like ragtime garage – upbeat, prancing piano with snappy, snare-heavy drum beats punctuated by bleating brass – and all their lyrics were about machines. Bootstrap bought one of their CDs from the gallery.

Bootstrap as a killer bunny.

A sassy unicorn kicked off the furry fashion show, strutting back and forth across the stage with a party girl-grin. A bunch of coyotes and wolves followed (including a blue version of each), but my favorite was the wolf that made everyone scream “Chupacabra!” Bootstrap came put in the big hot pink bunny mask and made menacing gestures toward the audience. She told me later that she couldn’t see a thing.

During the steampunk fashion show, I went inside the gallery to check out the art exhibit. I’d run into one of the artists, Elvis Knievel, near the Firehouse stage earlier, and he encouraged me to go check out his “post-apocalyptic assemblages.” They were incredibly detailed, large-scale works, filled with multiple levels of metal sculptures and figures including everything from tiki motifs to naval scenes. I’ve long been a fan of Knievel’s retro-futuristic prop guns, and I have to say, the assemblages were amazing.

Bootstrap and I left before midnight, while a good amount of folks were still milling around. It was a good night, overall. We got to see some old friends, Bootstrap got to be a killer bunny, and there was nary a pointless gear in sight all night.


2 Responses to “Furry Fashion Show at the Firehouse”

  1. Michael 23 January 27, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    awesome post! Thanks.

  2. Danielle Orton February 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Great view point on The Firehouse! Obviously you did your homework and you *get it*. I’m a former resident, current 23 collective member and the operator of our sister gallery ~ Miami Art Works. 509 W Sullivan Street, Miami, AZ. Come visit us soon!

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