Chill Like That

The Neo and Trinity of the PHX kick it with the boho urban artistes of Paint at Paper Heart.

What's up with all the freakin' rain in this town? Sure, I'll be singin' another tune come August, but I didn't move to the middle of the desert to live in Seattle south. Now I know why everyone in the Pacific Northwest does heroin. Damn, if I have to spend another night holed up at home watching The Surreal Lifewhile the bottom drops out of the sky, I'm gonna cop me a kilo, paint my windows black, and do my Kurt Cobain impersonation.

So when it began drizzlin' on a recent Tuesday, I was all ready to dust off my copy of Trainspottingand treat my forearm like a pincushion when I remembered that I'd been meaning to pay a visit to my man DJ Seduce's night Paint at the Paper Heart, 750 Grand Avenue (www.thepaperheart.com). Paper Heart's a chill space, a converted car dealership with an art gallery, a bar serving beer and wine, and a performance space, where folks lounge about on couches and stuffed chairs grooving to whatever happens to be unfolding on the low stage before them. On Tuesdays with Paint, that means spoken word, live music and art, and Seduce spinning jazzy Brazilian Afrobeat joints while the coolios sip Stella Artois or a little house Cabernet.

The vibe is so welcoming and kick-back that it feels like someone's giving your gray matter a Swedish massage. "We're a rainy-day kinda place," Seduce, 26, says, by way of explaining to Jett and myself why there's a decent crowd of about 50-plus on an evening when most club-hoppers are in the crib painting their toenails or bobbing the bologna to something they rented at the Castle Megastore. Seduce, who also answers to Miguel Ivery, is a burly, gregarious cat with a cherubic face. He breaks down how the 6-month-old Paint came to be:

"I came in here on a First Friday and was checking out all the art, but there really wasn't anything other than bands playing in here. So I thought of having a night where we have art, music as I spin it, and spoken word. I called up a bunch of my friends and asked them, 'What do you think?' We decided to call it Paint as a metaphor. When you look at art, it's often a painting. Music is a painting in sound. And in poetry, you're painting a picture in words for people to imagine what your thoughts are. Music, art, spoken expression, it all equals Paint."

The crowd is a chessboard: black, white, and a little brown around the edges. The spot jumps off at 8 p.m., with Seduce makin' them decks purr and moan like a hot mamacita between satin sheets. Hence the turntable titan's nom de wax. By the time we arrive, a little after 9 p.m., master of ceremonies Even Steven (soon to be slingin' drinks, we hear, at Scottsdale's AZ 88) is about to introduce the first set of rhymers and verbalists. Since Valentine's Day is recently in the rearview, ES opens with the recitation of a love ditty by Browning, and announces that the theme of the eve is amour.

A series of word stylists follows. A Caucasian dude named Eric, in jeans, sneakers and white collared shirt with the tail out, starts reading -- screaming, actually -- from a black three-ring binder filled with poems about relationship angst: Ben Folds minus the piano. Another fella steps to the mic to spit some lines about having a "love jones" for some chicklette; and then my fave of the bunch, a lady named Divine with light butter-pecan skin, hoop earrings and a blue doo-rag, dedicates a piece to hip-hop, and raps about riding around her hometown of the Bronx and smokin' a spliff, back when "hip-hop was the best friend that I had." Rhymer Apollo is next, and the J-girl and I recognize this fella from a performance at Jackson's on Third way back. He rages against some of the ills of the 'hood, then makes way for a brother named Showcase, clothed in a State Property sweat suit, who tells us, "I love Paper Heart because it brings out that creative spark in me/Otherwise I'd be committing grand larceny."

There's a break between sets, and I order the brown-skinned Gwen Stefani to the bar to fetch me a Red Stripe, and her a glass of Chardonnay. Nearby in a red booth, the delectable Divine is tending to her 5-year-old son Elloheim, a very well-behaved little gent, who's engrossed in Finding Nemo, which they have playing on one of those small, portable DVD players.

"You know it's bad when you've seen the movie so much that you don't need the earphones to make out the dialogue," laughs the Divine One. "He's starting to follow in my footsteps a little bit, though. We just did a poetry jam at ASU West, and he actually bebopped behind one of my poems. So I think I'm motivating him, which is good."

"How long have you been doing spoken word?" I ask the lovely, classy lass.

"I've been performing for 11 years and writing poetry since I was 12," she relates. "I moved to Arizona from the Bronx in '89 with my mom. I go back every year, but most of my exposure's been out here instead of back home. I've built a lot out here. I do open mic, and I do workshops with high schools and juvenile correctional facilities."

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