Nerd Culture

Nine Nerdy Things to Do in Phoenix in February

Hundreds of people lined up early to shop.
Hundreds of people lined up early to shop. Melissa Fossum
Ah, February. The air is rich and heavy with cool breezes and Cupid arrows whizzing by. While February is for lovers, it's also a time for getting out of the house and doing some nerdy shit. There's a whole bunch of it happening this month, as evidenced by these nine events below.




The 64th Annual VNSA Book Sale

Arizona State Fairgrounds
1826 West McDowell Road





For bibliophiles in Phoenix, the annual VNSA Book Sale is a true “kid in a candy store” mood. Housed inside the State Fairgrounds’ Ag Center Building, the sale hosts a massive amount of books that are priced to move, with some pricier volumes set aside in a Rare and Unusual Books section. For first-timers to the sale, keep this in mind: VNSA-ers don’t play. People show up hours before the doors open to line up, and wait times to get inside can take a few hours. It’s a great excuse to bring that book you’ve been meaning to finish and knock it out before entering a Valhalla of second-hand books in search of some new shit to read.

The 64th Annual VNSA Book Sale is Saturday, February 8, and Sunday, February 9. Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., while Sunday goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's free to attend, but the fairgrounds charges an $8 parking fee. The sale is first-come, first-serve.

click to enlarge Plug and play: This is the kind of thing you can expect to see and hear at the 2019 Phoenix Synthesizer Festival - CHRISTOPHER SCINTO
Plug and play: This is the kind of thing you can expect to see and hear at the 2019 Phoenix Synthesizer Festival
Christopher Scinto



Phoenix Synthesizer Festival

Paradise Valley Community College
18401 North 32nd Street




Dust off your keytars and get ready to get your Moog on: the Phoenix Synthesizer Festival is back. Aficionados from across the Valley are poised to gather for four days of synthing, in an event that features hands-on activities and demonstrations as well as performances by local and touring talent. The big headliner for this year's festival is Grammy nominee Steve Roach, whose large body of work is dotted with experiments in New Age, aggressive textures, and electronic soundscapes. The chance to see him do his thing live should be a real treat for synth-heads.

The Phoenix Synthesizer Festival runs from Thursday, February 6, through Sunday, February 9, at Paradise Valley Community College. It is free to attend most of the festival, but the performances on Thursday and Friday night are ticketed. Thursday’s UNION32 + TSONE show costs $12, and tickets to Friday’s Steve Roach concert are $25. Tickets to both shows can be purchased through Vendini.


click to enlarge Family fun. - SOUTHWEST MAKER FEST
Family fun.
Southwest Maker Fest



Southwest Maker Fest

Downtown Mesa Festival of the Arts
150 West Pepper Place, Mesa




To paraphrase Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come to gawk at it. Makers, tinkerers, inventors, and all-around mad scientists will have a chance to show off their wares and learn new skills at the Seventh Annual Southwest Maker Fest. The event is a one-day celebration of human ingenuity that showcases activities like fiber arts, glass flame-working, T-shirt printing, metalworking, robotics, and tear-apart electronics. It also gives folks a chance to do some hands-on learning and shop a marketplace of homemade wonders. Those looking to hear some stories at the fest can pop over to the i.d.e.a Museum, where folks from South Mountain Community College’s Storytelling Institute will be doing a special event in conjunction with the festival.

The Southwest Maker Fest will be held Saturday, February 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along the block of 150 West Pepper Place in downtown Mesa. Admission to the fest and the i.d.e.a Museum are free.





Bram Stoker's Dracula

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
1140 East Baseline Road, Tempe





With deepest apologies to the brilliantly named Claes Bang, there are only two Draculas worth seeing, and their names are Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman. While Lugosi laid down the high-collared, caped template that generations of silver screen suckers would follow, Oldman had the distinction of playing the Count in one of the all-time batshit adaptations of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola in full-on "no fucks left to give" mode, his 1992 film is a lurid, bug-eyed, how-did-this-get-made masterpiece that features sumptuous costume designs and practical, all-in-camera special effects. It boasts Keanu Reeves at his most oblivious, Winona Ryder being Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins swallowing every scene with ravenous gusto, and Tom Waits as a bug-chompin’ Renfield. Don’t miss out on seeing this glorious bloody mess on the big screen.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula plays at the Tempe Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday, February 16, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7, and available in advance via the Alamo Drafthouse.






Brother From Another Planet

FilmBar
815 North Second Street




Brother From Another Planet is a fascinating oddity in John Sayles' body of work. The director, who financed most of his independent films by writing scripts for schlock like The Howling and Piranha, went full-on sci-fi for this tale about a mute alien (played by Joe Morton) who escapes slavery from his home world and crash-lands in Harlem. Pursued by a pair of men in black, the silent Brother finds community and understanding in the New York City neighborhood. It’s a resonant and poetic film, which makes it a fitting choice to be screened by the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination. The center's screening of the 1984 film at FilmBar will be introduced with a discussion led by speculative fiction author/scholar/game designer Malik Toms.

Brother from Another Planet screens on Wednesday, February 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets for the film cost $11.95 and are available via FilmBar.

click to enlarge This is certainly not the classical music you're expecting. - COURTESY OF OME
This is certainly not the classical music you're expecting.
Courtesy of OME



Seventh Annual OME New Music Festival

Crescent Ballroom, Carver Museum, The Newton, The Lunchbox, Phoenix College




Band geeks, rejoice. No longer will you have to indulge your lust for woodwinds and strings in private. Like-minded fans of New Music (i.e. modern compositions that draw on classical and avant-garde traditions) will get a chance to hob-nob and hear cutting edge sounds at the seventh annual OME New Music Festival. Over the years, the event has grown and expanded into a multiday operation by gathering talent from across the world to perform in venues across the Valley. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that special someone at a show to swap stories about “this one time at band camp…”

The Seventh Annual OME New Music Festival runs from Thursday, February 20, through Sunday, February 23. Passes to the festival are available via OME.


click to enlarge Looking great at the Arizona Matsuri Festival. - MICHELLE SASONOV
Looking great at the Arizona Matsuri Festival.
Michelle Sasonov


Arizona Matsuri 2020

Steele Indian School Park
300 East Indian School Road




Lovers of Japanese culture and those looking to connect with their family traditions alike will have a lot to look forward to at this year’s Matsuri festival. An annual celebration of Japanese arts and culture, the event brings together a wide range of exhibitors, arts and crafts, family activities, food, games, and live entertainment to downtown Phoenix. Thirsty attendees will appreciate the Japanese beer and sake garden, while gardeners will enjoy the bonsai displays. Taiko drummers and martial arts demonstrations will bring the sound and fury while poets and wordsmiths can test their might by coming up with their best haikus for the festival’s annual poetry contest.

Arizona Matsuri is free to attend and runs from Saturday, February 22, through Sunday, February 23. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.




click to enlarge Sun Ra in "Space is the Place" - NORTH AMERICAN STAR SYSTEM
Sun Ra in "Space is the Place"
North American Star System



JAZZmeetsPOETRY: Celebrating Sun Ra

The Nash
110 East Roosevelt Street




Speaking of brothers from another planet: Sun Ra was out of this world. Born Herman Poole Blount, the Birmingham, Alabama, jazz legend reinvented himself as a bandleader from Saturn who led his Arkestra ensemble into cosmic territory, fearlessly weaving together free jazz, bebop, ragtime, and avant-garde music into an out-of-this-world sound. His pioneering sci-fi style laid the groundwork for Afrofuturist icons like Parliament and Afrika Bambaataa. The folks behind The Nash’s JAZZmeetsPOETRY are bringing musicians and spoken word artists together for a night of vamping and vibing to celebrate his life and work. You can expect deep grooves, wild improvisations, and third-eye opening wordplay at this one-night-only event.

JAZZmeetsPOETRY: Celebrating Sun Ra is Thursday, February 27, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 in advance ($12 for students with ID) and $30 ($14 for students) at the door. Tickets can be purchased via The Nash.


click to enlarge Story time. - GARY PRATT
Story time.
Gary Pratt


The Storyline SLAM: Crush

Changing Hands
300 West Camelback Road





February is the season of love — of both the requited and unrequited varieties. It's a time for letting your crushes know how you feel and experiencing the exquisite agony (or ecstasy) of hearing how they feel about you. If you've got a story about a crush you're itching to exorcise, or you want to hear some moving and hilarious stories about other people coming to grips with theirs, check out the upcoming Storyline SLAM. Organized by storytelling heavy-hitters like Dan Hull and Joy Young, each event pits 10 tellers against each other as they compete to take home the grand prize by sharing their best stories. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and maybe you'll even walk away with a new crush to daydream about.

The Storyline SLAM: Crush is happening on Friday, February 28, at Changing Hands in Phoenix. Showtime is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance via The Storyline, $8 at the door. Folks interested in telling a story can throw their name in the hat at TheStoryline.org until February 21. Participants will be drawn and notified on February 23.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ashley Naftule