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Your weekend art forecast: Flash, Thunder and Lucinda Williams

Bill DeYoung

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Pioneering hip hop DJ Grandmaster Flash brings a multi-media show to Largo Friday. Photo provided.

It’s not every day that hip hop fans get the opportunity to be in the room with a bona fide legend.

Barbados-born, Brooklyn-raised DJ Joseph Sadler, aka Grandmaster Flash, has a BET Hip Hop Icon Award and is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Sweden gave him its coveted Polar Music Award.

He has a Lifetime Achievement designation from the Urban Music Awards, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for a single recording.

That was “The Message,” a 1982 single that’s generally considered the first rap record that transcended the genre’s origins as fun, funky dance music to talk about social issues. It represented a curtain rising. The personal narrative in “The Message,” credited to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, was urban, and grim:

Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge

I’m trying not to lose my head

It’s like a jungle sometimes

It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

It was later chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, the first hip hop recording ever to receive this honor.

The rapper on that pioneering disc was Melle Mel; Grandmaster Flash was (and is) a beat-maker. His expertise and brilliance is with turntables – he’s credited with creating numerous techniques, including cutting, phasing and back-spinning, that allmusic.com says “created the basic vocabulary which DJs continue to follow even today.”

In other words, Grandmaster Flash turned the turntable itself into a musical instrument.

Friday at the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo, Flash and his crew will do a show they call Hip Hop: People, Places & Things. It’s music and multimedia. And it’s history.

“I got some of the key people from their humble beginnings and we shot all five boroughs of New York,” the legend told England’s New Musical Express. “And I sort of found a way – with the help of technology – to integrate old school into technology and then cutting and scratching so a city, a place and the music could match, so to speak.

“I think it’s critically important that we talk about where things come from because journalists now are stating critically that this is the biggest music on the planet. So it had to have a beginning. The kids don’t know that though.”

Tickets are here.

Vocal Thunder Thursday

Ashley Thunder

The Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg welcomes opera singer Ashley Thunder as part of its “Opera in the Gallery” series, itself a part of the ongoing Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney exhibition. She’ll perform in the specifically-constructed, 56-seat Art of the Stage theater.

Performances are today (Thursday, Feb. 6) at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., and admission is free once you’ve paid to get into the museum.

Although music has always been part of her life (she can do a mean Tina Turner impression), Thunder was, for quite a while, a professional athlete. After playing collegiate tennis for Ohio Dominican University (2003-2007), the Cleveland native was a safety for the Tampa Breeze, a member of the short-lived professional Lingerie League. Yes, the women played tackle football in skimpy clothes.

(“Thunder” is a nickname she earned during her sporting years; her surname is Lowe.)

Opera called her name seven years ago, and she discovered she not only enjoyed it, she had a natural talent for it (of course, years of serious study helped). She has sung with St. Petersburg Opera Company, Anna Maria Concert Chorus and Orchestra, New Port Richey Orchestra and the Central Florida Lyric Opera.

Music

Lucinda Williams

Americana singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams is at Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre Friday and Saturday. Just last week, the outspoken artist debut onstage a song from her upcoming album Good Souls Better Angels: “Man Without a Soul” is a scathing indictment of the current resident of the White House. New York singer/songwriter Jesse Malin – among other things, he’s also a DJ on Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sirius XM – opens the Clearwater shows. Tickets here.

“Live and Let Die,” “Goldfinger” and “For Your Eyes Only” with strings, brass and ballistic percussion? Yes, please. Maestro Michael Francis – the suavvest man in the bay area – conducts the Florida Orchestra program Music of Bond … James Bond this weekend: At 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets here.

Just announced: The Rolling Stones will play Raymond James Stadium July 5. Tickets go on sale Feb. 11 with a pre-registration code, which you can arrange here.

Also: Latin music superstar Juanes has booked a date at Jannus Live. Tickets for the Columbian rocker’s May 3 concert go on sale Friday here.

Theater

Stageworks’ new show, the acerbic Topher Payne comedy Morningside, is its first weekend. The already well-in-progress bay area shows are a bounty of riches (in other words, they’re all really, really good): Jobsite’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, American Stage’s Skeleton Crew, and a scintillating Marie and Rosetta at freeFall.

Visual art

It’s the second weekend of the month, which of course means the Arts Alliance’s Second Saturday ArtWalk. From 5 to 9 p.m., more than 40 artist studios and galleries will be open, and expecting your visit. It’s a great chance to experience the depth and breadth of the St. Petersburg art community. And there’s free trolly service, too! Check it out.

Veterans Park is the site of the fifth annual Gulfport Fine Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily). More than 40 fine artists from the region, and the state, will show and sell. It’s a companion piece to the city’s extremely successful ArtJones Open Studio Tour.

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