by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
One night a year, Active Entertainment brings together the forward-thinking minds of art, music, dance, entertainment, and fashion (AMDEF) to produce over six hours of nonstop, mixed-media performances. AMDEF encourages artists to collaborate outside of their genre to create unique, one-of-a-kind acts. The experience exposes all in attendance to new sources of art and entertainment while strengthening the mutual support of the Seattle area's artistic communities.
And this year, AMDEF promises to be bigger than ever. On Saturday, August 24, Neumos (925 E. Pike St.) will host the colossal show from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets are just $15 in advance (http://neumos.com/event/6th-annual-amdef-8-24/) or $25 at the door.
The lineup for the 2013 AMDEF includes more than 30 acts, each of which is paired with at least one other act. AMDEF's lead promoter, Ryan Muller, chose local social justice nonprofit Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) as the event's beneficiary. Seattle Gay News caught up with Muller at a media event on Capitol Hill Tuesday night for the party and talked about how AMDEF came to be and where he plans for it to go in the future.
AN ACCIDENTAL BEGINNING
'AMDEF was actually the byproduct of a fluke,' Muller recalled, explaining, 'I had recently finished getting my A.A. degree at SCCC and quit my job as a maintenance technician to spend some time enjoying myself and experiencing city life.'
He grew up in Sequim, and during the first years of living in Seattle he'd only ever been going to school full-time and worked two part-time jobs. 'So it's easy to say I was quite eager to get out and start meeting people.'
'I moved into Belltown and immediately started meeting all sorts of people, a lot of whom were aspiring artists and entrepreneurs from one of the many nearby schools,' he told SGN. 'I'd always had a knack for organizing people, so I often found myself introducing people, putting together parties, and coordinating the random shenanigans you have when you're freshly 21.'
One of the people he met during this time was DJ Martini, who to this day Muller refers to as his go-to DJ for pretty much everything. 'He'd landed a job as a resident DJ at a venue that had just opened above the porn shop [Castle] on Capitol Hill, called Club Lagoon, and they were looking for somebody to come in and hand out fliers along Broadway to help hustle up traffic.'
'Since I was organizing a lot of parties at the time anyways, Martini thought I'd be a good fit, and I figured it might be a fun job and some easy money, so I took it,' he said.
Muller says he quickly realized that it takes a considerable amount more effort to bring people out to a show than simply passing out fliers, and 2-3 weeks into it he was already talking to the management about bringing in some other events.
FIRST TASTE OF SHOWBIZ
'We talked, they gave me the green light, and I went about coordinating one month of weekly Thursday events among the friends of mine I already knew who had an interest in pursuing these things. I coordinated one burlesque night, one DJ/breakdancing night, one band night, and one fashion night, for one month of shows. At this point, it was still all in good fun,' said Muller. 'I hadn't conceived AMDEF or even thought I was going to get into the entertainment business - I was just having a good time trying to help my friends.'
'The Sunday before our first show, we decided to host a birthday party for Marilia Karagianni, who at the time was the fashion element in my little circle of friends,' he said. 'The birthday party was a smashing success, such a success that we forgot a bunch of stuff there and had to come back the next afternoon to get it. When we went there to pick it up, the entire venue had been stripped bare with carpenters' plastic up everywhere, and we had no idea what was going on.'
Apparently, the venue had already been sold - its owners chose not to tell anyone and used that Sunday night as their final liquor push, leaving Muller with four events and no venue. 'I called a friend of mine, Nathaniel Luke Pinzon, who at the time was the booking manager at the Re-bar, and tried relocating the events,' recalled Muller. 'He couldn't get me four Thursdays, but he did manage to get me one Friday, so I worked with all the talent to adjust everything into one big event at the Re-bar.'
IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
'Admittedly, I thought I was walking into a clusterfuck, but I wasn't about to short-change my friends,' said Muller. 'I had bands put together CDs, I recruited burlesque girls, I had designers creating clothes - I just couldn't find it in myself to let all that effort go to waste. The event had a couple DJs, a hip-hop artist or two, a stoner reggae band, a few burlesque acts, and a modest fashion show, and for the most part a lot of these people didn't know each other at all. We did that show on April 20, 2007, as a '420' theme party, and to our surprise, we packed the house.'
'Those of us who'd coordinated the event all got together at the Hurricane for a hangover breakfast the next day, just like we would after any party, really - only this time we all had this odd sense of inspiration and surprise,' he said. 'It was during that hangover conversation that the idea for AMDEF started growing, and that was the point in time when I decided that entertainment was the place for me.'
Something somewhere along the line had struck a nerve, he said.
'I thought it was bullshit that artists had to jump through so many hoops and I thought it was bullshit that there weren't more easily accessible resources for artists, and I felt like if provided the opportunity and support, more people would succeed, and it was now my goal to create that opportunity and support,' said Muller. 'It's funny now looking back, I remember the reason I chose 'Active Entertainment' was because I thought it would pop up quicker in the phone book that way, but now it really encompasses what I'm all about.'
That's when things really started taking shape. After a considerable amount of research and plotting, Muller called together another meeting of the minds to start talking about what he'd come up with, and start planning together.
AN HISTORIC FLOP
'Research, spreadsheets, documents, scheduling, and talent recruiting & almost a year of organizing went into the first AMDEF, as well as my life savings, and additional money that I'd borrowed from friends of mine who were willing to invest,' he said. 'I lost all of it. We'd calculated at least a 900-person attendance with a capacity of up to 1,700 - we had about 300 people show up. I put all this money into promoting in different local newspapers and radio, I got the biggest venue I could find with the best sound and lighting system, I even brought the furniture from my own home to furnish the VIP room, I literally put everything I had into the first event, and bombed hard on March 22, 2008.'
Muller spent the next year working to pay people back and recover from the first AMDEF.
'I learned a lot, and I knew nobody expected me to do it again, but I felt like if I didn't, I'd be the bad example I was trying to prove wrong,' he said. 'It was definitely a surprise to everybody when I started talking about AMDEF #2, but in the process of recovering from AMDEF #1, I'd worked with a band on their CD release, I'd started a burlesque group, and I was working with some stronger venues, so I had a bit more support going into it and was confident it would do better.'
AMDEF #2 did do better, though not tremendously better. Muller still lost some money on it. 'I lost money again on AMDEF #3, 4, and 5, but progressively less each time, and each time with more support than before,' he said. 'But people began understanding the concept more and more each year. I'd feel safe to say we didn't really completely get the point across until AMDEF #4, and at AMDEF #5 everybody got exactly what they hoped for.'
With the best lineup of artists in the show's history and more support than ever, Muller says 2013 AMDEF will eclipse anything audiences have seen before.
'To me, AMDEF is all about connecting people,' he said. 'Like the motto says, we're bringing together the communities of 'Art, Music, Dance, Entertainment, and Fashion,' but I don't just want the namesake, I actually want these people to start working together and supporting each other after the show.'
'If all these micro-communities get together and support each other, they make one broader, stronger entertainment community, more successful and more capable,' he said. 'I try to accomplish this by pairing artists up for collaborations.'
AMDEF 2013 is sponsored by the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Ask Miss A, Seattle Gay News, Seattle Fun Events, Trashed Magazine, Vortex Magazine, Kultur Magazine, Celsius Salon, and Foxycut Salon. The event is hosted by Vincent Drambuie, with lighting by Josh Black and visuals by Bob McHenry.
The 2013 entertainment roster includes Michael Allen and friends with the Ladie Chablis and Sinner Saint Burlesque; Disco Vinnie with surprise guests; Lastwear solo performance; Angie and the Car Wrecks with Lyrik Allure; Noel Austin's Phreaks vs. Wreckless Freeks; Aerials by Goody Goody; Billy the Fridge and special guests with D.N.A. Fashion Designs; Julian Stefoni and J*Ride Fashion Designs with the Men of Brief Encounters, the Vortex Vixens, and Doña Dei Cuori; Artifakt Art/Body Paint Model Auction; Irukandji Physics of Fusion with Like A Rockstar, Jesse Belle-Jones, and Lady Tatas; DJ Martini with Danelle Hayes (as seen on American Idol), Paper Dollz Clothing, and Eric Martin; and Sean Majors with Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Misfit Leather, and Buddhaful.
This year, AMDEF is hosting a variety of vendors and local artists. Pricing ranges from $25-500+ (bring cash). Vendors include Cherry Turnover, Art Willeau, Aetherial Images, The RPM Studio, A Little Risque, and Backpack Girl Bikinis.
In addition, AMDEF will showcase the Artifakt Art/Body Paint Model Auction. Eight Members of Artifakt Art will body-paint eight models to match the theme of material artwork. The winning bidder for each piece of art will also enjoy the company of the model for the remainder of the event. Silent bids can be placed from 7 to 10 p.m., and then the models will present the artwork on the runway for a live auction.
Local artists selling or donating merchandise include free music from Irukandji, Physics of Fusion, DJ Martini, C-Leb and the Kettle Black, Anadamide Records, Staxx Brothers, and Jack Mozie.
Raffle prizes include a jacket by D.N.A. Fashion Designs, gifts from Bedlam Coffee, a leather mask by Misfit Leather, and an outfit by Paper Dollz Clothing.
Active Entertainment is also responsible for Chance Fashion, the Northwest's longest running monthly fashion event, that gives photographers, videographers, models, and designers a 'chance' by showcasing them before they are well-known.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/464902480223922. You can #AMDEF @ActiveTweeting. Videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/SeattleEntertainment.
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