The serendipitous events that led me to b-boy renaissance man Audie Adams had nothing to do with nightlife. After hours of hiking for the "Live It Up!" home tour in April, a few foot-weary friends ducked into Cibo/Press, a café-meets-coffee bar on Church Street, to refuel. Cibo/Press was a welcome break from Starsucks, served a serious cuppa, and had some eye-catching art on display. The pop-urban paintings by Nashvillian Audie Adams mixed Krylon-shaded commentary on the frustrations of industry with realistic brush strokes of human and ethereal imagery. I'm no art buff, but I do have a profound appreciation for cerebral graffiti and socio-street campaigns. (See www.obeygiant.com for a crash course.) The manager's mention of Adams' upcoming show, complemented by a DJ and break dancers, was a pleasant surprise that made our day.
"Upcoming" actually meant two months later. So, about two Fridays ago, we went back to Cibo/Press to find an odd group of b-boys, their friends, art enthusiasts and curious diners in the fluorescent-filled atrium behind the café. Adams and the b-boys warmed up, their battered kicks squeaking against the cold, white linoleum, while an ill-informed DJ spun the virtual antithesis of breaks. Regardless of the anomalies (no vinyl sheet or cardboard for cushioning?), the guys kept it exciting and organic with a mix of physical prowess, improvisation and humor. To keep the lexicon simple, I'll paraphrase Popmaster Fabel, of the pioneering Rocksteady Crew and Universal Zulu Nation: East Coast "break dancing" and West Coast "funk" are umbrella terms that represent different styles of various origins. Practice, dedication and spontaneous expression are extremely importantregardless of the style.
Post-performance we quickly met and congratulated Adams before he dashed over to his collaborative projects at Untitled's "Art of Collaboration" show. Besides involvement with Cibo/Press and Untitled, Adams shows at The Factory and Muse Haven in Franklin, will soon have a show at Café Coco, and is a part of mural group Thoughts Manifested. Not bad, considering he's only been showing professionally for two years.
I wanted to see more of Adams' other art, the "physical graffiti" he's been practicing for 11 years. Serendipity struck again. The next day, Adams called to say that the b-boys and girls of Rocketown would be breakin' that night on Second Avenue, near Sbarro Pizza, around 11 p.m.
At said time and place, we found a lone drummer setting up a small kit. Then, as if on cue, a large rug and vinyl tarp were unfurled and five dancers arrived, immediately followed by young alterna-girls. I also spotted Paul Miller, one of Adams' Untitled collaborators. Once the drummer set the beats, dancers Nerd, Quincy, Marcus, Tommy and Audie Adams sprang to life. Locals and tourists, both young and old, quickly gathered around, applauding each challenging move. Tommy's Street Fighter-style acrobatics had them riveted. The b-boys took turns until their limbs were all but jelly.
According to Adams, there are about 15 local b-boys and only a handful of b-girls. Occasionally, they battle under the name Circumference of a Circle at competitions in Atlanta and Chicago. All levels are welcome to attend the practices held every Wednesday from 7-10 p.m. at Rocketown, and lessons are available to beginners. To the breakin'/rockin'/b-boy neophyte, Adams offers this advice: "No one is great right away. Be patient and learn from mistakes. We're 'crashing to create.' " So as not to sound negative, the outgoing artist/athlete/teacher/community organizer quickly added, "People should definitely get involved. We need more b-boys and b-girls in Nashville."
Amy Waddell, photos by Darek Bell