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Arts: December 2014

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New Nerd-vana: Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop flies its freak flag.

ArtsDec2014Sixth-generation New Orleanian Candice Huber has always wanted to open a bookstore. “I’ve just always really loved to be around books,” she says. “I like that every book has multiple stories — the story in the book, the story of the author, the story of how the book got made. Every book has multiple stories behind it.”

Since 2012, she’s run a literary blog called Fleur de Lit, for which she interviews local authors and hosts an event called Reading Between the Wines with Pearl Wine Co. and Maple Street Book Shop.

This fall, Huber seized a serendipitous real-estate opportunity, opening Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop on North Carrollton Avenue. Named for Huber’s grandparents, who grew up in the neighborhood, Tubby & Coo’s is New Orleans’ first genre bookstore, dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy, crime, mystery, graphic novels and children’s books — not to mention board games, toys, clothing and collectibles. “My crowd is what I like to call the nerdy, geeky, geeks and freaks,” Huber says. “I call the store a ‘nerd mecca,’ but, during the opening, someone called it a ‘nerd-vana,’ which I liked.”

During its official weekend-long launch at the end of October, Tubby & Coo’s invited book-lovers to stop by anytime. “The opening went really well,” Huber says. “We had a ton of people in here … I love this neighborhood, so I’m really glad that they were receptive to us.”

Though she’s already garnered a dedicated following, Huber wants to set her store apart in several ways. She’s interested in introducing readers to local authors, and hosting game nights and other events. “I plan to do a lot more events,” she says. “I will eventually offer a book-delivery service — if you special-order a book, I will bring it to you.” Knowing that e-books have a place in the modern reader’s life, she’ll also offer e-books through the Tubby & Coo’s website — giving customers an easy way to support the shop, while enjoying the convenience of Amazon.

“I’m very different as a person, and my shop caters to people who are different,” Huber says. “My goal is to think outside of the box, and use the skills that I have, and that my husband has, to offer things that you really don’t see at other bookshops.” tubbyandcoos.com

Hey Mahayla: Fresh from a tour, this energetic band gets to work on a new album.

Indie rock-pop group Mahayla has existed in a couple of different incarnations since Dave Fera and Mark Davis founded the band in 1999. Accordingly, Mahayla has explored different sounds in its time — but always returns to its roots. “We never gravitated to some new sound, or tried to anticipate the new fad,” says Fera, who plays guitar and provides vocals. “We’ve stuck to our own formula: Complement the story with the music, and the vibe will come back around.”

Along with Fera and Davis, who plays drums, Mahayla includes Ike Aguilar on guitar and vocals, Chris Johnson on bass, and Yanti Turang on keys and vocals. The group’s sound can vary widely between songs, but often includes elements of riff-driven rock, call-and-response melodies and folk influences. “It’s really hard to compare yourself to another band,” Davis says. “But I think we are an indie-rock band — a cross between Wilco and Built to Spill.”

In early 2014, Mahayla released Electricspaceagesweetheart to positive reviews. After a “rock and roll vacation” this fall, which is what Fera calls its recent East Coast tour, the band is working on its next album. “We hope to play Jazz Fest and continue to tour, and we’re working on material for our new album,” Davis says. “We already have a single, ‘Sylvia.’ It’s very Beatles-esque.”

Mahayla members find themselves striking a delicate balance. “The most important thing is trying to relate to the listener by connecting with real-life stories, but not taking ourselves too seriously at the same time,” Fera says. “It’s kinda tricky.” mahayla.net

Seeing Ghosts: A painter pays homage to those who have passed on.

Artist Brent Houzenga’s new show at Inner Recess Gallery, Halo Qualia, showcases the painter’s signature spray-paint-and-stencil style — plus an altar dedicated to the parts of his process that viewers don’t usually see, including paint-covered razor blades, empty spray cans and a giant ball of colorful, discarded tape. “For this show, I wanted to incorporate some of my process,” Houzenga says. “Each method I use to make a mark is part of my visual vocabulary.”

That vocabulary also includes faces. Nearly a decade ago, the artist found two portrait photo albums, dating from the 1890s, in someone’s trash. He calls that moment a “slap in the face” that made him appreciate his time on Earth. Since then, most of his work has centered on stenciled portraits of these solemn strangers. “There’s something about painting dead people,” he says. “I feel like there’s some sort of honor I’m doing them.”

Halo Qualia’s centerpiece is “Qualia,” a massive work rendered on fabric that includes several repetitions of the forgotten faces now so familiar to Houzenga. “‘Qualia’ is the idea that you can never prove that two people perceive something the same way,” he explains. The piece also features an overlay of white dots and glitter — an homage to the day Houzenga fell in love with his girlfriend, and a nod to the idea that, in fact, it may not be impossible to share a visual perception.

As Houzenga continues to create work, he can’t predict where his style will take him. “I’m very good at planning things, executing things, preparing things; but I’m also good at reacting,” he says. He does know one thing about his beloved found photos. “I’m open to experimenting [and] charting new territory,” he says. “But I’ll probably paint them ’til the day I die.” houzenga.com