FloydFest is Making America Great Again - Review

Words of Larissa Nemeth | Stills by Cristina Byrne

Let's begin this story upside down- with the moral right up front: you'll always be glad you brought a hat- and that's NOT fake news.

Anyway, without further ado, here is what happens when DIBS does FloydFest.

When coasting the last few miles of our seven-hour Virginia excursion through Lehigh Valley, PA, I somehow didn't expect that scenery. The moody haze of the Blue Ridge mountains playing backdrop to the ridge setting out over what can only be described as the gorge below. The FloydFest experience was wholesome AF and I'll do the best I can to tell you the story of the DIBS girls' three days on the mountain.  

 Part 1

While these types of music festivals offer so much (remember when the term “festival” was mainly used as its definition intended - a day or period of celebration, typically a religious commemoration? Throwback.), the heartbeat of the event is inevitably the sound.  At FloydFest, there are chords soaring across the landscape constantly.

You can tell this event has just about two decades under its belt. I think it is really important to mention at the fore the ease with which we were able to navigate this "mountain home", especially the stages. I never missed an act I was hoping to see and for a human with my lack of height and even for the multitude of children in attendance, there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house.  

After setting up our home at our super instagramable campsite, we heard the familiar chords of Tyler Childers from on top of the hill in the fast-waning daylight. We started off to see him play.  Hiking up a dirt road led to a long open space (on top of that ridge I mentioned earlier) and revealed at its end a stage with musicians rending out their hearts in front of a backdrop made of trees. What followed when we arrived can only be described as a flawless set. I was particularly in love with his performances of "Sweet Lady May" and "Universe of Sound". I actually fell in love with his music right then and there.

From there we wandered to the hill-holler stage for the out- of-this-world-yet-grounded-and-funky-as-hell Fantastic Negrito.  We ended our first evening at the pink Floyd beer garden stage (a noted favorite spot to catch sounds throughout the weekend - an opinion shared by festival goers, vets and noobs alike) with a down and dirty musical celebration with The Broadcast.  Comparisons to Big Brother and the Holding Company are inevitable.  Your DIBS girls had a fine first evening.

Part 2

Saturday offered decompression and allowed us to get situated in this foreign but welcoming place.  Saturday was a day for making friends, learning new tricks (Cristina learned to devil-stick!), sampling delicious food, exploring vendors, and taking pictures of shoes.  We caught Blue Mule at the Ferrum College Workshop Porch and we had a particularly sweet acapella experience with the Virginia Gentlemen. I had a total fan-girl moment when I passed one of them walking the grounds later that night! We enjoyed some light dancing and opening of our third eyes during the String Cheese Incident, a definite crowd favorite.  We culminated Saturday night with Buffalo Jam featuring lots of guest appearances doing a set of covers with the theme of home.

 Part 3

Sunday was the strongest lineup of the weekend. The DIBS girls prepped themselves for a long day of back to back sets - one fester called it "Lilith Fair" - by taking advantage of the (FREE! FREE! FREE!) off-site excursions. There were a wide range of outdoor activities offered by the festival and third party vendors: hiking, biking, boating, ziplining and more. Some options were an additional cost.  The option we selected was a three-mile loop off the Blue Ridge Parkway where we enjoyed incredible vistas, butterflies, wildflowers, and good company. Cristina and I were priming our bodies for the artistic workout we were heading back to.

We first settled in for the cheeky ADORABLE Brit, Jade Bird.  She was high-energy and just the perfect combination of fierce and fresh.  Her songs "Uh-Huh", "Lottery" and covers of "I’ve Been Everywhere" and "Walk Like an Egyptian" were all standout moments in her set.

Next up on the dreaming creek stage was Margo Price. It was SUCH a pleasure to witness the roots-country flower(power)-child play with such surprising exuberance - her recordings leveled up when played live in that setting.  She rallied through "A Little Pain" and had the audience sweetly surrender to her during "American Made". Kacey Musgraves sparkled in the setting summer sun and Lukas Nelson and The Promise of The Real gave a strong final showing to cap off this incredible weekend.

Part 4

We headed back north Monday morning feeling rejuvenated by nature and song-fueled by mountain spring water provided at the amazing water refill station (a Cristina favorite). This trip filled us with everything we were looking for and gave us a taste of a home away from home. We can’t wait to see what is on tap for next year's 20th anniversary celebration, and what other magical mountain experiences lay in store.

Drawing Lines - Tin Can Trust

By Larissa Nemeth

In the world we currently inhabit there’s this strange paradox - we have more means than ever before with which to communicate, but it seems humanity is becoming less adept at this every day.  What is the root of the cause of this breakdown? Where can we identify the issue(s)?  These questions are for now, rhetorical. All I can know for sure, is that in my life, I strive to create more real, honest connections on a one to one basis and find the common ground that sets the stage for friendship or simply lends itself to further understanding of another human life.

 In this vein, Cristina, our Junior Dibs correspondent Vivienne and I visited the Allentown Art Museum on January 27 to feel the place out and to take part in an exciting project working to bridge the types of gaps I mention above.

 Wandering the galleries (free admission for ALL on Sundays? Yes, please!) set alight places in our brains long-sleeping since the “rise of the screen”.  The type of work displayed spoke to various backgrounds, cultures, epochs, etc.  We were enchanted especially by Stephen Antonakos’s Room Chapel installation featuring bright neon light spewing out from clean white edges in an enclosed space. Also, the Carrie Mae Weems photography exhibit sparked joy, terror, anguish and a range of other emotions that we babbled about as we moved around the selection of images.

What we sometimes forget, is that art is a form of communication. By sharing what we do and make, we are opening lines of conversation for ourselves and others, just like what happened between the three of us as we ventured about the museum space.

Our final stop in the museum brought us to the Crayola Learning Center, which Vivienne had been vying to reach so we could channel energies stimulated to the surface by interaction with art and CREATE!

The open room created a wonderful high-energy atmosphere, and it is here that we made our contribution to the Tin Can Trust - this was the reason for our mini-posse visiting the museum that day.  I had read about this interesting concept of creating art to share between Allentown and Puerto Rico as part of this project. My family had travelled to Eastern Puerto Rico about three years ago for vacation and we were all fairly intoxicated by the so called “Isla Del Encanto” (Island of Enchantment). Also, it turns out Cristina’s parents lived on the island for several years before she was born. It seems the tiny island and US territory has lines to many mainland people that exist in different ways. In addition to painting and collaging, before we left, we were able to “make and take” pins- one to send to the people in Puerto Rico, one to take home as a token of our experience and both a piece of shared art and communication between cultures. 

I was lucky to be able to speak with Linda Fernandez of the Amber Art and Design Collective who was facilitating the project at the museum that day.

 1.           Tell us a little about Amber Art & Design

Amber Art & Design is an art collective of 7 Philadelphia and New York-based artists: Ernel Martinez, Keir Johnston, Charles Barbin, Willis "Nomo" Humphrey (RIP), Linda Fernandez, Martha OConnell and Siddhartha Joag.  We have a collective 20 years of experience partnering with local communities, nonprofit orgs, museums, academic and cultural institutions, and public entities to realize trans-formative projects.  While our roots are in public mural projects, our collective work is committed to facilitating robust community engagement processes which engage local leaders and collaborate with local musicians, historians, poets, and artists who can share their skills and expertise in our processes. Our work approaches community-based engagement with a commitment to informing all processes by a community’s existing resources, expertise, and inter-generational knowledge. Through our collaborations with social researchers, community organizers, and community institutions, we work to bring institutional resources into neighborhoods that have seen resource depletion for many decades. We use our artistic, creative, and innovative skill sets as a team to facilitate interactions that allow for relationship and trust building, upending traditional frameworks of community input processes with the goal of creating a more radically just and equitable city and society.

2. How did the idea for Tin Can Trust come about?

When we were invited to be the 2018-2019 Long Term Artist in Residence with the Allentown Art Museum one of the first things we needed to do was figure out the focus of our work in Allentown. We began to do some research into the history and demographics of Allentown, looking at census data. What we discovered was that Allentown has a very large percentage of residents that identify as Hispanic or Latino and within that population, the majority identify as Puerto Rican. You can also see when you walk or drive around downtown there are so many Puerto Rican flags, there is a huge sense of pride and identity that Puerto Ricans take with them. I (Linda) identify as a person of mixed background, including Puerto Rican decent, so this was also in connection to my culture. The idea for the Tin Can Trust came about through conversation with our collaborator, Siddhartha Joag, a journalist who works for an arts media outlet called Arts Everywhere. He had been traveling to Puerto Rico to write about the work that artists have been doing in their communities’ post-hurricane Maria. The idea emerged from thinking about how aid packages were being shipped to Puerto Rico, many containing canned foods and items. We started to think that aid can come in many forms to meet basic human needs and we began to ask: can solidarity expressed through art and culture be a form of aid? We began to work with people in Allentown to host T-shirt making workshops at The Caring Place and at the Allentown Art Museum where participants would silkscreen shirts with messages of love, friendship, hope and solidarity. One shirt they would keep and one shirt would be sent to someone in Puerto Rico.

3. Explain the idea of the tin cans – what do they represent?

The cans represent the history of factory work which brought large numbers of Puerto Ricans to Allentown during the Industrial Era. Cans were designed to preserve perishable goods like food, we were working with this concept when we thought of cans as a means to preserve art and culture. But on the most basic level, the cans are simply the vessel for transporting the artwork.

 4. What are you hoping to achieve with this project?

Our practices as artists are deeply rooted in collaboration and community engagement. We wanted to create a link between two places to create dialogue, connection and solidarity. Puerto Rico is technically part of the U.S. but residents can't vote in presidential elections. They are considered a state or territory of the U.S. but how much do we on the mainland know about what is going on there? There was an economic crisis in Puerto Rico before hurricane maria devastated the island. Sadly it took a natural disaster causing many to lose their lives, homes and livelihood in order for the rest of the country to become aware of the situation. We want to raise awareness of these issues and collaborate with local artists to share resources and encourage creativity to flourish.

 5. What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of this process?

Definitely the connections we have built with people in Allentown and in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico we have teamed up with artists Esteban Figueroa, Karla Sofia Betancourt, Francisco Gonzalez and Jorge Gonzalez. Esteban was a professional basketball player who lives in a neighborhood called Puerto de Tierra. He owns a beautiful colonial style two story building that is in need of repair and we are working to help him secure grant money to make the repairs needed and transform the space into a museum for jazz music and a hub for community art. In Allentown we have been working with The Caring Place, an organization run by Mary Griffin which offers amazing resources to the community such as a food pantry and afterschool classes for youth providing academic resources and leadership development. Inside The Caring Place there is so much going on and we have been working to bring awareness to all of the great community work that they do.

 6. What do you hope people both in America and Puerto Rico will learn by participating?

I think it is an opportunity to exchange ideas and messages across geographic boundaries. My hope is that it expands the way that people see the world, imagining what life is like in another place and creating a sense of empathy for participants. For people on the U.S. mainland side who are part of the Puerto Rican diaspora, this is a way to connect back to culture, identity and pride in being Puerto Rican. For people living in Puerto Rico, this is a way to express, share and preserve parts of their unique culture and Caribbean identity.

 7. Do you see any continuing future for the Tin Can Trust? If so, where do you see it going? 

Yes, we have developed a partnership with the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Contemporary Art Museum) in San Juan and they are very interested in having us host workshops in partnership with their program in the Loisa community of Puerto Rico. We are seeking partners in Philadelphia such as Norris Square Neighborhood Project and Taller Puertorriqueño, who will be interested in having us host workshops in the Puerto Rican community. The final piece of the puzzle is to seek funding for this work to happen. We are looking into possible grants to support this work as much of our travels and work in Puerto Rico has been self-funded.

For more information-

Our names: Linda Fernandez & Keir Johnston

Our collective: Amber Art and Design | www.amberartanddesign.com 

Social Media:

Facebook| Like Page - https://www.facebook.com/Amber-Art-and-Design-194391044000713/

Friends Page - https://www.facebook.com/amber.art.79 

Instagram | @amberpublicart

 The exhibition opening for Tin Can Trust will take place on February 24 2019 at the Allentown Art Museum - all are welcome to attend!

The Joy Of Christmas Is In The Experience (3 Short Stories)


New Holiday Traditions

By Christina Ihnken

My first Christmas as a newlywed taught me that expectations and traditions – especially if they are not your own - usually end in disaster. I had unreasonable expectations for our first Christmas because being a newlywed in my first house and my first Christmas ever in the United States, I thought I had to prove that I could do it all. I felt the pressure even before Pinterest made all my efforts look inadequate and before the “Baby it’s cold outside” controversy.

 Here we were. Colorado Springs. It was our first Christmas and it had to be PERFECT. There would be family and friends to judge me and pictures to remind me of success or failure for the rest of my life. (Note: I couldn’t find a single picture today) Everything had to match, meaning a slight variation in color from the ruby red dishtowels to the dark ruby red hand towels was unacceptable. While I was stressing out over every little detail at home, Ryan drove up the mountain into the forest to pick out the perfect tree and chop it down himself. On the way up the mountain his truck got stuck in heavy snow; after digging himself out he got a speeding ticket that cost more than the tree, and back at the house the tree was so tall no tree topper would fit. The sticky sap from the tree covered our new hardwood floor before I had a chance to put down the carefully selected tree skirt. The sap would not come off the floor or the tree skirt, and the pine needles were stuck in the carpet throughout the house and could be found around furniture and stuck in socks for months. To top it all off, at the end of the season we were so frustrated with the tree that we decided to open the window and throw the tree into the backyard instead of dragging it all the way through the house to dispose of it. Out the window it went, right onto the shiny new grill Santa had brought weeks prior. The dreaded tree ripped off a door and left a nice dent.

This year, 10 years later, I somehow find myself experiencing the extreme opposite.

I didn’t plan to not decorate at all for Christmas, but I did consciously decide to not pack any Christmas decorations when moving from the United States to Belgium. As I was packing in June I thought it would be a waste of space to bring along any decorations plus most of them needed to be plugged in and I wasn’t going to buy a generator to convert my blinking lighthouse collection from 110 volt to 220 volt. The plan was to pick up a few things in Belgium. Now one week before Christmas there is no Christmas tree, I don’t have any Christmas cookies baked and there are no decorations at all at the house, inside or out.

Presents have been wrapped in the least festive Christmas paper available (Thanks to my husband for picking up mushroom vampire paper as a joke) and they are tucked away in my closet because there is no tree to place them under. If it wasn’t for Alexa playing Christmas music, you wouldn’t even know Christmas is right around the corner.  

Looking back at past Christmases, I don’t remember many of the decorations I had or any of the presents I got but I remember all the wonderful people I met along the way that became extended family and the traditions they shared with me. Everyone I met had different traditions like watching a certain movie, eating a particular dessert or going for a drive around the neighborhood to see all the holiday lights, and most of those traditions stuck with me and will always remind me of the person I picked it up from.  I feel very lucky that this year I’ll be celebrating with new friends again and maybe learn about new holiday traditions.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2019! Here is to making new friends, embracing new traditions, and for me hopefully finding a happy holiday decorating medium next year. 

This year’s wrapping paper.

This year’s wrapping paper.


the maker of Christmas

By Larissa Nemeth

As a kid I was a huge believer in magic, as well as a strong proponent of NEVER under any circumstances, peeking behind the curtain.  I always wanted to BELIEVE the magic, not BE the magic.  Well, my friends, that day has come - fast forward 25 years and here I am, the wizard herself.  Pulling all the strings and pushing all the buttons that infuse a season with whimsy and wonderment. I have become the maker of Christmas.

 If I'm going to be honest here, which I may as well be, its sort of great.  I can't say with any definition WHEN the switch occurred, the change from being more excited to get the present to being more pumped to give it. But it happened. The shrieks of excitement when our elf, Jingles Joyberg, moves from inside the cookie jar to hanging upside down from the light fixture or the anxious reading of a note from Santa or simply getting to open the next day on the advent calendar. Seeing my kids alight with cheer is one of the reasons to take pause in the hectic machinery of running a family. All of their delight and anticipation gives me joy. Maybe the careful, hard work I put in to creating an atmosphere of magic reaps a greater result because of the emotional investment? I wonder what the science is behind all of it... 

I would, no doubt, be lying if I said that I DON'T pine for the unsullied joy of the childhood wonder of Christmas past. However, I now derive a simpler pleasure from the season.  The lights, the  baking, the live performances, the planning, the overall sense of goodwill- in short, the Christmas Spirit. Everyone can find something to be warm about in this one short month. Believe me, it would behoove you to, mainly because after the holidays it is just cold, damp and dark in the northeast with no reprieve in sight.  I encourage all Grinches to cave - just give in, and admit - it's magical, dammit!

The stocking I had since I was born.

The stocking I had since I was born.

Does Santa really exist?

By Cristina Byrne

There is an idea presented to us of what Christmas looks like, leaving us with those expectations of what its suppose to be like. I can’t necessarily speak about those expectations because I only know about my experiences.

Christmas comes once a year, as you know every year at the same time. For some, its shopping lists, donations, work parties, family, friends, church, gift exchanges, get togethers, drinking, the weather, lots of eating, a movie, a show, getting engaged, caroling, or Chinese food. It can be hectic, it can be busy, people can be crazy and they can be giving. “The bells are ringing, children are singing, oh what a beautiful time.”

Can I wish you a Merry Christmas? Or is it a Happy Christmas?

For me, the first part of my childhood Christmases were spent in Caracas, Venezuela where my Abuelita lives. Every year we would go down there and it was always a big hurrah with the familia! The days were filled with traditional Venezuelan food such as Pan de Jamon and Hallacas, there was singing, dancing, exchange of stories and outings. We cheered, we laughed, we play a dice game called Cacho and to top it all off there was even a visit from Santa Clause himself. Yes, Santa personally delivered my Christmas gifts! I am not sure whose idea this was to actually have him jiggle his bells through my Abuelita’s front door but not until last year was it revealed that it was my Tio Manuel who occasionally dressed up as the Fat Man in the Red Suit. I have very fond memories of those Christmases and every once in a while I doze off to re-live them.

Back to school from break and the question was asked, “What did you get for Christmas?” At the time it seemed like an innocent question to ask or be asked but some how it felt and was even interpreted as a moment to brag about what you got, what you did or what your holiday looked like – oh the expectations! I mean who wouldn’t want to talk about what happened over Christmas? Like the time when you got a Lava Lamp because they are cool or how you were the only one that found it funny to give a whoopee cushion as a gift exchange. How your Dad is a “practical guy” and he likes to give things of necessity like toothpaste or scissors and who still hides your gifts in the tree. The times when you and your brother came home from college and binge watch movies and never left the basement as everyone else was out at the bar. The time when your Grandma gives you an 80’s yoga book that she found in her closet and a 5-year-old desk calendar telling us that it can be used for origami. The time you hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and the Mexican Pyramids, saw the Christmas Tree in New York City and in Chicago, how you accidentally went to Mexico, spent Christmas in foreign and domestic land and pondered about the infamous question of, “Does Santa really exist?”

Now, every kid comes to a moment in their life wondering about this question. Either older siblings tell you or the kids at school do but my mother would always answer, “If you believe it then its real.” It was that simple. I realized that it was never about Santa Clause or a “Merry Christmas” or the kind of gifts you received or how many gifts you got or the wrapping paper used or any expectations that needed to be upheld. It was about believing in the magic and creating the magic which are life lessons that I carry with me till this day.

From my first Christmases in Venezuela to present day, for I have no expectations for I only have experiences.

“God bless us, everyone!”  - Tiny Tim.

Caracas, Venezuela 1994

Caracas, Venezuela 1994

Mi Burrito Sabanero (The Little Donkey from Bethlehem)


All About Hugging (3 Short Stories)


“Hug it Out” by Larissa Nemeth

I was waiting in line to get in to a venue for a show in Philadelphia recently.  These congregations tend to skew a bit on the awkward side- I guess it’s due to the bizarre mix of locals, college kids who think they are locals (but aren’t), suburbanites who travelled to the city for their “big night out” and of course the wild card folks who don’t fit any type of profile I could think up.

 It was a rainy and stressful trek into the city that night and I stepped sideward out of the line, courteously, to smoke a cigarette.  Out of the damp and gloom stepped a man- he appeared to be homeless- twice my size or more (not that large of feat if you ever saw me).  He approached me asking in a lighthearted but incredulous tone “Ha! You FOLLOWING me girl?!”. Since I definitely wasn’t, I didn’t quite know what to make of this inquiry. I laughed and returned bluntly “No, man.” Of course, next he asked me for a cigarette.  Not like I NEED them, so I handed one over. I also was not positive how benign the situation was at this point- I like to think myself street-smart to a degree, so while I was sizing it up I had my hand clamped tightly over my crossbody bag, glancing back to my squad still in line. I was planning my return to them when he asked me the most utterly ridiculous thing.

   “Can I get a hug?” I whipped around, shocked really- but also feeling like I needed to get the hell out of there because this COULD NOT be the start of a positive experience.  I shook my head, “Ah, man, no, I’m sorry”... he stayed, badgering me a little “come on, can’t I get a hug? Just a little hug? Come onnnn, gimme a hug!” I hate that type of persistence. It’s a thing about men in general I can’t stand. Their ironclad will to continue to make a situation uncomfortable even when you’ve made it clear you want nothing more to do with it.  It made it easier for my “no” to become firmer.

  At this moment, he stopped. He looked me straight on in the face, his large dark eyes met mine, unblinking. His jovial tone was gone-  and he said the most serious thing any stranger has ever said to me “Please. I really need a hug”.

    Every ligament in my body went lax. I swiveled around and threw my arms around him and held him there, just for a second or two- silently. I let go, smiled and walked away- my group had reached security at the door to the club.

    I called back to him, “You’re welcome!” because I know my hugs are awesome and also because I know I really gave him a little breath of myself, a small momentary connection-and that I wanted him to appreciate it. I did it because I knew in that instant that he really really needed it- and that in a small way I made him happy for a moment.  He said as I was leaving, to the crowd at large, loud enough for them to hear “Yes. Real people- they get it. It’s real”  and then something about “Aren’t we all just people? We all need to feel loved. We all need to be cared for. We need it!”. I’m pretty sure his sidewalk proclamations continued when I went inside. I didn’t look back again. The band was amazing. I went home. I retold the story to myself as I fell asleep in my bed at my house and I smiled.


 “Or Not” by Cristina Byrne

Rejection is always painful or at the very least awkward but being rejected for a hug feels especially personal for some reason. Can we all agree that most people would rather avoid conflict than initiate confrontation, especially if the stakes are low. I’d say accepting a one to three second hug from someone you don’t like takes a lot less energy than avoiding the hug or ignoring the person altogether. Unless you have a really good reason, we accept it.

I went up to someone to congratulate them with a hug and got rejected. I proceeded to hug the next person in line to try and play it off but it was still awkward. At that moment I knew exactly how Keesha felt when she tried to give Jerry Seinfeld hug.

I walked away from the situation and took a moment to reflect. I realized that I invaded someone’s personal space, which I have the tendency to do. My intention is to be warm but I am sometimes unaware of what boundaries are set into place. Maybe this had nothing to do with me and this person is simply not a hugger. So the rejection was understood and forgiven, and I moved on.

But later, I saw my “rejector” hug another person. I was confused and immediately went down the dark rabbit hole of wondering questions and thoughts.

“How come some people get to invade someone’s space and others don’t? 

“Does this explain how some people can get away with murder and others don't?” 

"Do I smell?"

As I made my way back out of the rabbit hole, I came to the conclusion that the first question we should ask when we approach someone is, "How should I greet you?”


“And Embrace the Awkward” by Christina Ihnken

I just recently moved back to Europe from the United States and was immediately reminded that here, to greet someone, you don’t hug but kiss each other on the cheek.

In Austria you give 2 kisses, one left, one right, but only to friends and family, and even then, this is mostly something girls do. In the french part of Belgium, where I live now, one kiss on the cheek is customary.

Imagine me walking up to a restaurant and three of my husband’s new friends are waiting for us, ready to meet me. To make a good impression for my husband’s sake, I took a big step outside of my comfort zone and leaned in for a hug with the only female in the group and as I had both arms wrapped around her, she did not engage in the hug but instead she kissed my cheek. I released her immediately, remembering out loud “Sorry, forgot I'm in Europe”. We both chuckle and all was well.

Moving on to the next person, a guy, I extended my hand as in my mind only girls, friends, and family get a kiss, but he leaned in to kiss my cheek instead. As I pulled away after one kiss, I realized I left him hanging halfway for a second kiss on the other cheek. “I’m French. In France we give two kisses” he explained, and I leaned forward to receive the second kiss to not be rude. As we were indeed close to the French boarder this made perfect sense. I nervously laughed it off and replied, “same in Austria”. At this point I was already confused and embarrassed but I had one more person to greet. He didn’t extend his hand, so I thought to myself “two kisses in France, here we go”, but NOPE, I got one kiss on the cheek and as I leaned over for the second kiss, that person had already turned away to greet the next person in the circle. 


Here is what we’ve learned sharing our stories. It all comes down to this:

Meeting someone for the first time can be uncomfortable for both parties. We don’t usually remember what someone said to us when we first met them, but we do remember how we felt. Therefore, wouldn’t it be nice if we meet people with the intent of making them feel welcomed instead of worrying how we are perceived? 

If someone asks for a hug, give them a hug, unless they smell. If someone denies you a hug, their loss, because they must not know about the amazing health benefits of hugging. And if you made a complete fool out of yourself, move to a different country and start over, but remember to learn the local customs first.

Whatever the situation, as long as you are being genuine, you have more to gain than you have to lose.


Lissie - Grit and Grace

Lissie is a woman.  She stands on the stage. Unassuming enough… but when the music gathers, she seems to draw upon some power, unseen, loose in the universe and it folds out through her mouth in the form of a song. She’s golden; she’s lithe- the best way I can describe her in action is if Mick Jagger were a ray of sunlight.  

The venue - downstairs at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia makes for an almost coffee-house vibe (bonus was the artist playing the upstairs stage we got to catch for a minute or two on our way in and out!).  The intimacy allowed in that space really lent itself to Lissie’s artistry in songwriting and her vocal talent.

The first time I ever heard Lissie was a live performance of her song Ojai on a local indie radio station- and it stuck me. I had teared up by the final notes and also had found and shared it with every person I held close to my heart that I thought would receive the vibes she was expressing.  Lullaby/love-poem and break-up with a geographical location balled all in one. Her delivery was like honey mixed with desert sand.

Live in person, she summoned the same grit and grace.  Her voice powerful and her songs meaningful. I spent a lot of the set simply entranced by her sheer talent.  She also had an incredibly strong backing band with a fierce-ass female for the guitar and one on bass as well.

She was coy about playing her newly released songs, but the truther was while they are a bit different style-wise they blended quite smoothly into her existing body of work. The new album, Castles, she suggests be listened to with shuffle OFF (gasp)- and played from beginning to end like a story and preferably on vinyl  

She closed the show by inviting the audience into her space,  sitting on the edge of the stage and eventually bounding out into the crowd during “Little Lovin’ off Catching a Tiger. It was a revival-esque finale, complete with clapping, dancing, harmonies, call-and-answer and of course- jumping.

As the lights came up people were momentarily stunned- murmurs of “she was… AMAZING” and general awe bubbled up.  I left assured in my understanding that there is music in Lissie’s marrow, and it was very cool to share that with her.

Words by Larissa Nemeth | Stills by Cristina Byrne

“We Resist, We Persist, We Rise"

It was early on Election Day 2016, but I was heading to bed — the stress of the day and its implications rested heavily on me.  Fearful, I checked the earliest stats — exit polls, numbers starting to roll in... it was exactly then that I knew we were fucked.  The following day was spent mourning.  The next had me asking — to myself and aloud; in earnest — how do we fix this?

Fast forward to present day: DIBS attends the 2018 Women’s March in Philadelphia with special correspondent, 9-year-old Vivienne Grant. At our core we are strong, independent females with an enlightened worldview that takes into account the multi-colored strands that different nationalities, genders, and ideologies weave into a beautiful society. These threads are all currently being laid bare and actively threatened under our current administration.

I can’t speak for the entire DIBS team here, but I do not actually believe that protests “do” anything.  I don’t think demolition teams spare certain trees because someone chains themselves to them, and I don’t think you could say the length of the Vietnam war was shortened due to non-violent peace rallies or sit-ins. However, I do believe they are not only important, but absolutely vital in order to keep a sense of what is occurring deep in the dug-in roots of society. The only way to get the Suits who run the show to listen if you can’t afford to buy an ear.

To reiterate what Trump said, it was a beautiful day to get out and march.  An odd 50-degree day in January (the one-year anniversary of his inauguration), DIBS would have to accept that.

We were on the move!

We followed the flow of the crowd towards the art museum steps and with mini-reporter Vivienne on hand she scrambled and squeezed her way to the front near the stage — she persisted! — the two, grown reporters, awkwardly shuffling through behind.  Speeches and music were presented which highlighted many reasons to be invigorated into action and raising a voice.  

What was most striking to me was the beautiful mosaic of people, signs and reasons why the thousands of people were there.  I noticed an extraordinary amount of variation on themes for the day: empowerment, acceptance, equality, among other things. Each person’s attendance seemed to be as unique as their own thumbprint or strand of their DNA.

On the way back we raised the question- Why are YOU here today?

A group of young women and men cited simply “Equality.”

Our small helper on-hand, Vivienne, mentioned disaster relief for Puerto Rico (also the subject of a speech by Beatrice Sanabria-Caraballo).

Two young women mentioned being there to represent Haitians.

“Lending support to women,” an older gentleman said.

A woman who had not been drawn out to dissent since the protests against the Vietnam war mobilized for the women’s march because she is “against silence.”

A seated woman said she was there because she wanted to “be among a group of women who empower [her].”

A woman held a sign with a mirror asking march attendees to recognize how they were complicit and said the best way to combat this is by listening to marginalized groups.

The array of answers we gathered provided evidence for the need for a march of this kind whose slogan was “We Resist, We Persist, We Rise”. The march was hardly the period at the end of a sentence; It was all of us, pushing hard against a door to get it to budge open — process started in the wake of the election last year. By doing this, all of us are creating an opening to allow for discourse on change; POSITIVE change. Let me tell you, looking forward, I can start to see the light shining through that entryway.

Words by Larissa Nemeth | Images by Cristina Byrne

Tash Sultana and the Universe

When the DIBS Girls meet up, it is inevitable that storm clouds will gather. It’s as if the atmosphere can sense the ratcheted energy that results in the collision of the site's founders and on Thursday, October 5th it was no different. Under heavy clouds, Cristina and I hit the road, Philadelphia-bound, but as life and luck would have it, our travails would not have the expected results.

Tash Sultana, an Australian songstress and purveyor of general good vibes, was set to perform at Union Transfer that night. Everything seemed to be in order; I was armed with paper and pen, Cristina had her camera with a ridiculously oversized lens, this was to be the official inaugural outing for DIBS.

Approaching the box office giggling, we were met by a really Gruff Dude. "Nope, not on the list," he said. "But, I have an email saying we are on the list,” I pointed out – making one of my weird faces that I pull out of my pocket to suit any necessary occasion. It would seem that the writing that he had trumped any writing I possessed.

“In the music business you have to be on the list,” said the Gruff Dude.

 But it's in writing.

“How much are the tickets?” I asked.

"Sold out, nothing I can do. Call your guy."

I let him know that our guy likely wasn't checking and responding to emails while Tash was mere moments away from taking the stage.

Okay, time to re-group. Maybe DIBS won’t be covering the Tash show and maybe we'd just go to the bar?

We huddled up to think critically. One suggestion for how to proceed was to muscle our way inside, shimmying up on stage, grabbing the mike and calling out for our guy, you know the one who had insured in writing that DIBS was on the list.

We were getting a little too psyched for the idea when ….

"I have a ticket," a small accented voice said to us. A slightly unkempt man had approached our two-woman huddle.  He carried a bag in one hand and in the other he proffered a crumpled ticket. "I don't want it, you can have it," he offered.

We thanked him but impressed upon him that we needed two tickets, not just one. But that did not deter our friend. Instead of forcing the issue or leaving to find another taker, he said "I'm homeless and I do magic,” - and he wasn't lying, at least about the magic.

He showed us the already known jumping matchsticks trick and then proceeded to show us one that we haven’t seen yet. “Do you like Batman he asked?” Little did we know, Batman is hidden on the back of the dollar bill?! “Woah, that’s cool!” we told him.

He also made sure to point out that he bought new underwear. “New underwear is always very important,” I said.

His magic was dazzling us in a way that we couldn't focus. Cristina gave him a couple of pieces of gum for his entertainment and parted ways.

A few moments later, our homeless, magician friend approached us again and said, "tickets!"

Yes, we know you have a ticket – no - he has two now... or he found somebody who had two they could part with.

Two angelic girls hovered in a window frame, "you guys need two tickets?" - Um yes. That is exactly what we need. Their friends ditched them and apparently, the universe had aligned for us. "Do you just want them?" the girl asked handing the tickets out. Our homeless magician friend was seated with the girls and looking very proud of himself for helping us out of our ticket-pickle

 Of course, we wanted them.

“Yes we do, thank you!” Hugs were given to strangers and we proceeded inside. Photo pass in hand? Nope. But hey, we had that MC Hammer air about us now, you know, "Can't Touch This" and all.

At this point, I could tell you about the Pierce Brothers, who we watched from the balcony, Australian brothers with a lot of siblings to sing about and their harmonica-handling, guitar-drumming, didgeridoo slinging' antics.

I could also tell you about Tash Sultana - damn Tash - a 22-year-old just oozing sweet positive karma. Her music wraps you up in jungle warmth and lush layering. She carries the crowd's breath – withholding - and then dropping the bass always at exactly the right moment. Her pleasure in this marionette string pulling is obvious on stage. She's an experience, in addition to a freaking amazing musician.  

But I'm not going to get into it because the real story has already been told.

Moral of the story, the universe will serve you but not until it meets its own purpose.

Hello World - I'm calling Dibs.

Words by Larissa Nemeth | Images by Cristina Byrne