“Christmas has become, for a lot of people, an opportunity to put pressure on themselves, a pressure to perform around their families and work,” says John Lawrence, one of the organizers of Fishbon’s Fishmas Bizarre. “It’s a stressful time.”
Well, there will be none of that this weekend in the three-day holiday event on the corner of Mason and Helena Avenue. Instead, the Fishnet Gallery will have home-made, artist-designed Christmas trees, arts-and-crafts vendors, food carts and a nighttime made of music, skits, DJs, fire spinners and aerialists. This is not your average mall-located Christmas adventure, either. It’s an artist collective run wild with yuletide fun.
Christmas hasn’t been the favorite holiday of the Fishbon crowd. Previous years’ events have centered on Halloween, which suits their anything-goes, costume-heavy, freaks-come-out-at-night attitude. But everybody’s schedules and the scope of the event meant that All Hallow’s Eve was a no-go this year, so expect this event to have a bit of residual October flavor.
Friday night’s opening is really an excuse to take part in Santa Con, a Santa Barbara contingency of a worldwide phenomenon, where folks dress up as Saint Nick. They descend on lower State Street, altering the demographics of local bars and bringing jollity up and down the party blocks of town. The gathering of the Kringles starts at 8 p.m. and sets off “no later than 9 p.m.,” according to Lawrence. (No word on when they return.)
However, the real meat of the Bizarre starts Saturday at noon, when families are welcome to peruse the artist vendor booths, where local art — including ornaments — will be on display. Food booths will provide sustenance, as well.
Clay Bodine, one of Fishbon’s main organizers, says that one impetus behind the bazaar idea comes from Fishbon member Corinna Schmidt.
“Corinna is German, and it’s very common in German town squares to have Christmas markets. Gifts and ornaments are on sale and good smells from food are in the air.”
But the center attraction will be Fishbon’s Christmas tree farm. The “trees” are cubist sculptures for sale, painted and decorated by the artists associated with Fishbon, and can be packed flat for the rest of the year. Jonathan Smith is the brains behind this section, which promises to have three dozen trees.
“I like doing environmental installation art, and I hope this (tree farm) achieves that,” says Smith, who claims he started with a simple idea and watched it develop far beyond his imagination (and control).
Some of the trees will be painted the day of the event, and all have prices with a request attached. The cheaper the tree, the more chance you have to do something embarrassing or silly. “We’re taking buying and selling and turning it on its head,” Smith says. “You’re money’s good, but it’s not that good.”
Come 8 p.m., the party turns into a 21-and-over event, with a live band — the death metal styling of Nekrogoblikon — a pyro bar (a mobile bar that shoots fire while people shoot drinks), a chill lounge, “scantily clad” aerialists, fire-spinners, a twisted and funny holiday skit, and DJs until 2 a.m.
Come Sunday morning, the family marketplace will return for one final afternoon — noon to 5 p.m. — of vendors, food and, of course, the trees.
The Fishmas Bizarre has a goal, despite the chaos.
“We’re saying, let’s have some fun, some love, some increased self-expression,” Lawrence says. “And let’s not take ourselves too seriously. It’s intended to be a good time, a time to remember as a beacon of something fun, filled with passion, life and silliness.”
FISHBON’S FISHMAS BIZARRE
When: 8 tonight, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: 100 block of Helena Avenue
Cost: $10 online, $15 at the door (Saturday after 8 p.m. only); daytime market is free.