By Robin Linn
What Disneyland was to me as a kid….Furst Wurld is for me now as a music loving adult! And, I use the word (adult) loosely. It’s sort of the last thing you feel like when you are in Furst Wurld. We all know musicians and artists are incurable children anyway…..which is probably why we are all so in love with the environment created by visionary Bobby Furst. Hailing from the hills of Laurel Canyon, artist Bobby Furst has assembled a whole lot more than pieces of art here at his home and studio in Joshua Tree. He has built an entire world! Nestled against the gorgeous rocky wild desert terrain at the foot of the National Park is the private venue known as Furst Wurld Theater, a special place where art, film and live music collide. Consisting of three Quonset huts, the first is a two-story super structure where the magic happens! The indoor theater features roll up doors, sky lights, a giant film screen, theater style seating, a bar, a stage area for live music, and so much visual art that you really can’t take it all in at once. It is one of the most inspiring places imaginable to experience the arts.
There are thousands of assembled art pieces on site, all part of the creative genius that is Bobby Furst. Artists and musicians from all over the world who visit and perform there all come away feeling inspired. Who wouldn’t want to experience the creative process in this magical setting? Musicians who perform there are treated to an instant audience …and they are musically savvy, hip, and ready to rock till the sun comes up! To hang out in the wild of the desert, surrounded by Bobby’s visionary and soulful art, breathing in the clean fresh desert air, amongst a zillion stars is a rock stars dream vacation! Why do we all love it there so much? Because there is nowhere else on the planet to experience original live music quite like Furst Wurld. It’s more than an artists’ retreat, it’s like Disneyland for musicians!
THE GODS ARE PLEASED!
When you arrive to an evening event at Bobby Furst’s Wurld, you find yourself beneath a star infested sky. A two-story metal structure is surrounded by artifacts, assembled art pieces, organized piles and sorted out hardware. Lots of metal, glass and old goodies, that keep your eyes and your mind busy forever. One of the structures is like its own personal museum housing artwork ranging from large scale statues made of salvaged metals, to skeletons dressed and ready to party! Iron baby dolls, piles of old eyeglasses in bins next to drawers full of buttons and Barbie dolls….and what could look like a heap of junk becomes organized art that tells the story of times gone by. Items used back when, but no longer, and you might never have seen them again in this lifetime. Yet here they are, well preserved and encapsulated forever inside this unique and inviting studio. Bobby Furst creates order out of chaos. He makes social and political statements with thought-provoking pieces created from odds and ends, bits and pieces, metal and memorabilia, wooden letters of various sizes. His imagination knows no bounds. A group of air-stream trailers surround the property, each artistically designed to comfortably house guest artists who stay there.
The sound is amazing no matter where you are in the building. You can see the images of the performing artists on the big screen. Or, you might experience an early 1960’s propaganda film about Cuba, shot by a brilliant Russian filmmaker, silently while a band from South Africa performs entrancing, electrifying music. I have seen a screening of an activist “Save Our Bobcat”, a rockumentary, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same there and each time I visit I leave feeling like I just had the ultimate rock-star experience.
Bobby Furst has paid attention to the desert environment and utilized every bit of the natural beauty, the exclusivity, the lush desert landscape, while inviting the ultra-hip musicians and artists that make up our Joshua Tree and high desert community, to take part in the experience.
The surrounding Hi & Lo desert artist communities that frequent Furst Wurld are all part of what supports Furst Wurld and makes it so special. With all of these people coming together as they do, I think it has the potential of becoming a real artist-in-residency program. Spelman Evans Downer from Copper Mountain College film foundation conducts an advanced video class documenting live music events. The images he captures create art out of art. Whether it be music, poetry, a fashion show, or a film screening. I think the gods must be pleased with the art being created at Furst Wurld.
In the past several years, I have watched from a distance as Bobby has turned his property into an artistic destination, a national treasure in its own right. When someone creates a space where art and music can expand and happen organically, they are pretty special. What Bobby has made available to fine artists who work hard at their music, films, environmental efforts, and artistic endeavors is nothing short of awesome. I have had to pinch myself while dancing to the likes of the Paul Chesne Band till the wee hours of the morning. “Save Our Bobcats” was a beautiful and heart wrenching documentary about real life issues that meant a lot to all of us here in the high desert, protecting our wild cats. I have listened to 3rd Ear Experience which features my favorite South African guitarist, Robbi Robb and wife, Amritakripa, her graceful soft presence, surrounded by the dazzling guitar work of her Robbi Robb. I have seen Bobby Nichols with Inner Planetary Monks, my favorite live show in 2013. I have seen the young Evaros with Chris Unck, Clive Wright, Juke Logan, Victoria Williams. Musicians with gorgeous sonic offerings…the list goes on and on. And, then there is all I have missed. I love the sparkle in Bobby’s eyes as he recalls an early Gram Rabbit performance that made him realize he had to add more to meet the needs of performing musicians. I wonder what Jesika Von Rabbit thinks of Furst’s place now? He beams as he remembers an earlier event featuring Bambino & his Tuareg band, on an American tour far away from their home in Mali, Africa. . He recalls purple robes, scarves covering their faces, and a giant American flag hanging behind them. If you think of the social implication…..Tuareg musicians in African attire, playing in front of an American flag to Joshua Tree music lovers…….you can’t help but love it! Music, the great equalizer…..it breaks down barriers, crosses borders, and knows no bounds.
Between Furst Wurld, Harrison House, the two annual music festivals, Pappy & Harriet’s, and the internet radio station, Radio Free Joshua Tree, (www.radiofreejt.com), this is an exciting time to be an artist of any kind in the high desert. One thing has become clear, I won’t be running out of things to write about anytime soon.
Robin Linn/Desert Rhythms