METROnome: Guitarras and Basketball, Carla Morrison and Natalie Diaz @ Crescent Ballroom’s Crossfade Lab

Poet Natalie Diaz kicks of the fifth installment of Crossfade Lab, performing a piece centered around basketball. (Lysandra Marquez/DD)

At Crescent Ballroom, a sold-out crowd awaited Mexican singer-songwriter, Carla Morrison, and Mojave poet, Natalie Diaz, as they participated in the fifth installment of Crossfade Lab.

Diaz took to the stage bouncing a basketball up and down while images of basketballs and hoops were projected behind her. A former professional basketball player, Diaz shared ‘Run N Gun’, a piece centered on her experience with the intersection of sports and ethnic identity.

The Crossfade Lab was intended to feel like an intimate conversation between two artists, in this case Morrison and Diaz, with alternating performances from both. This unique event is made possible by a collaboration between Celebración Artística de las Américas (CALA), the Arizona State University Art Museum, Crescent Ballroom and the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.

Josh Kun, a cultural historian, co-curated and moderated the event. Described as “an experimental mix of words and music, exploring the connections between themes central to both Diaz and Morrison: desire and love, land and family, and traditions that bend, bear witness, and sometimes break,” on the event website, the night transitioned smoothly between conversation and performance.

Fresh from touring, Morrison performed songs from a variety of albums much to the delight of many in the audience, who sang along with every song.

Morrison, who hails from Tecate, Baja California in Mexico, lived in Tempe before becoming a professional musician. While in Arizona, she attended high school at Marcos de Niza, where she said she was exposed to different cultures. During the six years she spent in Tempe, she also formed part of Babaluca, and performed all over the valley, before heading to Mexico City to pursue her musical career.

The Solomon Trio, a live jazz ensemble, improvised and accompanied Diaz while she performed poems like ‘These Hands, If Not God’s’ and ‘Catching Copper’. Diaz’ poems addressed sexuality, religion, and police brutality.

Diaz shared a particularly interesting anecdote about the struggle that often comes with translating emotions between languages which have different cultural contexts. In Mojave, there are no ways to say ‘I love you’, according to Diaz, instead there are more powerful phrases like “You are my skin” and “I will not let anyone hurt you”, which she says portray something stronger than the language imposed on her tribe.

Before performing an emotionally charged acoustic rendition of ‘Dime Mentiras’, Morrison prefaced the song by speaking on love and loss, and mourning loved ones.

The end of the night was closed with Morrison performing a cover of ‘Paloma Negra’, a famous song by Lola Beltran, a renowned Mexican singer from Sinaloa, Mexico. As Morrison finished singing, the crowd stood up to give her a standing ovation, shouting “Otra, otra, otra!”

Morrison, who was stepping off the stage, looked around in confusion, having been told time was up. The crowd continued to shout, and with not much time to hesitate, Morrison walked back on stage and picked up her guitar one more time.

Contact the columnist at