I'm just back from a busy night at the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, which has left me -- as is typical after a long bout of Infringing -- in a state of insane optimism about the artistic direction of this city.
It's not that the art I saw tonight was particularly mind-blowing (though such art does appear at Infringement from time to time). But all the swirling and sprawling activity, all the strange territories into which Infringement artists are daring to take audiences, the sheer gestalt of the whole affair -- on a mere Wednesday night, no less -- adds up to a great deal more than the sum of its bits and pieces.
Here's a quick accounting of the afternoon and evening with a few images and videos tossed in for good measure:
After a brief trip to Burning Books to catch the tail-end of PUSH Buffalo's performance of "Activist Theatre" (about which more in another blog entry), I went down to Allentown to catch up with the founder of the original Infringement Festival in Montreal. Donovan King, who is here for the entirety of Buffalo Infringement, took 20 mintues out of his busy Infringement day to talk about the birth of the counter-cultural festival and the surprising hold it's taken in Buffalo. Here's our conversation:
Inside Rust Belt, modern-day beatnicks Bourbon and Coffee were just setting up for their performance. The group --with an oboe, clarinet, bass guitar, trumpet and percussion/poetry by leader Ian Be -- works in a musical genre it has dubbed "freakjazz poetry." The performance struck me as a politically inflected throwback to a different kind of poetry reading -- the kind that lives on the in popular imagination largely in the form of such send-ups as the beloved "Animaniancs" bit "Dot's Poetry Corner." For that reason and others, it's worth peeking into one of its two final performances -- Friday at 7 p.m. in Burning Books and Saturday at 6:45 p.m. in the College Street Gallery. Here's an excerpt:
Walking down Allen Street -- in a not-at-all rare moment of "Twilight Zone"-esque Infringement bewilderment -- I ran across this dude dressed as a hot dog, holding forth on the virtues of ketchup before a hushed crowd assembled on the sidewalk as if the man were delivering the Gettysburg Address:
Hot dog dude turned out to be one Velvet Al, delivering a performance of his (previously plugged) "Yes, I Am Staring At Your..." I only saw a snippet, so I can't vouch for the quality of the show, but I do think the visual speaks for itself.
I also briefly popped my head into the Tudor Lounge's Zombie Social, where I hoped to encounter a ravenous group of the undead. I was not disappointed to find several meticulously made-up zombie creatures -- all members of the charity group known as Terror Techologies -- staggering about the donation table as the first band of the night started playing. And a fine looking bunch they were:
The group's motto bears repeating: "We play dead so others may live."
Next up was Nietzsche's for King and company's new event, "Occupy Theatre!", for which he invited members of Occupy Buffalo to share songs, stories, poems and performances. Many Occupiers signed up, including Pam Swarts (pictured below, left) who kicked off the event with a mournful song and earned big applause from the small crowd assembled in the bar's front performance space. (Another highlight of the evening was King and a fellow Infringer giving a dramatic reading of a series of emails between King and the organizers of the upcoming World Fringe Congress, an organization with which Infringement is inclined to disagree on many issues.)
Finally, on my way back home at dusk, I caught a lovely outdoor performance by Clandestina y La Raza Cosmica, who played their fast-tempo version of "La Bamba" as the last light drained from the sky: