Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm leavin' it (almost) all up to youuuuu ...

Lordy, can it really be Infringement time again already? Original Blogmeister Ron here; I'm the guy who started this, er, "official" BIF blog way back in Year One as a way of helping to share the word/compare notes about individual shows and other aspects of the festival. I've been playing a smaller and smaller role behind the scenes with each passing year, not because I don't still love BIF like the bastard son I (probably) never had, but because I wanted to--yes, it is actually true--spend more time with my family, including my South American mistress. And like a lot of people, I find myself drawn more to social networking than blogging at this particular moment in time (as you will see if you glance at any of the other blogs I now update about once or twice a year).

Thus, at least for this year, I plan to sit out the regular entries I used to make here every single day of the fest. Too much work for too little reward! I may still write a few times here if I think of anything blogworthy, but I am more likely to spread the word via Facebook (either my own page or the BIF one). This year, also, I want to devote more time than I have since Year Two to presenting my own stuff in the fest, like this brand-new thing, and this returning tradition--and, oh yes! I'm even bringing this old favorite back after taking a year off from it to spend more time with its family.

I hope you will get involved in the blog yourself this year, mainly because--with over 400 events to choose from--this is one of the few ways to read and write reviews of what you see or plug stuff you're in. It's a grassroots festival, and you are the grass, so grow, grow, grow!

See you around the festival.
PS. What shows do you most want to see? You can use the comments section here if you're not able to create a new post.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The plates are in! We have a winner--actually lots of them!

Here, courtesy of organizer Marybeth, are the fifth annual "Iffy Award" winners, as presented at the Closing NIght Party. (Remember, the premise behind the Iffys is that anyone can give anyone or anything an award for any reason--no nominations, all winners. What you see here is more or less exactly what was written on the paper plates available at Rust Belt throughout the festival, or posted here on the blog.) I missed last year's Iffys, too, but this looks like a record number of awards, which is great news on many fronts, and taken as whole it's a one-of-a-kind group portrait of 11 crazy days. Behold ...

The 2009 Buffalo Infringement Awards

Best Unsung Organizer: Mary Beth Wojtaszek
Hottest Sweat Your Balls off Venue: The Goddam Manny Fried
Best Weird Cartoon Face Rebel Rousing Red: Alex Klein
Punk Ass Bitch of the Fest : Mike from Riff- Tide
Worst Venue: Hardware
Best Punk Rock: Lowlander
Most Innovative Dance Performance: Angela Lopez
Best Impromptu Performance: Grammar Skool
Best Electronic: Dudley Ghost
Biggest Prick of the Festival: Josh Strauss & Dinky
Best Keeper of Tradition: MC Vendetta
Most Appropriate use of Nudity in a Theatrical Performance: You Know This Girl
Most Deserving of a Nap: Curt Rotterdam
Best 2 Piece: Hotel Nourishing
Best Short Horror Comedy: Zombie loves Vampire
Best Break up: Besnyo
Best Venue Coordinator: Chris Uebbing
Infringement Vanguard Award: MC Vendetta
Best Outdoor Venue: The Yard
Nicest Guy Ever: Rojo
Traveling Vanguard: Lazy Ass Destroyer
Best Comedy Acoustic : Pat O’Keefe
Best Performance : Soulbodega with On the Sly & Johnny M.
Rochester Noise Ambassador Award: Joshua Samuel Strauss
Most Convincing Impromptu Love Scene in a play or Musical : JFK The Musical
Bestest Song: Lara Buckley
Longest Documentary Film) : Matt Lucesec
Guy Who Needs a Bag but instead carries Bucket: Krusty Awesome
Best Femal Acoustic: Erin Sydney Welsh
Best Man Wearing a Lady Shirt @ Art Opening: Mr. Jason Klinger
Least Controlled BYO System of time: Scar Strangled Banner
Best Gallery Show : Reverend Soapbox
Best Band that shouldn’t Breakup: Beznyo
Best Single Photo: Carla 100% Art
The Enhanced License Mikro Chip Award: Car Stories
Biggest Prick: Dinky or Curt
Hardest Working Guy: Mr. Curt Rotterdam (received 2 awards)
Most Popular Guy whose Ass We Wanna Kick : Josh Strauss
Most Likely to Die Infringing: Josh Strauss
Most Entertaining Wildlife: The Bats of Burnwood
Best Human Alien Love Scene: Mel & Donny –Car Stories
Best Toga: Melissa Campbell
Most Improved Venue: Staples
Best Sound Guy & Housing Coordinator: Pat Sears
6 Pack Award for Best Use of Beer in Performance: Scar Strangled Banner
Awestruck Award for Keeping Audience most Awestruck: Pyromance
Best heard-of-but-didn’t-attend show: You Know This Guy
Best Theatre Experiment: JFK, the Musical
Best Festival Newcomer: Vincent Masci
Best Pit Orchestra : Gabe & Pat for Hairy Ape
Best Collage Sculpturw: Ashley Bobbit
Best Live Performance: Anal Pudding
Best New Filmmaker: Ron A, Wasted Talent
Best: Looking Mad Scientist: Tim
Best Fight Sequence in a spoken word/poetry event (you got a problem with that) : The Mullato Connection
Sweetest Moustache: Lazlo
Most Bad Assest Photo Exhibit: Fernal Photo - Amanda
Best Free PA: Josh Gaje
Best Jeweler: Kat Makib
Best New Concept: Infringement Dodgeball – Burnwood
Most Uber Awesome Fest Organizers: Mr. Curt Rotterdam & Mr. Jason Klinger
Best Festival Food: Lagniappes – Chris
Venue Vanguard: Knee Cheese
Best New Venue: Nobody’s
Most Under Appreciated: Dave Pape
Most Talent Award: MC Vendetta
We Miss You Award: Kurt Schneiderman
Most Missed Infringement Artist: Carmen Santore
Best Infringer: Ashley Bobbit
Best Cab Driver & Comic Illustrator & Time Traveller: Skitchy
Best Performance no one saw: The Feast
Worst Abuser of running jokes: Josh Smith
Best Play from a Former Organizer: The Hairy Ape
Best Love Art : The Kids &The Kids Paint Wall
Best Bartender: Deanna of Soundlab
Best Overall Venue Staff: Soundlab
The Bare Assed WNY Nude Model of 2009 Infringment Festival: Rachel
Best Noise At SoundLab: Everyone who played Tuesday
Kick Ass Woman Award: Francis Fallon
Best Shit : Josh Strauss
Best Free Art: Lindsey The Great
Best New Musical: Oscar the Hooker
Best Live Art: The Kids Paint Wall
Most Commercially Viable Film Award: Lachiusa – Ghost
Best Only New Venue: The Yard, 464, Grant Street Gallery
Best New Infringement Organizer: Leslie – Euphraxia
Category for least improved act – winner goes to Lazy Ass Destroyer
Best Tasting : Awesome Shea Brode
Best Organizer for the Festival: US
Best New Publication: Refried Zine – maybe
Big Whiney Bitch that’s Awesome in 10 Bands: Sonny Baker
Coolest Backyard Venue: Space @ 224
The I Saw You Motherfucker Award: Kenny G of Anal Pudding on the subway listening to his ipod
Best on the Spot Rocker: Sam Alba
Iffy Award for Best Fotos Hanging in a Park: Amanda Giczkowski (signed Jason “CarStories”)
Best Hair Award: Josh Smith
Best New Peeps I Got to Know a little better: Claire Fornmola, Newell Aussbauer & Chris Uebbing
Venue Most Likely to Perforate Chris Uebbing’s Ulcer: Manny Fried Playhouse
Best at Sticking to Commitement Although Being Associated with Ron Ehmke: Lynn Lasota
Best Blog Controversy : Ron Ehmke vs Wasted Talent
Best Rip Off Ad Logo: Artvoice
Best iffy moment: The lead singer of Anal Pudding leaving Allendale’s today
Best use of Colour: Euphraxia & Red Moon
Best New Artist: Quest 4 Friends
Sexiest Organizer: Curt
Greenest Performer: Mel K. from CarStories
Best Moveable Art: CarSTories
Best Singer Songwriter: Claire Fornarola
Best Hugs: The Lawn Disco Co-op House – Nobody’s
Friendliest Teddy Bear Guitarist: Jay Galbo
Best Supportive Crowd Car Accident: Nobody’s MC Showcase
Way Cutest: Quest 4 Friends
Most Helpful Czar: Rojo
Most Moving Beautiful Performance: Angela Lopez
Best Blood Curdling Scream: Dave Harter, Blood Thirsty Vegans
Too Drunk to Dance in a Crowd Award: Block Party during Global Village Idiots
Modi Sines: Best New Act. (Cause they're awesome.)
Best Original Musician: Claire Fornarola
Best Concept for Playing Multiple Infringement Shows: Claire Fornarola (For playing her albums in chronological order and making them delicious)
Best Acoustic nomination: Claire Fornarola
MC Vendetta/Janna: Gutsiest Vocalist
Best Infringement Band: Ramforinkus
Most emotionally heartwrenching while still being funny! : Bitch Bares All.
The most talked about event at the festival: Wasted Talent
Best Creative Concept: JFK Musical (fun, provacative and entertaining. I can see it on the big stage. Way to go Kilissa!
"JFK The Musical was an awesome and unique experience. Since this was the first ever production I expected something a little chaotic and disorganized. To my utter amazement and extreme pleasure it was executed by Kilissa with what can only be termed the utmost in vision and depth. Kilissa's music was an asset and playing in the cast was such fun. I can see this evolving into something that will continue for a long time to come.)

*** Late-breaking update! Organizer Josh Smith recalls a few more that were not on the earlier list:
Second Most Fun You Can Have In The Backseat Of A Car In Buffalo: Car Stories
Most Useless Attempt At Infringement: Josh Smith At The Allendale Theater
The Josh Smith Award For Advancement In Self Promotion: Jason Klinger

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Subversive Theatre Collective: When things get Hairy

No full-fledged Scene Report for this, the final day of the festival, because I wasn't part of any particular "scene" today. Despite my best intentions, outside factors intervened and I never even made it down to Allen Street at all. The closest I got was the Great Arrow Building, which this year, thanks to the Alt and Manny Fried Theatres, took the place of Rust Belt as the primary venue for live theater (a smart and understandable move, but, as one festivalgoer pointed out to me midweek, it does take away a bit of the centrally-located aspect of the early years of BIF). There was no way I could let the festival end without seeing the latest project from by its once and future Pooh-Bah, Kurt Schneiderman, and his Subversive Theatre Company.

I have vague memories of reading The Hairy Ape in or around high school, but other than the basic premise and the ending, not much of it stuck with me. And I confess I've never quite gotten America's Greatest Playwright, despite repeated attempts. Even so, I trusted that the Subversives would do something ... well, subversive, with the play.

No disappointment there! From the full-out opening surprise (which I won't spoil) to the live music score by Pat Cain and Gabriel Gutierrez to the overall framing device of "the Burn 'em & Bail 'em Circus," this is easily the most fun you're ever likely to have at an O'Neill play. (It's sinister fun, mind you, but still.) The relatively large cast of familiar and unfamiliar faces is something I've almost come to expect from Subversive projects, and I'm always amazed at how many talented actors Schneiderman manages to find and work with. I'll single out ringmaster Brian Zybala and protagonist Patrick Cameron, each an intense presence in his own way, by name, but pretty much everybody else is called upon to play multiple roles and does so with captivating ease. This particular production is practically a dance piece at times, and there are inventive bits of stage business every couple of minutes. (It's a noisy show, in more ways than one, and at times I had trouble hearing or following the main storyline because of all the hoopla on the sidelines.) Given its staging, I can easily envision this show being mounted in, say, 1967, but that's not to say it doesn't feel fresh and alive in our current era of burnout and bailout. (And face it: 1967 was a pretty cool time to see a play.)

As luck would have it, if you missed Ape during the festival proper, you can still catch it this coming Thursday through Saturday--if you're not already burnt out on artgoing for a while. Lord knows I might be, and I'll be happily taking a break from seeing stuff for at least a week or two. With that in mind, even though I only made it to one show today, I'm glad my own experience of Infringement 09 ended with a bang, not a whimper.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Scene report: Day ten

My only regret when it comes to Lisa Vitrano's one-person show Bitch Bares All is that I didn't see it earlier in its run so I could tell more people about it. (Truth be told, I'm not nuts about the title, which is funny and eye-catching but also a bit misleading, and might scare off potential audience members expecting/fearing something totally different. Ah, well.) I've been a fan of Vitrano since I first started noticing her in Alleyway shows in the 90s. There's something about her energy, her physicality, and above all her timing that always makes me happy, even when I don't like the play she's in.

That's not an issue here, because she wrote this particular piece herself, and it turns out she's every bit as entertaining and interesting a writer as she is a performer. Updating an autobiographical monologue she first developed in 2001, Vitrano tells the story of giving birth to a son when she was essentially still a child herself. If that sounds like a heady, heavy dose of Lifetime Channel movie-of-the-week fodder, guess again--this tale is hilarious almost from beginning to end and utterly idiosyncratic throughout. (A handful of brief moments are alternately surreal, poetic, or directly didactic; some of these work better than others, but they're all essential to the fast-moving collage of voices and perspectives she presents.) At one point she refers to a Newsweek cover story on teen mothers; her own approach is about as far away from something like that as you can get. Clocking in somewhere around 45 minutes, it's short, sweet, smart, and sharp. You've got one more chance to see it as of this writing, but I hope she gets it out to the widest possible audience. Here's a photo that does little to convey the performer's talents--she just happened to be standing in brighter lights at the moment:

There's no way I could convey the appeal of Ella Joseph's A House of Stone or Sunk In, or . . . (or any of her other work I've seen in Infringement over the years) in a mere photo, either:

Entering this particular video installation reminded me a little of a labyrinth and a little of a confessional--only the ceiling is strung with fuzzy little creations that evoke both fishing flies and houseflies. This is the kind of piece you're best off witnessing alone, at a point when you have enough time to sit quietly for a while and let Joseph's imagery and audio wash over you. I won't claim to know what it all means to its maker, to me, or to you--in that sense it's the polar opposite of Vitrano's far more explicit message--but I love the mystery and elegance of it all.

Heading into Allentown, I stumbled upon something I wasn't expecting: an eye-catching installation of works in the fresnelphotography series. I'd seen the photographer's trippy lens up and down Allen Street over the last few days, but the grouping of finished images hanging by clothespins on string on the edge of Days Park was a wonderful surprise:

Speaking of wonderful surprises, Der Wundertisch (The Wonder Table) may well be the single most delightful experience I've had in five years of Infringing. The less I say about it, the better, but suffice to say if you're a fan of Michelle Costa's puppetry, or Joseph Cornell's boxes--or if you've ever wondered what it would be like to fall down the rabbit hole with Alice and take tea with the White Rabbit (? Mad Hatter? whoever)--don't miss this five-minute, one-audience-member-at-a-time project by a pair of artists visiting from New York and Boston. A big part of its charm on Saturday was the fact that it was on the back porch behind Space 224 on a perfect afternoon, whereas Sunday it moves indoors, to the Grant Street Gallery, but I'm pretty sure it would enchant me no matter when or where I encountered it. (Warning: the artist statement may make the piece sound a lot more academic than it really is; I have no doubt that the historical references and critical theory informing it will be relevant and illuminating to some audience members, but for me the appeal is in how homemade and delicate both the set and the performance are. My advice is to dive in first, and suss out its deeper meanings later.)

At this point in the evening, I snuck off with two friends to the Black Rock and Riverside Starry Night Gardenwalk, an event which started the same year as Infringement and, in its own way, has a similar kind of grassroots, funky, all-over-the-place creative energy that may totally challenge your stereotypes of the neigborhood, much as Infringement can expand your sense of what artists and musicians are up these days. (Amazingly enough, it's the only nighttime garden tour in WNY--this idea is too much fun not to catch on!) Alas, looks like it'll always be the same night as the biggest single night of BIF, but if Infringement just doesn't provide enough adventure and inspiration for you, check it out next year. Besides, it's not that far from some of the newest BIF venues.

OK, one more day of Infringing, and it's all over for 354 days! Fortunately, all the events I've mentioned above are viewable one last time, along with so much more. If I can somehow fit in even a third of what's still on my wanna-see list SUnday, I'll be in ecstasy.

Your turn

Hi, I'm the guy who started this blog five festivals back, and who tries to keep it going every year. At this point, it's pretty much my main contribution to the festivities. There seems to be a weird vibe around the edges of the blog this year, and I thought it might be useful to address that, in the spirit of free expression that makes the Infringement Festival such a wondrous and special thing.

I started the blog one afternoon midway through the first festival because, particularly in that first year, Infringement was truly "under the radar" of most of the city, along with the vast majority of artists included in it--folks who didn't stand much of a chance of getting a positive or negative review in Artvoice or the News--and I wanted there to be as many ways as possible for potential audience members to find out about shows. That's still my goal. Word of mouth remains the best, but every avenue helps. The more public, the better.

From the very beginning, I encouraged other people to post their opinions of shows here. I never wanted it to be all my voice, all the time. For the record, there are 27 people authorized to start a post at this very minute. (This matter of "authorization" is Blogger's idea and wording, not mine, btw.) Many of them joined to plug their own show (which is cool) and then dropped out of sight. As the little text in the upper left has suggested from pretty much the get-go, if you want to be #28, just send an email and we'll add ya. If you don't plan to write very often, you can always just add a comment to an existing post.

My posts in the first two or three years were so relentlessly positive I felt at times like a PR guy or a cheerleader; so much so that when another writer started posting here, she actually asked if it was okay to write less than glowing remarks about a show. (I, and everybody else around at the time, said "sure!," and the writing immediately got a lot more lively and less Chamber-of-Commerce-y.) On the other hand, I loved pretty much everything I saw in the festival in those days, and I still do. But it occurred to me even then that those of us who contribute to this thing are not really doing a service to the audience, or the artists, if we don't speak honestly and openly about what we like--and what we don't like, on the rare occasions when that happens. At five years old, with an almost entirely new crew of dedicated young organizers working year-round (who are always looking for new volunteers, hint hint), Infringement ought to be sturdy enough to withstand constructive criticism. An arts community that lacks the ability to discuss the good and the bad alike--as subjective as those distinctions may be--is not allowing itself a chance to evolve and grow.

I take this arts community, this festival, and this admittedly self-appointed job of writing about it every night for 11 days when I come home, seriously. If you know me personally, you know I'm not one to take potshots. If you don't know me, you may be among the handful who now seem to think I get off on attacking other people and/or venues. Despite the fact that i've continued to write glowing remarks about almost everything I've attended this year (and intend to do so again, for the last 2 days of the 09 festival), I seem to be striking some readers as a close-minded hater of ... well, whatever it is that they liked more than I did.

Maybe this is just the nature of the internet--after all, the first 4 years of the blog yielded very few reader comments, so it's personally rewarding to see that suddenly people actually read it and care enough to talk back to the guy saying all these apparently horrible hateful things about everyone. That's democracy in action.

I'm not presenting my opinion as the only one or the best one. As I see it, I don't have the last word, I have the first word in what will hopefully be an ongoing discussion.

OK, your turn.

Dance = Art ... an evening of Infringement DANCE at the Albright Knox

We had a wonderful experience with the Albright Knox this year. The staff (especially Anna) were so good to us all, that I have to thank everyone who helped make last night happen... Lynn, Anna, Christine, John (who was kind enough to do our sound) and of course, all our talented, enthusiastic dancers... the ladies of Red Moon and Euphraxia, Nadia Ibrahim, and Erin Bahn. Excellent turn out, great evening, and all in all, something we are very happy we had the chance to so as part of Infringement. So, now we all move on to our shows at the Allendale today, beginning at 3:30pm, we have "Life Rhythm: a Celebration of Movement & Sound" with special guests Nadia Ibrahim, Vikki Krugger of Erie PA, Anjali Shastri, and the amazing Daughters of Creative Sound. And immediately following our show, around 5pm, we have the Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company.

I've always been so fascinated with the Allendale Theater, and am thrilled to be performing there again this year. Even more so, since it's one of the theaters being featured in the film, Ghostlights: Folklore, Skepticism & Belief", which has been running as part of the 2009 BIF. Have you seen it? You should.

(PS: Yes, that's me, holding one of Jason Klinger's painting. The ABK was kind enough to house a bunch o' Infringement last night, including Josh Smith's 'Urban Smackdown!" event.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Scene report: Day nine

I cannot tell a lie: after a long workweek, finding the weather unexpectedly pleasant, I came very close to sitting out one of the biggest nights of the festival--and knew I would regret it if I did. Still, I made time to listen to this 1985 interview with the late Merce Cunningham and this one with John Cage from the same year on Fresh Air while working on a fresh batch of Self-Infringement instructions. It's pretty safe to say there would be no Infringement without these two fearless pioneers of Art Under the Radar, and I wish there was some way to salute them during the festival. So: "saaaaaaa-LUTE!," as they used to say on Hee-Haw.

After a quick stop at Rust Belt, I paid a quick return visit to Mrs. Squandertime, who was back in action after taking a night or two of rest. I see she has company in the window of 224 Allen now, too, in the form of a witty computer installation called eyeMacs (by another of my WoyUbu colleagues--represent, y'all!):

One window over is another cool-looking digital project whose name escapes me, but I'm told it's the work of 224's owner. There's an interactive component, and if I remember, I'll add more details about that here later:

I got to the Albright-Knox just in time to miss all of the Infringement festivities in Gusto at the Gallery, but I heard good reports from many people about the poetry and the dance. I did manage to make my way through the museum's two current exhibitions, one devoted to (allegedly) "subversive" work in the permanent collection and the other a lovely tribute to Ed Ruscha, another of those precursors who gave everybody else permission to do weird stuff in the name of Art. Walking around the upstairs galleries gave me a nice opportunity to think about how "subversive" work bubbles up from spaces like most of the other venues in BIF into mainstream cultural institutions like the AKAG about 20-30 years later, or doesn't, and how sometimes lately that process is sped up by a couple of decades. Some subversion gets forgotten after a good night's sleep, and some ends up accompanied by a child-friendly wall text in a major American museum. My tour of the show also gave me yet another chance to marvel at just how much money Matthew Barney makes for his often gorgeous, always completely hermetic jibberjabber. Plus, he gets to date Bjork!

While I saw no actual BIF work at the Albright, I consider the costumes of Euphraxia and Red Moon to be art objects in themselves, not so far off from Barney's elaborate getups. The dancers looked astounding in the bright lights just outside the museum's entrance. Because I am not David Lynch, I lack the ability to take a photo of them that captures the surreal glory of the moment:

Headed from the AKAG to Days Park for the first of three performances this weekend by Pyromance. I shot video of their fire dance, but haven't yet figured out how to upload it, so you'll just have to get to the park Saturday or Sunday to see them in action. (They promise a new show every night, so go early and often.) While waiting for them to set up, I ran down to La Tee Da to catch another snippet of Pho Malpica, which is shaping up to be the word-of-mouth hit of BIF09. I escorted the newly arrived cast of Car Stories to it, and then crossed paths with them again later during the aptly named Yet Another Cool Showcase at Nietzsche's. I was very happy that I got to catch ROJOMOJO's set: straightforward blues, an excellent country-flavored original (something about the grass being bluer on my side--I don't remember the chorus, but it was a damned catchy song), and covers of Marvin Gaye and James Taylor, all performed without a shred of rockstar pretense. Anybody who thinks Infringement is nothing but bizarre, out-there oddness (not that there's anything wrong with that!) is missing the fuller picture: it's a celebration of homegrown creativity in all its manifestations, from Cunningham-influenced weirdness to feel-good party music.

To coin a phrase, it's all good.