The first WordFest was definitely a cluster fuck, barely happening without the sudden support & transportation of friends. Likewise year 2 (where Bob Wright made up un-official badges with Mary Panza's picture under the banner, "Psycho Cluster Fuck") was another near disaster without food or sound equipment. Somehow everyone survived, no was was murdered -- or thanked.
Now, in homage, "Psycho Cluster Fuck '07" at Valentines, with poets & bands & a bar full of booze. But the least successful of the events this weekend. Good bands, good poets, just a lot wrong with how it was all put together. First of all, upstairs at Valentines is fine if you want to be overwhelmed by screams, loud guitars & insistent drums, if you want to pogo or mosh, stagger around with a plastic cup, if you're not listening to lyrics, if you want to reach up under the skirt of the foxy bass guitarist, or the wasted honey standing next to you. The stage is oriented the wrong way in the room & space near the bar is a well of conversation that must be overwhelmed by coked up head-bangers in sleeveless tee-shirts.
There were some good bands, from the relatively quiet of Tom McWaters opening, with words that matter, to the popular & punk-interesting The Fire Flies. The 2-guys-with-guitars of Palatypus (huh?) had their own idea of a twang/drawl that made many of the lyrics unintelligible. Why can't they just sing in their normal, upstate speaking accents? Why do they have to sound like country singers from Woolworths? I guess it's the Dylan-syndrome, like the rock version of literature professors reading poetry in fake English accents.
Oh well, Deb Bump's reading, obscured by an out-of-control John Weiler, was the most distressful of the night. She told me afterwards that she had told John to crank it up, play as loud as he wanted -- & he did, with apparent indifference to what Deb was saying, if he could even hear her. Deb said she thought she could project over him ("give me more cowbell" she kept telling the soundman). But electric guitars & amps are made to play over an auditorium of screaming fans & there is no way cranking up Deb's sound could make her intelligible over that. This was doubly bad because, of all the readers, Deb's poems had perhaps the most direct appeal to a rock'n'roll audience. All of that compounded by the odd stage placement & the constant din from the bar area. If she could've grabbed the attention of those boozie rockers, they would have really dug hearing about her "Spending $60 on Rollins Tickets", or about Eddie Little Horse, or her tribute to another rocker/poet Pat Covert, or her "Apology to Lenny Bruce." Maybe next time, with balance.
Earlier, after McWaters, Shaun Baxter gave a distracted reading, but a very effective, theatrical rendition with a young women of his poem on Descartes proof for the existence of God, which proved to me that God does indeed exist, & so does sex.
Between Deb & the Fire Flies, a drunk named Matt Gleason commandeered the mic & read some poems, then launced into Ginsberg's "America" as the band behind him slowly, gradually overwhelmed the reading in an artful, respectful manner. Gave me an idea.
Before the final band, Princess Mabel, A.C. Everson gave a model reading with Mitch Elrod on guitar. She didn't have to shout, Mitch looked & listened, played loud sometimes, quiet sometimes, the music & the words bouncing off each other like friends dancing or walking down the street. But once again you had to be close to appreciate it & the mob clustered near the bar could care less.
The evening's host was Harith Abdullah, from AlbanyPoets who kept the night rolling but obviously could do nothing about those not listening, or for those of us who couldn't hear. And of course we always wonder where were some of those poets so concerned about "community", or whatever they call it, that they can't get to a poetry event if they're not on the bill, & this time I'm not talking about the professors.