May 8, 2007

WordFest 2007 -- Experimental Cabaret, April 21

Part 2 of the Albany WordFest was Saturday afternoon, a delayed segment of Nicole Peyrafitte's monthly Experimental Cabaret, normally held on the second Monday of each month (from October to May) at Tess' Lark Tavern, on Madison Ave. It was well attended for a mid-afternoon on a nice day, a tribute to those poets who were there just to hear others & not read their own work. Let's face it, open mics are scams to get poets to show up -- many show up just to read their own work -- but those who show up at others' readings are the "great audiences" ole Uncle Walt talked about.

Mother Judge is usually thought of as one of the foundations (as in "Mother") of the Albany music scene. She currently hosts the Wednesday night music open mic at the Lark Tavern. But over the years she has occasionally appeared as a poet. This afternoon's poem was a work-in-progress (ain't it all?) "Vector", about the politics of disease, supported by the music of John Davies & Nicole's tongue clicking & videos -- tapeworms, fish, mosquitos, & don't forget to wash your lettuce. The work was simply stated, the words taking center stage & the music & images used to under-stated effect. This is the fruit of years of working with other musicians: to know what is important about each piece, what should be up front, what in the background, the balance to effectively present a work without it being overwhelmed by music or images or razz-a-ma-tazz.

El Presidente Thom Francis, the quiet man behind the AlbanyPoets organization is rarely featured at readings, but when he does I always wonder "why not more often?" His selection was his more politically centered poems, still presented as very personal material, with carefully selected video images from news footage to match the poems -- the destruction of the World Trade Center, the shootings at Columbine, a police riot (aren't they all?), war & young soldiers fighting & killing (an anti-recruiting poem), the destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina -- other poems on the assault on our constitutional rights -- the sum total he called a selection from his "The Book of Job." Jared Funari & Keith Spencer provided musical support, tastefull & balanced. We owe Thom our thanks for not only being such a key part in creating Albany WordFest, but for his poetry, showing the power of the political in the personal.

Mary Panza's picture appears on the un-offical badge of the 2001 Word Fest, indeed, she helped bail out the near-disaster of the very first Word Fest, & she is one of the Albany Poets behind this year's event. Remember her role last night at the open mic? We know what we are getting when she takes the stage. This time she had Johnny WordFest aka John Weiler on guitar. Unfortunately, John paid little attention to her words & instead built a wall of electronic drone, scream, wail & screech; fortunately, Mary is loud. And nasty: cutting the famous (Bob Dylan), the local ("Johnny Braveheart"), the personal (her father). Why we have "Pretty Flowers for the Ugly Sister". And again Nicole projected bent & delayed images behind & on, over & under, half step behind, looking like a full step ahead.

A wonderful afternoon of performance & poetry & the great food at the Lark Tavern. I think Tess should run for Mayor -- I'd rather hug her than shake hands with Jerry Jennings.