June 1, 2008

At "the Linda" - WAMC Performance Studio, May 30

[Alix Olson at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, D.C. in March. Her tee shirt says "I ♥ Howard Zinn".]

I had seen Alix Olson perform at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival back in March (see my Blog in the March file), so when I saw she would be performing in Albany, I immediately ordered at ticket. Little did I know what a great show the folks at the Linda would put together. And somehow I failed to anticipate that I would be almost the only guy there (& certainly the youngest) in a mostly young, dyke audience -- not that I minded that at all.

Opening the show & MC was C.E. Skidmore with a blues-dyke guitar set, ending with a scorching sing-a-long of Prince's "Purple Rain."

I was pleased & thrilled to be taken by surprise by Broadcast Live, the local activist hip-hop/rock/jazz quartet, fronted by Tori Reyes (check them out at http://www.myspace.com/broadcastlive). They do poetry, social commentary (where the mighty dollar sounds like dharma), music. I especially like the knockout hip-hop version of Bob Dylan's "Master of War" -- showing how close ole Bob was to hip-hop before it was invented. I had no idea they would be there so it was like getting 2 for 1 at the Lark Tavern.

Also on the program was activist-singer-guitar-master Pamela Means. I once saw her long ago at Richard's Mother Earth Cafe on Western Ave. Since then Pamela has honed her guitar skills, even branching out into jazz guitar vocals (a wonderful song about being in Amsterdam). She & Alix tour together & tonight did a couple overlapping pieces together.

Alix Olson, in addition to her poems & between-poems commentary, wore her sentiments on her chest, as she did at Split this Rock, this time, commenting on the "gay marriage" controversy, her tee shirt said "No Divorce for Straights." She did a number of pieces I had heard her do in D.C., including the one about why she is a feminist (prompted by talking to a guy on a plane), "Dear Diary" (which can be found in Beloit Poetry Journal), & ended with the great litany to women heroes for her mother in which she exhorts the audience to honor "the women before you" by calling out their names. Another piece explored the mysteries of sexual identity by recalling "pre-gay" Catholic school. Delving into other emotions was a tender, sad memory of a breakup she performed with Pamela Means on guitar.

Alix is a first-class performer who tests my own prejudices concerning performers v. poets. Her political/sexual commentaries between poems are entertaining stand-up comedy with meaningful content, & her poems, while in the country of "performance/slam" poetry, are real poems with a delivery that is not stylized & is varied for the content. In that respect I found it strange that the audience was (apparently) exclusively from the lesbian community, & other than "Broadcast Live", who were on the bill, there was no one other than myself from the local poetry community & nary a "slam" poet to be found. Hey, they could've learned something -- I did.