Friday night Culturebot did The HOWL Festival which made for a pretty full night.
First was HOWL Dance which was amazing. Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks performed a beautiful and engaging piece called 7x7x7 Downtown. DD Dorvillier and Jennifer Monson performed an improvisation called RMW and Jennifer Miller and John Jasperse performed an improvisation as well. Both improvised pieces were riveting and fun. I’m always afraid when I hear dancers talk about Improvisation, because just like any artistic discipline, you have to be really inventive, creative and resourceful to make improvisation actually work. Fortunately these were all fantastically accomplished dancers who set the bar very high. It was inspiring. Also, there was an emerging dancer, Jeremey Wade, who did a great solo accompanied by a guy on laptop making some fantastic digital noise. Nice and loud. Keep an eye out for Jeremey.
After the high concept art of HOWL! Dance I made my way over to CBGB to see Loser’s Lounge tribute to the Heroes of the Lower East Side. It was rockin’. Big Time. But the person who I think really stole the show was a soul/r&b singer named Carlton J. Smith. Apart from his James Brown-level showmanship and ability to work the room, he chose to perform Patti Smith’s Rock’n’Roll Nigger, which was a thrilling and powerful choice. Let’s face it – LES punk rock is overwhelmingly white, as was the audience in attendance at CBGB. And Mr. Smith played on that tension like a performance artist – exploiting it, exploring it and ultimately moving through it. He got the audience to do a call-and-response on the lyrics “Baby, baby, baby was a rock-and-roll nigger!”, inititally making fun of them when they were reluctant to do it, “You sound like Democrats” he said, “trying to be politically correct. Come on now, let me hear you!” Using the exhortations of a soul singer to make a crowd of whitey-white people shout that out was genius – and more punk rock than actual punk rock. Because it really pushed people beyond their comfort level, through the discomfort, into the thrill of transgression and back into the sheer excitement of being a part of a great musical performance.
I know I’m not writing about this very coherently, but it was a really fabulous show. If you get a chance to see Mr. Carlton perform, you should.
Oh, and if you like transgression, go see another show in the HOWL Fest, I’m Gonna Kill The President: A Federal Offense</a.. When else will you be able to crank call the White House and threaten the life of the Commander In Chief?