With Deathfest—and the parasitical Deathscape—a couple weeks ago, the season of fests has kicked off. We usually count Transmodern the beginning of the season, but organizer Laure Drogoul tells us it has been moved to September, when it will combine, in some fashion or another, with the High Zero festival (out of which it partially grew, according to founder Catherine Pancake). So, we lose another good spring festival . Which is sad, in a way, because the Maypole with the Love Parade last year was one of the best things I've ever done in Baltimore—and a parade for freakiness is the perfect thing for this city.
Which is, of course, what the Pride Parade this weekend is also about, in which case, however, freakiness means specifically queerness. But even for a straight dude like me—a very gay friendly straight dude—Pride's Block Party was the public party of the year. It was the closest we come, as a city, to Dionysian revelry and ecstatic abandon on the city streets. It was the closest we come to true civilization. But, instead of straight people learning how to party from the queer community, Pride is taking a card from all the breeders who rule the world and making the Block Party "family friendly" and relegating beer-drinking to "beer gardens." This is fucking stupid, because, obviously the assless chaps—or other forms of spectacular-but-not-generally-appropriate-in-the-real-world fashions—are not family friendly. That is the point of assless chaps. So, the move seems to be motivated more by the concerns of wealthy home-owners and restaurateurs in Mount Vernon who are angry about people pissing in the street. I live in Mount Vernon and it is a great neighborhood. A friend who grew up in France visited for the first time the other day and remarked on how European it is. But you know what is not European about it? Piss. In Paris, people piss all over the street. It is illegal of course, but ubiquitous, and they even have public urinals—maybe one or two left—called "pissoirs." So fuck off and quit worrying about piss on one day of the year. As it is now, every chance for public drinking in the neighborhood has been ruined: First Thursdays are in Canton now and Book Fest, my most beloved of all the fests, is in the Inner Harbor. I will still have my famous 12-hour Book Fest Brunch—we just will not make it to the actual Book Fest that Day.
I'm always conflicted on Pride weekend, however, because I also love Maryland Traditions' Folklife Festival, which is run by our friends Cliff Murphy (erstwhile member of my band the Barnyard Sharks) and CP contributor Michelle Stefano. So, in the morning, my wife and I walk across town to the Creative Alliance at the Patterson in Highlandtown, where over the past couple years we've seen jazz luminaries Carl Grubbs and Lafayette Gilchrist and had great conversations with decoy-duck carvers, boat builders, and screen painters. I also made a connection with Rhonda Aaron, who was the state champion muskrat skinner and sent us her recipes for what is euphemistically called "marsh rabbit," the cooking of which was one of my seminal (not to say it made me ejaculate like the penis on last week's CP cover) journalistic experiences. This year there is a great lineup including Arty Hill and the Long Gone Daddys, the Trinidad and Tobago Baltimore Steel Orchestra, the Sensational Royal Lights, Liliana Robeson and Colombia Tropical, and a bunch more. This weekend is also HonFest, but we usually skip that and wait for the more grassrootsy Hamdenfest.
A couple years ago, we walked back from the Folklife Festival to see Criminal Intent, a series of operas by Rhymes with Opera, with whom I write librettos on occasion, and this year, on the same Saturday, they are performing a piece, Cantata for a Loop Trail, by Erik Spangler (who is also known as DJ Dubble 8 of Boom Bap Society), which incorporates banjo and actually involves hiking the trail to experience the music. It is really going to be stunning. So how can we be in more than one place at a time?
That question was also on my mind as I moved back and forth between the two venues (the Windup Space and Liam Flynn's) of Ladyfest last Saturday night, along with our editor Evan Serpick. I can't believe I had not seen erstwhile CP contributor Rahne Alexander's The Degenerettes before. They are my new favorite band, all New York Dolls cool, where Alexander is David Johansen and Johnny Thunders—with more than a bit of Patti Smith—all in one. Wet Brain also blew me away with their two-bass attack and spirited vocals.
Ladyfest organizer and friend of the paper Dana Murphy said there would not be another event called "Ladyfest" because of all the hate mail they received—"some well-meaning constructive criticism, and some assholes"—but that there would be similar festivals. Well, whatever anyone says about the name, it was a great fest, so thanks to all the organizers and volunteers.
Finally, the best of all the current scapes, Scapescape looks like it may not be happening this year, according to Kris Hanrahan, one of last year's organizers, at least not on Labor Day weekend—though, perhaps there is hope, because Dave Underhill, another organizer, says it's too early to tell. I'm somewhat biased perhaps (isn't that the point of this column?) because I played it last year—in the nuclear-feeling sun over the stage in what is now the Ynot Lot and was previously Russell's Rat-Porn Emporium ™— but Scapescape is what a festival should be: dozens of bands of every variety, all mixing together, as did the recent Open Walls Baltimore 2 closing party, Dance to Keep From Crying. One of the best musical moments in the city was seeing J. Roddy Walston and the Business out in the lot by Metro at 2012's scapesquared and then running up to Windup to see the Get Em Mamis, and Scapescape is full of such moments. Hearing Jenn Wasner sing Guided By Voices "I am a Scientist"or watching Labtekwon assault the crowd with an airhorn in true, total punk-rock fashion are things worth fighting for. Let's hope they can bring it back.
I am not mentioning Artscape because there will be plenty more on that in times to come. But, I did just mention it, by saying I wouldn't mention it. So there.