Avant-Garde Retreat

City Paper

Someone left a cake out in the rain at Fields Fest. It was a glorious colorful cake; no one was quite sure who made it, or with what recipe, but there it was. And it was surrounded by fantastic sound and high wild energy. Adam Cooke was there, manning the Sound Tower, and everything was heard as if made just for you. Weyes Blood turned my soul to hot butter at poolside, finishing me off with ‘Everybody’s Talkin’.’

Lexie Mountain [a CP columnist] led my late way to stage for the Mole Suit Choir set in a golf cart, bringing back primal memories of Pat Tobin taking me to my proper bus home after my first day of kindergarten. It was also bringing back primal memories of wrestling nude with Isabella Rossellini in a golf cart while she yelled “Security! Security!”

The Mole Suit set was heavenly fun vibrating next to Liz Downing. I had two dreams of leaving my outfit/outfit mishaps last week and then I ended up leaving it at home! Luckily, Selena Schreyer saved the day with a Lindsey Buckingham kimono. There was a spare, gentle rain and a lovely couple waltzed to our Mole Suit waltz. Stephanie Barber and Jenny Graf sat on stage with us giving us much spiritual support. Megan McShea of the silken raven hair gazed wisely from the front row in her Patti Smith hoodie. Liz’s high note on the word “Charlie” in ‘Origin of Paranoia’ was recorded and is being sent up to space.

Later in the woods where the tents were set up, Lexie and her Mountain Boys would create a synthetic multi-colored pastel spiderweb amid their Altman-esque overlapping dialogues. Seemingly improvised yet key phrases would rise to the ears at just the right time and out of apparent chaos a moment had been created in real life like you’d hovered unseen at a great party right at its peak. Then, as you achieved a comic satori, one of the “Girls” pointed out/in toward the crowd, acknowledging the crowd members one by one to include them within the action and another Girl said “it’s no big deal.”

I actually heard Owen Gaertner make stage patter—“We don’t play outdoors at festivals much. Talk about a Green Room. The woods. Am I right?” The boxers within my ears continued to be scorched by Odwalla 88 (young white girl ESG/happy Suicide?), Smoke Bellow (it had me at the majestic pile of red hair), and sweet sweet sweet Ghost Life, and then Horse Lords pounded the 20-pound-death-to-mediocrity stake through what remained of ear worms of childhood (‘Take the Long Way Home,’ ‘Silly Love Songs’ [mother, more cough syrup and Tylenol please]) with a fierce set. I don’t know the second-to-last song they played that started with Max Eilbacher’s sparse tone-rich bass line, but it was the best sound I’ve experienced since the sound of Granny stirring her not-to-be-replicated coleslaw.

Jeff McGrath was my trip guide (life’s a trip, the struggle to be an alive human, to decide just how many “Get Smart” reruns will “help” you versus “deaden” you). He said, “Everything will be OK Rupert, I’m here. I’m wearing a tennis-pro-from-the-’60s outfit and everything is going to be OK. We all just want to love and be loved and try to understand. Do you want to touch my super-healthy hair, will that help? I can’t sit with you here long listening to the poets, because, you know, it’s poets, but I think you’re going to be all right.”

The sound of Hurrricane could be heard as a far-off electronic maelstrom as the poets read. Not Frank Hurricane, who sang ‘Fire on the Mountain’ with Nuggs, the Grateful Dead cover band comprising members of Horse Lords and Needle Gun and really killed it as in feeling it to the heart is gonna get you more than half the way there, but Hurrricane as in Twig Harper, Stewart Mostofsky, and some other folks skreechling pots and pans and monster trucks through devices that carry electricity.

By the yurts and tents Father Slats McGhee Van Allen of the We Don’t Follow Jim Jones But We Dig His Sunglasses Church set up a peaceful, inviting camp with Boca burgers, kielbasa, and a huge bottomless pot of ginger tea ever brewing. “You look cold my frail, old brother,” he said. “Take from me this black turtleneck, though it may tilt you a little too far toward Beatnik. It will warm your goose pumps popping when Ghost Life and Horse Lords lift off. Have you seen my long, gamey legs? Selena and I have just shaved them with musk grease and kale tears.”

By the food truck (did I mention that for a large part of the day there was a holy truck that dispensed iced coffee? Powerful iced coffee?) I saw Scott Braid and he said this very park was where he was tortured at High School Band Camp. “Tonight there will be payback,” he said, pulling on leather gloves with tears in his eyes.

Through it all, like the White Rabbit with a walkie-talkie, wound tightly wound Dr. Ehse Stewart. He was as mellow and blissful as a furry little kitten at teat into a breezy meadow. He had finally found the level of activity/chaos that he was programmed for. Five or six stages of performances/cabins/parking hoo-ha/a tent living area/porta-potties/an infirmary for those who partook of the Michigan bath salt that Ric Royer was hustling and claiming it was the organic San Diego mix of bath salt—this was the level of miasmic activity that young Dr. Stew was born to whisper in a walkie-talkie about. He was hopping up on stage to sing Grateful Dead, pulling an unconscious mullet out of the porta-bowl, covering his bare chest with the blood of freshly killed squirrels in between the yurts. How could he ever wear trousers sitting behind a desk ever again?

After the final notes of music trailed off only hours before daybreak, Dan Breen could be seen talking to the glorious, alien cake that everyone had kept a respectful distance from in the park. He laughed as no one else has laughed. He gently tore off a piece of the icing, cried a bit. Some say the cake mewled. The air was cold out. Very strangely cold for August. Dan took off his many rainbow layers of clothing and got down to his 90-pound Essence. He slithered beneath the pulsing folds of the sweet confection—it was like watching a tadpole under a strobe light—and the last of him to be seen were the mushroom caps of his blackened toes.  

Rupert Wondolowski is the man behind Normals’ Bookstore and Shattered Wig Press, and plays in Mole Suit Choir with Liz Downing.

Check out the galleries:

Copyright © 2019, Baltimore City Paper, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Privacy Policy