For those readers who live in Western New York State, Toronto or the area surrounding it who are looking for something to do, for my fellow Montrealers and friends in New York City who can travel a bit and for pretty much anyone into original and underground theatre, independent music and bearing a will to be artistic and different, I have one destination to recommend for the next ten days: Buffalo, New York and in particular the seventh annual Buffalo Infringement Festival.
For those familiar with the Infringement in Montreal (full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of the Montreal Infringement), the Buffalo version shares a few things with the fest that started it all back in 2004: a mandate, a drive to showcase interesting and unique art projects and a fighting spirit that playfully challenges the concept of art as a pricey, corporate commodity. There is, however, one big difference between Montreal and Buffalo, with big being the operative word. While Montreal’s fest is small and for the most part still underground, the Buffalo Infringement is huge. Now while last year’s incredibly fun and eye opening fest was huge as well, this year we’re talking 1200 performances, 50 venues and truckloads of spectators and spect-actors huge.
If you go to the festival’s website, you’ll see that the tagline “art under the radar” is still being used prominently. Now, before you suggest that the city of Buffalo should consider getting its radar repaired, take a closer look. You’ll see that ‘under the radar’ is a very apt description for what started last night and continues until August 7th.
These aren’t heavily-funded corporate artists, or artists creating work where potential market revenue trumps creativity and message. We’re talking musicians, actors, visual artists, hula hoop artists and more, doing what they love to do and doing it together for eleven days.
It seems that once an artist catches the Buffalo Infringement bug, it’s hard to stay away. This year’s lineup features performers who have been part of the event from the very beginning. Janna “MC Vendetta” Willoughby, will be performing with the Bloodthirsty Vegans, with other artists and on her own. Montreal Infringement conceptualizer Donovan King brings his new work Infringement Thearapy to town. Ron Ehmke returns as well with Shakespeare in the Parking Space, running every year since the first Infringement began. Meanwhile, the Subversive Theatre Collective (Subversive artistic director Kurt Schneiderman brought the Infringement to Buffalo originally in 2005) will be performing an original work called Guillotine: Heads Will Roll written and directed by Joe Siracusa in the streets of Allentown and Days Park.
There are also quite a few artists who joined the fest over the past few years that will be back again for this edition. Curt Rotterdam (also the festival’s music coordinator) will be performing once again with his band Anal Pudding (who, rumour has it, are working on a Quebec-inspired tune). Meanwhile, Melissa Campbell, Infringement media person, Filigrees performance space owner and Whambulance driver, will be performing Hula Hoop LA, an interactive hula hoop dance performance, and displaying some of her visual art. Leslie Fineberg, the festival’s dance coordinator, performing also as part of The Four Graces, kicked off the festival with it’s first-ever flash mob yesterday. Also, Buffalo native, former Infringement organizer and current LA resident Jason Klinger will be back in town for the fest, screening his short film The Empire Strikes Bank.
So far, I’ve mentioned quite a few people, but it doesn’t even cover new infringers or even half of the returning artists playing this year. Honestly,
the best advice I can offer is for you to get yourself to Allentown, the festival’s epicentre, pick up the schedule, buy an Infringement t-shirt, pick your Self-Infringement and ask anyone what you should check out. If the venue you’re looking for is a bit of a trek, well, you can take the Skitchy Cab (also an act). If it’s close by, you’ll know it. In fact, chances are, great art and originality will just present itself to you very quickly.
That’s what the Buffalo Infringement is, after all. It’s a happening that anyone should want to be a part of. So check it out, you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be coming back year after year, too.
* For the full schedule, check out infringebuffalo.org
* Anal Pudding photo by Chris Zacchia, other photos by Jason C. McLean