Today I wake up knowing that in only a few short hours I will be in a kitty pool covered in chocolate pudding and living out my every fantasy at an erotic art show called Wet Dreamland. Last year for this event, I rode my pimped out tricycle from Babeville to the Wet Dreamland show wearing mutton chops, a beard, a tie-dye wolf shirt, and an adult diaper. Once I arrived, my friends and I stripped and painted canvases with our boobs. The Buffalo Infringement Festival is a sweet escape from reality. It is my Christmas, my bliss, my safe haven, my pride.

Its roots run deep and start in Montreal over 11 years ago. Infringement rejects corporate sponsorship and the oppression and censorship that goes along with that. It is about artistic freedom and breaking free from social norms. Infringement excludes no one. It is a state of being. The Buffalo Infringement Festival is in its 11th year.

11807547_10102563133332208_3218892837728762787_o (1)
Aurora Borealis – Two angels singing.

We take inspiration from the Montreal Infringement festival started a year before us as a direct protest to the corporatized Fringe festival. Infringement is a non-profit ,non-hierarchal, grassroots art festival. It is a revolution that brings together independent, free spirited, and often controversial and experimental visual art, performance art, dance, film, theatre, and music. Everyone is accepted and celebrated in this 11 day art explosion that hits Buffalo from the last week of July to the first week of August. Art can happen anywhere, anytime, with no restrictions, and for free!

11 days of art under the radar has evolved into an all encompassing artistic free-for-all that spans the entire city. The Buffalo Infringement Festival is my favorite part of the summer and makes me proud to live in Buffalo. It revitalizes my soul and the city I live in. All of the artists and hardworking organizers and venues inspire me beyond belief.

We are now in day 7 and it’s very bittersweet. So much incredibleness has occurred already and it will all be over soon. Then I can finally sleep. But not yet. On my agenda: Wet Dreamland tonight, Sex and Body Positive night at Ol’ Wondermoth tomorrow, Wam Bam Thank You Slam at The Gypsy Parlor on Saturday, and a big block party on Allen St., and the Iffy Awards on Sunday.

I’m also really excited for Car Stories, the show that inspired this whole movement. It is interactive street theatre where the audience becomes the show by traveling from car to car. It is the show originally rejected by Montreal Fringe for being too political. Donovan King is the man who started it all. I always look forward to seeing him during both the Montreal and Buffalo Infringement festivals.

Rock out with your chalk out at Kidfringement.

Some highlights so far include The College St. Block Party and Kidfringement. I love making art with children. They are so open and free spirited, the ultimate inspiration. I also loved the first annual Purple Sparkly Unicorn Potluck Party which turned into a Hooked on Casiophonics dance party that felt like an acid trip. The ice dragon Erica Wolfling has continued to blow minds this year. Lazy Ass Destroyer never ceases to amaze me. My pride and joy was The Worst Show Ever at Nietzsche’s, a satirical variety show filled with satire, comedy, music , and burlesque. I did burlesque as both Ronald McDonald and a creepy old man.

The street performance and open busking has been on fire this year,taking the city by storm. The other night I walked out of a bar to see two girls dressed like angels singing beautiful music, it was magical. I can’t wait for the rest of the weekend. Bring it on! Infringe Everyday!

She was a good girl until she lit that reefer cigarette. Doobies and Boobies are what life is all about. Cannibis Culture hits mainstream and now suddenly even Justin Bieber is a stoner.

From classic reefer songs to Cheech and Chong and all the stoner comedy genre movies and now onto countless blogs devoted to marihuana culture and lifestyle. There is so much debate about legalization in the United States that I’m not even going to get into.

I think it’s silly to outlaw a plant that makes people laugh and be calm. You aren’t going to get into a high speed car chase when you are smoking weed. Nobody has ever overdosed from weed.

Cat 420 7

I’m always high but I’m grounded. Helps me focus on my art. Blurs the right lines and opens doors within my mind. I was gonna write this blog days ago, but the I got high.

Spending every last stripper dollar on $50 of blood shot baby blue bliss. Air fills with smoke as I exhale the sweet pungent skunky aroma of Maryjane through pursed red lips. Ganga goddess. Sticky icky chronic combustible herbage. Blunt burger whacky tobacky that Clinton just couldn’t inhale.

Bongs and crazy glass blowing techniques make smoking devices into an art form. Bubblers, bongs, things that look like science experiments, pipes shaped like unicorns or naked ladies. Taking a moment to smoke weed under a willow tree or puff one on the roof watching the sunset on a summer night.

Legalization in the US and Canada is a hot topic. Medical vs recreational use is a debate and Colorado is making so much money on pot sales that they actually gave money back to the people.

Of course the government wants to capitalize on our fun with all the sin taxes. Don’t want my drug dealers to go out of business. A marihuana arrest occurs every 45 seconds in the US.

Celebrities arrested for hittin the ganga: Fiona Apple, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrilson, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dog ( or Snoop Lion), Macauley Culkin, and even Mischa Barten. So many more too. It’s funny.

Classic reefer songs are the best. This Friday , April 24th, just four days shy of the 420 holidaze, my friends and I are having an old timey reefer dance party at The Mohawk Place in Buffalo NY. Brassband, Dixieland, Americana, and Burlesque with Pine Fever, The Fredtown Stompers, Folkfaces, The 12/8 Path Band, The Buffalo Burlesque Collective, and The Stripteasers. We will be doing live burlesque to every band. I’m excited to break out my Cheech and Chong routine for this show.

My life feels a lot like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a wild and insane ride, like going to a circus on acid. It’s unbelievable really. I often think I’m in a waking dream, lucid yet flying high. Performers and colors creating art and music collaborating and merging souls in unfathomable ways. I am so ridiculously lucky.

Cat 420

I often want to run away with a circus, just pick up and dance off into the sunset with my fellow freaks, my family of crazies. Can’t wait till Friday night. It’s going to be magical.

Featured image by Lindsay Zasada

“Nice bike!” “Actually, it’s a trike!” —Me

Yes, I’m 28 years old and I ride a tricycle. It’s a magical machine painted floral and Barbie pink, beautiful with streamers and a basket. Riding my tricycle has changed my life. She is my baby and she inspires me to fearlessly explore my city in unimaginable ways. I am healthier and more in tune with the world at large because of my trike. A whole new world has been opened to me. The people I have met and the community I have gained access to is by far one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Everyone remembers their first time. That wind blowing through your hair – the thrill of moving fast and having independence is intoxicating. I remember learning to ride my first bicycle when I was a little girl. My huffy was a rockstar, I chased many ice cream trucks on that bad boy. Biking is a way to regain childhood innocence and zest for adventure. Just put down the car keys and strap on a helmet, you will instantly feel better.

Cat cycling (7)
Before and after: A trike transformed

Being a cyclist is more than just a hipster trend; it is a way of life and passion for better living. Bicycles and their variations are a healthy and quick means of green transportation. Fixed gear bikes have a sleek design that fills the need for speed. Many people go to great lengths to customize their rides into moving masterpieces. Freak bikes may include double decker bikes with two welded frames, low riders, pimped out tricycles, unicycles, and other even more creative mods.

Vintage cruisers are popular for leisure riders and in the fashion world. Runway fashion shows featuring bikes are trending. I was lucky enough to be in one! Dressing for your destination is a theme. Tweed rides are slow roll bike rides where riders don vintage tweed apparel. It’s so charming to put on those cat eye sunglasses and vintage dress , hair done up with extra hairspray of course, and cruise on a sunny spring day. Be careful with billowy dresses though- they can get caught in your wheel. What I normally do is wear shorts under my dress and tie it in a knot when riding. You learn that real quick.

Cat cycling (6)
Chelsea Lee Jones

My trike is pretty. I often think that I am going to get mugged by a gang of Hello Kitty clad 8 year old girls for it. It’s so me, it’s the ride I always dreamed of. A very close friend of mine, Chelsea Lee Jones, was a passionate cyclist and true creative force of nature. She helped me transform a tricycle that I picked up out of a garbage pile into a magical ride. She insisted that I pimp my ride. We disassembled her and painting everything with spray paint and lace as a stencil. It is a true work of art. I am very proud of the work we did. Tragically Chelsea passed away shortly after the trike transformation was complete. Every time I ride it’s for her, she is with me protecting me, she is in my heart.

Chelsea didn’t give a fuck. She danced, she was loud, she loved, and she biked in mini skirts. I remember biking with her during Buffalo Porchfest, drinking beer, watching bands, and enjoying life together. I will forever miss her beauty, wit, and sweet grace.

My trike is like me: slow, colorful, and it has a wide ass that gets her into all kinds of trouble. I smile 100 per cent of the time I am on it. I’m always the last one at the midnight bikeride, a ride where at least a 100 riders explore Buffalo into the wee hours of the morning. But I can carry a case of beer and a boombox, so I always have friends. I don’t endorse or recommend riding under the influence of alcohol, but honestly that’s why I ride a trike, stability.

My precious trike is a real panty dropper. I have literally picked up guys (and a few girls) in bars with the line “get in my basket” and rode off into the sunset with them behind me. Winning.

I’m not the only tricyclist in Buffalo. Madonna is my trike style inspiration! She is hardcore. She is a truly incredible woman. Her outlandish style is perfectly eclectic and simply charming. Her trike matches her look, a vibrant spectacle of stuffed animals, horns, and found objects adorn her epically pimped out trike. She is the personification of a smile. Check out this blog about her here.

Cat cycling (1)
Madonna photo by Jon Piret

Buffalo is a very bike friendly city. More and more bike lanes and paths are popping up and it is easy to ride to any part of the city. Big rides like the Critical Mass Midnight bikeride on Sunday nights, the slow roll, the sky ride, and even more smaller rides make it fun to explore with friends. Go bike buffalo advocates bike safety and infrastructure and holds workshops for cyclists young and old as well as bike recycling.

Shameless plug time. I work at the Hostel Buffalo Niagara. It’s actually where I write most of these blogs, last minute the night before deadline. This place is fantastic, anyone who plans on coming through Buffalo should come say hi. Besides the art gallery, kick ass VHS collection, a sexy staff, and rad ping pong table we also have a free bike share! I have also been incredibly inspired by the cyclists who have come through here on their way across the country. I will never feel lazy riding on the slight up hill on my 2 mile ride home again. We also have a discounted rate if you are traveling by bike! Food Not Bombs happens here every Saturday with bike carts carrying free food for all. It’s a magical place. Calling all Montreal cyclists to come up to Buffalo, let’s go for a ride together! It’s a beautiful day.

Curtain up, lights so bright they hide all the small imperfections, instant lust, a sexual object, an icon, an inspiration, and an untouchable force. That is my world. Burlesque is a classic form of Striptease, a mix of vaudeville and grind, from circus tents to huge theatres, and now on top of red lit bars filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon yielding hipsters, empowered youth looking for anything authentic, and the occasional surprised old men who remember the “golden era” of the craft.

In a world so super saturated with SEX it is hard to find true titillation, nothing is left to the imagination. The neo-burlesque movement is the answer to that void. All over the world and especially in cities like Toronto, Montreal, New York, and yes, even Buffalo there are thousands of dancers shaking their stuff in the name of sexual liberation. Nobody is excluded from this revolution.

I am not perfect. I have terrible skin (my arms and a lot of my body is covered in patches of eczema), I am considered morbidly obese by the medical world, I have over processed bleach blonde hair that is breaking at the seams, and a plethora of other traits that would put me on most people’s “EW” or undesirable list. But, for the last seven years, people have paid me to dance around in front of them naked.

What burlesque dancers all share is an undeniable fearlessness, a sense of freedom, and a destiny that can only be accomplished with the art of undress. I have had so many women tell me that seeing me perform changed their lives, “wow, if SHE can do that, so can I!”

Backstage at the Candyass Cabaret in Montreal (photo by Chris Nautics)

I would have to say the highlight of my career (wow, I am actually calling this a career) was a the 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival where (dressed in horrible white trash drag) I pulled several American flags out of a very large glittery plushy penis to the song “America, F*ck Yeah!” during a show at the historic Café Cleopatra with the Candyass Caberet. It was definitely a political statement about how the rest of the world views Americans and our culture of waste and over privilege.

He is a part of myself that I am not proud of. He is the worst: A mullet wearing, mustached, drunk, Zubaz clad, sports obsessed, McDonalds loving, misogynist, ultra-AMERICAN man. Usually when I perform as Cock Sinclair I transform from a beautiful traditional dancer to him on stage. It really kicks the audience in the teeth. I often hear “What the f*ck was that!” before the roar of laughter and applause. That element of gender bending surprise is golden.

I don’t mean to sound stuck up here, but I think I am a beautiful woman, in the traditional sense, especially when all done up. Still, surprisingly, I get the most play from both gay women and straight men when I am dressed as my uber-douchey male alter ego.

I once had a hot girl walk up to me at a bar (The Old Pink in Buffalo), rip my mustache off of my face, kiss me hard, stick the mustache back on, put her number in my hand and disappear into the bar before I had a chance to blink. Whoa. Why is this? Well, I think it is because he is more accessible than my glam femme persona.

cat sinclair cock sinclair
The two Sinclairs: Cat and Cock

Dating is hard for any performer, but especially a burlesque dancer. We exude so much sexuality on stage and are held on such a pedestal that it is impossible to live up to that in the real world. Having a sub par love life is a price I am willing to pay.

The real me is sitting on my bed typing this article on my shattered iPhone 4, wearing Hello Kitty pajamas and a neon 90s Cosby sweater. I am covered in my three cats, Ziggy, Beau, and Lola. Yesterday’s makeup smeared on my face, a chunk of gold glitter in my eye, and my hair in a ratty bun on top of my head. A Billie Holiday record is playing. Piles of costumes surround me: wigs, high heel shoes, pasties, corsets, fishnets, strap ons, riding crops, and other accouterments.

I am lucky that this is my life, I get to reinvent myself every time I take the stage, I get to inspire sexual awakening in others and express every idea in my brain. I challenge everyone who is reading this to put on some sexy music and strip in front of a mirror, do it right now, do it for you!

* Featured image by Nate Perriciny

While Juggalos have gotten a bad wrap over the years because of violence and mischief associated with the group (they even made the FBI listing of violent groups in America), Scott Cummings’ experimental flick Buffalo Juggalos attempts to expose the lighter side, along with the destructive side of this subculture.

The film is dark with snapshots of Juggalo culture. It almost embraces the misunderstood and terrifying status this group has with the general public to a truly chilling result.

Composed with some stunning cinematography, framed and juxtaposed behind western New York’s sometime beautiful, sometimes Gothic backdrop, many of the scenes come across as a staged study of Juggalo culture in the wild.

Using an experimental method to tell a story, Cummings presents his audience with a new visceral way to learn a lot about a subculture.  Scenes depict only actions, sometimes havoc, sometimes passive, and tell their own story without any unnecessary dialogue or intentional narratives.

Cummings, who studied experimental film at the State University of New York-Buffalo, made more of an art piece than a movie,  but it works.

With the scenes involving a bunch of kids in clown face steering a chaotic car, it felt like watching a real life version of the Twisted Metal, but then you have to realize, this could be real life. And it’s terrifying!

There is no question that many of scenes in this film are staged, and yet it is effectively allows an audience to engage with a subculture that still remains a mystery to most.

When all is said and done, Cummings’ film expresses a sentiment that people who dress up as Juggalos are much more than fans of Insane Clown Posse, as they are more than just a statement about the loss of the American dream and a self-reflexive commentary on the utter absurdity of modern life. They are just people trying to live life  free and comfortable as they are.

The storm that was dubbed “the knife” buried Buffalo’s suburbs under record breaking tons of snow. People literally had snow packed over their doors and cars were completely gone. At least 13 people died due to the storm and many more faced adversity.

The band Interpol was trapped on their tour bus for 40 hours, on their way to a gig in Toronto. I thought it was crazy to see one of my favorite bands tweeting about being trapped in Buffalo and surviving on Vodka and dry foods. My city was trending for all the wrong reasons. Our NFL team, The Buffalo Bills even had to move their scheduled game against the NY Jets to Detroit due to the snow.

It’s bizarre how the snow fell in a line just south of the city, didn’t even effect where I am at all (the ground is now bare) but three miles away people are still buried under state of emergency amounts of snow. I’m a member of the Buffalo-based Stripteasers Burlesque troupe and last night, we played a show in our hometown, in the part of the city that wasn’t hit hard.

buffalo stripteasers burlesque
The show did go on: Buffalo Stripteasers Burlesque

It’s a difficult thing to have a show while there is such a disaster so close by. How can we entertain when such serious situations are all around us? My initial thought was to party on in honor of our homies who couldn’t get out, it was impossible earlier in the week. We actually cancelled two shows this week, sadly one of which was to benefit the food bank of Western New York, but totally had a show last night that was a huge success and broke the cabin fever.

We still have at least one Stripteaser that is housebound and may miss the show we have planned for tomorrow night but hopefully is all set for the huge show we have planned for Tuesday. As long as they can get into Buffalo we have a burlesque performer coming into town from Tasmania and a vaudeville couple from New Orleans coming in to join us for a special Thanksgiving spectacular at Nietzsches.

As the driving bans are lifted, so is spirit of our beautiful city. Today I am going to venture into ground zero to finally get a chance to help my parents dig out.

One thing about Buffalo that has always impressed me was the sense of community and how people band together in a time of need. We aren’t called the city of good neighbors for nothing. Buffalonians know how to love each other in the eye of the storm.

As a performer I think it is important to keep calm and carry on with the show. The string band on the Titanic played as the ship went down. People who dug themselves out of deep white abyss deserve to see some burlesque in much the same way.

* Top image via Reddit

As the bus takes me back to Montreal away from a weekend away from the ordinary at the 2011 Buffalo Infringement Festival, one thought seems to dominate my mind: next year, I’m going to go for longer. I’ve been for longer, in fact last year I spent a little over a week at the BIF, but this year circumstances limited my time there to four days. Four wonderful days jam-packed with underground art and chillin in the park, sometimes both at the same time.

A mere ten minutes after arriving in town, I was in The Bend watching Infringement cab driver (yes, the fest has its own cabbie), visual artist and now spoken-word comedy artist Scott “Skitchy” Steele perform his solo work Going Forward in Reverse. The show began with a few anecdotal stories from Skitchy’s life as a cabbie, then got a bit sci-fi before getting into what was for me the piece de resistance: a cavalcade of puns. Now for some this might be a form of pun-ishment (get it), but I on the other hand love a bit of cheesy wordplay, even if I’ve never been able to muster up the courage to devote a whole show to it.

Right after that, I found myself whisked away to Days’ Park to catch Subversive Theatre’s newest offering Guillotine: Heads Will Roll. Subversive had left the comfort of their very own Manny Fried Playhouse to the wide open of the park, but their knack of theatrically connecting the classic with the current was ever-present as they tied the current US debt crisis with pre-revolutionnary France.

I found myself back in the park a few more times during the fest. I caught the incomparable Melissa Campbell’s Hula-HoopLA performance where she maneuvered not only one but multiple hula hoops at the same time. I also enjoyed the Pyromance fire show featuring the returning Kindle and Infringe dancer Leslie Fineberg in a special guest performance on closing night. I was even part of the small audience that got an impromptu encore performance of Molly Burhans’ tribute to Sapphos that she had premiered at the burlesque show earlier in the festival.

The park also played host to a portion of Car Stories, the interactive theatre piece that started the Infringement back in Montreal. I performed in this show (full disclosure, I’m both an Infringement participant and co-founder of the fest in Montreal) along with Buffalo performers Mike Sentman, Ashley Bobbett, the aforementioned Skitchy and first-time infringer Carly Weiser. Coming up with the concept which was nautical-themed (I got to play a dolphin) and then executing it in a matter of a couple of days was thrilling and doing it with this group of people was great!

Meanwhile fellow Montreal infringers Donovan King and Karen Spilak were in town with a different show called Infringement Therapy. The show is exactly what it sounds like. The audience goes through three types of theatrical therapy culminating with a chance to eliminate all oppression   as seen in this video shot in organizer Curt Rotterdam’s backyard:

I also caught Toronto-based hip hop artist Brownman performing at Nietzsche’s, Anal Pudding member Pam Swarts play an electronic show at DBGBs, improv troupe Cat Venom at Rust Belt Books and some backyard cinema in the (where else) backyard behind SP@CE 224. Both films I saw were low-budget Buffalo-made flicks. The first was a drama and the second a documentary about the loss of a performance space simply called The Loft.

While I missed the first-ever Infringement Cicus and Infringement FlashMob as well as the Burlesque night, I did catch the zombie party. Some of the liveliest undead I have ever seen roamed up and down Allen Street the whole night.

What I found interesting was that aside from the car tour of Buffalo provided as a bit of hospitality to us Montrealers by poet Josh Smith (thanks Josh), I spent the rest of my time in Allentown. Now Allen Street from Elmwood to Days Park is, without a doubt, the epicenter of Buffalo Infringement, but the fest does run shows all across town. I guess this year there was just such a strong vibe in the area that I felt compelled not to wander too far. The random street party that seemed to pop up every night, musicians and all, definitely played a huge part in it.

Maybe next year, if I manage to make it down for the whole fest, I’ll venture further once again.

Regardless, this year’s infringing was a very compact experience for me. Four great days that I wouldn’t trade for anything. By the time the Iffy Awards rolled around (I won a couple, yay) I was tired but happy. I had missed my regular Soapbox column on this site so I made a video instead.

I think it pretty much sums up the vibe at this year’s BIF:

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.

The Bloodthirsty Vegans

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.

Anal Pudding in Montreal

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.

Melissa Campbell and her Wambulance

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 Self-Infringement box

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

* Anal Pudding photo by Chris Zacchia, other photos by Jason C. McLean

What the fuck is up with our Arts & Theatrics section? We’ve given you reviews of half-naked people dancing around various stages via our Burlesque coverage. We’ve attended art and theatre shows that focus on breaking the glass ceiling by portraying women as silicone objects and transvestite grand-mamas?

How about the local comedy show at The Comedy Lounge that mentioned the late Patrick Swayze in ways Dirty Dancing wouldn’t be able to explain? The fact we only focus on Festivals that don’t charge artists to participate because they value their talent, rather than the profit? And loft shows, like Smoke n’ Mirrors, that ask you to consider political conspiracy theories, opening your mind to situations and facts about the state of our world that could be very possible?

Your grandparents probably wouldn’t be impressed with us, but hopefully we’ve grabbed and kept your attention. And hopefully we’ve artistically undressed you in unusual, constructive ways. It’s not that we’re deliberately trying to be raunchy, it’s quite the opposite our content focuses on showing the artistic side of Montreal (and other cities) through various interesting mediums.

In 2010 our Arts & Theatrics section went from a “dead tab” to one of the most viewed sections on the site. We’ve introduced new writers who love what they see and do, focused on shows most Montreal print and online magazines overlook and tried to bring you content you’d truly and actually like – we’re not really the fluffy type (or pretentious type…minus statements like this). So, thank you for reading our Arts & Theatrics section we can’t wait to add a new layer of interesting content to your mental wardrobe in 2011.

Here’s the breakdown of our coverage by category and in alphabetical order:

Blood Ballet Cabaret (September) (December)
Glam Gam (Nightmare on the Main) (Tits the season)

Montreal Comedy Competition
The Comedy Lounge

Buffalo Infringement Festival
Smoke n’ Mirrors

Rocky Horror

Don Quixote (Centaur Theatre)
Literacy (Tatiana Koroleva)
The Silicone Diaries (Nina Arsenault)

Visual Arts

*image: Courtesy of the Preston Arts Festival. For more information visit:

Rob Ford, new mayor of

I must admit, I’m a bit confused. I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to write about here. It’s a year-in-review piece, so at least the time frame is solid, but the subject matter, hmm, that’s another story.

You see, I don’t really have a clear beat. I started off 2010 as a theatre writer, but now that’s done by others and occasionally me, at least when it comes to burlesque shows (heh heh, but seriously, check out my reviews of Blood Ballet and Glam Gam). I do write about news and politics, even in this space, but I’m not the only one, so this can’t be a year in the news piece.

I could write about the year it was for FTB. (and in fact I will, but that’s coming up New Year’s Eve, not here.) So I guess I’m just going to have to talk about the year in random things that caught my attention.

It seems somewhat appropriate that I’m confused, because 2010 sure was a year of confusing things. While Calgary took a few steps forward and elected (by all accounts) progressive lefty Naheed Nenshi, Canada’s first Muslim mayor, Toronto took about fifty steps back and basically elected Rush Limbaugh in the form of anti-homeless, anti-cyclist loudmouth Rob Ford. The City of Montreal, under the direction of Gerald Tremblay, still wants to destroy the Red Light District, at least there was some good news last week that developer Angus may throw in the towel and let the venerable Café Cleopatre continue to exist.

Meanwhile in Quebec, Jean Charest and his cronies (before facing a sham commission) banned the wearing of religious head coverings when trying to use government services and made those services, even those that are supposed to be free, a little more expensive. This drew considerable protest, but you wouldn’t know it by reading The Gazette.

People are not impressed: photo of the anti-Charest budget protest by Chris Zacchia

At least Stephen Harper’s consistently a douchebag. He did up the ante a bit this year, though, by going all police state on peaceful protesters and the City of Toronto during the G20, using tactics that would have made Homeland Security and the CIA under Cheney (er, Bush) blush.

Harper’s new nemisis the UN took a step backwards, too, by condoning the baseless executions of gays and lesbians. At least Haiti decided not to allow Wyclef Jean to run for president, though their elections didn’t go all that smooth, regardless.

The good stuff: Buffalo Infringement Festival photo by Jason C. McLean

Even closer to home, things have been strange. Despite being a fresh, new and alternative media source, we’re still following Justin Beiber on Twitter and last time I checked we’re now following Paris Hilton, too. At least it gives me the opportunity to use the Biebs, Paris, Jean Charest and Islam as keywords in the same post, which is fun.

I did have quite a bit of fun this year, actually and got to report on it, too. From checking out the Brooklyn music scene first hand and getting a sarcastic kick out of the lone tea partier in Times Square to experiencing the unique joy that is the Buffalo Infringement Festival, 2010 has been quite a ride.

I guess my New Year’s resolution (or at least my public one) will have to be focus on the positive, still write about the negative (cause it’s important) and embrace the confusion.

To say spending a week at the Buffalo Infringement Festival is a good time is like calling a Sasquatch a bit hairy. Without any qualifiers, my seven day experience at the BIF this year was the most rewarding time I have had as an artist, audience member and general participant in recent memory or possibly ever.

Definitely the right place: Infringement banner hangs over Allen Street

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a giant banner hanging over Allen Street reassuring us that we were in the right place for infringing.   I knew this festival was successful and I knew it was big – over 700 performances isn’t exactly a secret event known to a few.   No amount of advanced knowledge of size and scope, however, could prepare me for what I was about to experience.

Playing in 3-D: (l-r) Ron Ehmke is questioned by infringers Jeannine M. Swallow, Donovan King and Ethan Cox during Show Me Your City, I’ll Show You Mine

Our small group of Montrealers and newfound Buffalo friends had the chance to check out some great performances like Ron Ehmke’s highly interactive walking tour Show Me Your City, I’ll Show You Mine in the streets of Allentown, the straight-out rock of Cincinnati-based BIF regulars Lazy Ass Destroyer on the porch of the Guerilla Gallery and a slew of artists taking part in an artists reception at the always fun Nobody’s Art Centre…and that was just our first evening in town!

Tearin’ it up: Lazy Ass Destroyer play the porch of Guerilla Gallery

A couple of nights later, we got to see Subversive Theatre‘s astoundingly interactive interpretation of Brecht’s The Mother. Director (and BIF founder) Kurt Schneiderman not only pulled off a great costume-free show with a rather large cast, but also hosted the evening and cast the crowd in attendance as various household objects (I played a door!) and even as extras in large crowd scenes (throwing rocks at strike-breakers is always a good time).. Schneiderman managed to tell the story and make the audience really feel as though they were a part of it. I won’t forget this show for a long time.

Thirst on the street: Bloodthirsty Vegans perform at the College Street Block Party

During our stay, we also got the chance to catch the lovely Euphraxia & Red Moon American Tribal Style Bellydance at the beautiful Allendale Theatre, the always dance-ready Anal Pudding, performing this time as part of a costume ball at rock hotspot Nietzsche’s, The Bloodthirsty Vegans rocking out at the College Street Block Party, Vegans frontwoman MC Vendetta telling it like it is at Nietzsche’s along with Brownman, music and art at a really cool new venue called the Vault, Twister upstairs from the Vault, photographer and Vault booker Amanda Giczkowski funky photos of infringers taped right to the streets and hung from the trees and various other places on Allen Street and Jason Klinger’s movie night in Days Park featuring Punchlines for Progress. And that’s just some of what we saw, pretty good considering sheer volume of events happening within the fest’s eleven days.   Also pretty good considering we were there to do a show ourselves.

Dancing the night away: (l-r) Ashley Bobbett and sheep take the stage during Anal Pudding's set at the costume ball
Dancing the night away: (l-r) Ashley Bobbett and sheep take the stage during Anal Pudding’s set at the costume ball

Speaking of that show, three of us from Montreal, myself, Ethan Cox and Donovan King, brought Car Stories (the show that essentially sparked the Infringement in Montreal which lead to the much bigger Buffalo incarnation) back to town. We came by bus, so no car right off the bat, but it didn’t matter because Nobodys booker, visual artist and all around incredibly helpful and friendly person Melissa Campbell lent us her Wambulance: a real, hollowed out ambulance that already has a cross-country road trip under its fan belt.

Hangin’ by the Wambulance: Car Stories cast members (l-r) Melissa Campbell, Jeannine M. Swallow and Ethan Cox

Wambulance in tow (almost literally a couple of times – lights are fun but take energy), we looked for other cast members and didn’t have a problem in that department either. Photographer and world traveler Jeannine M. Swallow, who saw the show last year, joined in from the get-go, as did Anal Pudding member Mike Sentman and the aforementioned Campbell.

Swallow continued in her role the next day and played right up until the end of the announced run. She was joined by Carol Alaimo, now a Car Stories Buffalo veteran (who continued with us for the rest of the run), Scott “Skitchy” Steele (also an Infringement performer) and dancer Sara Burhans, who saw the show for the first time the day before and jumped right in to play art manager Holly Farms, opposite my interpretation of L’Orange (a pretentious corporate artist). Burhans continued until the end of our regular run and even stuck around for the extra night of performances we added out of popular demand.

Holly Farms and the “great” L’Orange: (l-r) Sara Burhans and Jason C. McLean

On our third night, we were joined by Tim Sentman (aka Blue Lazer) as well as a new Pee Brick. You see, we had decided to incorporate the Dumpster Dive Art Drive from the Montreal Infringement into Car Stories and the Pee Brick from the art drive became a key part of the show. Someone who saw the show (we still can’t figure out who) apparently liked it so much that he actually painted a new brick for us to use, with the Car Stories logo and all:

Yes, it just showed up: The new Pee Brick (photo Jason C. McLean)

That’s exactly the type of attitude that was common in Buffalo: one of support for your fellow artist and a desire to just jump in and do it. That’s why, when visual artist and Hula-Hooper Ashley Bobbett, musician Corey Hagstrom and Subversive Theatre and improv actor John Kreuzer joined the show, we had an 8-person strong cast on our last night with only two Car Stories actors from Montreal. That’s why when Kreuzer agreed to get a Buffalo version of Car Stories going year-round he got plenty of support. That’s why when we go to Buffalo, we”re welcomed with open arms by the Nickel City Co-Op.   That’s why the Buffalo Infringement is the success that it is.

It’s not about money, the festival needs just enough to survive. It’s not about press, though this festival does get quite a bit of that. It’s not about careers, though some can be born and augmented by this event. It’s about art and community.

Beyond all the shows and the hoopla, there’s a team of organizers like Jason Klinger, Curt Rotterdam, Melissa Campbell, John Shotwell, Leslie Fineberg, Patrick Sears, Janna Willoughby, Ashley Bobbett and Dave Pape (and those are just the ones I met) who have spent countless hours working hard to make this event work without personal financial gain.   For the most part, they are also artists: Rotterdam fronts Anal Pudding, Klinger is a filmmaker and visual artist, Willoughby is MC Vendetta and so on.

Late night at the fest: (l-r) organizer Jason Klinger and Vault booker/photo artist Amanda Giczkowski

Beyond them, there are hundreds of artists who just want to play. Beyond them are volunteers, audiences and the people of Buffalo who, in one way or another, infringe and have a good time.   Together, this is the Buffalo Infringement.

It’s an artistic community and one that takes care of and supports its own. I felt like I was part of this community both at the festival and even when I was exploring the rest of Buffalo with fellow infringers.   I’ve been to the BIF before and left feeling satisfied, but this year, there was something extra special in the air and you could feel it everywhere.   My only regret is that I missed three days.   Next year I won’t.

By light of wolf: some of the Buffalo Car Stories cast and one happy dancer: (l-r) Jeannine M. Swallow, Jason C. McLean, Sara Burhans, Leslie Fineberg, Ethan Cox and Donovan King (photo Amanda Amanda Giczkowski)

If art is going to help make a change in the world, it needs to adopt this community-based approach and actually offer another way of doing things different from the business-as-usual pro-corporate model that so many festivals fall into. The Buffalo Infringement Festival gets it. The people of Buffalo get it and until the day when the rest of the world catches on, Buffalo, during the Infringement, is the only place to be.

* All photos by Jason C. McLean except where otherwise noted

First off, I have to admit that walking into The Manny Fried Playhouse, I wasn’t familiar with The Hairy Ape or even much of storied American playwright Eugene O’Neil’s work (and somehow I got a gig as a theatre writer guess it helps to also be the site’s editor).   That said, I don’t think a familiarity with this play was needed to get the most out of this Subversive Theatre production running as part of Buffalo’s Infringement Festival.

Any play where an actor hands me a bag of peanuts upon entering has already got my attention and this one kept it, just as I got to keep the bag of peanuts and munch on them in the theatre.   The show started as a circus, complete with puppets, someone in an ape outfit, rubber baloons and acrobats.   While this wasn’t part of the original play (except for one brief but poignant scene at the fairgrounds), but it served as the background and in some cases foreground of this version.

Multicoloured plumes of smoke (photo by Kurt Schneiderman, Subversive Theatre Collective)

The circus performers tell the story of The Hairy Ape by taking various roles including the elite, workers, the machines on a ship and in two standout bits of comedic Brechtian deconstructionism, a smoke stack emitting multicoloured plumes of smoke and a deck chair.   The Ringmaster (Brian Zybala) serves as narrator and interacts with the audience on more than one occasion, even bringing up the sweaty summer conditions inside the Manny Fried Playhouse.

It was a very appropriate subversion of a script that deals with the exploitative circus that is capitalism.   The story follows Yank (Patrick Cameron) as he goes from a worker confident of his dominance over the equipment in the ship’s smokehole where he works to one doubting his and his class’ role in society after upper class heiress Mildred (Candice Kogut) takes a trip to the ship’s lower levels for fun and treats him as a mere beast.   Yank tries to get retribution and almost achieves class consciousness but fails to reach solidarity from other workers, which leads him to his ultimate encounter with a caged ape.

Different classes (photo by Kurt Schneiderman, Subversive Theatre Collective)

As he did in Subversive’s 2007 infringement offering The Exception and The Rule, director Kurt Schneiderman added live music to the show in the form of a Found Sound Orchestra comprised of Patrick Cain and Gabriel Guitterez.   Together, they help to emphasize certain points in the realist story and contribute to the overall surreal circus atmosphere.

This show had me from the start and kept me to the end.   While I may not have been that familiar with this play to begin with, thanks to this subversion, I’m probably more familiar with it than I would have been by starting with the text.

As you read this, assuming you’re one of my regular Sunday readers, I’ll probably be standing on a street corner, in a parking lot or a park.   Maybe I’ll be sitting down in a car.   No matter what spot I’ll be in, I’ll either be performing or backstage waiting to perform.   As you try to wrap your head around that one, I’ll give you a little hint: I’m performing this weekend in Car Stories as part of the fifth-annual Buffalo infringement Festival.

For those of you who don’t already know, Car Stories is Montreal’s longest-running theatrical experiment and according to an Ottawa Citizen article, it “could very well be the most fun you’ll have in the backseat of a car.”   While that may or may not be true for you, it is a really fun ride.

True, I’m biased (and promise to lay off promoting stuff I’m involved in for a while after this week’s column) but that doesn’t change the fact that in Car Stories, the audience, just three people at a time, get to take part in the show.   They go on a mission and are guided through the Urban Wonderland by frequently bold characters.   Sometimes, it’s even hard to tell who’s part of the cast and who just happens to be there.

Car Stories always has a theme and this year, we were working with Economic Collapse.   The show was based around it recently in Montreal and probably will again before the year is up.   In Buffalo, though, we’ve decided to change things up a bit.   This isn’t the first time we’ve done such a thing.   In 2007, an article in Buffalo’s Artvoice about how the infringement should strive to be less “under the radar” inspired us to do a satirical “musical theatre” theme which went over very well and even won us the Iffy Award for “Most Unrehearsed Play in the Entire Festival.”

Car Stories Buffalo this year will be an Alien Invasion-themed show.   We’ve already had aliens as part of Car Stories both this year in Montreal and previously in Buffalo, but now they’re taking over.   There are going to be quite a few interesting costumes and surprises and at the time that I’m writing this, I really don’t know any more as it’s still a work in progress.

I guess you’ll have to come down and check it out to find out.

Car Stories presented by Optative Theatrical Laboratories runs today, Sunday, August 2nd from 3-8pm.   A new show leaves from in front of Nitzsche’s, — Allen Street, every 30 minutes.   For reservation info, please visit or head on down and look for someone wearing coloured sunglasses.

As festivals go, an event with 556 performances taking place in 43 venues over 11 days would count as a large one in most people’s books, even for those who live in cities with over a million residents.   Imagine a festival of that scope in a community with just under 300 000 residents.   Imagine a festival of that scope centered around one area of town.   Imagine a festival of that scope that stays true to it’s underground roots.   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Buffalo Infringement Festival.

The fifth anniversary of this event of “art under the radar” started Thursday and runs until Sunday, August 2nd in venues and the streets of Allentown, a burgeoning artistic neighborhood in the heart of Buffalo.   It was inspired by the infringement created in Montreal in 2004 and is part of the International infringement Circuit.   In just a few years, it has surpassed the original in terms of size and media coverage.

Now, this is a theatre column and this festival, both in Montreal and Buffalo, started as a theatre festival.   This year, Buffalo is offering 26 theatre productions.   Among them, Eugene O’Neal’s The Hairy Ape caught my attention.   It is directed by Kurt Schneiderman, the guy who brought the infringement to Buffalo in 2005 and produced by Subversive Theatre.   I’ve seen three productions with this exact combination and loved each one, most notably their street theatre version of Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule in 2007.

A mad Hairy Ape (image from Subversive Theatre)

Subversive promises to mix this politically charged black comedy with live found-sound music, puppetry and other “experimental twists.”   From experience, when Subversive promises experimentation, they deliver.

JFK The Musical sounds very interesting as well.   It’s not a grassy knoll singalong as the title may suggest, but rather the tale of Kilissa Cissoko, who spent 36 hours in JFK airport, done as a workshop where “the audience will BE the event.”

Unfortunately, I won’t be in town early enough to catch this one and I’ll have to juggle things to catch the Subversive show as well.   This is because I will be attending this festival as a performer in Car Stories, an experimental combination of theatre and street performance that runs the second weekend on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Buffalo infringement t-shirts (photo by Leslie Fineberg)

The infringement is much more than theatre.   In fact, I heard that this event is the largest music festival in Western New York.   One musical act of interest is the The BloodThirsty Vegans, a combination of hip hop, rock and ska featuring Janna Willoughby (who is also known and also performing in the festival as rapper MC Vendetta).   Their venue choice even interests me: they’re playing tonight on the front porch of the Nickel City Housing Co-Op‘s Old Wondermoth mansion (yes, a real mansion converted into a co-op).

From the “name says it all” department, there’s Anal Pudding.   This band, fronted by fest music and overall coordinator Curt Rotterdam is described as “Buffalo’s finest punk funk potty rock.”   Unfortunately, I won’t be in town early enough to catch them as part of the Space Alien Love Fest on July 25th, but if you’re in town you should.

Beyond music and theatre, the fest offers quite a bit of visual arts, films and poetry, including The Alliance, a duo comprised of Buffalo spoken-word veterans Marek Parker and Josh Smith.   I had the chance to catch Smith performing some of his poetry and doing standup comedy as the “Rated-R Rockstar” at the Montreal infringement and I have to say he’s very funny/serious.

It wouldn’t be an infringement, though, without randomness and there’s plenty of that this year as well.   Brian Milbrand and Ron Ehmke’s self-infringement is a prime example of this.   Basically, you pull a task from a box at Rust Belt Books and follow the instructions to do your very own infringement performance.   I did this in 2007 and won’t tell you what I had to do, only say that I’ll most definitely be doing one again this year.   It runs every day of the fest.

As you can gather, this won’t be my first time in Buffalo.   I have performed as part of Car Stories there three times already.   I have witnessed some of the growth and have even written about why I feel Buffalo is perfect for a fest like this.   What I haven’t done yet is experience an infringement fest developed to the extent that Buffalo has, while still staying true to its roots by continuing to promote art under the radar and I am very much looking forward to doing so.

* For the complete schedule and updates, go to   For daily reports, check out their blog.