Last night was the closing ceremony of this years TBA 2008. For all the weary festival goers and staff who have been on this two week time-based marathon, it was a great way to close out the festival, as well as Mark Russell’s three year stewardship as PICA’s guest artistic director.
First on the bill were art-rock duo Brother and Sister. Having recently finished their city-wide scavenger hunt that involved tattoos, donuts, and lots of body paint, their raucous set featured them half dressed in furs and faux war paint, and as they rocked various members of their wonderfully strange tribe drew a psychedelic mural behind them.
Guest MC’ing that evening was Mike Daisey, who reminisced about his time at the festival in his unique monologue style. Topics included his surprise at the lack of suicide-inducing rain clouds, his marvel at the amount of beer in this town, his marvel at the amount of beer consumed by the TBA festival crew, and speculation that incoming guest artistic director Cathy Edwards has multiple kidneys harvested from her enemies. Did I mention he was in a cape?
As Daisey went on to explain, an adoring fan was so inspired by his show and subsequent conversation they had at the Works that he made him a shimmery purple cape. For Daisey, it was an example of how special the TBA festival is and how much heart there is in it’s community.
The heart of the festival was on it’s sleeve for the rest of the evening, continuing on with the Flash choir and their charming arrangement of TBA inspired songs. There was nothing flashy or arty in their presentation, or any other such word you might correlate to cutting edge contemporary performance. But it didn’t need to be because it was honest, interesting, and ultimately about the people singing.
All this connected very deeply to me and the whole TBA experience. That underneath all the diverse art forms, ideas, and voices presented is a great deal of humanity and generosity. And that even when challenging or offending, it is ultimately about connecting people and all our scattered bits of humanity in a way that only live performance can.
Reggie Watts also guest MC’d with a few songs dedicated to Mark Russell. As he laid down beats and masterfully transformed his voice, he humorously rapped about PDX as compared to NYC, and the dance move that is sure to sweep the performing arts world, “The Russell Hussle.” What Watts can do with just his voice and a loop pedal is phenomenal and once again proves that in the end it is about the people, about the artists, and their unique talents for storytelling.
But the true highlight of the whole evening was when Mark Russell himself took the stage and, with the help of the Flash Choir, delivered an emotional song of thanks, hello, and good-bye to the festival. His words about the festival were passionate and heartfelt, and judging by the tears in the eyes of staff members as they joined him on stage, he will miss and will be missed.
So, congratulations to all who made this festival possible and here’s to the closing of one more chapter of TBA and the wonderful start of another!
- Chi-wang Yang