West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 8 | July 25 - 31, 2007

Forget the wigs, Moby to rock HOWL! arts festival this year

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager file photo

Moby will perform in Tompkins Square Park on Sept. 8.

HOWL! will happen.

After the HOWL! Festival of East Village Arts went on hiatus last summer, the board of directors of the Federation of East Village Artists recently voted to put on the extravaganza from Sept. 5-9.

Marguerite Van Cook, chairperson of FEVA’s board of directors, who is directing the five-day event, said this year’s festival will be a little scaled back compared to previous years, basically since the organization is strapped for cash this year. All the acts will be performing for free — yet there will be some big-name attractions.

Sat., Sept. 8, in Tompkins Square Park will see “Lowlife,” a two-hour show by Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynel, with guest appearances by celebrity artists, such as Deborah Harry of Blondie fame, hopefully. “Lowlife” replaces drag festival Wigstock in this year’s lineup. Also on Sat., Sept. 8, Renee Risk, a parody of a ’70s rock band, will perform, followed by techno rocker Moby. Reverend Jen may also perform, but that’s not yet confirmed, Van Cook said.

This year, Vision Fest will replace the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at HOWL! And there will also be Latin music and hip-hop in the park.

There will be a rock festival in local clubs, such as Crash Mansion and Pianos, during the festival, Van Cook said. There will also be several panel discussions, including an all-girl rock panel, a cartoonists/graphic comics panel and a performance artists panel. HOWL! hopes to hold some of the panels at the Rapture space on Avenue A.

Art Around the Park, when Tompkins Square is ringed with artwork that artists create on the spot on sheets of paper covering the park’s fence, will also return.

The opening-night party will be at the Bowery Poetry Club.

“There’ll be less things. There’ll be as many venues, but there will be less events,” Van Cook said. “The idea is that we don’t have any money. The difference is that this year, we’re not paying anybody. The whole festival is labor-donated across the board — nobody’s getting paid.”

Van Cook said a goal this year is for the festival to come through without any debt after it’s all over. They hope to just pay for equipment and permits, things like portable toilets and insurance, which can be costly, she said. In the past, acts like Wigstock were paid, she noted.

Van Cook said they’re certainly intending to feature local performers and artists, though describing it that way seemed a bit absurd to her.

“To the extent that everybody’s blooming local, yeah, obviously we’re using people from the neighborhood as much as we can,” she said. “But 75 percent of the people who pitched their tents down here aren’t from the Lower East Side.” Even Allen Ginsberg, whose seminal Beat poem is the festival’s namesake, grew up in New Jersey, she noted.

Cook is originally from England. She was the lead singer in The Innocents, who toured England with The Clash, opening 30 shows for them.

When she curated a gallery show on the Lower East Side with her husband, James Romberger, 20 years ago, Carlo McCormick, reviewing it in the East Village Other, called the two of them “overly democratic.” Van Cook said she hasn’t quite been able to shake that label since.

Van Cook said HOWL! will pay a $10,000 bond to the Parks Department to cover expenses of cleaning up Tompkins Square Park after the festival. She said she expects they’ll have to end up paying that much anyway, so it’s fine in her view that they put the money upfront.

In the past, Parks would bill HOWL! after the festival, which led to HOWL! incurring a $6,000 debt that lingered for a year and a half, until the festival recently paid it off, she said.


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