The 215 Festival returns this October 17-20th, and as in previous years promises to offer a festive celebration of the literary arts under the direction of creative director Joey Sweeney of Philebrity. Throughout the four-day event there will be dozens of literary events. Some of the confirmed writers are Neal Pollack, Nicholson Baker, Bruce Smith, Liz Moore, Wesley Stace, Tom Moon, Jason Fagone, and Lord Whimsy. The 215 Festival Benefit & Preview will be held on Friday, September 13th 2013 at the legendary Port Richmond Books, featuring appearances by Tom Moon’s Ensemble Novo, comedian/author Doogie Horner, poet Elizabeth Scanlon and author Sarah Rose Etter. Go here for more information about the event. For more info on The 215 Festival, here and follow them on twitter @215festival. Below, check out the smooth jazz stylings of Ensemble Novo.
Creating the iconic image for Orange County punk bands, Social Distortion exploded onto the music scene in the ’80s with hits like “Mommy’s Little Monster” and “Mass Hysteria,” forever changing the path for West Coast garage bands. The group, currently on tour supporting their 2011 Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, is playing tonight at the Electric Factory. Tickets for the 8:30 show are available here. Below, check out the video for their 1990 classic, “Story of My Life.”
Wesley Stace has always had a witty way with words. That’s both in his career as a songwriter, which stretches back to the 1980s (you might know him better by his stage name, John Wesley Harding), and more recently as a novelist. A couple years back, he launched the Cabinet of Wonders, an occasionally traveling roadshow and regular monthly showcase in New York that brings together musicians, authors and comedians in a very irreverent, lively variety-show format. The Cabinet made a Philadelphia appearance this summer at the XPoNential Music Festival – you might recall Rhett Miller absolutely nailing David Bowie’s “Five Years” during their set, or Eugene Mirman’s madcap comedy – and returns tonight for a 215 Festival performance at Underground Arts. We caught up with the England-born Philadelphia transplant by phone yesterday to get some background on the showcase and see what’s in store for tonight.
The Key: How long have you been putting on the Cabinet of Wonders, and how did it start?
John Wesley Harding: We’ve been doing it a few years now. It came about because I had a new album out two albums ago, and I wanted to do an album release party. An my publicist said “Well, you write novels now. Why don’t you bring the two things together?” After the first one, we saw it was such a fun show, we kept doing it. We took the cabinet on tour, we moved around to different venues in New York, and then NPR picked us up.
TK: How often to you hold cabinet events? What’s the next one?
JWH: Apart form extraordinary cabinet meetings like the one at this weekend, or the one at XPN’s festival over the summer, we just have our once-a-month performance in New York.
TK: It was great to watch people’s reaction at the XPN festival who might not have been familiar with the Cabinet. It was a mix of surprise, delight and total confusion. Is that a reaction you encounter often, or do people attend Cabinet performances knowing what to expect?
JWH: I think people generally come in knowing. At a festival, crowds are most used to seeing music act followed by more music. And with the Cabinet at the XPN festival, I tried to make a miniature version of what I do every month – almost a festival within the festival. Continue reading →
After a three-year hiatus, the 215 Festival – a literary arts showcase launched in 2001 by the venerable McSweeney‘s crew – kicks off tonight and runs through Sunday. Taking the reins this year is Joey Sweeney, a notable local writer, musician and founder of Philebrity.com. In the spirit of festivals past, the lineup he and his collaborators pulled together is very eclectic, including not only author readings but comedy (local favorite Juliet Hope Wayne), music (the Bibilodiscotheque Dance Party oughta be a good show) and visual art (something Mural Arts put together called the Mobile Campfire). When City Paper featured Sweeney on its cover earlier this fall, one theme that kept coming up was “fun” – as in how author readings were typically stuffy, but 215 Festival was something more alive. We swapped e-mails with Sweeney this week to get his thoughts on keeping that campfire burning as the festival prepares to re-launch.
The Key: So it’s your first time steering the ship at this festival, which I imagine is a way more intense undertaking than just sponsoring or presenting. How are you holding up?
Joey Sweeney: I’m a little crispy for sure, but in the best way: I’m super excited for the festival, and have had some really great help along the way, including Noelle Egan, Mary Richardson Graham and Elisa Ludwig, who are all 215 Fest veterans – as well as all of our sponsor and partner organizations. Any time I’ve been freaking out, they’ve stepped in and made any boo-boo’s better. There haven’t even been that many, to be honest — working on the 215 Fest has been a universally positive experience. I think absence really did make the heart grow fonder, and people are very excited about it.
TK: There’s a great mix of events – music, comedy, film screenings – in addition to readings and discussions. Is the thought to get people to interact with cultural scenes outside of their own sphere? Like “hey, music person, you might not normally go to a poetry reading, but you’ll probably dig it”?
JS: Thank you! I think that definitely nails the spirit of the thing — as well as the notion that, if you’re a creative person, you are to some degree always working with words. And that if you appreciate art in any form, you also appreciate words. For this year’s fest, we were also really trying to both re-introduce the original vibe of the festival — which is a pretty freewheeling, anything-can-happen, pure creative expression mode — and also establish some new traditions, like this Mural Arts Mobile Campfire thing… Continue reading →
One of the highlights of this weekend’s arts-and-letters showcase The 215 Festival is sure to be the Bibliodiscotheque Dance Party at Underground Arts on Saturday, and one of the bands on the bill is Light Heat, the new project from longtime Philly indie-psych wizard Quentin Stoltzfus. The band debuted with a set in the echoey art gallery ambience of Center City’s Fleisher-Ollman Gallery, and they sounded fantastic – with a proper stage and sound system at the North Chinatown venue this weekend, we imagine they’ll be even more spectacular. Today the band premiered a brand new track called “Dance The Cosmos Light,” a brilliant patchwork of horns, fuzzy guitars and melodious vocals. Listen below, and get more information on the festival here.