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Fringe Festival (Part I)

Over last weekend through this coming weekend is Rochester Fringe Festival. Now, our little Fringe festival has not been as good as others, and but this is only our third. The first was awful, the second had its moments. This year seems to be pretty good, but like all Fringe festivals so far, there seems to be a certain guarantee you'll pick something awful to attend. The first year, I didn't pay for any events, but did sneak in to a number of paid events (there were very few free events the first year). All the ones I snuck into were terrible with the exception of one which was okay. They were all overpriced as hell for what they offered, too. Last year, I went to a couple of free shows, and they were great, and then went to one paid event, which I only went to because I had friends in it, and it was based on Lovecraft, or Poe or something equally weird. It was okay but barely. Definitely overpaid.

So this year, I promised no paid gigs unless I knew they'd be good!!!

I attended two paid gigs, one I chose, because my violin tutor gave me a discount code, and I know she's really great- and come on, any show featuring violin is going to be cool. The other Charles chose, and I warned him... but he paid for us both, so I let him make his mistake. And I hope he learned from it.

The first event I attended was Sisters of Murphy - a free Irish rock show led by my friend Mark, in the pit at Manhattan Square Park. They were great as usual, but they mostly played from their second album, which I admit, I really don't like as much as the first. But they did play a couple of really great songs. "Katie Dear" and a cover of Flogging Molly's "Salty Dog" closed the show, and people immediately flocked to the next act, found elsewhere in the park.

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Elsewhere in the park: fire, brimstone, French, and Steampunk. I'd dubbed it the Giant Fiery Steampunk Deathtrap, but they call it Circus Orange's Tricycle. We got up to where they started the show, right outside the concert pit, and we stood right by the speakers. Very loud metal-clashing sounds boomed in harmony from the speakers, making the whole park sound like a gigantic steam-powered musical factory. Fire shot out of the pipe jutting from the back of the trike, steam billowed from the sides of the front, Firelee, trapped inside the front wheel began to walk, and the giant slowly began weaving around the ocean of people. The crowds followed the trike around the whole park. From where I stood, it looked like people had crowded right up against it, but they did have in-costume security to keep people at a safe distance.

Two figures stood atop the 18-foot machine - a clown named Foo, speaking a combination of French, Gibberish, and a bit of English, stood up front leading the way with his companion, a mad scientist figure running the pyrotechnics.

Sound like a spectacle without a story? Artistic director Rebecca Carney will tell you otherwise.
The experimental performance approach emerged out of improv, but the current storyline is scripted around the talents of the Circus Orange actors, Carney says.
She created Tricycle's story and characters from imagination — and her dreams. The characters, including Foo, who rides the 18-foot-high tricycle, have been commissioned by Flammee, the queen of the southern region, to bring light back to the people. Firelee is the character who plays the light.
"The play begins where we find the light. There are stops along the way — different worlds. There is the fire world and the sentinels — soldiers who belong to the queen. We encourage the audience not to stay seated because they become a procession to the introduction of light," says Carney, who plays Filier, the keeper of the tricycle.


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While Foo fought fire demons, I spent a great deal of the play fighting my way through the hordes. Whenever fire shot out of some apparatus, it lit the sea of heads in front of me, showing me how far back I really stood - much further than I thought. I looked back, and saw it was just as densely packed
behind me. I wasn't sure I'd ever get to a clearing. I squeezed through people, tripping on abandoned lawn chairs, and when the show neared its end, I finally made my way to the exit stairs!

But then I realized, it's almost over, and I've enjoyed what I've seen so far, even though I couldn't make out the storyline or see most of the other characters, and oh look! There's a spot against the gate, right toward where the trike is headed! I crammed myself up against the gate to see an army of soldiers and stilted animals leading the trike to its endgame. They then set up dancers on a stage, twirling fire parasols as parts of the stage and surrounding areas lit on fire, or shot fireworks into the sky. The giant wheel dislodged from the rest of the trike and attached to a wire, which shot the wheel, with Firelee still inside, about 50-feet in the air! She spun and danced inside the wheel as it lit with fireworks around the outside, turning it into a giant areal pinwheel. This performance mesmerized the audience, and intensified rapidly, until it exploded into one grand finale! I love fireworks, and this completely blew me away! It's also the second-closest I've been to exploding fireworks. Glossing over that ;)

I managed to take a bunch of videos and got a few photos. The best one I'll post here, but if you want to see the compilation of all the videos, you can check [this link].




The next day, I got up early to see my violin tutor Lauren's performance with Sticks, Strings, and Paint. The "and paint" part of the show was boring, but I really enjoyed the rest. She performed with half of Quartet 442 (violin and cello) and two percussionists.

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Afterwards, Charles wanted to stay for the "Laptop Orchestra," which was anything but. This is the lesson every Fringe-goer learns: some events you pay for are shit. I knew right away it'd be shit, and I tried to warn Charles. I almost decided to walk back to the East End to catch other festivities on my list, but he insisted I stay, and he bought my ticket. We sat down and he immediately regretted the decision, as we came face-to-face with a little kid choir, a school mascot, and only two laptops in sight. Turned out to be just a bunch of half-fancy-dressed students failing at their noise experiments. It's like they didn't do a test run at all. Nothing delivered with success. And oh, NO ORCHESTRA, laptop or otherwise, was really involved. I wasn't expecting a symphony. I was expecting a finished performance. We left halfway through.

I put Charles under Onus for that one, and made him take me out to breakfast.

I saw a play called "Simple Question" that had promise, but the acting wasn't that great (except from the female lead). I later overheard that it was their first performance, so that's forgivable. The story of this play goes: guy meets girl at bus stop; guy hits on girl, which is not well received; guy continues to bother girl, and even grasps at her arm, which she deflects; guy picks up a business card girl dropped by accident on the bus and proceeds to stalk her with a guitar; girl chases guy off with a knife; both get arrested; guy continues to convince girl to go on a date with him; girl roundhouse kicks him in the face; (this is where it should have ended, but the police officer who arrested them concludes the story in a monologue) guy and girl drop charges against each other and get fucking married.

I was happy the play delivered swift justice to the side of the stalker's face, and then PISSED that the story continued into rewarding harassing behaviour by having the guy get the girl after all. A friend pointed out that this actually happened to a much more horrifying extent back in the day, and that blew my mind. Still, though...

I ended my first Fringe weekend at Java's where a band called GRR! played some really good covers in a lounge-y jazz-y way (I don't know if Cake originally sang "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps," but that was my favourite cover).

And that's all for the first weekend. Not sure what (if) I'll go see anything today or tomorrow, but Thursday, I plan to see a free Cello Show at Java's. Hopefully Ron or Meagan or someone can come with.