« Recently | Main | Eve of Departure »

November 28, 2007

Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers that Rock

On our recent drive to Georgia to see my brother graduate from boot camp, Robbi and I started planning a small dinner party for a group of friends in Chestertown. Three hours later we had laid the groundwork for a full-blown gathering of writers, musicians, and friends. The idea was that the performers would all be drawn from the Idiots'Books subscribership and that the entire subscribership would be invited to spectate. We have been planning and scheming for a few weeks now, and the general outline of the weekend is set. It is our great pleasure to announce that the first annual Idiots'Books literature and music festival, Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers that Rock, is in the offing.


Although the majority of the festival will take place on Saturday, February 16, we're going to kick things off the night before at the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College here in Chestertown.

Robbi and I are going to do a reading/slideshow from a couple of our books while two musician friends, Brian Slattery and Drew Bunting, provide underscoring in the vein of old school filmstrips. We intend not to practice but to try it and just see what happens.

Afterward, Brian and Drew will perform an acoustic set, the two playing some combination of guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin, and both of them singing. It is possible that I might join them on harmonica for a song or two. There will likely be folk, blues, bluegrass, old-time, and possibly some speed-metal to be heard.

For those that do not know, here are Brian and Drew.

Brian Francis Slattery

Brian is an incredibly versatile (and badass) musician who specializes in clawhammer banjo and old-time fiddle and who can credibly navigate the guitar, mandolin, and a few other instruments, from what I understand. Here is an awesome depressing song that Brian recorded with a group of friends. Brian is the one singing and playing the banjo. If you aren't tempted to do yourself in after hearing the song, you probably weren't listening closely enough.

Michael Andrew Bunting

Perhaps no one more seamlessly integrates punk rock and the life of the cloth than our friend Drew Bunting, musician and Episcopal priest. I wish I had a link to some of Drew's songs so that I wouldn't just have to tell you what a gifted songwriter, musician, and singer he is. From being the most beloved musician in our college class, to fronting bands that range from old-time to punk to gospel, Drew has rocked the music scene in every town in which he has lived. He has released two albums (Treat Your Buggy Well and I Want to Believe) and is currently working on a third. It is Drew's general preference only to be pictured standing behind rowdy children.

Drew, Brian, another friend Ilya Garger, and I formed the core of an old time band called The Motherpluckers during our Williams years. We used to perform in party dresses, big hats, and shit-kicking boots. Do I need to say more?

Hearing Drew and Brian play together is a rare opportunity. I know you won't miss it.

On Saturday, things will move to Bookplate, a used bookstore on Cross Street in Chestertown run by our friends Tom Martin and Sarah Myers. We have done several readings there over the past year and all of the Idiots'Books are for sale there. And they have a huge empty back room that we are going to fill up with you all on Saturday, February 16.

My friend and stand-up comedian Victor Wishna will kick things off mid-afternoon. I have it on good authority that Victor is "the third-funniest Jewish comedian in New York."

Victor gave the main toast at Robbi's and my wedding, and he used the opportunity to expose my many weaknesses, character flaws, and embarrassing moments. Those attending Subscribers that Rock can reasonably assume that I will be publicly depantsed again. If you think you might enjoy this sort of thing, by all means add it to the list of reasons to attend the festival.

(It is worth noting that I have never in my entire life seen Victor look as serious as he does in the photo above. He is, in fact, a friendly, gentle guy.)

ADDENDUM: This just in from Victor, anxious to shed his "stern guy" image. Here he is in the midst of telling a hilarious joke. If you could see the audience, you would note how rapt and delighted they were at this moment.

After Victor does his thing, Robbi and I will do another Idiots'Books slide show/reading, premiering at least one new book in the process. Provided the experiment from the evening before has not gone horribly wrong, Brian and Drew will add music.

Next up will be Brian Slattery once again, this time in the guise of writer. This past August, Brian released his first novel, Spaceman Blues: A Love Song. Click here to read a bit about the book and peruse some of the incredibly positive reviews.

Here's the catch: Rather than merely "read" from his book, Brian will be singing from it while being accompanied by a slate of musician friends (all subscribers, I assure you).

They are:

Brian Wecht on sax and keyboards. Brian is a college classmate. We have recently decided to become best friends.

Rich Flynn on bass. Rich is awesome. He is so awesome.

Aidan Shepard on drums. I knew Aidan when I lived in Williamstown and he was not yet the accomplished percussionist he has become. He is a mysterious fellow, powerful, terrifying.

This photo really says it all.

Drew Bunting will join the fun on guitar and/or mandolin. Here's another look at Drew, sans child. See how unhappy he looks?

And, potentially, I could play harmonica. We'll see.

In case you're worried, Brian has done this sort of thing before, and that time, at least, it worked pretty well. Click here to listen to some cuts from his reading at Barbes up in Brooklyn a few months ago. It's really something to behold.

After a short break, the aforementioned Brian Wecht, a fellow who has been studying mathematics and physics basically nonstop since the day he was born, will give a short, riveting lecture on an esoteric topic that will probably make your brain ache. From what I hear, he will be accompanied by musicians. I can provide no further details at this time.

After Brian W's lecture, our featured guest, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and film critic Jim Shepard, will be doing a reading.

Jim has been my literary mentor since college, and is one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He is a finalist for this year's National Book Award for fiction for his story collection Like You'd Understand, Anyway, and we are deeply honored that he has agreed to join us.

You may read the New York Times review of Like You'd Understand, Anyway -- by none other than Lemony Snicket -- here.

You may peruse and purchase Jim's six novels and three story collections here.

You can read a nice interview on the topic of Jim's latest novel, Project X, here.

After Jim's reading, Brian Slattery, Jim, and Victor Wishna (who has released a book of interviews with the greatest American playwrights) will be on hand to sign their books and make pleasant small talk while we set up dinner. Although the plan is still a bit hazy, we plan to serve barbeque and appropriate side dishes in vast quantities. The food will be available for a small donation.

Around 7:00, or whenever we get done eating, Drew will gather the musicians for a full-blown concert. In addition to playing a hearty stable of original tunes, Drew is likely to dabble in far-flung and unexpected corners of the musical universe.

There are likely to be contests and prizes. It is even possible that Drew and the others will perform Free Bird. I cannot say.

Eventually, we will all go home, but there's no predicting when this will be. All that can be said for certain at this point is that this is going to rock. And that you are all invited.

We're hoping that you are taking out your pen right now and circling February 15 and 16th on your calendar.

Posted by bogenamp at November 28, 2007 09:46 PM