FRANTASIA FESTIVAL is the largest annual OUT MUSIC event in the great state of Maine, featuring an eclectic and electric mix of performers that defy any categorization. In the tradition of this highly unusual event, we present an eye-witness account of last years event, described in the highly combustable words of a one Ben Hersey.
@ 17 Depot St., Livermore Falls, ME
7pm-Midnight // All Ages // $5-7 sugg. donation // FB
FRAN’S DREAM: A FIRST TIMER’S IMPRESSIONS OF FRANTASIA
—Otis Mill basement. I’ve been to <a href=”http://www.lfme.org”>Livermore Falls</a> before doing research on my great-grandfather who was a Vaudeville-era hypnotist/actor and my grandmother, a child-actress, who did song and dance routines with him. Feel strange amazement that this is the very mill where my great-grandfather’s brother worked in the 1910’s. Thursday night, Fran’s family kicks things off. A cup show by a young singing girl, then, a dude, also, I think a relative, on acoustic guitar plays a porchy classic rock number. Audience has kids and senior citizens. I feel good, I feel unsure, I feel good, I feel unsure.
—Wall of noise dude blasts scorching fuzz into the space while I hover in back with my crate of performance stuff going over my thing in my mind, behind me there is a large board with old diagrams of the mill. An older woman appears and starts talking me up through the feedback about the recentish situation with the train tracks outside the mill. We stare at the diagrams while the feedback blasts. She says: “They needed three sets of track for all the paper needing to be taken out of here through 1920.” She goes on to tell me that “they had to sell most of the rail for scraps.” This conversation calms me and I take it as a great sign. Shouting about train tracks and early 20<sup>th</sup> century paper politics while the fuzz screams and screams, this is a good thing.
—<a href=”http://www.stanleyschumacher.com”>Stanley Schumacher</a> read a poem called “Way Cool,” with a stand up bass player and drummer. He ended his set by wearing white gloves, referring to himself as “The Professor” and making wild mouth noise to the music. The important thing about that though, the thing that felt significant was the hand gestures he made throughout. I think it was a reference/imitation (references as imitation?) to a crazy mad scientist. Sometimes as a performer I think: “who is my audience tonight?” or “where am I?” or “how/should I interact with this particular group of people in this particular place?” and I wondered if this poet asked these kinds of questions at all. If so, I felt complete, bordering on ecstatic bedazzlement at getting to be part of his conception of whom his audience is. Delight!
—Percussionist <a href=”http://www.lifeoffliesenberg.blogspot.com”>Flandrew Fliesenberg</a> and dancer <a href=”http://www.vervetdance.org/more-about-loren-groenendaal.php”>Loren Groenendaal</a>, dance to the drum, dancer through drums and the delicious sound of duct tape being unraveled and run/organized through the space. Rich interaction with a given space, inventing problems that need to be solved in the moment and solving them elegantly. Their performance on the second night was an outdoor human alleyway moonlight/mill-light dance in the parking lot. Parking lot lady train. A human parallel to the single set of tracks just beyond us. Killed. —John LaFosse, man with a guitar and a delay pedal box thing just got up there and jammed for ten or fifteen minutes. Relaxing, psychedelic cave art for your memory-bank. Packed up his gear and vanished. Very clean presentation. —I think it went like this: wall of noise guy and a friend had a duet which featured the friend sitting on the floor ecstatically chewing on an elegant sponge, mic’ed, and pointing a flashlight into an amplified cat food dish. —On Friday I went looking for my great-grandfather’s grave. I stopped to get lunch and I asked the waitress what people do around here. She said “oh, a whole lotta nothin.” She said that Mill St. (the place I ate) is the only place in town that “throws events for the town.” She actually cited the local gazebo as a thing, but she was like “but it’s ah…ah…” and I said “old timey?” She nodded, relieved. “Hmm,” I said. “Hey, do you know where Pleasant View Cemetery is?” She looked frightened by the question. No, she definitely did not. “I know where Food City is,” she offered. “Sounds good.”
—The completely amazing host on the second night, a man called Dr. Eric Mitchell, who, rumor had it, was not informed by Fran about the individual acts in advance other than their names. His commentary between acts was like commentary from a long forgotten nightclub in a mythical city. He aimed to keep us entertained between acts and did. After <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duXb1yQoC3o”>Layne Garrett</a> played, he said something like: “Okay, good, good. Thank you, Layne. I got carpal tunnel just looking at you, but that was terrific.” He was so upbeat and bravely held his ground until well past midnight offering upbeat interpretations of the acts.
—When there isn’t music happening, there is Fran and Kathleen’s crowded house, the “death porch,” the rustlers, there was a flute player, an older thin man with one working arm, native flute, broken notes like the backside of dry leaves; loaded up, community kitchen, outside drinking Moxie with Theft and Fran. The immortal <a href=”http://www.119gallery.org”>Walter Wright</a> arrived and immediately started taking pictures. Fran said that Frantasia was about love, about “people getting to be together.” “This is the highlight of my year,” he told me. Marc Bisson preparing to make potatoes, a few uncomfortable people, quiet, unlookingly making passes through, small yard strip out front populated by snoring tents, odd upstairs apartment mostly unfurnished, working knob and tube, cellophane light. My mattress pad was stationed in the kitchen and on the first night I sat for awhile with <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/turekart”>Frank Turek</a>, <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSuzUb-PZ50″>Kaethe Hostetter</a> and Id M Theft who told us about an engine festival that took place last year. He said that the field was full of working engines that looked like disembodied hearts pumping away.
—I did two performances over the first two nights. In one, I ate a turkey sub and talked about the history of the mill, the original owner of Oxford Paper Company, Hugh Chisholm who was a major paper mogul, capitalist, philanthropist in this region of Maine. Though most of what I was saying was factual, I was constantly undermining it by saying “I could be lyin’ though…” or “What do I know?” The second night, I did my nasty man, date night, lamp-kissing routine. Seemed to go over pretty well. After one of the performances a guy named Ken came up to me and said: “You remind me of a Greg Palmer from Bangor.” I said, “Oh, who’s that?” He said: “Just some smart-ass I went to high school with.” Pretty sure he meant it as a compliment.
—Improvisers appeared on stage occasionally reminding me of 90’s King Crimson Double Duo stuff, playing on what looked like unbelievably expensive/high end gear. Noble groove fragments from men who don’t look like they’re having fun. I love being asked to constantly renew my attention, my frame of reference. There’s no overarching frame of reference here – this is a noise show – this is a jam band – this is sound poetry, no jazz poetry – this is improvisational dance. All I know is I don’t want to predict the future – I don’t want to fix myself in a well carved out story-bowl about what’s supposed to happen.
—The Livermore Falls information pamphlet Kathleen left on our pillows offers many natural attractions, but I feel certain that its proudest point is this: “in many respects Livermore Falls was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution in western, Maine.” —Wall of noise dude who just wants to blast spoke to a guy in the living room on Friday morning: “I know I will never be revolutionary,” he said. To which the other guy said: “Is that your goal, to be revolutionary?” Wall of noise guy goes: “no, no, never.” The other guy said, “Oh, is that it, your goal is to never be revolutionary?” —For an intermission: the heaviness of the train going by at midnight or whatever on the Friday night. Like a fucking Industrial Revolution million pound Night Snake, oozing out of a darker gloomier, more haunted forested region – a weight train, a back the fuck off train. A bunch of us stood out there and watched it whine and thud past all doomy and wretched looking.
—Amazing <a href=”http://www.kraag.org/ktaag.htm”>id me theftable</a> sets. Crowd work/call and response/word-work on art pad on one night and what I wanted to be, but which wasn’t, a cover of I Got My Mind Set On You the second night. “To do it to do it to do it to do it to do it to do it…” Sometimes things for me are just intuitive, like I don’t have words for them. One of those things is that Maine is the best place on Earth. Another is the way it seems like id m theftable is soul of Maine. The fact that he is/is from Maine isn’t the only reason he is among the most inspiring performers you will ever see, but it kind of is. If you want a true account of why Frantasia matters, talk to him about it. He is walking oral history.
—I was only there for Thursday and Friday and the last set I saw, at like 2:30AM, was <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQV6C9wJhJI”>Jonas Bers</a> collaborating with drummer Matt Luczak. I didn’t get to find out what machine he was playing exactly, but it was like a hyper amplified bassoon, no, a PVC pipe actually that had like 5000 mics running through it and it was so loud that your earbone became a gravestone. I went outside and it was chilly and the old behemoth mill, motivated anew by the unbelievable roar now coming from its basement, seemed to come to nightmare life once again. As if the mill was now a transcendental murder tower: a century of logs, dead men, river-bloated, agony of untimely loss all screaming maniacally from the black building. The Androscoggin Historical Society should have sponsored that performance as an installation piece on lost industrial glory. The best kind of exploding noise in a historically significant context I may ever see. If you lived in Livermore Falls and didn’t know what Frantasia is and you heard that sound coming from the mill, you would feel your stomach collapse in fear. It’s an imperfect experience. Don’t come up with expectations. There’s madness to the arrangement of things, lots of stuff doesn’t make sense but Frantasia is like a juxtaposition-party, a contradiction carnival. It’s got strange energy, loving energy. There’s no overt “reason” other than Fran’s dream and though this is Fran’s baby, I experienced something that seemed far more about getting to meet a bunch of motivated and intelligent people doing weird shit. You can go to a lot of fest type things and feel like you’re connecting with people and have a deep time and whatnot, but there is something about Frantasia that stuck with me in a different way. Maybe it was Livermore Falls at large or Fran’s house or the mill basement, but at Frantasia I felt like I had permission to connect with the old time pure freak in me – the one who doesn’t know or care what right and wrong is, who hasn’t yet decided that good is this and fucked up is that. I can’t tell you how invigorating it is to be at an event for the weekend and constantly be like “Wait, wait, okay, <em>what the fuck is going on here</em>?”
<em>The 11<sup>th</sup> Annual Frantasia Festival of Out Music and Arts is August 21-23<sup>rd</sup> at Fitness Stylez, 17 Depot St., Livermore Falls, ME. 7PM-Midnight.</em>
An archive of Frantasia performances from past years can be found here: <a href=”http://vimeo.com/channels/426006″ target=”_blank”>http://vimeo.com/channels/<wbr />426006</a>
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