More Fun Fest

The monthlong Independents festival turns Gowanus into a home-grown experimental mecca

Whether this is canny marketing or something more permanent remains to be seen—"I'm a little shocked at how successful this is," Fiol admits. Though the house was packed two weeks ago to see Sir Richard Bishop of the Sun City Girls and Harlem's No Neck Blues Band, attendance thus far has been wholly dependent on each individual night's draw. XI, a local label curated by the well-regarded composer Phill Niblock, put on a brilliant showcase of high-art computer music featuring Niblock, Alan Licht, and David Behrman—it drew moderately on a Friday night; a week later, Locust's lesser-known acts drew even less. A festival that delays its start time due to vagaries in the G train's weekend service; schedules a potluck dinner for Leif Inge's "9 Beet Stretch," a 24-hour distention of Beethoven's Ninth; and chooses not to set up folding chairs in advance just to "to see what people would do," is an ephemeral one, for better or for worse.

That may be as good an argument for the Independents as any. One night, occult book-dealer and label curator Richard Bishop played a sunny folk song about hanging a preacher before launching into a mystical spiral of solo acoustic guitar that marched out of American heartland folk, through Spanish back alleys, Indian palaces, and Thai brothels, landing firmly back in middle America with a final note and an earnest suggestion that the crowd go smoke angel dust. The No Neck Blues Band hung an armchair upside down from the ceiling and played percussion against the floor, walls, and ceiling while the audience huddled around in a crooked semi-circle until performer and audience were nearly indistinguishable. Not too many places around town wish upon themselves such consistent chaos.

Neither, for that matter, do real estate developers, who Fiol admits have little sympathy for the Issue Project Room's avant niche. "This space is not forever," she says. Yet along with her promotion partner Regina Greene—as well as the labels and acts they've brought to Brooklyn this month—they've long accepted the fact that there's no institutional interest in preserving the scene they've so lovingly presented. "Fend for your own," Greene says, optimistically. "The only thing you can do about it is to grab onto your community and family, which is us."

Sir Richard Bishop knights a marginally well-heeled Brooklyn crowd
Cary Conover
Sir Richard Bishop knights a marginally well-heeled Brooklyn crowd


Tune in:
Voicebox: Tracks from this week's music section

High Bias: New(ish) stuff for smart people

Table of the Elements presents the five final nights of the Independents at the Issue Project Room January 24–28, featuring Tony Conrad, the Rhys Chatham "Guitar Trio All-Stars," Sunburned Hand of the Man, and more,

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