Hot Damn, it’s season 2 of Queer Slam!

queer slamBetter late than never. Due to the nature of this event, I need to confirm with the organizers that it’s okay to publish participants’ names. So, without further ado…

Hot damn, that was another fine Queer Slam at Supermarket on Wednesday night! I had the pleasure of attending back in December, when I was also invited to be a judge; I was asked to be on the judging panel again, and decided to focus on listening and taking notes – so no pics this time (except for the fabulous event poster image above).

Host Cathy Petch kicked off season two of the annual LGBTQ poetry slam with a whole lotta of love, support and energy – and played the queer national anthem “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the saw. Queer Slam will tour various locales across Ontario, and winners from each event will compete in the finals in the spring at Buddies in Bad Times – and the ultimate slam champ will win a spot at the annual Capturing Fire slam event in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday night’s slammin’ festivities included two sets of open mic performances, two rounds of slam competition and feature performer Johnny Trinh. Queer Slam attracts an incredible pool of talented folks – and open mic performers were no exception, including fellow judge, Duncan Armstrong aka TOpoet.ca. – socially aware, bold, funny and moving, these poets inform, inspire and entertain.

Slam competitors included Vanessa McGowan, Georgia Wilder and Shawna Dimitry, with judges calibrating their scores with the work of the evening’s sacrificial slam poet Kay Kassirer. Kassirer set the bar high, with some timely, astute and poetic observational call-outs about trans rights and how Hollywood fucked up the Stonewall movie; and personal experiences of pain and frustration as a person who identifies as genderless, and their struggle to navigate others’ assumptions of their sex/gender – building up a protective “wall as shield” to confront and just live in the world.

The three slam participants didn’t make it easy for us either, each with a very distinct style, voice and tone. McGowan’s work is beautifully raw, irreverent and moving – from her piece on a violation of consent, to “On Other Chunks” (from her collection Divine Cockeyed Genius). Wilder’s work went from lyrical, gothic and visceral in her first piece, to playfully erotic and comical in her final piece on desire and donuts. Shawna’s pieces were heartfelt, bittersweet renderings of childhood/teenage memories – and the complex relationship dynamics between BFFs, and coming to terms with the nature of attraction and object of desire. In the end, McGowan took first place, with Wilder coming in second and Shawna third.

Feature slam poet Johnny Trinh charmed, moved and informed with works that touch on the personal and the political. A meditation on the honesty of the breath segues into a reflection on the meaning of “home.” The first of two multidisciplinary collaborations was a longing, aching piece about the long distance relationships (featuring the work of a singer, dancer and actor), with Trinh speaking over a soundscape collage of lovers’ conversations with an R&B love song layered underneath brought to the fore in words and song: “you cannot edit my heart,” “call my name, invoke all of me, see me.” A rhythmic indictment of systemic abusive power, racism, oppression and slavery (from his new chapbook We Are Weary) – followed by an insightful reminder, as he addressed the audience afterwards, to not give our present-day bigots, haters and trolls more media time and space by referencing them. A poetic activist, Trinh also takes aim at the 1% and the outcome of income inequality and unemployment, raging against social injustice “knowing that life, let love alone, is a battlefield.” And a final collaboration with recorded acoustic guitar and cello accompaniment was a heartfelt, heartbreaking piece from the POV of the Chinese lover of a white man – a lyrical, dysfunctional love poem full of hurt, as racism presents as a dynamic otherness, stereotyped exoticism and servitude. You can also follow Trinh on Twitter.

Keep an eye out for these remarkable artists. Queer Slam goes back and forth between Toronto (at its home at Supermarket) and the other cities – check The Circuit page for details; next Toronto show was confirmed as November 18 today.

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Hot damn, that was one fine Queer Slam!

Hot damn, that was one fine Queer Slam! I had the great honour – and pleasure – of being on the judging panel at last night’s Queer Slam at Supermarket. Hosted by hot damn slam poet Cathy Petch, with assistance from Brock Hessel, last night’s festivities included performances by Petch and Hessel, and fellow judges David Bateman and Duncan Armstrong, and a feature set from Regie Cabico – with sponsors Canadian Cancer Society, who reminded us to Get Screened, and LGBTOUT, who lead us in an acknowledgment of World AIDS Day, which was marked earlier this week on December 1. The fabulous Lizzie Violet and a trio of guys dubbed “The Cutie Patooties” rounded out the judging panel.

Sharply attired in a fedora and mustache, Petch (who also performs with Bateman and Cabico in The Dildettes) is an awesome fun host, cheeky and frank, and making sure everyone was included and appreciated. She read a piece from David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration (Part 1) and Brock shared AID/I/SAPPEARANCE by Joan Retallack.

David Bateman gave a sardonically edgy, darkly comic scathing social commentary in his performance of “What’s it Like?” – a piece about the experience of living with HIV, and dealing with the insensitivity and dumbassery of the curious.

Duncan Armstrong – who really does have the best t-shirts in the business – performed three of his pieces: a rhythmic and comic piece about getting it on; “Last Will and Testament,” a moving and pointed piece inspired by his experiences as a palliative caregiver of HIV/AIDS patients; and a sharply funny commentary on the art world with “Art Abstracted.”

To kick off the slam portion of the evening, Petch played the queer national anthem on the saw: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” then introduced a sacrificial slam performer (to give the judges a baseline score to work with for the competition). Shouts to Barbara Erochina, who gave us a raw, real and humourous confession of youthful desire set in a religious camp.

Three performers came forward to compete in last night’s two-round slam – the winner moves on to the finals in the spring, for the ultimate battle for the prize spot in Capturing Fire, Regie Cabico’s queer summit and slam in Washington, D.C.:

Tanya Neumeyer is a mercurial, rhythmic performer, playing with the ideas of experiencing the body – one’s own and that of others – and the dichotomy of desiring closeness and space in her first piece; and a socio-political, historical, philosophical queer anthem in the second round.

Mind the Gap has a quirky, fun nerd girl vibe – riffing on falling in love with straight girls and unrequited feelings in round one, and a quick futuristic, playful narrative in round two.

Jed Mimnagh-Kennific is an adorable baby slam performer, serving up a sweet, funny and lyrical love remembrance for her first piece. She brought a more complex narrative arc in her second piece, opening with the first flutterings of attraction, Catholic school sex ed, Bible readings and the message that the body is a temple, then shifting into a heart-wrenching account of childhood abuse – taking the audience along on this emotional journey.

Feature performer Regie Cabico is where stand-up meets spoken word in slammin’ fabulousness. Combining the divine and profane, he gave us a sensual and sexual observational piece featuring the sense of smell, an ode to an older lover from his younger days (which included a Fosse dance pose break) and an irreverent fun tale of Lucifer doing stand-up (inspired by an early morning stand-up gig after a very late night of debauched fun). And he does a wicked Tina Turner. Several of us were trying to convince him to move to Toronto; he lives in Washington, D.C., loves T.O. and visits regularly.

Results from the slam: Mind the Gap took third place, as well as the Queirdo prize for the weirdest poem; Neumeyer placed second and Mimnagh-Kennific took first place. With shouts to our score keeper Michelle Darby.

Big fun times was had by all. Look out for the next Queer Slam event next month – at Glad Day Bookshop. In the meantime, you can check out some pix I took at last night’s event:

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Upcoming music, theatre & spoken word awesomeness

It was some big fun, not to mention a great pleasure, as I worked the door at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LVCN) last night, with feature artists Andrea Thompson, Frenchie Fatale and Hugh Wilson. It was LVCN’s first night at its new home at The Central – and the place was packed, with an incredibly engaged audience.

There’s still all kinds of awesome goodness coming up in T.O. this month, my friends. Here is just a small sample of what’s happening on the small stage and indie scene:

David Hustler & the Trustworthy EP release – Wed, Sept 11 @ Horseshoe Tavern @ 8:30 p.m. – $5 cover

Songwriters Circle of Jerks – Thurs, Sept 12 @ 8:30 p.m. @ Free Times Café, featuring Hugh Wilson and Nick Verona from Big Name Actors (among others), Nelson Sobral from Melting Pot and I Hate Todd, and David Hustler of David Hustler & The Trustworthy, with guest Meghan Morrison – PWYC

Eclectic – September Group Exhibit – opening Thurs, Sept 12 from 6-8 p.m. and running till Sept 29 @ Fran Hill Gallery

Jeff Cottrill’s tour fundraiser show Keep Calm & Get Rid of Jeff – Sun, Sept 15 @ 7:00 p.m. @ Black Swan, with a whole line-up of music & spoken word guests – $10 cover

Studio BLR punk rock production of A Streetcar Named Desire – The House Show – Sept 19 – Oct 5 @ 8:00 p.m. – show starts in Dragon Alley at the northwest corner of College/Dufferin

Alumnae Theatre production of The Underpants – Sept 20 – Oct 5 on the Alumnae Theatre main stage

Anglewalk Theatre production of tick, tick… BOOM! – Sept 21 – Oct 6 @ Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio

The Beautiful & the Damned – Thurs, Sept 26 @ 7:00 p.m. @ The Central, hosted by Duncan Armstrong, and featuring Heather Babcock, Brock Hessel & Nelson Sobral

Matt Gerber CD release – Sat, Sept 28 @ Tranzac, doors @ 7:00 p.m. – $15 cover

Look out for Big Name Actors and I Hate Todd as the play various dates and venues around the city.

So long, Q Space

I had the pleasure of attending two arts events at Q Space last week: The Beautiful & the Damned (TB&TD) on Thursday night and Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LV Cabaret Noir) on Sunday; check out Duncan Armstrong’s TOpoet blog posts of these recent editions of TB&TD and LV Cabaret Noir. Both events showcase local performing and literary artists, and provide opportunities for established and emerging artists to get up in front of an audience for open mic segments. It was the last time that both events would take place in the intimate storefront space. Q Space will be closing at the end of the month.

In addition to being the home of Quattro Books publishers, a gallery, book shop and licensed café, Q Space has hosted numerous poetry/spoken word events (including the weekly Art Bar poetry series and various poetry slam events) and workshops (the monthly Renaissance Revival), book launches and visual art exhibits, as well as cabaret shows like TB&TD and LV Cabaret Noir, which present a variety of literary, music and performing artists. Artists, especially those who are starting out, need a supportive space to showcase their work and try out new material in front of an audience, and have the chance to meet and network with other artists. There aren’t a lot of spaces in the city for such opportunities – and Q Space was one of those spaces. And proprietor Luciano Iacobelli, always the congenial host, would even keep the place open late to accommodate an event.

On a personal note, not being in the mood for a birthday party this year, I decided to celebrate my 50th at the June edition of LV Cabaret Noir, which had just launched its monthly program at Q Space in the spring. It was an amazing evening of friends and artistry – and the atmosphere at Q Space had a lot to do with that. Thanks to Luciano and his staff for staying open late for us that night. LV Cabaret Noir will be moving to the main floor of The Central in September and TB&TD are in the process of finding a new space.

So here’s to Q Space. Here’s to Luciano and his staff, and all the folks who organized and attended events there throughout its history. To the café, book shop and gallery. To the Portuguese custard tarts, which for some reason I never bought at the local bakery when I lived in Little Portugal, but enjoyed at Q Space. You will be missed.

You still have a chance to pay Q Space a visit – they’re open till the end of August.

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TB&TD – Brenda Clews performs her last poem of the evening in mask
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TB&TD – Adam Abbas entertains, reading dirty limericks & other works
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TB&TD – Andrea Matchett gives us sweet sounds in her acoustic set
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TB&TD – Duncan Armstrong, in yet another awesome t-shirt, reads a selection of poems
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LV Cabaret Noir – Our lovely hostess with the mostess, Lizzie Violet
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LV Cabaret Noir – Andraya performs one of three sensual & explosive dance/movement pieces
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LV Cabaret Noir – knot rivals recites some powerful words
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LV Cabaret Noir – Tania Joy brings a heart & soulful acoustic set

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir launch @ Q Space – fun, sexy & smart

Writer/poet/horror aficionado/editor Lizzie Violet launched her brand new monthly cabaret – Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir – at Q Space last night. And what a fun, sexy and thought-provoking night it was.

The cabaret premiere included feature performers Mullet the Clown, David Bateman and Kat Leonard, as well as a very talented line-up of open mic folks. Music, comedy, spoken word, poetry, a zombie clown telling stories and performing card tricks – it was a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime, visceral and cerebral, personal and political, as these talented artists took the stage. Q Space is a casual, intimate, welcoming storefront place, with a cool, eclectic and creative group of folks – and it’s the perfect home for the cabaret as friends, fellow artists and neighbourhood peeps gather to support some incredible local talent.

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir will be a monthly event, the second Sunday of the month, and will feature music, vaudeville, comedy, burlesque, poetry and open mic performances. The next cabaret is set for Sunday, April 14 (7 – 10 p.m) – with feature artists author/poet Brandon Pitts, music by Cry Wolf (Jess McAvoy and Nelson Sobral from Melting Pot), and burlesque performer Bella Fox. Come on by, get yourself a beer or a latte – and enjoy.

Because this is Cabaret Noir, I decided to do this batch of pics in black and white.

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Tash Jolly (aka Super Tash) performs some spoken word
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Duncan Armstrong
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Brenda Clews
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Vanessa McGowan performs “On other Chunks” from her book Divine Cockeyed Genius
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Feature performer Mullet the Clown tells us a story
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Host Lizzie Violet reads “Chlamydia is not a Flower!”
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Feature performer Kat Leonard performed 3 new songs, as well as some Depper Love favourites
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Feature performer David Bateman reads some short creative non-fiction
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Philip Cairns
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Norman Allen
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Brandon Pitts
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Feature performers (left – right) Mullet the Clown, David Bateman, Kat Leonard & host Lizzie Violet

Valentine’s Day goes Femme Fatale @ The Beautiful & the Damned

Passion, poetry, music – and fun, sexy and moving times – at Glad Day Bookshop last night during The Beautiful and The Damned Femme Fatale Valentine’s Day edition, hosted by the lovely and talented Lizzie Violet, who also acted as quiz mistress on this month’s dead celeb Gloria Grahame trivia questions. I had a blast, live tweeting the event, along with pics of all the performers.

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blueVenus: Jessica Stuart (guitar & backup vocals) & Andrea de Boer (lead vocals & violin)
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Philip Cairns
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Norman Allen
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Marcie Rogers
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Myna Wallin
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Dianne Moore
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Lucille Barker
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Lizzie Violet
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Kat Leonard
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Duncan Armstrong
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blueVenus’ Andrea de Boer

Feature performers included Josh Smith, Myna Wallin and blueVenus (Andrea de Boer & Jessica Stuart), and there were several excellent open mic artists as well, including Kat Leonard, who got us up on our feet dancing to the One Billion Rising music video on her iPad. Check out the pics from last night’s festivities.

Poets & songwriters & a holiday love-in

Last night was a double pleasure – for the art and for the company. First up was The Beautiful & The Damned (TB&TD) at Glad Day Bookshop, where a gang of my best pals (Liz, Lizzie, Kat, Janis and Kira) and I gathered to catch the first set before continuing our evening’s cultural festivities.

The December edition of TB&TD was Star Wars night, with props to dead celeb Sir Alec Guinness. Host Duncan Armstrong started the evening off with his poem “Guilt,” funny and insightful youthful reminiscences of a father’s jacket and stealing away to the closet – my favourite line “grow much too quickly into adulthood.”

Open mic performers included author/poet Adam Abbas, who read his piece “Excess,” words and rhymes tripping from the page and out of his mouth with Dr. Seuss-like playfulness. Singer/songwriter Kat Leonard treated us to a new song, a fun – and decidedly dirty, but in a good way – ode to Santa and his big, bulging sack. Duncan followed this up with his own raunchy ode to holiday time, with his poem “Santa Daddy” – a fun and sexy romp.

Feature performer Melissa Benner finished off the first set, reading a selection of her poems. “Small Town Straight,” a place where gays are beat up or forced into covert ops disguise, and later dream of throwing a Pride parade before setting the town alight in flaming retribution. Then the love poems: “Tom Boy,” a beautiful love poem to a boyish woman, a woman she was and now loves, and “Bloodstream,” about a boy she once loved, attraction starting innocently with a date in a church and coming to a boiling point, senses coming alive with touch. “Letter to My First Love” is a love poem to the farm landscape of family and childhood – which Benner said she read to the fields one day – the heartache of a love lost, of a place that will never be the same. Moving on to the loss of a loved one, the wife of a dear friend – chosen family – caring and healing with food in “Cooking.” And, lastly “Call For Beauty,” an ode to the love of words, sparked by a Leonard Cohen haiku – touching off memories, words painting the landscape of a beloved place, again the farm, and “one white lawn chair sits regal in the middle” of a field. Benner has a lovely, lyrical way with words – sensuous, romantic, evocative and sexy – and delivers them with genuine emotion, humour and love of her subject.

The next edition of The Beautiful and The Damned will be on Thursday, January 10 – with host Philip Cairns.

Then, Lizzie, Kat, Janis and I walked to the Free Times Café for a night of music with the Songwriters Circle of Jerks. This was their third event, and the Jerks are Nelson Sobral (Melting Pot), Hugh Wilson and Nick Verona (Big Name Actors), and David Hustler (David Hustler and The Trustworthy).

Four guys. Four acoustic guitars. Four mics. One set of antlers. One Star of David. This edition of Jerks had a whimsical, holiday feel to it – and there were Santa jars of candy on every table. The guys started with an amazing round robin set – from Sobral’s blues-infused rock, with growling vocals and driving guitar, to Wilson’s soft rock ballad with smooth vocals countering the forceful chords on a Big Name Actors original tune, Verona (the “awkward” one) serving up powerful sounds on a rock-driven ballad with his 12-string that’s got two strings missing, and Hustler’s melodious and funny-‘cuz-it’s-true “Six Pints In.” I think the holiday song round was my favourite, though, partly because the guys donned holiday headgear and also for the new twists well-known Christmas songs: Sobral’s “Jingle Bell Rock” and Hustler’s “We Three Kings” rawked out, while Wilson’s “Christmas Time is Here” (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) was melancholy and bluesy, and Verona’s “White Christmas” started quiet in the lower register, shifting into a more longing and earnest sound in the higher register.

Guest performers Red Falcon White Lightning gave us an all-original set, with acoustic guitar and bass, featuring some driving rhythms and sweet harmonies, all with a roots/power/pop rock flavour. Brought Blue Rodeo to mind, actually. And I loved the double-barreled harp tune.

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Duncan Armstrong
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Melissa Benner
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Nelson Sobral
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David Hustler
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Red Falcon White Lightning
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Adam Abbas
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Kat Leonard
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Nelson Sobral, Hugh Wilson, Nick Verona with David Hustler in the foreground

The next Songwriters Circle of Jerks event is Thursday, January 3, when the guys will be covering each other’s songs. And get ready for the boys breaking hearts and stealing your girlfriend in February. All in the back room at Free Times Café.

Big, big fun and a whole lotta love.