Monday, February 6, 2012

Split Infinitives - Shadow Puppets and Marching Band Masquerades - Feb 11

This Saturday, Detroit's notorious Party Marching Band will curate their own Mardis Gras in Corktown (cramming, with all their cacophonous glory, into PJ's Lager House, 2/11)...

Scan the freep this week for a, (hopefully), printed-out feature and brief interview with one of the group's co-founders, John Notarianni (a Q&A, I'll disclose, conducted over fancy, syrup-swirled tequila and magnificently mean gin-concoctions, from his day job at the Sugar House).

I first "met" the DPMB when they burst their way into the Belmont, during one of the nights of the Metro Times Blowout, 2010... Somehow, I became swept up in their mad, punk-brass riffing clamor, and began traipsing slowly behind them - as they, decked in their Craigs-list-catered uniforms (a present from a Tri-Cities IO high school) emblazened with gold olde English D's, trounced in, blurted, blared and musically-inhabited venue-after-venue-after-venue.

That's their thing - communicating the power of spontaneous music. More on that later...

What you need to know is: their Mardis Gras celebration involves a range of performers who embrace similarly provocative approaches to live performance - each on their own mission to shake things up for what traditional audiences might traditionally expect from a traditional ol' music bar...

One of them includes Ypsi/Arbor area conceptual performance artist Patrick Elkins - a blender of music and shadow puppetry whose written, assembled and performed a series of original shows as well as been integral in organizing that area's Totally Awesome Fest.

DPMB has played the Totally Awesome Fest in the past (this coming March effectively marks the 30+-member crew's third year anniversary) and Elkins took reverent note of their ability to conjure "amazing party vibrations." When DPMB co-founder/trumpeter John Notarianni asked Elkins to bring his quirky hybrid of surrealist puppetry and music to the Mardis Gras party, it was an instant yes. Making it even easier to say yes was that the line-up included Elkins' comrade (and former touring partner) Charlie Slick (with his funk-flared backing group Thunda Clap).

Elkins, noted not just for his songwriting (currently playing in Ypsi's Rainbow Vomit Family Band), but also for his creative puppet-characters and dark, dreamy, dazzling productions (some of which have gone on for 24-hours at a time), said that, for him, events that combine various mediums (DPMB's Mardis Gras will also have a fortune teller and burlesque) -have always appealed to him because they offer audiences the opportunity to experience things they don't normally get to see every day.

"I find," he said, "that audiences (and performers) seem to be more engaged throughout the event when they aren't watching the same type of performance the entire time. I think that variety and mystery are important elements in offering engaging public events...."

There's that, but also, Elkins said, "I tend to get bored with doing the same thing for too long. I'm always seeking out new spaces to perform in and ways to challenge myself through performance (i.e. such as the 24-hour puppet shows, organizing free all-ages events like the Totally Awesome Fest, Greyhound bus tours, etc.)..."

Elkins been in Michigan for most of his life, but he spent some of the early 00's in Olympia WA, and then, later, 10 months in Indonesia, both experiences having drastically impacted the way he thinks about live performance. Olympia brought him into contact with active artists organizing secret cafe shows, house shows and/or D.I.Y. benefits, while in Indonesia, he met native incredible native puppeteers, musicians and dancers ("as well as performance artists from all over the world who were there studying or conducting research in their respective fields..." all of whom "really broadened my ideas about the possibilities for creative expression and performance." He also, while there, wound up creating a form of puppetry.

Those two odysses, combined with his experience in Michigan's art scene and traveling the U.S., have informed his current fascination with shadow puppets. It also communicated "the potential for my participation with this medium. My goal with performing live, regardless of medium, is to offer people a unique and entertaining show that they won't experience anywhere else from anyone...."

"As I am interested in stimulating, entertaining, and engaging people, it always seemed like a safer bet to err on the side of the outrageous rather than the mundane when it comes to performing live." In this regard, he finds many, many brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, via the DPMB.

Elkins will be presenting a piece called "Split Infinitive(s)... an outer space/graveyard/ocean-themed story about a monster and a wandering star..."

Elkins recently toured the final chapter/installation of his puppetry/musical narrative exploration "Patrick's Weird Beard Goes Wandering," aided by puppeteer/voice actor/recording engineer Jason Voss. In the meantime, he's been preparing a new shadow puppet show: "Escape from the Return of the Night of Disappearing Pants", to be recorded for a forthcoming VHS-release.

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