Awesome Shit Showcase, Part I

Image courtesy of David Bukach Photography

The train that is the Victoria Spoken Word Festival rolled into the Intrepid Theatre Club last night for the “Awesome Shit Showcase”.  While the name does call into mind a travelling museum displaying the many and varied wonders which may result from a high-fiber diet, it was actually a two-hour display of artistic ability by some of Canada’s most talented spoken word artists.  For the curious, the name is a tribute to the Awesome Shit Club, one of the VSWF sponsors.

Crammed into the dark and airless environs of the Intrepid Theatre Club I was uncomfortable in the extreme but eager to see the performances to come.  As a stranger to this scene and one deeply suspicious of artists, I had nearly fled Thursday’s “Tongues of Fire” event in terror after learning that the average performance was going to last five minutes.

That attitude changed as the artists took the stage – I found myself engaged, sometimes engrossed, and tonight I was pleased to hear that the Awe Shit Show would allot a full ten minutes to each performer.

The additional time allowed the poets more freedom to explore their themes and that, in turn, allowed their personalities to emerge more than they had the previous night; some artists who I at first saw as one-dimensional became far more complex.

Ryefield Ford, whose work I had failed to connect with the previous night, drew me in with his dialogue between a man and his personal demons.  I don’t pretend to understand everything that he gets up to on-stage but I admire his fearlessness and ability to draw laughs, seemingly without trying.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rhythmic performance of a Vancouver-based artist whose name I am probably about to misspell:  Jai’Aquarian.  I have seen his name written several ways, including Jai’quarian and JAIAquarian, so the only thing I am sure of is that he is not Jamiroquai.  However you spell his name, he is a talented artist who challenged the audience to move and his unflinching piece about an estranged son quieted the room.

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More Tongue – Tongues of Fire, Part II

Chris Gilpin, image courtesy of David Bukach Photography

Newbie poet Scott Thompson was one of the evening’s highlights – his charmingly frantic style had all the mad joy of a child with a new toy.  He bravely admitted to being a reformed “World of Warcraft” fan (the first step is admitting you have a problem) and his breathless enthusiasm for his newfound talents was infectious.

Another favorite was the performance by Ottawa artist Prufrock, who paid tribute to Black History Month and oft-forgotten black pioneers like Garrett Morgan and Colchester, Ontario native Elijah McCoy.

Calgary’s Andre Prefontaine rounded out the first half of the evening with a savage thrashing of Satan’s newest finger puppet, Justin Bieber.  Though it might seem like shooting tuna in a barrel, Prefontaine gleefully put the boots to the little prince in spectacular fashion.  I am speaking figuratively, of course, but from the gleam in Andre’s eye as he hurled invective I should think that if he were to actually meet young Bieber he would murder the kid so hard he’d disappear from family photographs.  Not a jury would convict him, and Prefontaine would then walk away whistling “Spanish Harlem” and looking forward to his next Cosmo.

After intermission, featured artist Chris Gilpin cracked everyone up with material old and new.  Starting out with pieces that reflected what he called his “grumpy year”, Gilpin effortlessly worked through a set that had not only big laughs but some searing insights as well – “The Manbaby” was an instant classic.  A few of the bits failed to generate a substantial response (a bit using a voice-altering megaphone left me cold) but even after extending his set with two obviously much-loved bits, “Sasquatch” and another dedicated to T. Boone Pickens, the audience would gladly have sat for more.

I am learning that poetry readings are the intellectual equivalent of  a Gallagher show, except instead of ruined watermelon you’re ducking sexual innuendo and the kind of angst that comes from spending too much time alone with your thoughts.  Nonetheless I was entertained and every so often, moved by some of the performances last night.

The Victoria Spoken Word Festival is a rare treat, Victoria.  You owe it to yourself to come check out tonight’s event, the Awesome Shit Showcase, at the Intrepid Theatre, 1609 Blanshard Street.  Start time is 8pm and tickets are $10 at the door.

See you there,


Brennan Storr also writes the blog Largely the Truth

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Tongues of Fire, Part I

Image courtesy of David Bukach Photography.

After an Arctic walk worthy of  Sir Ranulph Fiennes, I arrived at Cafe Solstice. There was already a crowd and it was only with the help of sharp eyes and sharper elbows that I managed to secure a seat amidst an ocean of fashionably outrageous hats.  In many ways that is how I imagine Hell: stifling, crowded and with a lack of adequate seating.

I am a cautious fan of poetry so, when someone to my left started talking about each of the evening’s poems being between five and ten minutes long, I confess that my blood ran cold. In the right hands, five minutes can feel like an ecstatic instant. In the wrong hands, they are a cruel century –  imagine riding a Greyhound bus with only an insurance salesman for company.

The first half of the program was devoted to the artists who had come for the spoken word festival.  The audience was enthusiastic, cheering for every performer, even when the piece offered was less than exciting.

Vancouver artist Shannon Rayne‘s performance of pieces from her project Coffee Stained Poetry – poetic snapshots of life as seen in and around the coffee shops of Vancouver – was one of the first to pique my interest.

“Sundress” by Victora’s Megan Ann Ward was another standout, with its raw emotion and themes of love, loss, sex and something about planting trees in a motel made out of backpacks.  I may have got that last bit wrong.

The piece by Ryefield Ford, which is the name of a poet and not an automobile dealership in eastern Europe, baffled me but the audience roared with laughter so I will assume that he is doing something right.

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The Big Night / In Fact It’s Cold as Hell

Making lemonade

The Victoria Spoken Word Festival opens tonight as we settle in for a second evening of what passes for dark, brittle cold here in the city.  One hour from now, at 7:30pm, some of Canada’s finest spoken word artists, including Vancouver’s Chris Gilpin will get up on stage and shake their literary moneymakers.

The wind may be howling outside, but don’t let that deter you – the spirits of Amundson, Scott and Shackleton will keep watch as we all make our way to Cafe Solstice, 529 Pandora Street. Tickets are $5 at the door.

And away we go…


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Mood Lighting & Revelations

Go away, you furry homonculus

Strategically placed lights are the beer goggles of the art world

Participants, organizers, the cook, the thief, his wife and her lover all turned out to restaurant/nightclub The Mint last night for the Victoria Spoken Word Festival’s opening bash. Old friends caught up on each other’s lives while total strangers stared balefully at one another from the corners of the room and sipped cocktails that glowed fluorescent under the Mint’s subdued lighting.

In the awkward first moments of the evening I pressed a poet on the difference between Spoken Word and Performance Poetry. After an initial look of incredulity, as though I had asked in which direction I would find the ground, it was explained that Spoken Word was less florid and more emotional, sometimes resembling hip-hop in form. Performance Poetry tended to be more structured and involved the use of poetic devices I would have learned if I’d spent less time sleeping in school.

Later on I met Tyler, a member of the Awesome Shit Club, a kind of grassroots Dragon Den. The idea behind ASC is that every two months a group of 10-20 “Awesomites” put in $50 apiece and then hear pitches from various offbeat projects. The Awesomites then vote on which applicant will get the grant. Spoken Word Festival organizer Missie Peters, who I learned last night is the only living person able to wear suspenders without looking like a Depression-era street fighter, pitched the festival to the Awesomites at their inaugural meeting last September and came away as their first winner.

You may not know that Benjamin Franklin is an immortal, living among us as comedian Brian Posehn but you are surely aware of his torrid affair with rapper Puff Daddy and that he coined the phrase, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Obviously Old Ben hadn’t been to many parties, because with when you introduce alcohol to a situation a number of other certainties are produced: People will relax -some will become much funnier and some will only think they have.

As the evening hit that stage the strangers came out of their corners and all around I could hear snatches of conversation, some of it amusing (“I’m originally from north Ontario. That Blackfly song? All true”), some of it inexplicable (“I am totally hairless”) and some of it about what you would expect from poets (“Everything you love will one day leave you”).

The festival opens tonight at 7:30pm with Tongues of Fire at Solstice Cafe, 529 Pandora Street. Entry is only $5, so join us as we brave the ice and cold so that the sorrowful, fly-bitten and hairless may open their hearts and broaden our minds.

I’ll see you there.


Brennan Storr writes the lifestyle blog Largely the Truth

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The Festival is Almost Upon Us

In the beginning man crawled forth from this primordial ooze, helpfully remembering to take a picture as he went. Soon afterward he devised poetry as a way to pass the time until someone figured out television.

Hello, Victoria.

You may have noticed that today snow fell all across the GVRD and that can only mean one thing – the absolute end of the world is upon us.  Not to worry, if the Great and Final Show is anywhere near as long-winded as most of the people who enjoy talking about it then we’ve got plenty of time to go out in style.

This weekend marks the very first Victoria Spoken Word Festival, organized by Not Your Grandma’s Poetry, a local spoken word not-for-profit production company.  Comprising three events over three nights, from February 24 to February 26, the festival will feature 12 of Canada’s best spoken word artists working the only kind of oral magic publicly acceptable outside of select venues in Bangkok.

First up is Thursday night’s Tongues of Fire at the Solstice Cafe, 529 Pandora Street. Starting at 7:30pm the visiting poets will weave their spell, with the centerpiece of the evening being a performance from Vancouver’s Chris Gilpin, a man who, according to his website, “has a ten gigabyte penis”.  Tickets are $5 at the door.

Friday‘s entertainment is the Awesome Shit Showcase, which gets my vote as best alternate name for The Price is Right.  Check it out and see some of the country’s finest performers cut loose and blow your mascara off with unchecked emotion.  Laugh.  Cry.  Bring a change of trousers.  8pm, Intrepid Theatre Club, 1609 Blanshard.  Hosted by local comedian/poet/storyteller/masked crimefighter Dave Morris.  Tickets are $10 at the door.

Finally, on Saturday, see it all come together in a perfect storm of wit, pathos and seat-of-your pants improvisation as the poets perform a show composed by the group that very day.  The evening  will be opened by the festival’s Poet of Honour, R.C. Weslowski and hosted by Victoria Slam Master (a title which I was disappointed to learn has nothing to do with professional wrestling) and snappy dresser Missie Peters.  Tickets are $10 at the door.

CFUV will be on hand to take in the proceedings and record the experience, so remember to keep checking back!


Brennan Storr writes the restaurant review/lifestyle blog Largely the Truth.

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Victoria’s First Ever Spoken Word Festival!

CFUV is happy to be a part of the inaugural edition of the Victoria Spoken Word Festival.  Our fair city is the home and setting of many kinds of great art, and it’s nice to see spoken word poetry now getting its due recognition.

CFUV’s Brennan Storr will be in attendance bringing you regular updates and reviews right here, so check back soon.

The festival runs from Thursday February 24th through to Saturday February 26th, so check out the schedule and get ready!

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