By Daniel Burnett
– The Capitol Hill Times -
A traveling festival featuring musicians, poets, artists and comedians has been moving across the Pacific Northwest over the last week. The festival’s final destination is Seattle, where back-to-back shows will be held at the Comet Tavern and the Rat and Raven on April 28 and 29. Artist, publisher and filmmaker Shane Bugbee created and organized WTF fest from the ground up.
“I want [to create] understanding; understanding amongst us, our performers, our generational creative class… I would like to inspire people to do more than talk, maybe create artwork… There’s a creative class that has been gathered, or artists let’s say and between them there’s this generation gap and if we can bridge that generation gap then we could actually evolve conversation and possible not keep repeating the same mistakes.” Bugbee said.
A collection of 13 bands and 6 writers and artists of varying backgrounds and ages will take to the stage over the festival’s two day stop in Seattle. The eclectic bill will feature rock and metal performances (Mother’s Anger, Terminal Fuzz Terror), smooth Jazz and Blues (Duke Ballsworthy and the Damn Shame, Simon Henneman Quartet) and improvisational experimentation (Sue Ann Harkey, Geist & The Sacred Ensemble, HYMEN).
The bands were booked by the joint efforts of the Monktail Creative Music Concern, Bad for Jazz and Mama Casserole (booker for the Comet Tavern and the Rat and Raven).
“Seattle is the show that we’re really excited about because the person who booked the venue, Mama, actually understands what’s happening here… she knows all about it, she’s done her research. I’ve listened to the bands that she’s put on this show and they’re just incredible musicians; I mean we’re just blown away.” Bugbee said.
One of the most notable additions to WTF fest’s line-up is the inclusion of beat poet, political stalwart and founder of the White Panthers, John Sinclair. The outspoken activist first became known for creating the Trans-Love Energies Unlimited communal in 1967 and became a feature of national discourse when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling two marijuana joints to an uncover police officer in 1969.
A “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” was held in 1971, which featured iconic musicians and poets including John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg and David Dellinger. Sinclair was released a few days later and became a symbol of hope and an embodiment of successful political action.
“When I was interviewing John I really wanted him to tell me to get violent. I was so angry last election cycle. I wanted him to tell me and give me some plan of revolution. He was just like ‘Dude, our politics were just having free concerts. We just wanted to make art and be left alone and be free to do this stuff.’ I think that’s the way to go, that’s a part of why this is happening.” Bugbee said, referring to the ideology of living in one’s desired social and political environment, rather than continually fighting for it.
“I would like my friends to hear this and get it so they don’t struggle until they’re 60 to say ‘I finally figured it out, it’s about having fun, it’s about trying to have as much in your life as possible and not cling to misery, or fake politics.’” Bugbee said.
Hardened poet and commercial fisherman Dave Densmore will provide his own grizzled perspectives on life’s trials, values and the current socio-political climate. The venerated writer has been featured in major publications and has been likened to fellow tough guy writers Charles Bukowski and Henry Rollins.
WTF Fest’s premiere show occurred April 22 in Eugene Oregon, which granted a sample of what we could expect in Seattle. According to Bugbee there are no pre-written speeches and he mentioned that Densmore spends two hours seeing the performers and the crowd before deciding what he will read.
“Sinclair had an anarchy vide about him…Densmore says you cannot just have anarchy you have to have balance, so it was beautiful they were just hashing out ideas on stage.” Bugbee said.
Bugbee himself values authentic creation from a very personal standpoint and has a firm distaste for sellouts. His life has been fashioned around the production of intellectual expressionism and controversial bluntness. His first public foray in the creative world happened when he started an underground zine at just 16 years old; however his thirst for art began a long time before that.
“I come from a bad place, I come from a place where my dad drank all the time and beat on us… and I was always creative and I always did artwork even when my parents didn’t want me to. They would tell me that it was wrong. I got in trouble for making artwork. I always thought that if my dad did some artwork, or did something creatively, he wouldn’t be such an asshole – ‘cus I thought he had a heart somewhere.” Bugbee said.
Shane Bugbee and his wife Amy Bugbee, a writer, photographer, will be producing a book and film in June titled “The Suffering And Celebration Of Life In America.” Amy is also working on a cookbook with 101 vanilla recipes. The busy couple have become people of repute in the underground world and continually gain interest as their passions fuel inspired projects.
“We all have different outlets. It’s all about really figuring out where you’re creative… even creative solutions to problems, just [shows] thinking creatively.” Bugbee said.
The entry charge for WTF Fest is on a pay what you can afford sliding scale, with $10 being the expected amount. Bugbee urges those that attend to pay a respectable cover in consideration of the performers and the event itself.