Reading Aloud

SXSW 97 Spoken Word Showcases

No it's not 1994, when Lollapalooza and MTV jumped all over spoken word, but there's newfound hope for spoken word artists to be heard. The recent emergence of the Mouth Almighty label, a poetry record label affiliated with Mercury, and the continued presence of small presses who support spoken word, like San Francisco-based Manic D and Los Angeles-based (and Henry Rollins-owned) 2.13.61, show that not everybody considers live poetry a trend that went the way of Toad the Wet Sprocket and hating George Bush.

When Mike Henry established this year's spoken word lineup, which will be unveiled for the second year in a row at Mojo's Daily Grind (2714 Guadalupe), he looked for "more small press involvement, for those are the people actually publishing spoken word artists." Henry also relied on his links to the slam poetry world to find artists comfortable delivering poems from the stage, consistent with last year's showcase, but even more so -- this year's group is larger and more diverse.

"The idea was just to get as many good people as possible," Henry said. "These are people I've come in contact with that I feel are amazing and think other people need to see. Hopefully, this will be a vehicle for that."


GLOSSO BABEL: This Austin-based spoken word band has been drawing all sorts of raves in the past year. From their inception, it was clear that the mix of John Cutaia's impassioned delivery and the band's thick layers of instrumentation had potential. Now, it's been sharpened and tested over the course of numerous gigs. (8pm)

TAMMY GOMEZ CON LA PALABRA: Political, sensual, sincere, righteous, tenacious -- there's not only a shortage of words to describe Tammy Gomez, there's a shortage of ways to describe her, for she is arguably the most multi-faceted poet in town. Her spoken word band builds on Gomez's inborn musicality, and places her inherently challenging work into another level of intrigue. (9pm)

SXSW POETRY SLAM: Curious about the strange poetry animal called slam? Consider this exhibition a tutorial, for this year's lineup boasts some of the most accomplished slam poets in the nation. Individual finalists, team competition finalists, poets who parlayed their performance skills into book and record deals... they'll all be here. Hosted by Austin Slammistress Genevieve Van Cleve, who has transformed Austin's long-running Electric Lounge slam into a fast-moving show full of witty banter which she calls "the Good Ship Genevieve." (10pm)


Hosted by GENEVIEVE VAN CLEVE: The Good Ship Genevieve stays at Port Mojo for another night.

OPEN MIKE: There's usually a gem to be found at any open mike, sometimes from the person you least expect. Those poets who want to be part of SXSW just need completed works, respect for the time limit, and the guts to get on stage. (8pm)

ALTON DULANEY: A founding member of Austin's innovative and slightly nuts Performance Art Church (PeACh), Dulaney is easily one of the most unpredictable and fun artists in the troupe. Will he sing? Will he tell an incisive story with a punchline that sneaks up slowly? Will he dress up like a priest and strip down to a fake naked body suit with brown wool pubic hair? Your guess is as good as ours. (9 pm)

ED WARD: As one of the pioneering editors for Rolling Stone and Creem, Ward helped shape rock journalism, giving a home to Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau. As a former Statesman critic and longtime Chronicle writer, Ward helped shape local pop culture. Now writing and teaching in Berlin, Germany, Ward still keeps the Chronicle connection alive with the occasional dispatch. (9:15pm)

JESSE SUBLETT: Remember the Skunks? If you lived here in the late Seventies or early Eighties, you might know Sublett as one of the driving forces behind that band. And the Jesse Sublett who's written and published a recent string of mystery novels? Writes for the Chronicle? Lived in Los Angeles? It's all the same guy, who has managed to merge his dual loves of writing and music with more intersections than you might expect. (9:30pm)

CHRIS CHANDLER: The Artist Also Known as Stark Raving Chandler has lived a "Have truck, dog, and guitar, will travel" ethos for the last few years, dedicatedly logging mile after mile to bring audiences his visions of the United States of Generica. Chandler is well-known to Austin poetry audiences, frequently bringing his show in from his native Georgia, sometimes by complete surprise. (10pm)

DON BAJEMA: Like occasional touring partner Jim Carroll, Bajema was once a gifted athlete whose promise of professional glory was sidetracked when he started running with "the wrong crowd." Yet the wrong crowd indirectly led him, like Carroll, to find a distinctive writing voice and make the shift from athletics to poetics. The result, in this case, is a pair of novels (through Henry Rollins' 2.13.61 publishing arm) full of trenchant observation and compelling prose. (10:45pm)

ADAM PARFREY: Pegged as "Mr. Apocalypse Culture," Parfrey is adding and adding to a legacy of strange observations and intriguing affiliations. Parfrey is the founder of the Portland-based Feral House, a publishing house where you'll find deep analyses of serial killers, supermarket tabloids, and the "American psychic dictatorship." And that only begins to explain the story of this multi-faceted, counter-cultural hero. (11:30pm)


Hosted by the AUSTIN POETRY ENSEMBLE: The Artists Colloquially Known as APE, like Friendly Fire, the Blue Plate Poets, and the Slack Panther Poets before them, formed when active local poets became fans of each others' work and thought to band together. Young, active, and energetic, this six-member collective takes slam and academic poetry rules, puts them in a blender, and serves it up in a fresh, cold, and potent concoction.

ALBUQUERQUE POETRY ENSEMBLE: Insuring that Mojo's will be transformed into a Planet of the APEs, this newly-formed New Mexico group of poetry primates will premiere in the Lone Star State. Ex-Austinite Danny Solis, member of and whip-cracking force behind last year's accolade-winning Austin Poetry Slam Team, has brought his method to five up-and-coming slam poets, and the method shows. The ensemble's disciplined, well-crafted group pieces and individual gems are polished, solid, and precisely tuned. (8pm)

JULIETTE TORREZ: Torrez is a sly and disarming poet who also happens to be one of the best poetry organizers in the country, judging from her last two years in charge of the superlative Albuquerque Poetry Festival. Her soothing voice and smiling delivery is the perfect foil to the dagger-sharp edge of her gritty and deceptively simple texts. (8:45pm)

MARION WINIK: With an ongoing gig as a National Public Radio commentator, it's obvious that Winik knows how to read her work, but until you see it live, it's hard to fully understand just how perfectly matched her smart, deadpan delivery is to her brutally honest work. Typically drawing from a wealth of atypical personal experiences, Winik is truly living her art, and documenting it in a way that gives it resonance and relevance as well as a growing national reputation. (9pm)

JEFF MEYERS: There's something about wet Pacific Northwest weather that brings out the driest wit in writers, and Portland poet Jeff Meyers is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Meyers is a veteran of the National Poetry Slam scene; he ran last year's event almost single-handedly, winning the rights by showing a hot and suffering group of gathered slammers in Ann Arbor a USA Today weather map with cool greens ringing his city. That knack for humor -- and anticipating the needs of his audience -- carries over to his work. (9:30pm)

DJ RENEGADE: Hailing from Washington, DC, Renegade is one of the most brilliant slam poets in the nation, having barely been edged out in the individual finals at Nationals the past two years. Whether celebrating his jazz musician heroes or testifying about his people and his neighborhoods, he mixes immaculately crafted words with a dynamic performance style to create poetry which is both righteous and magical. (10pm)

MANIC D PRESS SHOWCASE (Hosted by Jen Joseph, featuring Beth Lisick, Justin Chin, Jeff McDaniel, and David Jewell): Manic D founder Jen Joseph has found, time after time, gifted poets who can read their work as well as write it. Lisick and Chin, the proud parents of new books, are veterans of the San Francisco slam scene who share a combustible energy and a knack for biting commentary. McDaniel, formerly of Washington DC, has been found anywhere from slam stages to the Best American Poetry anthology, and is the master of the couplet-length riposte. Local favorite Jewell rounds out the quartet with his brilliant and brilliantly understated style. (10:30pm)

WAMMO: At last year's showcase, Wammo stepped up to the plate, swung for the fences, and hit the biggest home run of his life. After the show, A&R reps in the audience set wheels in motion, and this year, Wammo returns as Mouth Almighty/Mercury recording artist Wammo, bringing the innate comic timing and gift for anecdote that Austin audiences have come to know and either love or, at least, grudgingly acknowledge. (11:30pm)

SHAPPY SEASHOLZ: Sure he looks mild-mannered, but when he dons his "action jacket," Chicago's most extroverted power nerd is an entertainment machine. His innate comic timing and complete lack of shame make his performance completely unpredictable and entirely compelling. (12:30am)

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