Powhaus does Warhol's Factory
A two-part event at Rialto celebrates real king of Pop
Act One: VU revisited
When the Tucson Museum of Art approached the Rialto Theatre wanting to celebrate the arrival of their traveling Warhol exhibition, "Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life and Legends," they knew where to turn to plan the party.
Powhaus Productions co-founder Clif Taylor is a longtime scholar of Warhol's projects. He speaks as easily about the personalities constellating around the Factory as he does about Warhol's artistic endeavors.
But what Taylor knows best is The Velvet Underground, and the role pop music played in the worldwide dissemination of what was initially a New York movement:
"The reason we know about these characters is that [VU frontman and songwriter] Lou Reed wrote about them. Andy knew that he could reach a lot of people through pop music. His genius lay in getting Lou Reed to write these songs."
Reed's role as documentarian of the Factory era was one he, as a poet and a natural observer, was especially suited for, Taylor explains. "Without Lou Reed, you get the glossy pictures and the constructed personality, but you don't get the reality."
Taylor has assembled a fine group of musicians for "The Imploding Silicon Improbable: Andy Warhol tribute featuring Under Velvetground." Lou Reed will be played by several singers, including Stephanie Dickson, Nathan Hendler and Taylor himself; the Nico parts will be shared by Dickson and Paula Taylor.
Rounding out the Under Velvetground experience are keyboardist Monte Workman, guitarist and looper Jeff Bursey and drummer Tasha Sabatino. Sabatino has a particular link to The Velvet Underground's drummer, Mo Tucker; Tucker lived in Tucson in the 80s and taught Tasha to play drums in junior high.
Taylor acknowledged early on that the performance could be some kind of cheesy tribute band experience for the audience. He deliberately made the choice to opt for "a piss-take on reenactment," a performance that saw these songs as having a definite historicity, but one that could be interrogated in interesting ways.
Hence, the many Nicos and Lous, and the lack of a viola to mimic John Cale's playing, and other changes in arrangement and presentation that are sure to delight.
A special surprise guest appearance by Angela Bowie, performing with Taylor, will round out the first part of the evening.
Interlude: A sample set from Kitty Katt
- Velvet Underground: "Waiting for the Man"
- New York Dolls: "Personality Crisis"
- Blondie: "One Way or Another"
- The Rolling Stones: "19th Nervous Breakdown"
- Love: "My Little Red Book"
Act Two: Powhaus dance party
Hosted by Kitty Katt and Dallas, the dance party begins at 10:30. This is not to say that the art is over at 10; Drew Krewer, who will play Andy Warhol throughout the evening, is the co-founder and director of Powhaus adjunct, the Maximalist Dance Group.
A poet and scholar, Krewer revels in his role as both dancer and actor for Friday's festivities. He is currently editing the Maximalists' manifesto, and stresses the crucial link, both for Warhol and Powhaus, between art and leisure.
"We're extending beyond the party because it's more than just a party. it's a spectacle, it's a performance, and —in a Warholian way — it's art."
Krewer recognizes the debt Powhaus owes Warhol:
"Look at how far Warhol's influence has reached; attending a Powhaus event is like entering a living, breathing art machine that knows how to party and knows how to encourage people to fully express themselves. It's taking that part of yourself that hides, that doesn't fit in your social arena, and taking that out to the 1,000th power. The whole Powhaus event is a safe place for those externalizations to occur."
For Krewer, Maximalism is the inverse of the Minimalist impulse. "Instead of, say, paring down a whole circus to a single child's souvenir fiber-optic magic wand, Maximalism includes the whole experience: clowns, trapeze artists, people contorting their bodies."
Meaning is derived from plurality, and from emphasis. And yes, meaning is derived from partying. Powhaus is dedicated to "blurring the line between art and merriment."
This, too, recalls Warhol. Krewer describes Andy himself as a kind of implied author, a construction that is part of the art itself. "He himself was a performance. Whenever he made a public appearance, he made ridiculous, fabricated statements to discount his work."
Such gestures were part of the work, creating, according to Krewer, a sense that "art is not isolated in the gallery, that it extends not just to pop culture, but to fun. And dance parties."
Therefore, while there will be parts of the evening where Krewer is "playing" Andy, he will still be a part of the Maximalists' mad dance moves.
Perhaps this is more of what Powhaus offers in terms of Factory revision: an Andy who comes down from his remove, who parties, who dances.