Outskirt art 

Zootown Fringe Festival walks the edge with porch shows, parking garages and the future of redheads

It's not so weird that Missoula would start up a Fringe Festival. After all, people in the eastern half of the state have been reminding us of our outcast status since at least the 1960s. What is strange is that we haven't been part of the Fringe Festival network until now67 years after the first Fringe sprung up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and 56 years after it became an emulated event across the world. Missoula's Zootown Fringe Festival had its debut last August with help from organizer Michelle Klinger Risho, but this year it was officially accepted as a recognized Fringe member, which bodes well for its future. For those in the dark, the Fringe Festival is four days (and a handful of pre-festival activities) where music, theater, art, dance, film and other performances fill venues around town in obvious places like theaters and not-so-obvious places like residential porches and parking lots. It's non-juried, so the events are wildly diverse and they cost anywhere between nothing and $12. Here we highlight some of this year's fringiest aspects.


Progressive porches

When you think of summer in Missoula you think of floating the river and barbecues. But don't you also imagine lazily sipping beverages in the shade on some grand old porch? Porchfest indulges that fantasy of whiling away the evening by bringing live music to stoops up and down Fourth Street at private residences with hosts who apparently don't mind strangers hanging out on their property. You'll be able to hear folk, roots rock, kirtan and jazz from 5 to 11 PM as you travel from one porch to another. It's a classic summer activity with a wandering gypsy twist.

Porchfest musicians play Thu., Aug. 14, 5 to 11 PM on Fourth Street West. Free. Visit zootownfringe.org for more details.


Roast, take two

Do you know Abe Abramson? It's likely you do (or he knows you). Maybe you saw him at Burning Man or you know him from the library council or some other nonprofit board. He's a mentor for veterans and a Bob Dylan enthusiast. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Luxembourgish, Letzeburgesch and Ancient Greek. According to Fringe Festival organizers, he describes himself as a "secular humanist" and a "radical centrist Democrat." They describe him as a "mentor to many." We can sum him up as a Missoula character. For all his local celebrity, Fringe organizers decided to have a roast for him last year, but on the day of the event, Abramson fell off his bike and got a concussion, and the event was canceled. This roast, therefore, is a redo, which makes it all the more weird. Let's hope Abramson, in the meantime, takes it easy on the pedals.

Abe Abramson's roast takes place at the Roxy Theater Sat., Aug. 16, from 6 to 7 PM. Free.


Paved paradise

Sometimes we are so narrow-minded about parking garages. All that space and those crazy acoustics and we merely park our cars there? A travesty. A jazz duo and a hip-hop collective will change that depressing fact by playing in the otherwise dull concrete structure of the Central Parking Garage on Main Street. Minneapolis' Cherry Sky, which includes Abhinav, eL.I.Be, T'la Shawn, Rico Polo and Rich Garvey, will perform its groovy, jazz-influenced beats on Thursday evening following a set by "Steve and Dave." Remember how Joni Mitchell sang "paved paradise, put up a parking lot?" She might feel a little bit better knowing that a parking lot doesn't have to be quite so lame.

Jazz duo "Steve & Dave" play the Central Parking Garage Thu., Aug. 14, at 8 PM followed by Cherry Sky at 9 PM. Free.

click to enlarge Zootown Fringe Festival, Missoula, Montana, spokane, exhibit, art, music
  • A Spokane artist collective brings the exhibit Not From Here to the Zootown Fringe Festival.

Spokane invasion

An artist collective from Spokane has created an exhibit called Not from Here that is all about playing with your emotions. Soothing landscape photography mixes in with graphic paintings—one shows a large-assed devil stealing a child from a crib, another has a Ku Klux Klan member juggling. What's interesting about this exhibit is the artists also include phrases and images that speak to what they find offensive—things like Honey Boo Boo, programming on the Learning Channel and taxes and limitations on green living. In other words, ideas and images that often horrify religious and mainstream viewers contrasted with things that should horrify them.

Not From Here opens at The Hive Wed., Aug. 13, through Sat., Aug. 16. Free.


Keys and toys

At first blush, a piano player at an art gallery isn't that surprising. One might even say it's quite conventional. But Steven Ansell's music has been described by festival organizers as a "misinterpretation of Beethoven" and "music for future cartoons," so already we're talking about something off the beaten path. You can catch Ansell at the Brink Gallery twice over the course of Zootown Fringe, but you might also see him down at the public yellow piano on Higgins Avenue by Wordens. His playing is free, but any donations will go toward a good cause. Ansell's 3-year-old son, Benjamin, lost a load of his possessions (toys especially) when they were recently stolen from a bike trailer in a church parking lot. (Yep, we know what you're thinking.) Instead of money you can also bring Lincoln Logs, stuffies or other toys to help.

Steven Ansell plays The Brink Gallery Thu., Aug. 7, from 6 to 7 PM, and Sat., Aug. 16, from 7 to 8 PM. Free.


Red and dead

The old and often hurtful jokes about redheads get a kind of futuristic treatment in creator/performer Jordan Lloyd Watkins's Project Gingervitis. Directed by David Bloom, Watkins takes what appears to be a mildly teased group of people and uses it creatively as yet another example of the harm that a society causes when it marginalizes people. This isn't just a one-man play—it's an hour-long multimedia production that encourages viewers to interact with the ideas using the dramatic, fringe-worthy hashtag #lastofyourkind.

Project Gingervitis will be staged at the Roxy Theater Fri., Aug. 15, at 9 PM, and Sat., Aug. 16, at 5:30 PM and 10. $10/$8 students.

Find the full Zootown Fringe Festival schedule and ticket info at zootownfringe.org.

Updated to change a subhead and an event location on Thu., Aug. 14.

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