WordXWord So Far… snippets from Pittsfield’s fastest-growing arts festival

Photos by Joe Durwin & Sara Clement

A resilient crowd of 50 or 60 people braved the rooftop of North Street’s Greystone building Saturday night for the now traditional high-altitude opening party… a mostly familiar tapestry of local poets, artists, socialites, business owners, young professionals… a thinner crowd than in fair-weather past years, largely comprised of true WxW devotees.  Lots of others who, like myself, have fully and apologetically drunk the kool-aid of Benson & co’s Wordy festival madness and are along for the ride prettymuch wherever it takes us… sprinkled only very lightly with a few local Creative Economists whose job it is to be at such things.

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I missed out on Sunday’s Head-to-Head Haiku events, though local author and poet Gabriel Squailia described a rousing competition at Y Bar that kept him up long after and late into the night thinking about it.

Monday’s Page & Stage was an unexpectedly action-packed delight: Part 1 at Gallery 25 a boisterous bounce through Dr. Seuss, Kerouac and Bukowski full of sex, whiskey drinking, cats with kites and spontaneous pedestrian passerby participation; Part 2 at Y Bar a slightly more contemplative journey through Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, and original tale-telling by a family theatre troupe of four.

This I washed down with a couple of Blue Moons at the Lantern, to the haunting, yearning poetics and stirring vocals of Mieka Pauley, a songwriting treasure who performed at the first Word X Word festival four years ago.  Pauley seemed so natural and comfortable in this intimate gig at the small but acoustically fertile environs of The Lantern that you wouldn’t have guessed that she’d just come from opening for Lyle Lovett the day before.  Pauley charmed the crowd flocked there to see her, including one Vermont fan who’d first heard her play Bates College and drove down to Pittsfield to see her, and left all breathless with a flood of gorgeous sound as she crooned a set of enchanting originals and a couple well-chosen covers.

At the end of her set, it was back to Y Bar, which this week doubles as the WxW Writers Lounge, for a quick sip and yet another sighting of Squailia, aka DJ BFG, who is spinning a different flavor of crowd-pleasers each night  for a complete week of after parties following the wordy festivities.

The lineup continues tonight with a repeat of Page & Stage starting at 6, PechaKucha presentations at the Berkshire Museum at 7, “Some Good, Some Bad and Some Ugly” at the Bra & Girl store at 8, John Brodeur at The Lantern and Open Mic Allstars at Mission at 9, with more after-partying at Y Bar to follow…

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