Mission Creek Festival has made its first lineup announcement for the eleventh annual event, set for April 5–10, 2016. Festival passes ($135/$350 — see below for details) will go on sale Dec. 11 at noon, online at Midwestix.
The diverse cast is fully as eclectic and delightful as we’ve come to expect from Mission Creek, from the hypnotic noise of Mamiffer to San Fermin’s bold, brash baroque pop, it’s clear we’re in for an aural feast. The literary offerings will also be amped up from previous festivals, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to festival producer The Englert Theatre. Rock critic-turned-novelist Carola Dibbell and Fantagraphics co-founder Gary Groth are exciting elements of that, as well as a first-ever comic book fair.
Mission Creek: Innovation, the festival’s tech and entrepreneurial branch, will also be expanded to include events taking place throughout the week. And, last but certainly not least: DIY fair What a Load of Craft will also make a return to the festival.
Here are some highlights to get you started:
We can’t think of any better way to kick off National Poetry Month than with a show by master slam poet Saul Williams. No one can turn a lyric like this man, but he’s got more than just performance poetry in his bag of tricks. Williams is like a one-man Mission Creek Festival all by himself. In 2015 alone, he starred on Broadway (in Holler If Ya Hear Me, a jukebox musical using the songs and lyrics of Tupac Shakur), released a book (US (a.), a collection of poetry — his first in nine years — published in September) and recorded and toured for his upcoming album Martyr Loser King, which drops … well, soon, we all hope (early online sources placed it in September, but a Dec. 5 tumblr post tantalizingly hints “Getting close…..”).
This last is an elaborate and ambitious concept project, set to include a graphic novel with art by the brilliant Ron Wimberly (Prince of Cats). Look a little further back in his history (or even just at the compelling music videos for Martyr Loser King) and you find Williams’ incredible film work, such as in 1998 Sundance darling Slam — a testament, along with his turn on Broadway, to that MFA in Acting he holds from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Williams is, quite simply, a tidal wave.
There exist in the world a few rare people who can talk about anything. If we’re lucky, they become stand-up comedians. If the stars align just right, they distill their skills and become podcasters. Marc Maron’s patented sarcasm and insight combine twice weekly to treat us to his fantastic interview-style podcast WTF with Marc Maron. His guests are a smorgasbord — Thursday, Dec. 3, the show included Witching Hour alum Brian Posehn; Nov. 30, he spoke to Gloria Steinem. He’s had Elvis Costello, Patricia Arquette, Steve Albini, Barack Obama … the only consistent through-line is their high caliber, against which Maron more than holds his own.
He’s a master of conversation: of being present and being curious. Yet despite his wildly successful podcast (WTF with Marc Maron hovers just shy of the top 20 in the live iTunes rankings), two books and a television series (Maron on IFC, which was just renewed for a fourth season), Maron’s heart lies firmly with his first love: stand-up. On his website, he states, “being a stand-up comic is all I ever wanted to be.”
Kurt Vile and the Violators
The muddled, late-night, smoke-filled vibe of Kurt Vile tunes has lulled us to distraction for the last seven years, since his 2008 solo debut, Constant Hitmaker. His ambling vocals and conscious guitar — both of which have an eerie sound that’s half Arlo Guthrie, half J Mascis — are the perfect complement to his consistently aching, self-reflective lyrics. His backing band, the Violators, have rotated members over the years; the iteration that’s been in place since 2013 features Jesse Trbovich, Rob Laakso and Kyle Spence. Vile and his band will be coming to Mission Creek fresh off an international and domestic tour for his sixth studio album, b’lieve i’m goin down …, released in September and hailed as one of the top albums of the year on countless year-end lists from publications like Spin and Rolling Stone.
While his album is out collecting accolades, Vile has been winding down 2015 collecting performance opportunities: he took the stage with Cyndi Lauper as part of her annual “Home for the Holidays” show at the Beacon on Dec. 5, and two nights earlier joined Kim Gordon and Eleanor Friedberger on the list of special guests sitting in for the first night of Dinosaur Jr.’s string of gigs at the Bowery (celebrating 30 years since their debut album). Kurt Vile and the Violators are returning to Mission Creek this year, having performed before at the 2011 festival.
This year has been an eventful one for cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Her breakout 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home, recently made its way to Broadway, where it won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Fun Home landed in the spotlight for other reasons in 2015 too, as several freshmen at Duke University spoke out about their refusal to read the book when it was assigned for the school’s Common Experience Summer Reading program and a student at Crafton Hills College in California raised objections to its inclusion in a class on graphic novels. (These were hardly the first times the book has been challenged; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has done a wonderful case study on it.) It may not even qualify as her most momentous year, though: in 2014, she became a MacArthur Fellow — one of the first in her field to be so honored (following Ben Katchor in 2000).
Bechdel seems to have landed worlds away from her beginnings with the unassuming, yet pioneering comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1983. Her work, though, has maintained the same honest humor and brilliant characterizations as in those early days. Bechdel has also maintained her status as a role model in the queer and feminist communities, especially in scholarly circles — for example, to the young feminist film students who took a quote from a 1985 Dykes to Watch Out For strip and turned it into one of the most common memes about film criticism, “the Bechdel test.”
From Mission Creek’s Dec. 8 release:
Festival Passes will be available for purchase beginning Friday, Dec. 11, at noon, online at Midwestix and the Englert Theatre Box Office. Tickets to individual events will be available in January 2016.
Silver Pass: $135
The Silver Pass grants access to all Mission Creek Festival ticketed music and comedic performances. Entrance to ticketed events at the Englert and Blue Moose Tap House is guaranteed at all times. Entrance to other venues is subject to capacity. Screenings at FilmScene, culinary events and Innovation conference events are not included in the Silver Pass and require the purchase of additional tickets.
Deluxe Pass: $350
The Deluxe Pass guarantees entrance to all Mission Creek ticketed music and comedic events Free events are subject to capacity. The Deluxe Pass also includes the passholder’s choice of a complimentary dinner at one of the official Mission Creek dinners during the week (Leaf Kitchen, Clinton Street Social Club, and more), ten complimentary drink tickets for use at the Englert Theatre, and an invitation to a special VIP event during the festival.