The 215 has always been a different sort of literary festival. We realized that in 2001, when author Arthur Bradford, having just finished reciting an obfuscating story about a 10-pound slug, stepped out from behind the podium and smashed his acoustic guitar on the stage of the Free Library. But, as with so many awesome grassroots and volunteer-driven labors of love, putting the 215 on and keeping it vibrant on an annual basis has been a struggle. There were down years. There were lost years. It was feared dead.
Until — total plot twist! — it was reborn, good as new. More than a decade after it was founded, the 215 Fest returned to its former glory this November thanks to the sweat and swagger of a fleet of volunteers led by Philebrity blogger Joey Sweeney. Centered around the underdog Eraserhood district — mostly in the shadowy expanses of the lovely new Underground Arts space (which garners an honorable-mention on the right) — the 215 stitched together a hip, eclectic roster that lots of litnerds around here could agree on.
We huddled in the cold for an intimate outdoor reading by satirist verité Jon Ronson. We watched deranged millionaire/215 Fest alum John Hodgman destroy a drunken heckler like a seasoned standup. We quietly freaked out at the interview with Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. We rocked out with Philly’s charming adopted son John Wesley Harding and his Cabinet of Wonders, a vaguely literary showcase that made room for Paul Muldoon, Dean and Britta, the Spinto Band, Doogie Horner and a big old sing-along.
Will Sweeney et al. be able to repeat the feat in 2013? We hope so. But we also know it’s an expensive and mostly thankless undertaking. Fingers crossed. This year they nailed it.
This Mural Arts-conceived project to paint bright stripes of color on several blocks of Germantown Avenue buildings, led by Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, has employed about a dozen local people and created a sense of possibility — and the hope of some economic stimulation.
Simply put, it’s the best new comedy/arts/music/anything venue in town, the kind of multipurpose space the city needed.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s giant light installation on the Parkway was bold and beautiful. Philadelphia could do with this kind of planned light pollution.
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