Howl! Festival, Day 3: I Am Rain, Ignore Me

Photos: Chris O. Cook.

The finale of Howl! Festival today was marred by intermittent bouts of rain, but the party never quite ground to a halt.

Rap and rock acts were the order of the day, with performances from Hip Hop Howl, Bear 54, and others. Male members of Deans of Discipline sported kilts for the occasion, perhaps as a means of acclimating the crowd to the drag queens who would be taking the stage at 5 p.m.

Howl! Festival, June 3, 2012Chris O. Cook Soap Box Poets.

Members of the Poetry Society of New York and its provocative Poetry Brothel led readings by so-called Soap Box Poets on the park’s central lawn. “Nathaniel Siegel got in touch and said do you want to organize some poets,” glitter-festooned Stephanie “The Madame” Berger, founder of Poetry Brothel, said of the president of Howl!’s board of directors. “And I was like, yeah, I’ve got some poets.”

While festival staff surrounded them holding aloft “Soap Box Poets” signs, a mostly young and female throng exchanged sexually and politically charged wordsmithery before being driven into a nearby bar by a sudden downpour at 2:30 p.m.

On the park periphery, street artists stood their ground through weather that threatened to damage their work. The painter Cram, who left his mark on First Street last month, admitted that the East Village isn’t what it used to be, but remained mostly positive about the neighborhood. “You take the good with the bad,” he philosophized. “The neighborhood cleaned itself up. It could be a little more like past times – affordable rent, artists instead of yuppies – but what are you going to do?”

Howl! Festival, June 3, 2012Chris O. Cook Rolando Vega, a.k.a. Chickin Man.

The eye-catching “Chickin Man,” the body-painted and balloon-butted alter ego of street performer Rolando Vega, echoed Cram’s sentiments. “It’s not gentrification, because it’s been going on for a long time,” he clarified, “but they’re definitely pushing people to get out.”

Gentle found-object arranger Diana Brammer, however, had little to say about any supposed loss of authenticity. Cradling a bottle of “healing water” from Glastonbury in the U.K., she beamed, “I’m creating an altar to fairies. People like myself who believe in nature.”

One of the festival’s more unique artistic presences was Jacob Rath. At his side was waifish, freckled model Emily Phillips, around whose slender neck was hung a whiteboard on which festival attendees were encouraged to scrawl phrases in dry-erase marker beginning with “I am” plus an adjective and concluding with a verb plus “me.” (You can see some past variations here.)

Howl! Festival, June 3, 2012Chris O. Cook Emily Phillips and Jacob Rath

“I came up with the idea two years ago,” explained Mr. Rath, adding that the identity of the whiteboard’s wearer has a significant effect on what people choose to write. “I want to experiment with gender, race, height,” he continued. “There are a lot of variables I want to play around with.”

The spirit of the festival was perhaps best summed up by (who else?) Chickin Man, as he described himself to The Local. “I tend to do things that people like a lot,” he said. “I’m colorful. They appreciate it.”

Stay tuned for our final report from Howl! Festival tomorrow, and in the meantime tell us how your Howl! was, below. And share your photos in our Flickr group.