Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Abbie Strikes Up The Bands


The Abbeys are coming to Abbie Fest. Photo from The Abbeys Facebook page.

Rich Cotovsky looks like he escaped from the late 1960s and does a dead-on impersonation of Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, but don’t be fooled. For over two decades, the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s Artistic Director has overseen a chaotic annual celebration of performing arts that would challenge the strategic skills of a four-star general. I’ve been at several Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins meetings and I’m sure I’ve heard him joke at least on a few occasions that cramming 70 participants into a single weekend with no time allotted for set changes shouldn’t work, but somehow it always does.

Now on the 25th Anniversary of Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins, he and the Mary-Arrchie crew are kind of starting from scratch. The event has been moved from the theatre’s home base at the corner of Broadway and Sheridan Road to The Den Theatre at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue. With three stages instead of the usual one, the goal is to triple the number of performers. And for the first time in the history of Abbie Fest, a full slate of rock bands has been added to the mix.

Elements of rock and roll have always been part of Abbie Fest. More than a tribute to Hoffman’s anti-establishment views, it has been a mission to capture the spirit of the original Woodstock Festival and inject it into Chicago’s vibrant and multifaceted theatre community. Plus, Cotovsky has played electric guitar as the character Skid Marks in his late-night Bitch With Rich sessions, and longtime participants like Famous In The Future and Black Forest have incorporated rock songs into their shows. The comic rock band Lola Bolatro has been on the Abbie schedule for a few years now.

Black Forest, performing as its side project, whitewolfsonicprincess, will be one of the first bands to play the Abbie Fest this Friday. Led by vocalist Carla Hayden and guitarist-vocalist James Moeller, the band mixes alternative with classic rock, while keeping the avant garde ambience fans have come to associate with their theatrical pieces. The Abbeys, featuring founding members Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis, will make their Abbie Hoffman festival debut, but they’ve performed at every International Pop Overthrow - Chicago since the power pop/indie rock festival started in 2001. They draw inspiration for their harmonies from The Everly Brothers, while the catchy arrangements have the feel of the original British Invasion.

Some of the other music acts scheduled to play include The Ivorys, Lamp, Coaster, Magicks, Digital Gnosis, Emmi Chen, Pirates!!!,  Kate Adams, Parallelicopter, Minor Wits, Terriers, Cpt. Captain, Names Divine, Grave Diggers Of Atlantis, Big Dammit, and Vamos! The Mary-Arrchie Facebook  page has videos and links for several of these artists. On Friday and Saturday at 3:30 AM, Mary-Arrchie troupe member-director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia will host Abbie-Oke, a radical take on karaoke.

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