One might spend an entire article summarizing and amplifying the basic premise of the suddenly venerable O+ Festival, the terms and rationale of its music-for-healthcare exchange and all the other things – art, urban murals, installations, pop-up venues, conferences and a general spirit of cultural dialogue and curation – that have crept in and enriched the festival over its nine (!) years. In its early days, the neighborhood festival rolled into Uptown Kingston for a weekend in early October, temporarily rebranding the streets and venues, bringing a kind of music and a kind of people perhaps more associated with the boroughs of New York City, and then just as swiftly receding.
But now O+, its institutions, and its people are a year-round fixture of the cultural climate here. O+ is the flagship event of the New Kingston, and perhaps one of the primary reasons that the still-tenuous rebirth of this little city feels like something different from gentrification and another wave of urban flight upriver. There’s a weekly O+ radio program on the new Radio Kingston (ah, the sweet, sweet terrible sound of AM!). The many murals painted for O+ are the backdrop of Uptown.
In typical O+ fashion, the bulk of this year’s lineup was announced all at once, and then some time passed, and then the big-name, keynote headliners – pop/rocker Evan Dando of Lemonheads fame and comedian Janeane Garofalo – came in a second wave of announcements. The literal poster boy for the Boston guitar-pop of the ’90s and beyond, Dando, with or without the Lemonheads, has been on an underpublicized roll since the release of his first nominal solo record, 2003’s Baby, I’m Bored, and the excellent Lemonheads Mach II self-titled reunion record in 2006 and 2009’s touching collection of oddball covers, Varshons. Few people have combined crunch and sweetness is a more agreeable way than Evan Dando, who performs at the Old Dutch Church on Saturday, October 6 at 9:30 p.m.
Also, on Saturday, October 6, the Comedy Resistance presents the legendary comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo in performance in the huge back room at BSP at 323 Wall Street. Garofalo has had many memorable and critically acclaimed roles in such films as The Truth about Cats and Dogs, Wet Hot American Summer, Ratatouille, Steal This Movie, Reality Bites, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Mystery Men and The Cable Guy. Janeane also co-authored the best-seller Feel this Book, with Ben Stiller.
Other notable acts appearing throughout the weekend include the psychedelic cabaret ringleader Marco Benevento; Dandy Warhol’s psych/rock side project Pete International; Nous, featuring legendary experimental jazz composer and keyboardist Karl Berger, Christopher Bono, great Medeski, Martin, and Wood drummer Billy Martin and other friends. Guitarist Billy Rogan performs music on electronically enhanced acoustic guitar that splits the difference between New Age Minimalism and virtuoso New Folk. A veteran of the Hudson Valley Psych Fest, the Golden Grass plays a particularly ornery brand of psychedelic rock that hearkens back to the bloozy riffage of Cactus and other nearly forgotten icons of c*ck-rock. To name a few is to slight too many, but do trust me when I say that this is one of the deeper O+s in a number of years: a real return to form and one that, per usual, balances local identity with national and international currents.
Speaking of local currents, guitarist Michael Hollis is best-known to locals as a member of New Paltz’s beloved indie-rock band Breakfast in Fur, as well as his own jammier trio Blue Museum. This year, he received a commission to compose a piece of true local resonance. The resulting work, The Edge of the Hill, is a hybrid electronic/ensemble composition that features elements based on the Ulster County environment and what its citizens do to preserve and protect it. The sneak peek that the composer vouchsafed me describes a composition of lithe melody (some tangoesque, some Reichian pattern study) combined with radical sound manipulation and many actual human voices of the Valley describing their relationship with Ulster County’s extraordinary natural environment. The Edge of the Hill will be performed on two occasions at the Old Dutch Church: Friday, October 5 at 9 p.m. and Saturday, October 6 at 1 p.m.
For the complete lineup and schedule of music, art, wellness and more, visit O+’s always-elegant website: https://opositivefestival.org. Three-day all-access festival wristbands cost a suggested donation of $50 and include a limited-edition tee-shirt as a thank-you.