(PITTSFIELD, Mass., August 20, 2011) – The third annual Word X Word Festival came to a conclusion on Saturday night with a well-attended concert at the Colonial Theatre featuring musical performers Mia Dyson and the band Kingsley Flood and the phenomenal spoken-word stylings of Buddy Wakefield.
Part stand-up comic, part wild man, and all heart, Wakefield probably symbolized all that’s best about Word X Word – raw creativity flowing through a unique persona, spontaneity tempered by technique. It was hard to know how much to take Wakefield at face value – his stage persona was one of a nervous introvert prone to outbursts; his poems juxtaposed everyday scenarios with bursts of manic wordplay. But it didn’t matter in the end, for the proof was in the work, which was performance poetry, and Wakefield was a stunningly engaging and effective performance poet, equally skilled at both aspects, bringing his audience along through stagecraft while touching hearts and minds with his blistering imagery and words, words, words.
Kingsley Flood got off to a moderate start with its somewhat generic take on Americana, sounding like any of many alt-country bands, albeit skilled at occasional bluegrass-inspired three-part harmonies and surprisingly deft at keeping things moving instrumentally, with Jenee Morgan doubling on violin and saxophone (a nice, unusual combination) and Chris Barrett on keyboards and trumpet. Frontman Naseem Khuri was exuberant from the beginning, even a little too much so, given the slow build of the band’s set.
But all that changed three songs from the end, when suddenly Kingsley Flood seemed to transmogrify or become possessed, all of a sudden showing another side, or many other sides, including hints of soulful passion, late Wilco-like experimentalism, a hint of Beatles-esque pop dynamics, with Springsteen-by-way-of-Mellencamp heartland rock dynamics. The band kicked in, finally supporting and justifying Khuri’s stage presence, and the songs all sounded like they could be indie radio hits.
On Friday night, the Lantern played host to a couple of spoken word artists and the phenomenal singer-songwriter Rebecca Hart. It’s nearly impossible for a solo singer-songwriter who no one’s heard before to get over before an audience, especially one, such as that on Friday night, that had no idea what to expect and which probably mostly came for the headliner, spoken word artist Rachel McKibbens.
But Hart had all the tools to win over the crowd – a huge, versatile, colorful voice; guitar chops; perfect in-between-songs patter; and incisive songwriting with immediacy – just the right blend of humor, heat, and heartstrings.
McKibbens’s work was rooted in the reality of being a mother of five – “with every diaper I change, I lose a little of my brain,” she said. Hers were dark but never bitter portraits of love sometimes on the wrong side of town, or when it’s on the right side of the town, love gone wrong. It was grim, but necessary, one supposes.