10 pm Tuesday, Sept. 11
The Works @ Wonder Ballroom
The most-talked-about event of TBA: 07
has got to be their late night art party, "The Works" at the Wonder Ballroom
The talk is mostly about how poorly "The Works" is working this year.
Why is that? In years past, "The Works" (notice the new copyright symbol appearing after this on all TBA: 07 marketing materials?) was regarded as the perfect antidote to much of the high-minded seriousness on display in day and early evening festival offerings—you could wrap your head around the hippest contemporary dance company, then head out for a boozy, raucous late night with friends and equally boozy, raucous performance artists.
I'm thinking of last year's "Works" at the wonderfully raw space called AudioCinema
in Southeast Portland, where the Wau Wau Sisters, Copy, the Sissyboys and at least a dozen other high-energy artists kept the crowd up well past 1 or 2 am. There were specialty "TBA" drinks inside and out. There was gelato and hot dogs on an outside patio. You could hang outside to meet friends and still hear much of the action inside. It was alive, it was happening, it was memorable.
So far this year, "The Works" has about as much raw excitement and showmanship as Britney Spears' VMA "comeback" performance. A big part of the difference in tone and feeling must be attributed to The Wonder Ballroom, a thoroughly attractive, acoustically superior and completely wrong space for this type of event. I was hearing it from every person there: "This space is so formal." "Why does everyone look so dead?" "I miss how much fun last year's 'Works' was."
Indeed, things seem to be wrapping up earlier this year. Crowds seem thinner, less lively. The Wonder Ballroom staff are thoroughly professional and completely un-fun, and your ID will get checked at least three times and your hand will get stamped twice in order to even get into the place.
Once in, take note of the holy, stone-quiet atmosphere (I've been shushed - SHUSHED - three times in two nights), grab your $8 (!) vodka-Red Bull, sit down and shut up. And if you want to venture outside to the sparsely populated "beer garden" or to Wonder's downstairs restaurant, you better suck that drink down quick—no drink-in-hand freedom of movement in this space.
Last night, the amiable Portland Cello Project
was up. They did some pop covers and classical music, including a vaguely in-tune reading of Samuel Barber's affecting "Adagio for Strings." You might know the "Adagio" as the background music to depressing scenes in the movies Platoon
or Lorenzo's Oil
. Oh, and a few years ago, listeners of the English BBC Radio voted it the "saddest classical music ever written."
Photo above, the Portland Cello Project, courtesy of Portlandcelloproject.com.