The Happy Ending Music & Reading Series is celebrating a happy beginning. The series performance on June 8 at Joe’s Pub marked the launch of Happy Ending’s partnership with Yaddo, an artists’ working community based in Saratoga Springs, New York. Starting next fall, the series will produce three shows featuring entirely Yaddo-affiliated artists. Wednesday night, Suzanne Bocanegra and Kyle deCamp performed a collaborative visual and performance piece, and Amor Towles read from his new novel.
Lucius, the musical guest and Happy Ending curator Amanda Stern’s self-proclaimed favorite band, took to the stage for two sets of tunes, gripping the audience with its haunting yet ethereal melodies. The band, fronted by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, cast a spell over the crowd, traversing scales with a soulful clarity and an underlying pain that colored even the band's more upbeat numbers. As they performed, Wolfe and Laessig faced one another across a set of keyboards, dressed in matching mod apparel from their floral get-ups to their ponytail poufs to their hybrid heels (one blue, one pink for each leading lady).
Toying with a similar mirror effect, the performing artist Bocanegra presented a piece entitled “How to Paint” in collaboration with the visual artist de Camp. Through vivid imagery of painting as a means of expression, Bocanegra brought to life de Camp’s own coming of age experiences. On the screen behind her played an accompanying video in which pieces of mounted artwork were continuously layered on top of one another.
Towles, a first-time novelist, also graced the stage to read excerpts from his novel "Rules of Civility." Passages from the book’s first chapter chronicled the late-night, big-city plans of 25 year-old Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse roommate, Eve. As the two women explored New York City in the late hours of the last night of 1937, Towles took his readers from a jazz club out onto the curbs of the city, meeting characters steeped in thoughts of gin and gentlemen, wit and winter, hardship and hope.
The theme of “community” weaved its way throughout the night, accompanying tales of love and loss, friends and family, art and angst. Lucius’ whimsical harmony and Bocanegra’s search for an artistic identity traveled from the stage, dissipating through the performance space and culling an even greater sense of collaboration between the artists and the audience.
But with all happy beginnings must come a happy ending. As the series commences its relationship with Yaddo, it also wrapped up its time at Joe’s Pub, which will be closed for renovations until October.
Stern noted that it would be her first stretch of unoccupied time in seven years. In the spirit of community, she invited the audience to join her in “catching up," joking with the audience: “I’m going to go see The Gates, which I’m so excited about... I have to go back to Canal Jeans, a shirt from Fiorucci.... And if I have time I’m just going to run over to CBGB and see a couple of shows.”
Suzanne Bocanegra performing "How to Paint": "I would look at the paintings. These are tragic paintings — paintings of obvious flatness making great depth. They gave a lot, they gave nothing. Some days, I would get lost in them, feel with them, and they were painful. They moved me. And on other days they didn’t move me at all."
Amor Towles reading from "Rules of Civility": "In New York, it becomes so easy to assume that the city's most alluring women have flown in from Paris or Milan. But they're just a minority. A much larger covey hails from the stalwart states that begin with the letter 'I' like Iowa, Indiana, Illinois. Bred with just the right amount of fresh air, rough-housing and ignorance, these primitive blondes set out from the cornfields looking like starlight with limbs."
Click on the link above to hear excerpts from the evening.