There are a number of musicians who do comics, and comics artists who play music, but I can’t recall ever seeing the two mediums combined the way I did last night at the Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan. PANIC – Punk and Indie Comics – was a venue for both cartoonists and musicians simultaneously. The small downtown lounge – just a stone’s throw away from the Puck Building, home of the MOCCA Art Festival – played host to a mini-comic expo; one room in the back with two rows of local self-publishers along either wall. There was also a bill of local punk rock acts that periodically took the stage at the rear end.
As a result, what you had was patrons chatting with the cartoonists, buying their work, then suddenly a band would take the stage and everyone’s attention was focused on them, for the length of their set. Then it was back to talking to the cartoonists again. If I had worked a show like this back in my more active self-publishing days, I’m not sure how I’d welcome the idea. It’s hard enough to get patrons at a con interested in your comic without competing with a bunch of bands, performing literally in the same room with you.
The impression I got last night, though, was that it wasn’t much of a problem. It was a very diverse crowd, as interested in the cartoonists as the bands. Many of the comics mirrored the punk rock aesthetic that set the tone for the night, from madcap anarchic humor to politically-charged social commentary. There were even a number of zines on display, a seeming anachronism in today’s digital age but still very much alive and well in the underground.
The band I saw perform was called World War IX. Either the sound system was perfect or the singer was atypical of most punk bands, because I could actually make out some of the lyrics. At one point it looked like a couple of girls attempted to get a pit going, but succeeded only in spinning each other around the front of the stage. The band included a Black Flag cover in their set. They sounded great.
Check my column at Comic World News this Wednesday for reviews of books from the show.