HOWL! makes a break, hasn’t got the FEVA anymore

By Lincoln Anderson

This year’s HOWL!! Festival will feature New Orleans-style musical marches, “green” giveaways, comic-book and punk panels and eclectic events at the Bowery Poetry Club — but no FEVA.

That’s right, the HOWL! Festival has broken away from the Federation of East Village Artists, according to Marguerite Van Cook, the festival’s director. This year will see HOWL!’s fifth incarnation. Two years ago, the financially challenged festival had to skip a summer because of cash woes.

“The festival is under the direction of the HOWL! Festival. It’s no longer FEVA,” Van Cook said. “We just felt that the relationship wasn’t working that well. It was time to put the money back into the community. We were raising money and still paying bills. FEVA still exists and they’re going to take care of the bills; it’s basically Phil. I just wanted to go forward and not be part of that. Enough with Phil, already.”

Phil Hartman, founder of both FEVA and HOWL! and owner of Two Boots Pizza, the Pioneer Theater and the Den of Cin, downplayed the split.

“It’s no big deal,” he said. “FEVA is wrapping up some old bills and continues to support the effort to keep HOWL! going.”

The East Village-based festival will take place Sept. 5-11, closing on the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

HOWL! will open with “a New Orleans/Katrina weekend,” Van Cook said. The closing day, Thursday, she said, will feature an event at St. Mark’s Church at 10th St. and Second Ave. that “will also be about Katrina, Rita, people lost to the AIDS epidemic — and a tribute to The Unknown Artist. The government just ignored the AIDS epidemic, like it did with Katrina and Rita,” Van Cook said. There will be a reading of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem “HOWL!” in Tompkins Square Park on Friday evening, a rapping contest for young MC’s and performances by teenage rock bands in the park on Saturday, “Low Life” and “HOWLucinations” stage shows in the park, also on Sunday, featuring Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite, and a silent rave where everyone wears headphones and dances to his or her own music.

The Cockettes, one of the first transgender performance troupes — who are “entirely wild,” according to Van Cook — will perform “Pearls Over Shanghai.” There will be rock bands at Crash Mansion, Pianos and the Living Room and possibly events on the new public promenade space on Pier 36, as well.

“And, of course, Art Around the Park is just genius and we love it,” Van Cook said of the Tompkins Square-encircling art canvas-creating extravaganza.

As for how HOWL!’s financing under its newer, leaner structure, Van Cook said, “We go around begging and borrowing. It’s going to be better for us to be independent.” They received Department of Cultural Affairs funding that helped cover expenses for last year’s festival — when Van Cook first took over the reins from Hartman — and will assist with this year’s version.

“The festival was much less expensive to produce last year than the one before, about one-third less,” she said, putting the figure at $110,000. “That’s because everyone worked for free last year, dedicated their time.”

The weeklong festival is being run under the aegis of the Bowery Poetry Club, which is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization. Through the Borough President’s Office, there may be free “green giveaways,” like bicycle helmets or energy-efficient light bulbs, but Van Cook said this hasn’t been finalized yet.

Van Cook hinted that the HOWL! Festival as an organization will try to accomplish some organizational goals that FEVA had promised its members but never pulled off. But she said she’s holding off on an announcement until things are finalized.

Asked about his efforts to sell the Avenue A building containing Mo Pitkin’s, his former Judeo-Latino restaurant and performance venue, Hartman said, “It’s a tough financial climate to be selling a building, but we’re optimistic that we’ll have a deal soon.”