By: Evan Townsend
Photos By: Victor Protasio (http://www.victorprotasio.com)
Music festivals are home to some of the most innovative and eccentric artists of the time. Brash personalities, pulsing lasers, bizarre costumes—each performer brings his or her own garish flair to the stage. But festivals have been missing one particular flavor of weird and wonderful all along. That is, until Wakarusa 2011, when Kansas City based group Quixotic made their festival debut.
To call Quixotic a “band” would be an injustice—if not an outright lie, because the group consists of so much more than just music. Aerialists, dancers, elaborate costumes, and giant props form the backbone of the all-encompassing Quixotic spectacle. But even calling them performers would exclude much of what makes group tick. Technicians, engineers, and choreographers operating without adulation in the background lend their expertise, and without them, the show could not go on.
Recently, The Untz had the privilege of sitting down with one of the many behind-the-scenes members of the group, Anthony Magliano. As artistic director and co-founder of Quixotic, much of Magliano’s innovative self-expression had already been laid bare on stage. But we caught up with him for a first-hand account of his inaugural festival experience.
It was the Saturday of Wakarusa in the mildly crowded convention center that we chatted with Magliano. It’s easy to tell from a glance that Magliano is the artistic type, with his hair deftly swept to one side over a neatly wrapped bandana. It’s a justified perception, though, as Magliano is a percussionist, composer, and holds degrees in communication design/graphic design. Relaxed and mild-mannered though he was, he couldn’t hide his passion for his creative project, and was happy to explain it to us. “It’s like a dance performance ensemble with an aerial performance and a band, but it’s all together.”
With the festival in full swing, and one last performance to go, Quixotic had already learned a few things from their time at Wakarusa. After recovering from a few minor hiccups during their first show on Thursday (issues with power and lights), subsequent performances ran along smoothly for the group. This was helped, in part, by Quixotic having its own private stage, something that no other act at Wakarusa could claim.
“A lot of people were asking us ‘Why do you have your own stage?’ Well, we have five pick points and a whole pulley system up there with three guys lifting girls twenty feet, thirty feet in the air upside down. And it’s all manpower. We’re not using machines.”
Safety is a priority with Quixotic, but due to some restraints, it was not quite the stage that Magliano had envisioned. They still managed to tailor it specially for their festival needs. Says Magliano “We definitely created this set very specific for Waka, for this kind of vibe.” The stage itself was designed with white canvases stretched across metal frames. It was not only geometrically appealing, but also played well with the space of the stage. In the hot spring sun, it looked interesting, but at night the lights and performers sparked it to life.
With the exception of the vocalist and violinist who often came front center stage, the musicians were settled in the back, playing from spacious nooks in the set. Even though they’re often lost in the spectacle of it all, Magliano still considers them an important part of the ensemble. “It all starts with the music. We want the music to be so good and so cool that people can relate to it, vibe with it. And then [we ask ourselves] how do we take it to the next level?”
And take it to the next level they shall. Quixotic plans to make it to a few festivals in the future. But the coming shows won’t just be a clone of this year’s performance. In the talk for future festivals are zip lines, stilt walkers, and two towers that would shoot fire to the beat of the music.
Though it wasn’t even over yet, Magliano was excited to return to Wakarusa in 2012. It seems that a taste of the festival experience had been enough to draw them back.
“We want to do the festival scene. I think it would be incredible for us. That’s what so cool about the festival is how many types of different people from all over come. And when people come to festivals, they come to have a good time and they come for the experience... We’re lucky and feel very honored to be a part of this.“
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