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Rogue Festival Goes Virtual

IN THE February 13 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andMallory Moad,
andRogue Festival
SECTIONS

by Mallory Moad

Well, here we are, nearing the end of what has been a very disruptive twelve months. We’ve all been faced with changes. Our workplaces, schools and social outlets have been turned inside out and backwards in order to remain functioning during the pandemic. But this year might be remembered as more than one of turmoil and loss. It could also go down in history as that time when the performing arts hijacked Zoom.

You’ve seen bands playing individually but together, digitally, on social media; there are streaming series in a variety of genres that have been written especially for videoconferencing formats. And on March 5, Fresno will premier its very first Virtual Rogue Performance Festival.

The decision to move in this direction was not made casually. According to Rogue Co-Producer, Heather Parish, discussions for three distinct modifications of the festival took place in July. “In August we realized our initial plans were not likely to pan out with the slow progress of Fresno County in fighting against COVID,” she explains. “So we flipped the script and went with planning an all-virtual Rogue with the option to open one outdoor venue if it was safe enough.” However, as of this writing, it is highly unlikely an in-person venue will be part of this year’s Rogue.

Performers responded to the news with some disappointment, but plenty of understanding, too. “I suppose those who may have wanted to grouse about it decided to keep their complaints to themselves,” Heather says. “Performing artists are struggling, no doubt. But most of them also have a heart for their audiences. They want people to be safe at their shows.” Some artists had no interest in producing a virtual show. A few couldn’t get their heads around the technology. Others, after months of digital meetings and classrooms, were just plain Zoomed out.

Then there were those who saw this as an opportunity to expand and learn, and jumped at the chance. Comedian/social commentator, Jaguar Bennett is preparing to participate in the Rogue for the 12th time with “Reality Is Optional,” a comic riff on the propensity of modern Americans to believe in utter nonsense. Instead of seeing limitations, he is rising to the challenge. Although he has employed digital technology before (his 2007 show was a PowerPoint presentation), he has never worked with video. This time around he will be performing live, via Zoom. “I’m a complete virgin to this experience,” he proclaims. “I am hopeful, however that the Zoom format will work well with my style and subject matter.” He is planning his show to be less like a televised experience and more like “an intense phone call.” “My style has always been to speak directly to the audience. What I hope to accomplish here is the illusion that I am speaking directly to each individual viewer alone.”

Jaguar Bennett

Jaguar explains that while he will always prefer to perform live in front of an audience he can see, he is also aware that COVID-19 is real and really dangerous. “I will miss the accolades of my adoring fans, but I’ll perform by Morse code if it will keep me alive.”

For singer/songwriter/piano man, Mark Nunis, the Virtual Rogue was an open door. Friends and family (his cousin is Marcel Nunis—yes, that guy) have been pestering him to do a Rogue show for a long time. The problem? Mark lives in Australia. Time, travel expenses, work commitments and the Rogue Festival schedule never coincided, but with this year’s virtual festival, he no longer had an excuse.

Mark Nunis

Although he got his digital feet wet during lockdown doing live streams from his studio, he found producing a full-length video performance to be totally different. As a professional piano bar entertainer, “I try to make my live shows as interactive as possible. It’s all about the audience and building a fun rapport with them in that moment. But in this show (a collection of original songs and personal anecdotes titled, “I Sit On My Arse and Play Piano”) I’m trying to build a rapport through a lens.” What has been the biggest hurdle? “Camera angles,” he laughs. “And editing and retakes can be taxing. At the same time, it’s been a lot of fun and creative ideas have sprung out at times.”

But what about the audience? What kind of Rogue experience can we expect? Seeing as how most of us will be attending shows in the comfort of our own homes, that’s up to us. Sure, live performance is unique, but this year’s Rogue Festival will be unique in its own way, too. So instead of mourning “the way it used to be,” look at the positives. We’ll still be able to enjoy the same outstanding independent productions we’ve come to know and love, but won’t have to worry about parking, weird weather, or a line to the bathroom. We can eat snacks during the show, leave our cell phones on, and wear our pajamas if we’re so inclined.

And every seat will be front row.

For more information about the Virtual Rogue Festival, including how to purchase tickets and cool Rogue merch, visit www.fresnoroguefestival.com.

My name is Mallory Moad and I believe “different” shouldn’t be confused with “inferior.”

Check out our Rogue Performer Preview articles and our reviews once the Festival starts in our Rogue Festival section, and check out our Rogue Event page for more show info.

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.

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