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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Amick Boone and Kevin Hobson Bang Out a Quick and Dirty Reading Series -- Literally

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 9:30 AM

100 Profiles:
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No. 88: Amick Boone and Kevin Hobson

Amick Boone and Kevin Hobson
  • Amick Boone and Kevin Hobson
Amick Boone and Kevin Hobson are the creators and hosts of Bang Out, which they've subtitled "A Quick and Dirty Reading Series." It has been in bimonthly residence at Amnesia in the Mission for more than two years -- a lifetime in a city that's arguably overpopulated with smart literary events. Beyond that, every Bang Out draws a huge crowd whose members manage to keep the bar pin-drop quiet. What accounts for the rapt attention and big turnouts? What has allowed Bang Out to avoid the loud-guy-in-the-back problem that plagues so many other literary events (especially those where alcohol is involved)?

For one, the concept: Boone and Hobson come up with a theme based on current events, cultural zeitgeist, and so on for each reading and put out an open call for submissions. Past themes include Toxic Assets, Tough Love, and BFFs. The idea is to encourage writers to produce new work that Hobson says is "a little more raw or not exactly 'perfect,' which gives the readings a bit of an edge that keeps things interesting."

For another, each piece is less than 1,000 words, which Hobson points out means "each reader only reads for about seven minutes, so if you don't like one reading, chances are something you do like will be coming along soon."

Thirdly, the organizers know what they're doing. These writers met in San Francisco State's MFA program, they know good writing when they see it, and they curate the event carefully, culling from submissions the best and most entertaining stuff. They also are fun to watch onstage.

"Kevin always tells a bad joke or two at the beginning based on the theme," Boone says, "and groans from the audience are usually a good sign they're loosened up and ready to enjoy themselves."

Hobson Tweeted live from the stage during the latest reading April 16, a reference to the night's theme, the Social Network. (Watch them in a funny exchange in the clip above trade off the words "Tweet" and "Twat" in quick succession.) Highlights from the night: a postmodern Facebook story by Ezra Fox (who's also in the above clip), a disturbing Facebook story by Ashley Brim, and a goth Facebook story by Jesus Angel Garcia. That was followed by beat poetry by Marc Olmstead ("This is a very interesting scene you've got here," he said to the crowd), and an irreverent Twitter story from Lee Stegner. Kathryn Pringle read lovely poetry, and Isaac Fitzgerald told of a self-revealing Facebook move that could be rightly described as creepy. In fact, I think that's how Fitzgerald himself classified it. (Curious readers can follow this link to see video of all Bang Out performances).

By which I mean, it was highly entertaining. I cringed, I cringed more, I laughed, I thought something someone wrote was beautiful, and then I cringed again.

Audience engagement is pretty much a guarantee at the very unstuffy Bang Out.

"At a reading in 2009 themed '(Naked),' local writer/performer Kirk Read submitted a piece and read for us," Boone says. "Let's just say he took the theme quite literally. I don't think we'll ever have another reader approach the mike completely naked again."

If I've learned anything from Bang Out, it's never say never.

The next Bang Out project is raising funds for the creation of a print journal.

"This is something we've wanted to do from the beginning," Hobson says. There will be visual art alongside written pieces, and possibly CD recordings of past Bang Out events.

Hobson and Boone's next reading, meanwhile, will be Saturday, Aug. 13. They have just cast their call for submissions and the theme is "BLANK."

"As in the perfect antitheme, or the spaces we leave or that exist between us and/or what we choose to fill them with," Boone explains.

"Shooting blanks! Blank stares! Blankety blank!" Hobson clarifies.

Shooting blanks and nakedness don't seem so unrelated. Like I said, never say never. This will no doubt be yet another great Bang Out, indeed.

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