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BodegaFest is upon us
The Bridge is yet again the site of the coolest stuff happening in Worcester
Jon Raskett (right) and Micah Saenz had a quick breakfast at the Miss Worcester Diner the other morning before they headed over to The Bridge to prepare for a jam packed two-day DIY festival next weekend. I met up with them almost on a whim, knowing next to nothing about the festival or their ongoing magazine and production project, The Odd Era, for which the festival will serve as the official release. What they laid out to me was an ambitious and exuberant attempt at smashing all of the cool stuff from the area they could think of into one weekend. I’m about it.
BodegaFest 2021 features vendors, an art gallery, a movie screening and 31 musical acts, if I’m even counting correctly. The representation of genres covers most if not all of what’s going on in this city right now. And that’s sort of the point.
“I think this is the truth, you know what I’m talking about? I think this is the way of the future. Coming together as a community just to come together as a community, to teach each other and help each other,” John said. “I mean the city can go fuck itself for all I’m concerned if they don’t want to save this.”
This, of course, is a reference to The Bridge, a place that is so, so special to the city but is perilously close to disappearing as the real-estate speculation around Polar Park continues like a wildfire. The building has been sold and the closing date is approaching. That’s not stopping anyone involved with it from putting on shows, tagging the building, or going down to get some bomb Caribbean food from R&R Jerk Chicken.
In many ways, The Bridge is the epicenter of gentrification in Worcester. I mean…..
That there circle on the left is the Bridge. That there circle on the right is Polar Park. That there neighborhood to the south of Polar Park is Green Island, a triple decker neighborhood that certainly skews poorer and more diverse than the city in general. That neighborhood is the neighborhood the people at The Bridge are mostly from. It’s that neighborhood, and that neighborhood’s children especially, that would benefit immensely from a community center.
So we’ve got some new information about the buyer of the building and it makes it soooo much worse. I got Dan Ford, one of the lead Bridge organizers, on the phone this afternoon and he said the developer who bought the building is Dalfior Development, a company out of Boston, and they plan to turn The Bridge into high-end housing.
“They’re trying to build high-end condos on top of railroad tracks in the middle of my neighborhood,” said Ford.
He and other Bridge organizers are meeting with Dalfior tomorrow to try and get them to go elsewhere with their high-end condo plan, and I wish them the best. Expect an update on that when I have it.
These people are fighting to keep this place tooth and nail. They have plans to take out a loan among all of the organizations involved and they’re pursuing a community development block grant and they’re meeting with the city. They love this place and they want to keep it and keep investing their time and money into it.
It’s in that spirit that Micah and John set out to throw such a massive festival. They both have been volunteering their time at the Bridge for a while now, and they’re looking to make a special weekend of it. I mean look at this flyer.
“Now is the point where things are opening up, things are moving forward and we’re seeing the potential of what we can do with the bridge and there’s so much we can do with it,” said Micah.
I’m particularly excited for the Saturday show. Worcester has a lot of homegrown talent in the hip-hop world and I’m personally unfamiliar with a lot of it. Really excited. Checked the acts out, or what I could find, and this song by the headliner Luiz Antoni is a bop.
The Sunday show is mostly hardcore punk acts and that’s more my speed. I caught Wisdom & War at Ralph’s a few weeks ago and their set filled the room with an insane, chaotic energy. Chanel, the singer, has the sort of stage presence and delivery that could incite a riot if she wanted it.
The sonic and stylistic difference of these two acts alone speaks to the diversity of what we’re going to see down at the Bridge next weekend. It promises to be a very special event. There are other venues where it could happen, to be sure, but none so perfect. The Bridge as it stands right now was built by nothing but the goodwill and sweat equity of the people who care about it. It’s a true DIY project in a city with a long, long history of DIY projects. The building, once a factory and now home to community groups and art galleries and a performance venue, is a testament to the go-and-just-do-it creative energy that sucked me into Worcester. It’s a testament to what makes the city special.
And that’s why it sucks so bad that we’re probably not going to be able to keep it. But hey, we might as well have one last awesome summer with it, right?
BodegaFest is far from the last event we’ll see at The Bridge, and even in the face of a near certain doom, the people working on it, like Jon and Micah, are going down swinging.
At the end of our breakfast I asked Jon and Micah if they had any last remarks, if there’s anything I didn’t cover. Jon chuckled.
“Fuck around and find out,” he said.
In my last newsletter I promised to branch out and do some more featurey sort of stuff and this post was an attempt at that. It’s also just a plug for an event I think is going to be really cool. Anyway, if you can, consider throwing some cash my way. I mostly live off this thing, and it’s the committed direct support of my readers that make it possible.
A friend of mine the other day suggested publishing one weekly round-up type post a week on top of my ~normal~ work. Sort of like what I used to do with Worcesteria at Worcester Magazine. What do you think about that? Would that be good or a touch too much?
It’d look something like this passage below about the city manager review, but with three or four of ‘em smushed into a post.
The City Council evaluated the city manager last night and the evaluations were, predictably, more acts of fealty than accountability. Councilors use a rubric to evaluate the manager on all sorts of general categories, and it goes from “did not meet expectations” to “exceeds expectations.” Councilor Khrystian King was, predictably, the only councilor to not give the highest marks across the board. His review was still generous if not entirely glowing, and he was the only councilor out of 11 to bring up the issue of gentrification and affordable housing. The only one who even mentioned it. He wants to see a gentrification mitigation plan and I think that’s a fine idea but if I’m sitting in the city manager’s chair one councilor saying he would like to see it… that’s not what we call a strong mandate.
We desperately need more people on the city council who are looking out for us. I’m working on a thorough guide to the upcoming city elections, and I might even print it as a zine wouldn’t that be a neat idea? Spread it around the city.
We have a couple really strong candidates in our corner and I want to especially bump Thu Ngyuen. They rock, and yes, that is my official endorsement.
But look at this. We could have this.
Instead we have Kate Toomey and Moe Bergman and Donna Colorio and a deeply entrenched expectation to have low expectations.
If you ordered a shirt, be patient! I sold out very quickly and am currently getting a double order printed. I have all your names and addresses on a spreadsheet (my email is very secure don’t worry) and I will be sending them out when my boy Pitz at Negative Press gets them to me.
If you want one, send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
Ok bye for now my sweets.