for WYFF Spotlight
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Bridgeport, CT – When the smoke cleared – and the pizza was all eaten – it was Westport’s Clay Garner who was left standing as the winner of the Battle of the Bands competition and the music spotlight at the 2012 Westport Youth Film Festival, to be held June 2 at Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre.
Conducted Friday evening at Two Boots Pizza, 281 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, the Battle featured four local bands – Garner, Cheeky, Borrowed Glory and Chillingsworth – each performing a 10 to 15 minute set. The four were initially chosen by professional musician Nick Abraham, after he reviewed a number of digitally recorded submissions. The full house gathered at Two Boots was charged with determining the ultimate winner via ballot votes, upon conclusion of the performances.
“This downtown area is so up and coming and wonderful,” said Evan Neidich, the 2012 WYFF’s coordinator. “Many people don’t know about it. We’re glad to be exposing people who may have prejudged this area and opening their eyes to it.”
Lynn Julian, one of three partners at Bijou Theatre, was equally excited about the opportunity. “I feel exuberant about having the Fest here,” she said. “I'm excited to capture the ideas and ideals of a youthful society and to harness that and bring it here. It offers great possibility for generational wealth. That’s social currency to us, to link the past to the present as one of the oldest movie houses in the country still operating as a movie house.”
According to Julian, the Bijou was built in 1909, by Lillian Ashmun, and opened in 1910 as a silent movie house, with a piano player accompaniment. It operated until 1996. “My partners and I launched the business in July,” said Julian. “Phil Kuchma is the developer, revitalizing Bijou Square, of which the theatre is a part. We’re excited to have people in the region revisit and see this as a city that’s undergoing a human evolution through the arts.”
Garner was the first performer of the evening, followed by Chillingsworth, about which Andrea Yakovich, a friend of the band, was particularly excited. “They’re really talented, and sound different. Kind of Indie rock,” she said. “They started playing about three years ago. All are sophomores at Weston High School. I think they deserve to win.”
Sara Braunstein, the chairman of the WYFF Committee, was excited about the evening overall, a first segment of the actual Fest. “Evan has done an incredible job in harnessing the talent of teens in producing this successful event for WYFF and the Westport Arts Center,” she said. “WYFF is a Westport Arts Center program, now nine years old. The Fest originally started in Dan Bernstein’s basement in Weston. We’re excited to be in Bridgeport this year, as WYFF should not be based in one town, but represent surrounding towns.”
Pete Finch, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s son and an independent TV, song and video producer, was thrilled to attend the Battle, particularly as he had a role in the Fest – helping write and produce a song, “Get a WYFF of This”, which will be used promotionally and to introduce the Fest. “I was excited when Evan asked me to do the project,” he said. “And I was impressed with WYFF. The song is fun and funny at the same time.”