Interview with Will Pennartz of The Happening after the European tour:
QUIKSILVER: Hey Will, can you please introduce yourself to our audience and give us a little insight about The Happening…
WP: Sure. The Happening is an art/film/music festival I founded with Emmett Malloy of Brushfire Records/ Woodshed Films. A few years back Chris Malloy and I (Emmett’s cousin) produced an event called The Moonshine Festival in Laguna Beach. Chris was living in Laguna at the time, and we decided to put something together that would bring together what I was doing at The Surf Gallery with his films and music projects. It was awesome! We realized there was something really strong there right away. Fast forward a couple of years and we decided to hold the event in a museum setting at Orange County Museum of art and call it the Happening. After the So Cal event and a huge event in New York City in 2007, Jack Johnson invited us to come along at hit a few of the key spots for his tour. It was such a good opportunity. We would have a very cool intimate event for 500-1000 people the day before Jack would play for 30,000 plus people. Jack made a guest appearance at several of the events too, which was a nice bonus for the crowd.
QUIKSILVER: Can you paint us a picture of what artists are involved in this project, musicians and filmmakers?
WP: On the music side we’ve had Matt Costa, G-Love, Mason Jennings, Neil Halstead, Piers Faccini, Don Cavalli, Andrew Kidman and more play this year. Money Mark, Ray Barbee and Emily Haines have played past events too. For the films, Emmett has pulled together a nice collection with Sliding Liberia, by Britton Caillouette & Nicholai Lidow, and short films by Thomas Campbell, The Malloys and Alex Kopps. Everything lends itself toward art films than typical surf videos. For art, there is a huge line up, with work by Barry McGee, Thomas Campbell, Greg Lamarche, Herbie Flecther, Wolfgang Bloch, Scott Richards, Alex Kopps, Andy Davis, Randy Noborikawa, Alex Weinstein, Jeff Canham, Kate Sutton, Jenny Bowers, Ryan Heywood and more. The selection is a nice balance between surf culture and street culture contemporary art. Most of the crew I have worked with at my gallery in Laguna Beach (The Surf Gallery). Several of the artists are part of the Roxy Studio and a few are staff artists for Quiksilver mens, too.
QUIKSILVER: How did the stops in Cornwall, London and Paris compare to first stops in Sydney and Japan? Were the crowds as wild as those Aussies?
WP: All of the events have been very different. We kicked the year off with the Sydney event at the Bondi Beach Pavilion. The venue was very cool – an open air theater and grass lawn right across from the beach. We had about 1000 people there that night – great energy and lots of drunk Aussies. It was an amazing way to kick off the year!
The Tokyo event was pretty special, since we had it in Harajuku – the center of Japanese youth/fashion culture at a venue called Laforet Museum. It sits on the top floor of a very famous shopping center. That was a great night. Jack Johnson made an appearance, and no one in the crowd had a clue he was going to play. You would have thought a few of the people just saw The Beatles! So cool. It was Mason Jennings’ first show in Japan too, which was a really nice treat. We had tons of press, and I was interviewed by MTV Japan for the gig. Al Jazeera TV showed up too! They came to cover the event and do a feature on Sliding Liberia. Little did I know Al Jazeera gives coverage to several places in Africa that don’t receive much attention by the major networks. The funniest part was that the camera guys were a couple of Australian surfers. Talk about blowing away your stereotypes. The next two days, we went out to Yokohama and put together an art exhibition that sat right next to Jack’s big show. It was awesome. The gallery was in a beautiful, restored building that housed US military troops at one point, which was a crazy thought in its own. We figure 2500 people or more came though the gallery the next two days.
London rocked. The venue is called The Village Underground. It’s in a very cool part of East London called Shoreditch. The building is an old brick warehouse where they used to repair trains years ago. So it has two tunnel-like sections, one of which we set up a stage for the music. The main area had 40-foot-plus ceilings. It was really rad. The UK Roxy crew had a private party upstairs for press and VIPS to help kick of its new Limited line. I had my first glass of Pimms there – a classy summer drink the Brits mix with cucumber, mint leaves and slices of orange, lemon and strawberries. So good on a hot London evening!
Then, my buddy Charles and I packed up our 20-foot cargo truck with the art and drove down to Cornwall (the southwest tip of England). It’s known for it’s surf, but more for it’s surf culture. The beaches are beautiful and the surf does come together from time to time. We drove through the night and arrived head-high surf with stiff offshore winds. The venue for The Happening was in a small town called Gwithian Hayle at a venue called The Sandsifter – right on the beach. Our original play was to have the film and music outside, since they have beautiful grounds there, right off the sand dunes. However, the British weather didn’t like that plan so much. It rained, rained some more and kept raining the entire night. But the Cornish surfers are pretty resilient. I thought half the people wouldn’t show due to the weather, but I was wrong. It was packed! And I found out there is a good cure for a cool, rainy night in Cornwall – good Cornish Ale! It was a fun night. G-Love came down a rocked the place out. Matt Costa told me it was his favorite Happening yet, with the crazy energy in the crowd.
Paris was the smallest event of the tour, but still very hip. It was a mix of fashion types, press, skaters and land-locked surfers that were thoroughly stoked we brought the event to Paris. Next year I would love to bring The Happening down to Biarritz, but I am still really happy we kicked it off in Paris. It really elevates the art and the importance of the event to me. Several of the artists I work with have shown in Paris museums, so it was really cool to bring an event there – following the footsteps of so many famous Parisian artists from years past. The venue is a hall called La Fourmi, and it sits next to a beautiful, old Theater called La Cigale – just down the street from the Moulin Rogue Theater. Lots of history there.
QUIKSILVER: Bansky is pretty famous in London, but I can imagine that The Happening took that major metropolitan area by storm… Are you starting a new revolution?
WP: There is definitely a really strong art scene happening in London right now.