Festus Freely will write a song about just about anything, whether it's smuggling a rooster across the Canadian border or making an inappropriate remark about naked women during a church group meeting. Such bizarre life experiences serve as the lyrical backdrop for Freely's folk explorations during his one man show, The Sundry Tales of Festus Freely, playing at Java's Café as part of the Rochester Fringe Festival.
I'm going to be honest: I wasn't expecting much from this show, especially after an introduction that featured some pretty corny jokes about women's undergarments. However, Freely soon regained my attention and interest with his music. Mark Costello (Freely's real name) is a talented musician, and his playing style is effortless and free flowing. Folksy guitar melodies layered over rhythmic strumming provided a musical backdrop for Freely's lyrical explorations. Coupled with the intimate atmosphere of Java's and the delicious coffee on offer, it wasn't long before I found myself getting into the performance.
The show itself was a mixture between folk songs, comedic interludes, and, at times, melancholic reflections. The content fluctuated between the poignant and the inane as Freely casually relived some of his more bizarre and memorable life moments for the audience. His experience growing up in Upstate New York, his brushes with the law, and his many ex-wives were all touched upon, but for the most part the show was dominated by one overarching theme: Freely's love of women.
While at times I found myself shaking my head at some of the cornier lyrics, there were more than enough redeeming moments throughout the show. The final two songs stood out in particular. Both were more serious love songs, one about a beautiful motel attendant named Mona and the second a rather charming ode to the one-night stand entitled "Til Dawn do us Part." I enjoyed both of these songs musically and I couldn't help but feel that I got some practical knowledge out ofthe latter. I know that next time I'm schmoozing a lovely lady at the end of the bar I'll be trying to convince her that what I'm really looking for is "temporary love."
The Sundry Tales of Festus Freely also takes place Saturday, September 21, 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, September 28, noon, at Java's Café. Performances are free.