(photo by Randall Roberts)

Today's a travel day for me, having just experienced the best little festival I've ever attended, the first annual Marfa Film Festival, in Marfa, Texas. The second annual one is already on my calendar for next year (and in the interim I'll be trying to convince my bosses that we need to throw a party down here). Part of my excitement is circumstantial. I've been surrounded by musicians and artists for the past five days non-stop, have been awash with the music of Mia Doi Todd, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes , and Victoria (the blossoming product of former Spacehog singer Antony Langdon), have been roaming the streets of Marfa and meeting, ironically (or not), lots of Los Angelenos.

On Saturday night, the film festival debuted one of Heath Ledger's final directorial efforts, “Quicksand,” a cover of a David Bowie song by Australian singer Grace Woodroofe, with whom the late actor had been working on a music project. Shot at the Edison lounge in downtown Los Angeles in February, 2006, the austerely shot short features a sepia-toned palette and rich imagery. The song, from Bowie's 1971 album Hunky Dory, also features Alex Ebert (aka Edward Sharpe, who's been running around Marfa with his Magnetic Zeroes like a cult-leader for the past four days). Woodroofe recorded it, and others, during a visit to Los Angeles in the winter of 2006. (Note of possible conflict of interest: last summer, I wrote press releases for both Grace Woodroofe and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes; I did it as a favor, and wasn't compensated for my work.)

There Will Be Pick-Ups: Downtown Marfa during the festival. (photo by Randall Roberts)<

The art scene in this little West Texas town of 2,121, longtime home to sculptor Donald Judd, is building quickly; spaces along the two main streets are filling with galleries. Last fall the longtime Austin folk-art gallery Yard Dog opened a branch here, and just last week Connecticut-based Samuel Owen Gallery opened in an old garage. The highlight at the galleries was at the glorious Ballroom Marfa, where three artists, Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe and Alexandre Singh, had created “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun,” a multi-room replica of a working meth lab. They had literally built inside the ballroom another littler building with rooms filled with a nightmare chemist's lab. Dark, venal, sick, nasty, perfect. They also built a replica of a stoner hippie dude's college lair, which is equally spot-on.

(Meth table from “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun.”)

There wasn't much celebrity action, which is perhaps why the MFF was so much fun. The biggest wig was perhaps Paul Mitchell/Patron Tequila co-founder John Paul DeJoria, who walked the streets of Marfa like an outlaw, and provided mucho sponsorship tequila for the festival-goers.

(alas, John Paul DeJoria didn't bring the puppy)

Tonight's closing night event will feature Dennis Hopper introducing his 1971 western, The Last Movie, and will be preceded by a mini-retrospective of the work of artist, writer and actor Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel. Chick Strand's Loose Ends, Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and The Wormwood Star, directed by Curtis Harrington, will screen.

LA Weekly