Okay, firstly let's re-cap the cluster-fuck that brought us to this point. In the largest landslide vote of Discomfort Zone thus far, you overwhelmingly wanted me to attend the Improv InTouch All-Night Open Jam. And no wonder. While I was pretty sure it would just be an improv dance class (which I've actually done before in college, although I felt extremely stupid), I doubted it was going to turn into any sort of "orgy" as you all—fuck you very much—had hoped. But the threat of it going on indefinitely was... ugh. Nonetheless, I went to pre-register for it on Friday, when the organizer told me the monthly to-do was on hold for July and August. One of the other two Discomforts on the list, Jo Jo Jorge Falcon (which was the one I had been hoping you would send me to so I would have the opportunity to practice my Spanish comprehension while improvising sitting my ass in a chair in a dimly lit theater) had already happened the night before. That left Shpongle Presents the Shpongletron Experience, a psychedelic UK DJ extravaganza that seemed like a safer, louder, and much briefer endeavor than what I had to do last year. But I was not stoked. I knew I would have to go alone (my fiance unfortunately is rarely down to suffer along with me for Merc-related punishments ever since that one time I tricked him into going to the screening for Marley & Me). But whatever. So I looked it up. They're from England, headed by one Simon Posford, and they play synth-based psychedelic music, but they're also known for crazy live shows. According to Wikipedia, this happened just days before I saw them:
"Shpongle Live" performed at Camp Bisco X on July 7—9, 2011 in Mariaville, New York. This is was Shpongle's first ever performance as a full ensemble in the United States. The performance also had three other live performers along the lines of a gymnast, a giant slinky woman and an incredible hula hooper. Simon wielded a guitar, and Raja Ram blew minds and donned a beautiful blacklight reflective cloak. Also the show took place during a thunder and lightning storm, but the entire group did a fantastic job at holding such a crowd in the inclement weather.
So, I was expecting this:
What I got was more like this:
On my way to the Crystal there was a stream of people coming up Burnside who were clearly Shpongle-bound. Crazy hippie garb and Burning Man costumes abounded, and since it was an all-ages show, a lot of them looked really young. Aaaaand stoned. When I got inside after paying for a $26 ticket (coming to an expense report near you, Mercury), the opener, Auditory Canvas, was playing sleepy down-tempo to the already sizeable crowd. I'd just come from a family dinner at a nice restaurant, where I'd tipped back two glasses of wine, plus had gone for a last-ditch cheap pre-func cocktail at Scooters around the corner (but I didn't have any drinks at the Crystal). That plus a full belly and long week had me pretty susceptible to the narcotic effects of the super-mellow set. I went up to the balcony to get a lay of the land and sort of dozed through the end of it. But when Shpongle was set to go on next, I figured I needed to make the most of the experience, and headed toward the very front of the stage. It was surprisingly easy to get up there, despite the crowd. Unlike the wall of cross-armed tall dudes one usually needs to mount for front-row access, I easily swam through the crowd to the lip of the stage. I soon learned that Shpongle fans seem pretty nice, and know how to share. Then the Shpongling began. Posford was ensconsed atop a big scaffold structure that had psychedelic laser shows projected onto it. The crowd around me exploded into a dance party when the trippy world-ish music started up. I kept waiting for a spectacle, but the closest we got was hula hoopers with LEDs on their hoops. No rainbow tube monster—boo. The animated Shpongle multi-eyed sun-face thing you see above, plus the laser show, were the extent of the theatricality, which was actually probably easier to take in from a distance, though even up front it was clearly sophisticated. But at that point I was trapped between the stage and a sea of flailing limbs. So I stayed. Even without psychedelics, it was fairly entrancing to watch the light show, but since I was slightly off to the side I didn't have the greatest view of Posford doing his bouncy knob twiddling in a Robin Hood-esque feathered hat. It really wasn't that bad. It wasn't my scene, but it wasn't scandalous or particularly embarrassing or anything. And if it makes you feel any better, I actually kind of regret that the Improv thing didn't work out. I can take much more discomfort than Shpongling delivered. Still, after last year's truly horrible night, I don't feel that bad. My turn to get an easy one. Stay tuned, though, because Courtney's up next. GET HER.