Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Usually Friday nights go: nap/exercise, shower, frantic dinner, even more frantic drinking, bus to some bar or another for continued drinking.

And it's fun. And I have no complaints.

This past weekend, though, after a productive week at work spent reading up on SF-based blogs, I decided something more cultured was in order. A friend and I bought tickets to an appropriately mysterious event at an appropriately off-the-map location called Audium. I knew we could expect an experiment in sound, which was to take place in complete darkness, and that's about all she wrote.

Friday night rolled around, and while I was excited for whatever I'd just paid $20 to attend, a huge chunk of my gut was nagging for a return to my more familiar Friday night shenanigans. The vodka! and the Rock Star! (My gut nagged.) Instead, I silenced it with a slice of pizza in the least shady bit of the Tenderloin our trek to Bush and Franklin provided, and by the time we arrived approximately at Audium's intersection, I would have sworn we were lost had our phones not declared otherwise. And then there it was.

We were kind of being tailed by this awkward hipster kid who couldn't seem to match his pace with ours, resulting in his being right on our asses until we stood directly in front of Audium's entryway. As such, what was already a bit of an ominous moment was made even more off-kilter by the fact that we were flustered by this kid's presence, seeing as he was the only other one in sight on the dark street with us, and we didn't know whether he was following us inside or what, and so instead of taking a moment to orient ourselves we were kind of thrust unceremoniously inside, which to me is a big deal in terms of establishing a mood and a pace. If that makes sense. Fuck, I'm crazy.

The lady in the ticket booth immediately inside the doors was dressed in strange vintage garb that was just a little too costume-y to take her as a serious human being. She looked like a background extra from Altered States, and her mannerisms only confirmed this harsh judgement. Beyond her, around a dark corner, waited the lobby. Honestly, I could have just hung out in the lobby for the entire length of the audio performance and been content: it was stark, smelled like 1973, and featured strangely placed art pieces bathed in moody red and blue lighting. About two dozen other people milled around, waiting, and I immediately wanted to know who these people were and what the fuck they were doing at Audium on a Friday night. Some had on suits! Then I thought about the veritable parade of Friday/Saturday night performances that had taken place here since the 1960s, and how many countless hundreds of thousands of people had been in the exact same lobby, and I felt a lot less special. Still, it seemed as though I'd entered one of those pockets of our current reality that might have a portal to another one behind a curtain in the basement somewhere, if you know what I mean. Let's just say the air was charged.

After a while this old guy in an interesting tweed suit emerged from the pitch-black octagonal doorway that led to the sound theater. He gave a little speech that meandered in a distressingly memorized way, like "oh I'm just giving this off-the-cuff speech for the 4,000th time, let's see how subtly I can veer into a totally controlled tangent." Then we followed him through the octagon into a long stretch of pitch-black hallway, which soon bent back on itself into another long hallway, which then opened up onto the theater, which let's just say a picture says a thousand words:

We all sat down facing each other, and within two minutes the old man had entered a control booth and dimmed the lights lower, and lower, and lower - until I couldn't see a damned thing. In complete darkness, the sounds began. After a while my mind started to wander, and I forgot I sat in a room with two dozen strangers who were all probably unwittingly starting straight at me through the dark. I thought it would be an ideal setting for a pervert to routinely show up at, wait until the lights went black, and then sneak his pair of night vision goggles out from a backpack so he could observe everyone who had no idea they were able to be seen. Then I realized the old man in the control booth must have night vision goggles himself, a suspicion he confirmed when he thanked us an hour later for being "such an attentive audience." Ah!

My only complaint is that the sounds themselves were a bit (read: lot) outdated, and it was kind of apparent that this musical composition of raindrops, laughter, creepy piano riffs, and bouncy-ball sound effects that took place all around us (even in the floor!) were the machinations of a drug-addled ex (?) hippie. But he was nice and gave another little speech in the lobby afterward about how he creates his works (this is his 9th iteration), so I'm going to focus instead on what a wild overall experience Audium turned out to be. Definitely recommended, even if you do feel leaving dazed and confused.

No comments: