Chris and Aaron, of the fine gypsy-oriented Carolina Music Band (see review of Asheville Vaudeville), get things started. Then “guide and fellow traveler” Nathaniel offers what passes for the story of, and the excuse for, our quest: something about Nathaniel’s lost time machine, which it is imperative that we find.
First stop (after a preposterously, entertainingly wide bus turn on Broadway): a storefront studio on Carolina Lane. If there’s a time machine, it brings us back to a simpler age: Amy Hamilton and Sienna dance Hamilton’s lovely, funny, heartfelt “Bealaidh,” in which a mother and daughter work their way through a typical, pre-electricity day. Fast-forward to the present, in which Festival Director Jim Julien dons a doctored doctor’s outfit, with flashing emergency lights no less, to recite and illustrate Jillian Weise’s poem, “Help Your Physician Understand Your Pain,” which, though amusing and charmingly performed, never provides the slightest understanding.
Next up: “12.21.12 … deep breath,” an odd, discursive meditation, by Mountain Mort Jonas and Antanas, concerning the Mayan prediction of the end of the world, about which we are encouraged to talk to one another before we’re even more encouraged to dance.
Then we land on another planet altogether for “Bareback: The Trials and Virtues of Safe Sex,” created by Spycey Spyce, who wrote and sings the lyrics to music by Sicks D9. Bryan Octavius and Sisterdiscordia are a dancing penis and vagina, and condoms are liberally tossed to the audience.
Back on the bus, Nathaniel acknowledges that that stop was a mistake; no time machine there. So on we go, with group sing-alongs led by Ash Devine to keep up our spirits on the way to our next destination. (Your ability to tolerate this portion of the proceedings will depend on the pleasure you take in campfire-style singing of classics such as “You Are My Sunshine” and “Old MacDonald.”)
We continue our search at Royal Peasantry. Downstairs, Madison J. Cripps and Strings Attached Marionettes work their magic (again, see review of Asheville Vaudeville). It must be allowed, though, that by this latish hour Saturday night everyone seems a bit worn out.
Upstairs, it’s a weird scene in the “Vampire Torch Lounge,” where The Eyelash Carpets perform a strange, experimental torch song of sorts, with mostly prerecorded accompaniment for a fine if unintelligible singer, an excellent horn player, and a zombie-like, bare-chested fellow mechanically banging a drum. A belly dancer gyrates over here; a woman in S&M-style black leather and stockings gyrates over there; and a gentleman dressed in a Sgt. Pepper-like uniform dances — or, really, mostly shakes and trembles — throughout the small, intentionally ill-lit room, occasionally making patrons uncomfortable by too great proximity. Fortunately, there’s a free bar, stocked with a questionable beer and a still-more-dubious whiskey. You’ll need it.
And that’s pretty much it. We return to the bus one more time. Nathaniel must admit that we’re no closer to finding his time machine than when we began, and the attenuated narrative sputters out. There’s still more group singing, the spirit of which seems to depend on the amount of alcohol previously consumed. And just as it appears that the entire experience will end with a whimper, not a bang, the bus, backing up to the BeBe, slams into a telephone pole, smashing a rear window.
As stated, a bumpy night. Quite fringe-y.
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