From Aural Innovations #11 (July 2000)
I was close on his heels. He was just in front of me making a bee line up First Avenue toward OHM. If I was really tailing him, he would have proved to be no problem at all to keep in sight. He dressed flashy. A unified wardrobe of rising flames. Red and Yellow. Either warning of caution or a need to stop dead in my tracks.
I did neither. Instead I picked up my pace and followed him closely, caught in his jet stream as he breezed into the OHM lobby.
I was armed with the usual accessories. Camera, extra lens, small flashlight, mini tripod in left jacket breast pocket, two rolls of life savers, and a couple rolls of film. One new addition to the arsenal was a flash unit.
The club was not crowded. It was a quarter of ten. The doors had only been open for 15 minutes. Hard to tell just yet what the crowd would be like. I had never seen Lava de Mure before so I couldn't judge what to expect.
Joel, the keyboard player, was just in front of me over by the kitchen area. I walked over to let him know I had shown up. He had approached me after a King Black Acid show asking about my photos, hoping to get me to turn up at a Lava de mure show sometime. He had never seen my photos but was intrigued by the angles he saw me taking photos from.
"I decided to turn up tonight to try something new."
Joel smiled, "Great. I'm excited!"
"I ran into Tina a while back at Locals Only. She said something about the dance lights being pointed at the stage, some projections and that a fire act would also take place."
"Yes. Have you heard of Burning Man?"
"The Burning Man. Yes, a big wicker man they collected people in and set fire to for sacrifices."
I smiled quaintly.
Joel's eyes twinkled mischievously.
I chuckled, "Oh, I forgot you used to live in England too!
But they used to do that a thousand years ago. I imagine this version is a bit more modernized."
"Well, in the desert down in the southwest there is a burning man festival. They tried to get one for Portland but it ran into some problems."
I nodded. Typical paperwork hassles I'm sure.
"We go on first. Then these people will be doing a fire act. After that we go back on." Joel beamed proudly. "We even have girls on kegs."
I thought this over. The image was a bit odd to me. Something on kegS. But wouldn't that be something you drink?
"Ah, is that G-I-R-L-S on kegs?"
Enlightenment dawned... a bit slowly, but it dawned all the same. "Now that makes sense. I thought you mentioned the name of a Dutch beer."
Joel started laughing and joking that I thought the band was setting up kegs to serve foreign beer from the stage. He glanced around the room and looked back at me apologetically,
"I should go check up up on a few things. I'll talk with you again, later on."
"Sounds good. I'll let you mingle while I go look the place over." I left joel and headed toward the bar for a drink via the dance floor.
Gene Kelly was doing his hoofing. Facing his empty table down front near the left of the stage. A bottle rested its neck against the ice bucket it was lodged in. Gene danced oblivious to all. Eyes down while his feet blazed a mean cha-cha... his bold striped tie moving with ease... settling like a plumb bob... divining in pendulum swings-- the center of the Earth.
Over on the right side of the stage was Tina's Marimba. I heard someone mention she played a marimba but I wasn't sure what that was. I had seen a dark photo of her with sticks raised to beat something. For some reason I imagined a marimba must be like a large kettle drum like in those old classic Roman movies... ships rowing to the drum beat while the overseer stood by with a whip in hand to provide some occasional accompaniment. Much like brushes on cymbals in some classy jazz music. Except these were apply it to the skins instead.
Actually, the marimba is a xylophone with resonators beneath each bar, hanging like a rack of heavy chimes or the large cylinder pipes of a cathedral organ. I imagined this would give Lava de Mure a distinctive cocktail lounge sound. But what exotic flavour?
In the late 50's and early 60's the rage was exotica. Pulsating polynesian polyphonics. Tiki music. Martin Denny and Les Baxter were kings of this exotic music. Clubs sprung up in the Tiki mold. The cocktails were exotic. The wood carvings were exotic. Palm trees and Tiki torches lined the path to a new world of excitement. Hula hoops had been traded in for hula skirts. And many a young lad had wished they'd brought their hedge trimmers with them as they eyed the shapely young maidens in grass skirts.
As Lava de Mure prepared to go on stage, I walked over to Gene Kelly's Table. He was gone. He always seems to vanish before the bands play. He left only that ice bucket with the empty bottle resting inside of it.
I looked down at the table and spotted a small plaque embedded in the table. It read: THIS TABLE RESERVED FOR CARLOS. I'd wager that this was Carlos... a well thought of man in this club. Perhaps even in this town as well. There was more to Gene Kelly than met the eye.
2.COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE
The lighting on the stage was a far cry from what I expected. It was darker than a King Black Acid show. I had a roll of 800 ASA in my camera and I knew this wouldn't cut it. I would have to use this roll as the roll for my flash photography. That would be a fiddle as my flash only listed up to 400 ASA. I would have to be sure to set it all up manually.
The fire act would be interesting and I planned to just use existing light. Let the flames light the scene. Let them burn traces of light as they moved. I would use the tripod for these shots so I could have some stationary reference in the photos. The flames would show movement.
For my second roll I planned to push the film to 1600ASA and hope that maybe, just maybe, the lighting person would increase the light on the stage. I didn't want to go exclusively flash photos for Lava de Mure.
The singer for Lava de mure is Feroshia Knight. She was dressed mostly in black. A zebra pattern was also present. The outfit cried out VAMP.
Tina was off to the right side with a green lamp aimed at the bars across her marimba. Her face was in shadows. Her dress looked silvery, clinging to her and catching the light. For her a good photo would require the flash and clever positioning. The guitarist was moving in a way to obscure her instrument.
At the back of the stage stood two girls standing up on kegs dancing in front of the screen. One on the left side of the stage and one on the right side. Each girl had a wide strip of cloth hanging as additional background. Sometimes, if the lighting guy was alive... some film projected on the screen. The dancers bathed in this extra glow. They wore form fitting tight black clothes. The girl on the right had a beautiful model's face. It would light up radiantly in front of the screen as she smiled and squirmed in place.
Focusing on Tina was difficult. Not only was it too dark to see her face clearly, but I had the added complexity of the model-faced girl beaming brightly in the best light just behind her. I made several failed attempts to focus on Tina before a great idea hit me.
The model-faced girl would squirm and smile, turning her back to the audience. She was dressed in black against a nicely lit screen. I raised my camera and took aim while I focused in on her hips. She was a true asset for judging distance. She really should patent those hips. I'm sure this would increase the accuracy of geographic surveys. And all she'd have to do is stand there and pose in front of a well lit screen.
I made my rounds of the floor. Tried a few natural light shots in hopes that I may catch the lighting at just the right moment. Then of course I took many flash shots of the same scene to be sure I captured something I could look at later for comparison.
Finally, the time came for the fire act. I was wandering across the amazingly vacant dance floor when I passed by a short woman who appeared to be oddly dressed. Wearing something a bit floppy in the front. As I passed by her the word TOPLESS came to mind. I did a double take and gave her the once over from behind. Her back had coloured patterns all over the it. No, she couldn't be topless. If she was her back would be flesh coloured. I had made an assumption. This assumption was questionable.
When the short woman returned walking passed me again, my earlier assumption was shot down in flames. She was topless. Her body had been painted. It wasn't a pretty sight unless you were an abstract painter or a National Geographic photographer. I was neither. And I was becoming convinced I had discovered the cure for VIAGRA!
Miss Anti-viagra was lighting the candles that she had placed on the dance floor in a horseshoe shape. This created a barrier between the audience and the fire dancers. Surprisingly, Action Man was inside the barrier. I had walked across all the candles before they were lit and somehow never stepped on any of them. I didn't realize this until the model-faced girl sitting to the side commented to me that she was really looking forward to seeing this fire act. I nodded and gazed back amazed that I managed to walk right through all those pylons of fondue candles on the dance floor--never noticing that they were even there at all.
I sat down in front of the right side of the stage. Took out my tripod and fiddled with my camera while the dancers and chanters got things ready for the fire dance. A girl dressed like she was from India stood in the center of the dance floor poised gracefully. A half dressed guy with swimming goggles over his eyes sat on the floor beside me like he was fasting or praying. There was a long wooden rod or staff on the floor in front of him. He looked like he was praying to it.
A fire was lit and a dancer moved about the floor swinging their balls of flames. I followed the action with my camera. I set up several shots to show the blurred motion of the balls of flame being spun and swung through the air.
Eventually, the Indian girl came to the guy sitting next to me and set the ends of his rod aflame. It was at this moment that Action Man realized he had selected a place of importance to sit. He was very close to the performers. Too close. In fact, any closer and Action Man himself would become part of the act. The Burning Man!
I felt a rush of heat as the rod ignited next to me. Through the wide angel lens it looked miles away. Until I looked at it again--without the camera. "HOLY SHIT.... IT'S RIGHT NEXT TO ME!" I thought. The fire dancers thought nothing of it. They all came over next to me to light up and share their heat. The air filled with the smell of Kerosene.
The air around me was becoming uncomfortably warm. Naturally, I was wearing a parka. Great for arctic climates. But hardly fashionable in HELL. I definitely felt overdressed. I was the new poster boy for Devil's Island.
The dancers swirled the rods of light around themselves. Brilliant arcs and spirals of flame carved the air in bright neon paths of flowing lava. The dancers faces sparking into sight and vanishing into dark voids.
The audience was lined around the horseshoe of fondue candles. Intently watching the flames. One blonde woman sat on the floor mimicking the movements of the dancers controlling the flames. There was a large smile of pleasure on her face. A haunting look of certainty. I had that nagging feeling that her significant other was in for a big surprise the next time they invited guests over for a bar-B-Q.
The Indian girl had her balls of flame at the end of a tether. she spun this in diminishing circles. The flames in wides arcs spinning faster into tight fisted balls of light.... then they spun outward growing into huge gigantic arcs of flame around her. Fiery comets captured in her gavitational field of sleek curves and welcoming arms.
I managed not to burst into flames. The rest of the show returned to normal. Back to lava de Mure and their distinctively exotic cocktail sound.
The lighting never improved all that much so I continued in the same vein in my approach to photographing it as I had in their first set of the night.
After the show, Joel commented that it had been a weird night. Many things they had expected were not provided. Joel asked if I could hear the show alright and if I liked it. I told him that I could hear it fine and enjoyed what I heard. I did admit that I wasn't familiar with their music. This was the first time I'd actually heard them play. Joel suggested I take a free copy of their CD to listen to.
All in all it was a nice diversion and something uniquely different. Something unexpected. and all those lovely Great Balls of Fire!