MYSTERY BANDS THEATRE @ PAPER MOUNTAIN, SUNDAY JULY 15
Like any good mystery, it begins as the moon rises over an unassuming winters’ night. My footsteps echo through the deserted village, whose signs of life glow instead from sequestered shop interiors as raindrops fall crudely and slowly like glass beads. Soon enough I see the steps sloping into the summit. They are thick with shadow, creeping up into the rock, into an unseen enclave beyond the Steppes. A sign by the entrance reads ‘MYSTERY BANDS THEATRE.’ I gaze back up at the slope; it flickers with strange shapes, before illuminated cursive flashes across the wall: ‘FOR MADMEN ONLY.’ I straighten my deerstalker and clamber up the terraced mountainside.
From the top I can see the whole town, lights winking, clouds eddying overhead. Around me are countless curiosities: paintings and drawings of mythical beings, skulls, lizards, lavish fabrics draped generously over wooden structures, televisions gutted and sprouting gardens, gardens swimming with tiny civilizations. At the far end of the rocky arcade, where the rows of mysterious assemblages come to and end, three enigmas are brandishing instruments. Two echoing guitar notes oscillate through the thin mountaintop air, soon joined by the growing thump of drums and spiritual flute. This is ALASKA NEBRASKA (A SHANIA TWANG ODYSSEY) HELPING SALMA HAYAK WITH HER KAYAK PART 1. The trio weave effect-laden steel strings, percussive stampedes and hazy canopy textures into sonic pretty things and trigger a true hootenanny as the night begins to grow warm.
I spy a pair of puzzling specters floating across the plateau, legendary Japanese spirits with flowing firey hair, skirts like billowing lotus flowers, eyeglasses adorned with shimmering dollar signs. Shania and Salma’s adventures have made me thirsty, however, and I’ve forsaken my supplies, so I venture back down the mountain to fetch some. Along the way I meet a Rhino in a cap, and together we wander to Mexico. Sat astride a candlelit log, he eats quesadillas while I sip coffee-tequila. I feel I’ve only been gone from the mountain for a minute or ten – but alas, all of a sudden, there appears from the gloom an Alaskan Nebraskan, long hair billowing in the breeze, and she tells me a mystery has been and gone: the two specters I had seen had been WA$ABI PEA$, a brief but explosive anime beats extravaganza (and certainly not half a female dog from Croatia). With a heavy heart for having accidentally forgone such a spicy wonder, I bid farewell to the rhino and return to the mountaintop.
When I arrive, the mountain has erupted. Bodies dance fiercely around the molten burping lava, in which one can just make out two figures. If legend is true, they must be ninjas – for only the most advances ninjas have the arcane training to withstand such heat, and even then, they frequently become wounded. The pair slowly rise out of the magma, howling with rage, rhythmically beating their surroundings with ferocious energy. One of them, with a steeley look about him, slams subterranean metals against one another, and it resounds across the pinnacles. A rosie-cheeked mystery lady from Croatia enters the fray, pummeling more rhythms in tempo, and another joins in with a chain and a tribal hand-drum. Even I cannot resist the strange catastrophic allure, and I begin to clap objects against one another with intense fervour. It is a true CLUSTERFUCK for the ears.
From a nearby crystalline pool rises a huge, newt-like amphibian with a hawaiian shirt. It blows avidly into a trumpet, adding a brassy squeal to proceedings. Once the intensity boils down, It invites everyone back to its pool to cool off and partake in hanging ten with some fellow SILLY BOARDERZ. A troupe of mystically uncool mariners with snorkels, flippers, boogie boards and spaceship apparatus slip and slide along the water’s edge, winding along a gurgling sine-wave river to LED coastlines where the tide smacks the shore at a frenetic, unrelenting pace. All the while, the mountain is aflurry with bodies sweating and twisting and wriggling through the trees. Yin-yangs and Dunsborough surf shop flashbacks blaze across my membrane. I’m sinking, deeper, deeper into the future-fun rainbow current. I’m about to drown in mystery. I can’t breathe, I can’t swim, there’s nothing to hold onto, everything grows darker, darker, darker and then –
- Warm air rushes into my strained lungs. I’m in a deep sea cavity, and underground cave, but oxygen streams in through a matrix of tunnels leading to the mountain surface. All the amphibians hang around, for they like air as much as water. But everyone else joins in too – including a hip-hop cray-crayfish who begins spitting beat box bubbles into a conch shell. A salamander warbles an earth-shaking bassline. A rabbit dances on a nearby archipelago. We all hammer whatever is closest, and the jamoree shakes the tectonic plate to its foundations. Poets, painters, crooners, freaks and beasts, all stomping, wailing, bellowing, pummeling, mingling all the qualia into a hot billowing haze that will eventually dissolve like a dream into a tangible landscape of chandeliers, carpet and tired smiles. The riddles here run deep as the ocean. Who were the Alaskan Nebraskans, the Wa$abi Pea$, the Cluster-fuck, the Silly Boarderz? What name can we even give to the final tumult? And even if we knew – could we begin to untangle the smoldering strings of sound that arose from who-knows-where? These are the vibrations of the Bermuda Triangle, the darkest ripples of Loch Ness, the breeze that kisses Stonehenge. I take off my deerstalker and scratch my head, tumbling back into the damp darkness of the flatland. Some things are best left a mystery.