In building the Mayday Experiment, I have to be constantly aware that I am not only building a home, but a quasi-public space. The house itself is also the art, and many of my design choices (such as devoting a large area to seating) reflect those needs more than my own. To that end, I’ve sought out ways to “activate” the house, to use it even while it is in progress as a public venue. From bringing it to the Denver Art Museum for Untitled to parking it at RedLine for 48 Hours of Socially Engaged Art, the tiny house inspires conversations even in its unfinished state.
But sometimes, that unfinished state creates a possibility that couldn’t otherwise exist within its walls, such at this month's Titwrench 8.
Titwrench is an underground Denver institution, a grassroots music festival that features women and LGBTQIAP artists and musicians from punk to folk to anything experimental and interesting. Founded in Denver in 2009, it has a sister festival in Stockholm and has received multiple Best of Denver awards from Westword.
When I saw my friend (and fellow MasterMind) Sarah Slater put out the call for participants for the 2016 festival, I immediately thought of what I could do with the tiny house, and it seemed a perfect opportunity. I wrote to her back in July and asked, “Would you like to use the tiny house as an alternate venue outside of Glob?”
She got back to me fairly quickly with a “yes,” and over the next couple of months, we solidified details via e-mail and Facebook messaging. The plan was to pull the tiny house into the very narrow alley behind the legendary RiNo warehouse and have intimate acts perform inside during the day, when lighting wouldn’t add more complications.
So after bedecking the insides (and protecting the new stairs) with twisted and knotted silver lamè (bags of which were saved from the dumpster by a friend who works at a design house that puts on million-dollar weddings), I hitched up tiny at 9 a.m. on a Saturday and headed over. Though Glob is only a hop, skip and a jump away in RiNo, I still needed to go the slow and arduous route through Curtis Park to Broadway and then to Brighton Boulevard – about two miles out of the way, but with no low bridge under the railroad tracks that would threaten to rip up the roof.
The alley was tight but passable — after moving a fence post and asking some volunteers to push an old couch out of the way. The gate to the back of Glob allowed us to create a narrow pathway to the tiny house (once we lined up the door), with the back window open so that people could see in from outside. The sound engineer, Kate, put a speaker in the loft and rigged it so that it pointed out the windows, and we were set.
My big curiosity: How many people were going to fit? Would people be comfortable? When the time came and the first notes were played, curious people began to filter in, slowly…until the tiny house was cozy and full. I turned around from my spot on the floor and counted heads, and was shocked to see 22 people inside!
Five bands — from Denver, San Francisco and Albuquerque — all took the stage in half-hour sets. Lady Uranium from Albuquerque, playing first, had donned antlers and deer makeup, so I dug one of my resin antlers out of the truck for her to use as set decor. Anna Mall, also from Albuquerque, did a quietly haunting set with beautiful vocals.
But by far my favorite set came from Denver band Koko La, whose rhythmic, woman-centric rap had tiny bouncing with infectious joy. The feeling of the whole house moving in unison, everyone grooving and moving inside, was almost addictive, and I didn’t want it to end. (And if I was worried about the strength of the floor, it got a full test and survived!)
At the end of all the sets, I did an artist talk in the fading light of the day about the project. Still, I reached many more people just in random conversation throughout the day, eating tacos and listening to bands and explaining my crazy vision. Titwrench is such a beautiful, supportive, community environment, and while I’ve attended many times in the past, there’s nothing like being part of it.
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I’m convinced that before I’m done building this, I have to hear bands play in it again. It makes an excellent intimate venue. Stay tuned!