A unicorn bumping and grinding -- I never thought I'd see that. Thanks, Artopia 2013!
Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp at Artopia 2013. Photos: Artopia 2013 full slideshow
With Artopia's dense schedule, it's important to get limber. You can't rush into things. Pulling a muscle or getting a cramp early could mean missing all too many things. Much like a herd of wildebeests in migration, there is no forgiveness for being slow because time -- like a lion -- is unforgiving. There is no turning back the clock to see the start of a set; no getting your hands on a hot dog after the guy has started packing up -- oh wait, there's waffles on the third floor.
The evening begins at Standard for a set by Men in Burka, which is a nice warm up for the marathon of culture about to be consumed. Their 808-heavy, Middle Eastern beats start out slow and then build over the course of the set to a more frenetic pace. By 8:30 p.m., Standard is filling up. Where are the belly dancers with veils and scimitars? They aren't next door at the Salty Dog for the "Ogle This: Eye to Eye with the Women of Denver's Art Scene," but there is no shortage of amazing work.
With eyes and ears sated, the belly asks when it might get some love. The second floor of Vinyl is packed with food lovers and art aficionados alike and Laru Loud is laying down a throbbing house soundtrack. Having devoured Little India's butter chicken and some Little Man ice cream -- are the 'Little' places next to each other for a reason? -- a stroll through the fine art gallery reveals the visual sensation of Stickerman. I never thought I'd see a famous image of Frank Zappa sitting on a toilet as rendered in a collage of fruit stickers. Definite highlight.
Heading for the roof to try and catch some of Mile High Soul Club's set, it dawns on me that there is no wasted space. Even in the stairwell on the second floor landing there's Hermann West, picking out some Bach on a mandolin. There is an impressive diversity of experiences to have here. The Soul Club has the rooftop dance floor packed for their last few tunes and without missing a beat, there is Slam Nuba dropping spoken word jewels.
If there's a technique to conquering this formidable evening, it's to carefully plot out a schedule of acts you want to see, then after making it to the first one or two, forget the list exists and simply abandon yourself to the universe. There will be surprises along the way: You never know when you're going to need to pause for a photo opportunity with a unicorn on stilts.
It was just such an incident that caused me to miss the B-Boys at City Hall and then discover that Raw Russ was going to destroy my face with some heavy trap-style sounds. I wander into the amphitheater while Wheelchair Sports Camp is setting up on the street level stage to discover an aerialist winning applause by casually sliding down thirty feet of silk while completely horizontal. Juxtapositions.
Cora Vette and the VaVaVettes outdo themselves this year, managing to pack an evening's worth of performances, including a group number, into their thirty-minute set. "This is speed burlesque," Cora tells the appreciative audience. It's never a bad time to watch carefully choreographed strip tease.
Next door, Stay Tuned -- the dynamic duo of Mane Rok and DeeJay Tense -- is bringing heavy metal energy to a rap show. Just as quickly, Tense flips the beat into some '80s pop and then a RZA-worthy soul loop that provides the perfect foundation for Mane Rok's booming delivery. Benjamin Butters shows up for a cameo looking like Buddy Holly (no Weezer), and then Tense commences to juggle audio and video of Garth's drum solo from Wayne's World. Keep an eye out for Mane Rok's new mixtape, Murder She Wrote, which will be out on 4/20. "It's about serial killers," is how he explains it.
With so much going on across the three floors, it's really hard to leave City Hall. All of the sudden, Hearts In Space is getting all psychedelic in the amphitheater. Most surreal moment: Standing on the second floor of City Hall's amphitheater and looking down at the floor to see the unicorn on stilts slow grind (as a quadruped) with an attractive young lady while Illuminated Arts twirl fire a few feet away.
Whether it's the fear of snow or a failure to pace one's self for a long night of consumption, the crowd is thinning out when Man Mantis takes the stage on the second floor. His tightly arranged live beat set is a smooth glass of brandy after a big meal. It's been another awesome year.
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