The fog was so thick it was almost suffocating. Members of the band Itchy-O seemed to multiply, roaming the crowd. One wandered, head down, with a giant megaphone strapped to his back. Another, holding a keyboard, danced to his own drone-y creations. One, without instrument, walked slowly, touching passerby. He stopped in front of me, forced me to stare into the eternal blackness of his balaclava. Then pressed his forehead against mine and slinked back into the crowd. In the corner of my vision, a Tesla coil shot out purple lightning bolts.
I tried to remind myself that it was just a performance. This was 3 Kings, the venue I frequent. I could, if I wanted, just walk out the door and back into the cold quiet of South Broadway. But the reminder was useless — it was too late. I was dragged down into the glorious nightmare that is an Itchy-O show.
To ring in 2016, Itchy-O had a three-night stand at 3 Kings Tavern. But it wasn't just three nights of the same setlist. Instead, the post- apocalyptic drumline decided on a performance in three chapters, each honoring a different god.
Chapter One was titled "Drum Prayers," a tribute to "Sami Shamanistic God of Thunder, Horagalles." Chapter Two was "Electrometaphysics," honoring the drum god's mistress Xin Xing. Chapter Three was a seven-point ceremony. The event page sounded ominous, to say the least. Standing at the edge of the crowd as the fog began to thicken and the members emerged from darkness, I couldn't help but wonder if one of the audience members would be grabbed by the hand, led to the stage and sacrificed in front of my eyes. Luckily there was no blood drawn—just sweat, cheers and dance moves offered up to the gods worshipped by Itchy-O.
I know nothing of shamanistic deities. I can't say whether Itchy-O and the audience successfully honored and pleased these gods. I do know that the first night hosted the most straightforward performance. Night Two was the most contemplative, and that Night Three was the rowdiest. I also know that every night I left feeling changed in ways I cannot quite articulate. I felt content that in such a cruel, often senseless world, there's a place where people can dance to bass drums beats and cymbal crashes while a guy (or girl?) in a light-up sombrero rides in circles on a bike with speakers strapped to the back. If those gods weren't pleased by Itchy-O's fearless embrace and its dedication to whatever it is the group is trying to do, then screw the gods.
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The nights were filled with eager crowds. Filled with both explosive drum cadences and moments of reflection, when only drones and whispers overwhelmed your ears. There were laughter and screams and many, many phones trying to capture an experience untranslatable to a tiny iPhone screen.
During the second night, two women in black burkas with long black nails crawled through the crowd. Occasionally the pair would grab ankles, or rub their long fingers up legs of strangers. I expected the unwilling participants to react with fear or at least skepticism. To say, "Nope this stranger just intimately touched me. I'm out of here." But no one did. Each accepted the touch. It's not a lot, but if a crowd of drunk Denverites can embrace Itchy-o and its three-night worship to obscure gods, then there's hope it's probably going to be a good 2016.