Itchy-O Is Back With the Sypherlot: Drive-in Radio Bath

Itchy-O has found a way to play live during the pandemic.
Itchy-O has found a way to play live during the pandemic. Brandon Marshall
Itchy-O, the 57-member, otherworldly masked marching band, is on the move again. “2020 has been a seismic shift for all of humanity — and as super-terrestrial beings, itchy-O has felt this resonance, too,” the act reports in an email. “We’ve had to cancel or postpone performances, and some of the things we’ve been working on had to be put on the back burner.”

Even so, members of the avant-garde percussion troupe have kept busy. They produced a video of a backyard performance for the Greek Onassis Foundation’s Enter Project and offered a couple of live streams for the Go Outside and Howl at 8 p.m. Facebook page. Now the troupe is working with Denver Film on Sypherlot: Drive-in Radio Bath, a series of performances that launch Friday, August 14, and run for three weekends at 4242 Wynkoop, in the Mission Ballroom’s parking lot.

Westword caught up with itchy-O to find out more about the event and how the band's been holding up through COVID-19 closures.

Westword: How are you all practicing through this virus?

Itchy-O: Keeping this massive beast belching out magic has always been an exercise in acuity — so it’s a matter of extending that to all elements of in-person operations at this point as well. We’ve developed a set of standard operating procedures to ensure everything is done up to and beyond recommended CDC guidelines for masking, ventilation, disinfecting, and social distancing.

Have you played in front of people yet? Why or why not?

Outside of livestreams, this will be our first performance since our Saturnalia New Years Eve celebration at the Gothic Theater. We had been booked for the Sleeping Giant Film Festival in Florida in March. That had to be canceled. And we had initially planned our annual Disambiguation Ceremony to coincide with a Milk Moon ritual performance at the Stanley Hotel in May. That was rescheduled in August as our Intergalactic Masquerade ball, but obviously the universe interceded there as well.

We didn’t want to proceed with anything until we dial in something as safe as possible for everyone involved without sacrificing any part of the interactive bombast folks have come to expect from itchy-O.

What is this upcoming event going to look like?

A couple months ago when folks in the industry started looking at drive-in concerts, our ears pricked up and we started imagining what it might look like as an itchy-O event. This new "standard approach" with hundreds of cars parked in front of a screen was not any sort of option for us, however, because our whole mission revolves around dissolving the divide between performer and audience. So, we’ve created this intimate experience as a multiple run show for a small group of cars.

We might not get to create the sweaty dance temple we’re all used to and may be separated by metal, glass, and plastic, but we will be injecting every vehicle’s compartment with our infectious music by way of your short-band FM radio, and every car in attendance will interface intimately with itchy-O in some very innovative and experimental ways. There will also be a lot of drums, of course, and fire. A lot of fire… like, worth the price of admission fire.

So, this certainly won’t look like any drive-in concert the world has ever seen, and it isn’t some kitschy thing we’re doing just because we can. In fact, this has been a HUGE undertaking, much for the pure love of performing. And we are so happy to have Denver Film, the Overlook Film Festival, and North Wynkoop behind the event. Everything has seriously fallen into place like magic for this: From the actual parking lot at the Mission Ballroom to our incredibly spacious staging areas and all of the incredible tedious details that go into throwing any unconventional event outdoors. This thing has come together quite smoothly with a ridiculous amount of stars aligning for it.

Are there new creative possibilities with the drive-in?

This entire event is outside of our box… which was already outside of the box… and outside of the other box.

Tips for people struggling with the mask ordinance?

As anyone who’s been to a show can attest, itchy-O has long been pro-mask even before a pandemic. There’s something inherently powerful about the collective anonymity that comes from donning one as part of a performance. That’s why, after fielding multiple requests from our fans, we decided to introduce itchy-O neck gaiters to help keep wearers safe from the elements and others from the spread of the nasty virus, all while looking totally badass.

You describe this as a cosmogenic conflagration and talk about unifying magic. What are these?

It’s a universal expression of the raw emotion we’re all experiencing individually together in a sonic ceremony linked with fire and drums. At the heart of everything we do is the construction of a shared temporary space to traverse interstellar frequencies, so physical limitations are but a minor inconvenience in building this effigaiac temple for our congregants and Hive members to resonate together in — even if we are separated by windshields, plastic, and metal.

Anything else?

Fuck the “new normal” — this is an “ancient future”.

Festivities run Fridays and Saturdays August 14 through 29; tickets are $100 to $125 and available at
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris