Music Festivals

Behind the Scenes of Meow Wolf's Three-Day Denver Rave, Dark Palace

Inside Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe.
Inside Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. Kenzie Bruce
When one of the dreamers with Meow Wolf — the Santa Fe arts and entertainment company that is set to open a Denver outpost in 2021 — started thinking about doing an event at the Sports Castle, the former Sports Authority building on Broadway, Meow Wolf event director Max B.K. and events art director Sofie Cruse were immediately inspired by what she calls the “contemporary-ruin” aesthetic of the building.

That sparked the idea for Meow Wolf to throw a three-day interactive party, Dark Palace, that’s scheduled for November 22 through November 24. Unfortunately, the Sports Castle wasn't available, so the party will be held at the National Western Complex instead.

“In a lot of ways, the venue is not an obvious fit, because it’s a place that’s really good for alpacas and for cows and other kinds of trade shows,” explains B.K., who's been with Meow Wolf since 2012 and established the outfit's performance venue in Santa Fe.

But the odd fit is part of the appeal, adds Cruse, who's directed art for Meow Wolf's music festival Taos Vortex, its Monster Battle, its New Year's party and other events. “There is something really special about the space and how it’s set up for wrangling not just animals, but people."

The soaring ceilings at the National Western Complex lend a similar goth feeling to that of the Sports Castle. To push the concept of contemporary ruin even more, Cruse turned to Denver artists — the lineup has yet to be announced — to create work for the November event. Some of the aesthetic will be mined from older anime films.

“The artists we’ve chosen either portray light in a warm and specific way that’s more stark, or they create more tangible, walkable installations that are going to be very colorful and fun and bring that Meow Wolf feeling,” she explains. Illumination, incandescence and warmth are the themes that Cruse kept in mind while working with artists on the installations that will be set up throughout the venue.

Attendees will explore an environment that plays heavily with the concept of discovering oases of light within a vast, dark space; it will be at once futuristic and organic. “I think we’re having some kind of reversal from technology always being cold and intelligent and these straight lines,” B.K. adds. “Instead, it’s something that feels warm and that you want to touch.”

Those installations will be spread throughout the complex, inviting attendees to spend the night — or more than one night — exploring everything. “Sofie and I are both really inspired by the idea of living inside Meow Wolf,” says B.K. “A weekend lets you begin to inhabit something in a way, to go back day to day and be inside of it.”

B.K.’s booked the music to set a slightly different vibe every night. Claude VonStroke, MK, Guy Gerber, J. Worra, Jlin, Oona Dahl and more will open the weekend on Friday, November 22, with a fun dance party, followed by some bass-and-glitch-heavy artists on Saturday: CharlesTheFirst, Shlohmo, Late Night Radio, VCTRE, Mass Relay and more.

“Sunday night, it gets even weirder,” B.K. notes, with Dirt Monkey, Shades, Of the Trees, Lauren Lane, Eli Escobar, Krystal Klear and more in the lineup.

“So many Denver people have come down to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and have come to our parties and shows, and we’re thrilled to be coming to Denver at a scale like this — with so many artists, installation artists, performers, DJs, musicians — to do an event in Denver,” B.K. concludes.

Dark Palace runs November 22 to 24 at the National Western Complex. For more information and tickets, $19.95 to $84.95, go to the Meow Wolf website.
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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen