The Theatre and Its Double

The performance was on a beautiful summer night in Denver, during the summer of 1991. The show was in a junkyard northwest of downtown, in the industrial zone.

I went to show with some old friends from high school and some newer friends from college. We took an overpass that crossed over downtown and the train tracks. Driving in front of us was an old, brown Datsun pickup with two portraits of Charlie Manson stenciled on the back. They were going to the same performance.

The sun was still out when we first arrived at the salvage yard. The performance was scheduled for sundown. A mix of people had already begun to congregate; it was certainly a strange mix of people. College students like myself, skaters and punks, and other young people. There were others too, more eccentric and eclectic, witches and occultists and men and women covered with tattoos and piercings. Some people came painted from head to toe, painted for the dance. There was one woman in particular I remember who painted her body white, and highlighted her bones in black. She wore a black bra and panties and no other clothes. she had black arrows painted on her shins that looked something like this:

positioned so that they pointed to the earth (here encrusted with broken glass and rusted metal — Pottery shards, cartridge cases, arrowheads. A hypodermic syringe glimmered in the sun. Abandoned Artifacts).

Just as the sun was setting the warm up act began. They called themselves The Haters. Essentially, they just broke a bunch of tv’s. My friend Jullian cut his finger on some broken glass from one of the screens; he pressed his finger on his forehead, leaving a print in blood where is third eye might be.

Once it was dark, Crash Worship — the main attraction — began to play. Everyone could hear drumming in the distance, but none could see the source. As the sound came closer, all attention was turned back towards the street, and we could now see the drum processional entering the salvage yard. The musicians played simple, steady beats, and waved their drums in the air.

While all attention was turned away from the stage, some other members of the ensemble rushed in from behind the crowd, from behind the stage. They violently pushed through the crowd, blowing whistles, throwing firecrackers, and spraying us all with fire extinguishers filled with wine. All were confused and excited; the panic began.

The musicians reached the stage and set into a more energetic rhythm. An enormous fire was started in the middle of the crowd, built from the television remains left by The Haters soaked in gasoline. Some other members of the group continued to run among the audience throwing little balls of fire, powdered sulfur.

One member of the ensemble had a hubcap covered in rags soaked in gasoline. The hubcap was then attached to a long piece of flexible tubing. He lite the rags, and he then twirled the burning hubcap over the crowd, the tubing was long enough to reach well into the group. The danger was intoxicating.

As the drumming continued, the crowd began a dance around the fire, running in circles, always counter-clockwise. We were all out of our minds, entranced by the extreme nature of the environment and the dance. The state of energy created was perhaps the most profound degree hallucination I’ve ever experienced, like drugs but more exhilarating. It was a constant flow of energy and vision, in extreme fashion, almost mystical.

Overwhelmed by the frenzy, I learned something new about evil. Here in the trenches of the city, I saw the skyscrapers rising above us differently than I had ever before; civilization has run amok, and the power that creates also destroys.

The fire was continually fed throughout the night, fed with gasoline and debris from the yard (the next morning my snot was black). The fire burned so hot that is was impossible to get too close, the heat always warned you away.

By the end of the night my body was painted different colors, all across my face, arms, and chest. The dance lasted for hours, but time was obsolete. When the musicians finally stopped several members of the gathered crowd moved to the stage and continued to beat on the drums, still wired from the frenzy.

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