Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: Painting While Dancing, Part 1: Hello Wednesdays

15 March 2008

Painting While Dancing, Part 1: Hello Wednesdays

Every Wednesday night around 9 pm, I drive out to the Trilogy Wine Bar here in Boulder, Colorado, where my friends Jantsen and Alala have a weekly DJing residency. Together, and with a rotating crew of talented guests, they pack the evening with a variety of electronic subgenres.

As little as a year ago, what they do would have sounded like some kind of alien language to me: dubstep, breakbeat, crunk, glitch, technofunk, whomptronica... And this is music that somehow I've discovered I enjoy - a lot - even though unrelenting doubletime drum breaks over inarticulate gangsta rap and shotgunned with the squealing of deconstructed sound clips is something from which I once would have run screaming.

But no longer. I really enjoy this stuff, now. And I'm sure that a big part of it is that I spend each Wednesday night communing with this music as deeply as possible. I'm not just there to dance; I'm there to paint. It makes a difference, to be part of the show.

Trilogy is split into back and front rooms. The front is a classy, somewhat upscale wine bar and restaurant (a giant triangular wine rack fills the wall behind the bar, in honor of the triplet sisters who own and run the place). Tasteful techno-buddhist paintings on wooden panels accentuate the subtle intensity. Their happy hour is a $5 bottomless glass of wine between 5 pm and 7 pm - an incomparable deal, in this town, and a major boost to their favored reputation. Evenings usually feature some DJ tucked away into one of the corners on a mobile PA system, playing the music that wine-drunk club girls in shiny heels invariably grind to - good for dancing, but typically unremarkable.

A tight squeeze past the couples lining the bar along the North wall and down a narrow hallway brings guests to the back room, which is a totally different creature altogether. Exposed black rafter beams strung with a dozen different brands of Christmas lights hang high over the grimy concrete floor. Soft wall lighting casts long low shadows on the navy walls. A liquor bar, the mirror image of its sister on the other side of the kitchen, sprawls dozens of bottles in front of a smudged mirror. Giant red drapes hang between two fake potted trees on the stage, which is normally a mess of unused stage monitors and snaking cables.

This is unequivocally the best small venue in Boulder. Any band that draws more than fifty and less than three hundred people calls Trilogy its home away from home (and it's popular with some acts that draw far more, on nights when the party spills out into the front room and a video feed is projected on the wall for a second-class audience). The sisters are well-regarded and the notoriously feisty security staff is actually pretty nice, once they get to know you. Bartenders are smiling and loose with the drinks, and the water cooler by the door only occasionally runs dry.

But Trilogy's real claim to fame is its sound system: A moat of subwoofers arranged beneath two massive, monolithic speakers that hang from the ceiling like landing spacecraft frozen in flight. Halfway down the South wall is a mixing board with more knobs than could ever be employed by any band capable of fitting on stage, operated by soundmen made half deaf and half drunk from the power of the equipment. It's a rig capable of unleashing a tsunami of sound and lighting up venues ten times the size of Trilogy. (Thankfully they never run it at full volume, but some of the engineers are obviously more deaf than others. Conversations don't come easily at Trilogy.)

And so. Every Wednesday night, I trundle out into the evening, park along the painted brick walls next to the alley side door, and tote my easel and materials inside to render the night and its noises in paint. This is my job. I work here. Painting while dancing.

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For upcoming entries in this series, I'll share some of the impressions and the inner process of live painting, as well as recount specific experiences and offer photographic play-by-plays of select paintings as they unfolded over the course of an evening. Stay tuned!

(Written for iggli.com)