Part 12 | Silver Dollar
After getting pulled in by the police Blaz realized that his “Fuck you” at the sit down was now becoming a reality. As they say it has been said “make him an offer that he can not refuse” Blaz went to the obvious place to talk shop.
We were now the center of what was “cool” in Phoenix and my events were attracting hundreds of locals, out-of-staters and the jet-set. I could say that I never wanted to get too big and wanted to keep it small, quiet and cool. Fact of the matter is, as any organizer or promoter will tell you, it is expensive to put on an event, and unless you have over 500 people showing up, you ain’t makin’ a dime. My events were gaining a name, but nothing that would fill the ASU stadium.
Now I was back to talk to the Silver Dollar Club.
Being that we were the big boys in town they gave us the Grand Opening and Saturday nights. At this time, everyone was doing complex and multi-colored light shows. So what would be my response to that? No lights. Yep, nothing. I’ll have people dancing in complete darkness, all night long. It was called Black Out, and it was very successful. Everyone thought I was nuts – people wouldn’t like it; it’s boring; people will get hurt or worse yet, groped! But let’s face it, most of us go to crowded dance clubs to either get our hands on someone or have them get on us. That’s what Black Out provided, but in the shield of darkness where one can’t judge what they can’t see. Nothing lewd ever happened; people came to party not act like adolescent chimpanzees that just discovered their genitalia. It was fun, it was safe and very communal.
People even arrived with their own lights. Some girls had actually wrapped themselves up in battery-powered Christmas lights. We also handed out little flashlights and walked around with miner’s spotlights. The crowd created the lighting effects for the event. In essence, I had them create the lighting they wanted for the event by giving them power over it. I had given them ownership of how the event would proceed. This created a subconscious but instant feeling that the crowd was the reason for the event, that they created it, that they were the reason it existed. As I said, one of my goals was to create a following, a community of very different people getting along. I had done that through the music and now was doing it through the lack of lighting. To this day, my friends talk about that night as being the first ever that was in complete darkness.
My next event at the Silver Dollar Club had to be just as audacious, and now the crowd expected to be ‘wowed’. Mega Light was my response. As the last event was all darkness, this one was pure light.
I asked everyone I knew to borrow their lights – I hit up every quinceanera DJ I knew and took whatever they could spare. We even used plane home lighting, anything I could get my hands on. We strung up the lights floor to ceiling in different layers and blasted the dance floor. The crowd roared. The lights would come on in waves from the various layers creating sheets of pure light.
The lights were all at differing levels of the body. At one point everyone’s face would be illuminated, then just their torso, then just their feet. We played with different light combos and durations. The crowd, again, had become the main art installation. We used a lot of bulb and remote strobes. We purposely had them draped from the ceiling at eye level to dazzle the crowd.
I thought “Hey pretty cool concept. I’ll have to tweak that and try it again.” It was more than just a concept. A couple of weeks later one of my friends invited me out to a gay club and said they were doing something awesome with the lights and I needed to see it. I went, I saw, I scrapped my idea. The gays had commandeered the Mega Light technique of having strobes at different levels of the body embedded into their walls. “Good for them, I hope they enjoy it” I thought. To this day I am thankful that they stole my idea, because I was about to break one of my cardinal rules – never repeat yourself. Now that it was out in public, it would be impossible to even try it again or even tweak it. motivating me to look deeper into what was possible. Thanks guys, I owe you one!
The next event was called Fun House, where we turned the dance floor into, well, a fun house. One of the student artists that used to help us was a graduate student from ASU and actually built a Fun House on the dance floor as her final art project for her MFA. It was great seeing her professors at the event getting down with people less than half their age.
After Fun House, the Silver Dollar Club said we didn’t reach our bar selling tab. As all promoters know, if you don’t sell enough at the bar the owner will give you the boot. Later I found out that the bar manger was embezzling the register. That’s club life! I was back to hunting down another space.
After they fired the manger, Chris Flores with Jennifer as his promoter had a very successful night called Downtown. Artists loved seeing their work in our environments giving the art a new context and a new life. This attitude was fully absorbed by Mannix who got his start working with Chris Flores at my events. He became a huge name in the Phoenix and LA underground, doing visuals for many clubs. He had 2 or 3 crews working in both cities.