Thursday, 18 October 2007
Body painting, swells and Ecstasy at the Crocker!
At points, it seemed like there were more ads and corporate logos than a Kings game, and the only "art cars" were Ferarris. But still, on Friday night, Oct. 19, Neo-Crocker, self-consciously dubbed "A Modern Culture Party," drew nearly 1,000 people to the Crocker Art Museum for the institution's last major on-site event until the New Crocker reopens in 2010. It was a very good try.
It was a fund-raiser, but more than that, Neo-Crocker was a chance for Sacramento's growing high-end audience to get a look at itself, dip its collective toe in the wonder that is Burning Man, and perhaps, uh, get DOWN. Best of all, it offered the opportunity for people who paid $50 a ticket - $75 at the museum's massive carved doors - to draw on the walls (and the carpets) of the museum's soon-to-be-destroyed (and rightly so) Herold Wing. (Go to http://www.gwathmey-siegel.com/portfolio/proj_detail.php?job_id=200044 to see what will be built in its place over the next two years.)
Neo-Crocker aimed high, with DJs from here and San Francisco, hair stylists doing hair, the Unmata belly dancers, people having their (beautiful) bodies painted, a Burning Man slide show by Andy Pischalnikoff, and lots of people dressing up and looking at each other. People painted on the elevator doors, because they could.
It reminded me a little of those classic bandwagon-jumping films of the late-'60s, with a handful of performers and party-goers who take their responsibilities seriously, and dress accordingly (hey, the invite said CREATIVE Chic Party Attire), and a mass of looky-loos who wanted to see what was up. You could tell that some folks wanted to dive in but weren't quite there yet, and others who didn't know QUITE what to make of it. There weren't enough gay people, there weren't enough actual Burners doing their dress-up thing (my crew got some props for our dress-up, but folks, we were dressed DOWN), and there were some irritating gaps in the atmospherics (one wag compared the lighting and security people in the hallways to airport checkpoints). But this was one hell of a good try by a group of people who want to get something GOING in downtown, who ARE getting things going, and we laud them for a very solid effort.
There were even a couple of people pushing the envelop enough that they felt comfortable rolling on Ecstasy. (People tell you interesting things when you're wearing a Utilikilt and four-inch platforms.)
We weren't so crazy about the corporate sponsorships - the Cloying Voisette (whatever, some champagne) display at the entry to one room was a bit trade-show for our tastes, and having a corporate logo of a local Mercedes dealership hovering over a table where temporary tattoos were being rubbed on attendees was just silly. Why not just brand visitors with a Mercedes tattoo and be done with it?
But we're realistic: The sponsors contributed the money to make this happen, and they WILL take their pound of flesh. Didn't hurt a bit. It's a long way from Burning Man's commerce-free aesthetic, but hell, this is Mammon, right? We watch their ads, they pour us some free bubbly! And we got to sit on a Vespa. Not a bad deal...
The DJs, including the Radiant crew brought into town by Michael Afshar of DV8 Clothing, played some great house, trance and break beats, and a couple of good dance parties erupted, thanks largely to the pro-am party-starting crew known as the Temple Whores. The DJs were spread strategically throughout the building, from the upper floors to the large courtyard, where fire dancers and stilt walkers brought some Playa to the proceedings and managed to counterbalance the decidedly not-cool Ferarris, which were parked for a time among the revellers (dude, you're going to make me stop my conversation at a party so you can move your CAR?).
The attendees were quite a mixed lot, from top-end sponsors like the always-gracious Bob Slobe and Kim Mueller and the big developers who are investing so heavily in the Grid, to a bevy of attractive Russian and Ukranian women and a crew of Italians who seemed to have lost their way from 1015 Folsom in The City - but didn't seem to mind. My most encouraging moment was running into a nice lady from the foothills who complimented my get-up and then declared her pleasure at being at the event. "We're from Cameron Park," she said, almost apologetically. "We came down to get some culture!"
I told her I was glad she'd made the trip, and that there is a lot more culture to be had in Sacramento's center.
Indeed, this was a culture party for a culture that is still struggling to be born, in a town that's still looking for critical mass, but is closer than ever to attaining it. The take-away for me was that there are a lot of people in this town who know what a cool town is like, who know what a great party can be, and who will invest in a first-rate museum. We still have a ways to go, and people need to learn to loosen up and throw themselves into it (Ecstasy not required), but we're well on our way. The next step, it seems to me, is to get the creative community - which tends not to think of the Crocker or big developers when it comes time to party - hooked up to the money crowd. It's been done everywhere, it can be done here.
There were details that should be attended to before the big reopening party in 2010: Whoever was responsible for the catering needed to hire some more buspeople, because there were glasses left everywhere, up against walls, even on sofas, and even halfway through, the place looked like the aftermath of a sports event. I've never been to an event where I heard so many glasses break, and I wasn't the only one to comment on it. One woman sliced her foot badly on broken shards. That's a high price to pay for dancing barefoot!
The party ended at a respectably past-closing-hours 1 a.m. with a small knot of die-hard partiers (including the Temple Whores) dancing determinedly to a mobile DJ set up by local Ant Foley, who rocked the old central ballroom of the Crocker mansion. No matter what you thought of the party up to that point, it was great to see people in their freaky chic dancing to pounding house music amidst the Victorian wood and glass of the late 19th Century. If the money we spent helps bring the Crocker into the Neo, we were happy to contribute.
Now tear that monstrosity down! Onward to 2010 - and more kick-ass parties!