Blackout: Anonymous artists play in pitch black, The Apiary, 16 June 2011

The strangeness started the day before, with an email containing various warnings and safety advice about this evening. Already, this isn’t going to be your average gig.

The concept is an intriguing one: “Audiences are kept in the dark in all senses of the phrase. Live performances by exciting acts will take place in complete darkness, and the bands’ identities are never revealed.”

But, surely a music-savvy individual would be able to figure out who’s playing when they hear them, and your eyes will become accustomed to the darkness eventually, right?

Wrong. After speculating about what’s about to happen in this warehouse-like space, we are gradually led into the next room. A woman stands by a black curtain. “Go in there and someone will hand you a piece of string. Follow it to the end,” she says.

Entering the blackness, and I mean pitch blackness, we are instantly blinded, feeling around for a piece of string which eventually finds our fingers. We follow it into an abyss of darkness as red and green LED lights (or stewards) attempt to offer guidance. It is, quite literally, the blind leading the blind.

Very weird electronic music is playing so loud you can barely hear what anyone is saying. There is an air of chaos as we blindly bump into people and, at one point, get hit in the face, all the while trying to listen out for instructions. This is scary.

After a while things settle down, but a slightly anxious mood still dominates as we have no idea who, if anyone, is stood around us and where we are in relation to the band or anything else.

A few people chicken out, lighting up the room with their phones for a split second, but almost nothing is revealed.

After what feels like about 20 minutes the strange, spiralling synth music cuts out, and people take the anonymous opportunity to shout.

An American voice fills the dark with weird poetry. It doesn’t make much sense, but grabs every inch of our attention. Bassy electronic music with almost no sense of structure comes in. It seems the promoters (including Late Of The Pier’s Sam Potter) have chosen the most unusual act they could find to soundtrack this less than conventional night.

It works well, immersing the audience into the most bizarre and disorientating experience possible. It feels new, innovative and slightly disconcerting. And then the anonymous American puts on a Thriller-style evil laugh and, suddenly, this is fun.

The music stops and a red light appears in the distance, leading us out into the blinding light of the rest of the building.

The first half of the show was so successful and held such novelty value that a second half hardly seems necessary. But, nevertheless, we wander once again into the Blackout, this time to the sound of guitars.

Somewhere in the dark is a punky-indie Scottish band, singing short, quirky songs about being lonely and lost – appropriate indeed.

This time the atmosphere isn’t so strange: the darkness isn’t so alien, and the music not so bizarre. This blackness is more friendly and at ease.

“I’ve lost a plectrum!” announces a Scottish voice, bringing a warm sense of reality.

The room feels more happy this time than scared and freaked out. But one too many people succumb to the urge to turn on a phone, taking away a bit too much of the mystery.

The last song of the night consists of lyrics that simply count from one to 100, with stomping drums and rhythmic guitars.

The red light revealing the exit comes on once more, but the audience aren’t ready for the harsh light just yet. The band yields to shouts of “More!” and “Again!” with an ‘improvised’ encore that continues the last track all the way up to 200.

“I wish I could see you!” shouts the Scottish voice as we leave. Funnily enough, it feels better that he can’t. Where at first there was a focus on figuring out who the ‘Anonymous Artists’ were, now it feels better not knowing.

Now we’ve come back into the light, keeping a few things in the Blackout doesn’t seem so scary.

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One comment

  1. […] Blackout: Anonymous artists play in pitch black, The Apiary (And this amusing tweet: “This is the weirdest fucking night of my life. Expect a very weird […]

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