We were following each other in three cars, driving slowly around a very quiet neighborhood in Montrose. After circling around anxiously trying to find a place to park, we realized we would have to unload in the middle of the street and park a block away. Our gear was loaded up with pieces in each car. We unloaded two of the cars when we spotted a strobing purple light in one of the thin windows of the slim townhomes.
Kalen called McKinley and he came out to help. Paula and Muhammad were rolling an amp up the street. We brought four amps, two mics, one a skinny 90s telecom mic Hayden had acquired, a bass, a drum machine, and this giant bowl Andrew had wired up with a contact mic. McKinley brought a bass amp and cab, a guitar, and a Fisher Price tape recorder, the one with the mic.
McKinley was supposed to be the afterhours DJ for this show. But he asked us if we would play in his stead. "Do they have any clue we're playing instead of you?" "No clue." Our goal was to play as loudly and horribly as possible, until we were asked to leave. Each of us knew that in this neighborhood, it would be over quick. But it wouldn't seem that simple.
Important to note on the event page was the lube wrestling match that was supposed to occur at this party: female-only, with a round of betting. We had no idea vamps and steampunks had an underground culture of lube wrestle gambling, as opposed to the bloodsucking and whatever the fuck steampunks do.
The host of the party told McKinley he was actually thrilled to have us play. We don't know if he spoke too soon or if he was lying. With this guy, it was hard to tell. McKinley had told us there was something up with him. And there was, a little. His eyebrows and eyes had this locked-on look. Locked-on to what? Maybe that was the unsettling part.
There weren't any noticeable steampunks. There was one anomalous hardcore punk there, with a patched vest. But mostly it appeared to be a mix of vamps, one complete with shiny contact lenses, vampire-ish dominatrixes, and frat boys.
It was also an art show, but all the paintings were spread out in weird places with no labels or names next to them. With or without the art, the house was otherwise pretty bare and vapidly furnished. A complete feeling of banality seemed to issue from every object. The people were more vampiric than they intended. Hayden was trying not to look around, lest he made eye contact with something.
After scoping it out, we decided to play upstairs in the tiny kitchen next to a room with a tarp laid out for the lube wrestling. We lugged all the gear up there, 5 big amps in front of cupboards, on counters, cords scattered.
Hayden put his Yamaha up on the counter and sat up there with his mic. Andrew stacked my amps on top of each other, one standing and the other face up on top of it, and played the drum machine through the bottom one and sat his bowl on top of the other, right on the speaker.
Karek set up the bass in the nook in front of the fridge, so that one vamp had to really struggle to pull a beer out of the crisper drawer. Paula and Kalen were trying to find a place in the set up and decided to run her vocals and his guitar (McKinley's guitar) through the one amp left.
Andrew was the first to pierce the conversations with a squeal from his bowl. "You're going to have to stop that immediately," said one of the soon-to-be-wrestling vamp queens. We had already pissed one person off.
Hayden let out a screech on his telecom mic, pushing its thin body into his throat to make the sound guttural. The rest of us toyed around getting our amp specs right. The toying turned into an atonal little groove, and we started surfing it.
About 45 seconds in, the owner of the place, ironically a half-asser of the vamp/steampunk theme, in his underwear and a V-neck, was giving us signs to turn down. Since Kalen was the closest, he kept directing all the signals to him, as if he had a universal volume knob for the band.
"Look guys, I love noise rock, I really do, I listen to Tera Melos, but look, look guys, the cops are downstairs and we gotta be quiet, we want them to go away, but you have to be quiet, after they go away you can turn back up, but not too much, look guys, I love noise rock, too, but we gotta be quiet."
It took the owner another few minutes of saying this to get us to shut up. When he did, he explained there were cops downstairs and that we had to wait till they went away to start again. McKinley was going nuts that we had the cops called on us in "45 seconds." Muhammad, Paula's man, later revealed to us this was a lie.
During this five minutes of acoustically meandering on our instruments quietly, McKinley standing on the counter and stooping while he and his friends recorded on their phones, we waited patiently to turn back up.
The owner approached Paula and asked if she wanted to sign up for lube wrestling and didn't ask anyone else in the band. Karek asked if he could join, and the owner said it was complicated. There would have to be a "male league," he said, and what he meant was he just wanted to see some women lube wrestle.
After getting the signal to start playing again, the weird host with locked-on eyes and the owner in briefs immediately told us to stop again so they could make an announcement about the wrestling match and commence betting.
Vaguely disgusted, we slowly started turning up. And once the announcements finished, everyone went up more and started a mangled progression, the drum machine the only thing vaguely stable. Hayden was roaring like a lion into his mic. Paula had to scream for any vocals to come out of the amp she shared with Kalen. She and Karek were holed up in the bass nook with the only clear view of the lube vamps.
The owner and the host were reffing the match. The owner had a bottle of lube he squirted on the girls as they were wrestling. He kept trying to signal us over the crowd to turn down every minute or so.
A few people in the band wanted to play until we were forcefully removed. But we didn't realize how hard it was to be flagrantly disrespectful, even during the absurd thing happening, or perhaps because of it.
Hayden and Andrew kept pretending to turn the knobs on their amps. Kalen and Paula were at about 1% volume. Karek was grooving away in the nook, out of reach. McKinley hopped around like a mad man from the counter to the floor to on top of the amps, screaming into his Fisher Price toy and moshing.
Eventually Karek was the first one to get fed up and put down the bass and said he was done. It took the rest of us a few minutes to fizzle out and do the same.
In total, with all the turning down, we played for about 15 minutes. That was about how long it took the wrestlers to basically give up and let one of themselves win. Maybe they were disgusted by the men in the room. Maybe they were as confused as us by what was happening.
Maybe the purpose of dressing up as vampires and steampunks was iconoclastic. But in reality the desire to shock people or be as unapproachable as possible visually is something exhibited by the most mundane people. Maybe so they don't have to be held accountable for being so mundane and boring.
We lugged our heavy amps back down the narrow staircase and left without really saying goodbye to the other guests. As we were loading up our cars, the vampire host with Satan's brows came out and yelled at some of Paula's friends for being loud in the streets. That was the final impression.
Some of us regretted not being louder and getting kicked out faster. But when we got drinks afterward, we realized it was a memory we'd never forget anyways. The host, at least, was a good sport about it, even as we made fun of the party during and after it. Either that or he saw each of our future deaths and was satisfied with that.
Moral of the story? Humans don't have to be invited into the homes of vampires, or vampire steampunk frat dudes.